Thursday, 29 March 2012

In Transit

I'm away to find a new home, so will be ignoring the site for the next few days (or being minimalist when I do visit). In the meantime here is an article from the BBC (sorry non-UK folks) that does a nice job of high-lighting why research on flies is worthwhile.
It's a far cry from this would be world leader's view! (the only clip I could find included this rebuttal which I guess adds a bit of context for why Palin's comment was so stupid).

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Name the Biologist week 3

Here is this week's mystery biologist.

And just in case that's too easy here is a fun spin on the concept. Name the musician/band!  : P

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Are they on the Y chromosome?

The title gag is just too easy to make regarding this article "Gene flaw linked to serious Flu risk"

The actual paper is quite interesting though as it provides evidence for why some people are more susceptible to flu (and other viruses) than others. The interferon-inducible transmembrane protein, IFTIM, ("catchy" name) This kind of work is useful in that it can highlight "at risk" people for vaccines in much the same way that asthma sufferers are on a priority list. It also shows how it may not be just bad luck that some people seem to be ill more often than not and these kind of studies are likely to only increase the awareness that our genetic background is a vital factor in disease resistance.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Science song

This is another "on the nose" science song, where it's hard not to notice the lyrics. That said, I initially thought the chorus was "karaoke girl" so it shows how much attention I pay.
So here it is; "Biological" by Air.

How did Superman's powers ever evolve?

The explanation for Superman’s powers are one of the more simple ones in comics. He’s an alien from the planet Krypton and that’s why he is super strong, can fly and shoot lasers out of his eyes. Fair enough. You can’t really argue these facts as we don’t know anything about the alien physiology. Where things start to fall apart though is the suggestion that Kryptonians are solar powered – specifically under a yellow sun. The problem with this is that the planet Krypton has a red sun. My question is “how on earth Krypton did Kryptonians evolve to have super powers under a yellow sun?”. 

Friday, 23 March 2012

D.N.A. of a Scientist

Ok, I've been a bit lazy this past week (paper manuscripts, job contracts and genuine laziness) with the blog but here's a feature I'm hoping will take off which is trying to "interview" various scientists. I painstakingly tried to come up with a name and have settled for "Dare Not Ask of a Scientist" as it kind of works on a few levels then.

Science Song

Not the greatest of korn songs but it fits the tenuous bill.

"And I'm sorry that I don't believe
by the evidence that I see
That there's any hope left for me
It's evolution"

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Name the Biologist - week 2

The last one was accused of being "too easy" - although only one person deemed to try and guess it. It's not like it was Darwin easy! So here's another one. A certain type of biologist should know this one as the guy should be a poster in their bedrooms. So here we go;

Again, first person to post the correct guess wins "bragging" rights. I will put the answer to the last entry under the "read more" tag just in case you are doing the quizzes in the incorrect order.

This one seems to be proving tricky so I'll give you a more recent picture.

Horizon: The truth about fat

I have to admit I've been bad at keeping track of BBC's science documentary show, "Horizon" this year, which is a shame as the previous series was excellent. That said it was on in the background yesterday and I found myself been quite drawn into it.

Science song

This one isn't instantly obvious but again listen carefully. The album name is more obvious.
This one is even more apt when combined with "breaking bad" footage. The song does capture that frustration of experiments and lab life getting out of hand quite well though!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

No longer between Postdocs!

So, as of next month I'll be back at the bench using my Drosophila skills to try and answer some new questions (or get answers to long-standing questions) regarding endosomal sorting. I'll also get to try my hand at some new techniques such as mammalian cell culture and SILAC (which still sounds like a new villain for Battlestar Galactica) which is always worthwhile. It's also on a fairly different topic from my previous research - although the sincere hope is that this area has a strong role in development (it already does I'm just looking for extras).
I'm quite excited (which is a lot coming from me) and hopefully I can share more details once I get there.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Science Song

I've never really paid attention to the lyrics in this song but it's pretty embarassing that I haven't noticed them before. Song sounds even better now!

Drowning your sorrows

This article in is too good not to comment on and yet another reason why research on fruitflies is brilliant. Their research basically shows that male flies are far more likely to choose a drink with alcohol when they have been sexually rejected. Looks like a conserved behaviour!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Thursday, 15 March 2012

When Presentations Go Wrong...

The Dark Crystal is an excellent film but is also quite disturbing. As a child there was one particular scene that scared the hell out of me. The funny thing is the same scene still scares me, it's just that now it reminds me of a science talk where all the audience (particularly group leaders) decide to tear someone's presentation apart. Trust me, I've seen students/postdocs looking far worse than the Skeksi that is attacked in the clip below. I think I've even heard a group leader use the same phrase at the end...

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Name the Biologist!

Biology pop quiz! Can you name this famous biologist? I'll put the answer up when I'm back from my interview. There aren't any prizes other than the potentially deep satisfaction of being the first person to guess correctly.

The British Invented DNA!

Today's a lazy day (I'm actually preparing for an interview) so I'm just reposting something from my other blog (when this one was just a twinkle in my eye), which was after watching David Cameron, on the Andrew Marr show, make a pretty bold claim.
Luckily someone has put said clip on youtube.

Science Songs

There's a surprising amount of science that turns up in music, which is nice as it means that it's working it's way into the public mind. Sometimes it's obvious from the title but the best ones are where they sneak a science term into the lyrics. What I'll do on "busy" days is stick up a "Science Song" and you can work out the connection to science. So as not to be accused of making it too easy the first song I'll give you is Red Hot Chili Peppers "This is the place". I think this has a particularly clever use of a biological term and I wonder if a geek has ever tried to use it as a pick-up line?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Fevre Dream - George RR Martin

Another shameless plug of one of my favourite authors although this time I'm afraid I'm going to have to pull him up on some nonsensical biology, which put an infuriating tarnish on an otherwise excellent vampire novel.
Fevre dream tells the tale of a 19th centuryvsteamboat journey along the missisippi that acquires some unsavoury mythical guests. The book is actually very good and perfectly blends the feel of the deep south with horror.
One of the things I enjoyed about the book is the authors approach to the vampires in that he treats them as biological creatures rather than fantastical ones. To this end he goes to some interesting lengths to establish them as an off-shoot of humantiy - I won't go into details but half the fun is in discovering his "rules" for vampires.
There is one rule that upsets me though and I guess this is technically a little bit of a spoiler so you probably shouldn't read on from here.


When I was growing up one of the stories that always caught my attention was the "Giant vegetable/fruit/cow" story and the idea that if we could make food bigger it would somehow make it easier to feed the world's growing population. At the time it made sense but now I can't help but think how ridiculous the idea is. I also reckon that we're approaching things from the wrong angle. So here's my idea:

"why don't we make humans smaller?"

Monday, 12 March 2012


This is a vintage silly discussion that came up in my old lab one coffee break but I thought was worth sharing again (Filler material and the blog isn't even a week old!). Identical twins are a topic of discussion that geneticists like to bring up a lot.

Tasmanian Peril

This is something I was completely unaware of until last week; the possibility that Tasmanian Devil's may well become extinct over the next 25-35 years. Even more bizarre is the fact that a transmissible face cancer is the cause.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Game of Thrones

Ok, for my first commentary on science in fiction I'm going for HBO's "Game of Thrones" based upon the amazing "A Song of Ice and Fire" series by George RR Martin. But that's fantasy, I hear you all cry. Well you'd be right but there's still a surprising amount of genetics in it, so much so that it's the key to one of the show's central mysteries.
So what are these tenuous connections with biology that I'm claiming the show features? Well in order to do that I'm probably going to have to spoiler warning the following as it does contain a discussion of plot elements from the series. So be warned if you click on the following and haven't seen the first season of the show there are some big spoilers!!!

Between Postdocs

So I can't really do any "day in the life of a scientist" posts as I'm currently unemployed although a far better way of looking at it is that I'm very carefully considering the options available before choosing the "right" position for me. That's dedication considering I'm forsaking any income while making such noble choices.

Opening a can of worms

Possibly the laziest title for any commentary on a C.elegans paper but why not set a low standard of cliche from the offset?
Here's a paper I found quite interesting the other week that challenges the notion of redundancy in eukaryotes.

Thursday, 8 March 2012



One thing I promised myself, once I started a new postdoc position, was to start writing about Biology more. Well I've finally found a fabled second postdoc position so my excuses have ran out.
I'm not entirely sure what this blog will be about other than a general look at science. I guess the fact that I'm a biologist means it is only fair that I allow a little bit of evolution to take place. Survival of the fittest or things that interest me the most I suspect. My initial plans are to try and do a few regular (a term I suspect will have a very loose definition) features on the following areas:

Bench Press : A journal of my day to day work. I'll try and be as honest as possible about what goes on in a lab, warts and all. I'll even try and tell you what I'm doing - although I'll have to be ever wary that the scoop vultures could circling over me.

Real Science: Not that my science isn't real but I'd like to comment on the stuff that's being published and therefore as "real" as it gets. I'll try my best to keep this as varied as possible and outside my own field.

Silly Science: I'd like to do a "scientific approach" to answering silly questions every now and then. Some Examples will emerge soon that will explain what I mean.

Science Fiction: commentary on science as it appears in all forms of entertainment. Maybe including the odd review.

That should be enough to get me started and hopefully see what works for me and everyone else.