Archive October 2009

Observing neurons and 1960s sci-fi geeks Grant Jacobs Oct 31


A lot of biology is observation, looking at subject matter using one technique or other. New techniques and equipment such as specialised microscopes like the new microscope at the University of Otago’s Centre for Neuroendocrinology are critical for progress in biology.

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Book excerpt – Losing the faces of your wife and children Grant Jacobs Oct 30



Using an allusion to a gallery of portraits on the wall, Jonathon Cole describes how John Hull lost his visual memories of frequent companions before those of people he hadn’t met since going blind:

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Linking text and visual content Grant Jacobs Oct 30

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There are several projects with a general concept of tight linking between the text and visual elements in a document for presenting scientific information.

It can often be easier to illustrate a concept with an image. Technically at least, it’s a little trickier, for moving or three-dimensional objects.

Easily the most successful is video, witness the YouTube and it’s ilk. One problem with video is that really it wants simplified verbal presentation: if it gets to wordy, long-winded or technical, it loses the audience. Viewers would probably say they’d be better reading a book. The other is that you can’t interact with the objects in image in the way you might explore a 3-D object.

iSee model

For a larger copy of this figure, visit the PLoS One site.

Enter a hybrid solution, text with links to trigger visual elements which let you zoom in, out and rotate 3-D images, or have them played as an animation. Previous solutions have really caught on beyond a niche application. Maybe it’s time has come?

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Windows 7 on Apple computers Grant Jacobs Oct 29

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Owners or prospective buyers of Apple computers may want to know that two arch-rival virtualisation software companies are already offering support for Windows 7.

You have the choice of the latest versions of VMWare’s Fusion, or rival Parallels‘ virtualisation products.

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Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time Grant Jacobs Oct 28


While searching for something interesting to write about I visited PLoS One, an open-access journal. Right at the top of the list of Most Recent Articles was Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time, which you have to say is something of an attention-getting article title…

A quick search reveals that unfortunately Ed Yong, a full-time science writer who writes the Not Exactly Rocket Science blog, has beaten me to it (sigh). His article is in his usual excellent style and I’ll bow out and point you in his direction.

Autistic children and blood mercury levels Grant Jacobs Oct 27


Autism has received great attention over the past couple of decades, from movies like Rain Man to the fuss stirred up by anti-vaccine promoters who insist that “mercury” (thimerosal) in vaccines causes autism.

If you’ve ridden the waves of the autism-related anti-vaccine silliness on the WWW you’ll appreciate research that tries bring back a positive focus on what causes autism. Of course, part of that is trying to convince those promoting the notion that mercury causes autism to (please) stop.

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Three kinds of knowledge about science and journalism Grant Jacobs Oct 26


Can journalists really know how science really works?

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Doubt not certainty Grant Jacobs Oct 25


I try avoid posts that are mostly “referrals”, that consist of just pointing to another blog and saying “read this”, but if you’re in the mood for a little light philosophy on the meaning of science, try Nature senior editor Henry Gee’s article that argues that  science worships not certainty, but doubt.

What do you think?

Forgetting older science Grant Jacobs Oct 24


Are the electronic literature databases making us forget about the older literature?

A short blog by Isis, a self-proclaimed domestic and laboratory goddess (and who are we to disagree?), reminded me that I have been meaning to write a blog about this issue for some time and that I should get on with it.

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What the chiropractor said Grant Jacobs Oct 24


A local chiropractor cannot accept that some seriously ill swine flu patients had no underlying health issues: Sorry, no, there is no way that these people were “otherwise healthy”.

The medical examinations showed that they had no underlying health issues. But this chiropractor won’t accept that.

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