Category Archives: Life

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

Temperature Inversions, City Pollution and Defunct Jet Engines

A photograph showing a typical temperature inversion layer over the Scottish city of Glasgow. The Sun is shining bright, and the sky is clear and blue, above a thick blanket of smog, located at ground level. Photograph: NaturPhilosophiePollution City

Temperature inversions are meteorological phenomena which can occur over busy cities under particular environmental conditions.  Retired jet engines could be used as “virtual chimneys”, and draw upwards the resulting smog that clouds the air over some of the World’s most polluted cities.  Continue reading Temperature Inversions, City Pollution and Defunct Jet Engines

The Fog Harvesters of Lima, Peru

A photograph showing a man collecting drinking water from a fog net installed in the Atacama desert. Tiny droplets of fog condensate in the net and run through pipes ready for collection. Photograph: Neil Hall/Daily MailFog Harvesters

Many places in the World have limited sources of drinkable water, whether it is because of limited rainfall or because of polluted water resources.  Without sufficient potable water, the health of possibly billions of people remains at risk.  In Lima, Perú, a simple technology helps people harvest water from the fog.  Continue reading The Fog Harvesters of Lima, Peru

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

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!

Music for Cats… – Guaranteed to be your Cat’s Jam!

"His Mistress's Voice" - original artwork starring Quark the cat pictured in 2011. Image: NaturPhilosophieScientifically Proven to be Your Cat’s Jam

A team of scientists have written music that they found most cats respond to a “little like sonic catnip”.  They used tempos and melodies originating from purrs and suckling.  Continue reading Music for Cats… – Guaranteed to be your Cat’s Jam!

Human versus Nature – The Golden Spike of the Anthropocene

A green nefarious-looking nuclear cloud, based on a photograph of the spectacularly large mushroom cloud resulting from the Trinity nuclear test experiment of July 16, 1945, that was part of the Manhattan Project. Image: NaturPhilosophieA New Epoch has Begun

The term ‘Anthropocene’ has entered scientific literature as an expression of the fundamental environmental change caused to planet Earth by humankind, despite not being a formally defined geological unit within the geological time scale.  The hunt is on for the “golden spike” – a marker for future researchers to point to in millions of years and identify as the geological start of the Anthropocene epoch.  Continue reading Human versus Nature – The Golden Spike of the Anthropocene

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

Hunting Ripples in the Fabric of Space-Time – The Trials and Tribulations of LISA

Artwork for "Hunting Ripples in the Fabric of Space-Time – The Trials and Tribulations of LISA" showing the LISA space array, with the caption: "Think Again!" Artwork: NaturPhilosophieMeet LISA!

Erm…No.  Not Mona Lisa!  (Rolls eyes.)  Think again!!  This is LISA – the Lisa Pathfinder satellite, the key element for a grand new project: a space-based gravitational observatory.  Continue reading Hunting Ripples in the Fabric of Space-Time – The Trials and Tribulations of LISA

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