Michael Edmonds

Dr Michael Edmonds has 20 years research experience in organic and analytical chemistry most of which has involved the synthesis and analysis of biological molecules with interesting properties. Some of this work involved developing a new approach to preparing novel fluorinated organic compounds. Since 2010 he has been in a management role and is currently Head of Engineering & Architectural Studies at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. Over the past few years he has also realised the importance of science communication, and as such started this blog along with giving a range of public talks. Science communication is important for not only encouraging the public to understand and enjoy the benefits of science, but also to immunise them against the purveyors of pseudoscience and anti-scientific sentiments.

A "Formula" to Account for Resistance to Scientific Consensus - Molecular Matters

Apr 14, 2015

In some areas of science there is very little resistance to the scientific consensus. Very few people will challenge the consensus that water flows downhill because of gravity or that objects are different colours because they absorb/reflect different wavelengths of light. However in other areas of science, for example – climate change, alternative health treatments, immunisation the corresponding consensus in the scientific community receives more resistance. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what some of the factors are that make this difference, and have come up with the following “formula” as an explanation: R is proportional to C x A x (NS/S) where R = resistance to scientific consensus C = complexity of the system involved A = how negatively the individual is affected if the consensus is accepted NS = exposure to information not supporting the scientific consensus S = … Read More

How the Medical Profession Supports Alternative Medicine - Molecular Matters

Mar 29, 2015

One of the things we often hear from proponents of alternative medicine is that they like alternative practitioners because of their holistic approach – and some of the bloggers here have previously countered by saying that medical practitioners do the same. For example, I feel that my GP takes a holistic approach to my health – he is happy to discuss a range of issues with me, including diet, exercise, side effects of medications and ways to minimise my need for medication. Over the years, for example, he has helped me manage my asthma and reduce the amount of medication I need. Recently, however, I was in Australia and had to seek medical attention twice for a relatively minor complaint, and both times I found the attention I received was cold and rushed. Both physicians focused on the symptoms, asked … Read More

From the Mouth of Food Babe - Molecular Matters

Mar 26, 2015

Food Babe, aka Vani Hari, has developed quite a following on her blog where she provides advice on healthy living. Some of the advice can be quite good, however, it can also include incorrect information often creates unnecessary chemophobia. A recent article for magazine The Cut provided some good examples of how good advice can be muddled with less than scientific information. The article starts poorly with Vani explaining that “For several years, I’ve started my day with warm lemon water and cayenne pepper. Lemon water is very alkaline and can stimulate the liver.” Lemon water is very alkaline? I don’t think so. Lemons are acidic. Later she describes her own diet which seems quite sensible – lots of green vegetables, proteins etc. Unfortunately this is accompanied by a requirement that the vegetables are organic due to a fear … Read More

What Management can learn from Good Teaching Practice – the Flipped Classroom - Molecular Matters

Mar 21, 2015

Over the past few years I’ve come to really appreciate the concept of the “flipped classroom”, whereby students are provided access to the content of a course outside of class time, and class time is used for students to engage in more active learning, applying the content. There are many ways to do this – content can be provided via an on-line platform such as Moodle, or with set reading before class, leaving class time for activities which allow students to apply the information – e.g. labwork, group projects, simulations. More recently I’ve come to think the same approach could be used to make meetings a lot more productive and enjoyable. Too often I seem to attend meetings where documents (content) are tabled at the meeting or where someone reads through a pre-prepared powerpoint, leaving me very little time to … Read More

A More Inclusive Approach to Education - Molecular Matters

Jan 30, 2015

The Chief Executive of Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (and my bosses boss) gave a talk at TEDx in Christchurch last year describing a more inclusive and broader approach to education. I think she makes some good points; having taught in the polytechnic sector for 15 years now I have found my concept of successful education has certainly changed. I have great admiration for those who can construct houses (when I can’t nail two pieces of wood together), move an audience to tears or laughter through performance, or cook and serve an imaginative degustation meal. And for those for whom money is the indication of a successful career there are certainly diplomas which afford more lucrative career pathways than degrees. Read More

The Nerdist, Danica McKellar and Promoting Maths - Molecular Matters

Jan 28, 2015

This morning on Sky TV’s science fiction channel I caught an episode of a show called The Nerdist, which covers topics which I guess are a bit nerdy. On the show this morning there was an interview with Danica McKellar. Probably best known for her role as Winnie Cooper in the Wonder years, she is also a talented mathematician, and has graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics with honours. She has  written a several books popularising mathematics, particularly for young women. Her first book, Math Doesn’t Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail, was a New York Times best seller. I tried to find the Nerdist episode on Youtube so I could share it but can’t seem to find it. I did come across several Youtube videos by Danica McKellar … Read More

A Humble Email re MMS - Molecular Matters

Jan 25, 2015

Yesterday I received an email which appears to be from “Archbishop” Jim Humble, creator of MMS or Miracle Mineral Solution. For those who aren’t familiar with MMS it is an alternative health product made by mixing a bleach solution with a weak acid to generate traces of chlorine dioxide. A website selling this product works around current advertising standards by claiming or should I say not claiming that “Therefore, regardless of the many thousands of success stories worldwide, and recommendations that you may have heard from family and friends; this website cannot and will not make any public claims that MMS‘treats’ or ‘cures’ serious diseases or conditions; such as asthma, diabetes, autism, heart disease, arthritis, HIV, AIDS, cancer, leukaemia, malaria, hepatitis A, B and C, herpes, TB, lymes disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, sarcoidosis, scabies, candida, bronchitis, CHD, COPD, MRSA, crohn’s … Read More

The Evolution of Medicines - Molecular Matters

Jan 13, 2015

Next Wednesday evening, the 21st of January at 7 pm, I will be giving a public talk in Christchurch on the “Evolution of Medicines – from Farmer to Pharma”. This will be the first lecture in 2015 for our local Skeptics in the Pub group. The history and evolution of medicines has always fascinated me. The medicines we use today are the product of centuries of human endeavour to understand and treat disease, and have resulted in significant improvements in both life expectancy and quality of life. In my talk I will look at how, across time, our understanding of disease and how to treat it with medicines has evolved significantly, from early belief in disease causing demons and bad air, to the four humors, to the science based medicines of the 20th and 21st centuries. I will also look at … Read More

The Poisoner's Handbook on Youtube - Unsorted

Jan 07, 2015

A couple of weeks ago I came across a TV version of The Poisoner’s Handbook on Sky TV’s History channel. The Poisoner’s Handbook is an excellent book which both Grant and I have previously reviewed (see here and here). It provides a fascinating insight into the development of forensic science in the early 20th century. I was going to blog about this sooner but unfortunately it hasn’t been repeated (unlike pseudohistoric programmes such as Ancient Aliens which seem to be repeated endlessly – but I digress). Fortunately, today I discovered that the full programme can be found on Youtube. So for those of you who enjoyed the book, or for those who would prefer to watch it rather than read it, you can watch it below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=deMLmq0C_aE … Read More