Science & Society


You're twice as likely to chat about vaping than you were in 2013. Tibanna79

By Robbie Love, Lancaster University

Selfies were so 2013. But vaping’s in: Oxford Dictionaries have announced vape as its international Word of the Year 2014.

The runners up are bae, budtender, contactless, indyref, normcore and slacktivism.


Jimi Hendrix is a member of the so-called 27 Club. A very exclusive club, as it turns out. EPA/Eduardo Miranda

By Dianna Kenny, University of Sydney

I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. – Groucho Marx

Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to … – Kurt Cobain’s mother upon hearing of the death of her son

What do Otis Redding, Gram Parsons, Nick Drake, Jimmy McCulloch, James Ramey (aka Baby Huey), Bryan Osper, and Jon Guthrie have in common?

Vehicle fatalities are the most common cause of accidental death around the world. In the US alone, there are 30,000 deaths in car crashes each year. 


It is a weekly event in epidemiology - some medical or health outcome is linked to socioeconomic inequality, as if more spending makes people healthy.


In America, and to a much less extent in Europe, there can be a lot of angst when an aerospace engineer wears the wrong shirt on television. Women have a great deal of power in western nations, so much so that they can overwhelm science breakthroughs with cultural Gerrymandering.


What's in a name? Apparently a lot. So much so that social mobility in England hasn't changed much since pre-Industrial times.

After William the Conqueror defeated King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, making England a French country rather than an Anglo-Saxon one, he rewarded his supporters with lands taken from those who had been loyal to his opponent. He was very good to them - but he wanted his levies. So if your name appeared in the original Domesday Book, you were going to get a tax bill, but the benefits were so substantial you are more likely to be upper class even today.


Is there such a thing as a Facebook murder? Is it different than any other murder? Legally, it can be. From a common sense point of view, there is no 'hate crime' status that should make a murder worse if a white person kills a latino person or a Catholic instead of a white person or a Protestant, but legally such crimes can be considered more heinous and get a special label of hate crime.

But social media is ubiquitous and criminal justice academics are always on the prowl for new categories to create and write about so a 'Facebook Murder', representing crimes that may somehow involve social networking sites and thus be a distinct category for sentencing, has been postulated. 

In America, it is no surprise to see obese people. They know they are obese, they just don't care. In Britain, you see just as many obese people, but they don't care because they don't think they are obese. They don't even think they are 'very overweight'. 

Fewer than 10 percent of clinical obese Brits think they have a weight problem.

In results from a 2012 survey of around 2000 adults published in
BMJ Open, only 11 percent of obese women acknowledged they were "obese", with most describing themselves as "very overweight" or "just right".  At least they know those positive body image campaigns are working. 


Can homeopathy actually work if someone knows it is a placebo? What if, for example, a skeptical Science 2.0 group was told they got a placebo and that nutritionists were getting medicine? Would we feel better anyway?(1)

Of course it's possible, it just wouldn't be due to magic water. It's a mystery of biology why some people just feel better taking something. That is why homeopathy still exists a few hundred years after its invention even though it has never worked.(2)

Does the placebo effect apply to dogs? Do they understand the concept of medicine? If not, they have a placebo effect.
Forget the Higgs Boson, the Landing on Comets, Missions to Mars, the Genome Project, Nanostructures and all that. This start of this new millennium looks like the dark ages to me if I have to gauge it from discussions I overhear in public places.