Dianthus Medical Blog Archive

Index of General science

Self-driving cars

Self-driving cars have been in the news a lot recently, for example here.

Two things seem clear to me about self-driving cars. First, it's an exciting new technology which at some stage in the future will be a massive game-changer in the way we travel. Second, it's not yet ready for prime time.

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As some of you may know, I'm currently studying towards a degree in social sciences with the Open University in what I laughingly refer to as my spare time. At the moment, I'm doing a psychology module.

I went to a tutorial last night, in which we discussed (among other things) the fascinating concept of memory: how we store and retrieve memories, and the various things that can go wrong with that process. This reminded me of a really bizarre experience I had with my own memory many years ago, which I'd like to share with you.

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Discussing Bad Pharma on Canadian TV

Yesterday I made a brief appearance on the Canadian TV channel BNN, in which I provided a counterpoint to an interview with Ben Goldacre, who was talking about his book Bad Pharma.

As regular readers of this blog will know, this is a subject I have written about more than once before, and will no doubt do so again.

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Richard III and DNA evidence

Today's exciting news is that researchers from the University of Leicester have concluded that the remains of a body found under a car park in Leicester is that of King Richard III.

There are many pieces of evidence that point to this, one of which is that DNA extracted from the skeleton matches the DNA of modern descendants of the king. I am a little puzzled here.

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Ben Goldacre's Bad Pharma

Anyone who reads this blog is almost certainly familiar with Bad Pharma, the latest book by Ben Goldacre. I’d like to share some of my thoughts about this book.

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Epigenetics for breast cancer screening

A few weeks ago I was at a cancer research seminar, and was chatting to a consultant oncologist over coffee. He explained to me his view that the important advances in cancer over the next decade or so are likely to be in better diagnosis, rather than better treatment.

I don't know if he's right, of course, but what he said certainly makes sense. Cancer is incredibly difficult to treat once it's at an advanced stage, and the sad fact is that despite all the progress we've made in cancer treatment over recent decades, patients with metastatic cancer almost invariably die of their disease, despite the best efforts of the medical profession. However, if caught early, many cancers are treatable. It's therefore logical to think that if we can diagnose cancer more reliably at earlier stages, it's going to result in more people spared a horrible death from cancer than any advances in treatment that we might plausibly make in the next decade or so could do.

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Destruction of smallpox vaccine

This week, the World Health Organisation will be making a decision about whether to destroy remaining stocks of smallpox vaccine.

As I'm sure you know, smallpox was eradicated more than 3 decades ago, thanks to the success of a global vaccination campaign. Given that smallpox used to kill so many people, its eradication is in my opinion perhaps the greatest achievement of medical science ever. Even those who don't rate it quite that highly would probably put it in their top 10.

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