Saturday, 22 March 2014

Name the Biologist

More technique based ones. This one is a little tricky but I'm going for the one who developed the most recognisable technique and the one who named it/helped make it popular. Plenty of clues before the picture this time!

Disclaimer: I can't 100% verify the person in the 2nd picture is the one I mean - but others online seem to have made the claim...

As for last week that was

Friday, 14 March 2014

Kiss My Ass(pirator)!

Friday afternoon lab fail. The aspirator jar was being cleaned out and rendering one of the tissue hoods unusable. I thought I'd be proactive, clean out the jar and connect it back up to the aspirator. All seemed well despite some confusion over the double jar system. Got a plate of cells out and went to remove the media only for the damn thing to turn into a mass of bubbles.  Culture ruined!

I guess I could have tried to work out how to get it to suck but when this kind of thing happens at this time on a Friday, the best option is to say "F@%k it" and avoid any further disasters. I did at least take the aspirator apart so others wouldn't be victim to it's anti-aspirating behaviour.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Pint of Science Festival 19-21 May 2014

A quick plug for this year's "pint of science" festival which will occur at several cities across the UK from the 19th-21st May. Not all is lost for those outside the UK as the event is also occurring in parts of the world (have a look to see if your hometown is involved).

The idea, as far as I'm interpreting it, is to engage the general public (who are allowed to drink) in the relaxed environment of the pub. Hopefully seeing scientists with a pint in their hand will make them (us) seem more human and approachable. Top researchers from the cities in question will entertain and educate ("entucate"?) you with their research and from what I've heard there will be anything from games to comedians in between the talks.

Biology is well represented this year with a "life sciences" and "neuroscience" themed subcategories along with "physical sciences" and "geological sciences" (if biology isn't your bag).

Why the plug? Besides it being a cool event in it's own right, there's also the fact I'm helping organise the Bristol Life Sciences event. Nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, right?

I'll keep you updated where possible and hopefully some of you will turn up to one of the events in your area.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Research Reality Check

The undergrad student who is currently working with got an unpleasant insight into the harsh reality of research today. After slaving away transfecting and staining cells for a week, we had a look at the results on a microscope and within the space of 3 hours destroyed what should have been 9+ hours of glorious picture taking. Perhaps even more importantly was the fact there wasn't any good reason for why they had all failed seeming that some of them had worked previously. I think it may be that the cells were a bit off. So tomorrow we will try with new, improved cells.
Today's results may not seem useful but it will be vital if the student ever considers a life in research.

Name the Biologist

Another week and another mystery biologist. In keeping with my current theme, this is related to a technique or tool that is invaluable to the regular biologist (although this one depends very much on your field and is becoming replaced by other techniques).

As for last week, it was Hermann J Muller - one of the pioneers of Drosophila research and the mutagenic effects of radiation.  The main reason I covered him though was for discovering balancer chromosomes - chromosomes with multiple inversions that are incapable of recombining with their sister chromosome. As someone who has worked with flies for a decade you have no idea how much easier this set of tools has made my life (and that includes you TM2 with your Ultrabirothax phenotype!)

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

30,000 year old Giant Virus - no longer on ice !!!

The BBC reported on a Proceedings of the National Academy of Science  about a "30,000 year old virus that has come back to life".  The interesting thing is that a virus can be frozen for such a long time and still function but it was clear the BBC wanted to make it sound like a horror film and I'm pretty sure that's what got so many people clicking on the story today. The researchers also seem glad to add fuel to the BBC's apocalyptic scenario of ancient/presumed eradicated viruses being unleashed due to global warming/mining.

The scenario of a giant killer virus from our ancient past does remind me of "the Thing" and several episodes of "the X-files" maybe now would be a good time for a topical horror film about giant viruses?
If I was a Hollywood screenwriter, I'd be writing the script for 2016's B-movie extravaganza. "it came from within the glacier" or "megasupervirus attacks". Here's some posters to help inspire them.

Or a new spin on John Carpenter's "the thing"?

Unfortunately the giant virus only infects amoebas and not human cells (phew) but they do point out that something like small pox could be frozen out there. It's always good to have another reason to be afraid of climate change.
Maybe the ice-age is the only reason mankind has made it this far and somewhere at one of the poles our nemesis is waiting...

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Credit it where it's due - The following

Mild spoilers ahead if you haven't seen episode one of "the following" season 2. The show is pretty dumb/bad but is a guilty pleasure of mine. It does get bonus points for acknowledging that identical twins have non-identical fingerprints though - something that Orphan Black, a show about clones failed to do.
Just thought I'd mention it rather than always bag on the ones getting it wrong.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Control Freak - how did I get that hangover?

Recently I had an unpleasant allergic reaction to beer. Not in the "I had too much of it" way but more in the "it caused severe congestion, sinus blocking and even swollen eye-lids (not the result of a fight outside the pub)" way. It's not necessarily the alcohol and can be anything from histamines to wheat to some random ingredient in a beer that my body dislikes.