Thursday, 23 August 2012


Just signed up to Twitter so follow me to hear more of my Scientific Tabulations...the stuff that doesn't end up on my blog!

New record for DNA digital storage

A 5.27-megabit e-book containing 53,426 words, 11 jpeg images and one Javascript program has been encoded in DNA and then read using next-generation DNA sequencing.

A team of Harvard and John Hopkins genetic researchers used 55,000 pieces of single-stranded DNA to store the e-book. Although 5.27-megabites may not seem sizeable, it smashed the previous record for digital information storage in DNA, which stood at 7,920 bits.

The modern world is a society of digital information hoarders that will one day run out of space for its countable volumes of photos, videos, blogs and emails. Genetic storage offers a theoretical solution due to its information density and stability. In comparison to CDs and DVDs, DNA can store around 100 billion times more information, which in addition to its durability makes it an incredibly feasible data store.

One of the researchers involved in this, Sriram Kosuri, stated that costs of DNA processing is declining, giving way for further development and availability of this technology.  Get ready to replace your hard-drives! 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Dinosaur in Melbourne

Last week in Melbourne, shoppers were caught off their guard by the presence of a roaming Utahraptor dinosaur.

Despite being led by a woman with a lead, the dinosaur certainly seemed to be taking her for a walk, sniffing at shop entrances, shoppers and cameramen alike. The dinosaur’s trip to the high street was in promotion of the live show, Walking with Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular, which starts its new European tour in September this year.

The show is a live adaptation of the six-part BBC TV series, which started its first global tour in January 2007. Living up to the documentary’s BAFTA winning reputation, the show uses life-size animatronic puppets, computer imagery and the expertise of mechanics and artists to bring the dinosaurs to life.

After touring in the UK for two months in 2009, the show returns this December, touring arenas around the country till May 2013. I certainly do not want to miss the opportunity to see the greatest show on Earth! So how about you? Will you be seeing it?

Further information can be found on the official website:

Monday, 20 August 2012

Salt Wins Art Competition

The Swansea Univeristy Research Forum holds an annual competition celebrating art and photography in research. 

The competition invites anyone from the university to submit a piece of art that was self-produced or a source of inspiration. A professional judging panel had to choose a winner from over 100 entries eventually selecting a grain of salt to be the winner. 

Hollie Rosier submitted an electron microscope image of a salt grain from a laboratory that studies salt formation on jet turbines.  

Some of the other entries included, “Search for a Mutation”, “Blue Flow”, “Drowned Skull” and “Magnet Mania”. Check them out on this link: 

Fire in the hole!

Geology researchers from the University at Buffalo have recently conducted an experiment mimicking volcanic eruptions.

Measuring 12 feet by 12 feet, a test-bed was filled with gravel, limestone and asphalt and post-holes surrounding the bed were filled with explosives. Greg Valentine, the geology professor working on this project stated that the eruption was “exactly what we wanted” which blew the test-beds contents 50 feet into the air. PhD volcanologist Jacopo Taddeucci, from Rome, Italy, using high-speed cameras, recorded the experiment.

The project aims to provide an insight into what occurs during and after an eruption. Obviously these experiments are not accurate to naturally occurring eruptions, but researchers can control the strength of the blast making the test-bed an accurate barometer.

Results from this experiment need to be analysed by Valentine with hopes of a journal publication in the future.

A video of the experimental blast is available from the following link:

Jon Richardson on OCD

This summer, Channel 4 aired a programme surrounding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, hosted by the comedian Jon Richardson, who insists he is a perfectionist rather than a sufferer of the anxiety disorder. 

“Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder” was also shown on Channel 4, telling the story of Richard Wallace, a chronic hoarder from Surrey. The public was first introduced to Richard’s story in late 2011 with the follow-up being aired late July this year. 

OCD is no laughing matter and having obsessive tendencies is far from being a chronic sufferer. Public campaigns, charity work and programmes such as those aired on Channel 4 raise awareness and shed light on how sufferers deal with this debilitating disease. 

OCD-UK organizes OCD Awareness Week every year with a series of events hosted around the UK. This year OCD Awareness Week runs from 8th October – 14th October, so if you want to get involved, do get in touch with OCD-UK. 

If you wish to talk to anyone about issues surrounding OCD, if you’re sufferer or if you think you suffer from OCD contact a local GP or talk to OCD-UK. 

You can find the Channel 4 programmes listed on 4oD for any of you that missed it first time round. 

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Eating penguin poo to survive

My first Focus magazine publication online!

The USA and Pi (the mathematical kind!)

A rather geeky maths fact...

...After 2:29pm on Tuesday, August 14th 2012, the U.S population reached Pi (π) times 100 million!

That's 314,159,265 people! 

Folding into a parking space

Saw this article in the news today and was very excited by the locality of the automobile in question - the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain; one of my travelling destinations in 2011. Onto the story! 

Electric vehicles (EV) have been around nearly a century and have in the past few years become commercially available (albeit at a price!). One such new electric vehicle is the new Hiriko Fold developed by MIT’s Changing Places group and development agency Denokinn.

This modern looking EV is eco-friendly and highly convenient for city community due to its most defining feature…it can fold itself into a parking space! As a two-seater vehicle, the EV is capable of travelling around 75 miles between charges. Prototypes are on trial and the Hiriko Fold is set to go on sale in 2013 for £10,000…so start saving! 

Check out this video of the Hirikon Fold driving round Bilbao, Spain:

New Scientist Photography Competition

It’s that time again…the magazine New Scientist’s Eureka photography competition and the entries are in!

The New Scientist Eureka Prized for Science Photography goes to an Australian over the age of 18 for “a single photograph taken in the past two years that most effectively communicates an aspect of science". First prize wins $5000, second prize $3000 and third prize $2000 (damn not being Australian I hear you cry!).

The winner of the 10 finalists will be announced on the 28th August, I’ll be posting up the winner’s photograph then so keep an eye out! 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Survey: Science Careers

I need 50 responses and have 10 days to gather those responses so if you have studied science at GCSE/A-level/degree or know someone who has could you please fill this out! I promise it won't take 2 mins!

Apologies in advance for not including options for foundation yr science courses. Just opt for yes on A-levels if that's the case.

We have two brains?

We’ve all tried at some point to lose weight and one of the many ways in which we do this is by cutting down our portion size. Science tells us that a routine of eating large portions stretches our stomach, causing us to require larger portions more regularly in order to satisfy our hunger. In addition, we’re aware that signalling cells, neurons, line our stomach and relay information about hunger and fullness to the brain. Previously it was believed that detection of how stretched our stomach is, is the most important factor in determining fullness, however research is now revealing that the neuronal network in the stomach has a larger part to play than we initially thought.

Michael Mosley from the BBC visited the London Science Museum to swallow a camera that would take photos of his digestive tract, whilst it was digesting. He presents a TV programme to be aired tomorrow at 21:00 BST on BBC4 titled Guts: The Strange and Mysterious World of the Human Stomach where he explores the complexity of our second brain – the stomach, an organ which we are only realising can control not just our hunger but also our moods and emotions. Check out the TV programme and if you miss it we always have BBC iPlayer! Also check out his article on BBC News website - !

Friday, 6 July 2012

100 years since pioneering Nobel Prize...where are we now?

The Nobel Prize winners for 2012 shall be announced in October, the winner receiving the newly reformed Nobel Prize Medal and not to mention the rather generous cash prize! So why am I talking about this now?

Having recently read an article in New Scientist regarding the successful transplantation of the first donated vein in Sweden; I thought it rather apt to highlight that 100 years ago, the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Alexis Carrel "in recognition of his work on vascular suture and the transplantation of blood vessels and organs".

Alexis Carrel was a French surgeon who worked with his colleague Charles Lindbergh on a book titled The Culture of Organs and more importantly who invented the first perfusion pump. This pump enabled tissues and organs to exist outside the body - a huge advancement in surgery, enabling procedures such as open-heart surgery and introducing the idea of transplantations. His worked on vascular suture pioneered the surgical world, introducing techniques that form the basis of modern surgery such as triangulation. Carrel would perform surgical grafts and mend and reconnect broken arteries and veins – all inspired by his embroideress would you know!

Carrel lived in an era of scientific evolution and technological reform; thanks to the foundations set down by scientists of this time, the progress and status of science today is one to be most certainly proud of! Returning to this story in New Scientist, the success of this procedure has crucial implications for transplantations as we know it and it’s exciting! Let me briefly explain so that you can all be as excited as me.

You may have read about the growing of organs in laboratories, for transplantation, that have been coated with the recipient’s cells, in order to prevent rejection. Well, this is exactly what the team in Sweden have done; having stripped the vein of the donor’s cells using a detergent, the remaining protein scaffolding was used to build upon. The next step was to extracted the recipient’s cells and grow enough to coat this protein scaffolding. Using the recipient’s endothelial and smooth muscle cells, the Swedish team developed a new vein for transplantation. The recipient was a 10yr old girl who suffered from chronic blockages in her hepatic portal vein, one of the main blood vessels transporting blood from the gut to the liver; her growth and nutrition suffered greatly. The transplantation of this 9cm long vein has transformed her into an energetic child, full of life!

The world will come to see more of this transplantation method, reducing the risk significantly of rejection and expanding the sources available for organ donations. If scientists can consistently and successfully carry out this procedure of stripping and re-developing organs in a laboratory, then the era of waiting for an appropriate donor match is over – a lifesaving advancement, for whom we have Alexis Carrel to thank (amongst others of course!).  

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Higgs Boson...where to start?!

Everyone is posting about the Higgs Boson particle...we've all seen at least one funny picture uploaded onto Facebook! But I question whether anyone actually knows what this recent scientific revelation is all about?! I'm no physicist however here's what I've been reading and now I'm almost as excited as Brian Cox! 

I liked the diagram in this one:

Got to love New Scientist...

This is rather funny, I like the "For Religious Fundamentalists" at the end...

For those of you that want to see how happy Brian Cox is...

Eating a worm for science!

Parasites, worms, maggots and leaches…nauseating terms that gross the majority of us out! However if you’re speaking to a biotherapy researcher, these terms relate to possible therapy options for an array of illnesses including psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease and allergies. But surely using maggots as therapy is such an archaic idea?! Well actually…no! Hospitals still buy supplies of maggots from “farms” and grow them under sterile conditions till that glorious day, when the maggots get a nice feast!

The International Biotherapy Society supports research into the use of living organisms as novel therapies for the treatment of human and animal diseases, hosting conferences around the world (where scientists ultimately discuss how they’re going to convince the public that swallowing a worm will help them!).

Although the notion hasn’t been totally rejected by the public; many people have embraced biotherapy due to individual negative responses to clinical and pharmaceutical therapies. Helminth-therapy for auto-immune disorders for example, is currently available at a few private clinics around the world. Autoimmune Therapies is just one of the established companies offering Helminth-therapy to the public stating that "Helminthic therapy is just one step in restoring the natural environment in our bodies". Check out on their website for recent research publications and patient accounts!

However, medical councils, doctors and biotherapy specialists are not encouraging people to abandon modern medicine completely! Continuing this blog’s apparent theme on Helminth-therapy, the decision to use Helminths as a therapy is not as simple as popping a pill and does entail an element of lifestyle change. The impact that such therapies have on our immune system is something that cannot be opted for unnecessarily or without thought. Worm Therapy, a Mexico-based company highlight on their website how variable the success of this therapy can be ( Theoretically worms dampen down your immune system and this will either work for you or not based on individual differences. The overall success of this therapy, for example the time it takes for the worms to start working in terms of symptom alleviation or how many times you need to be infected, is dependent on you, your disease and your immune status.

So will we see an introduction of the wiggly worm as a viable and effective therapeutic option in the foreseeable future or is it doomed to fail because of the nation’s squeamish nature? Would you swallow a worm if an illness you had left you house-bound and depressed or would you rather stick to the safety-tested drugs that lie available on our pharmacy shelves?