Thursday, November 26, 2009

Google in consumer news

On my days not at work I quite often listen to You and Yours (Radio 4). Today they were talking about Google. Today they also mentioned another story that they had covered.

Today it was this: if you search for the name of a well known florist that can deliver to your chosen recipient, among the sponsored links is the name of another one. The first is suing the second. I tried this with the example given (this blog only advertises when I want it to!), and it is indeed so. I have just tried searching for my usual daily newspaper, and it is the only sponsored link that appears. The same happens if I search for the maker of our car.

The other story (which I did not hear and which I can't find quickly on the You and Yours site or in the last couple of programmes on Listen Again) concerned an offensive image of Michelle Obama, which appeared at the top of the list of results. This is reported elsewhere on the BBC, and the report goes into the way that Google ranks results, which of course is all to do with popularity.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nasal spray and Burkholderia cepacia

Vicks has recalled some of its nasal sprays because of possible contamination with a soil bacterium, Burkholderia cepacia, which can cause problems to people with impaired immune systems or cystic fibrosis, and has caused hospital acquired infections.

There is news and details of the recalled products, including lot numbers, on WebMD - this includes details of the recalled products in the US, Germany and the UK. The story is also covered on PJ Online, and the MHRA alert is here.

For more on B. cepacia, try these:

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (USA)
Burkholderia cepacia complex MLST databases (multilocus sequence databases - allelic and isolate information)
Health Protection Agency

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Worms in space

My eye was caught yesterday by this article in the Guardian, describing the voyage into space (on the shuttle Atlantis) of some nematode worms from Bristol. Apparently some worms that were on board Columbia, when it broke up on re-entry in 2003 - the container which held them was discovered several weeks later.

According to the press pack for the mission (STS-129, which is also taking parts for the International Space Station), there are two experiments (known as CERISE). One will investigate the effect of microgravity on RNA interference, and the other (the one described in the Guardian) the effect of the space environment on protein phosphorylation and signal transduction in muscle fibres. A search of the NASA site ( for the word "nematode" will find some other experiments that have been carried out on C. elegans in space.

This mission is STS-129 and there is a launch blog here. There is lots more about C. elegans on the Caenorhabditis elegans WWW server maintained at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Later note : just discovered this NASA resource, "Ask a C. elegans expert", part of their Web of Life site.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Developing countries and the media

I shall allow myself the liberty of going slightly off the usual subjects. I was reading the very interesting Developments magazine, produced for DFID, on the train the other morning. One article which caught my eye described training film makers in Kenya to make films on environmental issues in a way that would catch the attention of Kenyan villagers or school children. These are short films, involving and made by local people, different from documentaries or conservation films made by people visiting the country. The project, funded by the Darwin Initiative, involves Dr David Harper of Leicester's Department of Biology.

The other thing on a related topic concerns TV coverage of developing countries, a report commissioned by the CBA-DFID Broadcast Media Scheme and the International Broadcasting Trust. It found: news coverage of developing countries is limited and may often involve voices from outside, not inside the country. People may not watch documentaries, but they may read novels that change their perception. TV dramas (The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is mentioned) may be presented as rather "soft" and "Sunday night", but programmes like Long Way Down and Top Gear may present a rather more realistic and full portrayal of developing countries - I do remember being very taken with the Long Way Down programme that took Ewan Macgregor and Charlie Boorman through Ethiopia. There is more about the report here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Animals containing human material

The Academy of Medical Sciences has launched a new study of this, reported on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning. This caught my ear, as it includes consideration of animals that contain a gene sequence of human origin.

There is material about this study on the AMS website - a press release, some responses from partner organisations, and a fact sheet. The press release includes the scope of the study: "... to: examine the scientific, social, ethical, safety and regulatory aspects of research involving non-human embryos and animals containing human material".

Still here

Just have not been blogging. Until today. Will attempt to make this the first of many posts, not just a single posted excuse.