Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Science Singles, what what.

I know this is late, but hey, it's been a bank holiday, and I've got a paper that needs writing.

This a top week for sciencey pop music. Behold:

Amylase by Cajun Dance Party

Science? This one is an absolute gift. Amylases are genuine enzymes (biological catalysts) with a genuinely important roles in physiology. No spurious links here, ho ho ho, no siree bob . The amylases (there are three different classes, alpha, beta and gamma) are enzymes that breakdown boring old starches into tasty, tasty glucose. You produce alpha amylase in your pancreas, to break down starches in your intestine, and in your saliva (see picture below) so you can start get the glucose form starch whilst you chew. Beta amylase is produced by plants, including ripening fruit, to break down their starches to sweet glucose. I'm not 100% sure what gamma amylase does. Something in the liver. Possibly to do with glycogen. Anybody?

Is is any good? La la la, jingle jangle, nice middle class boys and girls with messy hair, trendy jeans and guitars. So far so hip and down with the kids (gah, I'm getting old). "We need a catalyst" they sing. Ah, well, what catalyst would you like? Look, they are running through the country side. They must mean beta amylase, to ripen all that grain. "You're the catalyst that makes things faster, amylase will dry out the plaster". Huh? Amylase does what? How? Who? Where? Gah, I'm sure I'd know if this was balls if I'd just sat my GCSEs, as they have. Oh to be a teenager again. But not me when I was a teenager. Oh to be a popular, cool and attractive teenager.

Next are Múm and the improbably titles They Made Frogs Smoke Til The Exploded

Sceince? Obvioulsy Múm have been reading this research, "Adaptation of an amphibian mucociliary clearance model to evaluate early effects of tobacco smoke exposure" by Zyas et al, Respiratory Research 2004, 5:9, and then added they exploding bit to make it more exciting. Well done Múm for championing esoteric research articles that observe how bullfrog palates are affected by tobacco smoke.

Is is any good? Yes! Its like the happy dreams of a Texas Instruments Speak & Spell.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Big up the woo-busters. "out of body experience" induced

Woo! Woo! That's the sound of the police.
Woo! Woo! That's the sound of the beast.

Woo woo is also a rank cocktail.

"Woo woo" is also what ghosts say in the Beano.

Woo woo is also a on-line geek name for supernatural and irrational beliefs and explanations for stuff.

One such example of woo (as all the cool geeks say) is the out-of-body experience. This is when you can float above you body and see your self form above. All very spooky.
However, all over the papers like a rather annoying rash, is this story, where Henrik Ehrsson and his colleagues induced the phenomenon by the use of some sensory trickery.
But they didn't actually induce an OoBE (is that the acronym?), the patients' conciousness didn't actually fly above their bodies.
The brain is an odd thing. So odd, it's bonza.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A better place than this

Do you ever read a a science blog, or may be a medical science one, and think:

"Hey! This is pretty much what I wanted to do when I started my rubbish science blog. But their attempt is much better than mine. Curse them, curse their eyes."

I do. Curse. Their. Eyes.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Science Singles, innit

Oh dear god no, first up is Linkin Park with Bleed It Out

How the hell are you going to tell me this is sciencey? Back in the day, before the advent of modern medicine, it seems that those trusted with the treatment of ailments seemed to be more interested in hurting their patients. One way they did this was by blood letting, which remained stupidly popular up until the 18th century, a long time after William Harvey had told everyone it was a bad idea. Obviously idiot kiddie metalers Linkin Bizkit (or whatever they are called) are joining the call for a return to pre-enlightenment medicine. Other songs off their forthcoming album include "Mustard Compress", "I'm Not Schizophrenic, I'm Just Possessed" and "Fuck Antiretrovirals, See a Faith Healer".

But is it any good? No. It is no good. It is bad.

Hurray! it's Aqualung with Pressure Suit

Science? Once again: hurray! Both the name and the title are sciencey. An aqua-lung is one of the original names for SCUBA diving equipment. Unlike earlier diving suits, aqua-lungs, developed partly by Jaques
Cousteau (with no little help from the engineer Emile Gagnan), were an open system. Air was passed from the tanks, to the diver, then released out into the water. This allowed for a lighter, more portable set or equipment, and led to modern sub-aqua exploration.
Pressure suits are are worn by pilots who fly at such altitudes that the air pressure if so low that to try and breath even pure oxygen they'd cark it. This includes astronauts' suit.

Is it good? Actually, it's a bit dull.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Brian May handed in his PhD

Look, this is quickly becoming Big Up Science and Pop Music. I apologise.

Brian May has handed in his PhD thesis, just a few years late (36). The press seem to be suggesting that he's got his doctorate already, but he still has to have his viva. Imagine being on his panel...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Science singles

I'm comin' up, so you'd better get this party started (gosh, I never noticed the blatant class-A meaning of that song before), here's this weeks almost sciencey tracks.

From Yesterday by 30 Seconds to Mars

Science? To get to Mars in 30 seconds would involve you travelling at least 1 900 000 000 metres per second, assuming you take a straight line when Mars it at its closest to Earth, which is around 57 million kilometres away. This, the black-hearted necromancers tell us, is impossible as it exceeds the speed of light (299 792 458 metres per second).
How does it sound? Gash.

How Do I Breath? by Mario

Science? "How", silver voiced Mario asks, "do I breath?" . Who'd have thought that behind that smooth RnB front, Mario is an inquiring soul crying out for knowledge about human physiology. Well Mario, contraction of the diaphragm pulls the abdomen downward, there by increasing the volume of the ribcage. The resulting negative pressure gradient pulls air into the lungs where it oxygenates the blood via the alveoli of the lungs. Relaxation of the diaphragm makes the thorax small, forcing the air back out the respiratory tract. So now you know Mario.
How does it sound? Virtually unlistenable.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Foot and mouth

It's all going mad over at the Institute of Animal Health in Pirbright, Surrey.

First it seems that the latest outbreak of foot and mouth disease may have come from the IAH or a near by pharma lab, and now the IAH has an outbreak of legionnaire's disease. I suppose that's what you get when you work with scary bugs.

I went for an interview at the Pirbright labs a few years ago. It was the first time I'd been to such a secure lab. I turned up in a suit and tie which I had to take off and get into disposable overalls in order to visit the labs. On the way out I had to shower (but I think that was just because I'm a scummer).

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Science singles

If there's one thing we love here at Big Up Science (and I say "we love", but I mean "I love", the Scientician's Accomplice has been oddly silent for some time. I'm worried, should I call the police?) it's science cropping up in "the arts" and "popular culture", whatever those words actually mean.

Starting this week we'll (I say "we'll"...) be compiling a list of any sciencey things, no matter how tenuous, in any newly released UK singles. What with the iTunes led death of the music single being heralded by all the trend watchers, I'm once again on the cutting edge of the Zeitgeist of UK popular culture music scene...

Here are the science singles for the week beginning 6/08/2007.

First up is Get Up by Elektrons.

Here comes the science bit: "Elektrons" is electrons, negitivly charged sub-atomic particles, but with a k where the c should be. Clever.
How does it sound?: Other than the band name, I'm not hearing any science, but I'll let it off by being a good tune. And it has Soup from Jurassic 5 on it. And a giant cartoon robot in the video.

The other sciencey release this week is Bench Sleeping by My Little Problem.

Here comes the science bit: "Bench Sleeping" is what you do when you've not got enough sleep before going into the lab. After setting up an experiment, you decide to flout all health and safety rules and get 40 winks at your bench.
How does it sound?: Disappointingly this is not the tale recalling events like those suggested above. It's quite nice though, but it's so gentle might make me fall asleep at the bench.


I wish I could write this.
Though they could have added more similarities: both have 7 cervical vertebrae etc...

(the second sentence explains the first I feel)