science in the news
Here's two science stories that are on the headlines this past week. First is a somewhat salacious story, more due to the picture than the content...
British academics to tackle fashion's bottom line
Fri Dec 30, 1:53 PM ET
It is one of the most fundamental -- and, for men, potentially hazardous -- questions of modern life, for which academics now hope to provide the definitive answer: "Does my bum look big in this?"
The School of Textiles and Design at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have begun what is believed to be the world's first-ever study on how women's clothing affects the bottom.
Models with variously sized posteriors will wear different types of clothing as part of the research, which will examine how designs, colours, patterns and fabric types affect perception.
Others will be asked to assess how big or small each model's backside appears to look in the outfits.
"This study will provide for the first time detailed and usable information that would enable designers to make the clothes that help women make the most of their natural assets," said Dr Lisa Macintyre, who is leading the study.
"There's much discussion in the media of clothing styles that flatter the body and it's generally accepted that enhancing body perception can improve confidence and self-esteem.
"But the factors behind this have never been fully investigated in a proper scientific manner.
"Designers and consumers don't currently have access to established information that could enable them to make or choose garments that enhance body size and shape."
Four models had been chosen to provide a representative sample of female backsides, Macintyre said: the "standard", the full "pre-Raphaelite" type, the smaller backside of a slim model and a curvier behind, like the famed example of actress and singer Jennifer Lopez.
Now that we've finished with the Bootie News here's something about biotechnology...
This story discusses the ups and downs of how biotechnology has done in the area of food production. As many people know, in Europe there's a lot of political and popular protest against the use of genetically engineered food. Here in the US that unrest isn't as strong or as organized but it's definitely present. Since I work in science research, it's no surprise that I don't find anything wrong with using genetically modified seeds for crops.
Biotech crops mark first decade with wins, losses
When Monsanto Co. introduced the world to genetically modified crops a decade ago, the biotech advancement was heralded as the dawn of a new era that could reduce world hunger, help the environment and bolster struggling farmers.
Now, biotech beans, cotton, corn and canola are profit-drivers at Monsanto and are lifting the fortunes of rival companies like Swiss-based Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences LLC, a unit of Dow Chemical Co.. The gains are largely due to broad U.S. acceptance of crops that have been genetically altered to withstand weedkillers and insects, and backers say, generate higher yields.
But as the industry celebrates its 10th anniversary, the early promises of biotech crops remain largely unrealized, and many countries have banned the technology amid concerns about potential danger for human health and the environment.
The article goes on to list the difficulties in product placement in a number of markets, particularly China and Europe. In fact there's little good news for supporters of this type of food in the article though it does mention in one place:
Still, acreage planted with biotech crops around the world is increasing and this year topped more than 1 billion acres sown to soybeans, corn, cotton, canola and other crops. In the United States, 52 percent of all corn, 79 percent of upland cotton and 87 percent of soybeans planted in 2004-05 were biotech varieties.
How do you reconcile an article mainly listing how poorly agricultural biotech has done with numbers like those?
Well, it's mainly because a lot of the biotech produced plants and seeds are now mainstream and no longer controversial. So the press you read, including this article, focuses on the poorly recieved products and ignores just how much market penetration has actually occured. In fact, much of what we eat has originated from lab modified agricultural seeds and plants.
This really shouldn't bother anyone since all our food has been genetically modified for centuries. After all, animal husbandry is simply an inefficient way of modifying the genetics of a critter. When you breed chickens to have more meat by crossing your best chickens with one another you're modifying them genetically. It's just done across a number of generations haphazardly. Just a thought....