Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Science News- Mount Etna Errupting

Mount Etna from the air- picture by Josep Renalias. This image has a creative commons license, for details, click [here]

Welcome (back) to Weirdbeautiful.
This week's main science story is that Mount Etna has started erupting again. I was in Sicily during some of the 417 days of its last eruption, which lasted from May 2008-July 2009. This one looks more dramatic than then when I was there. You can see footage of the current eruption online here-
and more details on mount Etna [here]

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Birds of the Gambia

Welcome (back) to Weirdbeautiful

Today's link of the day is to a gallery of wildlife images including many birds from The Gambia- it shows some lovely wildlife photography from a region not often featured on weirdbeautiful-

Thanks to Phil for the link.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Quote of the Week- George Lascelles, Earl of Harewood

"If you want the flowers in your garden to be glorious and to smell good, you must risk an occasional stink"
- Lord George Henry Hubert Lascelles,
Earl of Harewood,
(7th Feb 1923- 11th July 2011).

Friday, 12 August 2011

Man with Uterus, Bionic Spinal Discs and Where Best to watch tonight's Perseid meteor shower

Perseids Meteor Shower - image by Mila Zinkova. (This image has a Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0, for details, click [here])

Welcome (back) to Weirdbeautiful. Today's first link is to a yahoo news feature on the best place to watch the Perseids Meteor Shower tonight (from the UK)-


This year, the Perseids are active/ visible between July 17th and August 24th, but peak on 13th August.

You can find more details on the shower, which is primarily visible from the Earth's Northern Hemisphere, on Gary Kronk's Meteor Shower page, [here].

Meanwhile, Weird science story of the week this week is a tale of man finding out that he has a uterus-

Artificial Spinal Disc- image by Rama (this image has a creative commons 2.0 license- for details, click [here])

Today's final link is to an article about the development of artificial/bionic replacement spinal discs to cure back pain. As the article explains, back pain due to spinal disc damage is very common from mid-life onwards, so any progress in this field is very welcome.

Since almost all Western nations now have ageing populations, we can surely expect a strong push to develop better treatments for a panoply of diseases-of-old-age over the next few decades. Joint pain/arthritis/arthrosis, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's are obvious candidates; it is certainly an interesting time to be a biologist.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Link of the day- food dyed ants

What happens if you feed certain Indian ants dyed sugar-water?
Well, according to this article- here)-
Something like this-

Image source:Solent by The Sun

Quote-of-the-Week - Mary Kingsley on Crocodiles

"Now a crocodile drifting down in deep water, or lying asleep with its jaws open on a sand-bank in the sun, is a picturesque adornment to the landscape when you are on a steamer and you can write home about it and frighten your relations on your behalf; but when you are away among the swamps in a small dug-out canoe and that crocodile and his relations are awake....- he is highly interesting and you may not be able to write home about him- and you get frightened on your own behalf"
-Mary Kingsley, 1894, published in "Travels in West Africa", 1897- republished in "The Congo and the Cameroons", Penguin Books, 2007.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Pick of the Week- Decontamination of Soil from Lead and Uranium and science update from CERN

First of this week's "Pick of this week" science articles is this piece by Felicity Barringer in The New York Times -

The article talks about new plans to use fish bone meal to decontaminate lead-poisoned soil; it also contains this disturbing quote-
“It’s fair to say, looking forward, that just about every urban residential area probably has a lead problem and we just can’t afford economically and socially to move that amount of dirt any more,” ..“Topsoil is a precious resource, and we don’t have enough topsoil to replace it.” by Steve Calanog of the Environmental Protection Agency- the quote's context and more details about the clean up programme are given in the article.

It seems to me that clean-up projects are going to become increasingly important worldwide over the next few decades, not least because of overcrowding and the cumulative effects of our past environmental disasters. As a human being, I find this situation depressing, but as a scientist, I find it fascinating.

Environmental decontamination is not a new field, of course- it was suggested over five years ago, for example, that bacteria could be used to clean up Uranium contamination- you can find an article on the subject by Hannah Hickey on Stanford University's website [here].
More recently, British scientists have investigated using fungi to clean up depleted uranium contamination. The magazine "Cosmos" has a popular science account of this research [here] (The full-text of the original research paper: "Role of fungi in the biogeochemical fate of depleted uranium" by Marina Fomina, John M. Charnock, Stephen Hillier, Rebeca Alvarez, Francis Livens and Geoffrey M. Gadd can currently be freely downloaded from the website of the journal "Current Biology"- the article was originally published in 2008 in Volume 18(number/issue 9) pp. R375 - R377 of Current Biology).

Finally, Britain's Guardian Newspaper reported on Friday that Scientists at CERN have, at last, found evidence of the infamously elusive Higg's Boson, of course, the story behind the headlines is much more softly stated and much less conclusive, but that is so often the case with science stories in the media-
the guardian article is here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/jul/22/cern-higgs-boson-god-particle