Category Archives: Science

Santa’s timetable.

I thought I was stressed and up against it coming into the festive season. But everything has been put into perspective thanks to a report from Sweden on Santa’s timetable for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Santa Claus is coming to town – for 34 microseconds.

It would seem that everyone’s favourite jolly old white bearded visitor has got the blink of an eye to land, get the right presents, drop down the chimney, deliver the presents, eat the cookies and drink the whiskey, get back up the chimney and move onto the next house. Not an impossible task but it’s no wonder he needs a year to recover!

Reindeer need to fly at 5,800 Km/hr to achieve the feat, the sleigh will experience some serious G force and air resistance en route but I’m sure Santa has thought of it. Otherwise he’ll be toast within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Bummer.

The heat is on…

“The heat”, being work, not the weather. It’s miserable here, but then it’s winter, what was I expecting? I’m just hoping that the horizontal rain and wind here equates to nice fluffy snow on the mountains. I’m looking forward to the ski season this year.

We spent a very nice long weekend in Amsterdam celebrating Sinterklaas. In my opinion this is a much better alternative to the over-commercialised Christmas we celebrate. You hand make presents and write poems for people and then sing a few songs and have a big meal. Great fun, plenty of pressure trying to out-do each other in the hand made presents and writing the poems, capped off with lots of sweets, Christmas beer and food.

But over the weekend I heard a very interesting statistic. It seems that the ski season, or the cold weather at least is linked to the activity of the sun. The more sunspots, the warmer the winter and the less snow you get. The sun has a cycle of eleven years between minimum sun spot activity and 2007 is one of those minimums! So, this winter will be cold with lots of snow for me to plant my face into at high speed.

Lovely jublee. 

Darwin Award Nominee

This guy must be included in this year’s Darwin Awards.

Man hurt using gun to change tyre

As a scientist it’s good to see evolution at work!

Discuss using references

In the middle of December I have to demonstrate to 3rd Year Biophysics and Structural Biology students on differential centrifugation. Essentially you get a pig liver and spin it really fast until it separates into it’s components. Fun and games for all the family.

I generally approach these practicals with a mixture of trepidation that something is going to go wrong and we’ll look like idiots and a distinct feeling of impending boredom. As demonstrators, we’re seen as the all knowing founts of practical biological knowledge which couldn’t be further from the truth. We got together two weeks ago to go through the experiment we’ll be demonstrating and ended up getting it wrong! Things didn’t go completely tits up, but the results were “interesting”. We’re just hoping the students actually follow the protocol instead of our attitude of knowing better!

Last year I had a student come up and ask me about a section of the experiment. She was wondering why we didn’t include a certain control. The minute she asked I had that feeling of dread that we’d overlooked something. And we had, she was right but luckily it didn’t impact on the overall results. So we congratulated her on finding the problem, sort of intimated that we’d put it there to see if anyone was paying attention and recommended she included it in her report so we could include it in this years practical! All knowing experts we are not, so it’s always a little worrying going into these things.

Students also have the canny knack of always asking the one question you haven’t prepared for. But this year I get to ask back! I’ve been asked to submit an exam question for them to take next year. It’ll only be a small one, but by God it’ll make ’em work! Now whether to go for the old “Compare and contrast” approach or my personal favourite “Discuss with references”, I don’t know but this feeling of power can really go to your head!

My new favourite word

I came across this today on a poster at work about an upcoming talk:


Don’t worry, I haven’t a clue what it means either.