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.

Sir Peter Gluckman on New Zealand's Childhood Obesity Epidemic - Molecular Matters

Jun 09, 2014

Yesterday on TV One’s Sunday programme there was an interview with Sir Peter Gluckman on New Zealand’s childhood obesity problems and his recent appointment to the Commission to End Childhood Obesity by the World Health Organisation. I thought it was an excellent interview (though personally I would avoid terms such as co-variates and multi-sectorial) highlighting the value of science in informing us about the issues involved. The interview can be found here … Read More

Why We Need More Women in Engineering - Molecular Matters

Jun 07, 2014

New Zealand needs more engineers, and one way to achieve this is to encourage more women to consider engineering as a career. The benefits of having more women in engineering are many. Engineering jobs these days are often team efforts, which typically benefit from team diversity. And dare I say it, more women many have a civilising effect on male workplaces. However, there are still challenges to encouraging young women into engineering careers, some of which have been discussed in Siouxsie’s recent post on “Why Science is Sexist”. These include A limited understanding of what engineering is Where engineering is understood, the focus can be on mechanical engineering, vehicles etc and gadgets Intentional sexism by science, mathematics and engineering teachers Unintentional sexist by teachers and society in general Some examples of such discouragement are described in the following video … Read More

"Legal Highs", Testing, & Political Point Scoring - Molecular Matters

Apr 29, 2014

The removal of “legal highs” from shelves in two weeks, and the debate over using animals to test them, has science taking a backseat to politics as political parties line up to score points with the public. “Legal highs” are being withdrawn from the market because they have never been tested in terms of their toxicity (which begs the question why were they ever made legal?). Politicians from the major parties are now saying they do not support testing of these drugs on animals (with accompanying video footage of them petting a cute furry animal) which leads to a catch 22 situation. How can you effectively test these substances without animal testing? Several politicians have trotted out the “fact” that drugs can be tested using computer modelling and in test tube tests, however, this does not provide the full story. Read More

Futurescape – promoting or overselling science? - Molecular Matters

Apr 27, 2014

Futurescape with James Woods is a programme I recently discovered on the Discovery channel. It extrapolates where science and technology might lead us and our society in the future. It often paints the picture of an amazing and thought provoking new world where we will live for centuries, don powerful exoskeletons and design our children. However, as I watched different episodes I felt that it is overselling the science and technology, and made me think of the criticism that came out of overly optimistic scientific claims of the 60’s “but where is my flying car?”   I can’t help but wonder whether such programmes are good for promoting science and technology, or whether the oversell may create unreasonable expectations of what science and technology can do?         … Read More

What use is Art? - Molecular Matters

Apr 27, 2014

I came across several blogs (e.g. here and here) reporting that a kindergarten in New York has cancelled its students art show as it is more important to prepare students for college and their future careers. At first I thought this must be a hoax but some websites are claiming that the letter sent to parents and caregivers has been verified. It reads as follows: Dear Kindergarten parents and guardians: We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools and, more specifically, to clarify misconceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face … Read More

Ken Robinson – 3 Principles to Improve Education - Molecular Matters

Apr 27, 2014

Sir Ken Robinson is one of the educationalists I most admire. He is a skilled speaker and his advocacy for a broad and engaging education system is inspiring. In his latest TED talk he outlines three principles that allow the human mind to flourish and which could vastly improve educational outcomes around the world. Previous talks by Sir Ken can also be found here and here … Read More

The Men Who Made Us Fat - Molecular Matters

Apr 22, 2014

Over the weekend I watched a documentary series called “The Men Who Made Us Fat”, playing on the BBC Knowledge channel (but also available on Youtube). It is a fascinating look at how the food industry has used marketing to alter our eating habits, fought against attempts to regulate unhealthy foods and engaged in dubious practices to make unhealthy foods look healthy. It also explores the science which has been used and abused over the past century to promote industry aims, and the sheer idiocy of allowing the food industry to have a major role in determining government policy (my favourite quote from the documentary is given below). “Putting the food industry at the policy table is like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank.” Professor Simon Capewell, University of Liverpool Episode 1 looks at how … Read More

There Must be Board Games in Heaven - Molecular Matters

Apr 14, 2014

Advocates of the paranormal often complain that skeptics are close minded, so in the spirit of open mindedness I wondered what might be another explanation (other than chicanery or delusion) as to why mediums and psychics appear to communicate with the dearly departed through vague statements, and asking if anyone knows someone with the initials “J” or “M”. The only explanation I could come up with is that there must be board games in heaven. Hence when communications come through from “our side” they are responded like a board game. Injuries are communicated through charades, for example, with the holding of abdomen or head. This, of course, makes diagnosis fairly vague, as there are quite a few things that can go wrong in the abdomen or head, but this may be enough to satisfy their grieving kin. The identity of … Read More