Of Schemes and Memes Blog

The Best of Nature Network: 22-28 January 2011


Barbara Ferreira kicks off this week with a fascinating blog post all about synthetic biology, featuring goats that make spider silk. Her post considers the ethical issues and moral dilemmas associated with the flourishing field. Furthermore, an informative comment thread discusses the potential the synthetic biology field has to offer us, such as cells that produce diesel and silkworms producing spider silk. Barbara reveals that:

This may seem like a science fiction story, but it is not the product of anyone’s imagination. It is work made possible by the achievements of science and engineering, in particular by the development of technologies such as genetic engineering (genetic modification or GM, for UK readers) and its 2.0 version, synthetic biology.

Also on the theme of science fiction, Linda Lin has been taking a break from writing her thesis to discuss some intriguing examples of Science Fiction like Research. She introduces us to a team who are cloning a woolly prehistoric mammoth and to researchers who claim they’ve come up with a chemical reaction that can produce vast amounts of energy:

I have no idea how relevant it would be to clone some prehistoric species, or if we are on the brink of solving the world’s energy problems with cold fusion. Really, it sounds like something out of the movies, exciting as it is. However, things that sound alien to me remind me of the importance of having an open mind. (No matter how far fetched an idea or result can be from my p.o.v., I’d like to think I’d consider it before rejecting it)

Life after ScienceOnline 2011

In the aftermath of the ScienceOnline 2011 conference, Jacqueline Floyd, in a follow up post, discusses the high volume of #scio11 tweets around the conference. Some have even suggested it should be coined a new extreme sport. Jacqueline has also identified a Twitter trend – the relatively frequent requests by journalists for copies of scientific journal articles- leading her to conclude:

If ever there was a good reason to open up access to the scientific literature beyond academic libraries, one would think that keeping journalists informed would be near the top of the list. How can we blame journalists for getting the science wrong when they can’t even access the literature?

Meanwhile, love it or hate it…..

This week has seen the annual celebratory Down Under holiday – Australia Day! Our newest blogger MuKa, has been discussing traditions that are typically Australian, such as the culinary experience of Vegemite (for those in the UK, a milder version of Marmite). His comment thread raised some valid points, for instance ‘does sense perception rely on the mind rather than on the body?

Away from this, Richard Williams has helpfully compiled a list of essential articles in his latest post Ten Simple Rules to aid fellow science research students. In line with giving practical advice, Wilson Pok directs us to an article in his latest post on how PhD students need to be proactive in getting good supervision from their advisers.

Hub News

This week Matt Brown, our resident London blogger, has been advising science lovers where to go to in the city. One of his suggestions is the New Gallery of Nature Images that opens at the Natural History Museum. The permanent gallery, known as Images of Nature, includes prints, watercolours, paintings and even confocal micrographs, many that have never been seen by the public before.

Joanna Scott, Nature Network’s adviser on events in San Francisco, has alerted us to the arrival of the anticipated TEDxBerkeley event commencing in February. Details of the event are here and pre-registration is now open – don’t miss out.

Meanwhile Tinker Ready, our Boston Hub blogger, has been discussing Barack Obama’s State of the Union address held on Tuesday. In her summary she reveals that Obama admitted the U.S. is behind in science and technology and he proposes the training of 100,000 new science teachers.


Every week Viktor Poor provides us with a comic strip to cheer us all up. This week is no different; here are his Science Cheerleaders – with some remarkably ‘cute’ water molecules.



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