Blog Archives

Facebook gives you cancer and infantilises the population. Ahem.

“There is no evidence because it would be hard to prove…” Aduh.

BadScience hero Ben Goldacre and Jeremy Paxman take on Baroness Greenfield, The Daily Mail (always a good target) and Aric Sigman in this interview from Newsnight. For a bit of background this is all a response to this story from the Daily Mail:

If you’re in my class, the page you need to comment on is here.

The Daily Mail reports  Sigman is claiming (without any real evidence) that time on the computer takes you away from real people. This makes you isolated and lonely and means you are not producing the right hormones and your genes will act up – potentially leading to cancer, immune problems and impaired mental function. That’s a far reach for a newspaper article to be making, but these kind of shock headlines sell papers, or get more traffic on their website.

In this debate we see the importance of peer-reviewed research before making public claims. We see that correlation does not necessarily imply causality and we see that poor reporting of sensitive issues can lead to gross misunderstandings. If we remember, the Daily Mail was central in the reporting of the MMR vaccine scare.

When you watch this interview and read the article, can you think of responses to these questions?

– Are there parts of Sigman and Greenfield’s claims that might sound plausible?

– What kind of evidence would you want to see to support these claims?

– What is the significance of Goldacre’s comment “… you can make anything look dangerous if you are selective in which evidence you quote” ?

– Sigman makes a comment “The paper weas supposed to be a one-sided provocative feature article for The Biologist to make people think more carefully about where society is going.” How does he feel about the media attention that his words have attracted outside this publication?

– Central to Sigman’s claims were that internet use increases social isolation. He had no peer-reviewed work after 1998 to support this, yet Goldacre pointed out all these references that suggest otherwise.

– Sigman tries to re-state ‘social networking’ as a phrase meant for real-life interactions between people rather than internet-based interactions. How has his interpretation of the term led to confusion in the wider public? Who do you think is responsible for this confusion and how could it be rectified?

– Sigman tries to distance himself from the headlines and the conjectures of Greenfield and returns to his concern that internet use is having a direct and negative impact ont the lives of children. Take this opportunity to discuss the benefits and potential negative impacts of the internet with regard to childhood use.

– Goldacre makes a comment that it woudl be bad for research to prioritse what research is done based on the headlines in the newspapers. Do you agree/ disagree? Why?

– How do you think the precautionary principle might relate to the decisions parents make based on this issue?

How would you like to see this story develop? What further research would convince you of the harms or otherwise this debate?

Defense Against Infectious Disease megapost

Here we go, Standard Level and Higher Level in one big post:

As always, North Harris College has a great set of links to immunology animations.

Here’s the core, for everyone:


Antibiotic action from HHMI

Antibiotic resistance from Sumanas

Interferon, an antiviral medication from the University of Illinois

Antibody prodution:

Simple animation from

Retro-style animation and explanation from

More detail (better for HL) from McGraw Hill


Have a go at the Rediscovering Biology online text and animations

Here’s an in-depth look at the HIV virus from

And a good look at the HIV life cycle from Sumanas

You should really read this article on social and economic impacts of HIV

The resources for HIV out there are prolific, so go find them if you’re still curious!

And to set your mind at ease, the best HIV website:

Additional Higher Level content:

Start off with some of these resources from

Blood clotting:

Explanation and animation from HowStuffWorks and ADAM

And from the Indiana Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre

The Specific Immune Response

Great introduction by RM Chute

This one from McGraw Hill is really clear (we don’t need the bit about cytotoxic cells), and have these animations about the cellular response and humoral response.

Here’s a nice one about the action of antibodies from edumedia (but you’ve got to pay), and a better one on the action of immunoglobulins (antibodies) from WHFreeman.

Monoclonal Antibodies:

Here’s a simpe YouTube explanation:

Good animations from McGraw Hill and  Sumanas.

And when you’re through all that, have a go at a Virtual ELISA test from HHMI

You might even feel like a pregnancy test.


Here’s House MD to knock some sense into you:

And on  more serious note – the NHS has a very clear website with animations.

Girls might want to know more about the HPV Vaccination and its protection against cervical cancer.

And for more readers and in-depth stuff:

The Media’s MMR Hoax from is the perfect reader for discussion of the perceived dangers of the MMR jab. You could pair it with this video (edited by an anti-MMR activist).

Go for Rediscovering Biology’s Emerging Infectious Diseases online course.

Or find out more about parasitology, check out the Atlas of Parasitology or check out this video:

Parasites – Eating Us Alive“:

%d bloggers like this: