Thursday, 20 December 2012

Home Furnishings

'Tis the season to furnish our homes, with the joys of Christmas. Windows are filled with decorations and the front gardens have a plethora of reindeers and fake Santas. Inside houses are swaddled in rugs, carpets, snuggly sofas and decor which screams 'This is my house. I've put my stamp on it!' However humans are not the only organism to effectively carry out interior design.

Bowerbirds are well known for their mating rituals, in which the male strives to create the most aesthetically appealing nest in order to not only impress a female but also entice her, to become his mate. The male Bowerbird uses anything from petals, seeds, glass and pins to live insects to decorate his nest.

So it seems that humans are not the only organism to be house proud, however for the Bowerbird this is a necessity for them continuing their species.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

A new leaf, A new climb!

After many months, dear Explorers, of not sharing my thoughts and views on science, it is time for the Science Tree to be climbed once again!

Here's a joke to keep you going until my next post:

A molecule  of adenosine triphosphate walks into a sweetshop and picks up a collection of chocolate. He goes to the counter, and the sweetman says 'That's 80p"

Keep Exploring!

Friday, 21 September 2012

The pretty catcher

Seeing spiders weave their webs to catch insects is something that I have always found fascinating. The delicate intricacies which mean that the web can hold fast something of a reasonable size in it (I hate when you walk into a web!). But recent studies have shown that spiders now spin their webs in such a way that makes it attractive to flies.

The spiders which spin their webs into the shape of an Orb have now been shown to weave in UV decorations to attract their prey.  Scientists previously had thought that it is for the purposes of camouflage, mating signals, sun shades and to scare away birds.

The scientists studied the wasp spider who seemed to weave diagonally through the web particularly in the centre. This central portion seemed better at reflecting UV light than any other section.

Explorer Fact: it seems pretty much that no one knows precisely what the UV aspect of the web is for and it seems that more studying is necessary. I can assure you that though I am an explorer that would definitely not be something that I would want to do as I am not a fan of spiders in the slightest bit. Thank goodness the spiders here are limited to the size of a 2p coin.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

LHC Mark 2.0

When the Large Hadron Collider was completed in 2008, everyone thought that a fissure would occur in the Earth and half of Europe would fall into the hole which remained (I remember sitting and waiting to hear a rumble).

OBVIOUSLY this didn't happen, and it was total hype. CERN used this collider to record proton-proton collisions.

Though this collider is already called the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), CERN are planning on building another even bigger collider, which will be 3x the size of the current one lying under Geneva! This new collider will have a circumference of 50miles (which dwarfs the Geneva one by a gigantic 33miles!!). This new collider would be used to discover how gravity interacts at the level of molecules. Ooh how exciting!

Explorer Fact: Fear not! The collider would not be built until at least until 2025.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Time goes by so slowly...

Ever been in a situation of danger or intense anxiety? Or just anything which gets your adrenaline flowing? And you get the feeling that time c-r-e-e-p-s by? Or that everything you see seems to be in "HD"?

Neurologists at UCL have found out that in elite people (sportspeople, musicians, racing car drivers) the brain's ability to process information actually increases. Meaning that more information is received by the brain so the time it takes for the brain to process it increases, making time apparently slow down. This could be so they can take in more of their surroundings to ensure their decisions are correct (whether it will be the right choice to make them win).

So the next time you're in an intense situation, take note and see whether it seems like time is going by s-o  s-l-o-w-l-y, maybe it will help you succeed in your quest to win or save you from danger.

Sunday, 2 September 2012


With all eyes watching their sportsmen and women competing over the last week and the following week, it is incredible to see people overcome physical adversity to become some of the greatest athletes in the world.

The people we usually see competing in the Paralympics are those who may have lost limbs, yet they are able to run and compete just like "able-bodied" people. And this is due to the brilliant development of prosthetics.

The word prosthetics derives from the Greek word PrĂ³sthesis meaning addition. The science behind prosthesis is called biomechatronics. Although you may think that prosthetic limbs are fairly modern, you'd be wrong. Prosthetics have been found as far back as Ancient Egypt! However the prosthetic limbs of now and the future, are that the wearer can merely think 'I want to wiggle my finger' and the finger wiggles. This would occur by use of the wearer's nervous and muscular systems to iniate the movement.

So with the world of prosthetics gaining momentum, and developing such incredible methods to replace a person's missing limb/s, soon we may not even be able to recognise prosthetics at all!

Explorer fact: apparently the first prosthetic was found on a 3,000 year old mummy. It was a wooden toe!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

It will always be a first step...

With deep regret Explorers, I must inform you of the death of Neil Armstrong the first man who set foot on the moon in 1969. He died aged 82.

Neil took to the air aged just 6 with his  father, where he developed a love for flying and later flew Navy fighter jets in the Korean war in the 50s and then joined the Space programme in 1962.

Though this great man has unfortunately passed away, he will always be remembered for his advancement in space exploration, and for his famous quote: 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind'.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

What book are you reading?

So we know that the demand for storing any large piece of data onto something really small is getting really competitive, and so is the need for encrypting files. So just to prove a point, a book has been encoded into DNA.

The scientists have encoded 11 pictures, 53,000 words and a computer program, which makes this the largest thing ever stored in DNA (bar anything natural like you!). Apparently the cost of DNA coding is falling so rapidly that in a few decades or even years it could be the cheapest way to store large amounts of data.

Normal data is stored in binary coding so made of zeros and ones, but by using DNA they use G,T,C and A. However to help minimise "translating" it wrong, they stuck to binary coding using A and C as zero and T and G as one.

Though this sounds really exciting, especially as the knowledge of DNA hasn't been around for that long but it's also rather bizarre. How are we (non scientists) meant to be able to read this DNA? Unless we had a translator.

So dear Explorers please cling to the words which you see on the screen, for soon they may only be made up of 4 letters.

Explorer Fact: 1g off DNA can hold 455 billion gigabytes, which is a ridiculous amount of information.

Climbing higher up the tree.

Explorers, we all come to that stage in life where we need to climb to the higher branch, and so that is what I must do. Having finished my stint on a lower branch this coming summer I am progressing to a higher branch. Whoop Whoop.

Explorer Fact: It's jolly high up here!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Weird chemical names...

In the world of science, you would think that scientists are clever and wouldn't name chemicals strangely. Think again. Well, probably when they first named the chemical they didn't see the funny side to the chemicals and that's because the majority of these chemicals are volatile and have dangerous reactions.


This molecule is found in the roots of the Aniba megaphylla roots. This molecule is not limited to just being produced by nature it is also able to be made by man. Its molecular formula is C22H30O6.
 Angelic acid
(Z)-2-methylbut-2-enoic acid
This acid is also found in nature. It is found in roots of the Garden Angelica and is also used as a mechanism by beetles to prevent them from being eaten. This acid is malodorous and has a sour taste (which is good for the beetle as it provides them with a speedy get-away!). Its molecular formula is C5H8O2.

Obviously gets its name from its appearance. But this molecule does not exist in reality but only in theory due to the strain the square shape would place on the Carbon-Carbon bonds. However a "broken" version of this molecule has been made and it only has 3 squares. Its molecular formula is C9H12
 Traumatic Acid
dodec-2-enedioic acid
This acid also appears in nature. As you could guess from the name, it has something to do with trauma or traumatic incidents. Well that's correct. Traumatic acid is used by plants to "heal" themselves. The acid stimulates cell division so the plant produces more cells near the trauma site to form a protective layer and ultimately close the "wound". It's the plant version of humans forming scabs when they injure themselves. The molecular formula is C12H20O4.

So fear not explorers, though these chemicals have long scientific names they also have these weird and wacky nicknames too. So be ready to impress your friends by sprouting these out the nibs of your pens.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Spider Man!

Imagine being a little tiny spider, creeping through your habitat where you are discovered and named after an esteemed British nature journalist...

Well, this happened to the Prethopalpus attenboroughi. It is a spider which is found solely on Horn Island just off of Queensland, and was named after Sir David Attenborough (in appreciation of over 60 years of his contribution to documenting nature). This tiny spider is little over a millimetre (1.04mm) long. Its name in English is Attenborough's goblin spider.

Although this is not the first species to be named after the famed Sir, he took the accolade with such grace. After myself watching some of his documentaries, I have become fascinated and mesmerised with his commentary and his nature programs which are second-to-none.

So it seems that Spider Man is not reserved solely to the pages of a comic, or the screen of film, but they also belong in the land of Oz.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Moveover days of black and white...HELLO 3D

The days after WW2 were blessed with the TV set, which were not like the modern day LED and 3D smart TVs, these babies were powered by vacuum tubes and cathode ray tubes. Till 1953, TV was in pure monochrome (black and white), then the magical world of multicolour was born (see the Wizard of Oz).

Weirdly the translation of television is derived from Greek and Latin and roughly translates to "far sight".

With the development of TVs and the bid for producers to be the best, I'm currently waiting for the production of a portable holographic TV encapsuled in a watch.

Saturday, 28 July 2012


So the Loch Ness monster is said to be a feared creature with terrible teeth and a long neck and just in general be pretty odd looking. Could this mythical creature be in fact based upon the swimming unicorn which is the Narwhal?

I call the Narwhal a swimming unicorn because it has a horn similar to that of a unicorn, projecting from the top of its head. However this "horn" is in fact a longer upper left canine, which hunters harvest for ivory.

Narwhals are found mainly in the Russian and Atlantic quarters of the Arctic ocean, where there is an estimated population of 75,000, thus making this species having a near threatened status. Male Narwhals show male prowess and dominance with their horns  via the action called tusking.

So the next time when you think about undersea creatures, think about the Narwhal and its quirky little tusk!

Explorer fact: Narwhals wait until their prey are close and then suck them into their mouth.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The 100 genome war is on!!!

The first company to sequence the genome of 100 centenarians will win a prize of $10 million. Though the "competition" was initially announced in 2006, it was only on this very Monday that the first company (Ion Torrent) signed up to compete. Obviously if it stays like this one horse race, then they will definitely win (as they aren't competing against anyone).

Due to the developments in genetic sequencing, the process is becoming cheaper and relatively more accurate than it was even in 2006, which still appears to us mere Explorers, as being a fairly modern year. The CEO of Ion Torrent has claimed that he has a machine which can sequence an ENTIRE genome in a day for a tidy sum of $1000.

So what does this mean for us? Well they could possibly uncover a genetic key which unlocks the question of how only a small minority of people live to celebrate their 100th birthday and beyond. I guess Explorers this could be seen as both positive and negative. Obviously it's positive as it is a development in genome sequencing and genetics, however there is also a negative side to this. Should we really know the nitty-gritty of why and how we age?

Well if the 100 year war was anything to go by perhaps this genome war will also be short lived.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Happy Birthday to you!!

Besides 20th July being the 201st day in the year and being pretty much the height of summer, some pretty cool science events also occurred on this very day. Some were on Earth, whilst others were not, and so Explorers, it is a happy birthday to these events and people today!

Happy 190th Birthday Gregor! Gregor Mendel is the father of modern day genetics, he discovered the laws of inheritance using pea plants, when he was living as a monk in a monastery. Thanks to Gregor's beady eyes in charting colour and height of the plants we now use his laws in constructing inheritance charts for dihybrid (9:3:3:1) and monohybrid (3:1) inheritance.

The American car company Ford begins to produce and ship its first ever cars. Though this small company would grow up into becoming the large corporate brand that we instantly recognise today, in its infancy it only produced a few cars a day. Which I guess, isn't that bad considering the machinery used was not as advanced as the technology we have at our fingertips today.

Apollo 11 landed on the moon successfully, with humans on board (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin). There was a third crew member Michael Collins, however he did not descend to the moon and remained in orbit, which is pretty sad, as most people hardly name him as being on board as he didn't take "a step for mankind". Having documented their journey and firmly planting an American flag on the moon, a haze of controversy still hangs like an asteroid belt about whether the pair were in fact on the moon or in some other secret area.

So close your eyes and make a birthday wish (on behalf of these events) !

Monday, 16 July 2012

Water, water, everywhere!

So as I sit in the tree, all I can see is water! Here is a post to share with all you intrepid explorers a fountain of knowledge.

Water has the chemical name H2O and so contains 2 molecules of hydrogen and 1 molecule of oxygen.

The overall shape the water molecule takes is a bent shape with an angle of 104.5

Water has many physical properties which make it so special. It has cohesive properties,  a high specific heat capacity, surface tension, it has the ability to move up a tube against theforce of gravity (capillary action), and it is also a solvent.

Though it is clear that when water is falling all around us, we really don't like it but it isimportant to remember the necessity of water for our own survival.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

I can see a rainbow!

So its been a rather murky week here around the tree: the presence of permanent rain and fleeting sunshine, which makes it never quite warm enough to leave the tree in a t-shirt and an exploring vest. But the only highlight which I have witnessed amongst this pitiful summer are the rainbows.

The myth of finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow I'm afraid is not true. The reason intrepid explorers, why we never reach the "end" of a rainbow, is because every time you move, the rainbow moves with you (so 2 people never see the same rainbow (we each have our own personal one!!)). Also rainbows are in fact circles so have no beginning or end.

Rainbows are caused by the refraction of light inside a water droplet and this separates the sunlight into the spectrum of colours which we see: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

If you really want, you could make your own rainbow, with powerful light bulbs (1000 watts) and a water hose. But where's the fun in that? I'd rather wait for the weather to provide a rainbow, and who knows we could even get multiple rainbows!

Explorer fact: primary rainbows occur at 42 degrees roughly from the sun and secondary rainbows are around 50-52 degrees from the sun. Whereas tertiary rainbows arise at 40 degrees and quaternary at 45 degrees.

Boy am I spoiling you today!
Here's another Explorer fact: secondary rainbows are a mirror image of the primary rainbows.

Monday, 9 July 2012

My! My! My! What flexibility you have!

How many of us wish that we were just that little bit more flexible?

It would certainly make scratching that itch which is always just out of our reach all the more easier. But for some people the concept of flexibility is in the extreme. These people are hypermobile.

Recently Hypermobility Syndrome has been deemed to be the same as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type III.

The cause of this disorder can be any of the following: misaligned joints, bones which are not the right shape at joints, connective tissue defects or abnormal joint proprioception.

The disorder is diagnosed via the Brighton criteria and the Beighton score. These tests are scaled and test the flexibilty of joints.

Although this sounds like an extrememly useful syndrome to have, it is infact painful and many sufferers miss out on many sports in life or suffer great pain in doing things which we take for granted like walking.

Though flexibility can be a great gift for dancers and gynamasts; for some people it is a burden. A double-edged sword if you will.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Are fairytales real?

So the tale of the girl who kissed the frog prince, is a well known fairytale. But in reality we know that kissing a mere frog will not turn it into a prince; it would only leave your lips feeling slightly wet and cold. However this tale faces an interesting modern twist.

A new species of frog has been found in Ecuador, and is in fact named after none other than Prince Charles, due to his magnificent charity work in trying to maintain their rainforest habitat. The frogs' Latin name is Hyloscirtus princecharlesi or in English: The Prince Charles Stream Tree Frog.

So will kissing this particular species of frog give rise to some new Princes? I'm not saying to kiss it...but you never know.

Fairytales could come true!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Surely that's not real

How many times have you heard animal names which sound like they are literally plucked from thin air?  Believe it or not these animals actually exsist.

  1. Dzo = a yak and a domesticated bull or cow
  2. Beefalo = an American bison and a domestic cow
  3. Wholfin= a false killer whale and a bottlenose dolphin
  4. Toast of Botswana = goat and a sheep
  5. Liger= lion and tigeress
  1. Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides (it's a fly found in India)
  2. Aye-aye (small primate, it's quite unattractive as well)
  3. Dumbo octopus (named this due to the ear-like fins which protrude from its body)
  4. Narwhal (type of white whale)
  5. Yeti crab (it has hairy arms)

Friday, 29 June 2012

Which way? X-Ray!

X-rays are part of the electromagnetic spectrum with a wavelength of between 0.1-10 nm in length and were founded in 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen. Though x-rays are actually waves they act more like particles due to the extremely small size of their wavelength.

Wierdly anything which is hotter than a million degrees will emit x-rays. This means that the sun gives off x-rays into space as well as certain stars. Though x-rays can be used in telescopes, the most important use of x-rays is in the medical industry for diagnostic methods.

I find x-ray pretty cool, as it was discovered completely by chance, and is now is used worldwide in medicine, and even referred to in comic books.

It seems that most of the accidental science discoveries are the discoveries which become the most important to our everyday lives!

Explorer fact: In some German speaking countries X-rays are called Roentgen rays.

Monday, 25 June 2012

George is lonesome no more.

George, the last of the Pinta Giant tortoises from the Galapagos islands has died.

Giant tortoises were taken from their habitat by sailors for the purpose of food. These tortoises were taken far quicker than their numbers were able to be replenished, thus their numbers experienced a sharp decrease. This resulted in George, being on his "lonesome".

George spent most of his life in the Charles Darwin Research Station (for his own safety away from the goats which were and still are damaging his natural habitat), where there were many attempts in trying to coerce him into mating with several females. Though he did mate with some females, the eggs did not hatch, so the mating was deemed as unsuccessful.

Thus the status of the Chelonoidis Nigra Abingdoni due to the death of George is seen now as EXTINCT.

Scientific marvel

The great thing about science is the fact that it is applicable to absolutely anything in the world. An apple, a chimp, a car, the world, humans, metal, the air we breathe (etc.) can all be explained using science! Moreover many a discussion can be won by using science to reinforce a point. This is due to science being highly logical and relevant in today's society.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Bee Mine

Bees, I'm not a fan especially as they seem to love attacking me, and the fact that there are 20,000 different species does not excite me in the slightest. But I have learnt to give them the respect they require as they are pretty intelligent creatures.

Though bees aerodynamically should not be able to fly (particularly the fatter bumblebees) they  can!  It is claimed that their wing flight pattern is similar to that of a helicopter. The way their wings flap manages to keep them in the air, and this is through the fact that their wings flap around 230 times a second. This is rather amazing as if you look at some bees their body is so enormous compared to their wing size. I really wonder how they manage to stay in flight or at least fly in a straight line. But then that's the beauty of nature!

The most intelligent aspect of bees is their waggle dance. They use this to communicate to the other bees where their food or pollen source, water source or even new home is. The length of the dance is based on the distance from the hive to the flower (or wherever they want to go).

So the next time a bee flies in your face, don't swat it away. Run away, yes, but whilst running, marvel at this bristly little creature who can not only dance but can also defy science and fly!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Let's start at the very beginning.

At the beginning of most or if not all living organisms is a cell. And in this cell is some form of genetic material. The genetic material is often DNA, which in my eyes is one of the most interesting molecules throughout science.

My reason for my intrigue behind DNA, is not because of its extremely long name, which I used to enjoy sprouting as a child, but because of its rather interesting history and its ability to govern the characteristics which we show to the outside world. It's marvellous, that something so small can control something as complex as human life.

Explorer fact: DNA was initially thought to be a triple heliex.

Climbing the tree!

One step at a time....