Monthly Archives: February 2011

Picture This – When Image Isn’t Everything

A few days ago whilst browsing on the Guardian’s Science blogs, I was fascinated by the video below, one of the winning entries for the Wellcome Image Awards 2011.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Truely amazing stuff! For those of you scratching your heads wondering what the hell you’re looking at, it’s a mouse embryo, 12 days after conception, imaged using a technique called Optical Projection Topography (OPT). Long story short, to gain 3D projections of objects such as mouse embryos, one could either slice up the object and take an image of each slice, and then reassemble it (like one of those grey 3D puzzles you may have been bought for Christmas), or you’d essentially do the same thing without literally slicing it up, but instead use light focused at different planes through an object; a technique called confocal microscopy. Both methods are a bit time consuming even for objects smaller than a whole mouse embryo, which is roughly the size of a M&M. I don’t know much about OPT (have a read through >this< if you’re interested), but it’s certainly a powerful technique to enable the microscope imaging of a relatively large object such as a 12-day old mouse embryo with such detail.

Clearly the images obtained of this embryo are scientifically fascinating, and I’m sure many discoveries are being made using these images and others gained using similar methods. Even removing it from it’s scientific context, this is visually stunning – though your Gran might not have it on her mantlepiece, and it might make a bit of a dull screensaver. Seeing this image got me thinking about how much of science, in papers, posters and presentations, is related in images and movies. But is it ever the case that ‘pretty pictures’ sometimes distract attention away from ‘real data’? Where is the line between a great scientific image for a ‘purpose’ and a great image just for it’s own sake? And is the latter appropriate in a scientific report/presentation, beyond Image Awards and Photography Competitions?

Continue reading



Filed under musings, procrastination

Top Time-Killers – the ultimate, ever-expanding, all-consuming, but hopefully-not-PhD-ruining list

We’ve all been there – you’ve got some time to kill.

Maybe you’ve got a centrifuge spinning for half an hour, or you’ve got an analysis running on some huge data set, or you’re FACSing and you’ve no idea why you’ve got to hang around, or you’re waiting for some epic tiled Z-stack on the confocal, or you’re waiting for you undergraduate to fail at what ever they’re doing, or you’ve come back from lunch and you’ve got a coffee break with a friend in 15 mins. Whatever. You’ve got some time that you can’t really do anything useful in, but you need to fill it with something.

Sure, you could clean your desk. You could read a paper. You could start writing your thesis. You could go on Facebook again.

But work isn’t everything, as CCPB should know. So when you’ve got some time you need to fill whilst you’re doing some menial task, do something enjoyable. Here’s a few suggestions, some from my own experience, some recommended by friends, and some just plucked from the top of my head.

Continue reading


Filed under procrastination, resources

Stupid Science News Story (#4732) – Junk food makes your stupid child stupid

BBC Breakfast – specialists in moaning and scaremongering pre-8am, and plugging new books and albums post-8am (but that’s ok, it’s still ‘public service broadcasting’, right?) – spewed this delicious news story in my face this morning. I was also delighted to hear it was the leading news story on the front page of Daily Mail.

The premise of the story is this – if your child eats junk food from an early age, they’ll be less intelligent later on in life. Following what must be standard “science news article in mainstream media” protocol, neither article links the original paper from which this story originates. I’ll save you the hassle – it’s >here< (doi:10.1136/jech.2010.111955)

Continue reading


Filed under procrastination, science vs media

The Sound Of Science – The Best Science Music Video Parodies

Scientists are not boring. We have fun too. Whether it’s relating your PhD with interpretive dance, knowing when you’re a biologist or a chemist, or playing seminar bingo, science fun is science at its best and fun at its geekiest.

In recent years, there has been a flurry of science parody music videos, combining pop culture, lyrics requiring citation references, and dance moves that were probably invented and rehearsed on a dark cold friday night in the lab. People everywhere (oh, alright, scientists) are lapping them up – one of the most recent ones, a parody of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ called “Bad Project” (see below), has already hit over 1.8 million views since 20th Jan this year. And quite rightly so, because it’s great. So I’d thought I’d compile a list of some of the best ones, and I will probably over time add to this list. Enjoy!

Continue reading


Filed under procrastination