Archive for the 'Science' Category

In defiance of the ring finger ratio

In See Those Fingers? Do the Math [ScienceNOW], Constance Holden describes the latest study in brain and finger development by Mark Brosnan and collleagues at the University of Bath.

Boys with the longest ring fingers relative to their index fingers tend to excel in math, according to a new study. In girls, shorter ring fingers predict better verbal skills. The link, according to the researchers, is that testosterone levels in the womb influence both finger length and brain development.

Scientists have been interested for years in the observation that ratios of finger lengths differ in men and women. In men, the ring (fourth) finger is usually longer than the index (second); their so-called 2D:4D ratio is lower than 1. In females, the two fingers are more likely to be the same length.

That’s all very well. However my index fingers are longer than my ring fingers. And I have a (strongly mathematical, academic) degree in Engineering from the Imperial College, London.

Source: Boys with Longer Ring Fingers are Better at Math [Slashdot].

Getting open-minded about manned spaceflight

I stumbled across an article on a possible change to UK space policy [The Times], based on an interview with the recently appointed Science Minister, Malcolm Wicks MP.

From the article:

The Government’s long-standing refusal to fund manned spaceflight could be reconsidered to allow British astronauts to join expeditions to the Moon and Mars, the new Science Minister has indicated.

Britain will be an active participant in American and European projects to explore the solar system and should not automatically opt out of missions with human crews, Malcolm Wicks told The Times.

While there are no immediate plans to pay to send Britons into space, the presumption that such missions are always a waste of money should no longer apply, he said in his first interview since becoming Science and Innovation Minister in November.

It’s about time someone in government showed a degree of pragmatism. I reluctantly accept that the UK was right to cancel the bulk of its space programme in the last century – the economy simply couldn’t afford to sustain it and there was no way we could muster the resources to compete with the USA and USSR in their race. Yet, we now live in a completely different age. There is much more private sector involvement in space exploitation, there are many more space-faring nations, and much more of an emphasis on international collaboration. This doesn’t mean that we should rush into an expensive government-funded human spaceflight programme. On the contrary we should be careful to foster a home-grown space industry rather than throw tax receipts at a monstrous bureaucracy like NASA. Nevertheless the Minister is right to say that we should be open minded about astronaut missions and consider each on its own merits.

Is cancer research fradulent?

Received an out-of-the-blue email today drawing attention to a blog on alleged extensive fraud in medical research (especially cancer). Not sure what to make of it.

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IC Friends’ 2005-2006 events

The Friends of Imperial College have published their 2005-2006 programme of events. Some of the items, talks by Igor Aleksander and Chris Toumazou in particular, are gems worth clearing diary space for.