Purely a figment of your imagination

What amuses, annoys, concerns or otherwise interests me – Noodlemaz


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QEDcon 2016

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Part of this year’s goodie bag – a QED sticker to adorn whatever you fancy

After about 13 hours of sleep post-QED, I started to write some words about it!

6 years in a row. A strange feeling walking back into a hotel room like one I stayed in 3 years ago, but quickly settling into familiarity, largely because of all the friendly faces to see and hugs to give/receive.

I haven’t been to many conventions in my time, but of those few, this skeptical event has to be the best by a long way.

Not just because the organisers are very talented and kind people I’m proud to call friends, or the consistently excellent, approachable and affable speakers, or because fellow attendees are a joy to be around (in all states of sobriety and so far from it). All of that and more.

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International Women’s Day

I haven’t written for ages, many reasons for that, but I thought I’d jot down what I was thinking about on the way to work this morning. It’s longer than I expected, as usual.

Before getting to that, I’ll reflect on going to work – something many women even a generation ago did not get to do, so I’m grateful for that and always have been. This is no slight on anyone who does not have a contracted-to-do-things-for-others, leaving-the-house type job. Or two.

There are many ways to earn a living, and many forms of work that are unpaid and undervalued. I don’t refer to that, but to the option and opportunity I have been afforded that many were – and are still, globally – denied.

Let us not forget the women who are forced to work, lucky if they earn any wage, risking their safety and their children’s. Women in poverty. Women faced with false choices of abuse or homelessness. Women living under legal systems that deny them basic rights.

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Science is as vital as ever- fighting cuts again

Science is Vital is a campaign group that was set up back in 2010, the last time UK science was threatened with big budget cuts.

What’s the problem?

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It’s happening again, now – the Research Councils have been asked to predict what could happen if 20-40% cuts are imposed.

That is huge. Last time campaigning achieved a freeze, the ringfence or flat cash – no cuts, but after inflation takes its toll, science funding has still decreased over time, to the point we’re now last in the G8.

Head over to scienceogram to interact with these numbers more fully and see how little we spend on things like preventing cancer, heart disease and stroke – currently the 3 biggest disease killers.

How can I help?

  1. Send George Osborne a post card!

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Warning: may contain warnings

Trigger warnings! People are still talking about them.

Edit 2016: especially when the University of Chicago does this

As I think I’ve said before, I prefer terms like “content note” or just NB/ or similar, as I have read convincing arguments that the very use of the words “trigger warning” can be kind of self-defeating, so maybe it’s better to avoid that. Although whether “TW” may have the same effect, I’m not sure. Not my point.

What warning?

I’m talking about little notes at the start of something – a piece of writing or a talk, or a post in (for example) a facebook group – that gives people a heads-up about the content. It might be “Content note: disordered eating” or “TW: rape” or similar. The point is that if people aren’t in an appropriate state to deal with that or prefer it not creeping up on them unannounced, they don’t need to -just to let them know so they’re better prepared when it comes up.

What’s the problem? Continue reading


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Tell Them Science Is Vital

There’s another election coming up and, whatever the outcome, we’ll all (hopefully) still be doing our jobs and waiting for the situation to improve.

Something the government could do to lay foundations for education, industries and economic growth in the UK is to fund science. Over the last 2 decades, they’ve really let this slide. Enter #TellThemSiV, the new campaign from Science is Vital, to do just that…

Tell Them Science is Vital

In just a few weeks, Britain goes to the polls to vote in a new government. This is obviously a crucial time for science funding and policy.

That is why Science Is Vital needs you to contact your MP or parliamentary candidate.

Since 2010, the science budget, despite having been protected from the worst of the austerity measures by the ring-fence we fought for, will nevertheless have shrunk in real terms by up to 20%.

In fact, it has now dropped below 0.5% of GDP for the first time in 20 years. If we don’t act now, it could take generations to recover.

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Sense About Science: Fad Diets

Ask for EvidenceDiets on the internet: You might as well make them up.

Sense about Science have a new (ish, I’m a bit slow off the mark on this one!) campaign focus – exposing the claims behind fad diets.

Many societies currently have a problem with nutrition. In places where food is abundant, or supermarkets and fast food chains present the main family options, a lot of people are overeating and eating badly. Poverty doesn’t help, and when you already have little money, companies duping people with claims of superhealthy items and food plans are extremely unethical.

The NHS resources are, in my view, the best place to go for a start. To learn about calories, going about losing weight, “hidden” weight-gain causes, asking a GP about getting and keeping a healthy weight and more – really many of these things should be in schools, so equipping people with skills that will last a lifetime and help them to keep healthy, combating challenges such as lack of support at home when children are growing up.

Unfortunately, a combination of culture generally, celebrity following, personal challenges and insufficient regulation of food suppliers often leads to people who are frustrated and find it difficult to keep healthy and happy. Where there are vulnerable people with problems, there are quacks ready to take advantage and make money from them.

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Women and sexism in STEM

STEMNETLast week I tried to explain to someone whom I saw adding to abuse directed at a woman on Twitter why that’s a very bad thing for a STEM Ambassador to be doing – once I noticed that they shared that voluntary occupation in their bio.

Background

STEM is now a popular acronym that describes “Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths” – the sciences and their applied disciplines, essentially. Some like to add another M for Medicine but I think that’s covered by Science and Technology, really. Separate debate.

What is not worth debating is whether women are disadvantaged, underrepresented, discriminated against and put off in these fields. It has been shown time and again, and I’ve placed links and references in this piece to demonstrate that. People with the ability to pay attention, women or otherwise, already know this. I intend this to be a resource to demonstrate this fact, and a push for people to try to tackle it however they see fit. Continue reading