Archive for April, 2011

Grasping for attention

Posted on April 27th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Grasping for attention

Collectors come in all shapes and sizes. Some are relatively tame, such as the humble stamp collectors and comic book hunters. Others are harder to understand. For example, Michael Lewis has a handsome collection of Moist Towelettes. Sergei Frolov has over 150 Soviet Calculators. Most bizarrely though, for 27 years Graham Barker has been scouring the globe for only the finest examples of belly button fluff. Why do these people waste so much of their time and money (and sanity) on amassing large numbers of similar items. Many ideas have been suggested over the years. Some have said its purely…

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The unseen threat of nitrogen

Posted on April 16th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on The unseen threat of nitrogen

Nitrogen is one of those elements that never really gets much attention. It’s colourless, odourless and mostly inert. For the most part, it’s a bit of a loner as well, only bonding with itself in the form of N2. Unfortunately, it’s the quiet ones that can prove to me the most dangerous, as an international report published this month confirms. The report – published at the Nitrogen and Global Change conference – shows that nitrogen pollution is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity in Europe. Nitrogen concentrations have increased dramatically over the years, from agriculture in the form of…

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The beautiful

Posted on April 14th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on The beautiful

I know many of us are revising frantically at the moment, spending every waking moment trying to cram as much knowledge into our delicate little brains as we can. Either that or feeling guilty for not doing as much as we should. It can feel like our lives have been dominated by the need to ingest as much science as possible, for fear of not making through the famine of exam season that is nearly upon us. However, when you over-indulge, with anything, the pleasure you once got is replaced inevitably by apathy and disgust. This youtube video, by the…

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A bug’s life is better with company

Posted on April 12th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on A bug’s life is better with company

Parasites are amazing. By taking advantage of the efforts of another species, parasites have been able to flourish in countless strange ways. For example, there is one parasite that lives only on the lips of lobsters (Symbion americanus). The fungal parasite, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects the brains of ants, causing them to climb high into the forest canopy, bite into a leaf and die. The fungus is then able to burst out of the ant’s head (much like something out of Alien) and rain down spores onto the forest floor. Rabies, is caused by a virus, that makes dogs more aggressive….

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Batting away pesticide use

Posted on April 11th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Batting away pesticide use

Agriculture is a costly business. You need seeds to plant, fertilizer to make it grow and machinery to harvest. Unfortunately, we grow most of this food in big, exposed landscapes providing a delicious buffet for billions of insects. It is no surprise, therefore, that pesticide is one of the biggest expenses for British farmers (£720 million in 2009, DEFRA) This number, however, does not reflect the true amount of pest control that is being carried out in fields around the world. As well as being killed by human action, insects are eaten by a wide variety of species. In doing so,…

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