This blog is currently on hiatus owing to work commitments. Whilst I still keep an eye on the goings on at RiAus, and contribute to the work of the good folks at eLife, little will be added to this blog for the foreseeable future. Simon Says remains open for business, albeit at a reduced capacity. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope the archive of content found here will prove to be of interest.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

How to live to 100

I WROTE this article for Redbrick. I've no idea if it will be published, or in what form, but never one to let something I've worked on go to waste, below is the unedited form. I hope it makes sense: I researched and wrote it all in one go, rather late at night.

Redbrick Features: COMMENT on science
How to live to 100

THIS week I read a headline that caught my eye: “Scientists identify gene that can help you live to 100”. Now that, I decided, sounds interesting. I wouldn’t mind a gene like that.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Whatever happened to Atlantic 252?

"Welcome to Atlantic 252, or what's left of it. As I understand it, all of the office furniture is to be auctioned, and the broadcast equipment is in storage at the tx site in Summerhill. Mornington House itself is now on the property market, I believe the asking price is half a million."
Atlantic 252 presenter Dave James, Tuesday 29th October, 2002

I SPENT much of Friday looking down a microscope, thanking the good monk Mendel for his laws of genetics and the relative ease with which I can discover many interesting things. I divided hundreds of flies by phenotype (and, because of the brilliance of balancer chromosomes, by genotype also) so that I could set up genetic crosses that will, with any luck, start to produce some results by Christmas. In order to keep up my attention throughout, the fly room was graced by the sound of BBC Radio 4, from 9am through to 7pm (with a brief change of station at 5pm when I decided I didn't need to hear the same news a fourth time). There was Desert Island Discs with Anthony Julius (I liked his choices of Chicago and little Stevie Wonder). There was the final reading of the excellent book of the week, The Magnetic North by Sara Wheeler. I wandered off through Woman's Hour but came back in time for The Richest Man in Britain, The Archers and Gardener's Question Time. I almost felt intellectual by the end of the day.

What surprised me, however, were the frequent referrals of listeners to Radio 4's long wave output. I knew that this was where the cricket commentary is often relayed, but I knew of no other purpose for it. Nor, for that matter, do I know of any shop that sells long wave radios anymore. Why do the BBC still broadcast on something the majority of people can no longer receive?

Saturday, 7 November 2009

On intergalactic radio wave distortion

IN the last week I have been talking a lot about what I wrote here on the motives behind, and the aims of, science. One of the arguments against what I said is that, in order to obtain funding, work should have a tangible benefit to humans, as it would otherwise be a waste, or at least an unjustifiable use of, public or government funding. I by no means believe that work should not be done on clincial topics. However, I think that to deny the possibility of funding projects conducted out of simply human intrigue, the desire to answer curiosity, would be a shame and detrimental. In addition, so many human benefits have arisen indirectly from tangential topics - I gave positron emission tomography (PET) as an example in my post, and a further example presented itself to me this week as I listened to the latest Science Show on ABC Radio National. In it, they covered the Australian Prime Minister's prizes for science (a marvellous idea). The winner of the main prize itself was John O'Sullivan, who invented WiFi. WiFi is a tremendous tool and is seemingly everywhere. It assists business and communication at home and in public. Many people rely on it. But where did this come from? How did they invent it?