Purely a figment of your imagination

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


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QEDcon 2015

As ever, the opening video didn’t disappoint – congratulations to all whose hard work made this tweaked Left Behind trailer funny and so technically impressive:

QED is my Christmas; or, what I imagine Christmas to be like for people who actually enjoy it. My family now is smaller than it was, and we do things our own way, so it’s better – but I’ve never been much of a fan. QEDcon is where I spend time with my chosen family, or most of them at least!

Topping 550 people in its 5th year, it had the same friendly, warm, welcoming and highly intoxicated atmosphere it always has. 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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On being a “digital academic”

It's me

It’s me

A colleague asked me why I “left science” last year. I don’t really feel like I have; my dayjob involves writing about the amazing research and related goings-on at the place where I completed my PhD. I still feel connected to science; I’m just not at the bench.

Perhaps I’m lying to myself, but I’ll run with it.

While I may not be a practicing academic, many friends and colleagues are. As I now (and, for the last 15-odd years, always have) spend a lot of time online and with social networking, I watched a Google Hangout that was run by jobs.ac.uk today: Being a successful Digital Academic.

People often fear social networks, but I’ve defended them before and will continue to do so. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without this blog, Twitter and the time I’ve spent on them, as well as the people I’ve met through them.

The hangout contained lots of useful tips for academics who are or might want to venture into the world of online chat, promotion and networking. You can find my notes here on Google Docs and the Piirus blog, too. Continue reading


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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


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Cancer selfie-awareness

I have to write about this, following some discussions.

I’ll start by saying that I obviously don’t have a problem with the concept of fundraising for cancer charities (having researched in a few places, now working at one and, y’know, being a human being). I’m not saying everyone who did it has missed the point, or shouldn’t have participated. I find the subject interesting; personally and professionally.

The questions I want to raise are generally more academic:

What is awareness? How effective are these campaigns/memes? What are the negatives, and do they matter?

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Are you transphobic? Am I?

This is a difficult post to write, but it’s been on my mind for a while. No one is obliged to comment, or to educate me if I’m wrong (which no doubt I will be), but comments are, as ever, welcome, to continue the discussion.

I’ll start with some conditions – please read them first and try to bear them in mind if what I’m saying causes some rage.

Edit: some very constructive comments have happened, so thanks to everyone who’s pitched in and been civil with it. I’ve also added some stuff to the end of the post.

Transphobia is real. Hundreds of people are killed and abused every year because society says we must obviously present as male-men and female-women and some people disagree so much, fear and hate so much, that they think murder or assault is justified. It is not. Obviously. Continue reading