It's not often you see someone win a Nobel Prize for something that recently touched your own life, but this year, two Australians (Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren) scored the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
"for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori
and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease". Luckily for me, I didn't have said bacterium in my guts, but there's now a simple test and treatment if you do. Of course, I can only imagine that nothing particularly noteworthy occured this year in cancer, infectious disease or immuno-deficiency research, since while their work will lead to a lot less discomfort for millions of people, those people will primarily be from first-world nations and not in much danger of dying.
Cynical on occasion, aren't I? Well, that's what you get. I've had an interesting week, with some great houses and performances for Evolutionary
. Overbudgeting was a genius stroke, and one I'm very happy about at this end of the production. Plus, I've decided to take the show to Adelaide for their Fringe in February, though this will mean being away for the first week or two of uni (assuming I do get back in). Mind you, having been through it all before and intending to start out with some first and second year subjects, that shouldn't pose much of a problem. I'll just get in touch with the subject co-ordinators ahead of time.
I also received in the mail today a missive from our local federal member, Labor Shadow Minister for Public Accountability Kelvin Thomson, MP (who incidentally can't even get his URL correct - http://home.vicnet.net.au/~thomson
is dead space, my friend - and thinks it's cool to set up a Howard watchdog email address at Hotmail, firstname.lastname@example.org
). This wouldn't be of much note except that he "exposes" the Howard government's waste of $70,000 to pay for a CSIRO conference for 70 of their Science Communicators at a resort in Queensland. That's a fairly expensive conference, I'll grant you, but rather than discuss the state of science communication in Australia, he mentions briefly (in one sentence) the "recent" changes to their communication policy
and then spends the rest of the time making jokes based on the fact they flew a magician from Canberra to entertain the delegates at the conference. (My guess is said magician has links to the CSIRO Science Circus, and perhaps his act was related to the conference, but it's only a guess.)
It should come as no surprise that "public accountability" means taking cheap shots, I suppose, but still... Sure, here's $70,000 that may have been a little too much (though assuming the conference was successful, that's not a huge amount to pay for greatly improving the skills and contacts available to Australian science communicators), and I can see his agenda is clearly stated by his office, but come on. There's bugger all actual information in this leaflet, though I did find the list of increases in household expenditures interesting (apparently mobile phone bills have gone up 183% in the period 98/99 to 03/04, though whether this is because of increased charges or increased usage I've no idea). But my distrust of what he has to say only reminds me of a (perhaps spurious, I admit) survey someone quoted to me recently, which suggested a large percentage of Americans automatically believe anything told to them by a politician, journalist or other authoritative speaker is a lie. (I don't think church representatives were included, but by the sound of it scientists would go in the same category... I think Evolutionary might have to tour the USA.)