Tag Archives: government

The Sex Myth: A book review

Last weekend I went to visit my other half, which involves 2 hours on a train both there and back. This is prime time to do some reading for pleasure, which I otherwise never find time for (despite having been a huge book worm for my entire life).

On this particular occasion I was getting my teeth stuck into a new pop science book by Brooke Magnanti called The Sex Myth: Why Everything We’re Told is Wrong. (Which, incidentally, lead to some surprisingly horrified looks from the businessman sat opposite me). I’m always slightly suspicious of anyone who feels the need to advertise their PhD on the front cover of a book, but in Magnanti’s case, she has good reason for wanting to emphasise her credentials. Better known as the Belle de Jour, while writing up her doctoral thesis Brooke worked as a £300 / hour call girl in London, and took the nation by storm with her memoir blog, in which she gave a rather positive view of prostitution. As it happens, she’s also a fully PhD-ed and postdoc-ed forensic scientist and statistician.

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A round up of the week’s news

These are just a handful of stories that have caught my eye this week, that I haven’t had time to write a proper post about.

Government still positive about GM research, but no plans to relax legislation

David Willetts, the UK Science Minister gave an interview to the Telegraph prior to a meeting of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council to share his thoughts about agricultural research. He was supportive of GM research, which he said the government would continue to fund, and the Rothamsted trial in particular, although he also pointed out that plenty of research is not transgenic and emphasised that the government does not plan to change its position on GM crops to a more permissive one.

Biologists don’t like equations! 

Dr Tim Fawcett and Dr Andrew Higginson from the University of Bristol have published a study in PNAS suggesting that biologists are prone to overlook equation-dense papers in favour of those that are less maths-heavy. For each additional equation, inequality or mathematical expression per page papers were on average cited 28% fewer times. Other theoretical papers were more likely to cite the equation dense manuscripts, but since the majority of papers are practical and these authors were less likely to cite papers relying heavily on mathematical theory, the overall effect on citation is a negative one.

Iconic sexual selection paper called into question

The single most cited paper in the study of sexual selection has been called into question by a new study by Prof. Patricia Gowaty from UCLA. ‘Intra-sexual selection in Drosophila‘ was published in 1948 and has made it into the bibliography of some 1385 journal papers (according to Web of Science); yet it may be fatally flawed in its method. The study predates genetic methods of tracking parentage, and so fly offspring were assigned parents on the basis of their inheritance of unique mutations. Unfortunately the study failed to account for the skew in results caused by only scoring flies with two distinct mutations, and the potentially lethal effects of some of those mutation combinations.