Sunday Science: Surgery, Dopamine and Journalism

I fished my phone out of my jeans, carefully avoiding moving my left arm. “Oh, hi, Anna! How’s it going?”

“Good. We’re just about to get there. Where are you?”

“I’m in surgery on the second floor.”

“Aaah. Um. OK. Well, see you soon.”

“See ya!” I hung up and looked to my left. My gaze travelled past the gloved hand of the surgeon, over the gaping wound in my arm which was being stitched up, and stopped at the crowd of onlookers. The surgeon pulled a stitch tight, and I winced. A drop of blood squeezed out of the wound. One onlooker met my gaze, aghast – I’m not sure if it was the sight of blood, or the fact that I’d just had a phone conversation while a needle was being dragged through my flesh.

Welcome to the Wellcome Collection. If Hands, their appendage-themed late event, was anything to go by, it could well become my favourite science communication venue in London!

After taking the fake flesh cast off my arm (it was realistic, especially if people arrived mid-operation), I met up with some other ‘Commers and we explored the exhibits. Some were a little academic, others gimmicky, but many just very cool. Being able to sip on a drink while wandering about, chatting to people about the ergonomics of tools or seeing the fake-hand-sensation trick being done, was a lot of fun. I was also convinced to get my thumbnail painted…

OK, so I mucked the colours up a bit, but it’s genuinely a rainbow…

One of the activities was to get a fingernail painted with a representation of a chemical. I chose dopamine, a reward chemical – supposedly, along with serotonin (another fingernail option), an important part of the feeling of being ‘in love’. Hmmm. The other option was adrenaline, which, for some reason, seemed to end up on more middle fingers than any other…

Overall, it was a fun night, though I only learned a few passing facts about hands. To be honest, though, I don’t think the aim of such a night is to teach something to everyone who walks through the door – it’s a chance to bring in a happy, sociable crowd in an environment of ambient education, where a lull in the conversation could be re-ignited by an interesting exhibit or listening to a scientist talk will be sandwiched between drinks and mock surgery. Top stuff, Wellcome!

Moving on to an analysis of a comic…

Hmmm. It’s tempting to laugh and agree with this. Certainly, there can be dumb article titles. But the people who go out and write features about the edges of accepted science might spend a fair chunk of time airing ideas that are probably wrong. That doesn’t mean we should condemn or discourage such reporting.

Sure, criticise it. If there’s shoddy journalism or poor scholarship, have at it. And if there’s some kind of malicious agenda, take action – point it out, yell about it and try to discourage the outlet from publishing similar articles in the future. But I don’t like the idea of judging articles based on what they boil down to as a headline (which may not even be under the journalist’s control).

Oh, and he’s made a little slip. The title “Was Darwin Wrong?” can easily be answered both “Yes” and “No”. There were plenty of things he got wrong; it plays into the hands of the anti-science creationist mob if we try to set Darwin up as an infallible authority. Of course, on the flipside, he was broadly correct in his most important and amazing theory, so I can see the point!

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Categories: Fun Things On Land, Science, Things people do | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Sunday Science: Surgery, Dopamine and Journalism

  1. Chris

    Whew, if we hadn’t Skyped last night, that Blog beginning would have made me anxious. How rude, using a mobile while someone is stitching your wound.

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