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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Top banana fights fungal infection

Posted on May 28th 2011 in News with Comments Off on Top banana fights fungal infection

A new genetically modified strain of banana resistant to a fungal disease may help boost profit yields for some of the poorest farmers in East Africa. For the past 30 years, the humble banana has been under attack from a fungal invader known as Black sigatoga disease. Caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis, it causes dark leaf spots which eventually kill the plant, decimating fruit yields. The disease has spread throughout East Africa by airborne spores or from contaminated fruit being exported. The team from Uganda’s National Agricultural Research Laboratories Institute added genes for chitinase – a protein that breaks…

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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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The Forest Garden

Posted on May 16th 2011 in Video with Comments Off on The Forest Garden


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Sting bomb detector

Posted on May 10th 2011 in News with Comments Off on Sting bomb detector

An instrument capable of detecting single molecules of explosives such as TNT has been cobbled together using carbon nanotubes and bee venom proteins. The detector draws upon the discovery that carbon nanotubes emit a specific spectrum of infra-red light dependent on the chemical environment. Carbon nanotubes, by themselves, are not able to detect TNT. When coated with a protein derived from bumble bee venom known as bomboliti, however, the nanotubes became sensitive to the TNT molecules. TNT alters the 3D structure of the bomboliti protein, which in turn cause the nanotubes to emit a characteristic fingerprint of infra-red light that…

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