Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Missing my friends from Brighton very much today. I have never been more content, but without friends, life loses its colour.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Niagra Revisited

This week, I write a story for New Scientist, describing the work of Meghan Provost and her colleagues from Queen's University, Ontario, who say that women appear to walk less sexily at ovulation. In her research paper, she writes, 'If women are trying to protect themselves from sexual assault at times of peak fertility, it would make sense for them to advertise attractiveness on a broad scale when they are not fertile, yet still being attractive to people they choose to be with (i.e., during face-to face interactions).' In other words, the swaying walk becomes less pronounced at ovulation as a protective measure. The story was picked up by BBC News, GMTV, the Daily Mail, the Metro, the Telegraph, and in Canada, the The Globe and Mail and the Ottawa Citizen.

Strangely, in some places, the research findings have been reported as evidence that a sexy walk is a lie [Telegraph] or a con [Daily Mail]. I think about the hostile reaction to Jenny Eclair's choice of gadget (her lipstick) in the technology section of the Guardian, and ponder over the interaction between science and gender in the media.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sweet tooth

After the rush of finalising a shortlised £2million project proposal, a new project. This week I'm researching the history of the polio sugarcube vaccine. Will I finish my paper this evening? A chocolate chip cookie celebration if I can...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

good health and transparency

This afternoon, an interview with the Chair of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, to find out about their extensive public engagement activities. Later, a brief discussion of the positive and negative impacts of innovation with Virginia, Mike and Adrian at SPRU. My favourite example of this is the car air bag, a variant of which was ergonomically designed to save men, but kill women, even at 15mph. Why? Because the engineers had tested the device using only male dummies. This evening: the Argus runs a story on us losing our Cafe Scientifique venue in Brighton. Headline: "Academics don't drink enough, says bar boss." Subheading: "Venue stops meetings where tap water is favourite tipple."

I plan an experiment involving 60 cafe scientifique participants, 60 pencils, some scrap paper, a calculator, the bar price list at our old and new pub venues, and a speech on empirical measurement, bias and reproducibility. Mike suggests calling it an investigation on the 'trickle down effect'.

Roll on our next meeting, December 5th.

Monday, November 27, 2006

how journalism helps science

From my article in today's Media Guardian:

In his book, 'The Devil's Chaplain', Prof Richard Dawkins says science journalism is "too important to be left to journalists." With sentiments like these, one might imagine that a scientific institution would never willingly open its doors to a team of reporters, much less invite them to breakfast. Why then, will the Today Programme be broadcasting live from the Royal Society this Thursday? Is it possible that even scientists are beginning to recognize that journalism is important, not just for society, but for science too?

Gristock, J. (2006) "Theory of Relativity", Media Guardian, 27 November 2006, p7

Thursday, November 02, 2006

unhappy hour

The Times reports that Lady Warnock says the new GCSE syllabus "encourages a view that science is just one of many ways of finding out about the world, and that its claims are as open to challenge as those of any interested pressure group," creating debates that are "more suitable for the pub than the school room".

Are we to leave this unchallenged? What's wrong with the pub as a place to discuss science? Cafe Scientifique volunteers, including myself, would contest the idea that one cannot be serious about science outside the schoolroom or laboratory.

Those who object to the practice of challenging science's claims have forgotten the motto of the Royal Society. Goodness me, do we *really* need to dust off Stephen Jay Gould's point about 'Nullius in verba' yet *again*? It is about rejecting dogma, not words.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

science writing prize

The European Dana Alliance, The British Neuroscience Association and @Bristol are inviting entries for the 2006 National Brain Science Writing Prize. The judges are looking for engaging newspaper-style science articles of around 650 words on the subject of brain science. Closing date 31 October 2006.