Thursday, 26 July 2012

Food Banks in Nottingham

The most up-to-date list of Foodbanks is perhaps the one kept by NCVS at the link below :

Foodbanks typically ask for donations of non-perishable items like:

Rice, Pasta, Tinned Tomatoes/Veg/Fish/Fruit

Baked Beans, Packet Noodles, Chick Peas, Cooking Oil, Tea Bags,

Long Life Milk, Sugar, Cereals, Toilet Rolls, Toothpaste etc

Benefit delay and benefit re-assessment cause people across the UK to go hungry. Almost 40% of foodbank clients last year experienced benefit delay, often for the most tenuous of reasons. See for some examples.

Useful contact details:
Hope Nottingham co-ordinate the Trussell Trust food banks in Nottingham.

Advice Nottingham network:

For those interested in further reading around food banks, see here and here

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Charming stuff from the School Council

No3 Son has been a member of his school council this year and brought home all his council related paperwork at the end of term today.

The comments from the meetings were often really charming and showed how thoughtful the children were. BFTF hopes that it is ok to print just a few of them to give you a feel for the kind of thing they discussed. Each class had a representative on the council. It's worth remembering that all of these ideas came from the (primary school) children themselves:

27 April : Class 5 think it would be a really good idea to raise money for school by bringing in toys and games we no longer play with and selling them.
Class 3 have been discussing the possibility of helping the elderly people in the area. School Council thought about a tea or coffee morning. They think it would be a valuable experiecne for the elderly and children alike.

16 March : Class 9 mentioned that football is causing problems for the bowlers in cricket (during lunchbreak). The school council discussed this and thought that maybe some of the "run-ups" are far too long.
Class 3 asked whether there was an alternative to ordinary taps in the toilets - something that may help us to save water.

10 February : Class 4 would like a designated handstand wall.

Date N/A : Class 4 complined about the cricket position because the left handers are free to hit it where ever they like, whereas the right handers have to hit it straight. This is not fair and Class 4 would like to move the postion.
Class 6 stated that teachers push in line to get flapjacks and children want this to stop.
Class 10 asked why Yr3's can't be referees.

4 November :Class 3 (Yr5+6) asked to be allowed to do show and tell. They feel it is important to share work just like they younger Year 3 and 4 do.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Are Bank policies causing more burglaries?

Banks are important social institutions, and have a number of roles to play in creating a safe and prosperous community. One of these roles is to provide, for a reasonable fee, with a place for customers to store their valuables. Banks have managed to do this through two world wars, through baby booms and through the economic hardships of the 1970s.

But, for reasons BFTF cannot understand, the last few years have seen many banks remove this facility for customers. Entirely predictably, this has had the result of making burglars rich as they prey on households that are now forced to store their valuables at home.

BFTF became aware of this issue after reading a report at the BBC and also one in the Guardian and raised this at a recent local residents meeting in April (with the result that both the council and the Police have agreed to consider how they can challenge local banks on this issue.

By August, having raised the issue again, been told that the council would challenge local banks, but not having received any feedback that they had done actually done so - decided to spend an hour or two asking Banks in the town centre myself, with the following results:

Said they don't provide a safekeeping service as they "just don't have the space".

Said they don't provide a safekeeping service.

Yorkshire Bank
Said that they had stopped providing a safekeeping service some nine years ago as the insurance costs were no longer affordable.

A very polite customer service representative here said that they were honouring existing committments but not offerning a service to any new customers, for "space and insurance" reasons.

Alone amongst the banks that BFTF visited, it was HSBC that offered a safekeeping service (for a reasonable fee) to customers who used HSBC as their main current account.

So what should people do?
With so few banks now offering a safekeeping service, BFTF wonders what people should do and hopes to ask the Police for their advice...

UPDATE (03 Sep 12):
Passed on the above information to the council representative who had been at the residents meetings, asking "With most banks having decided to remove this public service facility, who - specifically - should people turn to for safekeeping of jewellery, war medals, house deed etc."

UPDATE (07 Jan 13):
Sent email to council representive asking them if there was any feedback yet from Police on the representatives question to them "is there any correlation between lack of safety deposit boxes and thefts

UPDATE (Jun 2016):
Eventually gave up asking the council representative. Asked for this issue to be raised at a Police Advisory Group, feedback was that the response was not clear. Following yet another spate of burglaries of asian households recently, sent the email below to a senior Policeman that attended a community event.

"Regarding the recent spate of burglaries targeting jewelry in asian households, I think a factor here is that banks have abdicated responsibility for providing a place of safe storage for valuables by stopping the provision of this service at their branches. With the entirely predictable result that asian households are being targeted in jewelry burglaries. I would like the Police to state publically that the banks are failing in their duty and would like to Police to ask the banks to reinstate this facility. And I would like to know what SPECIFIC recommendations the Police and Council have for storing valuables away from the home."

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Papers Behind Paywalls

The government, presumably, wants a public that is educated and engaged with current scientific issues. Scientists certainly want this. And a big chunk of the public also wants this.

But when an ordinary member of the public tries to find an academic article that has been referenced by a news story or a university department, what they often find is that the paper in question is stuck behind a paywall.

So the member of the public stays ignorant of the research. Critically, this means they cannot effectively challenge media or government reports that misrepresent research (Daily Mail, I'm looking at you).

BFTF has decided to keep a log of the instances if finds itself stuck on the plebs side a of a firewall, with the intention of using the resulting examples as evidence in what will be a VERY TECTCHY email to those in Government who can change the situation.

While trying to write a post about a lecture on fossils, found that relevant research is out of reach of ordinary citizens (but not anti-science creationist groups)
Relevant paper : Terminal Developments in Ediacaran Embryology, Butterfield, N. J. (2011) Science, 334 (6063). 1655 -1656.

A blog, ironically about the relationship between the public and science, references a paper entitled "Blowin’ in the wind: Short-term weather and belief in anthropogenic climate change" (published in the AMS Journal Weather, Climate, and Society 2013). But when BFTF tried to find the paper, it was hidden behind a paywall.

Trying to get hold of this paper, which was very relevant to a recent talk at Cafe Sci
Stobart, R. and Wijewardane, A. "Exhaust System Heat Exchanger Design for Thermal Energy Recovery in Passenger Vehicle Applications". IMechE, VTMS 10, Vol. 2011, Vehicle Thermal Management System Conference, Warwick, UK, 2011

While trying to write a post about the nano-motor research being undertaken at the University of Oxford (and which featured at the 2012 RS Summer Exhibition), wanted to find out more about the mechanisms involved, the paper below might have helped, but I'll never know as it is stuck behind a paywall.
Direct observation of stepwise movement of a synthetic molecular transporter.
Wickham SFJ et all. Nature Nanotechnology 6,166-169.

Whilst trying to write a post about a public lecture on nanotechnology in Healthcare, had the following issues in finding information:

Double Nanoparticle Layer in a 12th Century Lustreware Decoration: Accident or Technological Mastery?
Philippe Sciau et al., 2009, Journal of Nano Research, 8, 133
Wanted to find out more about the science of lusterware, but the paywall means that I can’t

Materials: Carbon nanotubes in an ancient Damascus sabre.
M. Reibold et al Nature 444, 286 Published online 15 November 2006
Wanted to find out more about the microstructure of Medieval Damascus steel, but the paywall means I couldn't.

Preparation of lotus-leaf-like polystyrene micro- and nanostructure films and its blood compatibility.
J. Mater. Chem., 2009,19, 9025-9029
Wanted to read about synthetic hydrophobic materials, but the paywall means that I couldn't.

Activation of complement by therapeutic liposomes and other lipid excipient-based therapeutic products.
Adv. Drug Delivery Rev. V63, Issue 12, P1020–1030.Janos Szebenia et al
Wanted to read about the mechanism used in one of drugs mentioned in the talk - but the paywall means that I couldn't.

Self-assembly of a nanoscale DNA box with a controllable lid
Nature 459, 73-76 (7 May 2009)
Wanted to read about a box made from DNA mentioned in the talk, but paywall means that I couldn't.

A visit to the outstanding Summer Exhibition at the Royal Society saw BFTF intrigued by a display by the People of the British Isles DNA mapping project. Wanting to find out more, BFTF visited their website. Finding it a bit light on information, clicked on "Papers related to the People of British Isles project" and then on the rather interesting looking "The peopling of Europe and the cautionary tale of Y chromosome lineage R-M269"
SLAM - A paywall hits BFTF in the face. Guess I'll just have to stay ignorant.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Emotions of No3

No3 son was writing a poem recently and, to encourage him, BFTF ofered to put it on the blog if it was written neatly.

It was, so here goes :

I feel,
As bright as a bulb,
As smart as uniform,
As quiet as a mouse,
As loud as a class,
As hard working as mother nature,
As sharp as a sword,
As fast as a hare,
As soft as snow,
As sticky as blu-tack.

Image Source : Wikipedia

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Climate Change is a "Wicked Problem"

NSB read a fascinating article on the "Making Science Public" blog at the University of Nottingham. Written by Professor Brigitte Nerlich, it compared the media coverage of the original (Rio) and current (Rio+20) climate change conferences, noting how the original conference had a large amount of positive coverage whereas the current conference has received scant media coverage.

But what really caught NSB's imagination was the description of Climate Change as being a "Wicked Problem".
A link to a Wikipedia article explained that the term "Wicked Problem" was originally coined to describe problems in social planning but had now become more widespread. Its defining characteristics are that :

1.The problem is not understood until after the formulation of a solution.
2.Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
3.Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong.
4.Every wicked problem is essentially novel and unique.
5.Every solution to a wicked problem is a 'one shot operation.'
6.Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.

Examples being global climate change, healthcare, pandemic influenza and international drug trafficking.

Wicked problems have also been described from a social science point of view and it is here that one can see how they describe the issues facing climate change research with a rather uncanny level of accuracy:

1.The solution depends on how the problem is framed and vice-versa (i.e. the problem definition depends on the solution)
2.Stakeholders have radically different world views and different frames for understanding the problem.
3.The constraints that the problem is subject to and the resources needed to solve it change over time.
4.The problem is never solved definitively.

Winningly, climate change also falls into a special category of problems known as "Super Wicked Problems", so called becasue they have the following additional characteristics:
1.Time is running out.
2.No central authority.
3.Those seeking to solve the problem are also causing it.
4.Policies discount the future irrationally.

It's all thought-provoking stuff, and NSB is looking forward to using the term "wicked problem" with some regularity in the future. If the opportunity to describe something as "having a degree of wickedness" presents itself, well, that will certainly be a bonus.

For some strange reason, a sunset feels like a good metaphor
for the uncertainty of climate change

Image Source : Wikipedia