Monday, November 30, 2009

Life Sciences Salary Survey, 2009 - Charts

"Gender: Many experts note that, at lower levels, women appear roughly on par with men (see our January 2008 article, "Fixing the leaky pipeline"). There was no exception here, where there was little difference between salaries for men and women with junior job titles and with few years of professional experience. However, at higher job titles, the gap widens. Female professors, for example, have a starting median salary of $126,000 at 15-19 years experience, while men with the same experience start at a median of $164,000, or 23% higher."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Early Thanksgiving!

In case you were wondering what to do, how about checking out this letter to the editor about a pretty shocking paper in PNAS this week. You can get to the original publication, causing such an outcry here.

To entice you to read, here are some quotations (in italics) with my commentary - the first three are from the letter to the editor and the last is from the abstract of the paper itself - enjoy.

1. It has happened before, and I'm sure will happen again, but that doesn't excuse the lapse in judgement:

"This paper has fallen through the cracks of the review process of one of the most prestigious scientific journals, and this has not passed unnoticed."

2. Something that separates true scientists from hacks is the ability to admit when the evidence does not support one's hypothesis - can you guess which category this guy falls into?

"Why did the author ignore the weight of phylogenetic evidence that utterly falsifies his claim?"

3. Or maybe, he is just a complete lunatic.

Perhaps the most amazing thing from this article is not the bold proposal, but the fact that the author believes that there is a research program behind his claims: “As an initial trial, it should be possible to attach an onychophoran spermatophore to the genital pore of a female cockroach and see if fertilized eggs are laid” (1). I am not sure this can be taken seriously.

4. I'm going to go out on a limb and say, he is, at the very least, combative, as evidence by the first line of his abstract:

I reject the Darwinian assumption that larvae and their adults evolved from a single common ancestor.

How about a nice top ten:

Edited from this post.

A dozen Ten reasons to celebrate Darwin
By Deborah Heiligman

This is Darwin's year. We celebrated his 200th birthday in February and this month is the 150th anniversary of publication of "The Origin of the Species". Sadly there are still misconceptions about Charles Darwin and his science, falsehoods that are spread, making people scared to teach children about him. But we most certainly should teach our children about Darwin. Here is a primer I hope will convince:

1. Charles Darwin was a loving, caring father and a very kind man. Not a meanie, as someone one said to me ("survival of the fittest and all that."), but a softie. His children ran in and out of his study looking for rulers and scissors and tape. He hugged his children, bathed them when they were babies, and let them jump on the sofa, even though it was against the rules.

2. Charles Darwin was a genius. He had a great idea--evolution by natural selection-- that has withstood the test of time. He did not get that idea in a Eureka moment in the Galapagos. It was only after he left, on his way home that he started to think about the finches and mockingbirds and their beaks.

3. Charles Darwin was a hard worker. When he was interested in something he gave it his all (as a child he wasn't that interested in school). He was extremely organized and methodical. He took years and years to perfect his theory so that it would be as airtight as possible. He anticipated the objections and addressed them in his book in a chapter called "Difficulties with the Theory."

4. The word THEORY in science does not mean "just a theory." It means the analysis of a set of facts.

5. Darwin hated to offend and he hated controversy. In "The Origin of Species" you will see that in his voice. It pained him to think that he might cause anyone discomfort or hurt. That's why he sat on his theory for decades.

6. Darwin never said that humans evolved from apes. This is a basic misunderstanding of evolution. Humans and apes have a common ancestor. Recently scientists found an early human ancestor. In the tradition of Darwin they worked for years to put together the pieces.

7. Charles and Emma Darwin had a long and close marriage even though they disagreed about religion. The marriage survived the deaths of three children. When their 10-year-old daughter Annie died, in 1851, their hearts broke, but not their marriage. Why? They talked to each other, working hard to see each other's point of view.

8. Charles Darwin had champions among his religious colleagues and friends. Here in America Asa Gray, the botanist, championed Darwin's theory, leaving room for God in the process. And at home Emma was his first reader and best editor. She did not seek to dilute his argument in The Origin. In fact, she cleaned up his language (and his spelling and punctuation) to make the prose stronger.

9. Charles Darwin was one of the real Good Guys in history. It's true that he published the Origin after he found out that Alfred Russell Wallace also had the same idea. It was the thing that pushed him to finally publish, after decades of sitting on his work (because he did not want to rock the boat). But first he had his paper and Wallace's published together. Then he wrote his book.

10. Charles Darwin is a great role model. He was a genius who worked hard. He was a loving father and husband. His kids adored him. So did his friends. He was honored by his country when he died.

We should teach our children about Charles Darwin.

Enough of the truth to make it worth re-posting, not to mention the great visuals!

Why America is Fat
Created by

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life is good with with your feet on the ground

From Good Reason:

Imagine that you're hanging on to a rope, suspended over an abyss. All around you are other people, all clinging to their ropes. You shout encouragement to each other, telling each other not to let go of the rope or else you'll fall. Hang on to the rope! they say. They even have a song: "Hold On to the Rope". They sing it to each other on Sundays.

You've been hanging on to the rope for a very long time, and your arms are tired. All this rope-holding doesn't seem to make any sense sometimes. The rope burn is terrible. But you don't dare let go of the rope because of all the awful things that will happen to you if you do.

At last, you become so tired of holding on to the rope that you let go, and fall.

Six inches. That's how far away the ground has been all this time.

This is a great surprise. So you tell the others, "There's no danger! You're almost touching the ground as it is!" But they won't listen. They just cling to their ropes all the harder.

And now you have choices. You can walk around. You can run, or even dance if you want to. Or you can talk to other people that have also let go. Strange how you never noticed them before. You also have two free hands that you can use to build things, examine things in this new world, or hold hands with someone nice, instead of just holding on to the rope all the time.

Life is good with your feet on the ground.

Friday, November 20, 2009

vaccines take two

I had the misfortune of sitting next to one of those people yesterday, one of those people who think their phone conversation is so important that they should speak loudly enough for everyone on the bus to suffer though it. Not only was this person rude and inconsiderate, she was kind enough to let us all know what a big fat hypocrite she is. I didn't want to know about her life story, her struggles, or her personal beliefs, but apparently she felt the need to broadcast them to the entire bus, so now, I do not feel like I am invading her privacy by sharing my thoughts on what I was forced to sit through.

She got pregnant two years ago, at which time she was, in her words, "very pro-choice", and then, at age 20, pregnant and unwed, she chose to let the zygote develop to full term. It was, she says, a very difficult decision. Subsequently, she was recently featured in a Collegian article at a candle-light vigil along with her son and a group of pro-life activists.

Let me pause to note that I respect her choice to have a child, and I admire any student mother - heck, I admire all mothers! I also have nothing against people who want to hold a peaceful, and non-intrusive, demonstration of their views. Good for her - good for them. If she had hung up the phone right then, I would not have felt the need to share her otherwise innocuous rudeness publicly. But she didn't.

Said girl proceeded to complain about the doctor's visit she had with her son earlier that day, and how the doctor was recommending that her son be vaccinated against Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR). She was outraged at this suggestion - she has, after all, heard many stories about children who developed autism after getting vaccines...WHAT?!?! Hold the bus, literally! At this point, my husband can see that I am about to blow a gasket on this girl...even now, remembering it, my heart is pounding out of my chest. Said girl continues to go on, and on, about how she doesn't trust doctors or science, and that stories from her personal encounters give her the background she needs to determine that her son is NOT going to be vaccinated. The icing on the cake, though, was when she worked herself into a huff on the phone as she recalled how the doctor wrote a note to the daycare her son was attending, recommending that he not be allowed back until he received his MMR vaccination. The gall of some medical professionals! I encourage every parent, every person, in fact, to do their own research before making decisions about their health, or the health of their children, but to ignore peer-reviewed, validated studies in favor of regurgitated scare-mongering, that is negligent and destructive to individuals and to society as a whole.

As someone who hopes to become a parent, I would definitely NOT want to send my child to any daycare where he or she would be exposed to non-immunized children. Why should my child be exposed to preventable, potentially life-threatening diseases because said girl lives her life off of hearsay and misinformation? I would be disappointed had the doctor NOT made that recommendation.

In case you're wondering, there is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism. There is also no evidence that driving while pregnant, or eating tomatoes, or breast-feeding cause autism, so please spare me the argument that lack of support does not indicate a negative result. When it comes to autism, there is such a wealth of papers that show a lack of support, that together they do indicate a negative result. Autism is actually a spectrum of disorders and can have a profound effect on families with autistic children, siblings, parents. Work by reporters for the Sunday Times ( exposed that the one (and only) research to ever show any link between autism and vaccines, published in 1998, falsified and altered its data to produce the desired results - most of the children had already been showing signs of autism prior to their vaccination, and their symptoms span the wide range of autism spectrum disorder. Basically, the one study on which all of this hysteria is based, is a bold-faced lie. However, it is a lie that people want to believe, so they grasp onto it with every fiber of their being; people would rather blame a scapegoat, however innocent it may be, than live without knowing the truth.

So, after 15 minutes of this incessant dribbling of whatever brain matter said girl has left, I cannot stand it anymore and politely excuse myself from the bus to endure a walk in the November rainstorm, rather than risking the chance that I'll lose my cool with the mass of uninformed and completely irrational excuses sitting next to me.

Sitting down in our car, soaked from the rain, it dawned on me:

Why bring a child into this world just to let him die of a preventable disease?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thinking about vaccines...

Something to keep in mind regarding vaccines:"One dose from a multiuse vial contains about 25 micrograms of mercury. By comparison, a tuna fish sandwich contains about 28 micrograms of mercury."

A friend of mine, who is a child psychiatrist, helped me understand that although the symptoms of autism usually show up within the first year, they are often not diagnosed until years 2 and onward, and this is what led some people to speculate that perhaps something in vaccines was causing autism. Unfortunately, for these parents, there is no evidence that vaccines, specifically thermisol, is related to the development of autism. I say unfortunately, because I know that parents of children with autism spectrum disorders want an easy explanation for why their child behaves the way he or she does, and unfortunately, science hasn't yet found that easy explanation.