Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of nature.com blogs, SciLogs.com and Scitable: 2 – 8 March

Women’s Work

This week, a special issue of Nature looks at how science remains institutionally sexist. The issue considers the gender gap and what’s being done to bridge it. At November’s SpotOn London conference, we looked at some of these issues with a session dedicated to women in science and in the run-up to the talk we hosted a collection of blog posts on the SpotOn site:Women in science

Why female scientists should blog

To Blog or Not to Blog

Athene Donald, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Cambridge looks at the challenges of using social media and blogging as a way to overcome the frequent invisibility of women in science:

… If you start a blog, what then? How do you get a readership? Do you have to do that dreadful thing ‘self-promote’ in order to make sure people read it and is that anathema for many would-be bloggers (as for women in other instances as I discussed here)? ….I found it painful to self-promote at the outset, but I have more or less got inured to doing so through Twitter. But as recent experiences showed me, there is more to it than just that, and support from friends is vital in keeping fighting the good fight.

You can find a summary of the other featured posts, divided by topic, here.

Women in STEM 

This week’s Soapbox Science guest post is by freelance writer Ben Thomas, he looks at the status of women in STEM fields and how it needs to change:

One aspect of the problem seems to be anachronistic social pressure: Despite the well-known fact that female scientists have been the brains behind lynch pin discoveries in physics, engineering and medicine, young girls don’t always receive much encouragement to tinker in the sciences. “Early exposure can play an important role in generating interest in [STEM] fields,” says Erin Cadwalader, public policy fellow for the Association for Women in Science. “As a culture, we don’t particularly encourage girls to play with mechanical objects which can develop both comfort and interest.”

What can we do to help ensure women in STEM are getting a fair shake in terms of board representation, citations and so on? Share your suggestions in Ben’s comment thread. 

Is male circumcision justified?

Hazem Zohny explains in the House of Wisdom blog, circumcised men experience significantly lower levels of sexual pleasure and orgasm intensity compared to those uncircumcised, according to a recent study from Belgium.

An ancient Egyptian fresco depicting a circumcision ceremony. Source: Wikipedia

An ancient Egyptian fresco depicting a circumcision ceremony. Source: Wikipedia

But, how does this research translate into the bedroom? Continue to Hazem’s post to find out. 

$1M Prize for Brain Research

brain-corralIsrael’s President Shimon Peres, is doing his part to encourage neuro research and has set up a $1 million research and development award for a breakthrough in brain technology. Bernard Dichek elaborates in the House of Wisdom blog:

Known as the Global B.R.A.I.N (Breakthrough Research AndInnovation in Neurotechnology) Prize, the award will be granted to an individual, group or organization for a recent breakthrough in the field of brain technology. The international judging committee is composed of distinguished leaders in neuroscience, technology and business, including three Nobel laureates: Profs. Eric Kandel, Daniel Kahneman and Bert Sakmann. The application deadline is March 15, 2013.

The prize will recognize an innovation on a path to commercialization with potentially significant impact to humanity.

Find out the innovations eligible for this award in Bernard’s post.

Potential treatment for severe influenza

Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

In the Spoonful of Medicine BlogKevin Jiang looks at a study published this week in Cell.  The study shows that a modified omega-3 fatty acid known as protectin D1, was found to markedly increase the chances of survival in mice infected with various strains of influenza, including the H1N1 strain behind the 2009 ‘swine flu’ epidemic:

“The authors show for the first time that [protectin D1] actually disrupts replication of influenza,” says Charles Serhan, an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It provides a natural template for new therapeutic development.”

When given microgram doses of protectin D1 intravenously 12 hours before and immediately after infection with a strain of influenza A, three out of eight treated animals survived past a two-week end point; by comparison, all seven control counterparts died within eight days. Mice infected with the 2009 strain of H1N1 swine flu fared even better when treated in this manner—all six survived, compared with only two out of six in the group that received only a saline solution.

Continue to Kevin’s post to hear how protecin D1’s therapeutic potential may help humans.

Global call for coordinated fight against cancer

According to an international panel of leading cancer organizations, the world needs better patient registries, improved treatments and more research if it is to tackle the international challenge posed by cancer. Heidi Ledford expands on this in the News Blog: 

The report highlights a series of research needs, including the need for more and better patient registries to provide data on cancer incidence and outcomes, noting that worldwide cancer estimates from theInternational Agency for Research Against Cancer are pulled together from only about one-third of 184 countries. The panel also emphasized the need for more research into cancer prevention, believed to be the most cost-effective way to reduce the impact of cancer, yet an area many believe is underfunded.

Hear more highlights from this report in Heidi’s post. 

The Violent History Of Mauritia

LL_734Breakup-of-landmassOver on Scitable’s Labcoat Life blogKhalil A. Cassimally talks about Mauritia, a now submerged continent billions of years old:

Continental drift, responsible for Mauritia’s downfall, also gave birth to the continent. It tore apart its grandmother, the grand and glorious continent of Gondwana, into smaller continents, among them the futures of Madagascar and India. But while Madagascar opted for a sedentary life as a solitary island, the Indian subcontinent had plans to merge with now-Eurasia, an entire ocean away. The path was tumultuous and sure enough along the way, the Indian subcontinent was battered by the arch-enemy, continental drift, which slashed some land off it. Undeterred, the Indian subcontinent kept on going, faster than ever, leaving behind her children. Mauritia, one of those landone of her childrenwas born an exiled son, abandoned and at the mercy of nature.

Learn more about the history of Mauritia in Khalil’s post. 

Mother of invention

It’s International Women’s Day today and to celebrate, SciLogs blogger Malcolm Campbell talks about how his mother inspired him (and others) to study science:

On this day, International Women’s Day, during a week when many in the scientific community have considered the role that women play in science, I would like to honour my mother, Ginny Campbell. For good reason, we often focus on the key role that women play in inspiring and mentoring other women in science. We should also remember the role that female scientists play in inspiring young scientists, male and female alike. Female scientists are, after all, scientists – inspirations to all of us, regardless of gender.  My mother’s inspiration led me on a journey that I would not exchange for anything. Thanks mom.

Bees and Flowers

Finally, you can learn two incredible things about bees and flowers in Akshat Rathi’s latest post over at SciLogs. Here is a spoiler:

Flowers attract bees by giving them a dose of caffeine.

Just like in humans, caffeine stimulates the bees. But what’s more is that researchers found caffeine also helps bees long-term memory retention. Thus the nectar of flowers that is laced with caffeine is remembered better by the bee.

It’s a win-win for both. Bees get more nectar and the flower gets to spread more of its pollens.

Image credit: Ars Technica

Image credit: Ars Technica


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