Category Archives: Chemistry

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…

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

Radioactivity and the Background of Dancing Particles

A picture showing dancing black silhouettes, each one bearing a Greek letter, over an abstract background symbolising a radiation event. Artwork: NaturPhilosophie Natural Radiation

Our environment is permeated by radiation, present around us at all time.  We are constantly exposed to radioactivity from natural sources for the most part naturally occurring radioactive nuclei in rocks and cosmic rays – the ‘background’.  Without ado, this is my lowdown on radioactivity.

Continue reading Radioactivity and the Background of Dancing Particles

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

Shedding Light on Art – A Particle Accelerator in Paris

A digitally zoomed picture of an antique Byzantine ceramic bowl under archaeological forensic scrutiny by AGLAE, the particle accelerator at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieArt in a New Light

The World’s only particle accelerator dedicated to analysing artworks is back online at the Louvre Museum in Paris.  Continue reading Shedding Light on Art – A Particle Accelerator in Paris

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

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

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

Fifty Years of Turmoil in One Minute – The Recent Living Respiring Dynamic Earth

A screenshot of the Global Volcanism Program's Map of Eruptions, Earthquakes and Emissions $ ($E3$ )$ from The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, taken at time t = August 2010, showing details of the Icelandic volcano eruption of Eyjafjallajokull on 14th April 2010.Visualizing Dynamic Earth

We live on the ever-changing planetary surface of Earth.  Now, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s “Eruptions, Earthquakes, & Emissions” (“E3”) web application reveals a time-lapse animation of the data held on volcanic eruptions and quakes on Earth since 1960.  The dynamic Earth at one glance!
Continue reading Fifty Years of Turmoil in One Minute – The Recent Living Respiring Dynamic Earth

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

Global Winds and the Coriolis Effect – The Ever Changing Atmospheric System

A photograph showing blue sky and the wind blowing through a field of oats.What is Wind?

It comes at you as a breeze.  As a gust.  As a gale.  Or in the scariest of situations as a hurricane or a tornado with wind speeds of up to 400 kilometres an hour.  But what is wind?

Continue reading Global Winds and the Coriolis Effect – The Ever Changing Atmospheric System

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

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…

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