#menaresofragile. Amused, I clicked the hashtag and learned that a clinical trial for TU NET-EN, an injectable male contraceptive, had been cancelled due to “intolerable side effects.” As I looked around the Internet that day, I saw that the hashtag reflected widespread outrage among women: we have had to stomach the unpleasant side effects of hormonal contraceptives for decades, and now an entire study is down the tubes because men can’t handle a little bit of acne? Continue reading Baby Blues: Setbacks in Developing Male Contraceptives
Misinterpretation and poor presentation of scientific research interferes with decisions about healthcare, policy, and lifestyle. In part one of this two-part series, we took a look at how scientists can help bridge the gap in communicating scientific findings to the general public through respectful discourse. However, better scientific communication is a short-term solution. It might result in a slight increase in general scientific literacy, but it depends on a public receptive to open, non-judgmental conversation on contentious topics. It’s like building half a bridge and leaving the other half unfinished… Continue reading Failure to Communicate, Part 2: Primary School
The chair squeaked quietly as I fidgeted, swiveling left, right, left. I sat toward the back of a long wooden table flanked by my fellow graduate students, while a pair of eminent biologists led a discussion on how to talk to skeptical non-scientists about evolution. Perhaps it was an intrinsic bias instilled by our families, or a side-effect of years spent steeping in the world of science; whatever the case, as we sat in that conference room we discussed those who dared to disbelieve as if they were at best misguided lambs to be converted and at worst heretical fanatics, frothing at the mouth and waving crosses wildly to fend off fish with feet… Continue reading Failure to Communicate, Part 1: Words can Never Hurt Me
For thousands of years, explorers, adventurers, and conquerors have searched for the “fountain of youth,” a magical spring that grants longevity to those who drink from it. Today, the search continues, now led by explorers of a different kind — research scientists. Although modern scientists use pipettes rather than compasses, the popular field of anti-aging research resembles the quest for the fountain in its obsessive motivation to increase lifespan… Continue reading Finding the Fountain of Youth
Craig Venter knows a lot, but there is also a lot that Craig Venter does not know. He knows the sequence of the human genome, having led the private-sector efforts to complete the project back in 2000. In the process, he showed that he also knows how to piss off a lot of people, prompting his critics to label him an egomaniac, and James Watson … Continue reading One Big Science Man: What is (Im)Possible for Scientists with Money?
Information is instant. I remember the moment when this fact of the digital age was made unequivocally clear to me. It was the summer of 2014 in Montreal and I felt my room shake. A truck? Thunder? An earthquake? An earthquake. The news was up on Twitter faster than it seemed possible to type.
Yet, as the internet breathes immediacy into almost all forms of communication, the dissemination of biological findings has remained embarrassingly slow. Research routinely takes years to be shared, hindering the speed at which science progresses… Continue reading The Selfish Speed of Science Publishing
Recently, concern about the long-term effects of head trauma related to contact sports has skyrocketed. At the center of the controversy are the rising number of former football players suffering from a neurodegenerative condition and the National Football League (NFL), which has largely denied any link between football and degenerative disease. Numerous stories have been written about the tragic deaths of former athletes, and Will Smith starred in a film about the forensic pathologist who first identified abnormalities in a former NFL player’s brain. As media attention increases, the underlying biology is rarely the focus. Reporting is rarely neutral — any head injury is either a sure path to lifelong distress or there is no reason to believe any link at all exists. The reality, however, is murkier… Continue reading The Reality of Brain Trauma in Sports