Facebook: breastfeeding photos are obscene. Scantily clad college co-eds, fine and dandy.

Facebook, for anyone unfamiliar, is a social networking site, a more organized and less gaudy version of MySpace. Originally started for college students, Facebook opened up to anyone with an email address earlier this year. You can post a mini biography, let others know what you’re up to, keep in contact with friends, upload pictures. Of course, not just any pictures will do; Facebook has a user agreement that includes a ban on “pornographic” pictures from their site.

This clause recently got Karen Speed, a Canadian mom, in trouble. Facebook originally took down photos it deemed “obscene content,” and then deleted her account altogether:
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Prospects “bleak” for young researchers

You’ve heard about the depressing state of funding today in biomedical science. That’s only part of the reason why increasingly, graduate students and post-docs are looking outside of academia for jobs, as discussed recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Researchers today have access to powerful new tools and techniques — such as rapid gene sequencers and giant telescopes — that have accelerated the pace of discovery beyond the imagination of previous generations.

But for many of today’s graduate students, the future could not look much bleaker.

They see long periods of training, a shortage of academic jobs, and intense competition for research grants looming ahead of them. “They get a sense that this is a really frustrating career path,” says Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

So although the operating assumption among many academic leaders is that the nation needs more scientists, some of brightest students in the country are demoralized and bypassing scientific careers.

More after the jump…

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Vaccine by Arthur Allen

Regular readers may have seen me mention on occasion my father’s rather large family. My dad is the youngest of a family of 13 children–12 of whom survived to adulthood. Before my dad was born, he lost a brother to complications from infection with chicken pox; he had a severe infection and developed a fatal secondary pneumonia at just a year old. This was back in the early 1940s, prior to the widespread use of modern antibiotics and certainly long before vaccination for chicken pox. Still, despite the availability of effective chicken pox vaccines today, people still knowingly expose their children to chicken pox-infected playmates at chicken pox parties rather than vaccinate, apparently oblivious to the fact that this “mild childhood illness” can cause severe disease, and even death.

This campaign against vaccines isn’t new by any means. In fact, vehement opposition to vaccination is as old as the procedure itself, as is thoroughly documented in Arthur Allen’s recent book, Vaccine. More after the jump.
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Are science blogs having an impact?

Do you have a few minutes? Care to lend you time by completing a short survey to help answer the titular question?

[EDITED TO ADD: thanks! We reached 1000 survey responses in just about 10 hours’ time, so the survey is now closed…we really appreciate your participation!]

This survey attempts to access the opinions of bloggers, blog-readers, and non-blog folk in regards to the impact of blogs on the outside world. We’re examining the impact of science blogging and this survey will provide invaluable data to answer the following questions:

Who reads or writes blogs?
What are the perceptions of blogging, and what are the views of those who read blogs?
How do academics and others perceive science blogging?
What, if any, influence does science blogging have on science in general?

The survey itself will likely take ~10 minutes, and a bit more if you are a blogger yourself–and thanks in advance.

HIV denial: international flavor

Just a quick post to note that fellow ScienceBlogger Nick Anthis has up a post on HIV denial in South Africa. Though this is a topic I’ve touched on, he goes into a deeper history of it, including more about the cultural reasons for denial (whereas I typically focus more on the science).

In other news, I have an editorial today in the The Times Higher Education Supplement in London. You can find it here (registration required).

Clostridium Marys

Clostridium difficile is an emergent bacterium. A close relative of the bacteria that cause tetanus and botulilsm (Clostridium tetani and Clostridium botulinum, respectively), C. difficile is an intestinal bacterium that can cause colitis. C. difficile has until recently been a fairly rare cause of disease, and then only typically within a hospital setting. However, the emergence of a new, highly virulent strain of the bacterium a few years ago, coinciding with an increase in the rate of serious infections it caused, put this pathogen on the map. And like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium difficile is no longer only found in hospitals: it’s spreading among the community as well.

While this is a concern, the bulk of cases still occur in medical settings, where the bacterium is the most common cause of health care-associated diarrhea. Why is this such an issue in these settings? Like its cousins, C. difficile can form hard, resistant spores–making it difficult to eliminate when contamination occurs. Therefore, infection control measures have been able to reduce C. difficile contamination, but not completely eliminate it. A recen study looks at another reason for the difficulty in eliminating the organism from hospitals and other care facilities: undiagnosed healthy carriers shedding the bacterium.
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Searching for drugs in new places

I mentioned that it’s microbiology week at fellow Scienceblog Deep Sea News. Today’s post over there is on “bioprospecting” in the sea–looking for naturally-produced chemicals that we can harness for employment as drugs or other uses. For example:

Over the last 20 years at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution we have developed a culture collection containing 17,000 bacteria and fungi from deep-water marine invertebrates and sediments. We have shown that the collection contains many unusual microbes which are not known from the terrestrial environment and are fermenting the isolates to produce extracts for screening as antibacterial or anticancer agents.

Click the link for more…