Science Blogs

Smartphone camera hacks

Sciencebase - 29 March, 2015 - 18:17

Some nice tricks to deviate from the norm with your smartphone camera: Drive-by panorama, water-drop macro lens, armless selfies with your headphone cable, cardboard “tripod”, underwater housing, binocular zoom and more

Smartphone camera hacks is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Do you like good music?

Sciencebase - 27 March, 2015 - 11:45

When we’re in our teens, it’s common that we first discover the music we see as our own, discarding the vinyl our parents played, and kicking back on beats to our own tune. For me it was a migration from 60s pop to 70s prog and hard rock. But, when you get to middle age you might find yourself living in some kind of shack and you may ask yourself, well what do I listen to now, as you let the days go by? For me, I’ve revisited many of those “discs” my parents played, but digesting them via a stream of 1s and 0s rather than ass the amplified jitterings of a diamond-tipped needle coursing through the vinyl vein.

And, in turn a huge spectral wall of sound has fed into my own music making as you may well have heard via my SoundCloud page. I also like to add a new spin to some of those old favourites, putting together cover versions. What is an endless surprise is how the ranking of those cover songs of mine runs quite steady and reflects the longevity of some classic songs, I love all of them, despite their not fitting into any single niche, indeed they couldn’t be any different, could they, although they’re all basically singing and guitar with percussion? This week, for instance, the Top 5 listens to tracks I’ve racked up are as follows:

Take me home, country roads – John Denver
I’ll Be There – Chic ft. Nile Rodgers
Freewill – Rush
Baker Street – Gerry Rafferty
Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel

You’ll notice in at number 2, my cover of the new Chic song (originally recorded and mooted for Sister Sledge back in the day by Nile and Nard), now if you’re uptown, head on downtown, cos that’s where the real funk is at…that song is going to be the most mahusive hit of the summer of 2015, just you watch. Have a listen to my version and then go any buy the real thing, preferably as a high-def download but also on vinyl, like your parents might have done, back in the old days ;-)

The dB EP by Dave Bradley

Do you like good music? is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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There may be treble ahead

Sciencebase - 26 March, 2015 - 20:24

A catchy pop song of 2014 had the refrain “I’m all about that bass, no treble” or somesuch throwaway line. The accompanying video, much parodied and pastiched, was popular on teh interwebz and was apparently all about raising body image awareness and itself a pardoy of the modern pop culture in which certain characteristics of the female and male form are emphasised in a modern grotesque..

Anyway, in the spirit of scientific endeavour I did a quick frequency analysis of the song to ascertain whether it really was “all about the bass”. And, guess what? There’s plenty of treble and loads of mid-range frequencies too. Indeed, as you can see from the chart below, at one point in the song there is only very low peaking at the bass end of the audio spectrum. The song, at that point is much more about the treble and plenty about the mids…

all-about-that-bass

Quite bizarrely my tweeting this graphic to DrKiki led to a barage of abuse from a twitter troll, all sub-tweeted after the first addressed tweet. The saddo name for the troll and the fact that they had no followers was also quite bizarre. Their claim was my vaguely (un)funny graphic was the reason no one likes scientists and how we’re all a bunch of…well, you get the picture.

So, is my graphical pastiche of the title of a so-called bubblegum pop song offensive to sociopolitical efforts to remedy almost universal body dysmorphia propagated by the popular media? I really can’t see how (I hadn’t even seen the video until just now, nor listened to the lyrical content other than the refrain) and I’m sure Ms Trainor and her record company would still be laughing all the way to the bank even if it were, given that it was a Grammy-nominated song and one of the biggest-selling tracks of last year, topping the singles charts in 50 countries and selling more than 6 million copies. Yeah, it’s all about that bass, no trouble.

There may be treble ahead is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Raising more than the roof at the house of blue lights

Sciencebase - 23 March, 2015 - 11:10

In the words of the song “Shed a little light”: There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist, There is a hunger in the center of the chest, There is a passage through the darkness…

I-CAN-HAZ-NOOKIE

As such, this story is one in the eye for all those spammers selling erectile dysfunction drugs as scientists have implanted a light-activated gene into rats that makes a protein involved in sexual arousal.

“With this gene in place,” the team reports in the journal Angewandte Chemie, “the rats make a protein involved in the release of the a synthetic designer guanylate cyclase producing a blue-light-inducible surge of the second messenger cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) in mammalian cells.” With this molecular biology in place, shining a light on the rat’s penis triggers and erection or as the team puts it: “Photostimulated short-circuiting of complex psychological, neural, vascular, and endocrine factors to stimulate penile erection in the absence of sexual arousal.” They suggest that this “may foster novel advances in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.”

Research Blogging IconKim T. (2015). A Synthetic Erectile Optogenetic Stimulator Enabling Blue-Light-Inducible Penile Erection, Angewandte Chemie, DOI:

Creative Commons rat photo adapted from vyctryx (Lauren Harradine)

Raising more than the roof at the house of blue lights is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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White Line Warrior

Sciencebase - 21 March, 2015 - 10:07

A song of history, chemistry and exploitation

White line warrior
Heading up the Inca Trail
Silkroad Surfer
Hides behind electric veil

Foothill courier
En route to the promised land
Fuelled with a bitter taste
Torment is in her hand

Global decimation
One in ten, where worlds collide
Find the taker nation
A future lost for lack of pride

Main line quarrier
Digging up the dragon’s tale
Milk wet citizen
Finds the time to read the mail

Timeline warrior
Waking in the promised land
Works a little haste
Though history’s in his hands

Global decimation
One in ten, where worlds collide
Find the taker nation
A future lost for lack of pride

Words & Music by David “dB” Bradley
Vocals, Fender and Ibanez electric guitars
Taylor acoustic guitar
Yamaha bass

Drums Klaus “daFunkyDrummer” Tropp

Mixed and mastered by dB

Heads down proggie rock with layers of guitar in the early 80s Rush vein (sans keyboards) and with the awesome Klaus Tropp on drums being the Neil Peart to my Alex Lifeson ;-) Where’s Geddy?

White Line Warrior is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Listen up bat man, this is a sound book

Sciencebase - 20 March, 2015 - 08:52

Think of a plant trying to attract a pollinator and the image of brightly coloured flowers with sweet bowls of nectar perhaps come to mind. You might also be aware of the ultraviolet landing strips that guide insects towards the flowers sexy bits where pollen is picked up and deposited. There are even plants the flowers of which resemble female insects and so a libidinous male will attempt to mate unwittingly with the structure and do the pollen transfer business too.

What I didn’t know until I read “The Sound Book” by Trevor Cox is that some plants use, not brightly coloured flowers, but noisy leaves to attract their specific pollinator. The Cuban vine, Marcgravia evenia, stands out aurally from the rainforest crowd. At least to the local bats. The vine produces a ring of flowers on an arching stock and atop the stalk a leaf that is concave and hemispherical hangs over the flowers. This structure reflects the ultrasonic chirps from the bats hunting insects on the wing.

SB-bat-vine

Amazingly, while the vegetation of the rainforest presents to the bat a complicated soundscape of endless echoes that shimmer and shake as it flies through the trees, that convex vine leaf is a steady signal. No matter at what angle the bat flies past, it can sense the vine as the chirps are focused by the leaf. Marc Holderied of Bristol University, UK, and colleagues have confirmed (in 2011, it was all over the science news, how did I miss it?) that the bats benefit from the presence of these leaves in the rainforest, finding food twice as fast in areas where the vine grows than when there are none. For its part, the plant increases its chances of being pollinated by being a focus of the chiropterine aviators who also benefit from a tasty supply of nectar from the ring of flowers.

How could you not want to read a book that reveals such a wonder? Cox, who acoustically engineers classrooms and concert halls for a living reveals many more exotic noises: creaking glaciers, whispering galleries, stalactite organs, musical roads, humming dunes, seals that sound like alien angels, and a Mayan pyramid that chirps like a bird. Listen up, this is a book worth reading.

The Sound Book: The Science of the Sonic Wonders of the World Paperback (2015) Trevor Cox, Published by W. W. Norton & Co; ISBN-10: 0393350584 ISBN-13: 978-0393350586.

Listen up bat man, this is a sound book is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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The hormone’s on the wall

Sciencebase - 16 March, 2015 - 11:09

Molecular astrophysicist “Invader Xan” just posted a photo on Twitter showing a chemical structure painted on the wall at Schloss Ringberg. It looked like a steroid hormone to me and Invader, but were weren’t sure which. It didn’t take more than a minute or so for me to draw it on the emolecules site and do a quick search: 17-acetyl-10,13-dimethyl-1,2,6,7,8,9,11,12,14,15,16,17-dodecahydrocyclopent a[a]phenanthren-3-one, better known as progesterone or pregn-4-ene-3,20-dione a hormone involved in menstruation, pregnancy, embryogenesis in humans and other species.

invader-xan-steroid

The hormone’s on the wall is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Grammar numpty flowchart

Sciencebase - 16 March, 2015 - 10:50

We’ve all been there…spotted a typo in someone’s tweet, an unfortunate autocorrection, bad grammar, misused apostrophes, their instead of there, tragic spelling mistakes. Grammar and spelling are important, of course. But, is it your place to correct your fellow twitter users? Maybe they’re on a crowded commuter train and simply desperate to share that photo of a sleeping passenger dribbling over The Times crossword, maybe they have other things on their mind (Instagramming their food, yelling (virtually) whassup via WhatsApp, liking something unlikeable on Facebook, etc etc). Either way, don’t get labelled a grammar numpty, use this hand flowchart to help you decide whether to interject when you spot a typo or other error…

grammar-numpty-flowchart

Grammar numpty flowchart is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Reactive Sabbatical

Reactive Reports - 6 May, 2014 - 17:16

As you may have noticed, Reactive Reports has been somewhat less active than it was during its golden years, 1999 to 2009. I am still writing lots about chemistry and science in general, but updating the various blogs and websites where there is no longer a commissioning editor, as it were, has had to take a backseat in preference to the writing that pays the bills in order to allow me to indulge my other creative passions – music and photography.

I’ve always used some of my own photos where I could to illustrate blogs, news and features and websites, you can see some of my recent albums via my flickr pages. During the last year or so I have been fine-tuning (hahah) my songwriting and production skills to put together an eclectic collection of originals, some acoustic and folky, some electric and indie, a few funky, and one a bit long and proggy. Anyway, the fruits of that musical labour are now available from the usual online musical outlets including BandCamp.

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