Category Archives: Biology

Where the Chernobyl Wolf Roams…

A pseudo-photograph focusing on a grey wolf howling, with the abandoned Pripyat amusement park, near Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the background. Collage: NaturPhilosophie (2018)

Pushing the Boundaries

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster left behind a highly toxic landscape.  Thirty-two years hence, the area around the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat largely reverted to forest.  Despite the contamination, wildlife gradually took over.  Hints of recovery emerged as animal species began to thrive, free from the disruptive influence of human activity.  And for the first time, researchers recorded evidence of a young wolf boldly venturing away from the danger zone. 

Continue reading Where the Chernobyl Wolf Roams…

The Male Idiot Theory – Sex Differences in Risky Behaviour

A pseudo-photograph showing a man jumping off from an aeroplane without parachute, shouting "I'M AN IDII...OTT!!!".   Image: NaturPhilosophieAre you a Risk Taker?

If so, are you a man??  Mmmh… yes…  The Male Idiot Theory: it’s not new but I thought I’d mention it in passing…  Ladies, enjoy…  Continue reading The Male Idiot Theory – Sex Differences in Risky Behaviour

Life Under The Microscope

A close-up negative photograph of the lenses on my microscope. Image: NaturPhilosophieThe Infinitesimally Small

Viewing tiny objects, like cells, under a microscope is a real game of hide-and-seek with the light.  It follows that the specimen must be carefully prepared, or ‘mounted’ on a slide.  Here we get a little closer to the eukaryotic cell.  The building block of life itself…  Continue reading Life Under The Microscope

A Day Trip to the Ayrshire Coast of Scotland

A photography and drawing montage depicting the dark silhouette of the Scottish Isle of Arran, as seen from a sandy beach in Ayrshire in Spring 2018, with the smiling Cocktail Party Physicist avatar at the foreground left. Image: NaturPhilosophieThe Cocktail Party Physicist at the Seaside

The Scottish coast is renowned for the wealth of its rocky features.  And if you can’t abide Geology, you can while away the hours with the local marine biology.  It’s dead quiet and if you’re lucky on a clear day, you might even see Arran magically emerge from the mist across the waters of the Clyde estuary. 

Continue reading A Day Trip to the Ayrshire Coast of Scotland

Mercury Rising – Climate Change and the Arctic Permafrost

Abstract artwork for Mercury Rising, depicting layers of liquid mercury pooling through the Siberian tundra. Image: NaturPhilosophieAs Permafrost Melts…

Mercury is rising.  And in many more ways than one.  As global temperatures go up, the Arctic ice is melting.  Sea level rises.  Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.  But below the permafrost, another threat is lurking. 

Continue reading Mercury Rising – Climate Change and the Arctic Permafrost

The Francis Crick Institute – Open For Boundless Scientific Discovery

A photograph of the beautifully modern and sustainable Francis Crick Institute building, in central London, overlaid with a blue and white neon sign that says "OPEN". Image: NaturPhilosophieOpen For Science

At the heart of central London, opposite St Pancras’ International station, stands the new Francis Crick Institute – a working building with distinctive ultra-modern architecture.  Important science is being done here.  Life-changing science. Continue reading The Francis Crick Institute – Open For Boundless Scientific Discovery

Future Floods and Melting Ice Sheets – Predicting with GRACE

A picture showing the artist's vision of the buildings of Parliament and Big Ben clock tower being overtaken by the waves, or more precisely by a muddy version of Hokusai's Big Wave. Image: NaturPhilosophieForecasting Sea-Level Rise

On the whole, Earth scientists agree that melting of land ice greatly contributes to sea-level rise.  And one thing’s for sure.  Future global warming will exacerbate the risks posed to human civilisation.  But…  What if you could forecast major floods?  You can.  Continue reading Future Floods and Melting Ice Sheets – Predicting with GRACE

Ten Rivers on Earth – The Great Plastic Tide

Part drawing, part photograph showing a child riding a boat and collecting plastic containers from the clogged up surface of a river. Image: NaturPhilosophieA Plastic Tide

10 rivers on Earth may be responsible for around 90% of oceanic plastic pollution in the World.  Continue reading Ten Rivers on Earth – The Great Plastic Tide

Fingerprint Forensics Delve Deeper Into Spectrometry Analysis

A drawing showing a fingerprint, and all that it can reveal: Male or Female, Drug Use, Alcohol, Food Types, Hair Gel, Condoms...Another Brick in the Whorl of Forensic Science

Fingerprint spectrometry analysis – a technology which can detect the brand of hair gel or condom used by a suspect – could soon be admissible as evidence in UK courts.  Continue reading Fingerprint Forensics Delve Deeper Into Spectrometry Analysis

Can Ayahuasca Feed Your Spirit?

Three pairs of hands holding an ethnic-style drinking bowl in unison, with stick-and-ball model of the dimethyltryptamine (DMT) drug molecule in the foreground centre of the image. Image: NaturPhilosophieSpirit Molecule

Scientists found early evidence that Ayahuasca, a ceremonial psychedelic brew used by Amazon tribes for centuries, could help treat eating disorders. Continue reading Can Ayahuasca Feed Your Spirit?

Glyphosate Safety: European Evaluation Report “Carbon-Copy” of Monsanto’s

An illustration showing a stick-and-ball model of the glyphosate molecule in front of a spray bottle of popular "Roundup" weedkiller.  The whole image is in negative colours.  Image: NaturPhilosophieWeedkiller Safety Report

Part of the European Union’s report on the non-hazardous nature of glyphosate-based herbicides is actually a “carbon copy” of a report published by American giant Monsanto according to the European press.  Continue reading Glyphosate Safety: European Evaluation Report “Carbon-Copy” of Monsanto’s

Don’t Rat on the Neighbours… – An Urban Tale

A digital image focusing on a black rat and a brown rat inside in a small lit up tunnel. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieWhat is it about Rats?!!

If​ ​the​ ​urban​ ​myth​ ​was​ ​true,​ ​you’d​ ​never​ ​be  farther​ ​than​ ​two​ ​metres​ ​from​ ​the​ ​nearest​ ​rat​ ​in  London.​  ​But​ ​as​ ​far​ ​as​ ​neighbours​ ​go,​ ​wild​ ​rats  keep​ ​to​ ​themselves.​  ​And​ ​why​ ​shouldn’t​ ​they?  We,​ ​humans,​ ​are​ ​their​ ​commensal​ ​enemy.  Continue reading Don’t Rat on the Neighbours… – An Urban Tale

The Spark of Being – A Not-So-Brief History of Life and Electricity

An original interpretation in inverted negative colours blue and white of the famous 1901 historical black and white photograph showing ground-breaking inventor and electricity visionary Nikola Tesla sitting in his laboratory at Colorado Springs amid a flurry of artificially-produced lightning discharges. Image: NaturPhilosophieOmnipresent Electricity

Within every object on Earth lies concealed a positive or a negative electric charge.  From the very structure of the atom to the essential functioning of our brains, the natural power of electricity is all around us, and it is one of the most potent symbols of our Modern World.  Making the story of electricity, the story of life itself…  Continue reading The Spark of Being – A Not-So-Brief History of Life and Electricity

All of the Water on Earth – A Graphene-Based Sieve for Desalination

A double exposure digital image with repeated graphene patterns and drinking glass at the centre.  Artwork: NaturPhilosophieMaking Seawater Safe to Drink

There are 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water on Earth.  Nevertheless, ready access to clean drinking water remains a major issue for millions of people.  A much sought-after innovation was developed by a UK-based team of researchers who created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater.  The new technology could aid millions around the World.

Continue reading All of the Water on Earth – A Graphene-Based Sieve for Desalination

BIFoR FACE In Situ Experiment – Modelling the Response of a Temperate Woodland to Increased Levels of Carbon Dioxide

A photograph showing the view from underneath one of the BIFoR FACE in-situ experiment towers.  Artwork: NaturPhilosophieIf the Forest Won’t Come to the Experiment, Why Not Bring the Experiment to the Forest?

The role that plants play in absorbing carbon dioxide is one of the great unknowns of climatology.  Now, an industrial-scale experiment in a Staffordshire forest has been designed to help fill gaps in our knowledge about climate change.   Continue reading BIFoR FACE In Situ Experiment – Modelling the Response of a Temperate Woodland to Increased Levels of Carbon Dioxide

Spice of Life? The Health Cost of Synthetic Cannabinoids and the Adverse Effects of Full Agonists

An animation symbolising the dreadful health toll of synthetic cannabinoids in the form of a cartoon Egyptian-style eye, reminiscent of the Spice logo, shedding black tears while the image background turns increasingly dark. Artwork: NaturPhilosophie What is Spice?

Synthetic cannabinoids were designed for recreational use. Many used them legally in an attempt to recreate the effects of organic cannabis, or to achieve similar psychoactive effects, until they were banned in May 2016.  But they promised more than they delivered.  Spice is one of them.  Continue reading Spice of Life? The Health Cost of Synthetic Cannabinoids and the Adverse Effects of Full Agonists

Compound Interest: An Antidote to Sarin

A rotating molecular model of Sarin. Animation: NaturphilosophieAbout Sarin

Sarin is a deadly compound.  Colourless, odourless, and fatal even at low concentrations. A new drug designed to fight against the deadly effects of organophosphorous nerve agents, like sarin, is in sight.  Continue reading Compound Interest: An Antidote to Sarin

Feeding of the Nine Billion – The Future of Photosynthesis and Increased Crop Productivity

A photograph showing a young Asian boy eating a corn cob. Artwork: NaturphilosophieImproving on Nature’s Photosynthesis

Agronomic engineers have managed to improve upon one the most important biological process on the planet – photosynthesis.  The increased yield in crop could be as much as 15%.  Continue reading Feeding of the Nine Billion – The Future of Photosynthesis and Increased Crop Productivity

Sailing the Lower Midnight… – The Uncharted Frontier of Modern Deep-Sea Exploration

A photograph of the not-so-friendly, and frankly scary-looking, footballfish, a deep sea-predator from the anglerfish family.What lies 5,000 metres Below Sea Level?

It’s cold down there.  Icy cold.  It’s dark.  Pitch black, in fact.  And the crushing pressures make the deepest parts of the oceans into some of the most hostile places on our planet.  The lowest of the low.  The deepest of the deep.  Only three human explorers ever made it down there.  As a brand new wave of deep-sea exploration begins, we look at the mysterious world where marine scientists will be diving into… Continue reading Sailing the Lower Midnight… – The Uncharted Frontier of Modern Deep-Sea Exploration

Fantastic Beasts of the “Misty Isle” – Welcome to Jurassic Skye!

Artwork collage focusing on a drawing of Megalosaurus dinosaurs running on the shores of the Jurassic Isle of Skye. Image: NaturphilosophieWelcome to Scotland’s Jurassic Park

Welcome to Jurassic Skye!  While dinosaurs might be long dead and no threat to puny humans, the rich fossil record of the Scottish island of Skye – the “Misty Isle” – has provided palaeontologists with important clues to the lives of prehistoric predators and their preys.  Continue reading Fantastic Beasts of the “Misty Isle” – Welcome to Jurassic Skye!

Looking on the Bright Side of Clinical Depression

A photograph showing a young man sitting alone near a beach, looking very down-hearted.

New Hope

A revolution in the treatment and understanding of clinical depression may be looming.  And specialists are already talking about one of the strongest discoveries in psychiatry for the past two decades.  For the 350 million people who suffer from the illness worldwide, this could potentially mean light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.  Continue reading Looking on the Bright Side of Clinical Depression

Panacea Nostrum – The Forensic Toxicology of Cannabis

Artwork for Cannabis Panacea allegory, depicting the goddess Panacea seeding cannabis plants. Image: NaturPhilosophieWhat is Your Poison of Choice?

Be honest.  We all have one.  What’s your poison?  Booze, tobacco, prescription drugs… or something a little more exotic?  Cannabis is a controversial plant, regarded by many as a godsend.  If Carlsberg made a ‘erb… Continue reading Panacea Nostrum – The Forensic Toxicology of Cannabis

The Evelyn Tables – Musings on Leoni d’Este’s Human Herbarium

A photograph showing one of the Evelyn tables, featuring the spinal cord and the entire nervous system in the human body.Finding Gems in London

The Evelyn tables are the oldest known anatomical preparations in Europe –  a manner of human herbarium – showcased at a scarcely visited location in the very heart of London.  Continue reading The Evelyn Tables – Musings on Leoni d’Este’s Human Herbarium

A Little Bird Told Me… – Man and the Honeyguide

A photograph showing honey hunter Orlando Yassene with a greater honeyguide bird in Mozambique's Niassa National Reserve. Orlando is smiling at the little bird who is perching on his hand.Birds of a Feather

A new study shows that birds and humans ‘talk’ to each other, as they partner up to hunt for honey bees nests together in the forests of Mozambique.  

 

Continue reading A Little Bird Told Me… – Man and the Honeyguide

Ouch!! #$@*!! – We Take a Quick Look at the Neuro-Physics of Pain

A cartoon illustrating the phenomenon of physiological pain.Signals and Perception

Prior to the discovery of nociceptors in 1906, scientists believed that animals were like mechanical devices that transformed the energy of sensory stimuli into motor responses.  Pain is one of those stimulated reactions, but it is unlike other sensations.  What is the purpose of pain? Continue reading Ouch!! #$@*!! – We Take a Quick Look at the Neuro-Physics of Pain