Monday Awesome: Ferrets

This Monday was always going to be tough – how can I do better than the badass honey badger? But one place on the net that I do visit frequently is, because I like cats, I can spend hours procrastinating by looking at funny kittehs, and really, who doesn’t like a picture of a little kitten? I’ve often wondered what my cat is thinking, so I love the way the site gives cats (often hilarious) voices to the outside world.

This week’s Awesome comes from Cheezburger, via YouTube. Ferrets playing is almost as cute as kittens playing.

Worm genomes and excitement.

Ascaris lumbricoides (image: CDC DPDx)

Nature, as a journal, is really a magazine, and therefore its scope is really, really broad. That means that it’s really, really hard to get anything published in it because the demand is so high. Everyone wants an article in Nature, or Science. There is certainly a degree of prestige associated with having a publication in these journals.

I would like to direct your attention to a particular paper Continue reading

Malaria REALLY is a media tart.

Image: Plasmodium vivax (yes, not falciparum) ring stage (top) and trophozoite (bottom), from

More has come out of the recent trumpeting of malaria vaccine successes in trials. There is a news piece in the current issue of Nature, detailing some concerns of other researchers in the value of publishing the preliminary (and partial) data – and the subsequent media frenzy that ensued.

I wrote previously about communication of scientific results (see koala post), and how it’s so important to get the right message across to journalists and the media. Context can change when someone with a lesser knowledge of the subject writes about it (she says as she writes about malaria immunology…), Continue reading

Too much data? Never!

(graph from Berkley Earth Surface Temperature,

Climate and climate change have been talking points lately – especially in a political sense, with the whole ‘carbon tax’ thing going on. Something that comes up time and time again, and that I recently waffled on about myself, is that good science on climate and climate change is either not communicated effectively, or drowned out by noisier but less well-informed people. So, the Berkeley Team has put together a very nice and very comprehensive data set and one of the things they’ve found is that climate change is happening (see graph above). Cue shocked gasp. Continue reading

Malaria is a media tart.

Ahh, malaria. The media tart of the parasite world. Various news outlets are reporting on an experimental malaria vaccine developed by PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and GSK, currently undergoing trials. Preliminary results have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine (which, incidentally, has an impact factor of about 4 gazillion). A quote from the journal article: “These initial results show that RTS,S/AS01 reduces malaria by half in children aged five-17 months during the 12 months after vaccination and that it has the potential to have an important impact on the burden of malaria in young African children.” A 50% reduction seems to be a good start, but will not achieve herd immunity, which is the point of vaccination. Perhaps over time, the researchers will improve the efficacy of the vaccine and further reduce the infection rate. But that’s not really the point I want to make about this. I do not doubt that malaria poses an unacceptable risk to health, particularly of children, in tropical areas. The stats on malaria-related morbidity and mortality are clear. In 2009, over 780,000 deaths were attributed to malaria, and most of those were children.

The skepticism I have for the success of this treatment is based on three things: Continue reading

Monday Awesome: Chris Cornell

I’ve gone for another musical Monday Awesome today. I went to see Chris Cornell live a couple of weeks ago, and was blown away by this song. I think it was the piano that did it for me. We get inundated with guitars, everyone does unplugged shows with guitars. The sublime voice of Mr Cornell soaring over the solo piano is one of the coolest things I’ve heard for a long time.