Posts

October 20, 2014

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3:55 PM | A camera and quantum physics could improve phone security
Smartphones nowdays can be used in loads of different ways: we can use them to transfer cash, upload information to social media and, very occasionally, actually use them to converse with other humans. Your phone can say a lot about you – the type of phone you have and the way you personalise it can…

Sanguinetti, B., Martin, A., Zbinden, H. & Gisin, N. (2014). Quantum Random Number Generation on a Mobile Phone, Physical Review X, 4 (3) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevX.4.031056

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12:00 AM | Oh good lord: Sanjay Gupta and personal protective equipment
Some time last Tuesday, that strange sound you heard was thousands of scientists screaming in agony, and smashing their heads against the nearest keyboard/desk/wall. Good lord, Sanjay. Good lord. What is wrong with you? This video is like the scientific equivalent of ‘Two girls one cup‘. After you saw it, youd run and show your friends, just…

October 18, 2014

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2:30 AM | Risk Communication and Ebola
Just this past week, I gave a lecture on risk communication to the students of Coastal Environmental Communication (#SciCommLSU) at the Manship School of Mass Communication. I found myself comparing our relatively low concern with serious, long-term environmental impacts in coastal Louisiana with our irrationally high concern over low probability risks, including coming into contact with the Ebola virus while in the U.S. Seeing the current state of overblown fears […]
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2:30 AM | Risk Communication and Ebola
Just this past week, I gave a lecture on risk communication to the students of Coastal Environmental Communication (#SciCommLSU) at the Manship School of Mass Communication. I found myself comparing our relatively low concern with serious, long-term environmental impacts in coastal Louisiana with our irrationally high concern over low probability risks, including coming into contact with the Ebola virus while in the U.S. Seeing the current state of overblown fears […]
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2:30 AM | Risk Communication and Ebola
Just this past week, I gave a lecture on risk communication to the students of Coastal Environmental Communication (#SciCommLSU) at the Manship School of Mass Communication. I found myself comparing our relatively low concern with serious, long-term environmental impacts in coastal Louisiana with our irrationally high concern over low probability risks, including coming into contact with the Ebola virus while in the U.S. Seeing the current state of overblown fears […]

October 15, 2014

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12:15 PM | Biochemical ‘memory’ can help bacteria to grow
When we think of ‘memory’ we typically think of the brain being able to recall facts and events, but ‘memory’ can take other forms: some plastics can ‘remember’ particular shapes, material shapes or magnetic alignment can be used for storing digital data and our immune systems also have a capacity to ‘remember’ past infections. Bacteria…

Lambert, G. & Kussell, E. (2014). Memory and Fitness Optimization of Bacteria under Fluctuating Environments, PLoS Genetics, 10 (9) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004556

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October 14, 2014

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3:00 AM | A Short History of Nearly Everything
By Bill Bryson Synopsis: One of the world’s most beloved writers and bestselling author of One Summer takes his ultimate journey—into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer. In A Walk in the Woods, Bill […]

October 13, 2014

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2:00 PM | Guiding light to boost algae biofuel production
Algae are aquatic organisms which make ponds murky and biofoul the hulls of boats and ships and slow them down. But these these tiny green creatures could also be the future of fuel production – they produce natural oils (lipids) which can be extracted and turned into a wide range of hydrocarbon fuels including diesel…

Ahsan, S., Pereyra, B., Jung, E. & Erickson, D. (2014). Engineered surface scatterers in edge-lit slab waveguides to improve light delivery in algae cultivation, Optics Express, 22 (S6) DOI: 10.1364/OE.22.0A1526

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October 12, 2014

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2:02 PM | Human-made climate change, or climate change made humans?
We hear a lot in the news about accelerated climate change due to human activity, and for very good reasons. Just have a glance at the first half Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 report (IPCC 2014 Summary) if you want to know how we’ll all be affected by climate change in our own lifetimes. […]

October 09, 2014

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2:59 AM | Kitchen Science Lab for Kids, by Liz Heinecke
Though I spent a lot of time thinking about how to properly explain science in a way that is comprehensible to non-scientists, my biggest Achilles heel is my lack of experience in explaining things at a level that kids can … Continue reading →

October 06, 2014

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11:15 PM | Centrifuging people to see if gravity affects perception
Which way is up? It’s a question that’s needs to be answered for seeds to grow in the right direction, homing pigeons to navigate and for Stoke City defenders to know where to hoof the ball. Our bodies can sense the direction of gravity – and it helps us to figure out how our bodies…

Harris, L., Herpers, R., Hofhammer, T. & Jenkin, M. (2014). How Much Gravity Is Needed to Establish the Perceptual Upright?, PLoS ONE, 9 (9) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106207

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11:15 PM | Centrifuging people to see if gravity affects perception
Which way is up? It’s a question that’s needs to be answered for seeds to grow in the right direction, homing pigeons to navigate and for Stoke City defenders to know where to hoof the ball. Our bodies can sense the direction of gravity – and it helps us to figure out how our bodies…

Harris, L., Herpers, R., Hofhammer, T. & Jenkin, M. (2014). How Much Gravity Is Needed to Establish the Perceptual Upright?, PLoS ONE, 9 (9) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0106207

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10:42 PM | Can our brains process words while we sleep?
Learning by listening to things while you sleep might be a desperate last resort for budding linguists and university students cramming for their finals, but how much can the human brain actually take on board while in a state of unconsciousness? It is fairly well-established that the brain processes information while we sleep (such as…

Kouider, S., Andrillon, T., Barbosa, L., Goupil, L. & Bekinschtein, T. (2014). Inducing Task-Relevant Responses to Speech in the Sleeping Brain, Current Biology, 24 (18) 2208-2214. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.08.016

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10:42 PM | Can our brains process words while we sleep?
Learning by listening to things while you sleep might be a desperate last resort for budding linguists and university students cramming for their finals, but how much can the human brain actually take on board while in a state of unconsciousness? It is fairly well-established that the brain processes information while we sleep (such as…

Kouider, S., Andrillon, T., Barbosa, L., Goupil, L. & Bekinschtein, T. (2014). Inducing Task-Relevant Responses to Speech in the Sleeping Brain, Current Biology, 24 (18) 2208-2214. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.08.016

Citation
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4:08 PM | #WhyPlants
The American Society of Plant Biologists is asking plant scientists out there- ‘Why Plants?’ Your response via their social media outlets could earn you free registration for their 2015 annual meeting.* I’ve written before generally about why I bother being a scientist. But why plants in particular? I have snarky answers. Arabidopsis smells better than […]

October 04, 2014

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4:00 AM | Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts
By Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson Synopsis: Why do people dodge responsibility when things fall apart? Why the parade of public figures unable to own up when they screw up? Why the endless marital quarrels over […]

September 26, 2014

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4:00 AM | What’s in Your Genes?: From the Color of Your Eyes to the Length of Your Life, a Revealing Look at Your Genetic Traits
By Katie McKissick Synopsis: A crash course in genetics! Everyone knows that if you come from a family of brunettes, you’re likely to be born with brown hair. But did you know your hair color may […]

September 24, 2014

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4:00 AM | Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze?: And 114 Other Questions
By New Scientist and Mick O’Hare Synopsis: Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze? is the latest compilation of readers’ answers to the questions in the ‘Last Word’ column of New Scientist, the world’s best-selling science weekly. Following the phenomenal […]

September 22, 2014

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5:53 PM | Vandana Shiva and GMOs
A recent New Yorker article by Michael Specter does an excellent job of putting the activism of anti-GMO campaigner, Vandana Shiva, into perspective. Shiva has since written a very critical response to Specter, and The New Yorker has responded to Shiva. The exchange is very enlightening. Shiva is a dedicated anti-GMO activist, perhaps the most [...]
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4:00 AM | The Secret Museum: Some Treasures Are Too Precious To Display
By Molly Oldfield Synopsis: The Secret Museum is a unique treasure trove of the most intriguing artifacts hidden away in museum archives from all over the world – curated, brought to light, and brought to life […]
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2:33 AM | How anti-vaccination is like a nuclear bomb
I’m not sure that anything fills me with despair more than the trend of parents refusing to vaccinate their children. A couple of weeks ago, an article in The Hollywood Reporter described how affluent Hollywood schools are experiencing outbreaks of … Continue reading →
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