You say 'aluminum,' I say 'aluminium' let's call the whole thing off

News headlines are buzzing over Donald Trump kicking off a trade war. In amongst the smoke and mirrors of politics one thing is very clear, the name of the 13th element is pronounced differently in North America and Europe. In Europe the discussion surrounds US tariffs on steel and ‘aluminium’, while in North America it’sContinue reading “You say 'aluminum,' I say 'aluminium' let's call the whole thing off”

New migraine drug hails the future of therapeutic development

If you follow the science sections of the general media, you may have seen reports of a new migraine drug called Erenumab. The drug is not yet on the market but shows promise having just come through the final phases of clinical testing. Erenumab, made by Novartis, is one of several similar drugs being developedContinue reading “New migraine drug hails the future of therapeutic development”

Now is not the time to be complacent about plastic pollution

Some of us are old enough to remember when a polyester suit was fashionable. Although still used in clothing today, polyester has diminished in appeal since the 1970s. There is however, plenty of polyester still around but in a different guise as PET or polyethylene terephthalate which is the major constituent of plastic drinks bottles.Continue reading “Now is not the time to be complacent about plastic pollution”

Hot stuff

A 34-year-old man has ended up in hospital after eating a Carolina Reaper chilli. I have some sympathy because during my first post-doc, I was working in a laboratory at the University of Glasgow where a researcher was extracting capsaicin and some related compounds from chilli peppers. Capsaicin is the chemical that gives chilli itsContinue reading “Hot stuff”

Brain cells and the atomic bomb

Reports appeared in the press recently proclaiming that humans produce new brain cells throughout their lives (for example, The Guardian ). This account appears to contradict previous reports such as in The Conversation and in Discover Magazine Don’t we all wish these scientists could make up their mind (pun intended)? The most recent accounts thatContinue reading “Brain cells and the atomic bomb”

Rerunning the great science experiment

A lawyer friend of mine once asked me what science is, and what separates it from any other intellectual discipline? The question followed a philosophical discussion where I claimed my friend, as a lawyer, had a tendency to decide upon his desired outcome and then search for the evidence to support it. Science, I explained,Continue reading “Rerunning the great science experiment”

Subjective experience is not evidence

We all have our own idiosyncrasies and habits which we learn mostly from personal experience. Formulating a useful mental model of the world is what’s kept our species alive over evolutionary time. If eating a particular plant made you ill, then you knew to avoid it in the future. The problem with this is thatContinue reading “Subjective experience is not evidence”