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David Bradley science journalist, photographer, musician
Updated: 21 hours 6 min ago

Did you fake your password?

18 September, 2014 - 09:37

It’s an evergreen news story in the tech world: the top 25 idiotic passwords we use. Every tech magazine reports it and trumpets our global stupidity in the face of hackers. The articles usually beseech us to think about security, to batten down our virtual hatches, to make sure we use a good strong password like 6z!!jciBAOdGEy5EHE&6 or something equally unmemorable.

spoof-login

The surveys and roundups of passwords usually show that simple alphanumeric strings are in widespread use purportedly protecting our Hotmail, GMail, Facebook, Twitter, Xbox, Sony and every other online account, even our bank and credit card accounts. Among the apparently silliest and simplest are things like “password” and “passw0rd”, “123456”, “ILoveYou”, “qwerty”, “abc123″, “111111” and many others besides. All equally crackable and/or guessable. Indeed, any short alphanumeric string, no matter how seemingly random can be cracked by so-called bruteforce means within seconds by a powerful enough computer, or an array of hijacked machines running malware.

Recent revelations about an alleged 5 million GMail passwords being published online revealed once again that the users of those accounts were particularly foolish with their password use. Security blogs suggested that 9 out of 10 of the passwords leaked could have been bruteforce attacked easily because they were so simple.

But, a twitter discussion with Michael Horak ‏@fatmike182 and Benedikt Malleolus ‏@BMalleolus has got me thinking about those silly statistics. Horak pointed out that of any bunch of leaked GMails there is a likelihood that a fair proportion will be either fake (accounts set up for spam and other malicious purposes) or else created for one-time use as a disposable account with which to register on a particular site. We have no easy way to determine what percentage of any list of username/password logins, from whatever hacked source, are genuine users and what proportion are fake, spam, disposable logins.

In other words, the shouty tech blogs that discuss password complexity and how inept most of use supposedly are at using decent passwords may be basing their proclamations on skewed data. Maybe many of us use really strong passwords and two-factor authentication, maybe more than they care to admit aren’t really so dumb as to use “password” as a password for our mission critical logins.

But, here’s a little puzzle, which of these two imaginary passwords would take the longest to crack?

“iSK6%3U6Gt” or “Password……..”

The answer, given the leading question may not surprise you, but is surprising nevertheless. It’s all about making the haystack in which your password needle might be found much bigger than everyone else’s. The mixed character password would be crackable in about a week assuming some kind of Massive Cracking Array Scenario carrying out one hundred trillion guesses per second. The latter password would take the same Array slightly longer, about 2 billion years. Of course, if everyone starts simply adding fullstops to the ends of their passwords, the hackers will soon learn and add that pattern to their search algorithms. Maybe we need to be even a little cleverer than they give us credit for.

Did you fake your password? is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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A brief word about tomatoes and prostate cancer

4 September, 2014 - 15:16

UPDATE: To avoid confusion: eating lots of tomatoes will not stop you getting prostate cancer if other risk factors are in place!

At least 20 years ago I wrote a news story in my rookie days about how the natural red pigment in tomatoes, the antioxidant lycopene, could somehow protect men against prostate cancer. Nothing was ever proven and the latest news which hit the tabloids in the last couple of weeks doesn’t add much, at least if you read between the lines.

NHS Choices, as ever, has a good summary:

“This large study has shown an association between the consumption of more than 10 portions of tomatoes per week and an 18% reduction in risk of prostate cancer. However, as this was a case controlled study, and not a randomised controlled trial, it cannot prove that eating more tomatoes prevents prostate cancer.”

Tomatoes grown and photographed by David Bradley

The study does have some strengths: large size and accounting for confounding factors. However, limitations include: reliance on dietary questionnaires and the broad categories for self-estimate of body size. After all, do you recall how many portions of tomatoes you’ve had and can honestly tell us how fat or thin you are?

The bottom line NHS Choices says:

“This study does not provide enough evidence to change the recommendations for reducing the risk of prostate cancer. A healthy, balanced diet, regular exercise and stopping smoking are still the way to go, rather than relying on eating one exclusive food type such as tomatoes.”

Tomato-rich diet 'reduces prostate cancer risk'.

Incidentally, from this paper: “Prostate cancer (PCa) represents a major public health burden in the western world. It is a peculiar disease as more men die with it than from it. Also interestingly, PCa was virtually unknown until the 20th century.”

A brief word about tomatoes and prostate cancer is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Lodestar Festival 2014 Extras

3 September, 2014 - 17:21

I got rather too many photos from the 2014 Lodestar Festival, the top bunch are in my Flickr gallery and Facebook gallery. This little lot are ones I’ve plucked out from the folders that didn’t jump out at me first time through but are more representative of the festivalgoers than the bands themselves!

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js#xfbml=1"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Post by Dave Bradley Photos.

Lodestar Festival 2014 Extras is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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The Dark Net – Jamie Bartlett

28 August, 2014 - 21:12

From the blurb: “Beyond the familiar online world that most of us inhabit – a world of Google, Hotmail, Facebook and Amazon – lies a vast and often hidden network of sites, communities and cultures where freedom is pushed to its limits, and where people can be anyone, or do anything, they want. A world that is as creative and complex as it is dangerous and disturbing. A world that is much closer than you think.”

jamie-bartlett-dark-netIf you’ve been using the Internet since pre-web days, as I have, you may wonder what more you could learn, having spent endless hours on bulletin boards, usenet, gopher systems and the like. Jamie Bartlett, may well open your eyes to a whole new world of neurotica from the true meaning of trolls to the doxxing of camwhores, racist-nationalist activist rants and how they spill into the real world the way to the Silk Road marketplace and the truth about some of the most disturbing abuses of humanity. From cypherpunks and cyberpunks to hackers and crackers. It’s all here, it’s all dark. He shines a light on the taboo zones and demonstrates what the darkest recesses of the online world might tell us about our real-world selves.

Bartlett is Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media. His primary research interests are: new political movements and social media research and analysis, internet cultures and security and privacy online and so more than qualified to tell us about the darkest back alleys away from the information superhighway. A gripping read, more thrilling and chilling than many a fictional tale of the digital could ever be.

Footnote: As I understand it, there have been some issues brought to light since what I assume was Bartlett’s “time-of-writing” regarding various tools and techniques taken as fact at the time that are no longer necessarily valid. For instance, I don’t think the Tor (the onion router) browser and tools are necessarily as secure and private as was originally thought (although that may be due to 3rd party interactions and user errors, it’s unclear. Neither is PGP as honourable as it once was, but who’s to know whether that’s disinformation put in place by the spooks? Indeed, there are also ongoing revelations about spying by NSA and GCHQ that put paid to some of the safe harbours for libertarians.

One minor quibble that isn’t really about the Dark Net text at all is that the idea that human communication is mostly non-verbal is wrong, that piece of Deceived Wisdom has been debunkeud repeatledly over the years.

The Dark Net – Jamie Bartlett is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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When Google comes to town

21 August, 2014 - 10:30

UPDATE: Friend of the blog Nick Howe just pointed out to me that the Google car has a flight tyre, rear offside…so wasn’t “broken down”, just had a puncture to deal with…I should have spotted that but was too busy getting the composition and exposure for my photo right!

UPDATE: Daughter returning from school having collected her excellent GSCE results says there was an RAC van with the Google car, he’d actually just broken down, which would explain the driver’s surliness.

Mrs Sciencebase out and about in our village this morning alerted me to the fact that she had spotted a Google StreetView vehicle parked outside a boarded up shop on the High Street. I dashed out on my bike, camera in hand, to get a snap – watching the watchers – and hopefully have a chat with the operative. Well, I got a photo or two, but the chap with the controls was less than conversational, nervous almost, as if he’d been doing something wrong…like harvesting Wi-Fi passwords (allegedly) rather than assimilating images of the local streets. Either that or he was just a shy chap and not interested in chatting to the public…incidentally, I wonder if I’ll get a request to pixelate his number plate. Hahahah

google-streetview-car-2 google-streetview-car

Anyway, if you’re out and about in the village today and see him assimilating, give him the vees or a little wave depending on your mood and let’s all celebrate the wonder that is Google. Not.

When Google comes to town is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Anticancer Aspirin? Not so fast

7 August, 2014 - 09:41

The news was full of the discovery that taking some aspirin every day for ten years could somehow reduce your risk of getting cancer, particularly cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. The stomach bleeding side-effect (for some) and other as yet unknown side-effects aside, I was skeptical from the start, it just looked like a review of reviews where they looked at the idea that taking aspirin for years and years might somehow correlate with not getting cancer. To me, this is like the inverse of so many other studies that purportedly “prove” that such and such an exposure to food, pollution, toxin or whatever will “cause” cancer. Correlation is not causation.

chemical-structure-of-aspirin

As far as I can tell, the discovery was based on a literature review and not an actual study of the pharmacology and biochemical effects of aspirin itself. Thankfully, NHS Choices magazine, which takes a look at the science behind the headlines seems to agree. “The study was carried out by researchers from a number of institutions across Europe and the US, including Queen Mary University of London. It was funded by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the American Cancer Society. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Annals of Oncology.” Fine. Good.

But, says NHS Choices: “Several of the study’s authors are consultants to or have other connections with pharmaceutical companies with an interest in antiplatelet agents such as aspirin.” That’s common, and, of course, those involved in pharma research are generally connected to the industry in some way. So, not necessarily a bad thing, there are often what some might refer to as conflicts of interest in biomedical research if these are indeed conflicts here.

More worrying though, and to my mind, the real nub of the problem is what NHS Choices says about the details of the study: “It is not clear that the results are reliable from the methods reportedly used to compile this review. This is because it included studies of varying design and quality, with much of the evidence coming from observational studies, which, while useful, cannot be totally relied on to test the effectiveness of healthcare interventions.”

NHS Choices also criticises the way studies in the review were chosen: “It’s not clear how the studies included in the review were chosen and whether others on the same topic were excluded. It is also not clear whether or not this was a systematic review, where studies are rigorously appraised for their quality and criteria are established for their inclusion.”

That sounds like quite the damning indictment to me and for that reason, I for one am out.

Daily aspirin 'reduces cancer risk,' study finds – Health News – NHS Choices.

Anticancer Aspirin? Not so fast is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Virtual Art Conservation

30 July, 2014 - 16:09

This tweet showing a partially restored painting where 500 years of grime, varnish and earlier conservation efforts got me thinking. We usually see all these fabulous old paintings through a patina of filth and there are people trying to strip them back to the artist’s original view…but with digital images and Photoshop could this be done virtually for a whole lot of artworks. We colourise old monochrome photographs, this would be akin to that, taking the image back to what it really looked like…

art-conservation

More details about this specific restoration work here.

Virtual Art Conservation is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Sciencebase Fifteenth Anniversary

25 July, 2014 - 16:42

It was 20th July 1999 when I first registered the domain name sciencebase.com and transferred my old Elemental Discoveries websites from various ISP and freenet type hosts to this super hub of science. Don’t the years just fly by? At that time, I was quite serious about building up a science portal (as they were then known) and publishing regular science news, views, and interviews in what would eventually become known as the blogging format. Quite by chance 20th July was the forty-fifth anniversary of a slightly more globally significant event – the first manned moon landing.

When I blogged the 10th anniversary post in 2009, I’d delivered 1600 items on the blog part of the site, plus all the legacy pages before I started counting. The CMS tells me there are almost 2500 items on the blog now. 1600 in the first decade, and then 900 posts in the last five years. Somewhere the rate went up slightly. Although as of the last year or two my focus has been less on frequent updates to this site and more about fulfilling deadlines for various clients, and my spare time tuning up and snapping photos – hence the recent “rebranding” to Songs, Snaps and Science of this and my social media stuff.

The Science blogging is mostly here on Sciencebase.com and announced on Twitter and Facebook. My photography is most accessible via my Imaging Storm site or on Fine Art America. My music via BandCamp, although you can also find me as “Dave Bradley’s Sciencebase” on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and other music download sites.

Sciencebase Fifteenth Anniversary is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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The Real David Bradley

18 July, 2014 - 15:36

I feel awfully guilty calling myself “the real David Bradley” now that I’ve met the actor who played Argus Filch in the Harry Potter films and William Hartnell alongside actor Brian Cox in the BBC Dr Who period drama “An Adventure in Space and Time”. I just happened to bump into him in a pub whilst we were on a camping trip to North Norfolk. I introduced myself and he was more than happy to give me an autograph, but only if I gave him mine (apparently he knew of his namesake and the book Deceived Wisdom), which was rather gratifying.

real-david-bradley david-bradley-actor

As two celebrities sharing a name and meeting for the first time, we didn’t do that whole selfie thing. Funnily enough though, my son was on an educational trip to New York City earlier in the year and bumped into actor Christopher Eccleston, who played the first Dr Who in the resurrected TV show back in the 21st Century; they did do the selfie thing. Eccleston, of course, acted alongside the other/real David Bradley in gritty 1990s TV drama Our Friends in the North. Anyway, he was a lovely chap and perhaps even almost as chuffed as I was to meet his namesake…

UPDATE: Daughter home from her trip away with friend’s family tells us she bumped into comedian Rob Brydon in the Brecon Beacons…apparently his family pushed in front of them in a cafe queue, c’leb encounters of the wurst kind

The Real David Bradley is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Dave Bradley Music

8 July, 2014 - 09:43

itunes-logo bandcamp-logo amazon-mp3Click the button above to buy Dave Bradley’s Wishful Thinking album from BandCamp or other songs on iTunes and amazon mp3. There’s also my more recent 4-track Radio Edit EP on BandCamp.

Other original songs from DB are also available on ReverbNation and Dave Bradley (covers EP on Loudr.FM).

In case you didn’t know, I wear three hats: a science journalist’s green eyeshade, a backwards turned baseball cap for shooting photographs and a really trendy felt hat for writing songs…well, not really. But I have written and recorded a bunch of acoustic and electric songs perhaps reflecting my eclectic tastes and influences. Genre? That’s a tough call – acoustic indie pop-rock retro new wave electro jazz alt funk prog? That probably covers all bases.

dave-bradley-wishful-thinkingAlbum on BandCamp.

Athlete, The Beatles, Daft Punk, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Elbow, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, Mumford & Sons, The Police, Gerry Rafferty, R.E.M., Nile Rodgers, Rush, The Smiths, Rod Stewart, Paul Weller, John Denver, Bacharach & David, The Who and others. Apparently, I occasionally sound like a Geordie Glenn Tilbrook, and sometimes a blend of Steely Dan and David Bowie…

Dave Bradley Music is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Just a moderate bee sting

2 July, 2014 - 09:55

When the garden lawn is covered in blooming clover (Trifolium) and the last few honeybees (Apis mellifera) that haven’t yet succumbed to colony collapse disorder are busy about their floral business, it’s probably a good idea to not walk around barefoot in the garden with one’s reading glasses on, it would help avoid all that embarrassing hopping about in blooming apitoxin-induced pain…caused mainly by melittin (Glycyl-L-isoleucylglycyl-L-alanyl-L-valyl-L-leucyl-L-lysyl-L-valyl-L-leucyl-L-threonyl-L-threonylglycyl-L-leucyl-L-prolyl-L-alanyl-L-leucyl-L-isoleucyl-L-seryl-L-tryptophyl-L-isoleucyl-L-lysyl-L-argin yl-L-lysyl-L-arginyl-L-glutaminyl-L-glutamamide)

bee-sting-venom-melittin

UPDATE: Three days later. Sole of my foot is swollen, sore, red, hot to the touch and feels as if there’s a piece of tough leather just below the skin…nice…so headed to the Mayo Clinic website for their take on bee stings. Apparently, my sting is merely moderate, I can barely put my shoe on, so yeah, moderate. A mild reaction would have subsided within a few hours. Conversely, a severe reaction might involve: skin reactions, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and tongue, a weak, rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea, dizziness or fainting, loss of consciousness. Thankfully, Mayo says that a moderate reaction this time does not predispose one to a severe allergic reaction on next apian encounter.

moderate-reaction-beesting

Honeybee photo by David Bradley Photographer

Just a moderate bee sting is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Grow crops from open-source seed

25 June, 2014 - 09:20

The three bullet points:

  • Many poor farmers use low-quality local seed rather than expensive patented ones
  • The Open Source Seed Initiative is offering 36 types of 14 food crops
  • All seed packets contain a pledge stating that the seed can be used freely

‘Open-source’ seed released to nurture patent-free food – SciDev.Net.

Grow crops from open-source seed is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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A five-step plan for nano

23 June, 2014 - 15:56

A five-stage, and very demanding protocol, for taking a nanoscience discovery to a consumer nanotechnology product has been outlined by engineer Michael Kelly of the University of Cambridge. Kelly, who is also based at the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, explains how a clear understanding of how and why experimental silicon semiconductor and liquid crystal technology took so long to move from the laboratory bench to the manufacturing plant and mass production and consumption should underpin predictions about current nanoscience.

Kelly also explains why once a technology, such as the silicon chip, is in place it is very difficult to usurp even with advances such as conducting polymers and novel forms of carbon from buckyballs (fullerenes) and nanotubes to graphene despite the hyperbole that surrounds such novel materials. He points out that too little attention is paid to the many hurdles facing the nanoscientist hoping to be revolutionary nanotechnologist. But, his systematic protocol reveals what the aspirational need to know in making that quantum leap.

If one is working towards nanotechnology, then one must first identify the environment in which a new nanomaterial will be superior to the current state-of-the art material, otherwise the science becomes a solution looking for a problem. There are a few examples of fundamental science, the laser being a rare example, where uses are found after the fact, but, Kelly suggests that, in a burgeoning field with myriad projects and experiments final outcomes do not commonly justify the initial effort.

Secondly, it is important to identify the critical properties of the new nanomaterial and to be able to reproduce them absolutely in different samples with values to within better than 10 percent of the mean or there is no possibility of mass production. He points out that semiconductor tunnelling devices have only very recently addressed this problem.

Thirdly, a way to make the material or device with pre-specified performance and at high yield is essential from an early stage of development or again wasted raw materials will keep end product costs too high for a product to be commercially viable.

Kelly’s fourth commandment asserts that for a product, one must be able to simulate its performance from first principles and to readily invert properties at any stage of development so that it might be reverse engineered and adapted to resolve discrepancies where a device deviates from design.

Fifth and finally, even if the first four steps of the protocol are addressed adequately lifetime performance must be demonstrated as being superior to any current state-of-the art technology. He cites multi-heterojunction tandem solar cell technology as being on the cusp of serious development in this regard, one might also mention organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs) and their development from unstable devices in the early 1990s to fully fledged commercial technology today.

The shift from traditional manufacturing to the current developments based on novel and even designer materials means that industry now places great emphasis on product development taking place at the laboratory bench and expects much more than a one-off result before adopting new science and converting it into technology, nano or otherwise.

Research Blogging IconKelly M.J. (2014). From nanoscience to nanotechnology: what can and what cannot be manufactured, International Journal of Nanotechnology, 11 (5/6/7/8) 441. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1504/ijnt.2014.060563

A five-step plan for nano is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Sciencebase Newsfeed

18 June, 2014 - 21:13

We were using Feedburner, but will be moving away from that defunct service, so if you’re an RSS subscriber, please update your reader with the following newsfeed link – http://sciencebase.com/sciencebase-blog/feed to stay up to date with Sciencebase news or subscribe by email below.

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If you use Feedly, search for “Sciencebase”, we’re the site with the subtitle “Freelance science journalist…” or similar as opposed to the Science Based lot…click the + and add us to Feedly.

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Sciencebase/David Bradley also has a Facebook page, a Youtube Channel, is active on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, WordPress, Pinterest, Digg Reader and various other social networking and social bookmarking sites, just search for Sciencebase and watch out for American imposters…this is the real, the only genuine Sciencebase from David Bradley.

Sciencebase Newsfeed is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Mars Rover – To the tune of Moon River

18 June, 2014 - 21:12

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER) is an ongoing robotic space mission involving two rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, which headed for the planet Mars back in 2003 and reached their destination in January 2004.

mars-rover-moonriver

Spirit is quiet now despite NASA’s best efforts to keep it talking. Opportunity continues to relay data. The mission’s scientific objective was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to past water activity on Mars. A little poetic license was taken in these lyrics to be sung to the tune of Mancini’s “Moon River” from the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

Mars Rovers travelled ‘cross the miles
A million score or more, who can say?
Then months later, it’s Endeavour Crater
Whatever you’re scanning, we’re coming some day

Two grifters, on a new, red world
It’s such a different world to probe
Searching for life not only hope,
That oughta see them through
There’s water out there too
On that old red globe

You lost Spirit
Opportunity’s still there
Explore and let us know that some day
If our dream making isn’t heart breaking
On the old Red Planet we soon might all play

Two grifters, on a new red world
It’s such a brave, new world, you see?
That red sky at night, an astronaut’s delight
It’s well within the sight of NASA’s little mites,
Mars Rovers and me

Mars Rover – To the tune of Moon River is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Anal cancer in women

13 June, 2014 - 15:58

Many readers will probably be aware that actress and model Farrah Fawcett died in 2009 of anal cancer. But a recent update from Cancer Research UK revealed that anal cancer rates in the UK have increased by nearly 300% over the last 40 years. The increase is much higher in women than in men, rising from 4 in a million to 18 in a million for females (4 to 12 in a million in males). Presumably, similar increases are seen elsewhere in other countries.

Experts believe the reason for the dramatic rise is likely to be caused by the increasing prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus that is usually transmitted through sexual activity. An estimated 90 per cent of anal cancer cases in the UK are linked to HPV infection.

Now, this is a mixed taboo subject, cancer, sex, disease, bumholes etc. Perhaps not a topic for the family dinner table, but certainly one that should be broached more readily. If shifting sexual practices are largely to blame, then sexually active people ought to know more about HPV and the fact that it can cause cancer of any entry point in the body.

anal-cancer

A recent tweet from @RealMissChief today remarked on a tattoo a female displayed on her lower back that she saw in a bar. The tattoo was actually of stars but RMC wittily interpreted this to mean “I do butt stuff”. Maybe the tattooee does or doesn’t we will never know, but either way we can but hope that she uses protection if she does that kind of “butt stuf”, or at the very least knows her partners’ HPV status. This anecdote does offer a putative tabloid scare story about how getting a tat on your lower back could lead to anal cancer. But, while it might be flippant to suggest such a thing, perhaps the increasing proclivity for such body art simply correlates with general shifting attitudes towards sex at a time when HPV is prevalent. The numbers are small but worryingly on the increase…

Anal cancer rates quadrupled since mid 70s.

Anal cancer in women is a post from the science blog of David Bradley, author of Deceived Wisdom
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100% Faith Free

11 June, 2014 - 16:20

no-more-atheist-aI don’t like that red, upper case “A” that so many people wear on their web and social media presence as some kind of skeptical badge of honour. But, the atheist tag has just too much baggage (thank you Prof Dawkins and others) and implies too much about one’s philosophy that might not apply.

Moreover, critics of atheism and the so-called “atheist movement” (generally those who simply believe in at least one more god than any true atheist) will commonly complain that most atheists are agnostics or some such. There is also a backlash against the term that seems to imply that atheism itself is a belief system, a religion even. Atheism, of course, is as much a belief system or religion as not going for a jog is a form of exercise or eating a bacon butty is a type of vegetarianism, irrespecive of what the non-skeptics and religious claim. Other analogies: “bald” is a hair colour, “off” is a TV channel…

100-percent-faith-free

The problem that many skeptics, rationalists, realists, the scientifically minded, have with religion, it seems, is the division between themselves and their search for truth that uses an evidence-based understanding of reality (observations that are reproducible and testable against the theory that explains them) as opposed to the religious who may simply believe and do not need any evidence (other than the words in ancient books or certain feelings). They have faith. If evidence were available to support the existence of a god, then the rationalists would have to update their theory of reality and subsume that evidence into it. That’s how science works.

So, rather than plastering that inflammatory red atheist-A on a website, how about something more a little more diplomatic that gets the message across just the same? A badge that does not exclude new evidence, but simply takes nothing on faith…

If the graphic catches your imagination feel free to modify and use it on your site.

100% Faith Free is a post from the science blog of David Bradley, author of Deceived Wisdom
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WebElements: the periodic table on the WWW [http://www.webelements.com/]

Copyright 1993-2011 Mark Winter [The University of Sheffield and WebElements Ltd, UK]. All rights reserved.