Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

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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Run Lassie – no not over there! Damn you Lassie!

Posted on July 31st 2011 in Blog with 5 comments

Scientists can be utter bastards some of the time. Not content with letting us unwashed masses revel in our ignorance, they systematically poke and prod the world around us, looking for answers to questions best left unanswered. The latest casualty of this scientific tirade – my childhood. Specifically, the destruction of my faith in man’s best friend, embodied in the iconic form of Lassie. For decades, Lassie was a symbol for all that was good in the world: unconditional friendship, teamwork, altruism in the face of danger, She was a canine beacon of light in a cynical, selfish world. Lassie…

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Ladybird Decline

Posted on June 26th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Ladybird Decline

Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) One of the most distinctive and, arguably, the most popular insects in the UK, the ladybird has captured the imaginations of many a young child. However, the future of our bespeckled friend is not as bright as her iconic red coat. Many native species of ladybirds are in decline thanks, in part, due to the action of a rival species – Harmonia axyridis – the Harlequin ladybird. The word harlequin originates in old European folk tales; buffonish comic figures dressed in multicoloured clothes. Unfortunately, there is nothing funny about the eponymous ladybird. Once confined to the…

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Drug smuggling cells evade detection

Posted on June 17th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Drug smuggling cells evade detection

Us humans are always looking for the easy way out. If we can get someone else to do our dirty work for us, so much the better, which is why drug dealers rely on mules to ship merchandise for them. One of the trickiest things to do in medical science is smuggling drugs or nanoprobes into the body to the specific area they are required. Many of these probes and drugs are considered foreign objects to the body, and as such will be removed by the body’s equivilent of a customs officer – the white blood cells. Many treatments are…

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Beardy wierdy

Posted on June 14th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Beardy wierdy

Beardedness is not a word I would have ever expected to find in a scientific journal. However, it has sprouted up everywhere in one particular article published in the journal Psychological Reports. Beardedness – the condition of having a beard – apparently serves as a signal fora great number of qualities. From the first downy tufts that appear on awkward, pubescent boys to the magnificent monument of hair that graces Brian Blessed’s glorious face, the beard is one of the definitive markers of manhood. As puberty starts, testosterone levels in the blood spike causing hundred of hair follicles in the…

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Bloomin marvellous

Posted on June 10th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Bloomin marvellous

An unusually snowy winter, and weeks of heavy rainfall in south east USA has resulted in the Mississippi River flooding to record levels. As a response, US engineers have released the rising waters onto the floodplains surrounding the river, in order to save the heavily populated regions further downstream. The economic costs of such an action are huge – some reports put the cost at $295 million a day. Ecologically, there is more bad news. River water naturally contains large amounts of sediments that have eroded as the river travels downstream. This sediment is incredibly rich in nutrients, and as…

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Monitoring your sleep patterns

Posted on June 6th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Monitoring your sleep patterns

It’s 3am. The cold light of my computer screen illuminates my face, highlighting the bags that are forming under my eyes and casting disturbing shadows around my bedroom. You might think that I was engaged in something incredibly important to keep me up so late. But no, the truth is, I am unable to sleep and resign myself to touring the bizarre offerings the internet presents only early in the morning. On this particular instance of insomniac procrastination, however, the answer to why I am unable to sleep randomly appears on my monitor. I blink and rub my eyes a…

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Baby Boomers

Posted on June 1st 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Baby Boomers

Anyone who has ever taken a long plane journey knows just how annoying babies can be. In the cramped, stuffy environment of a plane cabin sometimes the only relief you can find is in sleep. You may, miraculously, find yourself drifting off, only to be rudely brought back to Earth by the sound of a baby screaming its lungs out and the feeling of your ears splitting.The noise, it feels, seems perfectly designed to annoy. Once the baby starts, you know that the rest of your journey is going to be spent in agonising conciousness. Why is it, though, that a baby’s cry is almost…

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Titanic Antics

Posted on May 21st 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Titanic Antics

Last year, I had the good fortune of going on a white water rafting trip. Shivering uncontrollably from the combination of the cold and the dangerousness, it was, all things considered, an amazing adventure. One factor, which at the time, I was very grateful for was the raft – a study construction of rubber and glass fibre. Without it, well, I would just look stupid.  It turns out, however, that not everybody needs a raft to go rafting. Ants, in their near-infinite behavioural plasticity, have evolved a way of escaping floods by constructing a raft from their own bodies. Although…

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Surveillance society

Posted on May 7th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Surveillance society

Ever found yourself doing something that you know you probably shouldn’t be doing? And, when you’re doing said unscrupulous act, are you constantly wary of anyone who might discover and judge you? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It turns out this fear of being caught is part of our evolved psychology. Acts of moral dubiousness are seen as being far worse when in the presence of another – as a study published this week has shown. To test this idea, the authors of the paper wrote two stories of malfeasance – one involving taking money from a missing wallet,…

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