1. Chewing on the issue of processed meats and cancer
The WHO pronouncement on the linkage between processed meats and cancer generated a lot of misleading stories, like this one from The Guardian:
Processed meat includes bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami, corned beef, beef jerky and ham as well as canned meat and meat-based sauces.
It is the chemicals involved in the processing which could be increasing the risk of cancer. High temperature cooking, such as on a barbeque, can also create carcinogenic chemicals.
In the UK, around six out of every 100 people get bowel cancer at some point in their lives.
If they were all given an extra 50g of bacon a day for the rest of their lives then the risk would increase by 18% to around seven in 100 people getting bowel cancer.(Emphasis added)
- processed meat has been classified in the same category as causes of cancer such as tobacco smoking and asbestos (IARC Group 1, carcinogenic to humans), but this does NOT mean that they are all equally dangerous. The IARC classifications describe the strength of the scientific evidence about an agent being a cause of cancer, rather than assessing the level of risk. (Emphasis added)
While we are there, the WHO says there is “limited evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer as well as strong mechanistic evidence”. However, other explanations (technically termed chance, bias, or confounding) can not be ruled out.
2. Confusion over high fat diets
There’s been similar confusion over diets. This headline, for example is misleading:
What’s being compared is high fat, low carb diets. But a calorie is a calorie, and the only way to lose weight is to expend more calories in exercise than you take in.
The research shows that weight can be lost through both kinds of diet, but people then tend to revert to their longer term eating patterns and put the pounds back on again.
Update: This article does a better job on the issue. It seems that many low-fat products have sugar added.
3. New chief scientist looks a likely lad
Alan Finkel will succeed Ian Chubb as Chief Scientist.
- Alan Simon Finkel AO (born 17 January 1953) is a neuroscientist, engineer, entrepreneur and philanthropist. In 2007 he was appointed Chancellor of Monash University, a position he commenced on 1 January 2008 with his term ending in January 2016.
Finkel was educated at Monash University, receiving a doctorate in Electrical Engineering in 1981. He then served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian National University, before leaving academia to found Axon Instruments, a global science and technology company based in the US. During this time, he invented a commercially successful device which substantially speeds up drug research.
Since then, he has used his wealth to found the science magazine Cosmos, an environment magazine called G: The Green Lifestyle Magazine and contribute towards a number of research institutes. During a speech at Monash University’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner, he announced that he would be endowing a Chair in Global Health for the University.
He told RN’s The World Today that:
- if we are going to be a country that has a vibrant economy, then that’s going to be built on science, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship.
He has a vision for a world without coal and oil, but abundant clean energy. He’s cool with nukes, but says Australia doesn’t need them.
At The Conversation leading members of the scientific community sound excited about his appointment.
4. Innovation: Deja vu all over again?
That’s the title of Laura Tingle’s Friday AFR opinion piece.
She says Ian Chubb, the outgoing Chief Scientist has
- noted that there had also been at least 60 reports into the innovation system alone in the last 15 years – “and there would be more, if all reports into the higher education sector were taken into account”.
So he’s commissioned another one to add to the pile. One of the suggestions, according to Radio National’s PM, is to change university funding, which rewards peer-reviewed papers rather than entrepreneurship.
The report looks at what other countries have done. For example:
- Israel over the last 20 years has come from more or less a standing start to now being one of the world’s great technology powerhouse economies and it’s done that in large part through very deliberate, strategic and continued government investment in creating a knowledge economy.
The Government is going to release an innovation and science statement early in December. Other governments develop a strategy and then spend money on it. Why can’t we?
At least Turnbull’s crowd seem more sympathetic to the CSIRO.
Introduction to Saturday salon
Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.
An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.
For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.
The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.
Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.
The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:
The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.