Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of Nature Network: 4-11th March


This week, in the second post from our mini-series on Science on the Screen, we interviewed adrenaline-fuelled Greg Foot, a television science presenter. One of the toughest obstacles faced when attempting to explain science for the screen, is how to present it clearly and concisely in new and adventurous ways. In his interview, Greg gives budding presenters some top tips on how to overcome difficulties, finding fresh and exciting ways to explain science:

Secrets Of The Universe was a great playground to try out this stunt science approach to explaining big principles. I was really fortunate to have an awesome team behind the camera and I got to have the time of my life. The highlights included surfing a tidal wave to explain the concept of gravity, being shot by paintballs as I was dropped out of a tree and having a very fun day exploding cakes, jellies and watermelons!

Joanna Scott, our San Francisco blogger, has also been contributing to our Science on Screen theme by summarising the final day of the San Francisco Green Film Festival – a full day of events including shorts and feature length films. Her post invites you to watch a snippet of the penultimate film, The 4th Revolution: Energy Autonomy.

More Museum Mentions

Here on Nature Network, we can’t get enough of museums. Last month marked the end of our series on science museums, concluding with our attempt to map the world’s science museums. In his latest post, Matt Brown, our London blogger, presents us with a picture summary of the Grant Museum as it prepares for its reopening in March. Highlighting some of the fascinating items he encountered at the museum, such as skeletons, skulls, and pickled creatures, he invites readers to guess how many moles are contained in this jar:


Onto more human artefacts, NPG’s staff Blog, The Great Beyond, has revealed that London’s Natural History Museum will return 138 samples of human remains, dating back to the mid-1800s. These ancestral remains, including bone and soft tissue, will be returned to the people of the Torres Strait Islands, which lie between Australia and Papua New Guinea. There is a worry that these artefacts will be lost to the scientific community as the native people demand their ancestors are returned home. The post reveals that scientists wishing to work on those remains should not view their needs as diametrically opposed.

From artefacts to art

Farooq Khan, in his latest post, reveals that the visualisation of scientific data is a promising field, bringing artists, designers and scientists together to collaborate in completely new ways:


The winning visualisation above – International scientific collaboration between 2005 and 2009 – is by research analyst Olivier H. Beauchesne.

Each arc represents a collaboration between scientists in different cities mined from studies, books and trade journals found in Elsevier’s Scopus database. Dense nodes of science emerge in the Americas, Europe and Japan.

Off to a great start

The Bioentrepreneur blog kicked off this week with two new posts. The first, Technology Transfer in India, by Pramod Yadava discusses the blossoming growth of Indian biopharmaceutical groups, pointing out some of the problems relating to protectionism and international cooperation being resolved by more liberalisation.

Their second post, Startups in China, by Karen Liu, helps to dispel some of the preconceptions that medical device entrepreneurs may have. She explains that US companies who believe there is a plentiful supply of venture capital money in China are wrong:

Myth #1: There is plenty of VC money around China.

bq. The truth: There is very little money available for early stage investment, and even fewer for biotech investment at the moment. VC/private equity (PE) is indeed hot in China and the market seems to be flushed with money, but most of the money goes for PE/growth stage (“already showing profit”) or late stage (IPO in sight within 2-3 years) investment opportunities.

Questions of the week

Mike Saunders, a Fourth Paradigm blogger, and Director of Digital Media at Kew Gardens, has been asking, What’s at the bottom of the biodiversity data mine? His post explores the role of data mining in understanding information we have recorded about our planet’s biodiversity.

Meanwhile, a very different question is posed by this week’s guest blogger, Peter Atkins, a Professor of Geography at Durham University, who asks What is milk?

What is milk? It may sound like a trivial question or an inappropriate one for a serious science blog. Why should we take any interest at all in a substance that is a matter of everyday consumption? Put on the spot, most people would say that milk is a rather dull commodity and something they take for granted. The Spanish have a saying: blanco y en botella, leche. Literally this is if it’s white and in a bottle then it’s milk. However, slipped colloquially into conversation it means it’s obvious.

Three is the magic number

Graham Morehead’s post has been informing us that many fundamental scientific concepts come in threes. For instance, the physical dimensions of space can be broken down into three: x, y, and z. He invites readers to add to the growing list.

Scilogs blogger, Pavel Kroupa, has been following the ‘three’ trend, unravelling the three best reasons for the failure of the Lambda-Cold Dark Matter model. This is frequently referred to as the standard model of big bang cosmology, and in a follow-up to his Dark Matter Crisis post, he tries to illustrate some of the issues with detailed pictures, graphs and videos.

Not so hard hitting

Stephen Moss discusses Impact: the story of a word that is losing impact. He reveals that scientists have become all too familiar with the word ‘impact’:

After a time ones senses begin to dull with the impaction of impact. The word degenerates into a soupy amalgam of curious shapes and its meaning evaporates, much in the way that happened with ‘excellence’ when it similarly became the ‘mot du jour’ some years ago. But here’s the really sad thing. It may well be that we scientists have actually brought this on ourselves. In 1990, there were a mere 1000 scientific papers published that included ‘impact’ in their title, but by 2010, during which time the total number of papers published doubled, papers with ‘impact’ as a title word increased 10-fold!

Danger Down Under

In the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, Linda Lin explains to us that by virtue of geographical location, New Zealand was hit with a deadly quake because it sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire. Quite a few hits of doom-and-gloom have been endured by this part of the world since 2011. In February, two flash floods affected Australia in the states of Queensland and Victoria. March saw two cyclones rip apart the North East.

NPG, The Great Beyond Blog has been considering the damage caused by these cyclones. They reveal that Cyclone Yasi inflicted ‘patchy’ damage on the Great Barrier Reef. After a preliminary assessment of the reef, the Marine Park Authority found that around 300 kilometres of the 2,400 km reef have been affected by the cyclone, which made landfall at the beginning of February.

Barbara Ferreira, who has seen this damage first hand in her trip Down Under, is now in Tasmania giving us her latest update. She has been discussing the Tasmanian devil, the black and white marsupial with a thick tail and a cute face. She talks about a contagious cancer that is spreading throughout their population, and the captive breeding program which has been implemented to protect them. She also explains why they are known as the ‘devil.’

It’s competition time

Nature Chemistry is currently accepting applications for its essay writing competition. You are invited to write an ‘In Your Element’-style essay about one of the following elements: helium, nitrogen, sodium, copper, bromine, indium or plutonium. The winners of the competition will see their essay published in Nature Chemistry_, and will receive a year-long subscription to the journal. You can read more about the competition in NPG’s The Sceptical Chymist blog.elem.html

Joanna Scott, in the San Francisco blog, has been alerting us to the $75K Stanford Seed Capital Competition. Following the recent Stanford Entrepreneurship Week, North Bridge Venture Partners, an early stage venture capital firm and Stanford University’s Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society (ASES) have announced a new competition for would-be entrepreneurs with $75k of funding up for grabs. You can find out the details in her post.

International women’s day

This week saw the arrival of International Women’s Day. Our Women in Science forum was able to contribute to the event by asking our readers to name important women who have made significant contributions to science. You can read the responses here.

In line with this, our Boston blogger, Tinker Ready, summarised a talk held at Harvard on ways in which women can aim for top jobs. The talk, given by Barbara Alving, a veteran clinical scientist and research administrator, discussed how female biomed research bosses can make it to the top. Studies say that the world of research leadership is not welcoming to women, so Alving offered “points to consider” for those interested in managing researchers, agencies or academic departments.

Humour Past and Present

Nicolas Fanget has spotted in this week’s Nature 50 & 100 years ago, probably one of the very first LOLCATZ Nature style:


Finally, have you seen the Sixth Sense by M. Night Shyamalan, and do you have a cold sense of humour? Then enjoy Viktor Poor’s latest cartoon creation:

sixth sense.png


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