Archive for August, 2011

Too much of a good thing

Posted on August 25th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Too much of a good thing

Just a little fact for you that I learnt today. Drinking absolutely pure water can kill you. All the water we normally drink – from taps, from bottles, from the garden hose – contains impurities which affect a property of water called tonicity. This is the ability of a solution to draw or repel water from ajacent solutions when separated by a membrane. Solutions that are hypertonic gain water, while hypotonic solutions lose water. Drinking water, which we usually think of as pure, really contains a whole mess of salts and sugars which make it slightly hypertonic. They also give water its…

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Harmony in motion

Posted on August 17th 2011 in Blog with 1 comment

Sound, as you probably know, is the result of pressure waves travelling through the air. As the pressure wave enters your ear, it causes the tympanic membrane to vibrate. This, simultaneously, causes your inner ear bones to dance around like a teenager at a rock concert. In turn, this moshing vibrates tiny hairs in your cochlea, creating electrical signals which pass to the brain. This convoluted, dancing procession of movement allows you to hear. The sounds that cause this complicated conga line are, unfortunately, invisible. The beautiful sequence of high and low pressure movements of air molecules that emanates from…

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The Descent of Giraffe

Posted on August 15th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on The Descent of Giraffe

The birth of a new life, for most of us, is a wonderful thing. For the newborn, it is the first glimpse of our bright, brave new world. What adventures have we set in store? What beauty will we see? A multitude of possibilities are ahead. For a baby giraffe, however, birth must be an incredibly harrowing time. For more than a year, the little giraffe would have been peacefully gestating, growing to an impressive 1.8 meters tall. On the day of its birth, however, it probably didn’t expect to plummet six whole feet (the length of its mothers legs)…

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Cancer diagnoses going viral

Posted on August 10th 2011 in Features with Comments Off on Cancer diagnoses going viral

A genetically modified virus that can make hidden tumours light up may lead to a new and more effective way of screening for cancer. Some cancers are helpful enough to give off obvious clues to their existence. Prostate cancer, for example, can be detected as it raises the levels of a protein called PSA in the blood. Many, however, leave no such trace. Sufferers of these diseases can, therefore, remain in the dark about their condition, delaying treatment and lowering their chances of survival. What if there were to artificially force these normally hidden cancerous growths into the light? A…

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The dance of the starlings

Posted on August 8th 2011 in Features with 6 comments

This amazing video by Mark Rigler demonstrates the beautiful complexity that exists throughout the natural world. Like a Bach fugue, patterns emerge and fade, interweave, and are exquisitely modified to form an endless variety of beautiful structures. The end result seems too complicated, too ordered, too apparently designed to have appeared by chance. But, like the fugue which is built from just one or two simple musical patterns, the dance of the starlings is choreographed from only a few simple rules, which scientists are now only just beginning to decode. Across the animal kingdom, large numbers of similar individuals will…

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