Syndicate content
Journalist, Photographer, Musician
Updated: 1 day 18 hours ago

Aurous for free music

2 October, 2015 - 10:40

Listen up!

Aurous…nice name…ish…as you may have heard will look a bit like Spotify, behave a little like Apple Music and will be far more unsinkable than The Pirate Bay. If you liked the original music P2P systems, Napster, Kazaa, Audiogalaxy, Limewire, IRC sharing channels, Usenet binaries, and then Bit Torrents, cos you didn’t want to actually pay for music, then Aurous will be your go to outlet. This site could be the final death knell of a nineteenth century copyright industry that began with sheet music and rolled on through wax cylinders, 78s, 45s, CDs, mp3s and streaming…made billions for a tiny few and left millions of artists and music fans floundering in its wake for decades.

The RIAA, copyright trolls, industry mobsters and all the others will soon be as dust. But, then what of the songwriters and musicians? Well, many of them have already turned to a new 21st model of making a living from their music that might work for some but for most will not, sadly. The industry as we knew it with its sharp, cutting contracts, its years and years of record shop hype, its supposed vinyl revival, it’s “pay-what-you-want” offers, even its cassette reissues(!) will be pretty much gone within a year or two. It may rise Phoenix like into some other manifestation, but its wings will be scorched and it will never fly again.

Original source: Aurous for free music by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Facebook traffic light system

2 October, 2015 - 08:07

There are numerous traffic light systems around the world, obviously there are actual traffic lights to control vehicular movements, but there are also traffic light information systems for the salt, fat and sugar levels in processed foods you might buy from the supermarket. There are traffic lights for health checks (for those who ignore the food traffic lights). There are traffic lights for educators, for journalists, for nurses. There is even a traffic light system for open access publishing.

Now, Sciencebase introduces version 0.1 alpha of the Facebook Traffic Lights system for determining whether to share, unfollow or unfriend someone based on their latest status update.* Did a friend share a “joke” or meme that is more than a week old? One that everybody has already shared a million times or that is just so lame that it is zero (the opposite of LOL in otherwords). Did they share a lame quiz or propagate scam/spam/fakery? Have they mentioned Trump in a non-ironic way? Don’t get caught at the lights, printout our handy schematic at a suitablke size and nail it** to your laptop/tablet/phone.


*Readying the hoisting apparatus for my own petard
**Not really

Original source: Facebook traffic light system by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Smell of walnuts

30 September, 2015 - 19:19

Walnuts are an odd fruit…nut… I plucked one from a tree on a recent dogwalk and when I cut off the fleshy out coating this evening to get to the kernel the overwhelming odour it exuded took me right back to the first flat I shared with Mrs Sciencebase where we had a walnut tree. Of course, unprocessed you have to remove that outer flesh and then crack the soft(ish) shell and then remove the bitter pith to eat the deliciously sweet kernel. The pith is very bitter and to be honest, I don’t enjoy ripe walnuts of the kind you used to get on a Walnut Whip and that are ubiquitous in a Christmas bag of mixed nuts.

Anyway, I was curious as to what the odour of slightly unripe walnuts is musing with a chemist’s brain that there might be a single compound responsible. There isn’t, there’s a whole collection of compounds that give walnuts their distinctive scent: pinocarvone, aa-aldehyde canfolenic, chrysanthenone, trans-pinocarveol, trans-ßß-farnesene, trans-ßß-verbenol, aa a-terpinene and aa a-terpinolene (the a and aa in prefixes should be alphas, and if the betas aren’t translating, they’re betas).

Intriguingly, a quick Google on walnuts revealed some work on using these various compounds and pest insect lure compounds as alternatives to conventional pesticides, more on that here. It’s too late in the evening for me to ChemDraw those compounds (i.e. it is well past beer o’clock and I have a curry bubbling in the pan) but I may update this post if there is demand from botanical/natural product chemist friends who don’t believe I could produce the chemical structures of all those alphas and betas…

Original source: Smell of walnuts by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Read without your reading glasses

30 September, 2015 - 15:43

Here’s a neat trick for long-sighted readers that exploits the underlying concept of a pinhole camera to let you read in close-up even if you forgot your reading glasses. The video also explains what it is about a pinhole versus a fixed lens that allows it to project a sharp image of something at any distance and why depth-of-field is bigger with a smaller aperture (bigger f-stop) in your standard camera

Here’s the link for those of you whose smart phones cannot render the embedded Youtube clip ;-)

Original source: Read without your reading glasses by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Superduperbloodyruddyharvester moon eclipse

28 September, 2015 - 14:08

I generated a back of the envelope graphical representation of last night’s blood-red supermoon total lunacy eclipse that’s 99% clearer than 99% of the iPad photos posted after the event:


Original source: Superduperbloodyruddyharvester moon eclipse by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Emission control

25 September, 2015 - 09:43

Car manufacturers have been fiddling the books when it comes to pollutants for years, the latest scandal involving VW’s alleged “defeat device” is just the latest in a long line, the US EPA gave other manufacturers a hard slap on the wrist back in 1998, for instance.


Thing is…this “defeat device” isn’t really a device at all, it’s just engine management that detects when emissions are being tested (basically watches to see when the steering wheel isn’t moving and a couple of other things) and switches the car to low-pollution mode. So, why don’t all cars simply run on the roads in low-pollution mode if that’s something that they can do through engine management software?

Well, basically low-pollution, means low-performance, and we, as drivers, are on the whole not interested in driving cars that are unresponsive and do not accelerate quickly to the speeds at which we like to drive. Fundamentally, the emissions regulations are set too low for the kind of society we have where drivers like nippy cars. Nippy cars sell. One slight aside, manufacturing a car uses about the same amount of energy as driving it for 100,000 miles, if we take into account the cradle-to-grave lifecycling of mining and refining the metals, making the rubber tyres, all the bits of metal and plastic and the countless assembly and delivery processes (that includes non-petrol and hybrid cars too).

Anyway, bottom line: All cars pollute. Some less than others. Cleaner cars are boring to drive.

If we want to clean up the atmosphere we have to admit that and switch to low-performance, low-pollutant cars…or better still get back on our feet and on our bicycles.

Original source: Emission control by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Adding up Hinkley Point nuclear power station

22 September, 2015 - 09:57

The British government is going to sub the Chinese and EDF to build a new reactor for Hinkley Point nuclear power station. Estimates suggest Hinkley will cost £25 billion to build. But, as is the way with such things there will be delays and hidden costs. Look at London 2012 Olympics, the original estimate when we were applying to host it said something like £3billion if I remember rightly, total cost ended up being three times that, although they claimed a half a billioon saving overall!

So, let’s be generous, Hinkley will power 6 million homes eventually and probably the total bill (not counting ongoing costs) might be £50 billion. Now, solar power isn’t perfect, basically cloudy days and energy storage are an issue, but we could save a few Watts of nuclear if we panelled up those 6 million homes instead of lumbering ourselves with outdated nuclear technology. Solar cost is currently about 6000-9000 per home, so giving away the panels would cost about £42 billion, which might leave £8 billion or so to install biogas-powered fuel cells, or a couple of wind farms to help make up the difference, and all without having to dispose of nuclear waste from old-school nuclear tech…

Original source: Adding up Hinkley Point nuclear power station by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

The apple story…

16 September, 2015 - 20:12

…no, not that one…not that one either…just the fruit.

Now, our dog is a fruitarian. Well, actually that’s not strictly true, she’s a carnivore, a coprophyte, a toastaholic, a pescatarian, a big fan of blackberries, which she nibbles from the brambles, she’s a sloe learner too, similarly nibbling off the tiny, plum-like produce of the blackthorn bushes. In fact, I should just confess, she’s a labrador. She will eat anything, and anything foul-smelling she doesn’t eat, she will roll in. Labrador guardians will know exactly what I’m talking about. As a puppy she dug up and attempted to devour all the heathers we’d planted in the garden, she tried to tear the painted, wooden skirting boards from the kitchen walls and had a good go at the plastic handle of of my half-decent (but freebie) carving knife.

And, she likes apples. Whether we’re walking through a woodland with windfall crab apples or the little red numbers that fall from our tree in the garden, she will munch them down, seeds and all. If any of the family, their friends, just anyone in her vicinity is eating and apple (or toast), she will sit expectantly until those in the know throw her their core. Only stuff she doesn’t eat are grapes, garlic, onions and chocolate (but that’s not her choice, that’s us avoiding her being poisoned)

Okay, so that’s the backstory. This year, our apple tree is overburdened with fruit, the lower branches are bent under the weight, almost touching the lawn. They are, needless to say, very much at nose height for a canine malophile, who was caught, not one hour ago, selecting a shiny red specimen and tugging it from its arboreal offshoot. Caught red-pawed, my wife verbally chastised the dog and then proceeded to harvest the remnants of the low-hanging fruit.


For the next hour or so, I could hear the food processor with its “juicer” grinding away those apples to relieve them of their acidic liquor and into the pan it went. Not surprisingly it having taken on the brown hue of apple exposed to the air and having undergone enzymatic browning. Now, the curious thing is, my wife added some sugar and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to this simmmering brew. The addition of the vitamin C visually reversed the browning and the pan is now gently bubbling with fifty shades of green…not even a hint of beige to be seen.

So, what’s going on? As a lowly chemist, I’d always assumed that the oxidative and enzymatic degradation of apples to that brown colour was an irreversible biochemical process. Indeed, an apple expert tells me this indeed the case, the PPO is kept separate from phenolics in a health uncut and unbruised apple; discussed in detail on the Okanagan Specialty Fruits. Obviously, you can use lemon or lime juice to stave it off (ascorbic, anti-scurvy, acid, you see?) but once it has gone over to the brown side, I’d assumed (again, as a lowly chemist) that that was it.

A quick Google, with their simplified, serif-free new logo, brought up a paper from a journal I’d not heard of, but with the obvious title of HortScience. This is promising. In a paper entitled, “Enzymatic Browning, Polyphenol Oxidase Activity, and Polyphenols in Four Apple Cultivars: Dynamics during Fruit Development” (even more promising), a team at the University of Santa Catarina in Brazil have this to say:

Enzymatic browning is one of the most important reactions that occur in fruits and vegetables, usually resulting in negative effects on color, taste, flavor, and nutritional value. The reaction is a consequence of phenolic compounds' oxidation by polyphenol oxidase (PPO), which triggers the generation of dark pigments. This is particularly relevant for apples, which are rich in polyphenols and highly susceptible to enzymatic browning.

As plant secondary metabolites, phenolic compounds produce colours, astringency, flavour, and have nutritional qualities in fruits and vegetables. Now, I should have known, and maybe I did in my past life as a lowly chemist, these compounds are perhaps acting as indicators of oxidation state and thus, as with many other indicator compounds will exist in equilibrium and thus oscillate between colours (or colourless states) depending on the concentrations of other chemicals (acids, alkalis) resident in the mix. Further Googling revealed that various people who put sliced apple in their kids’ school lunchboxes discovered that a sprinkling of vitamin C protected the slices from browning, but at least one “mom” discovered that it reversed the browning, even after a day abandoned in a lunchbox…making it fine for eating as an enforced, after-school snack for “Junior”…

There are countless web pages with tips for malophiles with the knowledge to keep their beloved fruit of life from turning brown. But, of course, you might soon be able to buy genetically modified apples approved early in 2015 by the US Department of Agriculture that have the gene for that PPO enzyme disabled, which means you should never need to just add vitamin C to keep them whiter than white, or is that greener than green?

The original condensed version of this article appeared as one of my twice-monthly Comments in the journal Materials Today.

Original source: The apple story… by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Hickory dickory dock is that bomb in your bag just a clock?

16 September, 2015 - 18:37

Pictured below is a homemade clock an American boy took to school to impress his engineering teacher. Presumably, his engineering teacher said: “What the f*ck have you brought that to school for? Sheesh, it looks like a f*ckin’ bomb! Put it in your bag and don’t let anyone see it!” The one thing he presumably didn’t say, is disconnect the 9V battery so that the alarm you set doesn’t go off later in the day and scare your English teacher…you probably all know how things panned out…

clock or bomb

A 14-year old boy in Texas was arrested in school (and later released without charge) having turned up to class with a home-made digital clock in a box. A photo was shown at the PD’s press conference of the clock, it has a digital display, batteries, a transformer, wires, and such, neat, huh? In a video, the boy discusses the incident, which has led to outrage in the US and beyond. The boy is adamant that he is always inventing stuff and has wires and circuit boards and all sorts of items lying around his bedroom, which is fine, he probably does. He even wears a NASA teeshirt to school.

Now, there is an “#IStandWithAhmed” hashtag – oh, did I mention his name was Ahmed” – and, an outcry about school and police over-reaction especially given his ethnicity and religion.

As a junior school-aged kid I was caught brewing up some chemical nonsense in a plastic vial and my parents being called in to the school, I assume now that they thought I was either trying to make explosives with washing up liquid and iron filings or else they thought I was sniffing glue. Moving on from my first chemistry experiment, I can well imagine building an entirely innocent electronic contraption of some sort in my early teens and then wanting to show it off, perhaps gaining a few extra Brownie points with the science teacher for my wonderful invention. I can also imagine someone being rather mischievous and taking the showing off a little too far…perhaps kidding themselves that their invention was a little more sinister than it actually was and taking it to school not to get a gold star from the teacher, but to garner some rather lacking street cred with their schoolmates, who might no longer see them as that nerdy swot with the lame teeshirt. Of course, a non-science teacher seeing that “invention” might panic, especially if a beeping alarm goes off in something hidden in a bag under a desk. The police might even be called…

Imaginings aside, the reaction to Ahmed’s clock was extreme, even in a school with zero tolerance policies couldn’t they have just taken him aside and explained how his gadget might be perceived by technophobes subjected to endless media scaremongering? Indeed, the first teacher to see it apparently had warned him to not show it around because it might cause problems and it was the alarm going off that annoyed the English teacher and disrupted the class. A firm warning and then a show-and-tell might have been the best way forward. I have to say, it’s obvious, the school never thought it was an actual bomb, not after the second teacher’s initial shock, perhaps. But, it doesn’t look like a “cool” clock as President Obama tweeted*. If you got an unexpected parcel in the post and opened it to find that inside, you’d extrude a brick from the lower end of your alimentary canal pretty rapidly (unless you were au fait with electronic components), go on, admit it, you would.

According to CBS News even the Islamic Association of North Texas kind of agrees and doesn’t blame the school or the police for what happened. It’s spokesman, Khalid Hamideh, had this to say, CBS reports:

"We're not pointing a finger at the school district or the police department," Hamideh said. "Under the current climate that exists in this country, you can't really blame them because when they see something like that, they have to react."


There is a bit of confusion in the various stories out there as to what actually happened. At a broadcast press conference, the boy says he wanted to impress his teacher but when he showed it to her, she thought it was a threat to her. That’s not how the earliest, outraged reporting had it, that had said he’d showed it to a male engineering teacher who told him not to show any other teachers because of how it looked (so that teacher new it looked dodgy). It was supposedly only later when the clock’s alarm went off that the female English teacher was disturbed by what he had brought to school and events unfolded.

As a footnote, I searched online for novelty timebomb alarm clocks, there is, seriously, at least one here. If you were a teacher and a student turned up to school with this toy in their rucksack what would you do? Remember, NASA teeshirts whether S, M, or XXXL are not bulletproof.

amazon-timebomb*As I was writing the first draft of this, I saw that Obama had tweeted the following: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

Talking of which, Wired magazine has an interesting article on how to make your own clock that isn’t a bomb and the makers of the Raspberry Pi minimalist computer are seeing the incident as a way to encourage youngsters to fall in love with technology and inventing, and rightly so.

It seems poignant to recall my post about juvenile experimenters and inventors that I wrote at the beginning of the year.

Original source: Hickory dickory dock is that bomb in your bag just a clock? by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Barefoot running – watch your step

15 September, 2015 - 09:11

Usually, as small children we spend a lot of time running around barefoot, as we grow shoes and trainers become de rigeur for most of us, especially if we’re involved in sport. And, Zola Budd and other top athletes aside, there were few who went running barefoot, at least until about ten years ago when barefoot, or “minimalist”, running started to become trendy. It is purportedly better for you in terms of the body’s biomechanics, the stresses and strains and the possibility of injury. Of course, unless you’re somewhere pristine, like a gym treadmill, there are the risks of thorns, stones, broken glass, dog mess and more if you’re a minimalist runner out in the field, as it were.


But, are those claims for BF running valid? A friend of mine who had a motorbike injury many years ago that left him unable to run reckons he’s rediscovered his ability to run by going minimalist. And, good luck to him! But, I did a very quick scan of the scientific literature on BF running, there are quite a few papers around and notably one published in the August issue of Human Movement Science (2015 Aug; 42:27-37. DOI: 10.1016/j.humov.2015.04.008) that suggests that just 30 seconds on a treadmill barefoot, even if you usually wear trainers to run, is enough for the body to adapt to the new format. However, there are significant changes in the kinematics and electrical activity of muscles in the lower leg, not all of which are positive, according to the paper. First, BF running seems to be performed with higher cadence and shorter strides, there is an increase in ankle ROM (range of motion) but this decreases in the knee and hip. Activity in the gastrocnemius goes up, but falls in the tibialis anterior. This preliminary study was small, just ten volunteer runners.

The team point out that although the runners adapt to barefoor running on a treadmill quickly, “these rapid adjustments in muscle recruitment and kinematics did not appear to reduce stress on the lower limb, since tibial shock was significantly higher during the BF running” at all three running speeds tested. They conclude that, “It therefore remains to be seen if a transition to running barefoot is truly desirable for improved performance or reduced risk of injury,” and add that, “Further research examining long-term injury rates is therefore required before a transition to barefoot running can be recommended.”

Original source: Barefoot running – watch your step by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Music: emotion by proxy

25 August, 2015 - 10:32

david-bradley-bowieI’ve always loved music, in the words of the song, “music was my first love”. From the time when I’d listen to my mother trilling the songs of Dusty Springfield on washday, to my Dad’s Big O and Frank Ifield impressions. From the time I had my first toy glockenspiel and a miniature guitar, through the time my little sister decided she didn’t want to learn to play guitar and I was riff happy to take the axe off her hands (still got it along with a few additions in the intervening four decades or so) to the present day and my deluded attempts to reinvent my middle-aged self as a hybrid of David Bowie and Peter Gabriel but without the masks, makeup and gold lame hotpants…

We talk about music evoking emotions, about moving pieces of music, and I remember as a small child being brought to tears by the theme tune to the French children’s drama about a small boy, Sebastian, and his a Pyrenean mountain dog Belle set in Belvédère in Alpes-Maritimes, that seemed to be repeated endlessly during the long school summer holidays.

In a classic TED Talk, conductor Benjamin Zander talks of one-buttock piano playing and has his captivated audience in tears explain the emotive power of Chopin’s use of chordal suspense and musical resolution in one of his preludes. Music captivates, fascinates, makes us cry, makes us laugh, rouses and arouses us, angers us, amuses us. And, that’s even before anyone has added any words to an instrumental piece and called it a song.

But, something about music bothers me. It’s an emotional placebo, isn’t it? Am I right? The emotions we feel when we listen to music, they’re real, but they are triggered by something that is somehow not real. A song that makes you cry is triggering something emotionally, but it’s not a genuine unhappy occasion that brings one to tears, it’s a succession of notes and chords, a tune, a melody… not a real sad “event”, it’s just noises. It’s not an incident, nor an accident the likes of which would make you truly sad. Accidents will happen as Elvis Costello taught us so evocatively, but what is it

that we are feeling when we listen to music that brings us to tears or makes us want to rhythmically jump for joy? I remember an interview with Phil Collins in which he mused that when you’re feeling sad you put on a sad song for the purposes of emotional reinforcement, I assume, he meant, again it’s as if we also want to bolster our emotions with the placebo-like trigger.

It may well be that a particular piece of music reminds us of something sad, something happy, or whatever emotion is being triggered, but what did the three-year old me watching Belle and Sebastian and listening to the theme music have to be sad about? What was that tune reminding me of? Why did it make me cry? It wasn’t the words, they were in French and I didn’t learn my “schoolboy French” with Mrs Nancarrow until I was…a schoolboy…several years later. Moreover, there are definitely cultural differences too and the dirges of western funeral music is in sharp contrast to the happy-sounding jangly bells and percussion of some Pacific cultures.

A new clue to help explain why music is emotional emerged this month from medical science because of renewed interest in the therapeutical potential of psychedelic drugs such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). It is well known that LSD was widely used by artists and musicians in the 1950s and 1960s and one might imagine that it isn’t just Lucy in the sky that owes her existence to the substance (allegedly), but many other songs and concept albums and their covers! Now, a modern placebo-controlled study of whether or not LSD enhances the emotional response to instrumental music has shown in a small group of volunteer daytrippers that the drug apparently boosts emotions such as “wonder”, “transcendence”, “power” and “tenderness”. Given that other drugs can cause or “simulate” excitement (caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines), empathy (ecstasy), relaxation (cannabis), sensual pleasure (heroin, chocolate), depression and loss of inhibitions (alcohol) it’s perhaps not a shock that another drug can affect other emotions.

Mark Changizi in his book “Harnessed”, as I’ve discussed in the blog before (November 2011), suggests (I do believe) that music moves us because it hooks into a primitive part of our brain that hears sounds in terms of our fellow apes moving around and or predators and prey coming and going. The Doppler effect lets us know whether those heavy steps are running towards us or away. So, sounds might trigger primitive emotions by hooking into the fight or flight response and setting us up to lash out or run away, perhaps. While other sounds might be evocative of prey to be stalked or a mate to be wooed? Maybe too, there are noises of sadness that one might hear if someone is sick or dying.

“I suppose I might suggest they’re real emotions, albeit evoked by a fictional human mover,” Changizi told me this week. Music equates to emotion for so many of us, we love it, cannot live without it, are desperate to hear and make new music as well as keen to listen on repeat to old favourites and golden oldies. And, yet…while the emotions feel so real, they’re not as authentic as the emotions we feel when faced by those incidents and accidents, when times are good or bad, happy or sad. Maybe “emotional placebo” is not quite the right phrase, although music is not only emotional but often healing too, an emotional rescue, you might say. It’s a stimulus that tugs at our heart’s different strings by proxy. Perhaps music is working like a kind of emotional synesthesia. Just as those with that condition can hear colors, smell textures, for instance, perhaps music (which really is just sounds) is stimulating the emotion centers in the brain as if it is a real happy, sad or other happening that we are experience and triggering the same response.

Changizi offers an additional insight, “Is a television show a proxy stimulus? Are the emotions resulting from TV fake?” he asks. Where I argue that music is more abstract than that, he suggests that, “Music is just more abstract fiction than television. But still amounts to a stimulus which seems to your brain like a story of an individual moving around you doing stuff. But a more emotional story, not with the people talking.”

As an aside, my good friend James (Fentiger), pointed out to me that the melancholic musical genres in songwriting are often misunderstood. I took this to mean, without his actually saying, that: this kind of emotional music isn’t about being negative or down, it’s about recognising the human condition, our existential angst, and tugging at our heart strings to make us enjoy the love and beauty in the world more…while we can. “A perfect description,” James reckons, “I think it’s about connecting to the realities of life, no matter how grim…it’s about relating which can be comforting, and bring hope too.”

Whatever the answer, I’d just like to say thank you for the music and put another record on.

The Mighty Fall by Dave Bradley

An abridged version of my blog post appeared first in a Materials Today comment piece.

Original source: Music: emotion by proxy by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Nettle stings

22 August, 2015 - 08:05

Wellcome Images describes its 100,000 strong collection of high-resolution images as “one of the world’s richest and most unusual collections”. You cannot deny that making a nettle sting the subject of a photo is an unusual thing to do:


The image above is a colourised scanning electron micrograph of the sting cells of a nettle leaf (Urtica dioica). The stings themselves are hollow spikes of silica (sand/glass) that snap easily when your bare knees or other body part brush against the leaves. The stinging contents of the spikes are released from a bulb at the base and contain formic acid (same as ant venom), histamine (also in wasp stings and the same inflammatory chemical released by our bodies when we have allergies), acetylcholine and serotonin (neurotransmitters that stimulate our nervous system), a chemical concoction that is the perfect recipe for pain.

There is no evidence that rubbing a dock leaf on a nettle sting has anything more than a placebo effect, but that can be sufficient when it is temporary, acute pain anyway!

As I’ve discussed before on Sciencebase, nettles are the only plant on which brush-footed butterflies will lay their eggs.

Original source: Nettle stings by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs


11 August, 2015 - 17:16

A conducting wire that can be stretched to 14 times its original length has been developed by scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas, US. They say it could find use in flexible electronics devices and artificial muscles, as well as other devices such as giant deformation strain sensors.

You can read my full news story about this in Chemistry World

Original source: Super-elastic by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

Goodbye, Hello Google+

8 August, 2015 - 07:38

UPDATE: Still not quite out of the door, I’ve umbuttoned my coat and sat back down to have a cuppa and a slice of cake with the various people who didn’t wish me on my way…so, whatever Google actually does with G+ in the long run, I’ll sit a spell…

I have been on Google+ from week 1, as with all their other services, I hankered after an invitation to get started as soon as they were announced and did my best to make something of each of them. Indeed, I had 16000+ people circling me on G+ as of this morning and more than half a million views. Little engagement though, very few comments and rarely a share over those four years, which suggests to me either that my content is just too boring for people to comment or else they weren’t really there in the first place (I do hope it’s the latter or I’ve been peening in the wind this last quarter century!)


But, I have other evidence beyond my content. I looked at some stats for one of the big outlets and they were seeing thousands of reads/likes on Facebook for each article, a mere dozen or two on Twitter, but just one or two individuals on G+. The outlet is big and I mean big, so one would expect decent stats for all social media and that should include G+ but it simply doesn’t. G+ was meant to be more than Facebook, it was always less, despite “Hangouts”.

It seems to me like G+ is going the way of so many other Google “services” when the company finally realises that its attempts to emulate the success of other sites isn’t working out so well. Remember Google Wave, iGoogle, Orkut, Knol, Google Reader, Google Buzz etc? No? Well I was there when those started and had high hopes for them but they were all ultimately consigned to the web 2.0 scrapheap. Google recently announced that it would no longer oblige users to have a G+ account to use other services as it had before. It’s the first hint from them that things aren’t perhaps going as planned.

Anyway, I duly announced that I was not going to share anything new on G+ from now on and got more comments on that post than I’d had on any other for quite some time, ironically enough. Generally, I’d say passive-aggressive responses effectively saying “so long” and allusions to my being part of the problem for G+ by disconnecting. Hey guys, there was no need to kick me out of the door just because I reached for my coat…couldn’t you have offered me another cuppa and a slice of cake? I am not really having second thoughts though, give it six months and you will remember this conversation with a nod when Google makes the announcement but I’ll just not be there to bother saying, “I told you so!”

As an aside: This from John Brandon in Inc echoes the impression I got from the people who commented on my grabbing my coat: “The popular view on Google+ is that it will soldier on and possibly even rebound. I don’t think so. When Google closes a door, they rarely open a window. The reason they are splitting up these services is because they want to save their investment in them and salvage the code before shuttering Google+ once and for all.”

Original source: Goodbye, Hello Google+ by David Bradley.

Categories: Science Blogs

WebElements: the periodic table on the WWW []

Copyright 1993-2015 Mark Winter [The University of Sheffield and WebElements Ltd, UK]. All rights reserved.