Monday, 27 April 2015

Yet another study debunks yet another vaccine/autism myth

As reported by ABC Science last week, a large study (roughly 95,000 people) has hammered another nail into the well-and-truly debunked vaccine-autism link.

In an accompanying editorial in [the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)], Dr Bryan King, a doctor at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, says the data is clear.

“The only conclusion that can be drawn from the study is that there is no signal to suggest a relationship between MMR and the development of autism in children with or without a sibling who has autism,” writes King.

“Taken together, some dozen studies have now shown that the age of onset of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, the severity or course of ASD does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, and now the risk of ASD recurrence in families does not differ between vaccinated and unvaccinated children.”

Make no mistake: if you avoid vaccines in fear of autism, you are a misguided fool. If you spread this myth, you are an ignorant menace to society. This may sound harsh but people can really die if anti-vaxxers get their way.


Jain A, Marshall J, Buikem A, Bancroft T, Kelly JP & Newschaffer CJ (2015): Autism Occurrence by MMR Vaccine Status Among US Children With Older Siblings With and Without Autism. JAMA 313(15): 1534-1540.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Best journal cover ever?

Courtesy of the Molecular Biology and Evolution Facebook page comes this awesome cover art:

According to the MBE Editor:

The author and artist info: The cover image depicts representative squamate species (lizards and snakes) playing poker, with the card and chip colors representing the sex-determining system most prevalent in each clade. The tabletop shows results from a comparative genomic analysis of squamate sex-determining mechanisms by Gamble et al in this issue. This study discovered that changes between sex-determining mechanisms in one clade, geckos, account for a half to two-thirds of the total transitions known in lizards and snakes. This remarkable frequency of transition is reflected in the illustration by the heightened activity at the gecko side of the table: the three gecko species in the foreground are cheating, implying that when it comes to sex determination, geckos do not play by the rules. The image was created by University of Minnesota biologist and artist Anna Minkina and pays homage to the Cassius M. Coolidge painting, “A Friend in Need”, part of the artist’s “Dogs Playing Poker” series.

h/t: James McInereny

Saturday, 25 April 2015

The amazing Anzac tribute of Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal)

It’s probably not escaped the attention of many that today is Anzac Day, and the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. Like all of WWI, it’s an horrific part of history, which makes me glad that I was not born 100 years earlier. For all our problems today, the world is surely a better place.

One of the reasons that the world today is a better place is leaders of the world who have advanced peace and reconciliation. One such leader was the commander of the Turkish forces at Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal. He later became the first president of Turkey when it became a republic in 1923 and was given the title “Atatürk” - father of the Turks - in 1934. The same year, he wrote this tribute to the Anzacs killed at Gsllipoli:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Good news! WHO calls for results from all trials to be reported

A bit belated but good news worth sharing nonetheless. From Ian Bushfield at Sense About Science, and as reported in Science and other media sites:

For the first time ever, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken a position on clinical trial results reporting, and it’s a very strong position! The WHO now says that researchers have a clear ethical duty to publicly report the results of all clinical trials. Significantly, the WHO has stressed the need to make results from previously hidden trials available. Ben Goldacre said, “This is a very positive, clear statement from WHO, and it is very welcome.” Ilaria Passarani from the European Consumer Organisation BEUC called it “a landmark move for consumers.” It is the position we and hundreds of you wrote to the WHO last autumn urging them to adopt. Well done everyone!

You can read more about the WHO’s statement and responses to it on the AllTrials website.

Further reading: Goldacre B (2005): How to Get All Trials Reported: Audit, Better Data, and Individual Accountability. PLoS Medicine 12(4): e1001821.

What happened on April 15/16? (And more dodgy Blogger stats)

My blog is a fairly modest affair that gets around 500 pageviews a day - mostly of old posts. However, this week has seen a rather unexpected spike in activity:

What happened on the 15th of April? It seems to be something to do with MacBook Air storage expansion, as that’s the post that seems to have the lion’s share of pageviews this week:

The odd thing is that in the detailed stats view, the peak of views is on the 16th. More dodgy Blogger stats it seems. Clearly unimportant but if anyone knows what’s going on (in either case), I’d be interested to hear!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Love chocolate? Love ice cream? Love coffee? You'll love a Magnum Espresso!

I do like good chocolate, ice cream and coffee. What could be better, then, than something tasty that combined all three‽ Behold! The Magnum espresso

Magnum vanilla ice cream is not spectacular but it is good - and surrounded by really good dark chocolate. (It makes me wonder whether you can just buy bars of the stuff.) Stick in some swirls of coffee syrup and you’ve got a winner. It’s chocolate with a splash of coffee, rather than coffee with a splash of chocolate - so don’t be too disappointed if you are after COFFEE!

According to their Facebook page, it’s a limited edition. I hope its not too limited!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Easy (and delicious) slow cooker beef chilli

Autumn has arrived in Sydney and with the dropping temperatures - we sometimes need two layers now! - there is an increased desire for warm, comforting food. We’ve therefore been seeking out recipes that are either made or can be adapted for the slow cooker. Today’s was an adaptation from a recipe for shredded chilli beef. (It was too yummy to remember to take a nice photo once dished up, so a photo of the pot will have to do!)


  • About 1kg beef chuck steak, cut into pieces and large bits of fats removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1.5 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 690g jar passata (plus/minus) + water (see below)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped pickled jalapenos
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tins of red kidney beans


  1. Season the beef with salt and pepper and brown in the oil. Our slow cooker has a “sear” function, so I used that. If feeling lazy, I’m sure you can skip this step.

  2. Lightly fry the onions to soften. Again, I used the slow cooker “sear” function.

  3. Bung everything except the kidney beans in the slow cooker. Use a bit of water (50-100 ml, maybe) to get as much of the passata out of the jar as possible.

  4. Cook on low for 6-7 hours.

  5. Drain and rinse the kidney beans before adding around half an hour from the end. (My slow cooker had already flicked to "keep warm" so I added them and put it back on low whilst the cornbread was baking.)

  6. Serve with Firecracker cornbread and sour cream. (My wife made the cornbread, so I can’t brag about that.) It was also be good with rice, tortilla chips, or just about anything of that ilk.

Easy and delicious!

Edit: as I almost did in life, I forgot the kidney beans!