Friday medley

By Grant Jacobs 05/11/2010

Cartoon, books, logic, clouded leopards, …

I have too many science articles lined up that I wish I could find time to write about, but an unfortunately reality is that those articles take a lot of time to write. We’ll see if the weekend brings any hope on that front. (In particular I would like to look at 3-D genome structures, an area that I have wanted to be involved in for a quite a while.)

In meantime my usual medley of links and comments that I write on Friday.…

Diode-ic humour


Geeky humour and social commentary that requires an understanding of what a diode does. Only at xkcd…

On-line reseller’s top books for 2010 Unavoidably breaking my own attempts to avoid promoting particular book resellers, Amazon is publishing it’s top picks for the year. (My links from individual titles are to GoodReads, bar one new release which has no reviews there…)

The Emperor of all Maladies cover

Obviously the years hasn’t ended. With the Christmas rush coming this is no doubt marketing…

But! – first in the editor’s picks is a popular science book: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. (It also makes 10th on the list of customer favourites.)

Included in the mix are Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, Four Fish (Paul Greenberg), and Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook (84), The Disappearing Spoon (Sam Kean, 100) among others.

They have a separate top ten science picks, some of which make their 100 of all books. Third on the list (64th on their top 100) is one new to me: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

While on the subject of science books, Misha Angrist’s Here Is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics. It was recently reviewed in the medical journal The Lancet.

(I’m not endorsing any of these as I haven’t read any of them! My budget unfortunately precludes buying endless new books! As much as I would like to…)

Towards better logic ArsTechnica is hosting the first of a two-part series on informal logic. Rather than focus on fallacies, which can be viewed as a negative approach, it starts with looking at the basic elements of a claim or argument.

Clouded leopard in tree

Retractions rising On a more serious topic Nature has written an editorial on the subject of retractions of research papers that bears thinking about.

Speaking from the Pharma side One of the gambits we often hear from those that oppose vaccination, or promote ‘natural remedies’ are lines tarring the ‘evil pharma industry’. On this theme, David Kroll has an excellent post on pharmaceutical bioethics.

What a job If you were a kid that read too much Gerald Durrell, dreamt of working with animals overseas and like (bigger) cats, this job with Thailand’s Clouded Leopard Project would have to be a pearler of an opportunity. (At least on paper.)

Other articles on Code for life:

Fainting kittens – feline myotonia congenita?

Paul Nurse on ‘anti-science doubters’ and the blogosphere

If presenting a claim on a popular issue …

Finding platypus venom

Rain, sleet, snow, music and science blogs

0 Responses to “Friday medley”

  • Grant, thanks so much for the link to my post about the thought-provoking talk I attended last week on pharma bioethics.

    But, oh dear, did I never send you a copy of Rebecca’s book?

  • thanks so much for the link to my post about the thought-provoking talk I attended last week on pharma bioethics.

    It was refreshing to see someone approach things “speaking in the positive”. The pharmaceutical’s side is often only presented defensively, in response to an accusation, rather than standing on it own. It was good to see.

    But, oh dear, did I never send you a copy of Rebecca’s book?

    No, you didn’t 🙂 But please don’t feel bad about. We talked about it the day (possibly only hours) before you were taken badly ill and bed-ridden for quite a while. Hey, I follow your blog! 😉 There’s no way I would have expected anything with you laid out like that. Besides, I have far too many books from the local 24-hour booksale to still read…!

  • Well, then. You are indeed correct – our last exchange was in January. Thank you for keeping up with my illnesses. I am indeed embarrassed. Even though you say you have some books from the local sale, keep an eye out in your post for one or two things from Fishpond 🙂 I’m sure you can get to them!

  • I’m sure you can get to them!

    I know I can! 😉

    Rebecca’s book (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) is available on the bookshelves here. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that in passing in an earlier article. I’ve seen Packing for Mars on the shelves, too, not so sure if I’ve seen Poisoner’s Handbook on the shelves or not. We do fairly well on bookstores in NZ. That said, I sometimes miss the London/Cambridge/Oxford bookshops from my Ph.D. student days.

    I have reasonably good success in getting the local library to get copies of what I pick to be more popular science books, so they’ll turn up there, too, I imagine. (They’ve got TILOHL, but curiously not in the city library but in the locality libraries and the book bus. Maybe the city copy has been rotated to the bus? I don’t bother compete with the holds – besides it blocks renewals which can stop someone from completing a book. I’ve recently got cut off mid-way through a book myself that way.)

    For readers looking for a copy of these books in local shops – if you’re having trouble, try the local university book shop, they have much better popular science collections than your typical high street bookseller.

  • Speaking of books, check out Jessica Palmer’s post featuring illustrations and what I first took to be a sample chapter from Carl Schoonover’s book Portraits of the Mind until I realised it was in fact a review! It’s a great post, really worth reading.

    In similar vein to how she writes that this is a book you can flip through and read, I have a couple of the Oxford Companion series that you can dip into every now and then. (Picked up from earlier 24-hour book sales, incidentally.)

  • David,

    Thank you so much for the books! (Both of them.) You’re far too generous.

    For what it’s worth: The second paragraph of The Poisoner’s Handbook lists elements that had been isolated by the early 1800s, including strontium. This reminded me of looking at the label of the bottled water I was drinking while travelling as a student in Kashgar (Xinjiang province, China) and seeing that my water featured strontium. Weird associations! 🙂