This blog is now rarely updated, but remains as an archive of bits and pieces I've collected from around the internet. To see what's caught my eye more recently, find me on twitter.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

#106; Videos

A selection of clips for today:

Watch this video (if you're not a fan of spiders, I'd skip past this one). For the first minute it's an oddly absorbing and eerie clip of a spider immobilising an ant, but make sure you keep watching till the end. It's worth it:


Complicated physicsy stuff is generally too much for my biology-orientated brain, so this animated comic on dark matter is great. They highlight how little we actually know about the fundamentals of our universe

"We have no idea! we're only now, by looking at the details, realising what the questions we should be asking are. There's a huge amount of exploration left to do."
Exciting times:

Dark Matters from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Isaac Asimov's three rules of robotics - a man ahead of his time. I want to feature the second part of this interview, but can't find it on Youtube. Go watch it HERE (it's only a minute long!)
"It seems to me that as robots become continually more advanced that people will not try to keep it entirely a matter of metal and electrons, that there will be cases in which attempts will be made to make use of the very great flexibility and minituarisibility of organic living tissue. At the same time we will have human beings who will make more and more use of artificial organs of metal and plastic. We may have a society in which robots will drift away from total metal toward the organic. And human beings will drift away from the total organic toward the metal and plastic. And that somewhere in the middle, they may eventually meet."
That's from 1965 - I love predictions of the future from the past. When you look at BrainGate & the TED talk I posted in the last entry on this blog, you can see that maybe we are going in that direction. Interesting stuff:

And finally in a science-heavy post, this TED talk is well worth a watch. It's concerning the direction of evolution in contemporary humans. Are we now entering a stage of human-driving evolution? Great stuff here, and also notice how elegant, simple and beautiful his visual aids are. A great talk with the perfect slides to accompany it:

Thursday, 21 April 2011

#105; Mind control, Placeboes, Happiness, Data. What more could you want?

Very nicely done, and really interesting video about the Placebo Effect. I find this fantastic. The body's own ability to heal itself is amazing:



The scale of some things are completely impossible to fully understand. CLICK HERE for Nikon's "Universcale". This sort of thing exists in many forms, but this one is very slick.

Similar, but better, is this. CLICK HERE and play with the solar system. Solar System Scope. Wicked.


As Infographics continue to be the supercoolest thing around, is launching, and this is a very pretty video all about it. The smooth animation and typography make me happy:

Very much related, this page here has a lovely collection of visualisations.


Space Quotations is a great assortment of quotations from people looking on earth from space

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
— Neil Armstrong


Action for happiness is a new, interesting, and beautifully designed initiative. I love the idea of using science and our developing understanding to help the most important thing - people's happiness. And these posters are lovely. Simple, obvious advice, but things that everyone would benefit from considering a bit more:


I can't get over how incredible BrainGate is. The Observer this weekend had a feature on this new technology that's allowing totally paralysed people to move objects with their mind via a chip in their brain. Science fiction becomes science fact, and this is going to make lives infinitely better. Amazing stuff, read more HERE - you won't regret it.

Reminds me of this TED talk - slightly less impressive, but still amazing (perhaps the fact that this is comparatively unimpressive is evidence of how incredible these developments are:


For science writers, the now classic science writing bible.
"Beware of long and preposterous words. Beware of jargon. If you are a science writer this is doubly important. If you are a science writer, you occasionally have to bandy words that no ordinary human ever uses, like phenotype, mitochondrion, cosmic inflation, Gaussian distribution and isostasy. So you really don't want to be effulgent or felicitous as well. You could just try being bright and happy."

Got 9 minutes to spare? You couldn't spend it any better than watching this. Seemingly damming of humans for much of the video, Carl Sagan ends with fantastic optimism and foresight. So absorbing:



Finally, I love this. Superhero alphabet. Brilliant:

That's all for now. I mean to post all of these as I find them in a more constant stream, with proper thoughts on each item, but with exams approaching I haven't really got time, so they all come out in occasional vomit-like bursts. I trust my loyal readers will forgive me...

Oh, and 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

#104; How To Be Boring

Some very helpful advice on how to write boring scientific literature... 

  • Avoid focus
  • Avoid originality and personality
  • Write l o n g contributions
  • Remove most implications and every speculation
  • Leave out illustrations, particularly good ones
  • Omit necessary steps of reasoning
  • Use many abbreviations and technical terms
  • Suppress humor and flowery language
  • Degrade species and biology to statistical elements
  • Quote numerous papers for self-evident statements

I love this - directly addressing so many science journals' refusal to embrace engaging writing, opting to instead favour bland and depressingly functional literature. There's no need for cutting edge science, which should be the most exciting and engaging thing around, to be dull. (via Lone Gunman)


You know those incredible Hubble images you see all the time? Well, here's how they're actually made:

Turns out it's not quite as simple as just a camera with a super long zoom.


A very nice video about the value of biodiversity:


I've updated my website with a little bit of new work: 

Like this illustration for an article about Pixar:


And to finish, here's some stuff to warm your heart:

First, Jack Draws Anything, and raises over £10,000. Awwwesome.

And a nicely filmed, fantastic story about a football team from a floating village:

Saturday, 2 April 2011


Some cool things from Wired. First, these city posters are just wickedawesome:
Go check out the rest.

Also, in this month's edition, they give advice on how to discover new species. My dreams of discovering a new species of tiger and calling it the SuperAnt live on.


Blue Peter gets a little bit sneered at these days, but its been enthusiastically encouraging young people for so long, and I like this story:

A boy called Anthony, from London (NW11... that's where I live) wrote to Blue Peter asking for help in his attempts to "make people or animals alive". He is now a record-breaking tissue engineer, and says of Blue Peter's reply:
If [Biddy Baxter's] letter had shown any hint of ridicule or disbelief I might perhaps never have trained to become a medical scientist or been driven to achieve the impossible dream, and really make a difference to a human being's life. I remember being thrilled at the time to have been taken seriously. Actually, even nowadays I am thrilled when people take my ideas seriously.
It's all just lovely. Here are the letters (from Letters of Note):
Dear Val, Jhon, Peter and Lesslie,

This may seem very strange, but I think I no how to make people or animals alive. Why Im teling you is because I cant get the things I need.

A list of what I need.

1. Diagram of how evreything works. [inside youre body.]
2. Model of a heart split in half. [both halvs.]
3. The sort of sering they yous for cleaning ears. [Tsering must be very very clean.]
4. Tools for cutting people open.
5. Tools for stiches.
6. Fiberglass box, 8 foot tall, 3 foot width.


7. Picture of a man showing all the arteries.

Sorry but in number 6 in the list the box needs lid. If you do get them on 1st March I can pay £10, £11, £12, £13 or £14.

Send your answer to me,

Love from Anthony,
London, NW11


Dear Anthony,

Thank you very much for your letter. It was nice to hear from you again after such a long time and we are sorry we have been delayed replying.

We are receiving over 4,000 letters every week and are having difficulty answering them as quickly as we would like.

We were interested to hear that you think you know how to make living people - and your list of necessary items intrigued us!

We are sorry we can't help you at all, but we wondered if you had thought of talking to your family doctor - he might be glad to help you with some diagrams and other information.

We are sending you a photograph of the "Blue Peter" team - it has been signed specially for you.

With best wishes from Valerie, John, Peter, Lesley and all of us on the programme.

Yours sincerely

B (Biddy Baxter)
Blue Peter
I hope they are still taking the time to reply to letters as personally as this - just look what difference it can make.


In completely unrelated news, what a great use of facebook this is:
The Smithsonian had too many fish to classify, so crowdsourced it, and got 5,000 samples identified in 24 hours.
They created a photo album of the catalog of the specimens they had collected on Facebook, and asked their fellow colleagues for help. Of course, these weren’t any kind of friends. “The majority of people commenting held a PhD in ichthyology or a related field, and hailed from a great diversity of countries including the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil,”


Finally, technology like this is incredible:

I can't wait till I can order my very own Iron Man suit.