"Marmite neglect" ad generates deliciously slimy complaints


Marmite is tasty or disgusting, depending on who you ask, and marketing campaigns have long acknowledged the 'acquired' quality of its unique appeal. The latest ad, however, is ruffling feathers for its fakeumentary format, in which jars are rescued, animal-welfare style, from the homes of neglectful owners.

The best Marmite is the rare Marmite Extra Old special edition; the Gold Edition was just a stunt and can be safely ignored.

Previously: Denmark bans Marmite. Read the rest

Screaming black female circumcision cake controversial

Swedish culture minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth cut into an unusual cake at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm this Saturday, and found herself at the center of a controversy some might say could have been predicted.

The remarkable cake design--featuring a edible black torso and the artist's head screaming as guests tucked in--was intended to draw attention to female genital mutilation in Africa.

Campaigners, however, say it is itself an unacceptable caricature. From Sweden's The Local:

"In our view, this simply adds to the mockery of racism in Sweden," [said] Kitimbwa Sabuni, spokesperson for the National Afro-Swedish Association."This was a racist spectacle."

... the culture minister began cutting a large cake shaped like a black woman, symbolically starting at the clitoris. Makode Aj Linde, the artist who created the installation and whose head is part of the cake cut by the minister, wrote about the "genital mutilation cake" on his Facebook page.

"Before cutting me up she whispered, 'Your life will be better after this' in my ear," he wrote in a caption next to the partially eaten cake.

Minister in 'racist circumcision outrage' [The Local] Read the rest

After (arsenic) life: Great profile of Felisa Wolfe-Simon

In early 2011, Felisa Wolfe-Simon published a scientific paper purporting to show evidence that bacteria from California's Mono Lake could, if pressed, live without the essential element phosphorous, and use arsenic, instead.

The story was wildly misconstrued in the press. (No, nobody ever found alien life happening naturally in Lake Mono.) And the evidence and methodology of Wolfe-Simon's research was roundly trounced, not just in academic journals, but also in blogs.

And that's all left Wolfe-Simon in a very weird position. She's certainly not the first scientist to publish a high-profile paper that other researchers tore to shreds. But, because the "arsenic life" story was so high-profile, she's now worried her career might be over. Is that fair? In Popular Science, Tom Clynes presents a nuanced profile of Felisa Wolfe-Simon that doesn't really answer that question definitively. Frankly, there probably isn't a really clear black/white answer out there. But Clynes does do a really good job of introducing us to Wolfe-Simon as a person, and her story exposes flaws in the peer-review process and the traditional avenues of scientific debate, indicts the media and PR professionals for creating the very sensational story that led to such a harsh response, and shows what can happen when a scientist is unprepared to deal with the public presentation of their own work.

In other words, this story is about lots of people making mistakes, including, but not limited to, Felisa Wolfe-Simon.

In June, Science reported that Wolfe-Simon had left Oremland’s USGS laboratory to look for a location with better molecular and genetic research facilities.

Read the rest

The neurobiology of politics

What, if anything, should we make of studies that purport to find neurological differences between people who self-identify as "conservative" and people who self-identify as "liberal?" You've seen studies like that in the paper. You've heard them argued about on radio and TV shows. But what do they actually mean? Is this just so much high-tech phrenology? Is it a smug way for one group to make snide commentary about the other group under the guise of "science?" Is your political affiliation determined by your mind, or by your brain?

Behavioral therapist Andrea Kuszewski has a great guest post up at The Intersection blog, looking at what we can (and can't) learn from the handful of studies that have attempted to link politics and neurobiology. None of these studies have been perfectly well-done, she writes. But, despite being flawed in different ways, they're coming to some of the same conclusions—conservatives seem to have a more active amygdala and liberals seem to have a more active anterior cingulate cortex. You can shorten that into a headline-grabbing statement about conservatives being driven more by emotions and liberals by logic. But it's really, really not as simple as that.

If you're going to talk about these studies at all, Kuszewski writes, you're going to have to understand the context behind them. In other words: This is an issue chock full of yesbuts. And, without them, you're going to come to some very wrong conclusions.

This is definitely a story worth reading all the way through. Read the rest

Primer on GM crops

Check out this great primer on the science behind the safety of genetically engineered food crops.(Via Kate Clancy) Read the rest