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Minimum Alcohol Price and Publicans March 15, 2009

Posted by calvinus in Alcohol and Pills.
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So the government might be getting into deep (fire)water if they actually follow up on what their senior medical adviser suggests and hike up the price of booze by a considerable amount. If the problem is binge drinking then you might think that a minimum price per unit of alcohol would deter some people. But I doubt it will deter the hardened boozer that much. Can anyone supply a link (or lack of link) between disposable income and intake of alcohol per week? I’d be interested to see the stats for that. Oddly (or perhaps not), one of the more commonly heard objections to this proposal, and it is only a proposal (as it is likely to remain) is that it will lead to the death of the public house across the UK. This seems to be a little beside the point. There is something decidedly odd about supermarkets selling beer for less that the equivalent volume of water. Granted that this may be a little harsh given that the same supermarkets sell petrol for less than the equivalent volume of water, but why not hike the price per unit volume that off-licenses can sell at but freeze those that licensed premises can charge? Should keep the publicans happy. However, binge drinking remains a distinctly public sport. For a stay of execution, should we not expect publicans to properly exercise an increased responsibility when selling alcohol in the first place and support them to do so? Pubs are largely not responsible for the problems associated with our drink-obsessed culture but they are a conduit for some of its louder, more dangerous nuisances. Lets get to the sources of this behaviour – there is a demand for alcohol, and much as I would rather that high street shops didn’t sell beer quite so cheaply, lets not shoot the messengers just yet.

Grow Your Own Drugs March 8, 2009

Posted by calvinus in Media.
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Last week, BBC 2 started a new series. “Grow Your Own Drugs”. The next iteration of science programmes presented by fresh-faced young people who talk 6 inches tot he left and 10 inches above the camera (yes Dr Cox, I mean you).

Now, whilst I welcome the addition of another science programme to the schedules (come back Tomorrow’s World!) there is something unsettling about the Beeb’s latest offering. There are odds and ends of loose interest and they do take care to say that no double-blind trials were conducted and could you please consult a GP before consuming any of the recipes on offer but what is the message? Is it to eat healthily and here are some natural remedies you can use instead of propping up the likes of Proctor and Gamble? Is it educational and here are where past and other cultures found the medicines needed to overcome certain problems? Or is it some half-homeopathic titillation?

Hmm…that title…

Well we know where we’re goin’ March 1, 2009

Posted by calvinus in Teaching.
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But we don’t know where we’ve been.

This seems to be becoming more and more the case these days. Some of the students I teach become so “institutionalised” inasmuch that they think only in terms of the subjects they are studying and only in terms of what they have to learn. Future tense. Any sense of connecting this with what has already been learned is implicit. It is not a conscious decision to relate current topics with skills already acquired. I spent an hour an a half trying to get my final years reconnect with this and realize what they are doing at a subconscious level. Add to this a lack of confidence to tackle subjects outwith their concept of what is their subject, we run the risk of graduating students that are not as rounded as they deserve to be.
Should scientists have to think about the philosophy and psychology behind what they are learning? I think so. Not too much, but there should be a small amount of teaching aimed at probing the fundamental meanings of the language and symbolism used. When is a measurement not a measurement? How does your concept of measurement bias your results? What is “truth” and “true” results in an experiment? This latter question is one I see more and more coming up. Our “average” fresher thinks that there is an absolute, true value that their experimental results must be close to. “What is the real value?” is a question I am often asked.

Good question. Come back at the end of your degree and tell me what you think then.

Where is this blog going? Who knows. The future is certain, give us time to work it out.