Posts Tagged video

Advent, chromosome by chromosome Grant Jacobs Dec 07

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Why not count down the days of the advent chromosome by chromosome? It’s a great idea and the Royal Institution’s implementation of it is excellent, try it.

When you visit their advent website, you’ll see a karotype,* with a microscope lens in middle.


We have 23 pairs** of chromosomes: one pair of sex chromosomes (XX in women, XY in male) and 22 pairs of autosomes (non-sex chromosomes) numbered 1 to 22.

We also all have a small organelle that is involved in ‘energy’ processing in our cells, the mitochondria. It has it’s own little chromosome, known for being passed down only from our mothers,*** that is counted as the 24th chromosome for this advent calendar.

Move the lens around to locate each day’s calendar (you can change the focus, too). Days that haven’t yet come to pass aren’t labelled.

Each day has a short film exploring part of that chromosome and interesting genetics associated with it. If you’re thinking amateur science videos, don’t. Think more BBC documentary.

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The origin of the scientist Grant Jacobs Nov 01

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In this TED lecture Laura Snyder introduces the origins of the term ‘scientist’ (hint: for that don’t know, it’s surprising modern), the Philosophical Breakfast Cub and ‘modern’ science, closing with an appeal to science communication. Among other things, it’s interesting to learn that the Royal Association dropped questions after presentations as being ungentlemanly!

This will be too light for many of those familiar with this story, but for those new to it it’s a nice gloss of the beginning of the modern scientist. For those wanting more, a list of several popular science books that might interest readers follows the video.

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This list is by no means complete, nor a ‘best of’. Readers are welcome to suggest others in the comments below.

The Philosophical Breakfast Club - the speaker’s book on group whose name gives the title of her book.

The Lunar Men – Jenny Unglow’s book on the Birmingham’s Lunar Society, who met at each full moon and were instrumental in starting the Industrial Revolution.

The cogwheel brain – Laura’s talk mentions the Babbage engine—Babbage being a member of TPBC—this book covers Babbage’s engines and efforts by the Science Museum to build them. The author, Doron Swade, headed the six-year project to construct the calculating engine that is in the Science Museum. (Don’t think is a dry subject; it’s an good read. The Goodreads site also lists The difference engine, which I suspect is the same work under a different title.)

Science: a history or The scientists – Much wider in scope is John Griffin’s telling of science’s origins.

Seeing Further – Edited by Bill Bryson, this carries a collection of well-regarded writer’s accounts of different aspects of the science and history associated with the Royal Society of London.

Other reading at Code for life:

The bosom serpent

Science-y reading

Wellcome diversions

Royal science

Teaching kids critical thinking

Sunday video: tackling Tuberculosis and biophysics Grant Jacobs Aug 25

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This free-wheeling discussion between Science Alert’s Fiona McDonald and Vic Arcus (University of Waikato) and Greg Cook (University of Otago), with questions from the on-line audience, might give readers some a feel for the time and some of the factors involved in tackling a drug targeting effort, in this case for tuberculosis. It also offers an introduction to something that has always been important to me, from a different angle that I am interested in.

Tuberculosis is a common infection — it’s only second to HIV/AIDS as causing the greatest number of deaths by a single infectious agent. It mostly affects young adults and is “among the top three causes of death for women aged 15 to 44”, resulting in  “about 10 million orphan children as a result of TB deaths among parents” a year if we use the 2010 figures as representative, according to the WHO fact sheet summary.

[If you’re not seeing the video, you can view it here.**]

One of the reasons I’d like to host this interview, besides that it features some New Zealand science, is that Vic talks about biophysics. He’s interested in it from the behaviour of proteins and systems. I have related interests but focused on genomes, which are physical structures too, structures that are altered reflecting on what genes are used in each particular type of cell and some diseases.

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What is a gene? Grant Jacobs Jul 27

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Genome TV is hosting an interesting series of short videos, asking different scientists what a gene is. (These are also available from the (USA) National Human Genome Research Institute website.)

In all there are ten interviews. I’ve embedded just a few of them below. (I offer them without meaning to imply I think these best as I haven’t—yet!—heard them all myself, nor in any order of ‘merit’.)

If you want to run through them all, start on the first video and let YouTube take you through them – on completing one, it’ll start the next. Each is only about a minute long.

Elise Feingold -

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Eric Green -

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Carlos Bustamante -

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For myself, of those I’ve heard I liked some of Richard Wilson’s thoughts -

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Insect bearing alien radar domes Grant Jacobs Jul 19

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I’m kidding.

But the ‘head piece’* of the treehopper (Bocydium globulare) does look like some alien insect from a sci-fi movie, here in this fantastic model by Alfred Keller from the Natural History Museum in Berlin,

By ‘Anagoria’ from wikimedia; CC 3.0

By ‘Anagoria’ from wikimedia; CC 3.0

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Christchurch earthquake geology hour Grant Jacobs May 19

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If you’ve got an hour to spare and are interested in the earthquakes at Christchurch, my hometown, could do worse that watch this lecture given by Martin Reyners, principal scientist at Geological and Nuclear Science. There’s lots of good stuff for non-geologists. (Like me! There’s also a few minor technical glitches, but let them slide.)

It’s hard to imagine a chunk of land that, apparently, once rivalled the Himalayas in height crunching into and pushing it’s way under New Zealand. (If you want to skip the introduction, jump to about four and a half minutes into the video.)

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As a bonus, here’s a map of the earthquakes at Christchurch to date,


More at Code for life:

Crick’s letter to son, aged 12, explaining DNA structure model

Sea stars and mosaics

Dear journalists and editors, (again)

It’s a small, small world (and three wise monkeys)

One example of why all those genomes from different species are useful to biologists

When things grow wild – post-earthquake natural succession in Christchurch gardens

Camouflage Grant Jacobs Feb 18

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Last week Alison tagged me* in a post where an artist had used his hands to present animals.

In his work, the artist had effectively camouflaged his hands – at a glance we see the animal.

In response to Alison’s post, here’s a video of animals that change their camouflage in response to their environment. They’ve got incredibly malleable skin, changing both it’s colour and surface texture. See if you can see the octopus in the opening scene:

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Epigenetics – introductory explanations Grant Jacobs Feb 06


Epigenetics is a term that is increasingly being heard of outside of molecular biology or genetics.

One of my interests is how gene regulation works, how the molecules that control genes do their thing. You can think of epigenetics as gene regulation through controlling the availability of genes to be used or not.

While it’s fairly easy to offer some examples of epigenetics, it’s harder to present it a balanced way, in part because understanding it needs a little context, a little explanation of how it fits into the rest of the what‘s going on in the nucleus—the place the DNA is stored in our cells—while our bodies develop and grow.

This TED lecture by Dr. Courtney Griffin from the Cardiovascular Biology Research Program at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation gives some of the background.

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It’s a little drier than many TED lectures*—but a lot lighter than formal lectures on the topic!—and worth viewing if you’d like to know more about epigenetics.

A lighter presentation is this from NOVA ScienceNow by Neil Tyson. Lest you think he’s not a star, Neil Tyson has over a million twitter followers.** (And counting.)

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Sir Paul Nurse: Making science work Grant Jacobs Jan 23

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Those wanting to hear for themselves* Paul Nurse’s presentation can view it on the blog at the Office of the Prime Minister‘s Advisory Committee website. Both audio and video versions are available. The recordings are 1 hour 1 minute long.


* Some of you will have read it via Siouxsie Wiles who so abled tweeted under the #SPNAkl hashtag. She’s also storified most of her tweets - good for those that prefer skim-reading!

Feeling oppressed by the administration…? Grant Jacobs Dec 18

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Try this That Mitchell and Webb sketch, Monsieur Garnier and the laboratoire. Research scientists (in commercial settings) in particular.

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Other lighter material at Code for life:

Two half-brains

Distinguishing scams (cartoon)

Friday round-up: zombies, cats, embargoes, XMRV papers

A geeky valentine

Friday’s Factoids and Quirky Quotes

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