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Butterflies and the nettle patch

21 April, 2015 - 15:10

Many species of brush-footed butterfly rely on nettles (Urtica dioica) for their caterpillars to thrive, among them, the comma (Polygonia c-album), the peacock (Inachis io), small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and red admiral (Vanessa atalanta).

nettles-rebranded

Sciencebase – currently rebranding weeds as wildflowers…

Butterflies and the nettle patch is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Puffins and razorbills

15 April, 2015 - 10:59

Apparently, puffins prefer to be deeper into rocky crevices on coastal cliff faces than razorbills (and guillemots) who cling to the edges. The puffin then has to wait until those other birds fly off, before it can get away itself to feed and socialise.


Puffins and razorbills is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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RSPB Bempton Cliffs

14 April, 2015 - 14:02

Sheer coincidence that we were visiting the East Riding of Yorkshire last week when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) opened its new visitor centre at Bempton Cliffs. We approached the reserve on two walks first from North Landing on Flamborough Head where I photographed coble fishers landing and unloading their boat and then from the village of Speeton with its tiny Anglo-Saxon church (St Leonard’s and its flock of rarebreed Leicester Longwool sheep).

Bempton Cliffs plays host to England’s largest nesting colony of Northern Gannets (Sula bassana), graceful and quiet in flight and far more beautiful than their rather ugly name. The cliffs also host countless kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and puffins as well as pigeons, rooks and herring gulls.

RSPB Bempton Cliffs is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Smartphone camera hacks

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Dopamine and Desire

12 March, 2015 - 12:44

We are all essentially addicted to dopamine…we seek out things that stimulate the release of this neurotransmitter in our brains, dopamine activity hooks into the pleasure and reward centres, it makes us feel good. Some things stimulate those centres more than others…but whatever your choice, it’s down to dopamine…

Dopamine & Desire

White sheets without emotion
Soaking up your fever
Watching from the corner of your eye

Floating round in circles
Your limbs as flailing cleavers
Thrashing with the torment in your eye

The pulse of failed addiction
Scratching at the ceiling
With the needles of desire

Tomorrow never knows what today would bring
The day before the aftermath
The eve of all the yesterday’s bitter sting

Words, music & production by dB
Vocal, guitars, bass, programming dB

dopamine-and-desire-pinterest

Dopamine and Desire is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Epigenome links nature and nurture

10 March, 2015 - 17:41

“Cells use their DNA code in different ways, depending on their jobs [heart, brain, lung, skin cell etc] — just as the [chamber] orchestra in this video can perform one piece of music in many different ways. The combination of changes in gene expression in a cell is called its epigenome.”

Epigenomic changes are chemical changes, ‘tweaks’, to DNA and to the protein packaging the DNA. They don’t directly affect genes themselves but affect regions of the genetic code that turns genes on or off. Methylation is one such tweak that primes a gene to be switched off. Environment, diet, exercise and activity, whether you smoke or drink, and many other external factors can alter your epigenome, thus providing a link between nature and nurture, your behaviour, health, longevity, and even those characteristics of your offspring and grandchildren. More on the symphony playing in your cells here.

KEYWORDS: Epigenome, epigenomic, epigenetics, genetics, genome, genomics, gene, genes, DNA, methylation, health, disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease (AD)

Epigenome links nature and nurture is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Are you a tetrachromat?

2 March, 2015 - 17:51

Riding in on the train of *that* dress – is it gold/white or blue/black a lot of colour vision questions have emerged. Despite people becoming quickly bored after the initial couture virality and now that it’s been around the world’s media 50 times in all its shades, there is still plenty to say. Wired pretty much wrapped up the threads, so I won’t go into that and you can Google it if you really want to see their article.

But, there’s a “spectrum” looking chart of different colourful shades, hues doing the rounds now. If you see fewer than 20 different hues, the article accompanying it says, you’re probably a dichromat, two cones in the retina of your eye or one of the three not functioning in the way it should. If you see between 20 and 32 you’re a trichromat, three fully functioning cones. But, if you see 32-39 different colours you have a fourth type of cone in your retina making you a tetrachromat; colours are much more distinguished apparently, but they’re not so keen on yellow. If you can see more than 39 colours, you’re not a pentachromat, you’re a little fibber.

When I looked at the chart, I thought I could see 36 hues, well definitely more than 32…it seemed to depend on what angle I was looking at my laptop screen and whether my eyes were scanning across the width of the spectrum rather than staring as to whether distinct bands appeared. I couldn’t get a consistent count, definitely at least 32, but possibly just 32. So, I scouted around for an alternative test for tetrachromicity, which looks a bit like the standard test for so-called “colour blindness” (dichromaticity). If you can see anything other than the three obvious colours seen by trichromats, then you’re obviously a tetrachromat…except that…hmmm…

tetrachromat-test

It got me thinking. How can these tests be valid? Computer screens only use red-green-pixels, they cannot display all the hues a tetrachromat would be able to see. I checked around and found another blogger who agrees, an online test cannot demonstrate tetrachromicity. As she says: “computer screens do not provide enough colour information to be able to ‘tap into’ the extra dimension that tetrachromats may possess”. Vision expert, Mark Changizi confirmed this point.

So, if you were counting almost 50 shades hues of colour in that chart and imagining that you somehow have a superpower, well, the odds are against you.

Are you a tetrachromat? is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Silent Spring master notes

27 February, 2015 - 12:10

UPDATE: I cranked up the bass a little on the latest mix, check it out, it’ll get your blood pumping…

I posted my song, The Silent Spring from critique on one of the songwriter forums and got a few listens and some nice positive comments, in particular with regard to the mastering I did…an area in which I’m really just a novice.

But, here are a few notes about what I did, just for my own personal notekeeping to be honest, but others might find them interesting if they’ve listened to the song. I suppose I could share the pre-mastered version, but there’s little point suffice to say it sounds quite dull and lifeless tonally compared to the mastered version, which is bright, sparkly and fills the stereo field with crisp and clear resolution between the different instruments and voices, thanks to my tweaking a preset in the iZotope Ozone mastering software, not because of any skill of mine (other than listening and feeling that it sounded right).

From my reply to the forum:

Mastering…I really ain’t an expert. But it seems to boil down to getting all the parts to sound as good as you can individually and making them work together at that level first (getting a good mix, in other words) and then working at the master track level to do EQ (equalisation), stereo imaging/widening, compression (to dampen down any too loud bits) then maximising/limiting to bump up the sound without it distorting in that order on the whole thing as a whole. Oh, some reverb in there too, to bring it all together and give it an ambience as if you’re hearing it in a hall or something.

You can do all that with the basic plugins, the VSTs, in my DAW (digital audio workstation, it’s Mixcraft, which is like Garage Band but for Windows). But for this song, I used a demo version of iZotope Ozone 5 and started from one of its presets called “Excitation and widening” and moved the various sliders or which there are many until it sounded as good as I could get it to sound to my ears in my headphones…

In future productions, I will try and emulate what Ozone does using VSTs for those four/five components mentioned above (thanks to MonoStone for spelling them out for me via email, he’s the real expert). I should also namecheck James Z, who gave me some early EQ lessons but also pointed out what mastering can do.

mixcraft-screenshot

I think in the old days mastering was more about making a tune work for the pressing technology of vinyl records. These days it’s really just about adding sparkle and width to the song and improving the clarity (and boosting it for radio), so that each track you scooped and FXed sounds as good as possible sitting in with all the others.

This song has quite a few tracks – lead vocal, three sets of backing vocals (with the female doubled), lead guitar, lead guitar for solo (doubled), electric rhythm guitar, acoustic rhythm guitar (doubled), arpeggio acoustic guitar (doubled), bass guitar, percussion, I think that’s it…

I reckon I’ve spent about 10-15 hours on it in total from writing the first chord progression and ad libbing the lyrics to recruiting Emmazen and mastering it…and not counting the 37 years of playing guitar before getting to that point, hahahah.

You can hear the song via the Sciencebase Dave Bradley BandCamp page or on Soundcloud.

Silent Spring master notes is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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The Silent Spring

26 February, 2015 - 16:45

A song of hope with an allusion to both the book of the eponymous title and recent revolutionary springs…

The Silent Spring by Dave Bradley

The Silent Spring

They tell us history is a lesson to learn
Too many times we ignore it
They say the danger is a stranger to burn
Through the seasons they implore it

It doesn’t matter how near or how far
The border lands we deplore them
They feed us lies that just won’t settle the score
Fail to see that we abhor them

Across the desert a healing wind blows
Now the promise of a silent spring
Though lines were drawn and the borders were closed
Above the cloud the eagle spreads her wings
Above the cloud the eagle spreads her wings

They say that fear is the enemy within
Too many times that we have sworn it
From East to West their lies begin to wear thin
The oath I swore I could ignore it

Across the desert a healing wind blows
Now’s the promise of a silent spring
Though lines were drawn and the borders were closed
Above the cloud the eagle spreads her wings

And through the valleys a healing wind blows
With the promise of a silent spring
The lines were cut but no borders are closed
Above the cloud the eagle spreads her wings
Above the cloud the eagle spreads her wings

And in the cities a healing wind blows
With the culture of a vital sting
The ties once cut and all borders exposed
Above the cloud the eagle spreads her wings

And through the desert a healing wind blows
With the promise of a silent spring
The lines once cut and our feelings deposed
Above the cloud the eagle spreads her wings
Above the cloud the eagle spreads her wings

Words & Music by Dave Bradley
Vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, bass dB
Backing vocals @Emmazen
Arranged and produced by dB

The amazing @Emmazen joined me on backing vocals and her voice soars like an eagle on this one. This version is the high-res remixed and remastered song available for download from BandCamp. You can also have a listen via the Sciencebase SoundCloud page.

silent-spring-pinterest

The photo was taken from Stiffkey Marshes in North Norfolk looking across to distant coastal pine trees embedded in sand dunes under a glowering evening sky.

The Silent Spring is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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How to calculate wind chill

24 February, 2015 - 10:18

Wind-chill, windchill, wind chill factor, wind chill index is an estimate of how cold you will feel at a given air temperature when there is a wind blowing. It is a popular tool used by weather presenters to make you feel worse about going outside when it’s cold and windy! Seriously, if, for example, the reported air temperature (as measured by a thermometer housed in one of those white boxes with the grills, a Stevenson screen, or shelter) is -7 Celsius and the wind is blowing at a steady 8 km/h, then it will “feel” like it’s -11 Celsius. But why and how does one get from -7 to -11, 4 degress C cooler?

wind-chill-index

Here’s the physics and formula courtesy of Wikipedia: “A surface loses heat through conduction, convection, and radiation. The rate of convection depends on the difference in temperature between the surface and its surroundings. As convection from a warm surface heats the air around it, an insulating boundary layer of warm air forms against the surface. Moving air disrupts this boundary layer, or epiclimate, allowing for cooler air to replace the warm air against the surface. The faster the wind speed, the more readily the surface cools.” Additionally, skin sweats so air blowing on exposed sweaty skin will cause cooling by evaporation, but the likelihood of you sweating and then exposing your skin when you’re outside and it’s -7 Celsius is quite low…

The calculation used by the US and UK weather forecasters and meteoroligists for wind chill is quite complicated looking but relatively easy to implement with a modern calculator, although different regions use different units F vs C, mph vs kmh, so you have to make sure you’re using the appropriate formula. A neat chart (by RicHard-59 on Wiki) saves you the trouble of doing the calculations yourself, if you’re a common or garden weather presenter.

And, here’s a nice video description of wind chill that I first saw mentioned on the Free Technology for Teachers blog:

For pedants in Australia, it’s rare that a wind chill is observed, you might want to try “heat index” instead… ;-)

How to calculate wind chill is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Is it okay to kick a robot?

12 February, 2015 - 15:34

By now, you’ve probably seen the astounding quadruped robots that have been built and demonstrated by Boston Dynamics. These machines run like four-legged animals and don’t seem to mind when their human companions give them a kick…hold on…give them a kick? Is that really the best example to set impressionable people watching the videos?

One could argue that it’s a machine, it doesn’t “mind” being kicked, if that demonstrates just how robust the software and servos are to disturbances in the forces around them. But, it is still quite a disconcerting thing to see. The next generation might be togged up with heads and fur, for instance, to make them look even more like animals, that would make for even more uncomfortable viewing, I reckon. And, then, of course, ultimately, such a robot might be endowed with artificial intelligence, sentience, even. Would kicking a bot that knows what you’re doing be moral?

This also raises another question. If we build sentient robots, would it be sensible to give them pain receptors? Would we want them to know to avoid things that might hurt. And, Asimov aside, might a robot in pain having been kicked feel that retaliation was the ethical thing to do from its perspective?

Is it okay to kick a robot? is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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Follow me, follow them

5 February, 2015 - 09:07

Not quite in the words of the 1978 Genesis hit “Follow you, follow me”, I took a look at Twitter dashboard and found that there is a neat Top 9 (don’t ask) of twitter users who a lot of people who follow @sciencebase also follow

sciencebase-followers@NASA · @NatGeo · @wiredscience · @TEDTalks · @Discovery · @ScienceNews · @neiltyson · @NatureNews · @guardianscience

Follow me, follow them is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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My first chemistry experiment #UnRealTimeChem

2 February, 2015 - 17:06

My choral friend Jo mentioned making “poisonous” orange juice when she was a nipper and giving it to a boy she and her friends didn’t like. Apparently, they crushed up some bits of plants, including foxgloves, which of course contain digitalin, the heart drug. Add enough of that to his OJ and they could’ve been in serious trouble. Just as well there was no belladonna (deadly nighshade) or monkshood (Devil’s Helmet or wolfsbane).

boy-telescope

Anyway talking of serious trouble…as a kid I was always messing around with magnets and motors, batteries and bulbs, iron filings, little circuits, broken radios (well they were broken after I’d messed around with them), watches, telescopes, magnifying glasses and stuff. But, by aged 9 or 10 I’d taken my first foray into chemistry. I’d got hold of a little stoppered plastic vial and mixed up some washing-up liquid and water and added some of the 3-in-1 oil I usually drizzled on to the chain and into the little holes on the underside of my bike. I don’t remember what I was trying to do with this, my first chemistry experiment. Obviously, the mixture would have formed some kind of mucky emulsion. Hashtag #JuvenileAlchemy.

Anyway, I remember some snitch reported me to my teacher when they saw me shaking my vial behind the bike sheds (no, that is not a euphemism!). I got hauled in to see the headmaster, I think my parents were dragged in too. Of course, the vial with its gloopy contents was confiscated but not before the headmaster had a good sniff. I’m not sure what any of the adults thought I had been up to. I was just naively doing chemistry. Maybe they thought I was abusing solvents or sniffing glue or something, but at age 9 I didn’t even know that was a thing…

I almost certainly had an idea from a science library book, I used to read three or four each evening at that age. Anyway, the experience put me off chemistry for years and so I went back to messing with magnets (again, not a euphemism) and I seem to remember trying to make an electromagnet from a chunk of steel from my Dad’s toolbox and a bit of insulated wire that I jabbed into the wall socket…oh dear…did I mention I was a bit naive, almost electrocuted myself, needless to say. Still, at least I didn’t try to give anyone a heart attack with poisonous orange juice, eh?

*The photo isn’t me, by the way…

My first chemistry experiment #UnRealTimeChem is a post from the science blog of science journalist, photographer and musician David Bradley
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WebElements: the periodic table on the WWW [http://www.webelements.com/]

Copyright 1993-2011 Mark Winter [The University of Sheffield and WebElements Ltd, UK]. All rights reserved.