Category Archives: Science

This is why I suck at learning lyrics – study on computers and memory

Read an interesting study on Wired on memory. A small scale study has shown that if you know you have access to data, you’re far less likely to remember it:

If you think a fact is conveniently available online, then, you may be less apt to learn it.

This is amazingly true. I frequently note that people referencing articles they’ve read to me can’t remember the article title, author or where it was published, or the detail of what it said or why it was interesting or funny. But they can remember the search sequence that got them there and find it via Google. Which is a fascinating insight into human psychology, right there – the journey is more memorable than the destination.

This is one of the reasons why I’m uncertain on social search. People like the solidity of search; the only way to make sure that social search improves on regular search is to somehow confound this pattern – making sure that social search is only a marginal improvement on general, unfiltered search – otherwise people will get frustrated by not being able to find the same things when on different machines.

Diabetes and fruit sugar

I’ve been indulging my polymath interests by researching and blogging about a number of different things over the course of this sabbatical and one of the things I wanted to write about was the relationship between eating fruits and type 2 diabetes – the contention has been made that you can eat as much fruit as you like, as its fruit sugar  (fructose), not sucrose (which is what diabetics struggle to break down with their diminished supply of pancreatic insulin). [[A Level biology flashback – Islets of Langerhantastic ]]

I have a hunch that – in moderation – there’s no issue for diabetics in eating fruit but people who persuade themselves that they can eat as much fruit as they like are deluding themselves as you’ll end up with carb overload eventually. In finding a definitive answer to this question, however, the Internet is failing me as there is so much conflicting opinion out there. Whilst no-one says you can eat as much fruit as you like, some say that fruit sugar is actively harmful, and some maintain all things are good in moderation.

So I don’t have an answer here. I have a feeling that fruit juices in particular have the easy potential to be bad things for type 2 diabetics (especially those with weight/diet issues) as most have added sugar and, irrespective of that, too much fruit sugar can overwhelm your body’s ability to process it (hence the High Fructose Corn Syrup controversy in the US). Again, when taken beyond moderation…

Can anyone point me to any useful, reliable resources?

Is high octane fuel worth the extra cost?

Question came up when talking to my Dad, who uses premium petrol in his cars.

For the varietals available in KL (and in the UK), almost certainly no. Most of the guidance I found in various forums online indicate that you should use the grade recommended for your car (Quora, Yahoo Answers and beyond).

For my Dad’s car, a 4 year old Merc, the manual recommends “high” octane fuel – i.e. 91 grade or above. The ‘low’ octane fuel available here is 95, the high 97 (at a 25% additional cost premium), so the 95 should be fine for him. I think its a similar situation in the UK.

As I understand it the octane number indicates the fuel’s combustibility, with higher octane fuels being less ‘explosive.’ Net issue, if you use a lower octane number in an engine tuned for high octane fuel, you can throw the timing off as presumably the combustion takes place faster than it should. The reverse doesn’t sound like its as much of an issue, so it doesn’t hurt to use the high octane fuel – but it isn’t necessarily worth the money.

In short, use what’s recommended for your car!

Medical review request: The Last King of Scotland

In and amongst all the media madness this week, a brief return to my usual brand of randomness. I’d like to ask Mr Polite Dissent (aka Scott) if he’d do a medical review of The Last King of Scotland. Scott: enjoy your blog, and wonder what your thoughts on this film were. (Thanks to Dr Gil for pointing me to Polite Dissent).

In particular, could a freshly qualified doctor, at the ripe age of 22 (or thereabouts), cope with the conditions he encountered in Amin’s Uganda in 1970? Even a Scottish one?

Would he be as diagnostically astute and capable of delivering the appropriate level of treatment he’s portrayed as managing?

And would trapped gas, caused by the combination of beer and aspirin, cause a man to think he had been poisoned?

What poison pills was he dishing out?

And what ‘booster’ would make you feel ‘strong’?

I’m sure there’s more. Be interested to read your thoughts!

Bad Science

I know the interweb’s a big place and all, but I can’t believe its taken me this long to find Bad Science (via Ben), a brilliant deconstruction of false, stupid, inaccurate representations of science in the media and the world at large.

The site, written by Dr Ben Goldacre, a “serious fcuk-off academic ninja,” includes his column from the Guardian (of the same name) alongside a bunch of bonus materials (correspondence with crackpot ‘scientists’ etc).

Worth reading for anyone with an interest in science, PR tactics that could go wrong, and people who think that equations about the popularity of TV programmes have any validity whatsoever.

Man, my Bloglines feed pool is getting big.

Binary star system

I decided that the world of my novel was going to have a binary star system, but some initial trawls on Wikipedia (which is concerningly down at the moment) seem to indicate that, unless my characters are all Jovian-like balls of gas, that might not be possible.

But I may see if a different kind of binary system – a la Clarke’s 2063 world – would suit better…