Archive for the ‘Science’ Category


Face to face with William Smith – a bust of the man by Joseph Brogden Baker of Scarborough and a portrait painted in 1837 by Hughes Forau

Have you heard of William “Strata” Smith? Well I hadn’t until 2001, when I read a review in a weekend magazine and bought Simon Winchester’s book about him, called The Map that Changed the World. He has been one of my heroes ever since. (more…)

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Yellow moth on Mahonia berries, April 21, 2015

I made a rare observation (for me) of a yellow moth the other day and one thought led to another, as it usually does…

But first the moth. I was arriving home when I saw (more…)

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Rainbow colours in a spider web caused by diffraction of light – from Earth Science Picture of the Day

Please indulge me while I share some shiny things with you.
I always get like this in Spring, when the sun grows stronger and nature has a certain sheen to it.

I think it’s a woman thing, a gatherer trait inherited from our Stone Age forebears, who must have spent their whole lives looking for bright, shiny berries to pick and eat.

And in many species it’s the male who displays and the female who appreciates it. Apparently not in humans, but diamonds are still a girl’s best friend. So here I am exploring both sparklies and more subtle lustres – as I look at the words iridescence, opalescence and pearlescence. (more…)

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Morning and Evening Star by Alphonse Mucha, 1902

I find it hard to believe that I have only just put two and two together and worked out why Venus is always the morning or evening star!

I expect you know already, but if you think about it, as Venus is closer to the sun than we are, it’s always (more…)

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Blue is the colour (with a little help from my PhotoShop) - to see the original mauve Moon Shadow rose, click on this image by Drew Avery

In his prime, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, my father grew hybrid tea roses – 150 of them, row upon row, in our long, narrow back garden.

And like most rose enthusiasts, he dreamed (more…)

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An artist's impression of the process of apoptosis or programmed cell death - I think that's a phagocyte or white blood cell on the right, cleaning up the mess

Recently a reader of the newspaper for which I work wrote to ask why on earth we always publish such ridiculous artist’s impressions every time there is an outbreak of a disease (the latest was Legionnaires’ disease).

I explained that we needed an illustration of some sort and couldn’t always take a photograph of a victim. The artist’s impression cost us nothing as it was in our archive already – and anyway the images were pretty and colourful.

I am reminded of this as I illustrate one of my “favourite words” – APOPTOSIS. It’s a (more…)

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