Science in Africa with TReND, AuthorAID and a few connections

Just over a year and a few months ago I moved to a small town in the northern provinces of Mozambique to support my wife in her work in community development and water and sanitation. I went with a willingness to help out where I could, but with no real background in development, what was there to do for a research scientist in rural Africa?

African animals on a research paper (can you make out the title?)
African animals on a research paper (can you make out the title?)

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How to (not) do science writing

This is a repost of an interesting and humorous post from Green Tea and Velociraptors – Jon Tennant gives some pointers on good science writing for both specialist and non-specialist audiences. Bare in mind the sarcastic tone!

via Spice up your science with these 10 simple steps.
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Science’s Silliest Stories – Science Museum Lates

Last week I ran an event at the adult-only Lates event at London’s Science Museum titled Science’s Silliest Stories. In it I told a story of some of the odder pieces of research that have been published recently to draw out some of the more curious sides of scientific research. I really enjoyed the evening. It was great to see friends who came and the audiences seemed to really get into it – perhaps the alcohol helped! Unfortunately I didn’t manage to record it (mainly to show my wife who was away with work), but here is essentially what I said:

Science’s Silliest Stories

Hello and welcome to science’s silliest stories.

In the next 20 minutes or so I will be regaling you with some of the sillier stories from science and scientific research. I’ll take you on a journey through real recent research, from animal sex, penises and vaginas, through to findings about wobbly pregnant women, levitating frogs and cheesy mosquitos. I’ll mention Sarah Palin’s now infamous quote about fruit fly research but hopefully leave you on a positive note that scientists aren’t always out to waste your tax money.
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Zoos: Thoughts from time as a volunteer

Zoos are the place where a lot of people come into contact with exotic animals for the first time – especially in Britain, Western Europe and North America, where much of our ‘wild’ life has been decimated over time as humans have colonised the landscape. Exotic creatures seem to enthral people, especially children, and zoos can have a magical grasp over adventurous and inquisitive young minds – including those of sometimes world-weary adults.
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Wonders of Life

Wonders of life - cover

Have you seen any of the BBC’s new series, Wonders of Life? If not, I’d really recommend you catch it – it’s available on iPlayer until the 3rd of March.

I’ve heard some criticism of it – that it’s too Physics-y or that Brian Cox just isn’t David Attenborough or the changing locations is annoying – and I can understand where they come from. But I think it’s great. Yes, it’s complicated and I didn’t fully understand how life links back to the Physics and energy bits, but it made me really think. He’s talking about the origins of life and the universe – it’s supposed to be mind-boggling! I expected it to be a sort of ‘new’ David Attenborough series and perhaps that’s why some people criticise it. But I found it a refreshing take on Natural History, going beyond a description of life and presenting life on Earth in it’s most fundamental form.
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What do I want to achieve with this blog and why?

One my ambitions for this blog is to communicate topics linked to my PhD in accessible language. I want it to make sense to my mum, my wife’s mum and the general interested adult (although my mum did proof read my thesis 3 times so she probably already has a good idea and I am indebted to her proofreading skills!). I will publish a series of posts covering all aspects of my research – from the background of the background, to the nitty-gritty of research, to the conclusions and predictions I made in the final chapter. I have four main motivations in this:
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