Friday, October 22, 2010

Paternal Prenatal Care

Phlogging again. (That's phone... plus blogging... equals phlogging... nevermind.)

If you were walking down the sidewalk and saw a visibly pregnant woman leaning against a building with some friends chain smoking, you would be concerned. Depending on what kind of person you are, you might even say something to her. But if a (male) buddy of yours did the same, you wouldn't feel the same way. When a woman is pregnant, she's expected to eat healthy and exercise for the health of herself, but most notably for the baby. Should men do the same, for the baby?

A recent report in Nature suggests that he should, especcially if he plans on having daughters. Because I'm phlogging, I don't know how to link to things, but trust me! Or check Nature. So they fed male rats a high-fat diet, let them breed, and looked at the metabolic profiles of their offspring. They found that in the fat rats' daughters, they should diabetes-related symptoms, such as insulin insensitivity and reduced pancreatic cell function. Because of their fat dads.

I recently read another study discussing the effect on sperm of men smoking cigarettes. Because there is one. Ah, the terrifying field of epigenetics. I'm just now discovering this Dad Effect. I think I'm representative of the majority when I say I had never thought about this before. Why is that? I don't expect all the details of paternal epigenetic effects to be common knowledge, but at least the idea that they EXIST should be.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.1

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cranky Scientist

Blogging from my phone for the first time. Dont judge my lack of proper grammar\spelling\punctuation\direction.

So science has made me kind of a jerk. Sometimes it is more convenient to not think critically. I find that more and more, I am feeling irritated and increasingly intolerable toward people when they say things that I "should" be doing, for my health, for my kid's development, etc., without giving me any real reason why.

I recently attended a promotional function for my friend's Pilates class. She started it by having everyone drink a warm cup of water and urging us to drink a very specific amount each day before meals. She listed myriad ailments it would help with - arthritis, weight gain, flexibility, nutrient absorption, kidney problems... with the accompanying testimonies of her own experiences and those of her family. Okay. Maybe it's true. Maybe it does help... do something. I don't know. I haven't looked it up. But the way to convince me is not by throwing out a bunch of complicated, serious health problems and personal anecdotes and claiming you have the next cure-all. I felt so cynical, so jaded, regardless of how reasonable my attitude may seem to any fellow scientists. The issue, really, is how unable I am to hide my contempt. (This is a general flaw of mine.) I certainly can't expect every well-intentioned, advice-toting person out there to carry a reference list around, can I? Or be able to cite some specific studies off the top of their head?

I feel like although thinking critically is good, we cannot expect the research to be handed to us. We have to accept that most people probably do not investigate most things to our standards (although maybe my friend is totally right. I don't know.), and that maybe they really shouldn't be expected to? i think this is a similar plight to that of the science journalist. Scientists get angry because the writers get this or that detail wrong, but can they be expected not to? The writer's job is to bring the science to the public in a digestible, timely, accurate manner; their job doesn't allow them to dedicate the time to learn as much as every scientist would want them to before reporting on their life's work. My Pilates friend is doing what she thinks is best and her job to the best of her ability and knowledge. And that's really as much as we can ask, right?
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.1

Monday, October 11, 2010

Anonymous Forever?

I'm feeling a bit torn about being in the blog closet.

I started this blog anonymously and with no intention of having it otherwise. As careful as I may be about what I put into my posts, I felt like I might say something damning at some point, or that I might not be as truthful or forthright if it was not anonymous, which undermined the point for me. My intention was to talk about the difficulties and joys of being a graduate student, a wife, and a mother (although that's not actually been the focus of a lot of my posts!), and I wanted to be honest about those things. I had worries about my committee seeing something I had written, or a future employer finding a post about how I would NEVER consider doing the xyz job they had just interviewed me for... or that I struggled with time management, attention span, and long-range planning (which I do). What employer wants to see that?

In the past few months, though, I've been following big-wigs like Boraz and Ed Yong on Twitter, inadvertently also reading re-tweets (I can't say that without feeling embarrassed) and replies to and from other followers of theirs. I started having out-of-the-closet jealousy! These people reply and tweet to their favorite science writers with abandon! My Twitter account is personal; its updates also go straight to my Facebook profile so they have become inseparable (Facebook and Twitter, BFF). I would like to be This Scientist on Twitter so that I can unite all of my Internet presences, comment on people's tweets, be linked to my blog, be linked to the actual work I do, talk freely about location-specific issues, etc. I wish I could either get a new Twitter profile as This Scientist or just bite the bullet and unveil myself. I know it may not seem like a big deal because I am a humble, infrequently updating, wet behind the ears blogger, but it has the possibility of dramatically changing how I see my blog and what it represents to me.

On the other hand, if I admitted to being This Scientist, that would open up my readership to people who know me in real life (I can't bring myself to use "IRL" quite yet), which could be beneficial. Any traffic is good traffic, right? But would anything productive come of that? Another one of my goals with blogging was to get used to putting together prose, possibly even about science, and maybe getting my (pseudo)name out there as a *raise eyebrows* science writer. Would it get me any closer to that goal if my friends were reading my stuff?

How do you feel? Are you in the blog closet? Do you have separate accounts for everything, living a dual e-life?