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Archive → December, 2011

2011: The year in blog numbers

Well, we’re right about at the end of 2011 and it’s time to thank you find readers for checking in with us throughout the year. We’re slowly rebuilding our momentum here at CENtral Science since moving from ScienceBlogs and were just shy of 90,000 visits for the year. Many of our colleagues get that many each month or week, and a few even each day. Still, we’re very happy that you take time to read here – we consider our readers to be top-quality – brilliant, creative, good-looking, and they even smell good, too! I’ll take 90,000 of you folks any day over millions of other less desirable readers.

I can’t resist the temptation to put up our year-end traffic report since I have the data available and I just love data sets. In addition, I find it interesting to see what topics garnered the greatest traffic. Below, I’ve put up the list of posts that received 100 or more views. The homepage is obviously the first because of those who have us saved as a browser bookmark. But, no surprise, our major topic of interest overall was synthetic marijuana and other until-recently-legal high such as “bath salts.” But ranking quite highly were our posts on dietary supplements containing aromatase inhibitors for bodybuilding and the newly-approved natural product analog for multiple sclerosis, fingolimod (Gilenya).

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Amy Harmon’s “Navigating Love and Autism”

I can’t gush enough about today’s page one story by Amy Harmon in The New York Times.

Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith. Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

As part of her continuing series, Love on the Spectrum, Amy follows a college couple who are emblematic of the relationship and intimacy challenges of young adults with Asperger syndrome or other forms of autism. I thought that CENtral Science readers would be interested in both Kirsten Lindsmith and Jack Robison, the latter having an intense interest and facility in chemistry.

The article leads with a warm and well-edited, five-minute video of the couple (by Sean Patrick Farrell) but I’d encourage you to read the whole piece first, as I did. But when you do watch it, pay attention to Kirsten’s closing statement on the definition of love.

I left the story seeing glimpses of myself and my own relationships, although I’ve not been diagnosed with any spectrum syndromes. In fact, I’d venture to say that many readers here might see some commonalities with Kirsten and Jack. I absolutely loved these two kids and seeing the video has me cheering that they do indeed successfully navigate the challenges we all face between our scientific passions and personal relationships.

While Harmon’s article isn’t open to comments at the NYT, I’d welcome any thoughts here that folks might have after reading her brilliant piece.

Source:

Harmon, Amy. Navigating Love and Autism. The New York Times, 26 December 2011.

Twitter:

Amy Harmon @amy_harmon

Sean Patrick Farrell @spatrickfarrell

 

An apology to my readers

I have changed the title of my previous post to more accurately reflect a comment by Michael Eisen that sharing PDFs of journal articles is an act civil disobedience toward the scientific publishing enterprise.

I had previously compared the practice to the Underground Railroad or Napster music file sharing. I deeply regret the use of the analogy of PDF file sharing to the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who facilitated the safe escape of enslaved African-Americans in the southern US to freedom in the North and northward to Canada.

I, in particular, should be especially sensitive to making such an ill-considered analogy of one of the most degrading episodes in US history to an intellectual discussion of sharing scientific papers.

It was wrong, period. I apologize deeply to my friends, students, colleagues, and any others who were offended by my thoughtless mistake.

#icanhazpdf: Civil disobedience?

Some lively Twitter banter has arisen this evening regarding the practice of sharing PDFs of scientific articles when one does not have personal or institutional access.

Specifically, some among my stead have taken to tweeting requests for articles using the #icanhazpdf hashtag.

For non-open-access articles, does this practice violate a publisher’s copyright?

Discuss.

(And I welcome input from my ACS overlords.)

 

Update 24 December: I have changed the title of this post to reflect a comment below by Michael Eisen that sharing PDFs of journal articles is an act civil disobedience toward the scientific publishing enterprise. I had previously compared the practice to the Underground Railroad or Napster music file sharing. I deeply regret the use of the analogy of PDF file sharing to the Underground Railroad, a network of abolitionists who facilitated the safe escape of enslaved African-Americans in the southern US to freedom in the North and northward to Canada. I, in particular, should be especially sensitive to making such an ill-considered analogy of one of the most degrading episodes in US history to an intellectual discussion of sharing scientific papers. It was wrong, period. I apologize deeply to those offended by my thoughtless mistake.

GSK Sells Off BC and Goody’s Powders

My friends, today is a dark day in the history of traditional, old-timey pharmacy in North Carolina.

According to Raleigh News & Observer reporter David Ranii, GlaxoSmithKline has sold their interest in two legendary analgesic powders and other over-the-counter products to Prestige Brands Holdings in Livingston, New York and Cody, Wyoming.

Cue the old Pace Picante advertisement about the competitor’s “Mexican” salsa made in New York City.

GSK even sold off Tagamet. Yes, Sir James Black’s cimetidine – the founding histamine H2 receptor antagonist for which Sir James shared the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Trudy Elion and George Hitchings.

Hell, they even sold Beano.

If you want to know what I’m talking about, seriously, please see my explainer from April on the rich North Carolina history of analgesic powders.

A shorter distillation of my post is this story at the North Carolina History Project.

The $660 million sales price will put $375 million directly in the hands of shareholders (*check TIAA-CREF mutual funds to see if I hold any $GSK).

Sorry, I can’t type anymore – I’ll be in mourning.

In fact, I think I need me a BC Powder.

Drugs of Abuse Tag-Team at Skeptically Speaking

A brainy, free, and fun online and radio chat-type call-in show on all things science. Hosted by Desiree Schell and edited by K.O. Myers. Awesomesauce. From Canada, of course.

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Canadian radio host Desiree Schell for her wildly-successful show, Skeptically Speaking. The episode on which yours truly appears can be accessed here.

Launched in March 2009, the show airs live on Sunday evenings at 6 pm Mountain Time on UStream where one can discuss the show and asks questions by live chat. The show also includes a previously recorded segment with another scientist and is then edited and distributed for rebroadcast to stations and networks across North America. The shorter pre-recorded segment where I appeared to speak about my most popular topic of the last two years on this blog, synthetic marijuana compounds.

I’m not entirely guilty of self-promotion here because I primarily wanted to mention that the first two-thirds of the show – the live part – was an interview with my neuropharmacologist friend, Scicurious, author of The Scicurious Brain blog at the Scientific American blog network and Neurotic Physiology at Scientopia. Sci has a gift for offering laser-sharp science in a hip, conversational manner.

Here’s how the Skeptically Speaking team describes the show:

With humour, enthusiasm and a lot of curiosity, Skeptically Speaking guides you through the fascinating world of science and critical thinking. We interview researchers, authors and experts to help listeners understand the evidence, arguments and science behind what’s in the news and on the shelves. A basic understanding of science, combined with a little bit of skepticism, goes a long way.

Note: The term “skepticism” may be new to you. If that’s the case, click here.

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Reddit AMA with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson. Credit: Patrick Queen/Columbia Magazine

I don’t know how many of you tune-in to these “Ask Me Anything” discussion threads at Reddit but I’ve been grooving on them since our colleague Derek Lowe did one back in March. In general, people of note can either propose their own session or be nominated to do so. Folks can ask them any question and the Reddit thread reflect their responses and discussion by others.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the giants in public communication of science. An astrophysicist who has been been the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium for the last 15 years, Tyson will soon re-launch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series. The complete thread of Tyson’s AMA can be found here.

Here’s one of his answers that may hold special appeal to our C&EN readers:

Question: If you think 5 and 10 years from now, what are you most looking forward to in science? Any expectations?

Tyson: Cure for Cancer. Fully funded space exploration. Physics recognized as the foundation of chemistry. Chemistry recognized as the foundation of biology. And free market structured in a way that brings these discoveries to market efficiently and effectively.

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Gooood morning, Santiiiiago!

My new Chilean colleagues: First-year medical students at the Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago, Chile. Credit: Xaviera Cardenas

I love my blogs and my readers.

Last Friday morning, I had the delight of Skyping in to a medical school bioethics class at Universidad Finis Terrae to discuss the virtues and pitfalls of animal research. I was contacted earlier in the week by an email from Xaviera Cardenas, a first-year medical student at this university in Santiago, Chile, who was looking for an international scientist to hold forth on this topic.

Readers of CENtral Science know that any novel chemical you synthesize must undergo some animal testing before it can be used in people. This is not our choice as individuals but, instead, a requirement of our regulatory authorities. Despite advances with in vitro technologies, testing in a limited number of rodent and non-rodent species is absolutely required.
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