2011 in review

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 87,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Autotune the Abstract: Singing in the Brain

Autotune the Abstract: Singing in the Brain

Autotuned sensation Rebecca Black is very excited about this new concept...

As a science communication student I find myself constantly coming across new and different ways people try and get across scientific data and knowledge. It can range from typical things such as news articles and blog posts to knitted representations of science. Whilst some of the crazy ways people try and get out their research may seem misguided, I think this blatant eccentricity should be applauded and encouraged.

It is with this sentiment in mind that I decided for this post to create my own oddball way of presenting research. After much deliberation I decided to autotune the abstract of a science paper. The first step in my attempt to revolutionise science publishing was to pick a lucky research paper to become the launch song. After much scouring of Google Scholar I found the following:

“Singing in the brain: Professional singers, occasional singers, and out-of-tune singers: Gottfried Schlaug; Acoustical Society of America (2009)”

Which, given its subject matter, felt like the perfect research to autotune. Now, unfortunately not every research scientist is a professional sound technician. However, this is something that can be overcome as there are plenty of apps for Iphone and Android that will do all the complicated technical stuff for you! For this first attempt I selected one called “Songify” which is an app produced by the Gregory Brothers, the band who produce the popular online series ‘Autotune the News’.

So without further ado here is the first Autotune the Abstract:

I hope that this practice will become as established in scientific publishing as peer review. I also expect to see the awesomeness of the produced songs incorporated into the impact factors of journals.

Back to the Science Future

Back to the Science Future

Where is my jet pack? Why can’t I live forever yet? And where is my Technological apocalypse?

Friday saw the launch of the new issue of I’Science magazine. It has been entitled the “Great Expectations” issue. It looked at what science has promised us in the past and how close we are to full filling those predictions. You can check it out here.

 To celebrate the release of the issue I am going to share an art project which I happened across a few weeks ago.  It is a set of prophetic illustrations by the French artist Villemard. He produced them in 1910, intending to show what life would be like in the year 2000. Some of his predictions are remarkably accurate and others are just plain odd.



Prediction: Appears to be a primitive version of video calling

Exists in the 21st Century: Yes, and has been around in various forms for decades.


Prediction: Flying cars and flight suits

Exists in the 21st Century: No, although not from lack of trying 


Prediction: Computer aided design

Exists in the 21st Century: Yes, and with the rise of the 3D printer only likely to become more prevalent and publicly available.


Prediction: A Matrix-esque method of learning

Exists in the 21st Century: No, still only in science fiction. Although it could be argued that this is image is an allegory for Wikipedia.


Prediction: A sort of boat, airship crossbreed

Exists in the 21st Century: No, I’m pretty sure these don’t exist! 


Prediction: An automated hairdressers

Exists in the 21st Century: No, the closest we have come to this prediction is the electric razor.


Prediction: Automatic Make-up

Exists in the 21st Century: No, although versions of this can be seen in the Fifth Element and The Simpsons.

8 )

Prediction: Electric roller skates

Exists in the 21st Century: These do exist

A new science writing adventure begins…

A new science writing adventure begins…

In a recent post I spoke about the new online collaborative science magasine, Guru. Well I’m happy to say that I am their new ‘Technology Guru’. You can check out the article about me joining the team here. I am currently working on my first article for them and whilst I will not reveal what it is about this photo from a fancy dress party a few years ago will give a little clue:

Also another bit of update info is that this site is currently undergoing a complete re-design and will soon emerge from its cocoon looking a lot prettier with more frequent posting


New Multimedia Science Blog Launches

New Multimedia Science Blog Launches

Today sees the launch of a new multimedia blog on the PLoS Blogs network.  Called ‘Inside Knowledge’, it is produced by Lizzie Crouch, David Robertson, Anna Perman and myself. Over its 12 week duration we will be embedding with, and reporting on, the Imperial College Blast Lab.

Every week we will release a post looking to shine a light on the craft of science. We aim to use as much multimedia as possible, so as to really bring the lab to life.

Our first post is a trailer, it explores the lab and gives hints at the themes of the research we are aiming to explore over the next 12 weeks. To check it out click here.

For more information you can check out the about page of our blog and to stay updated with our developments you can follow us on Twitter here.

I,Science Podcast: The Expectations of Science

I,Science Podcast: The Expectations of Science

This week saw the release of the second episode of the I,Science Podcast. It looks at the topic of science’s predictions. It features:

  • Camila Ruz interviewing kids about what they think science will bring in the future
  • Andy Bailey and Rosie Waldron discussing the science of expectations
  • Tom Welch interviewing me about the technological singularity.
Yes I am in it, but I would highly recommend giving it a listen!
The podcast was produced by Thea Cunningham, Camila Ruz and Tom Welch
Just a little bit of H-T-M-L…..

Just a little bit of H-T-M-L…..

Some things are just more important than work...

Today, Dave, Andrew, Lizzie and myself had a bit of geeky fun after our web design module this week.

The HTML Song

By the Web Design Quartet

Website, there’s no need to shut down 
I said, website, pick your code off the ground
I said, website, ’cause you’re in a new town
There’s no need to be on Wordpress 

Website, there’s something you should know
I said, website, when you’re writing your code
You can work hard, and your content will shine 
It will be like drinking fine wine

It’s fun to code with the H-T-M-L
It’s fun to code with the H-T-M-L

It has everything, that you need to deploy
With it the internet’s your toy

It’s fun to code with the H-T-M-L
It’s fun to code with the H-T-M-L

You can get yourself wrapped, you can have CSS,
Without it the net would be a mess…

Website, are you listening to me?
I said, website, what do you want to be?
I said, website, you can weave up your dreams
But you got to know a few things!

No man does it all by himself.
I said, website, put your code on the shelf,
And just go there, to the H.T.M.L. 
Or just make it from a free shell. 

It’s fun to code with the H-T-M-L
It’s fun to code with the H-T-M-L

This also features on my website development blog in which I am designing a new layout and design for this site.

Some fun with photoshop

New collaborative science magazine launched.

New collaborative science magazine launched.

This article was originally written for ABSW:

Today sees the release of the pilot issue of the new free digital ‘science lifestyle’ magazine, Guru.

Edited by Stuart Farrimond, it will be published bi-monthly and aims to cover the importance of science in everyday life “without being geeky”.

“At the moment those with academic interests in science are well catered for by existing publishers” said Farrimond. He continued “There are a variety of magazines and periodicals which focus on science and technology subjects. However, the majority of these publications attract a demographic with either prior expertise or a specialist interest in that field…Our vision is to make science engaging and understandable to a lay reader who has little or no scientific background”.

The first issue covers many areas including the science of decision making, common misconceptions about medicine and the do-it-yourself satellite project CubeSat.

Marketing itself as a ‘science lifestyle’ magazine it aims to target people who are interested in the world around them, but who would never pick up a ‘science’ magazine. It also seeks to harness some of the power of new-technology, having been designed to look attractive and easy to read on computers, tablets and smart phones.

The publication’s content is crowd sourced, which makes it an interesting potential platform for science writers and bloggers. Crowd-sourced science has become a popular way of engaging online. Projects such as FoldIt and GalaxyZoo rely on members of the public who have an interest in science to aid research and have been very successful. The use of this model to produce a publication could be seen as unreliable. But, according to science blogger David Robertson “the internet is teeming with people keen to contribute to the spread of science knowledge. This can be seen in the sheer numbers of science blogs out there and their online popularity”.

As the debate on unpaid internships rumbles on, media outlets have come under increased scrutiny. For those looking to pursue a career in science journalism it could be that crowd sourced publications, such as Guru, become a valuable experiential platform.

With the launch of the magazine today, the team at Guru hope that it “will get people get excited and inspired about science”.

If you would like to get involved with Guru Magazine drop them an email: info@gurumagazine.org

ScIPhone: Science in the world of Apps

ScIPhone: Science in the world of Apps

Science is everywhere, nowhere more so that the smartphone arena. But along with the high-tech that makes up the devices, science has also invaded the App market. Whether it be the, pseudoscientific apps which tell you when you are going to die or apps for peer-reviewed research. In this post I will review some of the science Apps that are out there:

NEJM Image Challenge (download here)

It is an interesting App idea, showing pictures medical conditions and then quizzing you on what it could be. It made me feel a little bit like I was House and I can see the app being useful for med students (I was rubbish at it!). However, there was one slight draw back to the app, when you are on the tube you don’t particularly want a big photo of deformed or diseased genitalia appearing on your phone…it tends to make people look at you like you are a crazy person!

Pros: Scientifically accurate and informative

Cons: Very difficult without a trained medical background, costs money, awkward commuting experiences.

Physics Box

This is an App claiming to contain a series of physics games. In one game “Ragdoll Shooter” you fire manikins at a target and the other you fire bombs. The physics claim is only due to them using a physics engine to power the dolls movements. The ragdoll game is quite fun, but there is really no difference between it and the bomb game.

Pros: Quite fun, free

Cons: No actual science, no variation in Game play

Merk – PSE HD (download here)

This is a periodic table app made by Merk pharmaceuticals. It looks very nice and polished and by clicking on the elements it contains lots more information about them.

Pros: Very informative, scientifically accurate.

Cons: Doesn’t do anything extraordinary with the app format

Genetic Code (download here)

Now this may be quite a geeky admission but I think this is a very cool little app. It let’s you enter three DNA bases and it will tell you what it codes for. I imagine this would be pretty useful for researchers.

Pros: Free, science geek novelty factor, could be useful for actual research.

Cons: Little practical use for most people.

So there we have a quick sample I am aware that there are many more science apps out there. If you have any good suggestions for apps to be reviewed drop me a comment below. This potentially may become a regular feature.

Alan Rusbridger: the libel law draft lacks relevance to online media and interactivity

Alan Rusbridger: the libel law draft lacks relevance to online media and interactivity

Originally written for the Association of British Science Writers

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger spoke at City University on Tuesday (10 May) regarding ‘the long, slow road to libel reform’.

Speaking to a full room, Rusbridger outlined how British libel laws ended up in their current form and gave some examples of his libel battles as the newspaper’s editor.

As the talk progressed it became clear that the divide between press freedom and media regulation is a delicate balancing act.

Rusbridger praised scientists and doctors saying that “their stubborn refusal to give in to the frankly bullying use of libel laws has achieved considerable progress”.

He also praised them for supporting the new draft bill. He commended the clauses protecting publication on matters of public interest, honest opinion (which would have helped Simon Singh) and the substantial harms test.
Nonetheless, Rusbridger said that he believed the new bill did not go far enough, a point which was also raised during questions by former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, co-founder of the Libel Reform Campaign. Rusbridger commented “The honest opinion section still needs some polishing … I would like to see more movement on the burden of proof”.

Rusbridger also touched upon the role of new media, noting that the recent breaking of privacy injunctions on Twitter is an important issue, and that the draft reform bill does not contain “anything that speaks to 21st century web publication and user interactivity online”. The need for this was highlighted recently in the BBC documentary See You in Court which detailed a libel case based on comments posted on a message board by a member of the public.

The PCC’s recent ruling against The Daily Telegraph Daily for undercover recording of ministers and recent revelations of phone hacking by News of the World have brought the practicality of self-regulation into question. Rusbridger commented: “14 years after everyone told us that the PCC had reformed standards in the press and that the age of bad behaviour was over we can see better what a hollow claim that was”.

The overall message from the evening was that the existing libel and media laws are untenable and reform is needed.