Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Science Music

For those of you who remember my post about performing climbing assays with flies (if not then have a look here) a song has recently come to mind as a potential anthem. It probably required a few months of repeating the experiment for the realisation to occur that Radiohead fits quite well.

Messed up layout

Sorry for the screwed up layout. It seems adding a twitter feed has caused the profile picture to turn into an invasive tumour that invades the "healthy" text tissue. I don't have time to get to grips with what caused this mutation so have removed the offending item and shuffled the picture to the right hand side. Think of it as surgery with chemotherapy - not a cure but a temporary fix. Hopefully the picture won't metastasise and get worse in the meantime...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Twilight Zone

I'm on vacation from Thursday so have the usual plan of trying to get some good results before leaving. I even popped in on Saturday to get a head start.

Turns out the PCR that was step 1 of my 3 day cloning plan didn't work (despite having worked fine on Friday). By then the sole PCR machine (we have 4 that don't work) was booked until the evening. So the plan of having my gene cloned into a GFP vector is out the window as I'm not so dedicated as to work overnight.

I figured I could still go ahead and seed some cells for immunofluorescence as an extra set of samples to look at during my confocal session on Wednesday. Cell line infected. No point in getting new ones as there wouldn't be time to do anything with them.

Oligos arrived for my fly cloning experiments. Unfortunately my cDNA clones haven't arrived and a trip to stores suggested they may be lost. So that set of experiments are on ice.

Fly crosses! No point - crosses set up now will have progeny coming out before I get back. If i set them up on Wednesday it'll be more useful. Otherwise I'm waiting for flies to get old.

So I've gone from having a busy couple of days to the twilight zone of not having much to do and there been no practical reason to start up other things.

At this stage I'm thinking I either shouldn't have gone on holiday or have started it 3 days earlier.

Looks like it good be a great opportunity to read relevant research papers and drink lots of tea.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Does Science (Research) Suck? - Possible Solutions Part 2

What other ways can the career of a Postdoc be made more appealing given a certain level of discontent at the moment? I don't have time for a silly and serious solution this time around so I'll leave it to you to decide where this one belongs.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Safety Inspection

We had a fairly big safety inspection at the University last week. There was a sense of dread and the usual "what a waste of time/ how inconvenient" rants. Our fear of being scrutinised was such that I couldn't help but get this tune in my head come the day of reckoning.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Control Freak

It only just dawned on me that I let "Dara O'Briain's Science Club" get away with not using controls in one of their experiments! I guess it's because it was quite entertaining. Fortunately my anal retentiveness resurfaced and I can now call them out on it.

So towards the end of the "invisible worlds" episode they were demonstrating how effective a "hydrophobic" spray was on waterproofing objects. They tested a trainer by pouring water over it and an iPad by submerging it in a tank of water. The water bounced off the trainer and the iPad continued to work underwater quite happily. Amazing stuff but without the control it's meaningless. How do we know the trainer wasn't waterproof without the spray being added? How do we know iPad's are so well made that they work under water? With a control, that's how.

So the experiments should have been like this (as a minimum);

A pair of trainers; one sprayed with the hydrophobic can, the other not sprayed at all. Pour a jug of water over both of them. If the unsprayed trainer gets wet we know the spray works.

Two iPads; one sprayed with the hydrophobic can, the other not sprayed at all. Place both of them in the same tank of water and see whether they both shut down or stay on. Any difference can be attributed to the spray (or lack of).

Now I can understand them not wanting to kill an iPad  (especially as a licence fee payer) but the trainers would have dried off eventually.

EDIT: If a video of it turns up on youtube, I'll link it. There isn't one at the moment at the iplayer clip will shortly expire.

Dexter's "science"

Sometimes in TV spectacular science is presented as mundane while standard science is presented incorrectly. Here's an example.

During a recent episode of Showtime's "Dexter" some "science" was deployed. After all, Dexter is the lab (Dexter's laboratory :) ) technician in a police department. In the episode he managed to get some DNA from the killer at a crime scene - to their credit they did point out the hair was pulled out by its roots (most TV shows seem to get DNA from hair clippings which is pretty impressive). The DNA database didn't give him a match but he then decided to go for the mitochondrial DNA in the hope the mother may be on the database. With the click of a button an instant match came up.  It conveniently belonged to someone he knew so his next logical step was to get a photo of this woman's child. Once scanned into the computer he used a "magic" program (which could still be indentified as photoshop) to add 30 years onto the 6 year old child. Hey presto it churned out a picture with a 97% match (no idea what stat was used) to ANOTHER person he just happened to know.

Pros: They know you need roots of hair to get a DNA sample
         They know that mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother.

Cons: I don't think you can age people on computer software that quickly or that accurately.
          I don't think you can sequence DNA and do a search that quickly either.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Dara O'Briain's Science Club

This one has passed me by largely because it's in a weekday time-slot that doesn't suit me and then I always forget to check it on Iplayer. In typical fashion, I managed to catch an episode only to discover it's the last in the series. Bit of a shame as it's actually quite good.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Science Songs

This song popped up on my mp3 player and I'd never considered the relevance to science. It definitely feels like a song about a project that isn't working!

These Wooden Ideas by Idlewild;

"I bet you don't know how to sell Conviction" - those talks are always the toughest...

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Guardian's "20 Big Questions in Science" - Biology FTW!

The Guardian is having quite a good run of late with a broad range of interesting articles and I applaud anyone giving people a daily dose of interesting science to people :)

This one tackles 20 of the big questions in science which covers cosmology, physics and things that very much concern us. Any of them would make a good platform for a sci-fi tale (may of them are already staples of sci-fi eg time travel).