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Peroxide 'helps to fight cancer' - we pick on the BBC again [Sep. 14th, 2005|01:06 pm]
Vitamin C 'helps to fight cancer' (in cell culture lines) proclaims the BBC. Okay, so we added the bit in brackets to the headline.

It helpfully explains:

"[...]researchers conducted laboratory experiments which simulated clinical infusions of vitamin C on a range of nine cancer and four normal cells."

That's not a lot of cells is it? We make it 13. PNAS, where the research is published, says:

"[...]the authors found that five of the nine cancer cell lines were sensitive to ascorbate [vitamin C] at concentrations obtainable only by intravenous infusion."

Aaah, now that makes more sense. We thought journalists were supposed to make science easier to understand?

The BBC goes on:

"The effective dose was around four millimoles, a concentration much higher than [blah blah blah]"

Er... millimoles measure the amount, not the concentration of something. That would be millimolar. It may be GCSE chemistry, but surely a science article should be written by someone who has at least a GCSE knowledge of science?

Finally, the BBC says:

"Researchers were unable to explain what caused the results, although they did note the treatment led to the formation of hydrogen peroxide, a chemical known to be toxic to cells."

You evil, evil journalist. You made us read the whole paper. We're not happy amoebas, science papers are very dull. The authors did test to see if the production of hydrogen peroxide was necessary for vitamin C to have an effect, and it was. They also tested to see if hydrogen peroxide alone would have the same effect, and it does. What they didn't know was why it only caused cancer cells to die and not normal ones.
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Bad Science jokes [Sep. 9th, 2005|01:58 pm]
From the mostly dire jokes in this week's Life to an excruciatingly bad pun in New Scientist:

http://www.newscientist.com/backpage.ns?id=mg18725162.400

'Ben Moore [...] was pleased recently to be able to take the opportunity, while being shown a colleague's drawings of a hermaphroditic flatworm, to be able to correctly observe that there was "a vas deferens between the male and female gonads".'

Make them stop. Please.
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Serious Interlude [Sep. 8th, 2005|05:17 pm]
No silliness here, just a link to an article about intelligent design. Written by someone who may count as a scientist, but not a biologist. See, it is possible to write something intelligent about science without working in that field, or even near it.

http://www.qwghlm.co.uk/blog/?p=753

...oh and the Life section is no more. Sob. Bad Science is staying, however. Yay.

Wow, seven links to his blog in this week's Bad Science. That's one way to increase your pagerank...
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There's money in molecular biology? [Sep. 1st, 2005|01:06 pm]
Are you a molecular biologist considering a career switch to a more highly paid job, such as a gas fitter? Perhaps you should consider becoming a tortured artist instead.

The company DNA 11 "creates unique DNA portraits through an extraordinary combination of science and art." Yours to hang on the wall, starting from the bargain price of just $390.

http://www.dna11.com/default.asp

So how do they create such an artistic masterpiece?

They explain:

'The process begins with the DNA being collected using a patented, non-invasive technique: depositing your saliva into a tube.'

'[...] DNA is extracted to create a unique genetic fingerprint, using a technique that takes advantage of the variation that occurs among the DNA sequence of every individual.

'The end result is a group of different sized pieces of DNA (unique per individual), which we "run" on a gel, such that each strand of different sized DNA is separate...'

'TheDNA is then stained with a fluorescent dye and illuminated by UV light, which then glows, giving off a fluorescent signal.'

Er...so that's doing a digest, running a gel and photographing it.

So we thought, how about setting up our own art collective? We did some market research - we asked a few million E. coli that were lying around and they were interested in buying it. They were less keen when they found out how we were planning to obtain their DNA, but sacrifices have to be made in the name of art and the lucky few remaining E. coli now have a gel photo exclusive piece of art to look at.

We thought about expanding our work to include multicellular organisms - they tend to have more money and we have to buy our vodka somehow. The problem is that DNA 11 have patented spitting in a tube, so we need some other source of DNA.* Ahem.

Meanwhile, we've got some spare E. coli art and are running low on vodka. So if anyone's interested...

*Don't worry, there's always Bad Science for a better quality of sperm jokes.
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Parents not psychic shocker!!! [Aug. 30th, 2005|11:27 am]
"Two thirds of parents whose children may go to university in the next two years have not saved extra money to help them study, research suggests."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4194572.stm

Really? We aren't sure how parents were supposed to know they needed to save enough to offset top-up fees when the bill to introduce them was only passed a year and a bit ago and would have been scrapped if the Tories had won the general election.
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Huh? [Aug. 26th, 2005|12:18 pm]
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v436/n7054/full/4361066a.html

When Nature references wikipedia (to explain RSS), the world has truly gone wierd.
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Water no better than water shocker!!!! [Aug. 26th, 2005|11:58 am]
Apparently giving patients homeopathic remedies (more commonly known as water) is no more effective than giving them a placebo (presumably water).

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4183916.stm

Hmmm, we can usually resist mentioning the readers' comments, but occasinally temptation gets the better of us.

"A somewhat typical report from so-called science. Scientists simply refuse to believe in anything unless there is proof."

Yep, that's scientists for you.
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[Insert Boswelox pun here] [Aug. 18th, 2005|10:21 am]
We've been wanting to write about Boswelox for ages. Why? We were curious why a compound that L'Oreal wanted to convince us really was anti-aging was named to sound like they were making the whole thing up. The idea that one of their researchers said to the marketing department "We've named it Boswelox because of it's anti-aging properties" and they went along with it made us giggle.

Turns out the most likely reason is that it's anti-wrinkle claims are a load of er...Boswelox. Says the ASA here (pdf, 104kb). It's the usual suspects - using pseudoscience to imply it actually works, extrapolating stuff in a petri dish to real people, that kind of thing.

We particularly like:

"[...]the BACC approved the claim 'counteract skin micro contractions' as long as it appeared with the line ‘scientifically tested on isolated skin cells.’

The clarification appeared in on-screen text while at the same time the visuals focused on Claudia Schiffer pulling a variety of facial expressions. The impression that the product worked on the expression lines on a human face appeared, therefore, to take precedence over the clarification that the text was designed to give."

How about cigarette warning style large font for those kinds of things?
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Normal silliness has been resumed - yay for alcoholic fruit flies [Aug. 11th, 2005|02:40 pm]
Now here's some proper science - alcoholic fruit flies . No, really. It must be proper science, it's in Nature:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v436/n7052/abs/nature03864.html

Fruit flies need a hangover to build up alcohol tolerance. HANGOVER being a gene of course. Any scientists wanting to do experiments involving amoebas and alcohol should contact us. We don't mind.
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missing the point by parsecs [Aug. 11th, 2005|02:06 pm]
Unsurprisingly, an inquiry into academic recruitment shows there is a problem with recruitment and retention of academics.

"The report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research identified problems with the perceived fairness of pay and promotion decisions."

The solution?

"And among other things, increasing the supply of home-grown talent in the form of having more UK students doing PhDs would help with recruitment and retention of academics."

Huh? Aren't they throwing money at the wrong group of people. Are we missing something?
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