Jean Balchin

Jean Balchin is an English Literature Honours student at the University of Otago, Dunedin. When she's not busy painting, playing the piano or writing essays on Robert Burns, you can find her curled up with a recently published book on science. Alternatively, she'll be bugging her flatmates about their recent findings.

Investigation raises concerns over animals trials - News

Jan 12, 2018

An investigation conducted by THE BMJ has revealed significant concern about how researchers misrepresents the results of animal studies to obtain funding and approval for human trials to test a new tuberculosis vaccine. Tuberculosis Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. According to Mayo Clinic, the bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes. “Once rare in developed countries, tuberculosis infections began increasing in 1985, partly because of the emergence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV weakens a person’s immune system so it can’t fight the TB germs. In the United States, because of stronger control programs, tuberculosis began to decrease again in 1993, but remains a concern.” … Read More

Tattoo: The Marriage of Ink and Skin - Guest Work

Jan 12, 2018

After a particularly rebellious morning involving  blue hair dye, a brand new nose piercing and the purchase of a pair of black leather platform boots, I found myself in the parlour of rather dingy tattoo studio. Flicking through pages of garishly coloured rose and skull designs, the mix of exhilaration and shame within my stomach soon proved too overwhelming, and I ducked out of the store. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, especially when it’s an indelible one on your body. From the flamboyant designs of the fin de siècle ‘circus freaks’ to the sprawling technicolour cherry blossoms of the Yakuza, tattooing is an ever-evolving, enigmatic and fascinating art form. Ötzi the Iceman As indicated by the recent discovery of bone tattoo tools and pigments in a cave in France, humanity’s fascination with tattooing goes as far … Read More

No Pain, No Gain: A History of Beauty Practices throughout the Ages - Guest Work

Jan 12, 2018

It wasn’t until I felt the sharp sting of lemon juice trickling down into my eye made me realise I had made a terrible mistake. Inelegantly slumped over the bathroom sink, I squinted through my tears at the woebegone girl in the mirror and vowed never to bleach my freckles again. Although only twelve years old, I had joined the elusive quest for beauty – a desire that has plagued humanity for millennia – ever since the first caveperson spied their prickly visage in a calm pool. From cramping corsets to the slitting and silicon-enhancing of breasts, there have been millions who would avert the inevitable threat of old age and physical deterioration – the “hideous winter”, to quote Shakespeare. Socially constructed concepts of superficial beauty have lead do horrible things to themselves for as long as … Read More

Holy Batman! Giant extinct burrowing bat discovered in New Zealand - News

Jan 11, 2018

The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived in our fine land of New Zealand millions of years ago have been found by a UNSW Sydney-led international team of scientists. Near the town of St Bathans in Central Otago on the South Island was found teeth and bones of the extinct bat. The remains were recovered from 9 to 16-million-year-old sediments and reveal that the bat was about three times the size of the average bat today. Burrowing bats are notable for foraging more on the forest floor than any other bat species. They are found only in New Zealand now, but they once lived in Australia too. Burrowing bats forage for animals and plants, and scurry about on all fours. This new find represents the first new bat genus … Read More

Secrets, Spilled Soup and Schadenfreude - Guest Work

Jan 11, 2018

Imagine, if you will, a cold, blustery day in the city. With the wind howling and the rain coming down in horizontal sheets, the interior of the bus seems positively luxurious. From your vantage point on the plush red seats, you watch as a bedraggled young man runs towards the bus stop, arms flailing and suitcase flying. Just as he reaches it however, the bus takes off, and he is left on the sidewalk; a profoundly disappointed and sopping figure. What’s that you feel; compassion? Empathy? No; instead, schadenfreude, that deliciously guilty, almost inhuman sense of glee at someone else’s misfortune. Schadenfreude is a loanword from German. Its literal translation being ‘Harm-Joy’, schadenfreude encapsulates perfectly that slight sense of elation one feels watching lost tourists reading maps, or stressed waitresses dropping warm soup into the lap of restaurant … Read More

Sleepwalking, Sex, and Murder: Part Three - Guest Work

Jan 10, 2018

Parts One and Two can be read here… On a warm summer evening in July 2008, retiree Brian Thomas and his wife Christine sat their campervan, watching the sun sink into the sea. The couple spent their retirement watching rugby together and traveling the countryside. After heading to bed, Brian and Christine were awoken at 11:30 by a bunch of rowdy teenagers. Unable to sleep, they drove to another location and fell asleep again. The next thing Brian knew, he was awake, with his hands tightly grasping Christine’s neck as she lay unresponsive. Panicking, he called 999, “I think I’ve killed my wife!” he told the operator. “Oh, my God. I thought someone had broken in. I was fighting with those boys, but it was Christine. I must have been dreaming. What … Read More

Sleepwalking, Sex, and Murder: Part Two - Guest Work

Jan 09, 2018

Part One in this Sleepwalking Saga can be read here. The Sleep Centre Thinking I’d benefit from a hands-on experience of sleep studies, I contacted a sleep clinic. According to their website, the clinic staff perform a “wide range of home sleep tests for snoring, sleep apnoea, sleep/wake cycles, restless legs, and other sleep disorders.” The kind folk at the clinic kindly agreed to give me a tour of their facilities, and off I went. I arrived at the Sleep Centre, feeling slightly nervous. Tales of alien abductions and midnight probings unwittingly entered my head as I gazed at the building’s shiny metallic exterior. Readying myself with a few deep breaths, I walked inside, where I was met by a suspiciously friendly nurse. After initial introductions, the nurse showed me the clinical diagnosis … Read More

Sleepwalking, Sex, and Murder: Part One - Guest Work

Jan 08, 2018

‘Twas 2am on the night all hell broke loose, and all through the house not even a metaphorical mouse was stirring – except for me. Clad in my faded Mickey Mouse nightie, I tottered out of bed, carefully opened the front door and pressed the doorbell, repeatedly and insistently. The bell’s shrill cries reverberated through the house, sending it into a state of disarray. Children tumbled bleary-eyed from their beds, the neighbour’s horrid little Jack Russell Terrier started yapping, and my father sighed with frustration. Hauling himself out of bed, he wrapped his nightgown around him and headed out in search of his wayward, ever-infuriating daughter. Meanwhile, said daughter had escaped down the garden path and was heading out onto the open road, where a bemused late-night cyclist swerved to avoid the ghostly figure. My father … Read More

Revenge – sweet from the age of six - News

Dec 20, 2017

Both chimpanzees and  six-year-old children love seeing punishment doled out, even if it costs them, according to a paper published online this week in Nature Human Behaviour. These findings reveal new insights about the evolution of peer-punishment as a means to enforce social norms and ensure cooperation. We know from previous research that humans and some animal species experience empathetic distress and concern when seeing others harmed. Adult humans however have also been shown to experience feelings of pleasure –  when the harm is perceived as a deserved punishment for antisocial actions. “In humans, empathic reactions can be radically undermined and change to feelings of pleasure when the suffering victim was previously antisocial or perceived as an outgroup member.” Natacha Mendes, Nikolaus Steinbeis and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences devised an ingenious experiment … Read More

Breast cancer screening is reaching Pasifika women too late - News

Dec 15, 2017

A recent study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal has revealed a number of differences between Pasifika women and New Zealand European women diagnosed with breast cancer in New Zealand. The team found that Pasifika women in New Zealand are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer when the disease is already relatively advanced. The research team examined records of breast cancer diagnosis in Auckland and the Waikato between June 2000 and May 2013 and found that a third of Pasifika women had advanced disease at diagnosis compared to less than a fifth of Pākehā. Later diagnoses increases the risks of breast cancer. However, increased access to healthcare and ensuring all Pasifika women get screened at an appropriate time can cut the proportion of women diagnosed late. Breast cancer in New Zealand According to the Breast Cancer Foundation of New Zealand, breast … Read More