Showing posts with label science blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science blogging. Show all posts

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Controversial Topic In Science 2: Alternative Medicine - 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 27)

For the second day, discussing a controversial topic in science I will be reviewing the efficiency of Alternative medicine.

But to what extent can we trust alternative medicine?

First of all, what is alternative medicine?

Alternative method contains the practice of: acupuncture, chiropractic and homeopathy. All of these techniques had not been proven by scientific methods.  

The reason why it’s so popular is due to the power of anecdotal evidence. For example, you can hear from a friend that alternative treatment helped improve their back pain. At first, this may seem as the treatment works and you’ll want to try it. But you have to remember that the experience of a single person doesn’t prove that a treatment works the same for everyone. Sometimes the body gets better on its own or via a placebo effect, giving rise to the “it worked for me” response and encouraging more people to follow in their footsteps.  


Contrary to what the popular opinion is about alternative medicine, there is a lot of new research proving that there are some methods used to combat pain using alternative medicine that are efficient and it’s been scientifically proven that they work.

One study, published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, looks at the effects of the so-called acupuncture meridian system (AMS) which is a key concept of Traditional Chinese Medical Science (TCMS). This is a natural network formed by the tissue space that connects human viscera and skin. In this study, a new hypothesis presents that the AMS is an auxiliary respiratory system. The AMS collects the CO2 that is produced by tissue supersession and that cannot be excreted via blood circulation, and discharges the CO2through the body's pores, consequently preventing a pressure increase in the internal environment. Therefore, local blood circulation will not be blocked, and the body will remain healthy. As well as neuroregulation and humoral regulation, AMS regulation is an important method of physiological regulation. 

Although some of the experimental data provided has evidence supporting their new hypothesis, further studies are needed to prove it. Besides, based on the existing data, AMS is expected to have a bright future.

Through another study, published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, acupuncture has been used to relieve cancer symptoms.  Small amount (21%) of patients reported nausea, which was significantly reduced after the first session, but not the last session. Reductions represented clinically meaningful differences in 33–41% of patients after the first session and in 41–53% of patients after the last session for all symptoms, except nausea. A small subset of patients (0–8%) reported worsening symptoms after acupuncture. The majority were satisfied with the treatment. 

 The Honest Placebo...

This may not be alternative medicine, because it is still under scientific trials, but this piece of new research opens many doors to understanding how the human body treats itself. Scientists (Ted Kaptchuk and Kevin Fontaine) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have found an amazing discovery with placebo pills.

Here’s what they did:

         I.       Find people in pain (in this case people with IBS-Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
      II.      Enrol them in the study
    III.     Admit to them, that they cannot do anything to help them
    IV.      Give half of the test group a placebo pill and the other half nothing.
      V.        Tell the participants exactly what they’re doing

The weirdest thing is: it works!!!! To everyone's surprise, the treated group (the ones who received the fake pills) reported twice as much improvement as the untreated control group (the ones who didn’t get any pills). We all know that placebo pills are used in chemical trials to see if the tested drug works, and that the participants in the study aren’t meant to know whether they are taking a placebo or not.  But in this trial the patients all knew that they were taking fake pills. A surprising discovery.

So how does it actually work?

"We believe there's some element of classical conditioning going on," Fontaine said. "Throughout your life, you take a pill and you see an effect. You take an aspirin, for instance, and it takes away your headache. There's an association there in your mind, and the idea is that the ritual of taking pills may actually produce a beneficial effect."
"We believe there's some element of classical conditioning going on," Fontaine said. "Throughout your life, you take a pill and you see an effect. You take an aspirin, for instance, and it takes away your headache. There's an association there in your mind, and the idea is that the ritual of taking pills may actually produce a beneficial effect."
Since their discovery, the scientists are now planning on trialling their “open-label” placebo technique on cancer survivors, to see if the results are the same with them.

"We want to see if we can make any difference in symptom severity," Hoenemeyer said.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Controversial Topics In Science 1: GMOs - 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 26)

Is it possible, that after years of controversy, between the public, that GMO’s are safe?

There are many people for or against GMOs, but mainly against. Even though the public are showered with incorrect, and sometimes dishonest, information about GMOs a.k.a genetically modified organisms, scientists and science writers are working to correct any misconceptions about GMOs to the public and eliminate misleading data.

What are GMOs?

GMO’s are plants or animals that have gone under genetic modification: where scientists alter their genes with DNA from different species of living organisms, bacteria or viruses to get desired traits such as resistance to disease or tolerance of pesticides. Such as: apples that have been genetically modified to be resistant to browning.

Studies about GMOs...

The results from a meta analysis (conducted by Wilhelm Klümper, Matin Qaim, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Georg-August-University of Goettingen, Germany),  studies the uncertainty about GM crop and reasons for public uncertainty. They found:

“On average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%. Yield gains and pesticide reductions are larger for insect-resistant crops than for herbicide-tolerant crops. Yield and profit gains are higher in developing countries than in developed countries.”

This study gives sturdy evidence that GM crops have aided the reduction of the use of pesticides and benefited farmers.  The scientists hope that such evidence can “help to gradually increase public trust in this promising technology.

Because not all GMOs are safe, we need to have methods that help us distinguish between legal genetically modified (GM) foods and and illegal GM foods.  A study published in the journal of Food Chemistry has used an integrated “PCR-based DNA walking approach” which has recently been developed to identify unauthorised GMOs including a “pCAMBIA family cassette” that is frequently present in transgenic plants and the rice genome. After researching other methods and comparing them to their new approach, their suggested “DNA walking strategy” has been proven to be essential can easily prove, without significant additional cost and equipment, the presence of unauthorised GMOs in any given food/feed medium.

A study conducted in Ghent University states that: genetically modified crops with an increased vitamin and/or mineral content have a large potential to improve public health, but their availability for customers is still held back, as a result of negative public opinion. The research has recently published in the journal of Nature Biotechnology and it has demonstrated that these crops have a promising market potential.

Popular science have listed 10 myths and misunderstandings about GMO’s.  They aimed to clear up any misconceptions; including the claim that “All research on GMOs has been funded by Big Ag.” They prove that this isn’t true since there have been a lot of independent studies and also studies conducted by the WHO and they have all stated that the GMOs currently approved for market are safe.  They also disprove the myth that GMOs have caused an overuse of pesticides, when in actual fact GM crops have reduced the dependence on chemical insecticides.

We also have to remember that even without laboratory-based genetic modification to produce GMOs,  genetic modifications can occur naturally in organisms, albeit with a little bit of human interruption. Humans have been selectively breeding species of organisms with they’re desired traits (particularly in plants) such as better taste, yield or disease resistance.  

Fraudulent and bias discoveries...

A French microbiologist, named Gilles-Eric Séralini and several colleagues released the results of a long-term study in which rats were fed genetically modified corn that contains improved resistance to insects and/or the herbicide: glyphosate.  They took the extraordinary step of pre-releasing the paper to selected media outlets under a restriction on the condition that they sign a non-disclosure agreement; this prevented the journalists from seeking alternative scientific experts’ response to the journal and article. Then at a strategically planned media event they announced that their long-term studies found that the rats in experimental groups had developed tumours at an extremely fast rate.  After the media event, the news of their “discovery”, the news travelled around the world and the story “went viral.”

It turns out that the researcher’s utilised a strain of rats that were bred to develop tumours as they aged (a detail they failed to disclose along with many other essential details such as the rats’ food intake).  Considerably, mortality rates and tumour incidence in all experimental groups fall within historical norms for this strain of laboratory rats.  Therefore, the claim that the genetically engineered corn component of the diet or the herbicide caused the tumours is insupportable. They also failed to release all of the scientific data from all their experiments, which is not only scientific misconduct but also makes their research invalid and hard to trust.

Why are people against GMOs?

The majority of popular opinion about GMOs is negative. Even though there has been a lot of scientific research to prove that some GMOs are safe there’s still public unrest. So a team of Belgian philosophers and plant biotechnologists have turned to cognitive science/psychology to explain why there is strong opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and why it has become so prevalent, despite positive contributions GM crops have made to sustainable agriculture.  Their paper, published 10th April 2015 in Trends in Plant Science, argues that the human mind is very vulnerable to all the negative and often emotional representations put out by certain environmental groups and other opponents of GMOs. The scientists commented:

"For a very long time people have only been hearing one side," Blancke says. "Scientists aren't generally involved with the public understanding of GMOs, not to mention the science of GMOs is highly counterintuitive and therefore difficult to convey to a lay audience--so they have been at a disadvantage form the start."

"We want to bring the two sides more together," Blancke says. "You cannot say every GMO is bad. You have to look at each case separately to make a judgement."

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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Favourite SciArt Works - 30 Day blogging Challenge (Day 25)

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Favourite Science Instagram Accounts - 30 Day blogging Challenge (Day 19)

Personally, I love instagram. Its great for sharing images be it in the lab or personal interests. Here's a list of my favourite science Instragram accounts, hope you like them and if there's someone I've missed out, comment below and tell me about them.

1- From the Lab Bench
The account of Paige Brown Jarreau - She's recently completed a PhD in science communication and she blogs about science communication & her research. But Paige's instagram is filled with her beautiful photography such as this blue bird here.

2- PopSci
This is the account of the popular science website: Popular Science, who post about the "latest science, tech and futuristic nerdery"

This is the account of the popular science blog: WIRED, who post about the science, technology and everything in between.

This account goes by the saying "Science is Art" and their instagrm is full of colourful images, such as this one of neurons and stem cells. Go to CellPress' instagram page to find out the story behind the image.

5- ASAP Science
This is the account of the popular science YouTube channel: ASAP Science, who have almost reached a staggering 4 million subscribers! They post a "weekly dose of interesting science" through videos and photos.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Favourite Science Blogs - 30 Day blogging Challenge (Day 17)

Just as I love writing on my science blog, I also love reading other science blogs and seeing what science looks like through other peoples eyes. 

Here's a small list of my favourite science blogs which I recommend you go and check out!

  1. Compound Interest
  2. The Chemical Blog
  3. Pictures from an Organic Chemistry Lab
  4. Just Like Cooking
  5. From the Lab bench
  6. IFL Science
  7. The Chronical Flask
  8. Chemistry Blog
  9. New Scientist
  10. Guardian Science
  11. SciCurious

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Science blogging problems - 30 Day blogging Challenge (Day 16)

Science Blogging Problems...

There are two main problems that some science bloggers may come across:
  1. closed access articles
  2. a smaller audience
The first and main problem I  have as a science blogger is closed-access articles. Usually I find a really good topic / idea for a blog post and I try and research suitable journals to support my article, but the one that would perfectly match my post is guessed it... closed access! So I cant use that one and I'll have to go back and search for open access journals that fit the topic I wanted to discuss, or try and make do with all the information I can get out of the abstract.

The other problem is reaching a smaller audience. Not everyone who reads, likes to read about science or health related posts most the time, at least that's my opinion. Mainly those who are fascinated by science and love to read about it will read science articles and science blogs.

When I started science blogging I was convinced I would probably have only 1 or 2 readers maximum, however I have been lucky and my blog is seen by loads of people around the world, so I'd like to say: Hello, Welcome and Thank you so much for reading and I hope you continue to become regular visitors to my blog!

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Monday, June 15, 2015

Thoughts on the Future of Science Blogging - 30 Day Blogging Challenge (Day 15)

What do you think about the future of science blogging?

  • more people / scientists will start blogging
  • science blogs will become like lab books / diaries 
  • as science blogs become more popular, audience will grow & spread science education

More people / scientists will start blogging

In the near future science blogging will become more popular and science blogging will become popular between scientists. It could be a great way to communicate their research and write about other research. 

Science blogs will become like lab books / diaries 

Already, science bloggers utilise their platforms to blog lab work and lab photography. Science blogs could soon become a replacement for the standard lab book and all work will be documented on-line instead of on paper. 
As science blogs become more popular, audience will grow & spread science 

Currently the audience for science blogs consists of people who study / have studied science. In the future science blogs will become more famous than fashion and/or beauty blogs and will become peoples primary source for science information. 

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Why are you science blogging? - 30 Day Blogging challenge (Day13)

If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.
- Albert Einstein

I love writing. And I have always loved journalism & science. If I didn't have a career in science, I would have definitely had a career in journalism. Science communication is the best mix between science and journalism.

I aspire to be a good, professional science writer. A good science writer is able to write a post that caters to different tastes and they can also explain scientific concepts well via written communication to someone who lacks the understanding. I hope my posts convey this.

However I do enjoy working in the laboratory, and I wish I had started my blog during my studies at university so I could have written and posted photos of my progress in the lab during my project. I love reading and seeing other scientists "lab diaries".

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