Thursday, 9 December 2010

Touch sensitive

This 6 foot tall model may not look like an accurate representation of the human body but it is actually based on scientific fact.

The model shows the proportion of the brain devoted to touch signals from different parts of the body.

As you can see a large proportion of the brain receives touch signals from the lips, ears and hands. 

The model is part of an exhibition called 'Brain: The Inside Story' on at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Click here for a link to the website and information about the exhibition. I was in New York this summer and unfortunately I didn't manage to get to the museum but this exhibition looks fantastic. It investigates how your brain deals with senses, emotions and thinking, how your brain changes throughout your lifetime and how new technologies and discoveries can be harnessed in the future.

Not to lower the tone but there are areas of the body not shown in this photo that I would be interested to see the size of! Perhaps the creator wanted to spare our blushes! It would also be interesting to see how males and females differed when depicted in this way.

I love the way that science has been displayed here. It is so accessible and simple and instantly catches your attention and draws you in. It is as much art as science.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Interesting drawing depicting Chinese medical treatment - what do you think?

I came across this drawing in the latest edition of The Times 'Eureka' magazine. The article was about the move to make traditional Chinese medicine more regulated by implementing Western standards of drug manufacturing; for example mass-producing capsules containing traditional medicines in sterile industrial units.

However, it was this picture that most caught my eye.

It's a drawing of the waiting room at the Hua Cao Health Centre in the Minhang district of Shanghai.

Each seat has an intravenous drip available, attached to a bag of medication.

The Times writer observed that some of those in the waiting room did not seem to be suffering from much more than a cold but were hooked up to the drips.

I thought this quite an interesting concept and am not sure what to think of it. If I have a headache or something I tend to forgo aspirin for just riding it out, preferring not to take medicine unless I really have to.

But maybe this approach prevents wasting a GPs time so that they can see patients with more pressing concerns?

Or does it risk wasting medicine on those who don't necessarily need it and increasing people's resistance to antibiotics and other drugs through overuse?

Obviously not all health centres in China are like this but I did think this particular approach was interesting.

I'd love to know what other people think.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The saddest Christmas tree in the world...

Hidden away at the back of the garden centre.

Where the other 'traditional' Christmas trees don't have to see him.

But allowed a glimpse of what life could have been.

It's not their fault. 
Give a reduced-priced Christmas tree a home this holiday season.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Stunning skeleton photos

One of my favourite courses at uni was called 'Past Lives'. 

It involved dinosaurs, it couldn't fail. 

During one study period we looked at some bones to see what we could conclude about the animals they belonged to. The lecturer also brought in a book for us to look at called 'Evolution in Action - Natural History Through Spectacular Skeletons'. It was written by a guy called Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu and the photos were taken by Patrick Gries. 

This book is AMAZING. I love being able to see the skeletons in such detail and figure out how they enable the animal to move and why they have certain skeletal features, I think it's fascinating. 

I got the book a couple of Christmas' ago and here are some of my favourite photos from it. 

Apologies for the poor photo quality! The quality of the photo's in the book is amazing but once again using the phone from my £20 camera!! But you get the idea!

Babirusa, Babyrousa babyrussa. Indonesia
Interesting fact: A type of wild pig, some individuals die by piercing their own brain with their tusks, apparently a risk of the reproductive process.

Shortfin mako, Isurus oxyrinchus. Temperate and tropical seas.
Interesting fact: Sharks always have a perfect set of teeth. This is because they have rows of teeth that are fixed in the gum and that gradually move forward and are 'shed'.

Rhinoceros hornbill, Buceros rhinoceros. South-east Asia.
Interesting fact: In life the casque (the 'horn' above the beak) and the beak are brightly coloured red, yellow and orange. This is because the hornbill repeatedly rubs the casque and beak against a gland that produces orange and red liquid. The casque and beak start off white.

Vanauatu flying fox, Pteropus anetianus. New Caledonia.

Turbot, Psetta maxima. Northeastern Atlantic.
Interesting fact: A type of flatfish, it has both eyes on the left side. The right side is 'blind'.

Southern sea lion, Otaria flavescens. Coasts of South America.
Interesting fact: In the water this sea lion uses it's arms as paddles, while the rear limbs act as webbed fins and enable direction change. On land however, this sea lion becomes a quadruped, able to jump and gallop.

Southern right whale, Balaena australis. Antarctic.
Interesting fact: Sounds emitted from the blowhole are focused by a sac of complex fats at the top of the skull. These sounds 'hit' objects around the whale and echo back, travelling through the lower jawbone to the middle ear.

Green turtle, Chelonia mydas. Global oceans.
Interesting fact: These turtles must breath air to get enough oxygen to enable their activity levels. They can  dive underwater for 4-5 minutes before coming up for a 1-3 second breath. However, they can rest and sleep underwater for several hours.

Rattlesnake, Crotalus sp. America.
Interesting fact: The rattle is made up of hollow beads that are actually modified scales from the tip of the tail. After they shed their skin for the first time they gain an additional bead that beats against the first bead to create the rattling sound.

Here's the book cover:

Definitely worth a buy, put it on your Christmas list!

Mine was £38 but I just checked Amazon and it says £148!!! Typo I think so maybe check elsewhere!

Hope you enjoyed the photos! If you know of any other gorgeous photo books (about anything!) let me know!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Cybermen Invasion!

Look at this!!!

How cool?!

I WISH I had been in London on the 24th November to see this!

For my fellow old school Doctor Who geeks they also recreated this scene from the 1968 storyline 'The Invasion'.

Cybermen took over London and it's all to promote the new 'Doctor Who Experience'. It opens in February and is described as:

"an unmissable adventure featuring an exhilarating and unique walk-through experience and an awe-inspiring exhibition"

You'll get to meet the monsters, go inside the Tardis, watch exclusive scenes filmed by Matt Smith and see past and present sets.

It sounds AWESOME.

Click here for the link to the 'Doctor Who Experience' where you can find all the details and how to buy tickets.

Only 29 days till the Christmas special!!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Christmas spirit science stylee!

I REALLY want to get into the Christmas spirit. All of the pre-Christmas family birthdays have happened so there's nothing else between now and the big day. It's just not happening and it's getting ridiculous. I was in town last Thursday and in the space of an hour in my local shopping centre I saw Santa drive by in his sleigh, a life-size polar bear wandering around and Cinderella coming out of the Marks and Spencer changing rooms. I then sat in a coffee shop and drank a special Christmas hot beverage, before watching Davina switch on the Christmas lights.


I think it is down to two things...

Firstly, I haven't seen the Coca-Cola advert yet.

Secondly, I need to tidy the PIT that is my room before I can even THINK of decorating it.

But, if anyone else is feeling the same I have an idea, GO HERE...!

The Natural History Museum Ice Rink!

Nothing looks more beautiful and Christmassy than one of the ice rinks dotted around London at this time of year and with the Natural History Museum one you can include a visit to the museum itself or pop around the corner to the Science Museum!

Click here for a link to the website with all the details.

At the Natural History Museum at the moment they have the exhibition for the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year. I went to it last year and it was absolutely fantastic.

The initial winner was this photograph...

However, it was later disqualified on the grounds that the wolf pictured was not wild but was instead a trained wolf that could be hired out.

Other legitimate, highly commended entries included these...

Clockwise from top-left:

'Last of the Tuna' Jonathon Clay
Highly commended in the 'One Earth' category.
'Borneo Baby' Brian Matthews
Highly commended in the 'Animal Portrait' category.
'Bubble Talk' Paul Nicklen
Highly commended in the 'Underwater World' category.

So go check out this years winners! Click here for a link to all of the exhibition information on the Natural History Museum website.

And not forgetting the Science Museum!! 

I was lucky enough to volunteer at the Science Museum over the past year so it holds a special place in my heart! I got a Science Museum shirt and badge and everything!

One of my positions was as an Ambassador helping out visitors on the galleries and the MOST exciting was a position I had working at the Dana Centre, their adult Events centre. The office where I worked was next door to the team who created the newly re-opened 'Who am I?' gallery. I haven't had a chance to go myself but our weekly meetings with the team and chats over cake on Cake Club Friday promised lots of exciting and interesting things!

The 'Who am I?' gallery covers topics from ageing to what makes you you, from how your brain works to why memory is important and how genes affect your health. It includes objects, art and hands-on bits and pieces.

Click here for a link to the 'Who am I?' section of the Science Museum website.

Let me know if you've been to the ice rink or the galleries before, what you thought and if there's anything else you want to recommend!

Have fun!!

Turducken anyone?

So, my Dad lives in the US and this will be his second Thanksgiving over there. He has been told that today he will be eating a 'Turducken'.

Yes, that is exactly what you think it is.

A chicken, inside a duck... inside a turkey.

How is that even possible!!?? 

OK so it actually doesn't look too bad!

If that isn't quite enough farmyard animals on one plate...

... Piturducken??

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Can you erase bad memories?/A cure for Gillian McKeith!

Over the past few days all I've been hearing about is Gillian McKeith and her fainting episodes. I don't even watch the program and somehow I know all about it!! Well there could be help for her yet! Often you hear that phobias are caused by an event in the person's past and bad memories have the ability to upset us years later. This morning I heard about a drug that can supposedly erase bad memories. Quite a dramatic statement to make but it's the hook that gets you in to read the article isn't it!?

Merel Kindt lead a study at the University of Amsterdam which was published in early 2009. It focused on the idea that memories are 'consolidated' in your sleep and once remembered or 'reactivated' they are then 'editable.' The process of forming this edited memory is called 'reconsolidation.'

In addition to these results Kindt and the team also found that the use of propanolol was not erasing the memory of the link between the shock and the spiders. Instead, all of the patients remembered the link, but only those treated with propanolol had no fear response. 

This could be crucial, as it seems extremely questionable whether people should have memories erased completely. We develop and learn as humans from bad experiences as well as good and I wouldn't wish to forget any bad experiences in my life. They teach me for the future.

Dr Emily Holmes, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Oxford uses illness as an example:

I think someone who’s ill will tell you that they would like to erase those bad memories given the chance. But once they’ve recovered, I doubt they would want to remove the part that illness played in their lives.

Dr Anders Sandberg, a computational neuroscientist at the University of Oxford disagrees:

There is one strong moral reason to weaken fear associations: to improve human well-being. Having accurate, truthful memories may be good for a person’s identity and ability to act morally.. But, I think, these factors are still far less important than the opportunity to live a healthy life...

...I’m not saying that editing memories should be taken lightly. But our natural memory is already imperfect, biased and in many cases, made up. So, perhaps, we shouldn’t see it as anything totally different from the editing of our own memory we already do every day.

Obviously this is all based on technology that is still being developed and if treatment began I'm sure any decision about it would be taken very seriously and decided on a case by case basis.

What is everyone else's take on this?

A blast from the past/I think I love this man...

On Thursday I had half an hour to kill between 'Have I Got News for You' and 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks' so I channel flicked and came across this blast from the past!

How old school?! Is 'The Really Wild Show' still on??

Chris Packham is on 'Autumn Watch' at the moment and is still just the same as he was on 'The Really Wild Show.'

He was presenting alongside Martin Hughes-Games, who I've never come across before but has apparently been in broadcasting for about 30 years. I think I may now love him. Here he is in 'Autumnwatch Unsprung.'

Those dulcet tones, that wild, wind-swept hair...


Monday, 22 November 2010

Introducing me and my hero!

Welcome to Life (Sciences) Blog! I'll be posting about random things that catch my eye in the world as well as fun and interesting science bits and pieces that I come across. I graduated with a degree in Biology and although at the moment my career seems to be veering away from this ever so slightly I remain a science geek at heart!

My (very much outer) geek was pretty much set for life a few days ago. I met my absolute, complete hero on the 8th November... DAVID ATTENBOROUGH. 

He was doing a talk and a book signing at the Institute of Education in London and I got tickets! I ordered two copies of his new book 'First Life' to get signed (one for me, one for my mum), but they ended up in some delivery blackhole in the deepest, darkest corner of Kent. (I love David, but even I think three copies of his book is excessive and will now have to try and figure out ebay... wish me luck.)

Here's the photo of his signature!

I met him! I touched him!! He knows my name!!!

In case you don't believe me, here is a picture of him to prove it...

Now you believe me don't you?

And yes, he was completely lovely, funny and intelligent. Despite the fact he had to greet and sign books for hundreds of people he was smiling and friendly to everyone. 

My brother, his girlfriend and I then went to calm ourselves down with a beer and sat together in our mutual I've-just-met-David-Attenborough glow! :)