World Wide Mind: Book Review

World Wide Mind: The coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet by Michael Chorost World Wide Mind is a book out to convince us that the next step for humanity is a collective mind. Michael Chorost has a theory that the Internet will one day be part of our brains. Through it the minds […]

Book Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The story of Henrietta Lacks, the African American woman whose cancer cells gave rise to the famous HeLa cellline is not a story about the glories of medicine; it is instead about racism, science and the price of poverty. HeLa cells are the most commonly used cell lines in medical research. They orginally came from […]

Buzz Off: Are Bees the Answer to the Elephant Wars?

“I studied Zoology.” “Oh right, the study of zoos.” “Not exactly.” Zoology is the study of ANIMALS and it’s one of those science disciplines that rarely gets the reaction that chemistry or physics have come to expect. The response is normally one of confusion – why would anyone want to study something that has no […]

Podcast: Radio Package 1: Healing Poetry?

In the first of our radio packages I take a closer look at the claim that poetry can be therapeutic. Many famous poets have been through mental illness. One poet who wrote extensively about his experiences was John Clare, England’s greatest nature poet. He even believed that poetry could be healing. But you don’t have to […]

Manned Shuttles – A Waste of Space?

On Friday the shuttle Atlantis will lift off on its final voyage, when it returns it will mean the end of NASA’s iconic space shuttle programme. The shuttle’s retirement also signals the beginning of an uncertain time for human space missions. Funding cuts and plan cancellations mean that there is currently no replacement for NASA’s manned […]

Safe Serengeti?

There will not be a highway through the Serengeti according to the government of Tanzania last Wednesday. But if that’s the case why aren’t all the conservationists celebrating the victory? The reason is because no-one seems to be entirely sure about what the government have conceded. The plan to build a motorway straight through the […]

Highway across the Serengeti

Tanzania’s plan to build a $480 million road through the Serengeti has been condemned by the world. Last week Johnnie Carson, US diplomat, told reporters he had already expressed concerns to the Tanzanian government over the road in April. The US is added to the list of countries against the road. The plan however is […]

E.coli Outbreak: How Epidemiology Saved the Day

Last week scientists solved the puzzle of the recent E.coli outbreak not by high-tech molecular techniques but by plain old interviewing. The deadly bean sprouts were finally identified by a task force conducting interviews. They talked to all the people who had been infected and discovered that those who had eaten bean sprouts were nine […]

Sexualisation of Children – Are We Missing the Point?

Padded bras and sexy MTV videos before the watershed have been blamed for sexualising kids. But are we all missing the point? Is it really enough for a kid to see a WAG t –shirt to make them want to be one? Is it really these products that will give children negative body image and […]

Breast Cancer Relapse – Can we minimise the risk?

“Waiting those 14 hours was the most terrible experience of my life” says Parastou Khiaban. “When we saw her coming out of intensive care, that image will haunt me for the rest of my life.” Parastou’s mother was treated for breast cancer in 2009. The operation took fourteen hours. Complications left her in intensive care […]

Lost Leopard of Zanzibar

Zanzibar has a missing leopard. There is an entire species that has gone astray. Panthera pardus adesi is or was a species endemic to Zanzibar. Smaller than its mainland relatives the leopard hasn’t been seen by researchers since the mid-90s. According to many zoologists it is extinct; according to the Zanzibar tourism industry it is […]

Vampire Bats

“Again I woke in the night, and found Lucy sitting up in bed, still asleep, pointing to the window…between me and the moonlight flitted a great bat, coming and going in great, whirling circles.” (Dracula, p104). Vampire bats have been flitting around human imaginations for a while. Unused to thinking of ourselves as a food […]

Ant Wars

Warfare in the ant world is nothing new. From chemical weapons to suicide bombers these insects have done it all before. Poison is the attack method of choice for most ant species; those that can’t sting spray formic acid instead. Of the stinging ants, the Bullet ant is the most notorious. It has a sting […]

My, what big teeth you have!

Paddling in the Congo River System is not for the fainthearted.  This is the Goliath Tigerfish (Hydrocynus goliath). Living in freshwater rivers and lakes it is an aggressive predator. Its body is streamlined and muscular with broad tail fins. It’s a combination needed for speed. Its skin is stripy, possibly for camouflage and its colouring […]

Did Oarfish Predict the Japanese Earthquake?

There’s been a rumour flying around the internet that a mysterious fish from the deep predicted the Japanese earthquake. The fish is called Regalecus russelii or the Streamer fish. It is a member of the Oarfish family and lives 1,000m beneath the sea and is rarely seen on the surface unless sick or dying. They […]

Deep Sea Expedition

Forget space.  There are still parts of our Earth that have yet to be explored. In the depths of our oceans are animals that are not only new to science but that no human has ever seen before. Scientists know relatively little about the inhabitants of the deep sea. Most animals that have evolved to […]

Tasty Humans

Being stuck in a dark room with a blood sucking insect is never a pleasant experience. Worse than the high pitch whine that swoops by your ear is the knowledge that you could become an unwilling blood donor at any time. There are some people however, who never seem to get bitten. What is it […]

What do kids really think about science?

This is Sir Isaac Newton drawn by a nine year old. He has crazy hair and a lab coat. It also says ‘dead’ in brackets. This is because this Isaac Newton is actually a zombie. Children have interesting ideas about scientists. As part of a group project three of us science communication students went to a […]

London’s Foxes

Family feuds, gang wars and illicit affairs – the urban fox might only live for a maximum of five years but they pack a lot in. We tend to only see only one fox at a time, normally a streak of light brown across an empty street. But London’s foxes live in extended family groups […]

Do elephants mourn?

I know, I know, I used the word “mourn” in the title. I could almost feel the disapproving eyes boring into my head as I wrote it. But before anyone accuses me of anthropomorphism let me ask you a question, why would it have been more acceptable to say “Do elephants grieve”? or perhaps “A […]

Love at first scent

No, it’s not your personality that really matters, and neither is it your looks. The way that you smell is what really makes it or breaks it for you when it comes to attracting the opposite sex. There’s also no cheating – you can cover yourself with as much cologne as you like, but there […]

What’s green, feathery and can’t fly…

Meet the Kakapo. It is flightless, nocturnal, has whiskers, yes I am still talking about a bird. Also known as the owl parrot, the species is endemic to New Zealand. It is such an odd contradiction of an animal. The Kakapo has large wings but cannot fly and yet it can be found feeding 20m […]

Can animals dream?

Most animals need sleep. Even C. elegans, the nematode worm, has sleep-like states and it is one of the simplest organisms that exists with a nervous system. Sleep comes in many guises, in invertebrates like the cockroach; it can be as simple as folding down your antennae, adopting your favourite posture and decreasing your sensitivity […]

How to Hypnotise a Great White Shark

The Great White Shark or Carcharodon carcharias if you want the Latin, otherwise known as Jaws. This infamous predator can grow to up to six metres in length, has three thousand razor-sharp teeth, a top speed of 40kmph and can detect a single drop of blood in 100 litres of water. A true apex predator, […]

Choosing Captivity?

This will be the last anecdote from Buin Zoo (for a while), but I just couldn’t finish this series without mentioning Domingo. Domingo is a wild South American Sea lion born on the beach of Santo Domingo in central Chile. He was unlucky enough to be only a year old when El Niño arrived in […]

Earthquakes and Animals

It was 3.34am when the earthquake hit the zoo. It was in February last year and I was there at the time, staying with the director and his family. It’s hard to describe what happened during the earthquake. I was already awake, having been jolted from sleep by a cacophony of animal noises. I can’t […]

Pick up a Penguin

Buin Zoo is a marine rescue centre. This happened completely by accident thanks to a single penguin which was found washed up on a beach at Punta Arenas. It was a King Penguin, dying from a bite on the chest by a leopard seal. The locals who found it did the only thing they could […]

The Perils of Sexual Imprinting

The zoo needs a psychiatrist, someone is having an identity crisis and it’s not one of the keepers. It is a chicken called Claudio. Suspend your disbelief for a moment; there is a chicken in the zoo that thinks it’s a sheep. Not just any sheep, a Somali Sheep. Chicks have 13-16 hours to imprint […]

Animal altruism?

This is Kevin. If you thought that all animal babies were cute then I’m sorry to disappoint, as this is probably the ugliest animal you will ever see. It’s not a mutant, nor is it some sort of small dinosaur: it’s a Black Vulture chick and it shouldn’t be there. I don’t mean it shouldn’t […]

Weeds by Richard Mabey

Richard Mabey’s new book is as much a story about human nature as it is about plants. After all, a plant is only a weed when humans say it is. We’ve been worried about weeds for a long time and Mabey has to stretch back to the birth of farming in order to start his […]