This Week’s Top Picks – 14th December

Powerful documentaries, brain myths, and seriously cool science. Here are my top picks from this week…

Not Alone, Lonely
My first pick for this week is a short film from Aeon, called One Year Lease. Aeon have promoted the film as a quirky look at a young couple and their meddling landlady, but when I watched it I was deeply disturbed. Instead of a rant about renting, I saw a heart-breaking portrayal of how older adults can become socially isolated in even the most crowded of cities and how we (as a society) misinterpret their attempts at connection. Either way, it’s a compelling little film.

Get Your Facts Straight
Brains are remarkable things and we’re learning more about them everyday. But the latest neuroscience and neuropsychology research is often hijacked in the name of catchy headlines or making a buck. This Wired article on brain myths helps sort the wheat from the chaff and should be mandatory reading.

There’s also a lot of misinformation about health risks and nothing frustrates me more than headlines that say “X reduces Alzheimer’s risk by 50%”, with X being anything from exercise to coconut juice depending on the day.  Jeff Wheelwright penned an excellent article this week about what risk really means and how a misunderstanding of risk can lead to unnecessary treatments. The only thing I don’t like about this article is that I didn’t write it.

A Day In The Life
Most of my work focuses on older carers, particularly people caring for parents or partners with dementia, but young carers also have it tough. This BBC documentary on children caring for ailing parents is a beautiful look into the daily lives of young carers. These kids are wise beyond their years, so articulate, and trying desperately to have a normal childhood. It’s almost an hour long, but if you watch it you’ll be glad you made the time.

Science Stuff
I am not a cat person, so you know I was doing some hardcore procrastinating when I watched Secret Life Of The Cat this week. Or at least that’s how it started… but as soon as I pressed play, I was completely hooked. It’s a brilliant example of science communication and community engagement, and makes a great ‘how to’ for early career researchers of any discipline. Of course cat people might just enjoy it for the cats, but whatevs.

I’ve often dreamed of joining Medecins Sans Frontieres, but I’m always brought back to reality by the fact that I’m not that kind of doctor. So you can imagine my excitement this week when I discovered On-Call Scientists, a program to connect academics (from disciplines as varied as law, psychology, engineering, and environmental science) with human rights organisations that require technical expertise. If you’re an academic with an interest in social justice, check it out.

The last bit of sciencey goodness this week came from the folks at Altmetrics, who released their list of the top 100 research studies that had people talking this year. The list highlights the importance of using altmetrics, not just traditional metrics, when evaluating research impact and should be compulsory reading for Vice Chancellors and Deans who think this Twitter and blogging mumbo-jumbo is a waste of time.

A Deeper Look At Health
Atul Gawande is probably doing the world’s best health writing at the moment and his book, Being Mortal, is on my holiday reading list. In the first of this year’s Reith Lectures he beautifully weaves together history, science, philosophy, and personal narrative to answer the question “Why do doctors fail?” and the result is a long, but thought-provoking read.

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