Category Archives: Biology

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

We Consider Human Network Physiology and Medicine – The “Body Electric” – Part Deux

An illustration symbolising network physiology in medecine and the human organism integrated network, as a complex network with the Vitruvian man at its centre. The caption reads: "The human organism is an integrated network where complex physiological systems, each with its own regulatory mechanisms, continuously interact, and where failure of one system can trigger a breakdown of the entire network. A new field, Network Physiology, is needed to probe the network of interactions among diverse physiologic systems."

The Network Within Us

Everything is connected.  And so it is in the human body too.  Everything in the human body is connected.  No doubt that all your organs – heart, liver, lungs – work as one to keep you alive and as close as possible to a healthy state.  Continue reading We Consider Human Network Physiology and Medicine – The “Body Electric” – Part Deux

In the Midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction…

An artist's impression of a post-apocalyptic New York City skyline, with the scorched cracked earth at the forefront and an eerie yellow glow at the background.Exponential Population Growth

The World population has grown to 7 billion, and it is expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050.  In the long-term, this  growth is unsustainable, as vital resources are becoming increasingly depleted and humanity faces a number of threats to its continued expansion.  Many believe that scientists will solve these problems with new technology.  Are humans causing the sixth mass extinction?  What is the reality?  Continue reading In the Midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction…

Breaking Bad – The Evolutionary Perspective of Evil

A blurred photograph featuring the face of an angry ape chimpanzee. Image: NaturPhilosophieEvil as an Evolutionary Advantage

There is a side of us that is not unique to our own species.  Evil.  Why?  How did it start?  The first time.  Asking why evil came into existence is a valid question.  Evil behaviours are categorised into four distinct groups.  Of course, it gets pretty dark.  But what is “Evil”?  Continue reading Breaking Bad – The Evolutionary Perspective of Evil

A Theory of Life… The Physics of Cells and Macroscopic Irreversibility

A meme that reads: "Life has No Ctrl + Z".“It’s Life!  But Not as We Know it…”

There is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms.  From an all-physical point of view, the former tend to be so much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat.  At MIT, Jeremy England derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity.  Continue reading A Theory of Life… The Physics of Cells and Macroscopic Irreversibility

Between the Lines of the Herculaneum Papyri using X-Ray Imaging Techniques

A photographic montage showing a calcinated Herculaneum papyrus scroll on a Greek scriptures background. Scrolling Back the Past at Herculaneum

Once a chic resort on the Bay of Naples, Herculaneum was favoured by the finest of Roman’s elite society, who spent the hot Italian summers there… until a catastrophe struck one afternoon in 79 AD.  The Villa dei Papiri, excavated centuries later, was found to contain the only library to have survived from the Classical World – a unique cultural treasure, which the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly destroyed, and yet preserved all at once.  How do you read what is essentially a charred book?  Continue reading Between the Lines of the Herculaneum Papyri using X-Ray Imaging Techniques

A Day in the Life of a Plant – Photosynthesis and Phytochemistry

A photograph showing two hands together holding a clod of earth with a small green seedling.Plant Life

Plant life is one of Nature’s miracles.  Imagine being a plant and almost all you will ever need to keep on striving is sheer sunlight.  In green plants, both photosynthesis and aerobic respiration occur.  It’s a lot like the way in which the human body breaks down food into fuel that it can store.  Essentially, using energy from the Sun, a plant can transform carbon dioxide CO2 and water into glucose and oxygen… Continue reading A Day in the Life of a Plant – Photosynthesis and Phytochemistry

Yes, Calcium is a Metal!

A photographic montage showing a human skeleton pulling on a giant container of calcium supplements.Building the World

Most of us are familiar with the idea that our bodies need calcium.  And calcium is indeed the key element in our bones.  Calcium is the most abundant metal in the human body – and those of animals too.  The fifth most abundant element on Earth and our World’s chosen architectural building block.  Yes, calcium is a metal.  Do we really appreciate its true value? Continue reading Yes, Calcium is a Metal!

Defining the Anthropocene – What is the Age of Man?

An artist's impression of a baffled orangutan.The Age of Man

We, humans, have driven environmental changes on a scale that is unique in Earth’s history.  Human-driven biological, chemical and physical changes to the Earth’s system are so great, rapid and distinct that they may characterise an entirely new epoch – The Anthropocene. Continue reading Defining the Anthropocene – What is the Age of Man?

Lateral Thinking in Science – Who Are You?

A photographic montage showing Laura Dern, Benedict Cumberbatch and Lennie James in various cinematic and TV roles as scientists. The caption asks: "What kind of scientist should you be?"What kind of Scientist are you?

Already this article is beginning to sound like one of those sempiternal quizzes you so often get on social media… but it actually shows how science reality connects.  Are you having a scientific identity crisis? Continue reading Lateral Thinking in Science – Who Are You?

On the Evolution of Darwin’s Finches

A close-up photograph of a female Medium Ground Finch from South Plaza Island.Adapt or Die

Finches in the Galápagos Islands are being threatened by a parasitic fly that attacks their young, placing the same species of birds that helped Charles Darwin refine his theory of evolution in danger of extinction.  But the authors of a new study say that human intervention could alleviate the risk. Continue reading On the Evolution of Darwin’s Finches

Forget Me… Not!

A Simpsons' cartoon. The truth according to Homer Simpson? The caption reads: "Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."Forgetting is Easy…

Do you feel overwhelmed with the amount of information you have to deal with?  Do you spend time drawing up a shopping list, only to forget it on the kitchen table when you leave the house?  I know I do.  In the words of Homer Simpson: “Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.”  Don’t worry!  Scientists think that it is perfectly normal, and even an essential part of the brain’s learning process. Continue reading Forget Me… Not!

We Do Science on Crack… with Cocaine and the Blood-Brain Barrier

A classic picture showing a line of cocaine, along with a rolled-up dollar bill.Root of All Evil

Goofball, candy, ice, crack, snow, weasel dust, Belushi, Charlie…  High in the Andes of South America, Erythroxylum coca grows as a shrub.  For 2,500 years at least, its leaves have been known and used for their stimulant properties.  Over 5 million people use cocaine and its derivatives in the United States alone. Continue reading We Do Science on Crack… with Cocaine and the Blood-Brain Barrier

Professor Challenger, The Earth Core and The Moho

A photographic montage featuring a classic Joseph Clement Coll's Professor Challenger character seen running and waving an umbrella against a background of serpentinite. Image: NaturPhilosophieProfessor Challenger, We Meet At Last!

The days of Professor Challenger are here.  This week, scientists have set out to drill deeper into the Earth’s mantle than has ever been done before.  This time, let us hope the World will not scream!  Continue reading Professor Challenger, The Earth Core and The Moho

Mars Has Water!

Mars has water: An artist's impression of Mars primordial ocean.Liquid Water on Mars

Mars is not the dry, arid planet we once thought it was.  Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found.  NASA’s announcement has the potential of turning some Red Planet theories on their heads…

Continue reading Mars Has Water!

Armchair Fossil Hunting in the Turkana Basin

Workers busy documenting a paleontological dig site in a desertic part of the Turkana basin in Kenya where some fossil bones have been found.

Online Citizen Science Project

A new online citizen science initiative, Fossilfinder, is inviting ordinary members of the public to help hunt for fossils in the Kenyan desert. The volunteers will have the opportunity to sift through one million images from the arid Turkana Basin – a key area for fossils of early human ancestors. Continue reading Armchair Fossil Hunting in the Turkana Basin

Proving that Physicists were the Original Hipsters

A black and white photograph of Nobel physicist Richard Feynman, pictured smiling in front of the blackboard of a lecture room, which is covered with mathematical equations.Modern-Day Hipsters Take Heed…

With his wind-swept mane, the inimitable Richard Feynman looked devilishly handsome. And he darn-diddly knew it too! As for Fritz Haber, Rosalind Franklin and Neil deGrasse Tyson, they were the original hipsters. That’s according to BuzzFeed anyway… Continue reading Proving that Physicists were the Original Hipsters

Three Trillion Trees

A photograph of trees in the Meridon Forest in Central France. Image: NaturphilosophieGreen Planet

Once upon a time, Europe was almost covered by one giant forest.  Now, it’s almost entirely fields and grasslands.  Humans are controlling tree densities.  Understanding the global extent and distribution of forest trees is central to our understanding of the terrestrial biosphere. Continue reading Three Trillion Trees

Exoplanet ‘Young Jupiter’ 51 Eridani b

An illustration showing the distant exoplanet 51 Eridani b, nicknamed "Young Jupiter". Source: SETIKing of Planets

Astronomers have found the smallest exoplanet yet to be directly photographed by a telescope on Earth.  A methane-shrouded gas giant.  A young Jupiter… Continue reading Exoplanet ‘Young Jupiter’ 51 Eridani b

The Future of RadioCarbon Dating – And an Overview of the AMS Technique

A photograph of one of the Dead Sea scrolls - The Isaiah scrollFossil Fuel Emissions Threatens Carbon Dating Accuracy

The radiocarbon 14C dating method has been used for decades to accurately determine the age of a wide range of artefacts.  But our relentless use of fossil fuels has pumped a type of carbon into the atmosphere that is starting to confuse the dating technique.  By 2050, scientists warn, new fabrics could have the same radiocarbon date as items 1,000 years old! Continue reading The Future of RadioCarbon Dating – And an Overview of the AMS Technique

From Super Weed to Super-Capacitors, Another Surprising Use for Cannabis…

A close-up photograph of "skunk" cannabis being poured out of a glass container. The photograph has been stamped with the "Intel Inside" logo.Nano-Cannabis?

Waste fibres from cannabis crops can be transformed into high-performance low-cost pseudo-graphene energy storage devices.  Cannabis is quite possibly the most versatile, yet highly controversial, plant we have on the planet: from a popular recreational drug to a potential medicine for a range of incurable conditions.  If Carlsberg made a weed, this would be it… Continue reading From Super Weed to Super-Capacitors, Another Surprising Use for Cannabis…

Eyes of the Beholder

Look into my eyes! Image: NaturPhilosophieReading Someone’s Mind through their Eyes?

Look into my eyes.  The eyes, the eyes.  Not around the eyes.  Don’t look AROUND the eyes.  Look INTO my eyes.  The eyes…  [click]  You’re not under!  But…  Can you read my mind? Continue reading Eyes of the Beholder