December 2015

December 2015

9 December 2015: Scientific Generalisations: What's so good about missing out all the differences?

Read the summary report of Professor Nancy Cartwright's lecture on Scientific Generalisations: What's so good about missing out all the differences?

Scientific enquiry is about making generalisations we are told, about making things look alike: a few short, sharp general claims to deal with a wealth of different cases. Yet things as they appear are not much the same. We get them to look that way by blurring the details, by distorting a bit – or more than a bit, by ignoring all the instances that don't fit in the box. The trick is often to use highly abstract concepts in our general claims, so abstract they mean a million different things in a million different contexts. So using science to control the concrete is no straightforward matter: a matter indeed that seems to escape the scientific method. This talk discussed how we come by general truths in science – not by generalising – and explored some of the pitfalls in getting back down to the concrete, especially when we want to use science to build a laser or a better social policy.

7 December 2015: What is (and was) Scots? Answers and questions from an historical perspective

Read the summary report of the talk in Eyemouth High School by Professor Jeremy Smith FRSE, Professor of English Philology and Head, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow.

For many, Scots is a language; for others it is a dialect (or a collection of dialects); for some it is 'slang'. Whatever we call it, the language-variety known as Scots is a complex and dynamic phenomenon with a fascinating history - a history that cannot be separated from the people who spoke (and speak) it. This interactive lecture offered some answers to the question in the title, but also posed some further questions for further pondering.

1 December 2015: Sleeping sickness in sub-Saharan Africa

Read the summary report of Professor Peter Kennedy's report on The Challenge of Human African Trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness)

Human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, is a killer disease occurring throughout 36 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where it puts 70 million people at risk. Transmitted by the bite of the tsetse fly and caused by protozoan parasites called trypanosomes, the disease is invariably fatal if untreated. Current treatment with intravenous melarsoprol for the late-stage brain disease is excruciatingly painful and kills over 8% of people receiving it. Professor Kennedy described his work in an established mouse model of the disease, which led to a novel oral drug called ‘complexed melarsoprol’, which has great promise for improving the lives of the rural poor who are mainly affected.


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