Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Free of charge at last...

It was about time for somebody to make a 100% free dating site for the Jehovah's Witnesses. And this is even more imperative after the close down of many other of our sites. I believe that this can work. My advice to you brothers and sisters is to believe that you can find your match here, its 100% free, anyway! May you all find the happiness you are looking for!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ludacris: Rest Of My Life Feat. Usher & David Guetta

What the hell is a life worth living if its not on the edge..

C2C: Down The Road

Down the road I go..


Eye-catching studies that didn't make the final cut:

The pursuit of happiness can be lonely.

Working memory training does not improve intelligence in healthy young adults.

The anti-Mozart effect? Fast and loud background music [by Mozart] disrupts reading comprehension.

Good for creativity: "simple external tasks that allow the mind to wander".

Posing with your partner in your Facebook pic is a sign that you're happy in that relationship.

Effect of weather on pedestrians "A 5°C increase in temp was associated with a 14% increase in pedestrians".

Anti-anxiety drug Lorazepam increases people's ruthlessness in moral-personal dilemmas.

Even 3-yr-olds won't show you much sympathy if you're making a fuss about nothing.

Reflections on being a memory expert on the witness stand.

Dogs evaluate humans on the basis of direct experiences only.
Post compiled by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Public recording of a bet on a carbon tax

Melody Bomgardner and Alex Tullo have a blog on cleantech at C&EN's Central Science called "Cleantech Chemistry." She wrote this about the post-election results:
Perhaps most fascinating to me, though also the most far-fetched, is discussion about whether the fiscal cliff, tax reform, and the deficit will drive Congress to think about introduchng a carbon tax. Hmmmm…
I found this interesting, but hard to believe. I have publicly bet Melody that this will not happen:
How's this: if Obama, Reid or Boehner (not their staffs) mention a carbon tax (not cap/trade) as a revenue source between now and Labor Day 2013, I will send you the coffee mug (or other sub-$20 item) of your choice. 
She has agreed, and if it doesn't happen, I will get a C&EN coffee mug, or some other swag.  

The 3rd quarter of 2012 was not so great for chemical, pharma firms

From this week's C&EN, I see storm clouds brewing. From Melody Bomgardner, 3rd quarter earnings for chemical companies were not looking so great:
Against the backdrop of a slowly strengthening U.S. economy, chemical firms saw earnings slide again in the third quarter, in large part because of rapidly declining prices. Out of 21 firms tracked by C&EN, Dow Chemical, DuPont, and eight other companies reported lower sales and earnings in the quarter compared with last year. 
The results prompted promises by chief executive officers to heighten the cost-cutting moves they have been implementing throughout the postrecession recovery. As they announced financial results, Dow CEO Andrew N. Liveris and DuPont CEO Ellen J. Kullman unveiled additional restructuring plans, including layoffs, to be implemented in the fourth quarter and beyond (C&EN, Oct. 29, page 7). Then, one week after Dow’s Oct. 23 announcement, the company amended its tally of layoffs, saying it will cut 3,000 positions in the next two years, an increase of 600 from the original statement and equal to 6.3% of the firm’s workforce.
From Ann Thayer, same thing goes for the pharma companies:
For the third consecutive quarter, no relief came as combined sales and earnings declined at the major pharma companies tracked by C&EN. Overall, quarterly sales fell 5.0%, and earnings for the companies that reported them dropped 9.1%. For the first nine months of the year, sales were down 3.0%, while earnings declined 5.4%. By comparison, in the first half of 2012, sales slipped just 2.1% and earnings were down 3.5%. 
Four companies reported double-digit drops in sales, and five had similar-sized slides in earnings. Hardest hit was Bristol-Myers Squibb. Its third-quarter sales plummeted 30.1% to $3.7 billion, and earnings dropped by an even larger 34.3% to $685 million. U.S. patents expired in March on its high blood pressure drug Avapro and in May on the blood thinner Plavix. Excluding these two products, the company’s sales were up 7% compared with the third quarter of 2011.
Does anyone foresee another round of layoffs from Big Pharma? By now, I can't see how they could cut more (he said naively.)

Why does ACS Publications increase its journal prices?

From this week's C&EN, a long and interesting article by Lila Guterman about ACS Publications and its customers (mostly university librarians) who are pretty unhappy with ACS' price increases:
Jenica P. Rogers, director of libraries at the State University of New York, Potsdam, said the price of ACS’s all-journals electronic licensing package would have consumed more than 10% of her 2013 acquisitions budget. It was, she said, outside the range of what her small university could afford. Her blog posting received more than 100 responses in comments, Listserv postings, and blog posts by other librarians. In October, Rogers posted on her blog that other librarians had told her they intend to cancel as well. ACS says it has seen no uptick in cancellations in recent years. [snip] 
...ACS’s price increases in recent years, [ACS Pubs President] Crawford says, have been “well within scientific publishing industry norms.” For its all-journals package, the increases in both 2010 and 2011 were 7%; in 2012, the increase was 6%; and in 2013, it will be 5%—except for smaller academic institutions and community colleges, which will see no price increase. These price increases include the seven new journals ACS has introduced since 2010. However, customers seeking relief had the option to decline the new titles and, as a result, would have seen smaller increases of 5% in 2010 and 2011, and 4% in 2012. No new-title increment was added to the 2013 subscription fees. 
Explaining the yearly increases, Crawford says, “Manuscript submissions for consideration continue to rise at double-digit rates, and our published article output increases upward of 5% annually, with concomitant costs.”
If you read further in the article, you'll see that instead of charging a flat fee, ACS Publications charges you a rate based on your usage level (among other things). The more you use, the higher the fee apparently. If you read the whole thing, you'll see that ACS proposed to one small college an 1,800% increase in fees, that seemed to have gotten bargained down to a series of increases in a year (that included a 70% increase for the 2012-2013 year.)

Does anyone have a good answer as to why they do this (other than "because they can?") It seems apparent to me that they're burning up a lot of good will on the part of professors and librarians (not that anyone in DC cares about that, apparently.) I would expect this sort of behavior from Comcast, not a titular non-profit.

[2nd question: does anyone know something prominent at ACS that's funded substantially by ACS Publications? Like maybe there's a $30 million picnic for sick kids that takes up all of ACS Pubs' profits -- yeah, that's the ticket...]

Most people can fake a genuine "Duchenne" smile

For years, the literature on the psychology of smiling has claimed that fake smiles can be easily and reliably distinguished from genuine smiles by the absence of crinkling around the eyes. The eye crinkling of a supposedly real "Duchenne smile" (named after a Dutch physician with a fondness for electrodes) is caused by activation of the orbicularis oculi muscles, which raises the cheeks. The traditional view is that this muscle is not within voluntary control, unlike the zygomatic major muscle that bends the mouth upwards into a smile. Fake smiles therefore feature the upturned mouth but there's something missing in the eyes, or so it was long claimed.

Doubts first emerged in a 2009 paper, in which Duchenne smiles were produced just as often when participants pretended to be amused, as when they were genuinely amused. Now a research team led by Sarah Gunnery has provided more evidence that undermines the old beliefs about Duchenne smiles being a reliable sign of true positive emotion.

Gunnery and her colleagues had 96 student participants (49 men) pull smiling faces into a camera while role-playing genuine positive emotion (e.g. pleasure at a good exam grade) or while role-playing fake positive emotion (e.g. smiling in response to a gift that's not really liked).

Overall, 28 per cent of the smiles were rated by two experienced coders as Duchenne smiles, with the characteristic crinkling around the eyes. This broke down as 31 per cent for positive situations and 24 per cent in the fake positive situations. When naive viewers rated these smiles, they tended to say the Duchenne smiles were more genuine, but this was largely because eye crinkling tended to go hand in hand with more expressive smiling around the mouth.

Next, the participants were presented with a photograph of a person pulling a Duchenne smile and another showing a "fake" smile with no eye crinkling, and their task was to imitate both. Seventy-one per cent successfully imitated the Duchenne smile, and 69 per cent successfully imitated the fake smile.

These results explode the myth that it's not possible to fake a "genuine" Duchenne smile. They also hint at this being a skill that varies from person to person. It was the same participants who tended to display Duchenne smiles in the various conditions of the experiment. Moreover, these Duchenne participants reported feeling that they'd done a good job in the tasks, and they said they were able to pull fake expressions in their daily lives, all of which suggests they have good insight into their facial abilities.

A weakness of the study is its reliance throughout on staged emotion. While the evidence is clear that many people can fake the Duchenne in neutral conditions (albeit while imagining emotional scenarios), we don't know how easy it is for people to do this under conditions in which they truly are experiencing negative emotion. On the other hand, because there were no explicit instructions in the role-playing tasks to pull a Duchenne smile, nor were there any consequential outcomes to provide extra motivation, the prevalence of the ability to fake Duchenne smiles in neutral conditions may actually have been underestimated.

"Findings from the present study strengthen the argument that people can volitionally activate their cheek raiser muscle and put on a Duchenne smile," Gunnery and her team concluded. "Future research will further investigate individual differences, and will use behavioural outcomes to measure similarities in people who deliberately produce the Duchenne smile."


Gunnery, S., Hall, J., and Ruben, M. (2012). The Deliberate Duchenne Smile: Individual Differences in Expressive Control Journal of Nonverbal Behavior DOI: 10.1007/s10919-012-0139-4

Post written by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chemistry is The Answer

Thanks to Fortune Magazine, a great look back at how enthusiastic people were about the products of chemistry back in the 1970s. (Harkens back to the now-classic "When Chemistry Was Swell" post by Carmen Drahl.) Gotta love the smoking 1L 3-necked RBF in the above show tune.

In These irony-laden Times, I just don't think that it works well to use music to promote chemistry and chemists. But I'm probably wrong, and there's probably a very talented chemist/songwriter out there.

Have a good weekend! 

ACS Webinar on the doctoral glut: be glad you're not a biomedical scientist

credit: ACS Webinar
There was a lot that I could say about yesterday's ACS Webinar with Professors Richard Freeman and Paula Stephan, and hopefully I'll be saying more of it next week. But what I found fascinating about their presentation was this graph above. Stephan suggested that the issues with chemistry Ph.D.s is demand-related -- basically, as the manufacturing sector has slowed, the industrial demand for chemistry Ph.D.s has slowed as well, even as graduation of Ph.D.s has remained relatively flat. [Professor Freeman made the interesting point that he thinks that many, many more people should be doing masters degrees instead.]

[Is anyone else terribly amused by the comment in the ACS Webinar blog post where someone says that their hiring managers cannot find chemistry Ph.D.s to hire?]

As I said a long time ago, I had been warned away from the biomedical sciences, and that turquoise line up there is one of the reasons why. 

How sports psychology might apply to job searching

As I talked about yesterday, Kate Clancy (a professor of anthropology) had an interesting couple of posts a couple months ago on the application of sports psychology to her life in academia. She lists the factors that she does and does not control, and how she rates herself on each one. I've taken her list and modified it a bit for my work:

Factors that I do control: time I put in, effort, my decision making, my attitude (needs to improve!), how I interact with coworkers, my knowledge of the literature, my lab skills, my writing.

Factors that I do not control: When the plant starts or ends a process, my bosses' decisions, our customer's decisions.

I think this applies doubly to those who are seeking jobs. Job seekers do not control: the broader economy, the relative lack of chemistry jobs, the massive supply of chemists that are out there, the location of those jobs, the HR departments and their hoops, the employers and their needs. However, there are a lot of things that job seekers do control: the amount of time spent searching, applications written, effort spent networking, the appearance/quality of your CV, your interview presentation, etc.

I fully admit that I spend much more time bit complaining about the factors than I do not control, rather than the factors that I do. Readers, how about you? 

Link feast

In case you missed them - 10 of the best psychology links from the past week:

1. Sarah DeWeerdt for Nature takes a look at how cultural differences in social conventions affect the diagnosis of, and attitudes towards, people with autism.

2. The latest Neuropod podcast is a good'un with items on hallucinations and the replicability crisis in psychology. (see also the new special issue on replicability from Perspectives in Psychological Science; and for more on hallucinations, check out Oliver Sacks' new book. Sacks was also profiled recently in New York magazine).

3. More concerns have been raised about cognitive enhancing drugs and other forms of human enhancement, particularly in the workplace. (this is an issue that keeps coming up. For example, check out this poll by Nature from 2008).

4. How neuroscience is making its way into the courtroom (see also).

5. BBC Radio 4's All in the Mind continued this week, including discussion of an important new CBT trial for patients with psychosis (see also, and here).

6. Nate Silver ignored any hunches and used sophisticated number-crunching to predict the outcome of the US election with great accuracy. Over at 99U, I asked the question - Are there any judgments for which it's actually better to go with your gut instinct?

7. Brain region found that does absolutely nothing - can't beat psychology in-jokes.

8. Neuroskeptic reports on a fascinating study that caught up with adults who'd claimed as kids to have past-life memories.

9. Neurobonkers reports on a story about a US psychologist who is seeking to patent a basic method for treating anxiety. The case raises a number of ethical issues, says NB, including: "What are the effects of patents on scientific progress? Should a researcher be able to patent a method that they were not the first to develop?"

10. I love this topic - Pacific Standard has a story about when architecture meets neuroscience. (if you too are interested in this field, check out my Psychologist magazine article from 2006 "Is there a psychologist in the building?" and this new interview in the magazine with a psychologist who researches optimising work spaces.).
Post compiled by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Podcast: Janet Stemwedel and Chemjobber talk chemical academia

A while back, Janet Stemwedel and I had a conversation about her post on the dueling narratives between Daniel Lametti and I on the value of a science Ph.D. Shortly thereafter, she and I had a conversation on graduate school in chemistry and its current state. The conversation, lightly edited for sound, is below:

[I have to take this moment and openly apologize to Janet, in that it took me close to two months to edit the recording and post it. After editing it, I remembered what an excellent conversation it was, and it didn't deserve to languish. So, Janet, I sincerely apologize.]

[From now on, I'm going to make myself edit/post within a week.]

Some time markers:
0-8:00: Introduction
9:00: What are the odds, dear listener, that you're going to get a position as a tenure-track professor?
12:00: The pie chart of Ph.D. chemjobs, including CJ's long digression on the data that's out there on the issue.
21:30: What is the unemployment difference between a non-high-school graduate and a new Ph.D. chemist?
25:00: Will we ever get to retire?
30:00: Janet's impressive time-to-degree.
35:30: Will the problem of the Ph.D. glut be solved by less funding?
39:00: Is science academia a meritocracy? Are we good at picking people to hire?
49:00: The tough economy and larger cohorts in graduate school
55:00: Conclusions
57:00: A brief, but really important, digression into Professor Kate Clancy's sports psychology post on things that you can control, and things that you cannot. I am terribly remiss in not posting on this sooner, and I will. 

Yet more tyranny of the negative slope

Go over to See Arr Oh's place today, and check out his tabulation of the number of Division of Organic Chemistry fellowships, and how they rose and fell over the years. It's a pretty sobering graph he has there.

One thing that I thought I would point out (in repetition of See Arr Oh) is how M&A activity has affected academic organic chemistry in a mundane but still quite profound manner. (See right). I've stricken the names of companies that have been bought out or otherwise closed -- it's quite the remarkable list, on the 1997 side.

While we can argue about the benefits of M&A activity for society at large (future CJ and his Roth IRA may be benefiting), it is abundantly clear to me that the track record of M&A for the bench-level chemist is no good at all.

[Does anyone have the back story to what happened to the DOC fellowships? (Apart from the obvious, that is the funding companies went away.) What's the benefit of funding one of these? Just goodwill in the community and prestige?]

Daily Pump Trap: 11/8/12

Good morning! Between November 6 and November 7, there were 41 new positions posted on C&EN Jobs. Of these, 7 (17%) are academically connected and 30 (73%) are from Kelly Scientific Resources.

Crap: There was one position for chemists, 2 for chemical engineers. Oof.

Frazer, PA: Teva Pharmaceuticals is looking for a B.S./M.S. process chemist, with 5  years of experience.

Hiring?: Sophie Rovner's article about the tepid job market had a number of smallish companies looking for folks. Lubrizol indeed has 1 synthetic chemist position (Ph.D. by Dec. 2012 available), Ashland seems to have a healthy number of positions and Cambrex has ~5 analytical-type positions at its Charles City facility.

A broader look: Monster, Careerbuilder, Indeed and have 268, 689 , 2588 and 8 positions for the search term "chemist."

Labs worldwide report converging evidence that undermines the low-sugar theory of depleted willpower

One of the main findings in willpower research is that it's a limited resource. Use self-control up in one situation and you have less left over afterwards - an effect known as "ego-depletion". This discovery led to a search for the underlying physiological mechanism. In 2007, Roy Baumeister, a pioneer in the field, and his colleagues reported that the physiological correlate of ego-depletion is low glucose. Self-control leads the brain to metabolise more glucose, so the theory goes, and when glucose gets too low, we're left with less willpower.

The breakthrough 2007 study showed that ego-depleted participants had low blood glucose levels, but those who subsequently consumed a glucose drink were able to sustain their self-control on a second task. In the intervening years the finding has been replicated and the glucose-willpower link has come to be stated as fact.

"No glucose, no willpower," wrote Baumeister and his journalist co-author John Tierney in their best-selling popular psychology book Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength (Allen Lane, 2012). The claim was also endorsed in a guide to willpower published by the American Psychological Association earlier this year. "Maintaining steady blood-glucose levels, such as by eating regular healthy meals and snacks, may help prevent the effects of willpower depletion," the report claims.

But now two studies have come along at once (following another published earlier in the year) that together cast doubt on the idea that depleted willpower is caused by a lack of glucose availability in the brain. In the first, Matthew Sanders and his colleagues in the US report what they call the "Gargle effect". They had dozens of students look through a stats book and cross out just the Es, a tiresome task designed to tax their self-control levels. Next, they completed the famous Stroop task - naming the ink colour of words while ignoring their meaning. Crucially, half the participants completed the Stroop challenge while gargling sugary lemonade, the others while gargling lemonade sweetened artificially with Splenda. The participants who gargled, but did not swallow, the sugary (i.e. glucose-containing) lemonade performed much better on the Stroop task.

The participants in the glucose condition didn't consume the glucose and even if they had, there was no time for it to be metabolised. So this effect can't be about restoring low glucose levels. Rather, Sanders' team think glucose binds to receptors in the mouth, which has the effect of activating brain regions involved in reward and self-control - the anterior cingulate cortex and striatum.

The other study that's just come out was conducted by Martin Hagger and Nikos Chatzisarantis based in Australia and the UK. Their approach was similar to Sanders' except that participants gargled and spat out a glucose or artificially sweetened solution prior to performing a second taxing task, rather than during. Also, this research involved a series of 5 experiments involving many different ways of testing people's self-control, including: resisting delicious cookies; reading boring text in an expressive style; unsolvable puzzles; and squeezing hand-grips. But the take-home finding was the same - participants who gargled, but did not swallow, a glucose drink performed better on a subsequent test of their willpower; participants who gargled an artificially sweetened drink did not. So again, willpower was restored without topping up glucose levels. Moreover, the benefit of gargling glucose was displayed only by participants who'd had their self-control taxed in an initial task. It made no difference to participants who were already in an untaxed state.

Hagger and Chatzisarantis agree with the interpretation of the Sanders' group, except they make a distinction. The effect of glucose binding to receptors in the mouth could either stimulate activity in brain regions like the anterior cingulate that tend to show fatigue after a taxing task. Or they say that glucose in the mouth could trigger reward-related activity that prompts participants to interpret a task as more rewarding, thus boosting their motivation. The explanations are complementary and need not be mutually exclusive.

The key point is the new results suggest depleted willpower is about motivation and the allocation of glucose resources, not about a lack of glucose. These findings don't prove that consuming glucose has no benefit for restoring willpower, but they suggest strongly that it's not the principle mechanism. It's notable that the new findings complement previous research in the sports science literature showing that gargling (without ingesting) glucose can boost cycling performance.

"While our findings are consistent with the predictions of the resource-depletion account, they also contribute to an increasing literature that glucose may not be a candidate physiological analog for self-control resources," write Hagger and Chatzisarantis. "Instead ego-depletion may be due to problems of self-control resource allocation rather than availability." An important next step is to conduct brain-imaging and related studies to observe the physiological effects of gargling glucose on the brain, and on motivational beliefs. There are also tantalising applications from the new research - for example, could the gargle effect (perhaps in the form of glucose-infused chewing gum) be used as a willpower aid for dieters and people trying to give up smoking?


Hagger, M., and Chatzisarantis, N. (2012). The Sweet Taste of Success: The Presence of Glucose in the Oral Cavity Moderates the Depletion of Self-Control Resources. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin DOI: 10.1177/0146167212459912

Sanders, M., Shirk, S., Burgin, C., and Martin, L. (2012). The Gargle Effect: Rinsing the Mouth With Glucose Enhances Self-Control. Psychological Science DOI: 10.1177/0956797612450034

--Further reading--
From The Psychologist: Roy F. Baumeister outlines intriguing and important research into willpower and ego depletion.

Post written by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Wreck of 1CJ196

"Fellas, it's bin good t'know ya!"
A question for #RealTimeChem Day (click to enjoy hundreds of chemists around the world, tweeting their results):

What should you call a dead reaction in your hood that you just haven't cleaned up yet? A derelict? Something that CJ should clean up, but just can't bear to pitch into the red can?

Suggestions being taken. (And yes, it got pitched. Sigh.) 

The Apodaca Challenge: What would I do with the ACS?

Rich Apodaca (the open-source cheminformatics guy) is a long-time reader and commenter on the blog, and he had a really good challenge for me (and for all of us):
I'm curious - you've seen the chemistry jobs situation from a vantage point few chemists have. What should ACS be doing to help its membership? 
Assume ACS is now in the mood to try something bold to address the #chemjobs situation - something it's never done before. Something that could change the rules of the game. Maybe even something with a significant element of financial/existential/credibility risk. 
What would it be?
I am not confident enough in my abilities as a policy wonk that I can offer concrete recommendations about what to do. But since you asked, here are a few ideas that I have:
  • Triple or quadruple funding to the ACS Department of Member Insights and Research so they can: 
    • Do the ChemCensus every year. Increase participation (advertising, paying people?, getting away from self-reporting) so that we get MUCH better information as to what's happening to ACS members. 
    • Expand the scope of the survey to attempt to reach all chemists, not just ACS members. 
    • Do longitudinal tracking of a cohort of chemists, so that we figure out what is happening to chemists over the course of their very long careers. 
    • Talk to member employers to ask them "What are you looking for?" and to drill down
  • Make sure that academics and employers have a much better picture of the hiring market
    • Have ACS representatives (members, ACS employees, whatever) show up at key conferences to give lectures on what the job market looks like. Do this ONLY after the above studies are complete (2-3 years), so that people actually have solid, reliable data. 
  • Offer more benefits to ACS members. Right now, what do you get? A deal on life insurance, C&EN (worth the cost, IMHO) and access to C&EN Jobs. Thaaaat's about it. 
    • Layoff insurance?: For larger companies, there's typically a severance package. That's not the case for smaller companies. Is there a case for ACS-subsidized unemployment insurance that goes past the federal 99-week limit? 
    • Shouldn't there be a list of long-term unemployed ACS members, who somehow get special care? 
  • Last, and craziest: How about a Rooney Rule for the long-term unemployed? For the uninitiated, the Rooney Rule is a rule instituted in the NFL that requires minority coaching candidates to be interviewed (not necessarily hired) for head coaching and other senior general manager type positions. Why not ask employers to consider/talk to/phone interview one long-term (longer than 6 months) unemployed chemist per opening? 
    • Better yet -- why not require recruiters at ACS National Meetings to interview at least one long-term unemployed member? (You could pay them to do it -- give them a break on having a booth, or lower the membership fees for their employees, or something.) 
Those are some pretty half-baked thoughts. The only one that I really, really, really believe in is the first one. If you're in a hole and you want to climb out of it, you have to find out how deep you are. 

Readers, you guys are so much better at me at this stuff. Please, if you had crazy ideas -- what would you do with the ACS? 

Process Wednesday: Volume-Time-Output

From the recent Org. Process Res. Dev. review titled "The Eight Criteria Defining a Good Chemical Manufacturing Process", a fascinating rule of thumb for optimizing "throughput":
Criterion 4: Volume−Time−Output (VTO). VTO is defined as nominal volume of all reactors (m3) multiplied by the hours per batch, divided by the output per batch in kg (eq 3, determination of VTO). If the resulting number is  less than 1, the process for the chemical step is acceptable; if the number is far above 1, the process needs to be improved. Dryer and centrifuge operations during product isolation are not considered for VTO analysis, although these can be the rate-limiting operations. For a particular process, if long drying times define the bottleneck of a process, i.e. product isolation times are greater than reactor processing times, the VTO will have a reduced impact.

If you read further in the review, the authors talk about the reaction to the right (above), where the reaction  concentration of the RCM was improved by 20X by protecting an amide hydrogen with a Boc group. The authors offer a scenario in which they were thinking that they had to build a dedicated plant to handle just these RCMs, before they were able to optimize the process, which allowed them to run it in their current equipment. Count me a little skeptical on that front -- I have a hard time that the narrative was that dire, or that they actually considered building another plant.

Nevertheless, I like this, because it offers an interesting rule of thumb for "process intensification" and when you're close to using your plant/equipment efficiently. Readers, I'd love to hear what you have to say.

1. Dach, R.; Song, J.J.; Roschangar, F.; Samstag, W.; Senanayake, C.H. "The Eight Criteria Defining a Good Chemical Manufacturing Process." Org. Process Res. Dev. ASAP. 

The Special Issue Spotter

We trawl the world's journals so you don't have to:

Clinicians respond to their clients' technology (Journal of Clinical Psychology). From the editorial: "Taken as a whole, these papers suggest that while technology can certainly contribute to and help create pathology, it can also contribute to growth, and that in either case technology interacts with fundamental human needs and developmental processes."

Time perspective in learning, developmental, and interpersonal contexts (Japanese Psychological Research).

Remembering the Future: The Influence of Past Experience on Future Behaviour (Learning and Motivation).

Contemporary Research on Youth Gangs (Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice).

The Neuroendocrine-Immune Axis in Health and Disease (Hormones and Behaviour).

Recent advances in EMDR research and practice (Revue Européenne de Psychologie Appliquée).

Youth, Internet, and Wellbeing (Computers in Human Behaviour, special section).

On Defining Emotion (Emotion Review, special section).

Experimental contributions to cognitive neuroscience theories of memory. Special Issue in recognition of the contribution of Andrew Mayes (Neuropsychologia).

Celebrating JOOP's 85th Birthday (Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, virtual special issue).

Violent and Aggressive Behaviors in Women: Part II (Behavioural Sciences and the Law).

ADHD (Child and Adolescent Mental Health, virtual special issue).
Post compiled by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"A profound sense of loss"

From Susan Ainsworth's great article on chemists living and working far from their families (part of C&EN's Employment Outlook issue):
When Duane Burnett lost his job in big pharma at the end of last year, he initially focused close to home in his search for a new position. After all, he had put down deep roots in Kenilworth, N.J., where he had worked for more than 23 years at Schering-Plough and later at Merck & Co. after the companies’ 2009 merger. 
He finally landed the perfect position—one that “checked all his boxes”—as director of chemistry at EnVivo Pharmaceuticals. The downside? It was in Watertown, Mass., some 250 miles from his home and family. 
Burnett feels fortunate to have found a position that allows him to pursue his passion for discovering central nervous system drugs. However, accepting the job has meant that he has had to live apart from his family for eight months so far. As a result, “I have a profound sense of loss,” he says. “You can’t replace the time that you share over a meal or over other activities that keep you close as a family,” says Burnett. “I truly miss that time. It is the biggest sacrifice I have had to make, and I think about it a lot.”
The sacrifices we make to stay in this field can be costly.

And what about research assistant professors?

"How many Brukers were there at Hereford?"
An astute reader writes in to ask:
Within my little research niche, I've noticed a lot of "research assistant professor" positions popping up.  The duties seem to be summarized as "chief post-doc with a more respectable title and no teaching responsibilities." 
This might be good news: Slowing the Ph.D. production rate somewhat and providing jobs for those already out there.  I was wondering if you or any of your readers has noticed these positions...and had any idea why they might be becoming more common.
I haven't seen this very often in the ads, but there have been so many run-of-the-mill assistant professor ads recently, I can't really remember.

If they're becoming more common, it's probably because certain institutions have enough soft money to support the position for the short/medium-term, but not for the long term. (Also, could these be "holding pattern" positions for favored postdocs?) It's my guess that the problem with these positions is that they're "soft money"-related, so as soon as the funding runs out, you're in the wind.

Readers, you know so much more about this than I do. Please, feel free to tell me what's up.

Anyone have anything to say about Kelly positions?

So I tend not to talk about the 100 bazillion Kelly Scientific Research positions that tend to pop now nowadays. It's mostly because I don't find them particularly relevant to Chemjobber's readership.

But a reader writes in with a good question: "Are these legitimate job postings that I should be applying for, or should I not waste my time?  I guess I do not fully understand what these are and am curious to know what you think about them."

It seems to me that they're mostly aimed at, for example, enticing employees from other companies (i.e. experienced workers). Here's a nice example: it's a temp-to-hire position in West Lafayette in process chemistry/formulation. They'd like you to have experience in:
"Polymorphism and Salt Screening in Pharmaceutical Systems, X-ray Powder Diffraction, Differential Scanning Calorimetry, Thermogravimetric Analysis, Optical Microscopy, Crystallization Studies, Co-Crystal Screening, Crystal Form Isolation, and Crystallization Kinetic Studies. The ideal candidate would have a bachelors or masters degree in chemistry and at least one year work experience in a lab."
So an young, but experienced B.S./M.S. process chemist -- why would they want a temp position? (unless, of course, they were out of work or were coming to the end of their previous contract.)

There's also a lot of lab technician or midnight QC chemist positions available. There's nothing particularly wrong with them, but they just don't seem to be very tempting. So I'm pretty "meh" about Kelly, which is why I don't post on a lot of their jobs. Readers, you've probably had a lot more experience with them. Any thoughts? 

Daily Pump Trap: 11/6/12 edition

Good morning! Between November 1 and November 5, there have been 106 new positions posted on the C&EN Jobs website. Of these, 32 (30%) were academically connected and 56 (53%) were from Kelly Scientific Resources.

Seattle, WA: Seattle Genetics is hiring a principal scientist for its chemical development team. They've been hiring a lot for their process team, recently.

Ahh, you again: Millenium is once again advertising itself as having positions. Are they real? No one knows.  (There are 4 positions for the search term "chemist" on its career website, none for synthetic.)

Colorado Springs, CO: Pxyant Labs is looking for a B.S./M.S./Ph.D. analytical chemist with lots of experience with mass spectrometers and GLP.

And you, too!: Phenomenex is also looking for multiple positions.

Ivory Filter Flask: 11/6/12

Good morning! Between October 30 and November 5, there were 46 new academic positions posted on C&EN Jobs. The numbers:

Total number of ads: 46
- Postdocs: 6
- Tenure-track faculty:  37
- Temporary faculty: 1
- Lecturer positions:  2
- Staff positions:  0
- US/non-US: 43/3

"Anne of Green Gables" novel not included: (Sorry, PEIers.) The University of Prince Edward Island is hiring an assistant professor of chemistry for a position to start next summer. 

High Point, NC: High Point University is hiring for 3 positions: the chair of the department, a biochemistry faculty position and for an assistant professor of organic chemistry.

Northern paradise?: Stockholm University is advertising what appears to be a pre-doctoral fellowship position to study materials chemistry. 28k to 40k/year, with pension for your last two years. Huh.

Central paradise?: Indiana University-Kokomo is looking for an assistant professor of environmental biochemistry.

Evanston, IL: Northwestern's chemical engineering department is looking for a postdoc in lithium-ion battery research.

To make glorious benefit nation of...: Nazarbayev University (Astana, Kazakhstan) is looking for professors of biology... on the website of the American Chemical Society.

Are 3D films more psychologically powerful than 2D?

The revival of 3D movies in recent years has prompted much debate among fans and critics. Some say it's gimmicky and too expensive. Others have heralded the return of the technology as the industry's saviour. A key claim in favour of 3D technology is that it makes for a more realistic, immersive experience. But does it really?

Brendan Rooney and his colleagues at University College Dublin showed 8 different movie clips (ranging from 13 to 68 seconds in length) to 27 participants (13 males; average age 27). The gory clips were chosen deliberately for their disgusting content and were taken from Bugs 3D, Friday 13th, Jaws 3-D and Frankenstein.

Each participant watched the clips alone in a mini-cinema on campus featuring a 2.5m x 2.5m screen. Crucially, half the participants viewed the clips in 3D, the others in 2D. To ensure any effects of the 3D format were not due to novelty, all the participants watched an abridged version of Journey to the Centre of the Earth in 3D, at least 24 hours prior to the study proper.

Participants in the 3D condition reported finding the film clips more realistic. They also had a higher heart rate whilst watching the clips compared with participants in the 2D condition. However, there was no difference in amount of skin conductance (another measure of arousal) between the two groups, and no difference in how much they said they enjoyed the clips.

Rooney and his colleagues explain that skin conductance - that is, the skin's sweatiness - is influenced only by the sympathetic nervous system (which triggers the fight or flight response) and not by the parasympathetic nervous system (which calms us down). By contrast, heart rate is influenced by both. This suggests to them that the calming parasympathetic nervous system is less active in viewers of 3D. Why? Well, one theory for how we calm our emotions during films is by reminding ourselves that they're not real. The 3D viewers said they found the viewing experience more realistic and it's possible that this made it more difficult for them to step outside of the experience, leaving their emotional response relatively unchecked. The researchers concede that the causal direction could also run the other way - the 3D viewers raised heart rate could cause them to perceive the experience as more realistic. Most likely the influences are bi-directional.

Is it a good thing that the 3D clips were rated as more realistic and triggered more physiological arousal? The 3D viewers didn't rate the clips as any more enjoyable, but then they only gave these ratings afterwards, which means they were relying on their memory of the experience. Also, they had no baseline to measure their ratings against. Finally, perhaps "enjoyment" is the wrong word when it comes to disgusting movie clips. If the study were repeated with a different genre, perhaps 3D viewers would give higher enjoyment ratings.

Rooney's team stressed that this was an exploratory study and that more research is clearly needed. For now they concluded the "suspension of disbelief is ... assisted by stereoscopic depth, with associated increases in reported perceived apparent reality and in heart-rate ... ".


Rooney, B., Benson, C., and Hennessy, E. (2012). The apparent reality of movies and emotional arousal: A study using physiological and self-report measures Poetics, 40 (5), 405-422 DOI: 10.1016/j.poetic.2012.07.004

--Further reading--
Right-handers sit to the right of the movie screen to optimise neural processing of the film.

Post written by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

Monday, November 5, 2012

ACS Webinar on the doctoral glut

ACS Webinars is holding one on "Are there More Scientists Than Jobs?". This is with Professor Richard Freeman (Harvard). It is also with Professor Paula Stephan (Georgia State), author of "How Economics Shapes Science." It will be moderated by Patricia Simpson, Director of Academic Advising and Career Services for UIUC's School of Chemical Sciences.

Let me be blunt and say this up front: Professors Freeman and Stephan are well-respected scholars on this issue, and have more-or-less come out on the "Yes" side of the equation above.

Tune in nn Thursday, November 8 at 2 pm Eastern. I'll be listening (and Tweeting/liveblogging), and I hope you will be as well. 

ACS resources for unemployed chemists

Looks like there's going to be an online job club for unemployed chemists, run by ACS, on Tuesdays at 2 PM Eastern.

Click on the link for other ACS resources towards finding a job (I guess Chemjobber doesn't merit a mention -- sigh.) 

Human stories abound in C&EN's employment outlook issue

Credit: C&EN
From Linda Wang's excellent, yet excruciating story on unemployment among pharma chemists, some terribly sad stories:
“I’m listed as employed,” says “Eric,” 46, who was laid off in 2007 from his position as a senior chemist at Johnson & Johnson and is now an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities. “I got reemployed, but is this what employment should be like for someone at my level?” [snip] 
...He teaches as an adjunct professor on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, splitting his time among three colleges and universities that are 50 to 70 miles apart. He leaves around 10 AM and doesn’t get home until after 11 PM, leaving little time to spend with his twin daughters, who are nine years old. 
Because of the length of his commute and the high cost of gas, Eric sold his car and bought a used Suzuki with better gas mileage. “The previous car was costing me about $1,000 a month in gas, and that was not sustainable,” he says. He has roughly $400 left in his 401(k). “Four hundred bucks is no 401(k); it won’t buy you a plane ticket anywhere,” he says. But he’s not one to dwell on his difficulties. “It’s tight financially, but the fact is we’re still surviving. It’s just a little harder, that’s all.”
I found this comment on ACS' Salary Survey data kind of amusing:
“The data that ACS has is for the most part self-reported, and that’s always going to underreport the truth,” says Lee H. Latimer, a consultant and longtime ACS volunteer, who was laid off from Elan in 2011. “Many may have a job, which keeps them from collecting unemployment, but they’re not working either in their field or in a position that comes anywhere close to matching their previous income”—meaning, he says, that they’re effectively underemployed.
And how about the PMP, that certificate of awesomeness from a couple of years ago?:
“Michael,” a Ph.D. organic chemist in his 50s, living in California, knows just how unsettling this roller-coaster ride can be. Since he was laid off from a biotech company in 2008, he has applied for more than 10,000 jobs, some 7,000 related to the chemical sciences and 3,000 outside of science. 
Meanwhile, Michael has earned certifications in clinical trial design and management, regulatory affairs, quality assurance and control, and project management. But “by the time that I finished, not only did the number of these jobs decrease, employers weren’t going to take anybody who doesn’t have experience. The training is not enough for them,” he says. “I went and retrained myself, but I still cannot get a job. 
I don't think it's a coincidence that most of the people in these articles are in what is supposed to be the prime of their careers (late 30s to 50s). That it has become brutal for mid-career chemists (the people who are probably going to be most productive and have the most ability to innovate) is fundamentally clear. It is beginning to be clear that not a single organization (not ACS, not the pharma companies, no one in government) has any idea what to do about it. What a shame.

C&EN's 2012 employment issue: the numbers

I don't want to have the new numbers released from the ACS Department of Member Research and Insights from the March 2012 ACS Salary Survey to be lost in the shuffle, so here they are, pulled out of Sophie L. Rovner's article, which is worth reading in full:
  • Overall member unemployment: 4.2% 
    • Ph.D. member unemployment: 3.4%
    • B.S. member unemployment: 5.9%
  • Industrial member unemployment: 5.4%
  • Academic member unemployment: 2.2%
  • % of members unemployed at anytime during 2011: 8.2%
    • % of members unemployed at anytime during 2010: 8.4%
  • % of newly graduates unemployed in October 2011: 13.3% 
    • % of newly graduates unemployed in 2010: 10.6% 
    • % of Ph.D. graduates unemployed in October 2011: 8.8%
    • % of B.S. graduates unemployed in October 2011: 13.6%
Also, check out this chart from the article (right), which indicates the brutal reality facing new graduates in chemistry.
Credit: C&EN*

Anyone who buys into facile claims that America needs more scientists and more chemists needs to be able to explain this graph. 

Also, the larger picture for the chemical manufacturing sector:
Zeroing in on the U.S. chemical manufacturing sector, employment totaled 799,600 on a seasonally adjusted basis in September 2012, up 0.2% from the prior month and up 0.7% from September 2011, according to preliminary figures from BLS. That’s good news, but it’s little comfort to the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their jobs in prior months. At the start of the Great Recession in December 2007, employment in the sector was 857,600. Five years earlier, it was 921,500. And 10 years before that—in December 1992—chemical manufacturing employees numbered 1.03 million.

*[NOTE: Corrected number for 2004 for ACS members. Numbers include unemployed and seeking employment. Data for 2012 on new graduates are not yet available. SOURCES: ACS Starting Salary Survey, ACS Comprehensive Salary and Employment Status Survey.]

You think your first name is rarer than other people do

You think you're so special, you probably think this post is about you. And maybe it is, if you too succumb to what US researcher John Kulig calls the "name uniqueness effect" - believing that your first name is more unusual than other people do.

Kulig asked 153 female students and 94 male students to rate how common their first name was on a scale from 0 to 100. The scale featured nine "anchor" names placed at the appropriate places as a guide, based on actual name frequencies obtained from the university's registrar.

For comparison, a control group of the same number of men and women each provided an estimate of the popularity of one of the names from the first group (women rated a female name, and men rated one of the male names).

Participants consistently rated their own first name as rarer than the estimates provided by participants in the control group (and as rarer than they really were, although this wasn't tested statistically). This was the case for names that were common and rare, according to university records, although slightly exaggerated for rare names. "People are motivated to be different from others," Kulig said. The phenomenon wasn't explained by the fact that some people spell their names in unusual ways.

A follow-up study was similar with 86 women and 57 men rating the frequency of their own first names, and a control group of men and women rating the names that belonged to that first group. As before, the participants estimated their names to be rarer than members of the control group did.

A clue as to the cause of the effect came from the fact that participants with (genuinely) rarer names tended to be happier with their names, consistent with Kulig's idea that we have a subconscious motivation to feel special. Also, of those who'd contemplated changing their names, the most popular reason was to obtain a rarer name. Finally, participants seemed completely unaware of "the name uniqueness effect". When participants were asked to estimate how rare other people would rate their (i.e. the participant's) name, they guessed that other people would come up with just the same rating as they had.

The new results complement a study from 2004, in which Danny Oppenheimer found that people underestimate the frequency of their own and famous people's last names. He put this down to a "discounting heuristic". Usually we overestimate the frequency of phenomena that we're familiar with (known as the availability heuristic), but Oppenheimer thinks we cancel out this bias when we're aware of a single, obvious cause of the familiarity, as we are with our own names or famous names. It's over-compensation by this process that he suggested leads us to an underestimation of the frequency of our last names.

The way we overestimate the prevalence of our names actually represents an anomaly when considered against findings showing that we tend to assume other people indulge in behaviours with a similar frequency as we do - known as "the false consensus effect." Kulig said more research is needed to find out if the "name uniqueness effect is itself a unique finding."

More generally, these new findings add to a growing literature on the psychology of our names. For example, past research has shown that we have a bias towards liking our own name and initials, and related to that, there's evidence for "nominative determinism", whereby our names influence our life opportunities and choices. A study published earlier this year, for example, claimed that people with unpopular names suffer life-long prejudice.


Kulig, J. (2012). What's in a name? Our false uniqueness! British Journal of Social Psychology DOI: 10.1111/bjso.12001

Post written by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Chemjobber welcomes ACS leadership to early 2009

Chemical and Engineering News is running its annual employment issue. I'll be covering it more tomorrow, but I am taking the following passage from Linda Wang's truly excellent story on unemployment in chemistry as a sign that this blog (and its truly excellent readership) was ahead of the curve and that the leadership of the American Chemical Society was behind:
The impact of this recession has been unlike that of previous recessions. “The fact is that the number of jobs has declined,” says Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, president of the American Chemical Society. And the usual methods for obtaining a new job aren’t working. “If the jobs aren’t there,” Shakhashiri says, “no matter how much you network, you’re not going to find them.” 
“The situation today is a tragedy of national proportions,” says Madeleine Jacobs, ACS executive director and chief executive officer. “It’s devastating to individual lives, and it’s devastating to this country.”
More in the AM, but I just want to point out that we have NEVER heard this kind of language from ACS leadership. Welcome to Chemjobber, my friends -- I suggest you start at entry 1. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

What's the best disaster planning for a chemical laboratory?

I am sure that all of you were horrified by Hurricane Sandy and its continuing aftermath, especially the situation with the NYU medical center and the loss of all the research mice. From Derek Lowe:
...thousands of genetically engineered and/or specially bred rodents were lost from an NYU facility due to flooding. The Fishell lab appears to have lost its entire stock of 2,500 mice, representing 10 years of work. Very bad news indeed for the people whose careers were depending on these.
Here's C&EN's coverage of Hurricane Sandy and its effects on both chemical academia and the chemical industry.

I think it is worth having a conversation about whether/if it is possible to disaster plan for an academic chemical laboratory or a small chemical company.* If it's a relatively slow-moving disaster like flooding or a hurricane, one imagines that there's planning that can be done ahead of time (things like regular backups of digital data, etc.) If it's an earthquake or an alien invasion, there's not much to be done. Obviously, physical safety and security is of primary importance. ( is a great place to start for these sorts of things.) Get your car gassed up ahead of time, etc. Board up your house, get your stuff ready to go, whatever.

But are there steps that chemists can take, if they believe their laboratory will be affected by a natural disaster or they might have to evacuate? Here's what I'm thinking about:
  • Graduate students and postdocs, in case of evacuation, make sure that your laboratory notebooks are  at hand, and that you have multiple copies of your digital data. 
  • Attempt to secure instruments (especially expensive ones!) that might be affected by the oncoming storm. For example, here's @TheModernScientist, talking about what to do with their NMRs. (I believe this chemist is in the NYC area.) 
  • I think there should be an effort to power down or decommission any obvious chemical hazards. I'm thinking about the clichéd THF still or what have you. 
Readers, what do you think? Am I crazy for thinking about this stuff? Do you have experience from Katrina, Midwest floods or crazy blizzards that you can share? 

*(I'm basically saying that if you work at a large company, they should have the resources to deal with this on their own; it's much less likely that you'll be like See Arr Oh, chainsawing a tree out of the boss' driveway, or whatever. Whatever relationship you have with a large corporation, it is unlikely that they'll rely on you, the individual chemist for disaster planning, except for maybe the laboratories. Correct me if I'm wrong, naturally.) 

Thoughts from a campus recruiter

Since we were talking about corporate recruiting visits earlier, I thought I would talk to MP, a mid-career chemist who visited a major research university as a representative of their employer, looking for people to hire. I asked for general impressions of what it was like to sit across a table and attempt to evaluate graduate students and their work. What follows is a mashup of the e-mail back-and-forth, lightly edited:

Should you dress up? Most people wore a suit and tie (or suit for the women). I would say how they were dressed was the least memorable thing about the interview unless it was extremely casual. I would recommend dressing up for the interview.

What's the best way to present your work? It was best when the interviewee came prepared with a short overview of their research. One thing that surprised me was how little some people came prepared to talk about things they wrote on their résumé. Least effective interviewees were ones who wouldn't elaborate on what they did, what were their duties, etc. IMO, shorter, concise resumes are better. Some people had appended other items.

Cultural differences: I interviewed both chem engineers and chemists and I noticed a big difference. The Chem Es all had some kind of industrial experience, either internships or actual business classes. This was very rare in chem students. Chem Es were also more clear in their duties, like saying they supervised these people, they were in charge of this group duty, etc. I'm not sure if this is a chem/chem e cultural difference.

What distinguished the students who got it right from those who didn't? The ones who got it right had more things to talk about than just their research. The ones who got it "wrong" we're unable or unwilling to elaborate on things or were perhaps a little too honest (like admitting to hating certain tasks which would be a big part of their jobs.)

Any other general comments? As far as other advice, I'd recommend trying to take interview training, I think that would help some a lot. I'm also rather indifferent to the follow-up thank you email but I suppose it couldn't hurt.

Thanks to MP for insight into what a scientist is thinking during a recruiting visit. 

Unemployment rate up 0.1% in October, U6 unemployment down 0.1%

Credit: Calculated Risk blog
Fresh electrons from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: the unemployment rate in October was up slightly to 7.9%, from 7.8% in September. The broader U6 measurement of unemployment was down 0.1% to 14.6%.

Chemical manufacturing payrolls increased by 1,600 jobs to 802,700 for the sector.

The news will be about the total nonfarm payroll number, with an increase of 171,000 jobs for October. Less discussed, but equally significant are the upward revisions of ~80,000 jobs for August and September.

There are 12 million people who are unemployed -- best wishes to them.

Thanks, as always, to Calculated Risk for the graph. 

Link feast

In case you missed them - 10 of the best psychology links from the past week:

1. Sam McNerney published a thought-provoking essay about aesthetic judgments and expertise. Is the taste of a connoisseur in some way superior, more "correct" than the taste of a naive observer? I was reminded of the under-appreciation of Michael Jackson's later music by non-fans. I reckon this is because they weren't there for the journey, they can't feel the progression and maturation in his art.

2. Breaking habits with a flash of light - Ed Yong reports on a truly fascinating rat experiment. There are interesting insights about habits, AND you get the benefit of a handy intro to the revolutionary neuroscience technique of optogenetics!

3. We humans are not the only creatures that dance. Jason Goldman with a fun blog post that includes an assessment of Snowball, the cockatoo - is he really dancing to the Backstreet Boys?

4. We strive for the easy life, but sometimes harder is better - Ian Leslie surveys an intriguing mix of anecdotes and psych studies showing the benefits of a challenge (I also learned about the web service This is My Jam - going to check it out now!).

5. New Scientist features editor David Robson was impressed by a new book about the mental simulations triggered by language.

6. The Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths tested two mediums this week, using a procedure that all parties agreed was fair. Drum roll please ... did they prove their powers? Find out.

7. BBC Radio 4's wonderful All in the Mind programme returned for another series this week - you can catch the first episode on iPlayer, which includes a look at the work of the Anna Freud centre on its 60th anniversary, and an interview with Norman Lamb, the new government minister with specific responsibility for mental health.

8. There are a few days left to watch BBC Three's Stacey Dooley in the USA "Gay to Straight", in which we meet gay men going through "therapy programmes" that they hope will make them straight. The American Psychological Association published a detailed working party report in 2009 on so-called reparative or conversion therapies and found them to be ineffective and potentially harmful (pdf). Also, this week in New Scientist, psychologist Christopher Ferguson argues that, while these therapies clearly don't work, banning them would be unwise.

9. Labour leader Ed Miliband gave a high profile speech to the Royal College of Psychiatrists this week about mental illness, which he described as the "biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age" (full speech).

10. Podcast bonanza - Steven Pinker appeared on Social Science Bites this week, talking about violence and human nature; and Jon Ronson (author of The Psychopath Test) and Richard Wiseman appeared on Points of Inquiry (ht @vaughanbell).
Post compiled by Christian Jarrett for the BPS Research Digest.