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  • Ash Bashing exposes Daily Telegraph DingleBrains
    was accused of using a scientific model based on probability rather than fact to forecast the spread of the volcanic ash cloud that made Europe a no fly zone and ruined the plans of more than 2 5 million travellers in and out of Britain My more hip and net savvy chums tell me the response to this is something like facepalm Heaven forfend A model based on probability Now my knowledge of vulcanology is based wholly on the brilliant Volcano Adventure which while a thrilling read and including all manner of excitement is let me be clear a children s book Likewise I know little of aeroplanes other than that they have not been designed to allow anyone taller than a 7 year old to sit comfortably in economy But I do know something about models and probability The Telegraph is here giving a particularly good example of the media s contempt for statistics It s all in that line contrasting probability with fact as if we should only base things on the latter There s a whole bookshelf of philosophy on when something should be considered a fact but we don t have time to deal with that Imagine you are crossing a busy road You look around and see a car coming towards you Do you know how fast the car is going No although you can guess Do you know that if it hits you it will cause injury Yes However you intuitively estimate the probability that you can make it across the road safely Now in very informal terms that is the same thing as the models we would use to assess the risk of flying Only in the case of flights and volcanoes it s more complicated Rather than just guessing probably quite accurately the speed of the car we need to estimate the density of ash and the effect it will have on the engines of aircraft And we might want to err on the side of caution But when it comes down to it it s the same thing You use the best guess about the risk to say whether it is safe It is in fact very easy to see why based on the facts governments halted flights Fact one volcanic ash can damage aeroplane engines and cause them to fall out of the sky Fact two there has been volcanic ash in the sky over the UK Does it follow from this that planes will fall out of the sky if they try to fly Of course not The sky is a big place and we don t necessarily know exactly whether the ash is Meteorologists can help tell us where it is most likely to be but that s not a fact in the way the telegraph seems to be demanding In the absence of monitoring devices suspended all over the north west atlantic we have to estimate using some kind of model And with that estimate comes probability

    Original URL path: http://blogs.lablit.com/2010/04/ash-bashing-exposes-daily-telegraph-dinglebrains/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Unintended repercussions
    March 2015 Lab Twitterati Links LabLit home Categories Comics Drugs Essays Fiction Films Guest post Lab LabLit Meta Podcasts Reviews Students Uncategorized Video Wide world Archives Archives Select Month March 2016 1 January 2016 2 December 2015 1 October 2015 1 June 2015 1 February 2015 2 January 2015 1 December 2014 1 October 2014 1 September 2014 1 June 2014 1 April 2014 1 March 2014 2 February 2014 1 January 2014 2 December 2013 1 November 2013 1 October 2013 1 September 2013 2 August 2013 1 July 2013 1 April 2013 1 January 2013 1 December 2012 3 July 2012 1 May 2012 1 March 2012 1 January 2012 1 November 2011 1 October 2011 1 September 2011 1 August 2011 1 July 2011 1 June 2011 2 May 2011 4 April 2011 2 March 2011 2 February 2011 3 January 2011 1 December 2010 2 November 2010 3 October 2010 2 September 2010 3 August 2010 14 July 2010 6 June 2010 4 May 2010 6 April 2010 5 March 2010 3 February 2010 3 January 2010 6 December 2009 5 November 2009 5 October 2009 10 September 2009 14 August 2009 8 Admin Log in

    Original URL path: http://blogs.lablit.com/2010/04/unintended-repercussions/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Uncategorized - Lab Literal
    want Christmas escapism searching for CP Snow LabLit chats with Anna Ziegler Summer reading LabLit com will be ten years old on 7 March 2015 Lab Twitterati Links LabLit home Categories Comics Drugs Essays Fiction Films Guest post Lab LabLit Meta Podcasts Reviews Students Uncategorized Video Wide world Archives Archives Select Month March 2016 1 January 2016 2 December 2015 1 October 2015 1 June 2015 1 February 2015 2 January 2015 1 December 2014 1 October 2014 1 September 2014 1 June 2014 1 April 2014 1 March 2014 2 February 2014 1 January 2014 2 December 2013 1 November 2013 1 October 2013 1 September 2013 2 August 2013 1 July 2013 1 April 2013 1 January 2013 1 December 2012 3 July 2012 1 May 2012 1 March 2012 1 January 2012 1 November 2011 1 October 2011 1 September 2011 1 August 2011 1 July 2011 1 June 2011 2 May 2011 4 April 2011 2 March 2011 2 February 2011 3 January 2011 1 December 2010 2 November 2010 3 October 2010 2 September 2010 3 August 2010 14 July 2010 6 June 2010 4 May 2010 6 April 2010 5 March 2010 3 February

    Original URL path: http://blogs.lablit.com/category/uncategorized/page/7/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Lab Literal
    done video clip August 11th 2010 by rpg in Students Video Jenny shows Alex and Alan how it s done and then they have a go 2 Comments add yours The first steps August 10th 2010 by Alan in Students So I ve spent two days working at MRC and it s been very action packed The first morning was spent learning the basics as shown in the wonderful video footage But we soon got to knocking down our genes and working under the hood which was cool as it s one of those things you always see the TV scientists doing But it wasn t until this morning that we got to have a good look at our cells and see how they were doing As Alex has previously said we did have a slight problem with the concentrations resulting in a bit of overcrowding but it wasn t too bad and this morning the cells were looking good The afternoon was spent helping Jenny with her Western Blot procedure I actually got to make one of the sandwich things to transfer from the gel plate to the membrane This was pretty cool and I expect to take full credit when Jenny finds something groundbreaking as a result of my genius Which as far as I could see went perfectly to plan see pictures I m looking forward to tomorrow and using the big boy microscope downstairs should be really cool But most of all I cant wait till Friday when we get to see how the gene knockdowns have affected our batches of cells the moment of truth 2 Comments add yours Day 1 Ready to do science Video clip August 10th 2010 by rpg in Students Video Alan and Alex s first day in the lab See more on YouTube 2 Comments add yours Day One Alex s version August 9th 2010 by Alex in Students So today I showed up half an hour early and too nervous to go inside to reception so I decided to wait outside for Alan to arrive When he got there we sneaked in behind someone who had a swipe card and soon Jenny came down to meet us in reception As we went up into her lab for the first time we noticed an interesting smell I was quite glad I had a blocked nose as apparently it was quite bad according to the others I really enjoyed what we did today Jenny explained how to do our experiment and how it worked but before we could put on our lab coats and leap into action we had to learn how to use some of the equipment Practicing with water we learned how to use the pipetteman and the pipetteboy Alan kindly demonstrated why the pipetteboy had that name by pretending it was a gun We then tried and I personally failed to open flasks with one hand I watched with envy as Alan calmly unscrewed the lid and expertly

    Original URL path: http://blogs.lablit.com/page/8/ (2016-04-26)
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  • A hard Nutt to crack
    advice of the ACMD In place of this Nutt has suggested a more nuanced classification system which has a lot to recommend it but might be hard to sell to the media I can locate within myself one iota of sympathy for Alan Johnson whichever choice he made he was going to face trouble To have accepted Nutt s recommendations would only lead to a world of political pain for the government Because next to the media Alan Johnson looks like Richard Bloody Feynman Some time ago I read a front page article about an ecstasy death in the Mail the Express or some other sewer of moral panic I can t find the link because the web archives of these august journals only go back a few years But I wish I could find the journalist who wrote it because they deserve an award for the single most stupid thing I have seen written on the front page of a national newspaper and there is stiff competition I am necessarily paraphrasing from memory but the point was that despite this tragic death showing the dangers of illegal drug use millions of people will take ecstasy this weekend Did you get that Millions of people If the journalist was right the upshot would be that ecstasy has a pretty good safety profile Just to close I would like to take some quotes from Johnson s letter to the Guardian published today in which he defends himself I am dissecting it to gain some insight into the way politicians see science Nutt s role as my principal adviser was to unsurprisingly present advice It is the job of the government to decide policy There s something interesting in there the use of the word present If you want to present something you need powerpoint If you want to advise you need expertise The focus on presentation suggests that the real role of the ACMD is as presentational window dressing policy based evidence He was asked to go because he cannot be both a government adviser and a campaigner against government policy Campaigner Nutt has not tried to hide his irritation with the way evidence has been ignored but he s not manning the barricades yet This suggests that if a scientist finds evidence in conflict with government policy he or she must resign Can you think of a more suffocating stricture for scientific debate Which scientist in their right mind will bother trying to advise a gang of know nothings who are only in it for the canapés And then on equasy it is of course a political rather than a scientific point There are not many kids in my constituency in danger of falling off a horse there are thousands at risk of being sucked into a world of hopeless despair through drug addiction Now this is where Johnson finally shreds what remaining respect I might have nurtured for him The only political point being made here is by Johnson

    Original URL path: http://blogs.lablit.com/2009/11/a-hard-nutt-to-crack/ (2016-04-26)
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  • The RI’s Coup de Splat
    2010 by Bill in Uncategorized A year or so ago I was discussing the Royal Institution s RI multi million pound refurbishment to incorporate among other things an expensive restaurant and bar Why did they go and do that wondered my friend there s a perfectly good pub just round the corner Typical scientist Why do we need an expensive restaurant when a pub is available We re an unworldly lot And generally speaking don t earn enough to eat out in Mayfair that often So what on earth was the RI thinking Now famously they are up to their eyeballs in debt said refurbishment having run over budget and facing a case from former director Baroness Greenfield of whom more later for unfair dismissal amid a sulphurous cloud of sexism Of course the RI is not just for scientists The RI Christmas lectures are a deservedly beloved institution Even if I can t recall who has delivered them for jeez decades I still recall being bowled over by a certain Dawkins chap 1991 and before him Colin Blakemore 1982 The way Blakemore held my attention is especially impressive considering that at the time I was far more interested in Battle of the Planets than almost anything else Both these were broadcast before I became a professional scientist and probably had something to do with my becoming one eventually The RI has always had a high profile among the public at large Perhaps it was hoped that the bar and restaurant would benefit from the recent flowering of interest in science which has led at least one national newspaper to run a feature on how science is cool really If so it would have helped if the restaurant was any good Instead it opened to the sort of reviews that you d kill for If that is you were running a competing restaurant next door which sold battered shit on a stick After reading Jay Rayner s review in the Observer I think I d have gone for the turd tempura Ouch It s not obvious that the refurbishment was necessarily going to be such a costly mistake The RI and other organizations like it are rightly trying to shed the slightly musty image they ve developed It is a dreadful shame when the press you get talks about all the interesting things which you did in the past But the RI s attempts have been a costly catastrophe If they wanted to see how it should have been done the Dana Centre and the Wellcome Collection have both produced excellent modern spaces for engagement with science And now having generously micturated 22 million quid up the wall on the refurbishment the RI is seized by political strife On Monday a meeting forced by some RI members considered whether to remove the RI council and possibly pave the way for the return of Greenfield who was made redundant in January Followed by a secret ballot the council was left in

    Original URL path: http://blogs.lablit.com/2010/04/the-ris-coup-de-splat/ (2016-04-26)
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  • April Fools in the lab
    2014 1 January 2014 2 December 2013 1 November 2013 1 October 2013 1 September 2013 2 August 2013 1 July 2013 1 April 2013 1 January 2013 1 December 2012 3 July 2012 1 May 2012 1 March 2012 1 January 2012 1 November 2011 1 October 2011 1 September 2011 1 August 2011 1 July 2011 1 June 2011 2 May 2011 4 April 2011 2 March 2011 2 February 2011 3 January 2011 1 December 2010 2 November 2010 3 October 2010 2 September 2010 3 August 2010 14 July 2010 6 June 2010 4 May 2010 6 April 2010 5 March 2010 3 February 2010 3 January 2010 6 December 2009 5 November 2009 5 October 2009 10 September 2009 14 August 2009 8 Admin Log in Entries RSS Comments RSS WordPress org April Fools in the lab April 1st 2010 by Jenny in Uncategorized The campus is closed today for Easter term though of course our building carries on uninterrupted To cheer us up we all found the following email in our inboxes from the Head of Department Dear All You will be aware that in the last financial year our funds were exhausted before the end of the 12 month period and we issued instructions to prevent further spending on accounts until the new financial year To ensure we get through the new accounting period without similar end of year restrictions we need to implement a savings plan now In the coming weeks I will be issuing advise on strategies to rationalise our use of antibody reagents etc In the meantime I want to start a policy of savings in the common room With immediate effect tea bags are to be used at least twice A stand will be placed in the sink area

    Original URL path: http://blogs.lablit.com/2010/04/april-fools-in-the-lab/ (2016-04-26)
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  • Well, that’s one use for an old copy of Nature
    com will be ten years old on 7 March 2015 Lab Twitterati Links LabLit home Categories Comics Drugs Essays Fiction Films Guest post Lab LabLit Meta Podcasts Reviews Students Uncategorized Video Wide world Archives Archives Select Month March 2016 1 January 2016 2 December 2015 1 October 2015 1 June 2015 1 February 2015 2 January 2015 1 December 2014 1 October 2014 1 September 2014 1 June 2014 1 April 2014 1 March 2014 2 February 2014 1 January 2014 2 December 2013 1 November 2013 1 October 2013 1 September 2013 2 August 2013 1 July 2013 1 April 2013 1 January 2013 1 December 2012 3 July 2012 1 May 2012 1 March 2012 1 January 2012 1 November 2011 1 October 2011 1 September 2011 1 August 2011 1 July 2011 1 June 2011 2 May 2011 4 April 2011 2 March 2011 2 February 2011 3 January 2011 1 December 2010 2 November 2010 3 October 2010 2 September 2010 3 August 2010 14 July 2010 6 June 2010 4 May 2010 6 April 2010 5 March 2010 3 February 2010 3 January 2010 6 December 2009 5 November 2009 5 October 2009 10 September 2009 14 August 2009 8 Admin Log in Entries RSS Comments RSS WordPress org Well that s one use for an old copy of Nature March 29th 2010 by Jenny in Uncategorized It was cold in lab meeting today Preternaturally cold Even though it was a chill rainy afternoon in London the institute s air conditioning was inexplicably blasting into the conference room When it s in the height of summer the heaters will invariably come on but that s another story We could start up the portable electric radiator one post doc suggested No said the boss It uses

    Original URL path: http://blogs.lablit.com/2010/03/well-thats-one-use-for-an-old-copy-of-nature/ (2016-04-26)
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