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.

World AIDS Day – Science & Pseudoscience of AIDS - Molecular Matters

Nov 30, 2014

In the early 1980s, the emergence of a previously unknown and fatal disease, raised concern amongst medical professions and fear in the general population. Those suffering from this new disease presented with a range of opportunistic infections, including rare forms of pneumonia and cancer – suggesting the cause was a failing immune system. Thirty years on, we now refer to this disease (or more correctly syndrome) as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and understand it is caused by HIV (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Much has changed over those thirty years – socially, politically and scientifically. Here, I will focus on the latter describing how fight to combat AIDS and HIV has resulted some of the most brilliant science, and also some of the most appalling pseudoscience. Fighting a disease requires learning as much as you can about it, in particular … Read More

Homeopathy takes another hit - Molecular Matters

Nov 11, 2014

On Friday 31st of October Dr Siouxsie Wiles from Sciblogs very own Infectious Thoughts blog gave an excellent interview of Breakfast TV explaining why homeopathy isn’t an appropriate treatment for ebola (or anything else). Now Vicki Hyde from NZSkeptics has presented a thorough explanation of why homeopathy is not a valid medical treatment on CTV, including a demonstration of how homeopathy dilutions “work”. This is great because I think the best way to discourage people from using homeopathic remedies is to explain to them what it is. Read More

Homeopathy not the solution for Ebola (or anything else) - Molecular Matters

Oct 30, 2014

A petition calling for the World Health Organisation (WHO) to “test and distribute homeopathy as quickly as possible to contain the (Ebola) outbreaks” is unlikely to gain much traction, given that the WHO, in August 2009, made statements indicating that homeopathy was not an effective treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, diarrhoea or HIV infection. Unfortunately, Green MP Steffan Browning does not seem to have been aware of this when he signed an on-line petition, asking the WHO to consider treating Ebola with homeopathy. Since this revelation the Green party has distanced themselves these comments with Greens co-leader Russell Norman stating that “There are many New Zealanders who use homeopathy but I think even they would say it’s not the right thing to use for Ebola. It’s not something we support and it’s not Green Party Policy.” Mr Browning … Read More

Pain, Pus & Poison – a fascinating series covering the development of modern medicine - Molecular Matters

Oct 28, 2014

I’ve always been fascinated by the evolution of modern medicine, particularly the development of modern pharmaceuticals, so I was looking forward to catching “Pain, Pus & Poison – The Search For Modern Medicine” on Sky TV, however, managed to miss the first episode. Luckily I discovered the episodes are also available on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni-pK2EBxaw The first episode covers the development of some of the drugs that have changed history – from ether and nitrous oxide for pain free surgery, aspirin for treating pain and fever, to some of the less spectacular developments such as heroin and chloral hydrate (the active ingredient of a Mickey Finn). The first episode was an fascinating mix of science, history, and self experimentation, as producer, Michael Mosley demonstrated the effects of drugs including nitrous oxide and sodium pentothal (definitely don’t try this at home). Read More

Science Communication = Choosing Your Terminology Carefully - Molecular Matters

Oct 27, 2014

I was channel surfing yesterday and caught the end of a science piece on graphene and its’ use in flexible computer screens. The story was on the programme “On the Money” a financially focused programme on CNBC, and was showing on one of the Sky channels. It was an interesting piece but I had to cringe when the scientist being interviewed explained that the prototype screens were dark because each layer “attenuated 2.5% of the incidental light” and that there were 40 layers. After this a voice over from the interviewer explained that most of the light was being blocked as it passed through the screen but she then, unfortunately, had to add a comment about how challenging it was to understanding scientists. It is so easy when we describe our areas of expertise to instinctively use terminology that is … Read More

Are the Media Reporting or Creating the News? - Molecular Matters

Sep 22, 2014

I ask this question after the post-election reporting that I have seen over the last couple of days, including that in the general media and on TV programmes The Nation and Q+A. Consider the following examples: This morning I heard one radio commentator suggest today would be “Coup 2”, that is that David Cunliffe would be rolled as leader of the Labour party. Yesterday on either Q+A or The Nation (or possibly both – both programmes were so similar it was hard to keep track) David Shearer was invited on to speak about what Labour had done wrong, then once he had left it was claimed that his very appearance on the programme showed he would roll Mr Cunliffe. Jamie Whyte (who  is probably my least favourite politician) was treated badly being repeatedly asked why he wasn’t going to resign, … Read More

Will Vote Compass Affect Voting Behaviour And Electioneering - Molecular Matters

Aug 27, 2014

Last week I worked my way through Vote Compass, the final result being that my interests closely matched those of the Labour party. Before doing this exercise, I was tossing up between whether I would be voting for Labour or the Greens. So even though the description of Vote Compass claims it will not influence voting, I think it will. But at least if it does influence voting at least it would seem to be helping people make an educated vote which does reflect their preferences. With all the widely reported data emerging from Vote Compass about what the important issues are for New Zealanders one has to ask whether this will affect electioneering and even the policies the different parties promote. I would think it would have to because a political party would be stupid to ignore the issues … Read More

Science is More Creative than Arts - Molecular Matters

Aug 27, 2014

“Science is more Creative than Arts” This was the proposition of the debate that I took part in today as part of CPIT’s Research Month. As you might have guessed I was a member of the affirmative team. It was an interesting experience and very popular – the room we used was filled to capacity. The opposing team won at the end of the day due to both the skill of the team, and the fact that the audience seemed to be made up of a large number of Arts students.* I’ve recreated most of my 5 minutes of the debate below, but first I want to discuss some of the (sometimes frustrating) arguments our opponents used. First, because I used some notes, this was pointed out as demonstrating a lack of creativity, ignoring the fact I had indeed … Read More

Breakfast TV Touting Pseudoscientific Adrenal Fatigue - Molecular Matters

Aug 11, 2014

This morning on the Breakfast show on TV1 there was a piece on “adrenal fatigue” and how more and more people are displaying symptoms. The moment I heard the vagueness of this term, I had to wonder if it was a real medical term or pseudoscience. Minutes later another pseudoscience red flag went up when one of the interviewees mentioned that it could be treated with a “liquid herbal adrenal support formula” and that these herbs have “been used for centuries.” Checking around online I discovered that the Endocrine Society, which represents 14,000 endocrinologists has stated that “Adrenal fatigue” is not a real medical condition. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms. Hmmm, not a good sign at all. So I … Read More

Gluten Free & Pseudoscience - Molecular Matters

Aug 10, 2014

There is little doubt that some people have an intolerance to gluten and that a gluten free diet is an appropriate way to address this. However, the gluten free diet is also associated with pseudoscience in terms of what it can achieve and how it is diagnosed. Take, for example, the recent news that tennis player, Novak Djokovic, has embraced a gluten free diet on the advice of his nutritionist. According to a recent article by Dr Joe Schwarcz, Djokovic was diagnosed as follows: Djokovic’s “nutritionist” asked him to stretch out his right arm while placing his left hand on his stomach. He then pushed down on the tennis champion’s right arm and told him to resist the pressure, which he was able to do. Next, Djokovic was asked to hold a slice of bread against his stomach with … Read More