April 30, 2008
Albert Hofmann, the chemist who synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in 1938 died of a heart attack on April 29, 2008 at the age of 102. Hofmann (Wikipedia entry) also discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD because of an accidental ingestion about five years after he first synthesized the compound. The impact of this train of events on our understanding of the neurochemical function of the brain stretches across many disciplines from basic neuroscience to studies of consciousness and theology.
Obituaries: NYT, LA Times, Reuters.
[and thanks to reader Neuro-conservative who already noted this for the DM readers]
April 29, 2008
The Drug Law Blog notes that The Association of the Bar of the City of New York will be discussing Marijuana Arrest Policy tomorrow.
In 1977, New York State decriminalized possession of personal use amounts of marijuana. Nonetheless, researchers report that New York City is now the national leader in detaining individuals for possession of personal use amounts of marijuana. Beginning with the advent of quality of life policing, the New York City Police Department dramatically increased the number of arrests for marijuana possession: from 1997 to 2006 the Department arrested 362,000 people for possessing marijuana, in 2006 alone it arrested 33,000 people for marijuana possession. The Department also commonly holds marijuana possession arrestees in detention for up to 24 hours pending arraignment. Published research indicates that the marijuana possession arrests are not in central business districts, and that the police primarily make the arrests in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
Drug Law Blog also has a post reviewing 2006 marijuana arrest stats for the entire US and ends with the following observation.
That’s more than 1.5 million people who were arrested in 2006 simply for possession.
The link to my other post today should be obvious.
April 29, 2008
For some reason many people are in denial about cannabis dependence and wish to assert that there is no such thing, or if there is, it is somehow of lesser importance than is dependence on other substances of abuse. There are many ways to assess importance of course. What gets me going, however, are the assertions about cannabis abuse and dependence that are informed by anecdote and personal experience with a handful of users instead of an understanding of the available evidence.
To provide a little context for todays’ post, I took MarkH of denialism blog to task for his expression of what I viewed as standard cannabis science denialism a fair while ago. In a comment following his post, MarkH specifically identified nicotine withdrawal as being worse than cannabis withdrawal. This is the perfect setup since there are two recent papers which set out explicitly to test this hypothesis. Let us see what they found, shall we?
More Editorial Board Fun: Is the Journal of Neuroscience Interested in Behavioral Pharmacology Again?
April 28, 2008
It is no secret (although a much ignored fact) that journals will have a certain “type” of article that they are looking for that has little to do with objective scientific quality. Certain topics are “hot” while others that are not obviously different (from a detached scientific perspective) are not. Even “general” science or sub-discipline general (such as “general neuroscience”) journals will experience trends in which a certain technique or set of techniques are acceptable and others are not. For example RPM at evolgen has an observation about Tyrannosaur papers being published in Science (one of two top general-science journals). These trends are independent of the real scientific quality or potential for impact and change over time. For example, it was not so long ago that knock-out-gene-and-vaguely-describe-mouse was a killer C/N/S publication strategy.
Oftentimes the structural preference for a certain type of manuscript translates as HotNewTechnique = Publishable and OldSkoole = AutoReject, but not always. Sometimes it is OldSkoole Technique A = Publishable and OldSkoole Technique B = Teh Suckzzs. Which brings me to The Journal of Neuroscience.
A comment on a recent post of mine asked if I thought technicians should be paid more than postdocs. The direct answer is “no”, the more-involved issue revolves around my belief that “internships” and “training periods” are used in essence by those with power to steal labor from those without. Nevertheless this reminded me of a prior post that I put up on the old blog on August 30, 2007; it quickly turned into one of my most-viewed posts on WP. Note I don’t say “most appreciated”! Enjoy.
In a recent post, YoungFemaleScientist opines:
as a postdoc, you’re essentially a PI with most of the drawbacks and none of the benefits. You’re frequently on your own, but they get to claim they’re training you. You’re basically doing everything yourself, but they get to be senior author on your paper and put your work in their grants. Etc. etc.
See Thus Spake Zuska discussing an offhand PI quote in a LA Times 4-parter on a neuroscience lab in which it was suggested that grad students are “cannon fodder”. These comments are also supported by a recent Nature piece on trainees as indentured servants of their PIs. These types of comments (and indeed much more of the attitude to be found on YoungFemaleScientist blog) reflect the disgruntled post-doc and disgruntled grad student mindset on “exploitation”. This is a common theme, inevitably cited as a reason for all that is wrong with this “business”. There is some truth to the complaint, of course. But the PI is not always the bad guy and sometimes “exploitation” is actually the voice of experience trying to help the trainee’s career. We’ll start with the hit-em-hard:
April 28, 2008
Other than viruses and evolution, I also post about religion (I know, shocking, but Im an atheist evilutionist in Oklahoma, so I vent, okay?), fitness, grad school stuff, and my best buddy in the whole world, Arnold Swarwarchenegger.
I am sure ERV will be taking names and kicking total fucking ass!!1!!11!!ELEVENTY1!!!!!!!!!111!!!!11!!
April 26, 2008
I’m a little late to the “gender bias in particle physics” party, where Zuska, DrugMonkey, YoungFemaleScientist, and others too numerous to mention have been tossing back some brewskis and fending off the slobbering gibberish of ridiculous misogynist douchewheels like Gerard Harbison. (BTW, dude, what the fuck is up with that picture of you on your faculty Web page!? You really think anyone is going to mistake the size of that huge shaft in your hands for the size of your schlong?)
Anyhoo, I really just have one narrow point to make about the whole thing, and that relates to the idea that there is a need for “further study” of the relationship between conference presentations and career advancement in science. Are you fucking kidding me!?
April 25, 2008
April 25, 2008
April 24, 2008
As purely entertaining as it is to watch PhysioProf troll the Open Access Nozdrul, these discussions always raise at least six interesting avenues for further thought. For example a comment from bill touches on the notion that private “ownership” of one’s ongoing (less than publication quality) data is bad for science. The specific example being that results that may be annoying “noise” to one scientist might be gems to another scientist, if she only was aware of those data. To me, anyway, this links to a more interesting consideration of the back-and-forth between our scientific ideal of collaborative group effort and the reality of personal ownership of “ideas” and “results”.
In this area I want to talk about the “ownership” of our scientific effort that might be asserted by NIH Program staff within the individual ICs to be used in ways that act against the interests of individual scientists.
April 23, 2008
Bora linked to a recent article at the Scientific American Web site concerning “Web 2.0″ and its relationship to the conduct of science. The basic concept is that “THE WEB TOTALLY CHANGES EVERYTHING!11!!!!!1!ELEVENTY!11!!!!!1!” and scientists are and/or should be going to completely alter their way of communicating their findings to one another. One aspect of this is the notion of “Open Access Lab Notebooks”, pursuant to which scientists will keep their lab notebooks on publicly accessible Web sites where other scientists can view them and update the information they contain on a daily basis. In other words, scientists will essentially be continuously live-blogging their experimental activities in the lab. This is a totally fucking stupid idea.
April 22, 2008
The titular observation was the beginning of a good twenty minute rant from YHN during a lab meeting a few years ago after one of the technicians said something along the lines of “well, but I’m just a tech”. I forget the precise circumstances but it was in the context of some doctor-credentialed person or other not paying attention to the knowledge and expertise of the technical staff. This pissed me off then and many years later I still get irritated by these situations.
I write today in praise of the research technician and, especially, the TurboTech™.
April 22, 2008
A mnemonic device can be described as:
…a memory aid. Mnemonics are often verbal, something such as a very short poem or a special word used to help a person remember something, particularly lists. Mnemonics rely not only on repetition to remember facts, but also on associations between easy-to-remember constructs and lists of data, based on the principle that the human mind much more easily remembers insignificant data attached to spatial, personal, or otherwise meaningful information than that occurring in meaningless sequences.
April 21, 2008
Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde (or, as I like to call her, Dr. J) has a post up about the very interesting topic of PIs who continue to work at the bench physically performing experiments in their own laboratories. She was very impressed by the time-management skills and dedication to benchwork that this requires:
[A]ny tenured PI still doing experiments probably has some seriously efficient work habits, in addition to a deep-seated love for the benchwork. Hats off to you, Unnamed PI.
Needless, to say, PhysioProf has some opinions about this topic.