Nathalie Jonsson

Science Writer 

  1. How To Stop Your Brain DJ

    Research into the matter of how catchy songs stick in the back of your mind shows that what you do while listening to certain songs can determine whether or not they will haunt you forever.

    That is good, because that also helps us figure out what can be done to escape those songs that play on repeat in your brain, or…er, earworms (ugh!).

  2. The Genes That Cause Cancer

    As predicted by James Randerson, environment and science editor at the Guardian, at yesterday’s masterclass How to be a science journalist, today’s big science news is a huge study looking at the genetic risk of developing some of the most common cancers.

  3. Is Changing The Public Opinion On Science A Mission For Special Agents Only?

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    In science you are often told that there are no stupid questions and that if you don’t ask questions you will never get to know the answers.

    With that in mind, the European Commission thought that best way to find out the publics’ opinion on science was to ask them. And so in 2005, they conducted a EU-wide survey across 25 of the EU countries, where almost 33.000 people were asked about their attitude towards and knowledge about science and technology.

    The numbers vary greatly between countries, but overall the survey sheds light on the current state of science. It has some good news for those trying to report on science and gives valuable insight into the publics’ main problems with science communication.

    The good news is: fortunately, Europeans are quite interested in science and technology.

    A majority (78%) said they were very or moderately interested in both, ‘new inventions and technologies’ and ‘new scientific discoveries’. As perhaps expected, very interested people tended to be: males, younger (15-24 years), students, managers, highly educated and living in large towns.

    Not only were people interested, but many also felt like they were poorly informed about new inventions and technologies (35%) and new scientific discoveries (37%). These are essentially the opposite of the previous category: females, older or retired people, low level of education and living in rural areas. What would be the best and most efficient way to quench these peoples’ thirst for science? How do you engage those who have no previous knowledge and no science degrees? To help answer that question it could be useful to look at what is putting people off science.

    Those who in the initial poll declared to not have any interests at all in new inventions and technologies (21%) and new scientific discoveries (20%), were further probed to give their reasons. Most claimed to not understand (32%), but almost as many said they just didn’t care (31%) and some thought they didn’t need it (16%). And personally, I see the potential to easily sway those reasons (especially the last two) with some clear and exciting facts. I blame the scientists themselves for not being able to persuade the general public that what they do matters. Scientist often present their data to other scientist, often in the same fields and any discussions that arise very detailed, which most likely is why only a small minority (10%) say that they regularly or occasionally attend scientific debates or lectures.

    These results make it apparent that the average science report out there is not working. They are not conveying all of that that interesting information that you, or someone else, spent precious time looking up. People are interested in reading about science and know that there is a lot more to learn, but the essential information about why the science matters or why it is useful to them goes unnoticed. People feel like they don’t understand, think that they don’t need it, or have not yet been persuaded to get involved.

    So, to change what people think of science, let’s change how we write and talk about science.

  4. Can Science In The US Be Saved From Religion?

    Zack Kopplin was only 14 years old in 2008, when the Louisiana Science Education Act passed in Louisiana. The law allows creationism to be taught in public schools and for the current findings on climate to be denied. Apparently, the law was passed to allow teachers who wanted to scientifically challenge evolution to do so, and to teach their students critical thinking in science.

    Which sounds noble, but very much seems like an opportunity root religious beliefs: All research speaks in favour of evolution and the challenging idea that this theory is wrong does not come from within the scientific community. It comes from religion. And the only arguments against evolution are found in holy scriptures.

    Today, Zack Kopplin is a science education activist and student at Rice University in Houston, US and on Friday he shared his struggle to kill similar laws in other states throughout the US in the Guardian.

    He has been successful in many states but has many more states to go. The struggle goes on.

  5. Share Your False Memories

    The 25th Edinburgh International Science Festival starts tomorrow and is held until the 7 April.

    As part of the spectacle, artist AR Hopwood has a touring project entitled False Memory Archive. It is an outcome from his Wellcome Trust funded residency at the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmith’s, University of London.

    The reason for collecting false memories, things that you believe you recollect but later find out never happened, is unknown.

    But I have a feeling that it might be uncovered in Edinburgh in the next two weeks.

  6. Show Me The Money: UK Science Budget 2013

    George Osborne, Minister of Finance in the UK (or more cryptically Chancellor of the Exchequer and Second Lord of the Treasury of the United Kingdom), has been busy lately.

    Yesterday he released the budget for 2013.

    In times of austerity, frozen bank accounts and letters slipping form the UK credit rating, how much future money will go into science? The Guardian took the time to listen to Mr Osborne’s budget speech yesterday and wrote some conclusions for the future of science in the UK.

  7. Big Picture of Brains

    If you have been enticed by all of the recent brain exhibitions and activities going on in London, the Wellcome Trust had you in mind when they put together their most recent issue of Big Picture.

  8. Time To Get The Full Pharma Story

    Already in the first chapter of his book ‘Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients’, Ben Goldacre goes into detail of why he thinks that all clinical trial data should be published.

    Today, pharmaceutical companies get to pick what data they publish on the drugs that they want to sell. Even if they have done many trials, they actually don’t break any laws if they just withhold some of it. This makes it hard for doctors and patients, who only get part of the full story, to make truly informed decisions on what treatments they use. Sometimes, people fight for years to see the withheld data. It has reviled one drug to be be less effective than previously thought and another drug to have very high suicide rates.

    Ben Goldacre wants to change this and calls for a law stating that all data from all trials should become available to the public. He is asking anyone that agrees to sign his petition with the following plea:

    “It’s time all clinical trial results are reported. Patients, researchers, pharmacists, doctors and regulators everywhere will benefit from publication of clinical trial results. Wherever you are in the world please sign the petition”

    If you’re in the UK, you can be persuaded to sign the petition by Ben Goldacre himself from his appearance on The One Show on BBC1 today. When you are ready to sign. Do it.