Archive for November, 2008

Nov 11 2008

Another Brain Death Controversy

Published by under Uncategorized

These stories are always wrapped in an unimaginable personal tragedy. In this case 12 year old Motl Brody has died of brain cancer. He has been pronounced brain dead by his doctors, who report that there is no brain activity, not even in the brain stem (the most primitive part of the brain).

Brain death meets the legal definition for death – so Motl Brody is dead. However, his body remains in the hospital, on a ventilator, and receiving medication to keep his heart functioning. This is because his family are orthodox Jews and according to their literal interpretation of scripture death is defined as the heart stopping. Therefore, in their eyes Motl still alive and treatment should continue.

Continue Reading »

Like this post? Share it!

57 responses so far

Nov 10 2008

Sense About Science

Published by under Uncategorized

Why am I just now hearing about this group? Perhaps because they are based in the UK and I am in the US? But the internet makes that transparent. I guess the profile of such groups including my own efforts) is not as high as it needs to be. Even for someone like me, who spends a great deal of time searching for and reading material on science and medicine, a significant group dedicated to the same effort escaped my notice.

In any case – I am glad to learn of them now, through a press release about a new publication of theirs. Here is their mission statement:

Sense About Science is an independent charitable trust. We respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society, from scares about plastic bottles, fluoride and the MMR vaccine to controversies about genetic modification, stem cell research and radiation. We work with scientists and civic groups to promote evidence and scientific reasoning in public discussion.

Continue Reading »

Like this post? Share it!

7 responses so far

Nov 07 2008

Politics and Science – The RFK Jr. Test

Published by under Uncategorized

I only write about politics when it intersects science. The major political theme I have discussed over the last two years on this blog is that science needs to be transparent and free from ideological meddling. Our society is best served when politics and government are informed by objective science, and great harm is done when political ideology dictates science.

We see this in numerous issues – global warming, biofuels, stem-cell research, vaccine policy, prevention of HIV and unwanted pregnancy (basically every environmental issue and public health issue), not to mention the teaching of evolution.

Continue Reading »

Like this post? Share it!

21 responses so far

Nov 06 2008

Cloning the Frozen

Published by under Uncategorized

Researchers from Kobe, Japan have successfully cloned a mouse using the DNA from a mouse that had been frozen for 16 years. This is an interesting incremental advance in cloning technology. Using DNA from a previously frozen specimen has been done before, but using a specimen frozen for about 3 years. This significantly increases the time frozen to 16 years.

Cloning (specifically reproductive cloning) is the technology of taking the nucleus of one cell and placing it into an egg whose own DNA has been removed. The egg then needs to be stimulated, either electrically or chemically, to trigger the process of division and development. The result is an organism that is a twin (sort of) of the individual from which the donor DNA was taken. The resulting clone is actually less identical to the donor than twins are to each other. Twins also share the same parent egg (not just nuclear DNA – for example, there is also mitochondrial DNA outside the nucleus), and the environment of the womb.

Continue Reading »

Like this post? Share it!

4 responses so far

Nov 05 2008

President-Elect Obama

Published by under Uncategorized

This is not a political blog. Unlike some of my science-blogging colleagues, I prefer to keep my personal politics separate from my advocacy of science and skepticism. But I do want to make a few politically-neutral observations about yesterday’s election.

Regardless of what side of the political spectrum one resides and whether or not your candidate won – it is alway wondrous every four years to watch the process itself unfold. There are occasional glitches, but for the most part, the voters express their desires and that is the final word.

Continue Reading »

Like this post? Share it!

18 responses so far

Nov 04 2008

Homeopathy Still Sucks

Published by under Uncategorized

This is perhaps the most deceptive science press release I have seen in a while. The title is “New Evidence for Homeopathy” – but the papers do not include any new evidence. These studies are nothing more than a reanalysis of a prior meta-analysis, which is kind of like refried refried beans.

In 2005 the Lancet published a meta-analysis of homeopathy trials and compared them to trials of conventional medicine, concluding that the evidence supports the conclusion that homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo. This meta-analysis, however, suffered from the problems of all meta-analyses – they are only as good as the literature they review, the criteria used to pick studies, and the techniques used to combine the data. In generalĀ  a meta-analysis is a very weak form of evidence, and they have a poor track record of predicting large definitive clinical trials.

Continue Reading »

Like this post? Share it!

20 responses so far

Nov 03 2008

Environmental Sensitivity

Published by under Uncategorized

One of my favorite TV series was Northern Exposure. I loved the characters and their individual and collective angst, amplified by the fact that they were all “trapped” in a small Alaskan town. In a way the town was one big extended family. The plot lines were also thoughtful and at times even intellectual.

My one quibble, which I just had to overlook (which is no big deal, since it was clearly fiction) was the show’s occasional flirtation with pseudoscience and mysticism. The writers dealt with it well, though, not shoving it down the audience’s throat, and it became part of the show’s charm.

One example was the character Mike Monroe (played by Anthony Edwards of Later ER fame) who fled civilization to the small town of Cicely because of his “multiple chemical sensitivity” or environmental sensitivity. Essentially, he believed he was allergic to everything, and so had to live in a “bubble” that was sealed from the outside world.

Continue Reading »

Like this post? Share it!

7 responses so far

« Prev