Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Facebook and science

Like all the best London based media outlets (ha!), I'm going to go on and on and on about Facebook for a bit (but about a year too late, I really am cutting edge).

Facebook (*sigh*): I think I hate it, but amazingly I find myself a regular user; a fact that makes me sad on the inside. And yet some in the scientific community have taken to it like geeky ducks to nerdtastic water, no doubt a large part due to Facebook's origins as a university/workplace social network tool. There are over 500 science groups on Facebook, and I'm sure some are actually about science, such as the "American Association for the Advancement of Science" groups, and more frivolous ones such as the"I listen to the Guardian Science Podcast" and "Null Hypothesis - the journal of unlikely science" groups.

Now Biomedcentral have the option to post articles published by them on to Facebook (along side social bookmarking sites like digg and cool specialist scientific bookmarking sites like citeulike). I cannot quite work out if I'm angered or amazed by this. I think I'm amazed, it's really great to see social networking and all that web2.0 stuff creeping into biomedical science. The only think that makes me slightly scared is that Facebook is just a passing fad, and in a years time we'll all be like "hey remember Facebook? No one uses Facebook now, all the cool kids use Kidney Network". That said, BMC have nothing to lose in adding Facebook functionality. Who knows, maybe these social networking sites might revolutionise the scientific publication system in ways we are yet to imagine.

This reminds me, I really should add digg, del.icio.us, etc.. this blog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Science Singles

will.i.am (seriously, "will.i.am"...) with I got it from my momma (Genetics)

Science? Here's a brief synopsis of the entire lyrical content of this song: "I say my dear, how is it that you have such a pleasingly proportioned body?" "Why, my dear old mother is similarly blessed with a fine figure" "Oh I see. It must an inherited trait. Let's have sex"
The thing is, whilst attractiveness has a genetic element, environment plays a very big role. The lady will.i.am is chatting to no doubt works out, has a good diet, and (on the strength of the video) has had plastic surgery (maybe her mother paid for it?). And anyway, if it was genetic you've got to take in the father into account too.

Is it any good? It makes me sigh and feel slightly more empty inside.

Kate Nash with Mouthwash

Science? Good oral hygiene is obviously important to Kate "flavour of the month" Nash. She uses both mouthwash and dental floss, which our dentists tell us help prevent periodontal diseases and dental caries. Mouthwashes are often antiseptic and antibacterial, and so are claimed help to reduce the number of plaque-causing bacteria. Similarly, we are told by dentists that flossing is really important in reducing dental caries. However, one recent systematic review suggests that flossing at home is not all that effective.

Is it any good?
Damn you Nash, damn you to hades. Despite my best efforts, I cannot help but find my self warming to Kate Nash's music. It's catchy dammit.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Big Up Science Singles

It's Monday. Let's see what we've got here then....

The big release for me this week is Chemical Brothers with The Salmon Dance

Science? They are called the Chemical Brothers, but that's not all. This song is jam packed with salmon facts, all presented in a handy hip-hop format by Sammy the Salmon:
Fact 1: "All my peeps spend part of their life in fresh water and part of their life in salt water... They change round a couple of days after spawning, then we die."
Indeed, at around 2 years of age, young salmon leave their river habitats and migrate to the sea. They then return to the river after a year or so to spawn. However, they don't then die, instead they go back to the sea and return to the river gain around every 18 months to spawn. I'm disappointed in that factual error Sammy the Salmon.
Fact 2: "Most of our friends find home waters by sense of smell, which is even more key than that of a dog or a bear."
Salmon which were imprinted to Morpholine (C4H9NO), a heterocyclic amine, could detect the chemical at concentrations below 5.7x 10-10 M.
Fact 3: "My family also rely on ocean currents, tides, the gravitational pull of the moon."
There is also a theory that some salmon species can detect the earth's magnetic field.
Fact 4" "Polluted water can kill both baby salmon that are developing and the adult salmon that are on their way to spawn."
Epigenetic factors, such a water pollution, can affect the development of salmon, or indeed any fish; not just killing the developing fish, but also leading to malformations. This of particular importance when you consider the economic value of farmed species such as salmon.

Is it any good? It like a novelty record, and I suppose it is. However, the Chemical Brothers arn't about to release any old rubbish. It's novelty in the Lemon Jelly style, rather than the Mr Blobby one, and unlike Mr Blobby the guest rapper, Fatlip who used to be in the Pharcyde, is ace. Not to mention that salmon are a type of fish. Fish are still cool right?

HIM and The kiss of dawn

The HIM proteins , or "High Incidence of Males", are a group of 19 proteins found in the C. elegans. Interesting huh?

Is it any good? As much as I'm not into worm genetics, I'd rather would enjoy sitting though a 5 day conference on gene-protein interaction in C. elegans than waste another 3 minutes 55 seconds of my precious life listening to this again.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Science Singles, as seen on the famous internets

Here you go, have reviews of two of this weeks singles with a scientific meaning crowbarred in.

First it's the ever-lovely Magic Numbers with Undecided

Science? Bear with me here, it's going to get a bit nuclear physics. The nucleus of an atom is made up of two types of subatomic particle, protons and neutrons, known collectively as nucleons. According to the shell model of the nucleus, these particles are arranged according to energy levels in to "shells", much like the way we think about the arrangement of electrons orbiting the nucleus. When these shells are full, the nucleus is stable, and the number of nucleons needed to fill each shell is knows as a magic number (phew! we got there in the end). At the present time, science knows the following magic numbers: 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82 and 126. The band the Magic Numbers hail from west London, and are made up of two pairs of hippy brother and sisters . At the present time, science doesn't know if the Magic Numbers know anything about nuclear physics.

What does it sound like? It's oddly familiar. Like when you try on a new pair of jeans, and you instantly feel comfortable in them. It's only when you get home that you realise they are remarkably similar all you other jeans. It's one of those Magic Numbers songs: it has a fairly driven bit, a slower quite bit, an a cappella break bit, and a drum pick up bit back up the driven bit. Not original, but it works.

It's that Emma Pollock with Acid Test

Science? The term "acid test", meaning a decisive test, is used for all sorts of things these days. Back in the day it was only used to test if gold was gold. Due to it's complete outer shell of electrons, gold cannot easily give away or receive electrons, and as such it is inert. Put nitric acid on most metals and you will oxidise it, that is to say give away spare electrons. This results in the formation a metal nitrate salt, nitrogen dioxide and water. Since the salt is soluble, the treated metal will dissolve It will not, however, react with gold (or for that matter platinum, which is also inert).

What does it sound like? Meh, I never really was into the Delgados (she used to be their singer), and this leaves me unmoved. It's perfectly nice and everything, but it doesn't really have that something that other non-cutting edge people, such as the afore mentioned the Magic Numbers, have. In her favour, however, is the fact that she had a single called Adrenaline and the Delgados were signed to the Chemikal Underground label, both factoids being suitably almost sciencey for me. And pollocks are a type of fish. Fish are cool right?