Category Archives: Life

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

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

Closer to Midnight… – The Countdown to Doomsday Earth

Artwork for Trinity Event's Doomsday Clock at One Minute Past Twelve.  Digital Image: NaturPhilosophieWhat Time Is It?

No need to be an atomic scientist, when you’re considering the state of the World today, to understand the picture is an alarming one.  Allegorically-speaking, the Earth is now only two minutes away from impending catastrophe.  Continue reading Closer to Midnight… – The Countdown to Doomsday Earth

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

On the Rapid Demise of the Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica

A digital image showing the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica breaking down. Artwork: NaturPhilosophiePine Island Bay, Antarctica

A large chunk of the Pine Island Glacier has broken free today, the media announced.  The giant iceberg is estimated to cover an area of roughly 6,000 km2.  About a quarter the size of Wales in the United Kingdom.  Continue reading On the Rapid Demise of the Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica

Charming New Particle Xi-cc++ Discovered at CERN

Abstract artist impression of the particle newly discovered at CERN in psychedelic colours. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieThe Xi-cc++ Particle

CERN’s LHCb collaboration has announced the discovery of a new “charming” particle, thought to be instrumental to the strong force – the Xi-cc++.  Another particle.  So…? Continue reading Charming New Particle Xi-cc++ Discovered at CERN

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

Sentinel Is Watching

An artist's rendition of the Sentinel 3-A satellite orbiting over the Earth atmosphere. Image: ESAThe Sentinel Constellation

The Sentinel satellite program was designed to replace the older Earth observation missions, which have reached retirement or are nearing the end of their operational life span.  The satellite array will ensure a continuity of data, so that there are no gaps in ongoing studies. Continue reading Sentinel Is Watching

Arecibo and the Great Silence – Where We Talk About a Parrot Named Alex

An aerial photograph showing the Arecibo Observatory telescope, with a picture of Alex at the forefront.  The dish reflector of the telescope is built into a valley in the landscape, and the feed antenna is suspended by cables above it. Since the reflector can't be moved, the telescope is steered to point at different regions of the sky by moving the feed antenna $ ($in bell shaped dome$ )$ along on a curving track. The dome shields the feed antenna from interfering radio signals. Collage: NaturPhilosophieArecibo – What a Dish!

The Arecibo observatory is a very large radio telescope located in Puerto Rico.  In 1974, astronomers used it to broadcast a message into outer space intended to demonstrate human intelligence.  Why are we so interested in finding intelligence in the stars, and yet so deaf to the many species who manifest it here on Earth?

Continue reading Arecibo and the Great Silence – Where We Talk About a Parrot Named Alex

Psychometrics and “Big Data” – Who Do They Think You Are?

Dystopian homage to 1984 film set with Donald Trump as Big Brother. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieBig Data is the new Big Brother

The emergence of Big Data has meant that everything we do online leaves digital traces.  “Big data” is fairly new.  It’s huge and it’s scary – very scary.  This revolutionary approach to data-driven communications is said to have played an integral part in Brexit “Leave” campaign and U.S. president Donald Trump’s extraordinary win.  Continue reading Psychometrics and “Big Data” – Who Do They Think You Are?

CIA Releases “X-Files”

A photograph of two very young buddhist monks, showing one of them sitting in an alley while the other is seemingly levitating in front of him. The image is stamped by the Central Intelligence Agency.The Real X-Files

As the X-Files series enjoy a revival on TV, the American spy agency has decided to place thousands of declassified documents detailing government research into UFOs on its website.  The CIA documents also confirm the reality of humans with ‘Special Abilities’ able to do seemingly impossible things.  Continue reading CIA Releases “X-Files”

Ode to the Contrarian or Why Intelligence May Not Be the Best Strategy in Life

An image showing two fish bowls. One is full of gold fish, the other one is empty of fish. One of the gold fish jumps out of the crowded first tank into the other one.Disclaimer…

You.  Yes, YOU!  You’re rather bright, aren’t you?  Intelligent, smart.  Let’s face it a little-known genius!  And you have a unique opinion on just about everything.  Not specifically one subject.  Because you’re a contrarian. or as I like to call it: a “brainiac”.  Continue reading Ode to the Contrarian or Why Intelligence May Not Be the Best Strategy in Life

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