Pooh Sticks

Just a short post today. I came across this video of the strangest animal behaviour I’ve ever witnessed. The bear, named Claude, can be seen twisting and spinning a large stick with more precision and agility than your average sergeant major. Such complex tool use is rarely seen in the animal kingdom naturally, such as […]

Bird Brainiacs

Fact of the Day #2 Pigeons are smarter than most mathematicians. Well, they are if you look at one specific mathematical conundrum called the Monty Hall Problem. The name  comes from the host of an American quiz show, who, at the end of each show, offered a contestant the chance to win a prize. The prize […]

Harmony in motion

Sound, as you probably know, is the result of pressure waves travelling through the air. As the pressure wave enters your ear, it causes the tympanic membrane to vibrate. This, simultaneously, causes your inner ear bones to dance around like a teenager at a rock concert. In turn, this moshing vibrates tiny hairs in your […]

The Dance of the Starlings

This amazing video by Mark Rigler demonstrates the beautiful complexity that exists throughout the natural world. Like a Bach fugue, patterns emerge and fade, interweave, and are exquisitely modified to form an endless variety of beautiful structures. The end result seems too complicated, too ordered, too apparently designed to have appeared by chance. But, like […]

Genetic modification of bacteria leads to new vaccine

A new type of vaccine for pneumonia based on genetically engineered bacteria has been developed, and may help in the fight against many other infectious diseases. The vaccine, which protects against a virulent form of the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, works by introducing a modified form of the bacterium that produces less pneumolysin – a toxic […]

Run Lassie – no not over there! Damn you Lassie!

Scientists can be utter bastards some of the time. Not content with letting us unwashed masses revel in our ignorance, they systematically poke and prod the world around us, looking for answers to questions best left unanswered. The latest casualty of this scientific tirade – my childhood. Specifically, the destruction of my faith in man’s […]

A new spin on computing

Spin, as anyone who has ever heard Alistair Campbell speak, is a tricky thing to figure out. Quantum spin – a property many subatomic particles have – is equally confounding, but, if understood, could lead to a powerful new breed of computer technology called spintronics. Despite its name, quantum spin does not actually refer to […]

Science Behind the Photo #26

Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) One of the most distinctive and, arguably, the most popular insects in the UK, the ladybird has captured the imaginations of many a young child. However, the future of our bespeckled friend is not as bright as her iconic red coat. Many native species of ladybirds are in decline thanks, in […]

Podcast: Do you know your A.C.G.T?

…as easy as 1.2.3… Sorry, got caught up singing my favorite song. Jackson 5, legends. Though they obviously got the A.B.C part wrong because it should have been A.G.C.T, the 4 most important letters of life! A.G.C.T represent the 4 bases that make up DNA, adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. When contained in DNA they […]

Bloomin marvellous

An unusually snowy winter, and weeks of heavy rainfall in south east USA has resulted in the Mississippi River flooding to record levels.  As a response, US engineers have released the rising waters onto the floodplains surrounding the river, in order to save the heavily populated regions further downstream. The economic costs of such an […]

Sting bomb detector

A novel instrument capable of detecting single molecules of explosives such as TNT has been built using carbon nanotubes and, strangely, bee venom proteins. The detector draws upon the discovery that carbon nanotubes emit a specific spectrum of infra-red light depending on the chemical environment. Carbon nanotubes, by themselves, are not able to detect TNT.  […]

Pendulum Waves

If you’re reading this right now, you are most likely procrastinating, arent you? Don’t worry, I wont judge. Your brain is probably feeling very overworked, but you might also be feeling guilty that you’re not doing anything productive. So, here’s a video that has all the semblances of work – its got maths, and harmonics, […]

Beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder, it’s in the eye

Yes, maybe it’s true that there are differing opinions on who we think of as attractive. Indeed, some people think Simon Cowell is good looking. Still cant get my head around that one,  but I digress. Yes, people have their own personal prefernces – blonde or brunette, brainy or brawny, etc.  However, numerous studies have […]

Attack of the killer white blood cells

Forget werewolves, vampires and George Osbornes. The scariest thing in the world isn’t out there waiting to get you, it’s inside you. It’s always ready – ready to pounce on its unsuspecting victims, to eat them in a single bite. Thankfully this monster is on our side – the humble white blood cell. The video […]

Grasping for attention

Collectors come in all shapes and sizes. Some are relatively tame, such as the humble stamp collectors and comic book hunters. Others are harder to understand. For example, Michael Lewis has a handsome collection of Moist Towelettes. Sergei Frolov has over 150 Soviet Calculators. Most bizarrely though, for 27 years Graham Barker has been scouring […]

The unseen threat of nitrogen

Nitrogen is one of those elements that never really gets much attention. It’s colourless, odourless and mostly inert. For the most part, it’s a bit of a loner as well, only bonding with itself in the form of N2. Unfortunately, it’s the quiet ones that can prove to me the most dangerous, as an international […]

A bug’s life is better with company

Parasites are amazing.  By taking advantage of the efforts of another species, parasites have been able to flourish in countless strange ways. For example, there is one parasite that lives only on the lips of lobsters (Symbion americanus). The fungal parasite, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects the brains of ants, causing them to climb high into the forest canopy, […]