Sunday, 23 November 2014
This week several stories have caught my eye and all of them I find rather interesting.
Doctor, Doctor I have the worst headache, it feels all wriggly.
A 50 year old man, went to his doctor complaining of severe headaches and being able to smell odd odours. His headache went on for years, consequently doctors gave him numerous brain scans to try and pinpoint the cause of his ache. What perplexed the doctors were the ring-like patterns viewed in his brain scans, which moved between each time an MRI scan was taken. The doctors took to a more invasive procedure and found a worm wedged in the man's brain, more specifically in his temporal lobe. The worm was identified as a tapeworm called Spirometra erinaceieuropaei which is indigenous to amphibians and crustaceans. The origin of the man's 4 year problem, was a trip to China.
So kiss me...
A kiss is something which we share to show our affection and our love or lust with someone special, but feelings are not all that is shared. Dutch scientists have run an experiment to count the number of bacteria transferred between people in a 10 second lip lock. The scientists took samples from the volunteers' tongues and saliva directly before and directly after 21 couples kissed. They then got 1 person from each couple to drink a pro-biotic drink. After the 2nd kiss the scientists could detect the number of bacteria transferred from the drinker to the non-drinker. The number was found to be 80 million.
We're lighting up the sky tonight
David Romp from the University of California, has found that for every 1C rise in the world's temperature, the likelihood of lightening strikes will increase by 12%.
Is it a bird, is it a plane? No it's Gecko-man
Geckos are well known for their adhesive pads, which helps them cling to nearly every single surface.A team at Stanford, have created, what can only be described as 'Spiderman' gloves. The gloves are pads which are made from silicon and are covered in many tiles called microwedges. These tiles, harness the same force which holds geckos to ceilings: Van der Waal's forces. Although these forces a relatively weak, when together, they are very strong. Consequently when an 11 stone man wore these pads and proceeded to climb a glass wall he did not fail once out of the hundreds of times he attempted scaling the sheer face.
I'm keeping an eye out, for any other eye-grabbing stories.
Sunday, 5 October 2014
Sunday, 28 September 2014
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the epicenter of dengue fever, researchers have released thousands of dengue fever carrying mosquitoes (Aedes) infected with the Wolbachia bacterium. This bacterium suppresses dengue fever within the mosquito and consequently the fever cannot be transmitted to humans.
In more detail, it is the bacterium Wolbachia which prevents the dengue fever virus from replicating within the mosquito and it also has another effect on the reproductive system of the mosquito. Via wolbachia's effects, it will mean that mosquitoes carrying dengue fever will become fewer and so the levels of the disease will also decrease proportionally.
This method has already been trialed in Australia and within 10 weeks of release the levels of Aedes mosquitoes with Wolbachia became predominant, and this is the plan which the researchers hope to replicate in Rio.
This study is a great example, of how modifying an organism can benefit the human population, whilst not having an impact upon the natural flora and fauna of the environment.
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Already my pipetting skills have become better and I feel comfortable working around reagents not found in a university lab. I can't wait to look back at myself in a year, and see how much I have grown not only within myself but also within an industrial environment.
I feel like a real scientist!
Tuesday, 26 August 2014
The ratio appears in architecture, art, music and nature. Adolf Zeising, a German psychologist found that the golden ratio was expressed in the stems of plants and in the number of veins on the leaves.
Explorer Fact: It has been found that the proportions of the human body all fall within the ratio of Phi. For example your height divided by the distance between your belly button and the ground equals (roughly) Phi.
Thursday, 24 July 2014
On average, most adults have 32 teeth comprising of 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars, 12 molars and 4 wisdom teeth. I use the word average, as some people do not have wisdom teeth either through dental choice, or they just have not grown through.
|picture of a skull with both |
adult and baby teeth still intact.
Explorer Fact: there are 2 types of odontoma: compound and complex.
Tuesday, 15 July 2014
|A beautiful supermoon above the Washington Monument.|
The term super moon was coined in 1979 by Richard Nolle, however it's technical name is perigee-syzygy. When a moon is a super moon it is positioned roughly 357,000km away from the Earth, and so is 14% larger and 30% brighter than when the moon is at it's furthest position from the Earth (406,000km).
Super moons occur fairly regularly and a maximum of 3 super moons can occur within 1 full moon cycle. Meaning that every 14th moon is irregular and super!!
Explorer Fact: the next super moon is the night of August 10th.
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
The most poignant factor of all is the distance between the donor and the recipient. This is because as soon as an organ is taken out of the body, it is cut off from the blood supply and all of the nutrients passed through the blood, and consequently the organ begins to die slowly, cell by cell, until it is placed back into a body environment and connected to a blood supply. Consequently the further away the donor and recipient are away from each other, the greater the chance of the organ becoming damaged due to lack of blood supply and nutrients and dying through hypoxia, and the organ being unable to be used and consequently "wasted".
Therefore many new techniques have been tested to try and preserve the organ on its journey to its new 'home'. Recently American researchers have tried the technique of supercooling. Supercooling reduces the temperature of the organ to around -6C. This slows down the metabolic rate of the cells within the organ (it will use up the nutrients contained within it much more slowly). This was tested on rat livers. The results showed that the rat livers could be preserved in a viable state for up to 3 days, which is a 3 fold increase on the 24 hours which is currently adhered to. The hope is that the experiment will be progressed into trials onto a human liver, which is significantly heavier and larger than the rat liver, which could suggest that the temperature for cooling needs to be lowered accordingly.
The overall outcome desired from this experimental trial is that it could open the doors for the possibility of worldwide organ transplants and donations- between those in different countries. This would greatly increase the number of available organs and donors, but also it will also increase the number of those in need of that crucial organ. In the UK the number of donors is much lower than the number of people who require an organ and consequently a transplant list is drawn up and it works on the basis of those most in need and those closest to the donor will receive the organ.
Saturday, 28 June 2014
The orangutan had such a sadden look its face staring out between the bars of a cage, and the quote which went alongside really hit me and it hit me hard. 'This is what happens to a cute little pet baby orangutan when they grow up into a big, handsome but dangerous adult. If he has been in captivity too long before arriving at a rehab center, he can’t really learn the skills to live in the wild, and is destined for a sad life behind bars. Please don’t keep orangutans as pets. Let them live in the wild!' (taken from the natgeo instagram page).
I guess people want to keep wild animals as pets as they look nice and cuddly, and not like the average dog or cat until they reach the age of maturation and grow (up). Consequently their owners can no longer afford or cope with an adult animal, which may weigh or be stronger than the average human, and so is considered dangerous. I don't know whether it can be considered a good or bad thing but they have to be given to either a zoo or a reserve, as these animals brought up in captivity are incapable of surviving in the wild.
|image taken from Flickr. An orangutan family at Singapore zoo.|
In my opinion wild animals are exactly that, wild, and should be left there to roam free and not face a life restrained or behind bars, solely for our enjoyment.
As the image, which struck me was from an orangutan, I thought I would share with you some orangutan based information.
Orangutans are native residents of the Borneo and Sumatran rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia. Compared to many of the apes, these hairy orange creatures spend the majority of the time swinging through the trees. However, the orangutan falls prey to tigers, clouded leopards, wild dogs and crocodiles. Orangutans themselves eat a variety of food, such as bark, termites, bird eggs and fruit.
Explorer fact: Orangutans can blow raspberries (so cute!!)
Friday, 20 June 2014
Thursday, 19 June 2014
So, this summer marks the end of my second year at university studying biochemistry. It has been a rollercoaster, I love biochemistry, but at times, it doesn't love me that much. I only have 1 year left, of my course which I actually find quite sad, but I have an 15 month break til I have to face it ( 3 months of holidays and then 12 months of an industrial placement with a major pharmaceutical company) again. But that isn't what this post is about. It's about methods to boost your scientific prowess.
As a 'baby' scientist, I am always told that at this time of my life experience is EVERYTHING! Which is true, as learning something in theory is completely different to actually being hands on and dealing with the practical element. Consequently, there is always a strive to gain this hallowed experience, to try stand out from the BSc crowd. I would say that my university is very good at helping our faculty cohort to attain industrial year placements and summer internships, and so I know at least 20 people, who are currently on a internship or preparing for a placement, which will truly help to boost their CV. Obviously as I said it's great to do a placement, but it's not essential especially if research is not the field which you intend on entering.
I've had this blog for almost 2 years tomorrow, and it was mainly to share my enthusiasm and interest in science with the world, to make it more tangible for those who maybe find it hard to understand, or just plain boring, and I feel I may be getting there slowly but surely. The Science Tree, has been a great way to prove to employers that I am a biochemist, but I am also interested in a wider area other than just biochemistry. It's certainly (I think) helped me to stand out from other candidates...
....butI think the most important thing is to enjoy what you do, and I do!!! I love my course, my uni, but most importantly I love The Science Tree, and will keep on posting for eons to come! (Hope you guys are ready for that!)
Explorer Fact: the science tree is 2 tomorrow!
Monday, 16 June 2014
Tuesday, 10 June 2014
- The first was that 2 sets of mono twins were born within a week of each other at the same hospital; The Akron General Medical Centre in Ohio. The first set Jenna and Jillian were born on May 9th and the second set JaNiya and Amaya were born on May 15th .These babies are identical twins and share the same amniotic sac and placenta. They are very rare, and the birth of mono-mono twins like these only occurs once in every 10,000 pregnancies.
- The world's smallest pacemaker was fitted in England, in Southampton General Hospital. A pacemaker is a device which electronically regulates the heartbeat and keeps it beating at a 'normal' rate. The device fitted was around 1/10th the size of the normal model, which speaks volumes for the intricacy of the pacemaker, and the technology required to create this implement and moreover the difference it could make to the quality of patient life and the ease of recovery after major surgery.
- I think it is always fascinating to know where the vegetables and fruits that we consume come from (where they grow! Be it a bush or a tree or underground) . The fruit which never ceases to amaze me is the prickly fruit, the pineapple! It grows on a pineapple bush! A bush! (sneaky Explorer Fact).
Saturday, 17 May 2014
Sunday, 11 May 2014
It wasn't until my last trip to the zoo at age 14, did I see the sadness of zoo. The facade of wonder, had been lost, and instead I saw a single path worn through the grass of an enclosure, where a white tiger traveled the same line, back and forth, looking sad and forlorn. It was that day I vowed to never set foot in a zoo again.
I had never really categorized aquariums in the same way, but I think that is because they seemed to be more free (maybe it was the aspect of water and the sheer size of the tanks).
|image taken from Flickr|
It was truly heartbreaking documentary which focused on the trainers and whales alike and the consequences of working together for each of the duo.
I would recommend this documentary for everyone to watch, as it really makes you question the humanity of keeping animals in captivity.
Explorer Fact 1: As of June 2013, there are 45 captive Orcas and out of these 45, 32 were born in captivity.
Explorer Fact 2: Tilikum is the 1st surviving Orca which is a grandfather.
Friday, 25 April 2014
I didn't always know that I wanted to be a scientist or a biochemist. I went through phases of wanting to be a vet, a doctor and everything in-between but it was when I stumbled upon the fascination of Biochemistry during a year 12 biology lesson on mitosis. Consequently, here I am 2 years into a biochemical degree and loving every single minute of it (even the minutes spent learning the chemical structures and functions of obscure compounds).
It is a day which is commemorated as the day that Crick, Watson and Franklin published their first findings about the structure of DNA in Nature in 1953. Although this day celebrates that monumental publication in 1953, it has only been properly observed since 2003 by the National Human Genome Research Institute, and has been acknowledged by several organisations world-wide.
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
A lunar eclipse happens when the moon moves behind the Earth and falls into its shadow. This can only ever occur if the moon, Earth, and sun are all completely aligned (in that order); and can only ever happen when the moon is completely round (a full moon).
|Picture of the stages of a total lunar eclipse. (image taken from Flickr)|
Like many natural events, the lunar eclipses are embroiled with mythology. In Egyptian dynasties, people thought the moon disappeared due to a large sow swallowing it and the Mayans thought that a Jaguar ate the moon.
One could say that lunar eclipses are fairly common and occur at least biannually. However total lunar eclipses like that witnessed in The Americas this morning are relatively rare.
Explorer Fact: A further 3 more eclipses will occur this year
- a solar eclipse-29th April
- a total lunar eclipse-8th October
- a partial solar eclipse- 23rd October
Saturday, 15 March 2014
An article in Nature, was published in January and it reported that dipping cells in acid could convert them into stem cells. The author of this piece Prof. Teruhiko Wakayama has revoked his findings and has said that 'it is no longer clear what is right'. His findings have not been discredited, but they are currently under intense scrutiny, due a number of mistakes which have been been found throughout the article.
There are 2 different types of stem cells; adult stem cells and embryonic stem cells. These cells all have a potency to differentiate into specialised cell types. There are many different therapeutic treatments which rely on stem cells- like bone marrow transplants. Furthermore many new technologies are being developed to help treat cancer, Parkinson's disease, spinal chord injuries and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). As stem cells are only present in the human body in finite amounts, it is a race to find ways to harvest more stem cells, or alter the integrity of normal somatic cells to produce stem cells.
Sunday, 2 March 2014
The word Aurora is Latin and means sunrise, but it is also the name of the Roman goddess of dawn. There are 2 kinds of auroras, the Borealis and the Australis. The Borealis is known as the Northern Lights and mainly appear as a green glow occasionally tinged red. The appearance of the Borealis is generally around the equinoxes, and look like curtains due to the magnetic field lines which arise within them due to the polarity of The Earth. The Australis appears in the Southern hemisphere around the poles, and is essentially the same as the Borealis.
Auroras are formed via ions released from the Sun. The Earth's magnetic field traps the ions and it is the collision between the Sun's ions and the Earth's atmospheric molecules which cause the release of energy which is visualised as light (the auroras). It is the Earth's magnetic field which causes the appearance of the rippling effect associated with The Lights.
Auroras come in a wide range of colours, and this is dependent upon altitude. Red only occurs at the highest altitudes, green is apparent at the lower altitudes and the blue colour is occasionally seen at the lower part of the lights (the bottom of the curtains).
Explorer Fact: Last week the Northern lights were visible in some of the Southern Counties of Britain (Norfolk, Essex, Suffolk and Kent).
Saturday, 15 February 2014
The Beluga whale is found mostly in the Arctic, around the shores of North America, Greenland and Russia. It has a fairly wide diet, and tends to feast upon fish, crustaceans and deep-sea invertebrates.
In appearance the Beluga whale does not look like a 'normal' whale, it is all white in colour, and lacks a dorsal fin. Moreover it also has a large bump on its head, which is called 'the melon'. It is this 'melon' which allows the Beluga to use echolocation in order to locate other Belugas through sheet ice. Belugas vary greatly in size and can range from the size of a dolphin to the size of a small blue whale. They also have a lot of blubber and when well fed are almost spherical!
Although Belugas are able to see above water, their eyesight is not too great, however as their eyes have cone and rod structures, it is thought that they could potentially see in colour. These whales do not have a sense of smell, but they do have a highly developed sense of touch and they actually crave physical contact from other whales.
Explorer Fact: Beluga females give birth to a calf once every 3 years, with the gestational period being an average of 12-14 and a half months.
Sunday, 9 February 2014
Friday, 31 January 2014
A Spanish team began working upon a pair of skeletons found in the caves of the Cantabrian Mountains in 2006. After the skeletons had been carbon dated, it was believed that the skeletons dated back 7,000 years ago and belonged to 2 thirty-something year old men. DNA from one of the skeletons was extracted from a molar, this was possible due to the well preserved nature of the skeleton due to the cool surrounding in the cave. The skeleton's entire genome was mapped and the man was identified as a modern European living before the Neolithic revolution.
Upon analysing the genome, the man was found to have allele traits which produced darker skin than modern Europeans have now days, and more astonishingly the man was also found to have blue eyes. Suggesting that the transition in eye colour came before the transition to paler skin tones. The genome of the neolithic man was compared to modern-day Europeans and it was found that the caveman's genome is most similar to people living in Sweden and Finland.
So rethink your image of a caveman, he may not have been particularly tall, and have brown eyes, but 2 things scientists know for sure, is that some cavemen were dark-skinned with blue eyes.
Explorer Fact: Eye colour can change. In babies with European descent their eye colour can change up to the age of 1 years old. Generally it changes from a light colour to a darker shade of green, hazel or brown, although some remain blue.
Saturday, 25 January 2014
Tomatoes are red, well you thought they were red but the John Innes Centre in Norwich have developed tomatoes which are purple. They are purple as they contain a gene from another plant (a snap-dragon) within their genome. It is this gene which activates a process which allows the tomato to start developing anthocyanin, which gives it the purple colour.
It is thought that the darker pigment will go to give these tomatoes the same health benefit as blueberries as they are an antioxidant and are believed to fight cancer. Currently theses super purple tomatoes are being grown in Ontario, and the first shipment of purple tomato juice is bound for Norway.
Would you munch one of these GM tomatoes?
Thursday, 16 January 2014
For many years the reasoning behind the flock formation was unknown, but now scientists from the Royal Veterinary College have fitted data loggers to a flock of rare birds (Ibis') as they were being trained to migrate following a microlight plane.
It seems that when in formation a bird positions itself in such a way, in relation to the other birds in the formation so that it gives them the best aerodynamic advantage. They do this in order to make the most of the air moving upwards from the bird in front of them (this is called upwash, and is created when a bird flies forward and the air is pushed downwards beneath its wings). Moreover all the birds in the formation do not beat their wings in time with each other but instead flap them to get the upwash from the bird in front. So they are all slightly off time with each other. This helps the birds to be as efficient as possible which is a necessity when they have to migrate long distances.