Science Daily: Planet ‘devoured in Secret’ By Its Own Sun – Scientific Forefront

Had some interesting lunch time reading there. I’m sure several people have spoken about WASP-12b before (in fact I think I may have originally heard about it through a Discovery Channel documentary) but this is a nice bit of astrochemistry accompanying a pretty picture. It made me think of a person “scarfing” down their meal whilst they hide it behind their arm and huddle over the plate. Check it out.

Science Daily: Planet ‘devoured in Secret’ By Its Own Sun – Scientific Forefront.

Life (mostly The GIST) is taking over…

WARNING: This blog post has had no real editing process and may be a litte…”rambly”(if that’s even a word).

Alright, another update post. I guess this could be a little irritating if you’re watching my blog in the hope of some solid science and sci comm and all you’re getting is updates and such. However, this is more of an inside scoop coupled with an update. As you may know, I write articles for The GIST (I do other stuff there too but that’s irrelevant at this point in time) and if you keep an eye on the website (which I suggest you do) you’ll know that we’re putting together another printed magazine. If you read the magazine you’ll know that my mate and I wrote the opinion piece that’s (strategically hidden away) at the back. However you might not know that every article that makes it into our magazine (from this point forth) gets selected by a democratic process. As with any opinion piece, the one Scott and I put together last time (clicky) served to draw out people of the opposite view-point (a minority of course). In this blog piece I’m going to put it out there that I think this next article is going to be no different. Chances are that it’s going to be slightly more effective at drawing criticism from people of the opposite view. “why?” I hear you ask. Well it’s due to the subject of the article: homeopathy. I took part in the voting process for the articles in this next issue and whilst there seemed to be a good amount of support for the piece (a lot actually), it did draw some criticism…and that’s from scientists and people within The GIST – what’s it going to be like from the general public?

Opinion pieces about homeopathy are…well…clichéd. Scott and I had a good wee chat about this over a pint and we decided that we had to try to really hard to avoid this, and to shamelessly self-promote, I think we achieved that goal. (For those of you who don’t know me personally I write my opinion pieces with an old uni mate of mine. Whilst I like to think I am the ideas guy and focus upon the ethics or the science or the general thread of the argument, Scott is the guy that – largely – sets the tone and makes the whole article fun to read. He’s a genuinely witty man in real life and I think it comes across in what we write.) Nevertheless, I do think that when people hold certain opinions, they find it incredibly difficult to accept the opposite argument: it’s just human nature I suppose. Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked.

I’m writing this little update to let you know that blog posts over the next three weeks are going to be scarce! Here’s what I’m doing with my time (because I said previously that I’d use this as a public forum to “light a fire under my ass” if I wasn’t focusing on my career):

  • Reading a book (called Magenta Opium) for an upcoming book review
  • Editing the opinion piece with one of the specialist editors at The GIST
  • Overseeing the entire editing process and coordinating the articles once they’ve gone through the specialist stage
  • Arranging the “readability” edits (2 weeks away)
  • Of course, putting the final touches to my PhD thesis (pretty scarily important that one)

So have some patience with me please. I’m unusually busy at the moment. That being said, this is a good time for me to be writing down ideas for my next article/blog post. I find it really easy to think of things to talk about when I have no intention of doing them in the immediate future (suggestions welcome though). I’m thinking the next one will be a good science-based, chemistry-centric (hopefully) educational read…time will tell.

Glybera and the massive over-reaction it’s inspiring!

This week saw the approval of a new drug called Glybera. This is the first in a long awaited class of gene therapy compounds. Officially classed as an adeno-associated viral vector expressing lipoprotein lipase, a non-biologist like me can only assume that the virus will be responsible for locating the appropriate site within the body and then “inserting” the DNA into the appropriate cell’s DNA. Then when the newly adjusted DNA comes to be transcribed the appropriate enzyme will be the result (in this case lipoprotein lipase). Now I’m not going to get into the specifics of this…well, because I’m not an expert and frankly I have a lot of reading to do on this before I’d feel comfortable enough to really go at it. But I will say that in my opinion this has been a long time coming! I thought that with the advent of the human genome project, these kinds of drugs would be all over the place! Sadly this appears not to be the case.

an analogous enzyme

There isn’t a crystal structure for LPL but this is a phospholipase and I think it’s quite pretty. They’re from the same gene family (lipases) so It’s like putting in a picture of a good looking cousin and claiming it’s you. It’ll do for now but it’s not optimal!

The one big thing I will talk about though concerns the recent interaction I’ve had with other bloggers on here. Since deciding to make more of an effort with my blog, I decided to have a look at other writers out there in the big bad blogosphere. The first, second and third pieces that I came across all appeared to be engaging in some serious scare-mongering (Although curiously enough each one said the same thing, almost verbatim!.. that in itself is something I’m sure I could talk about). Does the community at large (and I ask this especially of non-scientists) think that we’re all going to turn into genetically modified super-humans? Or, more to the point, mutants? Do people really think that when a drug hits the market that scientists (and their marketers alike) have some magical power to make them take this drug? What is there to be afraid of? If you don’t trust something, don’t take it!

Let’s remember that, this drug has just been approved and if anything untoward does happen, you can bet your ass that it’ll be whipped off the market at break-neck speed. This leads me to my final point. This drug has only been approved for people whose genes don’t produce lipoprotein lipase naturally. So what this drug is doing is allowing their body to produce a naturally occurring enzyme that will prevent them from developing a potentially fatal disease. This is not the beginning of the real X-men!

Update

OK, so I’ve not really used this blog to its fullest potential…Or really much at all. However, that’s because over the last two years I’ve had one thing on my mind: Thesis. I’ve been trying to finish my PhD and as soon as it’s done and out of the way (hopefully with a positive outcome) I’ll focus much more on the science communication aspect of what I do. I’d like to set out here the things that I want to achieve so that there’s a record of how I should be spending my time! So if in another year I’ve got a grand total of four posts on this blog, those of you who know me, can kick my ass.
First, a little background. I originally got into sci comm (science communication to the uninitiated) to do podcasting. I don’t really rate my writing skills (even though I’ve spent the last two years almost exclusively writing) but I figured that I could get my point across by chatting with people. This leads me nicely onto what I want to do. Either through this blog, The GIST or what ever media outlet will let me abuse their resources I would like to do the following (and do it properly);

  • Do some regular podcasting
  • write, film and edit a short documentary
  • Begin to focus my style as a communicator – I’m thinking that humour is something that few people bring to professional sci comm just now
  • Find something genuinely chemistry-based to talk about, be it fundamentals or cutting-edge

This isn’t a manifesto or anything of that ilk, I just want to light a fire under my ass and hopefully construct some external pressure to force me into achieving some or all of the things I’ve set out to do. That’s why I’ve gone on to use twitter and other social media things, that’s why I came back to this blog and it’s why I’m writing this. Hopefully I can make this count.

 

Anyway, keep your eyes peeled and your ears to the ground and above all else, science your face in!

 

Craig – the science your face in guy!

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