This week, we have some truly quality articles by young and early-career science writers. From science and politics to science and business, from allergies and bees to sperm and aliens, you name it, we got it.

Adam Smith, at City University, UK, looks at British politics and argues that parliamentary members are more detached than ever from science. In Adam’s first article in a series which is appearing in the Guardian, he tackles an issue that is of primordial importance. He’s also asking for your input on the matter so don’t hesitate to get in touch with him.

Science and politics: chalk and cheese?

Science may be vital, but the people with scientific knowledge seem less connected than ever to the people with power.

What do you want from science? A cure for cancer? Clean energy? A jetpack to get you to work? If you're a politician, you might rely on science to help create jobs or direct policy, or support a decision you've already made. If you're a scientist, you might just want to know stuff. You might even sneer at the idea of a politician grappling with the nuanced ideas you have dedicated decades of your life to.

Rachel Nuwer, freelance science journalist, has a good piece in ScienceNOW. She reports on a study which links more time outdoor and in nature with a lesser chance to develop allergies.

The Great Outdoors Is Good for Allergies

Now there's another reason to get back to nature. A new study reveals that people who grow up in more rural environments are less likely to develop allergies. The reason may be that environments rich with species harbor more friendly microbes, which colonize our bodies and protect against inflammatory disorders.

Victoria Charlton, at Imperial College London, UK, asks a thoughtful question in her latest blog post at I, Science: how do we know which companies are green and which are only pretending to be? An important question since there does not currently appear to be much transparency in a company being branded “green”. I also encourage you to read Victoria’s very interesting blog, Science Means Business, which investigates the business (or greedy) side of science. Real journalism.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Eco-conscious consumers are increasingly trying to make decisions based on a company’s green credentials. But beneath all the marketing rhetoric, how can we really tell the environmental heroes from the villains?

I’m not very good at recycling. Quite frankly, I struggle to see the point of rinsing out baked bean tins (aren’t we meant to be saving water?) when a single transatlantic flight emits several hundred tonnes of CO2 – and I used to fly a lot! However, I would consider myself to be “environmentally concerned”, and I’d be keen to find ways to really make a difference through my day-to-day behaviour. While I may not be willing to spend my days wearing hemp shoes and flushing the loo with rainwater, I would like to be able to choose the least bad option when booking a flight or filling my car with petrol.

Erin Loury, at UC Santa Cruz, reports in ScienceNOW that “social jetlag”, sleep timing and our unstable sleep patterns is not very good for health as seen by its association with obesity.

Is Your Alarm Clock Making You Fat?

As if you needed another reason to despise your alarm clock. A new study suggests that, by disrupting your body's normal rhythms, your buzzing, blaring friend could be making you overweight.

The study concerns a phenomenon called "social jetlag." That's the extent to which our natural sleep patterns are out of synch with our school or work schedules. Take the weekends: many of us wake up hours later than we do during the week, only to resume our early schedules come Monday morning. It's enough to make your body feel like it's spending the weekend in one time zone and the week in another.

Rose Eveleth, a freelance writer, brings to our attention in her SmartPlanet blog an essay published in PLoS Biology by Gerald F. Joyce which argues that to detect alien life forms, researchers must look at what they may be made of rather than what they may look like. Rose also has a very short piece about how ungraceful swimmers sperm cells are. Actually, she informs us that sperm cells do not really swim per se.

Aliens among us

When you think about aliens, you probably imagine a benevolent, ET style friend, or a gruesome, abdomen ripping monster. Or maybe you just imagine a small green man, or a blob of a space tyrant like Jabba the Hutt. But according to a new essay and podcast in PLoS Biology, we should care less about what these potential aliens look like, and more about what they’re made of.

Sperm swimmers could use lessons

Sperm aren’t the graceful swimmers you think they are, according to new research. Instead of gracefully waving their flagella and swimming through the vaginal tract, most sperm actually bump along the walls and crash into each other on the way.

Whitney Campbell, who blogs at Scitable’s Green Screen, has an investigative piece about CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder and its link with pesticides.

Buzz Kill? Bee Populations and Pesticides

A swarm of studies have recently been released concerning Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and considering the serious implications of their findings, it's all of our beeswax. These experiments, including two published in Science and one forthcoming from the Bulletin of Insectology, demonstrate the threat to hive survival stemming from a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Individually, I think each study is convincing, but when taken together, the consensus provides overwhelming support as to the harms of neonicotinoids and their possible role in the rash of mysterious bee deaths that gave rise to the term CCD in late 2006.

Paige Brown, at Louisiana State University, blogs about how humans are increasingly looking to Mother Nature to develop new technologies (think biomimicry) in her blog at Nature Network. She got the idea for this post while studying for her finals!

The Nature of Learning, or the Learning of Nature?

In 1994, psychologist Albert Bandura gave the world of mass media effects social learning theory, hypothesizing that people don't learn by trial and error or by reinforcement and reward as much as by observing the behaviors of others. Social learning theory acknowledged (thank goodness) that "human beings are capable of cognition or thinking and ... can benefit from observation and experience." In social learning theory, learning "takes place through watching other people [or nature?] model various behaviors."

As usual, if you read some other great stuff, share some links in a comment below. Enjoy your weekend!