This summer, we’re opening up Mind The Science Gap to guest contributors in the University of Michigan School of Public Health. As well as giving some of our doctoral students, post docs and others an opportunity to try their hand at science writing for a broad audience, it’s a chance for them to write about the science that is currently grabbing their attention.
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And have a great summer!
Once again Mind the Science Gap has reached the end of another 10-week season. Drawing on some exceptional graduate student talent here at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, the course and the associated blog posts have continued to stretch the participant’s abilities, and proven that the School is producing has some incredibly talented science communicators.
The course – and the posts – will be back in the Fall term, with a new batch of articles starting at the end of September. In the meantime, I’ll be launching MTSG in the Summer in a couple of weeks – a chance for doctoral students and postdocs here at the University of Michigan School of Public Health to try their hand at writing the occasional blog post, without the pressure of the course.
Before we move onto the summer though, here are some quick facts and figures from this past semester:
- Over 100 posts, covering everything from hydrofracking and diet to e-cigarettes and the health benefits of vibrators
- Over 800 comments posted on articles
- Pickup and dissemination of posts on high-impact web sites such as Boing Boing, Digg and Real Clear Science
- Over 190,000 page views between January and April 2013
- Typical weekly views: In excess of 15,000 per week
- Most highly viewed post, January – April 2013: Does Music Help you Study? (26,396 views)
- Most highly viewed post from this semester: Are Antibacterial Soaps Bad for You? Part 1 (9,388 views)
- 39 countries and territories accounting for over 200 views each, including Switzerland, Romania, Egypt, Israel, China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and the US.
On a personal note, it has been as exciting as usual to see each graduate student gain in confidence and ability through the course. As I stress to the students (and as they stress to me at the end of the course) – this is not an easy course. Writing accessible, accurate and informative pieces to deadline, week after week, with an already-heavy course load, is extremely tough. But strong communication skills come through practice, not just theory, and the course provides a unique opportunity to overcome fears and gain in confidence, while honing skills and developing a strong portfolio of writing examples.
Look out for the MTSG in the Summer posts over the next few months, and please join us for the Fall class, starting at the end of September.
Until then – have a great summer.
Greetings, gentle readers and welcome to this, my final offering to Mind the Science Gap. “But David,” I hear you crying, “Why ever would you leave the glamorous world of science blogging? Why would you throw away a lifestyle rife with supermodels, champagne towers, and boundless adoration?” A fair question indeed, hypothetical reader – science bloggers are often portrayed as the NBA all-stars of the 21st century. Sadly, I must disabuse you of that notion. You see, the unfortunate reality is that NBA all-stars are the NBA all-stars of the 21st century, and as you will soon learn, science blogging is much more difficult than you’d imagine it to be.
I have so much in common with this man: for instance: we both have elbows. And breathe oxygen. (source: http://bit.ly/17bupw4)
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Everyone gives out marriage advice. The most memorable ones for me are both from former teachers:
1. Marry someone that can fix it or can afford to pay someone to fix it.
2. Marry someone that is your complete opposite – find a strapping, young Swede.
I’m not sure why the Swedes were singled out but that bit of advice was given by my AP Biology teacher when we were covering the genetics section. Although she was only half serious, she trying to make a point: having children with someone with similar genetic material has risks. So, expand your gene pool. Marry a Swede.
“If you weren’t my cousin…”
(courtesy of Arrested Development)
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For some reason my high school had gym class electives. I decided that it would be a great idea for me to learn how to rock climb. In New Jersey rock climbing is actually climbing up planks of wood with rock wall holds drilled into them. It’s nothing like a real rock gym. Anyway, after I mastered making a Studebaker harness and belaying techniques my classmates and I were ready to go.
This is not what I look like while rock climbing.
Image courtesy of PhotoPin.com
I was pretty jazzed to rock climb, but my classmates not so much. We had to carry these huge wooden planks and set them up so we would have a full “wall” to climb up. One of my esteemed classmates was not paying attention and was playing on his cell phone instead of holding the plank. It fell on my head. He apologized a lot, or so I was told. The details are a little hazy. After all, this was my first concussion. [click to continue…]
I want to be as healthy as I can be – is fasting for me?! Image courtesy of photopin.com
Let’s think back to Tuesday, when my classmate Katie Muir wrote on the effects of fasting on mental health (you’ll have to read her post to get all of the brainy details). After covering all of the potential benefits and concerns that fasting could have on the mind, I figured it was only appropriate to touch on fasting’s effect on another component of overall health: the body.
A certain type of fasting, coined alternate-day fasting (ADF) is rapidly gaining steam as America’s new favorite diet. While practicing this type of fast, individuals alternate a day where they eat as much as they want (feast), with a day where food consumption is completely withheld or dramatically reduced (fast). The basis of scientific interest in ADF has been attributed to the “theory of thrifty genes”, which says that the fluctuation between periods of feast and famine are required for optimal function of the body (Paleolithic era ring a bell?). Reports in the media are talking about benefits from ADF that utilize this fluctuation to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes. These potentially wonderful claims left me wondering if the research was in full support. [click to continue…]
Have you ever eaten an insect? I have. In the larval stage –steamed and buttered. It was the size of a plump raisin, but green, and tasted like fresh steamed broccoli. Actually, I believe I ate quite a few. Does that make me an “entomophagist” ? I would be inclined to say “no.” An entomophagist is a person who eats insects as a general practice. I ate my larvae by accident, before I noticed them among the organic broccoli florets on my dinner plate. Once I realized what I had done, I was fairly grossed out.
Nonetheless, just like you, I continue to eat quite a few insects. In U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) parlance, insect parts are “natural defects” in food. Nothing’s perfect. What are a few harmless insect heads, wings, eggs, larvae, and worms? To give you an idea, here’s a sample of what you’ve been eating:
Information Source: U.S. FDA Defect Levels Handbook
Clearly, you’ve been enjoying foods containing insects (who doesn’t love chocolate? ). Why not join 80% of the world’s population and make them an important part of your diet? After all, insects are incredibly nutritious and tasty.
“They taste like a huge sunflower seed”
One student’s response upon eating a grasshopper
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Sneezing? Coughing? Congested? Dry and itchy eyes? Yup. It’s that time of year when seasonal allergies have us reaching for anti-histamine and other anti-allergy medications to rein in our unpleasant allergy symptoms.
“I wish I could smell the roses…
if only I weren’t so stuffed up”
(Photo courtesy of pierofix via photopin.com)
Well, what about reaching for some delicious local honey?
Will honey help you?
If you are unfamiliar with this idea, there is a belief that consuming honey produced in your local area will ameliorate your seasonal allergy symptoms. [click to continue…]
Did you eat breakfast today? How about last night? Probably you had dinner too? Great! As a nutritionist I am always ready to tell you not to skip meals. Lately, however, I’ve been considering just the opposite. I’m talking about deliberately avoiding food through fasting. This ancient practice has been revered for ages as a health and spiritual tool. In the time of Hippocrates, fasting was prescribed to treat all manner diseases and religions have used it to help man open up to spiritual experiences. But isn’t this counterintuitive? Haven’t you experienced that slow, foggy mental state that accompanies skipping a meal? As a clever candy bar commercial suggests: you’re not you when you’re hungry. I know I’m not me when I haven’t eaten but the mental effects of longer bouts of fasting may surprise you. [click to continue…]