Just wanted to say happy birthday to Ol’ Captain Skellet and also well done on her contribution to the RIAus crochet coral reef. All the contributors for the reef have made a freaking awesome display. They’re starting up FREE workshops again, so if you want to try your hand at it, register here. I was lucky enough to get to visit the reef a couple of months ago and get a few snapshots, which are shared down below. They are quite amazing. The exhibition opens again in early December at the RiAus. Get in on it.
More pictures after the fold Continue reading
Sorry, kids. No time for a big post, but here’s a poem I wrote about resident bacterial/viral flora to tide you over.
That’s what they call it
In the plains, in the valleys, in the walls
As disease-causers and bloody anarchists
Almost unnoticed by the self-appointed Empire
Between us and this floating isle
A grain of greed
Tempts tumbling, cascading white cells
Coiled tightly around taut leashes
Maddened by M.A.D.
We embrace awkwardly amongst sleeping dogs
as klaxons echo throughout the ranks
Peacekeepers ready their weapons
Shot and sunk for the company they keep
The finest sieve finds no justice
In geological time, slow as melting glaciers
A resentful kiss
Between lovers, contains more bitterness than it seems
Yo, just so you know, I’m going to be reciting my 2nd-place winning poem tomorrow at the Great Big Science Read: Where worlds collide event held at the RiAus. It’s free and I’m going to be there, so if you have a couple of hours you should also come and get some culture, both artistic and bacterial (that’s what we in the poetry business call a double entendre).
Anyway, this post I’m going to analyse the poem that I wish had won –
Filled-valence prudes tut-tut
An extinguished flame
Aw, yeah, lustful oxygen. (Photo of James Kleinig flicking water on some tealights by Colin Sinclair)
I was taught in high school that all chemistry is electrons. But, of course, it is all eclipsed by things blowing up. Fire is the thing that I most closely relate to chemistry. It is a source of intrinsic passion, of instinctial awe, of heat and danger. And it’s all caused simply oxygen in the air binding to stuff (carbon in the above case). Oxygen is one of the most reactive elements out there, meaning that it has strong desire to bind and couple with other atoms and molecules. When it does so, it relaxes a bit and releases some energy. That energy is the heat.
But if atoms are already bundled up in couples of high affinity, not even oxygen can break that bond (under normal conditions). Nitrogen gas (N2) is an example of atoms that naturally strongly bound together. This bond means that the two nitrogen atoms share electrons (3 from each atom, in this case) and are both satisfied. Satisfaction as atoms are concerned is defined in terms of valency (a complex topic involving periodic tables, electrons and oxidation states). Once an atom’s valence is filled, then it is stable.
Nitrogen gas makes up 70% of the atmosphere. So we blow out mostly nitrogen when we exhale. What we do when we blow out a candle is basically surround the oxygen with highly stable nitrogen gas. Oxygen can’t bind to the nitrogen and can’t get to the carbon that it can bind to. What happens then is that the flame is extinguished because no heat is being produced.
Holy crap, yesterday was a good day.
Firstly, one of the blog pictures (from here) gets included in the very awesome photoblog “Things Organised Neatly“. As you see here, it was reposted around the place with comments like “I miss using micropipettes @.@“, “ahh brings me back to my 10th grade genetics class…fuck“, and (for some reason) “Is it odd that this is sexy to me?“
- Yes, it bloody well is odd (Photo by Thomas Tu)
Secondly, I won second place in an open science haiku competition! The Royal Institution (in conjunction with the Friendly Street Poets) organised the second annual Sci-ku competition earlier this year with the themes being International Year of the Forest and Year of Chemistry. I was picked for second place for this:
Frenzied matter zoo
Then, Mendeleev’s table
The world ranked and filed
I’ll explain this poem a little bit. Continue reading
Are you comfortable there with your improved health? Not dead because of some penicillin-sensitive bacteria? Good. Now get up and support Australian medical research because less money means fewer medical discoveries that keep you comfortable and alive.
A cut of $400M (absolute peanuts with respect to the size of the Austrlian budget of ~$354600M) over 3 years is being slated for the major federal medical science funding body, NHMRC. To put that in perspective, the NHMRC has an annual budget of ~$700M, and that’s only after scientists had worked hard for 10 years previously to get up to that competitive rate.
It won’t affect everyone equally. Money gets handed out first to those continuing grants. Those really affected are those young researchers going for new grants; researchers who are more likely to up and change jobs. This would leave a gaping hole in continuing line of researchers and disrupt the entire structure of research. Stop/start funding has huge effects.
Not only that, investment into science is investment into your well-being: pennicilin, cochlear implants, cancer treatments, discovery of the cause of stomach ulcers are all things that have been made possible with Australian research. This is all pretty obvious stuff that has been covered in much better detail by others and still others.
It’s time to do something. Rallies around Australia against these cuts have been planned. Get along to them if 1) you value further medical discoveries that will make your life much more comfortable and 2) are not a jerk. Please visit Discovery need dollars for more details and fliers.
MELBOURNE – State Library – Tuesday 12 April @ 12:45-2PM
SYDNEY – Belmore Park – Tuesday 12 April @ 12:45-2PM
ADELAIDE – Steps of Parliament house, North Terrace – Tuesday 12 April @ 12:30PM (Adelaide time)
Click here to get signs in a printable format
Well I’m back! I’m not going to pretend like you missed me but I hope your glad to see another post out of me. I did a bit of writing during my time off to build up a bit of a backlog so hopefully I can keep posting regularly for a while. Anyway, without any further ado…
Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Syndrome
Best. Disease. Name. Ever.
This disease was first observed in 1878 by the neurologist Dr. George Miller Beard, a guy I will definitely talk about again, in French-Canadians, lumberjacks and presumably some French-Canadian lumberjacks living in northern Maine. So that explains the “Frenchman” and “Maine” parts but lets look at what makes this a “Jumping Syndrome”.
This is the famous jumping Frenchman Patrick de Gayardon. He has nothing to do with this story. Left Right.
This syndrome is due to an exaggerated startle reflex resulting in uncontrolled jumps commonly but can also manifest as spasms throughout the body. The startle reflex is very important and forms part of the ‘fight or flight response’ normally…
For the remainder of this piece head to diseaseprone.fieldofscience.com