Cranberry Juice: Does it work to prevent UTI’s?

Not to suggest that there’s any connection between philosophy and cystitis, which apparently can plague older women.  However, the effectiveness of cranberry juice is one of the true old wives tales.  In short,  it does work:

The research, by Terri Camesano, associate professor of chemical engineering at WPI, and graduate students Yatao Liu and Paola Pinzon-Arango, and funded, in part, by the National Science Foundation, shows that a group of tannins (called proanthocyanidins) found primarily in cranberries affect E. coli in three devastating ways, all of which prevent the bacteria from adhering to cells in the body, a necessary first step in all infections:

  ● They change the shape of the bacteria from rods to spheres.    

  ● They alter their cell membranes.

  ● They make it difficult for bacteria to make contact with cells, or from latching on to them should they get close enough.

For most of these effects, the impact on bacteria was stronger the higher the concentration of either cranberry juice or the tannins, suggesting that whole cranberry products and juice that has not been highly diluted may have the greatest health effects.

The old wives thought the juice changed the ph of one’s body, which isn’t right.  Rather, it works right on the bacteria.  Now,  one needs to know,  a glass works for 6-24 hours.

This news was presented at the American Chemical Soc. meeting in 2006, but its appearance in Chemical and Engineering News, March 29, 2010, alerted my resident scientist, who passed the information on.

Advice for PhD applicants interested in feminism?

We’ve had a query from a reader who sent a writing sample on feminist philosophy off to all the PhD programmes she applied to and didn’t get into any. I know anecdotally of other such cases, including one who sent a writing sample that had actually been published in Hypatia. (He tried again the following year with a mainstream writing sample, and had a nice choice of programmes to choose from.) I’m wondering what others think about this sort of issue? Should people send feminist writing samples? Even programmes which do have feminist philosophers might not have them reading the writing samples in question, so I suspect that even seeking out such programmes doesn’t give a sure way around the problem. (Certainly it didn’t in the case of the Hypatia author, who did send his feminism writing sample to departments with feminist philosophers, though not only to those.) I’d hate to think that we should be advising our students to play down the feminist philosophy when they apply to grad school, but if that’s true then it’s the advice we should give.

One (admittedly imperfect) way of finding programmes more receptive to feminist philosophy is the CSW Women and Feminist Friendly Department List. Those SWIP UK has recognised as women-friendly are also likely to have some good things going for them.

Coverage of forthcoming election

The UK elections are scheduled for May 6th. Anne Perkins notes that the world of political journalism is characterised by the kinds of structural demands that make jobs inaccessible to many women (long working hours) as well as outright hostility to women doing political analysis and interviews.

No surprise then, that

last week, the Press Gazette reported the results of a survey in which no women featured among the top 10 political journalists, with only three in the whole top 50.

She notes that:

Political journalism, more even than other specialisms, still demands total 14-hour-a-day commitment. So stand by for an election campaign which will be, as usual, narrated by (white, middle-aged) men.

Something to keep tabs on as the analysis fills the newspages over the next few weeks. Do get in touch if there are stories relevant to us here that you’d like us to mention (there’ll be too much for any one of us to keep track of!)

Nussbaum on the ways that ‘impact’ could actually diminish impact

Martha Nussbaum writes:

To begin thinking about why this focus on “impact” is a pernicious business, we can do no better than to pause to honor one of the greatest classical scholars of the past century, who illuminated the world through such unfashionable values as mastery, rigor, and a passion for truth…Challenging the received wisdom that sexual desire and choice vary little from one society to another, Dover showed that ancient Greek social norms profoundly structured sexual experience and even desire, making the desire of an older man for a younger one feel not unnatural, but profoundly normal and natural: even the gods themselves were thought to enjoy such passions…

In Britain today there is a new government program called the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Under the REF, scholars in all fields will be rated, and fully twenty-five percent of each person’s rating* will be assigned for the “impact” of their work—not including its impact on other scholars or on people who like to think, but only including the crasser forms such “impact” might take. (Paradigmatic examples are “improved health outcomes or growth in business revenue.”) “Impact” must be immediate and short-term, and it must be brought about by the scholar’s own efforts, not by the way in which another generation might find their world enlivened by a book the scholar has produced….

Dover would do poorly in the REF: even his widely influential ideas were not “marketed” by him, but were simply put out there to be picked up by others, a process that may take many years. And yet they changed our understanding of human sexuality. While the world mourns a towering figure (and while I mourn a man of the highest sort of daring, whom I am lucky to have known as a friend), let us not mourn the passing of the type of scholarship he loved. Let us fight for it, because it may still survive. If it does not, our nations and our individual spirits will be the poorer. The pursuit of short-term profit is death to the life of the mind.

*Actually, Nussbaum’s not quite right here: 25% of a department’s rating will be based on a couple of case studies of impact– so a department could do really well on impact even if only one or two scholars have work with an impact. But it’s still pernicious in just the ways she describes.