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.

Death and Cyberspace - Guest Work

Jan 17, 2018

I first realised my brother was missing when I logged into Facebook one evening to see his bashful face grinning at me from a ‘MISSING’ notice. Rather absurdly, I wondered why they hadn’t picked a better photo of John instead of this blurry, orange-toned selfie. I continued scrolling through Facebook while frantically calling my family. Funny, innocuous videos of cats being alarmed by cucumbers were interspersed with worried messages from friends. Then came the awful, awful Skype call from my parents, when I realised that my brother’s digital life was really the only thing I had left of him. They had found his body. Our online legacies Not much thought is given to one’s online legacy after death. Yet according to statistician Hachem Sadikki, by the year 2098, the number of dead people on Facebook will outnumber living … Read More

Wicked! - Guest Work

Jan 16, 2018

Wandering home one evening from a particularly long day at university, I was almost run over by a pair of tousle-headed, half-washed, hoodie-wearing skateboarders, racing pell-mell down Castle St. Indignantly extracting myself from a rather thorny hedge, I caught a snippet of their conversation: “Your new board is wicked, man!” Was the skateboard in question an evil or nefarious sentient being? No; as far as I could tell, its claim to wicked was due to its brightly emblazoned deck, slick bearings and exceptional speed. Sauron Wicked is one of those curiously enigmatic words that encompass a variety of meanings. Firstly, it may be used in reference to someone who is evil or villainous, such as our favourite fiery Dark Lord, Sauron. Sauron, portrayed by Sala Baker, in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Read More

A History of the Supermarket - Guest Work

Jan 16, 2018

 It’s 3:45 pm on a Tuesday afternoon when chaos erupts in the Vegetables aisle of New World as a particularly mischievous child upends a display of Wattie’s baked beans. Clutching a shopping basket to my chest and brandishing a roll of Budget toilet paper, I summon my courage and wade into the throng of trolleys and toddlers. Six minutes later, I emerge virtually unscathed into the comparatively sedate toiletries aisle, having lost only a can of spaghetti and half my dignity on the way. Grocery shopping wasn’t always this exciting. Back in the stone age of retailing, all one had to do was ask the assistant in the greengrocers for a pound of pears and after two minutes of smiling small talk, a neat little parcel was ready. Moreover, prior to 1937, one did not have to negotiate the politics … Read More

Accelerated Christian Education and pseudo-scientific “education” - Guest Work

Jan 15, 2018

Picture this: grey walls rising up on three sides of you as you sit, hunched over your schoolwork – a science worksheet repudiating the theory of evolution, using the Loch Ness Monster as an example for why Darwin was horrifically, inexcusably wrong.  As you fill in the blanks, copying the answers from the pages of information in front of you, you begin to long for the sight of another human face, or the sound of something other than the scratching of pencils. Forget communication or cooperation with fellow students – the only way you can converse with the supervisor is to raise your small American Flag above your head, the stars and stripes alerting your need for attention. You might be forgiven for thinking I’m describing a scene from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four. But for … Read More

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