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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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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Scientists cure cancer but no-one notices

The Cancer Research UK Science Update Blog has published an excellent post by Kat Arney on cancer conspiracies – here it is, plus some other excellent pieces:

Licenced under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 (Image B0002108)

Wellcome Images: Human breast cancer cells dividing

It has prompted me to look back through my posterous archive for something I remember writing but couldn’t find on here – about how offensive it is when people accuse us (people working in cancer research in any capacity) of being part of some great conspiracy to hide cures. I’ve edited it a bit as it’s from 2011.

Let us not forget that many people are living examples that we can and do cure cancer, it’s just difficult to define “cure” – 5 years free? 10? We all die of something. But particularly “treatable” diseases include some forms of leukaemia, or breast, skin and testicular cancer – surgical techniques, chemo- and radiotherapy have come a very long way in the last 50-60 years, since DNA was discovered and we started to learn a lot more about this hugely varied set of diseases.

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Ask for Evidence – Miracle Cures

Sense About Science have  been running a campaign called Ask for Evidence, which has gained plenty of support since its launch.Ask for Evidence

The idea is that by encouraging people to challenge claims made about products, services, lifestyle choices and policies:
– the public could feel empowered to question claims they see in future
– people and companies should expect to be asked to back up their claims
and, ultimately:
– we should start to see fewer false/dangerous/baseless claims.

Examples of what exactly people have asked for evidence of can be found here.

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Skinny bitch

In our culture, we’re all taught that the shape of our body really matters.

Two separate issues

It starts early. I remember complaining to my mum that my thighs were fat, when I was about 8 years old. How absurd (because they weren’t, and what a ridiculous thing for a child to be worrying about), when I look back, but I remember how I felt at the time and it was serious. It’s a pretty constant battle for most women trying not to scrutinise our bodies day after day – this obsession can form the basis of debilitating illnesses.

Childhood obesity is also of course a real problem – that parents cannot afford or do not have sufficient education to feed their children healthy food that doesn’t put their lives at risk is a tragedy, and a huge challenge for public health measures to tackle. It’s important for us to maintain a healthy weight for a variety of reasons; it lessens the risk of heart disease and cancer for starters. We all want our friends and families to be happy and well, so if people are trying to lose weight or bulk up to address this, great.

But there’s a difference between weight-related concerns that focus on health and another category of scrutiny; one that is far more shallow, cultural and full of underlying hatred and insecurity. People (and I cannot exclude myself) make negative comments on other people’s bodies all the time. We’re taught that it’s OK, that it’s our business, it’s just humour, and so on.

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Shisha scheisse

Inspired by a recent tweet from Rhys, I have decided to reproduce a little bit of work I did on explaining “shisha” to someone otherwise unaware.

I still quite frequently find that people are ignorant of what it is (and isn’t) and what the potential harms are – indeed many will claim it is safer than “traditional” cigarettes. So I’ve tried to summarise all of that here. Please feel free to add your favourite sources on this topic in the comments.

What is shisha?

Shisha or sheesha is a method of smoking flavouried tobacco through an apparatus called a hookah. It is also known as “waterpipe tobacco” because the smoke passes through water before it’s inhaled.

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Science is Vital 2012

Last night I attended the first Science is Vital AGM!

It was a great evening with loads of friendly folks (including more than 10 who weren’t from London!!) throwing out ideas on how we can keep Science is Vital going and achieve our goal of convincing the government that, well, science is vital! Secure more funding, protect and encourage UK science and stimulate our economy. In a nutshell. See here for the SiV key messages.

Something sobering to think about is the fact that almost a third of all people die because of a form of cancer. It is the best-funded disease type, but in fact only £10 per person per year is spent on cancer research (govt funding + charity money). If you’re so likely to suffer from something, would you not prefer a bit more money going to it? But on to proceedings…

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