Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A change of home

Hi everyone, this is just a quick post to say that I have moved The Science Tree to WordPress away from blogger as I feel it wil help my blog develop and grow. The new address is:

I look forward to seeing many of you there!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Fear

I thought coming back to university would be a walk in the park, in comparison to working a 9-5 job (I say 9-5 but I was in at 7.30 and left at almost 7pm on occasions). I was looking forward to the safe haven which uni provided, a routine of lectures, labs and tutorials. Only, I had forgotten the stress, the deadlines and the complete difference between university labs and working in an industrial laboratory.

This academic year I embarked on the first year of my integrated masters' course. At first, I was completely terrified of the expectations required from me, the jump in what they expected me to be able to do, and just generally worried about having forgotten everything in my year out. However, after the first week, I settled down, realised I knew more than I thought and now 7 weeks in, I've actually been enjoying all aspects of this course. I am so glad I changed my degree! Not only do I get to spend another year at uni (which is my favourite place) but I am able to work towards a higher level degree which will be so beneficial in the future, particularly as I do not know whether I want to undertake a PhD currently.

I'm not too sure where I was going with this post today, but I felt the need to share my little fear factor. I think I've learnt that you should aim for goals which terrify you in order to receive the greatest reward.

'Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.' 
Marie Curie

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

And the winners are...

Yesterday the winners of this year's Nobel Prizes were announced. I've never really been one to follow the announcements, however as the years have progressed, and I've started to read more literature and papers, I find myself gradually intrigued by the winners and their accolades. 

And the winners are:


Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald jointly share the Physics prize for 'the discovery of neutrino oscillations which shows that neutrinos have mass'.

Physiology or Medicine
William C. Campbell, Satoshi ┼îmura and Youyou Tu share the prize for physiology or medicine. The prize was split in half with one half being shared amongst Campbell and ┼îmura for  'their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites'. The other half of the prize went to Tu 'for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria' 

Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar all take a third of the prize for their work 'on the mechanistic studies of DNA repair'.

A huge congratulations to all the winners!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Happy Autumn Day!!

Today, Wednesday 23rd September marks the official start of the marvellous orange and brown tinged season of Autumn. It is my favourite time of year, the nights get longer, the temperature starts to drop and the fallen leaves get oh so crisp and crunchy under foot. I basically LOVE Autumn. Anyway here's a quick recap of some of my favourite bits of science from this year (Jan-Sept).

The desert tawny owl became a new owl species on 25th January.The owl is of a medium size, which tends to be found around The Middle East, namely Syria, Israel and Egypt. The desert tawny owl feasts upon large insects and rodents.

The British Government voted in favour of 3-person babies in a bid to try and combat inherited mitochondrial disorders. This ruling is yet to be passed by the House of Lords, but if it is, then the UK will become the first country in the world to offer this form of prevention of mitochondrial disorders

On the 20th March a total solar eclipse occurred over most of Europe. A solar eclipse is when the moon moves infront of the sun, blocking the light of the sun; creating temporary darkness. This particular eclipse lasted for just over 1 minute when it began at 8.30 am GMT. (I actually missed this because I was in the lab!)

The Large Hadron Collidor returns to action after a stint of maintenance and an upgrading.

Nivolumab, a drug which is a monoclonal antibody (mAb) was approved for treatment of lung cancer and was shown to double life expectancy in some patients.

A 3D printed titanium jaw was implanted successfully into a male patient in Melbourne, Australia. Who knows what will be next? This is marvellous news, for patients who require uniquely designed implants to help rebuild body parts. A step forward in the right direction!

Stephen Hawking launches Breakthrough Initiatives, a program founded with the main intention to look for extraterrestrial intelligent life.

2 new venomous frog species were discovered in Brazil: Greening's frog and Bruno's casque-headed frog. Both species of frog have spines on their heads. By headbutting their victim they are able to inject poison.

WWF and ZSL found that populations of marine creatures, such as birds, fish, reptiles and mammals have declined around 47% since 1970.

Hopefully the next 3 months of 2015 will be just as spectacular in the world of science!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Are you AI-live?

We know all about robots and the obsession we seem to have with creating something in as much of a life-like way as possible. The awe which we hold when robots carry-out complex tasks which we label as being 'human'.

ASIMO, Honda's robot.
Even TV shows are appearing with the idea of AIs overtaking humans (my whole reason behind this post, is because I have started watching a drama series on AIs), not in number, but ability and intelligence. Obviously, this is a figment of someone's imagination on what the future holds, however, is the rise of the AI as fictitious as I would like to believe?

A couple of months ago a New York robot passed a test which is known as the King's Wise Men puzzle. This puzzle acts a method for detecting self-awareness. The test was adapted for 3 robots. The robots were told that they had been given a dumbing pill that prevented them from talking. They were then asked which of them could talk.

Initially all the robot's claimed not to know the answer to the puzzle until a single robot piped up after hearing its own voice and said 'Sorry, I know now!'

This is only the first step in achieving consciousness in a man-made being, however, actual self-awareness and the idea of robots with a 'conscience' is a way into the future.

What do you think about the possibility of a being so technically advanced that we would be unable to fix it or even compete with it on the basis of intelligence?

I have mixed feelings. It's great for the advancement of the fields of robotics, engineering and technology but what I would really like to know is where the line gets drawn between 
what is classified as living and not.

I will continue watching my AI drama series and live tweeting later today on Twitter: @TheScienceTree