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Media Troubled By Long-term Thinking

by Kirsten Sanford, Mar 27 2009

Eric Alterman from The Daily Beast has an interesting analysis of President Obama’s recent press conference. His take on the coverage of the event was that the press are troubled by Obama’s long-term thinking, which doesn’t mesh well with their short-term news cycles.

CNN wants emotions, theatrics, the stamping of feet, mano-a-mano anger, and outrage contests. This is a presidency defined by cable news food-fights and Maureen Dowd-style armchair psychoanalysis. Obama wants to “know what he’s talking about,” pick the best policy to achieve it, and explain it as calmly as he can to his country.

I’m curious to see how the contest turns out. Will Obama give in to the pressures of the press to deliver a sound-bite or some kind of emotional outburst that will keep the pundits busy for weeks? Or, will he continue on his tack of cool-headed, clear explanations that deal more with long-term planning than instant gratification? (continue reading…)

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How to Ruin Someone’s Spa Experience

by Kirsten Sanford, Mar 20 2009

A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me that she was going to a spa retreat to relax and get away from it all. Wow! Sounds great, right?

Well, after she returned she told me about the spa. The whole experience centers around colonics. And, not just any old colonic, but a wheat-grass colonic.

Yes, that’s right. My friend had wheat-grass pumped into her colon for the purposes of “cleansing”. I can’t tell you how equally repulsed and amazed I was that she would fall victim to the claims of the colonic practitioners.

Of course, I told her about the science behind the use of wheat-grass as a supplement, and she started doing some reading of her own. She’s since come around to the science.

However, this week we decided to try out a spa here in San Francisco (where I assure you there were no colonics being performed on either of us!), and the topic of wheatgrass came up again. We were in the sauna, and my friend and I were discussing the nutritional value of wheatgrass. We were trying to be quiet, and not disturb the other ladies in the sauna, but I think I hit a nerve with our nearest neighbor when I said that wheatgrass was at best a placebo.

The woman piped in testily that it was not just a placebo, and that wheat-grass contains valuable chemicals found in no other food. I told her she should just go eat an orange.

Needless to say, the woman didn’t stick around for much more of our conversation, which turned to things like Kombucha and other miracle tonics, and left the hot room in somewhat of a huff.

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Creating A Science Sensation

by Kirsten Sanford, Mar 13 2009

Why is it that crackpots get so much air time? Is it because they yell louder than anyone else?

While that is probably true (non-crackpots see the world logically, and don’t understand how it could be any other way. Hence, no yelling.), the factor driving the publicity engine is controversy. The media loves controversy because it is usually fueled by emotion, and emotion gets peoples’ attention. (continue reading…)

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Science and the Media

by Kirsten Sanford, Mar 06 2009

I spend a large portion of my time these days considering how to best explain scientific concepts or discoveries to the public. Granted, the audience is a crucial part of the equation. You don’t create something for children the same way that you do for aged academics.

But, as I look at the way that science reaches the majority of the public, and how the public responds to it, I (and I’m not alone here) find that there is something wrong. People just aren’t getting excited about science.

And, they should be getting excited! There is so much amazing work being done that will change our lives to the point that our grandchildren will laugh when we tell them about our ipods, computers, planes, and trains.

So, why aren’t people interested? Where is the information falling by the wayside? How can the trend be changed?

I’d love to hear what you think.

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Reckless Science Leads to Rash Conclusions in Stem Cell Tragedy

by Kirsten Sanford, Feb 27 2009

Last week’s news of the teenage boy with spinal and brain tumors resulting from stem cell therapy broke just in time. A failure for stem cell therapy in the eyes of the media. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research now have new ammunition against the recent FDA decision to allow clinical embryonic stem cell trials to progress.

But, would they still have the ammo if the story had been told a different way? What if the researchers hadn’t used the words “neural stem cells” in the title of their paper? Maybe a tale of reckless research methods would be better for everyone. (continue reading…)

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Science and Hollywood

by Kirsten Sanford, Feb 20 2009

Hollywood isn’t too worried about getting the science in its movies right. It’s more concerned about finding useful publicity angles. Case in point:

A couple of weeks ago I recevied a PR email from Summit/Zoom Werks, the production company responsible for the movie Push (which was quite thoroughly reviewed by Mark last week).

“I wanted to touch base with you to see if you might have any interest in the subject of “Remote Viewing”? We are working on a motion picture about this subject and we have a professional Remote Viewer, Jack Rourke, who is consulting with us. Mr. Rourke has had extensive experience in this arena and has conducted work for government and law enforcement agencies.

As you may know, Remote Viewing (RV) refers to the attempt to gather information about a distant or unseen target using paranormal means or extra-sensory perception. Typically a remote viewer is expected to give information about an object that is hidden from physical view and separated at some distance.

It is a fascinating subject and apparently governments around the world employ individuals with this ability. I don’t know what the success ratio is for a Remote Viewer in accomplishing his/her assignments but it triggers a most interesting debate.” (continue reading…)

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Dreaming Dreams and Changing Change

by Kirsten Sanford, Feb 06 2009

This article piqued my interest today. I hoped it would tell me more about why I am the way I am. Why I like going to the same coffee house, why I enjoy known restaurants. No such luck. Instead I got a fluff piece where there should have been much harder data. It was as if not only the writer, but also the researchers interviewed had fallen into the trap of over-interpreting the results.

The results for the large part suggest that people become increasingly set in their ways or resistant to change after their 20′s. The 20′s are a time of exploration and massive change. Then it is all downhill.

“The fact that an age-dependent pattern of decreasing openness appears around the globe and in all cultures suggests, according to biopsychologists, a genetic basis.” (continue reading…)

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How to Make the Noise Stop

by Kirsten Sanford, Jan 30 2009

You know what? I’m tired.

I’m tired of people yelling at each other from opposite sides of the fence. Pick a side! Pick a side! I’m right! You’re wrong!

It doesn’t matter what the issue is these days. Everyone has an opinion whether or not it is well-informed, and that opinion is chained to the concrete slab in the ground that defines an issue. And, like dogs protecting a house, the barks are loud. Intimidating.

The chances of breaking that chain or moving the concrete are slim. So, how do you stop the barking? Drown it out with barking of your own? Adding to the noise just increases the din that drowns out reason.

Do you keep walking past the house until you can’t hear the noise, until the barking stops on its own? Just being there provokes the dog’s angry response.

So, what do you choose? And, why? (continue reading…)

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Headaches? Stick Yourself With Needles… Or, Not

by Kirsten Sanford, Jan 23 2009

I ran across a press release on ScienceDaily.com this week that piqued my interest.

“Acupuncture Stops Headaches, But ‘Faked’ Treatments Work Almost As Well”

Really? Interesting headline, I thought to myself, and proceeded to ingest the release. I have a love-hate relationship with acupuncture, you see. I don’t believe that it actually works. The evidence certainly hasn’t piled up in acupuncture’s clinical favor.  Yet, I have a friend or two (who I love dearly) who attend acupuncture school, and plan to make the craft their careers. So, I had to read on… maybe there is proof to my friends’ claims. (continue reading…)

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Of Molecular Manufacturing and Red Cows

by Kirsten Sanford, Jan 16 2009

In this modern world of the internet and social media, I think it is important to remember that motivations vary from person to person based upon personal experiences and goals. I am constantly reminded of this fact by the many people with whom I interact online. It’s rare that two people react to something in an identical manner.

Just this week on Twitter I was presented with two web-links, which brought the diversity of thoughts and ideas that are out there right up to the surface. First, I saw a tweet by @ruthseely quoting from an article about nanotechnology written by an evangelist Christian.

“The problem is not technology. The problem is sin.” Religious blog responds to recent studies re who opposes nanotech: http://brittgillette.com/WordPress/?p=94 (continue reading…)

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