It’s snowing…

November 30, 2010 at 9:22 am | Posted in Just for fun | Leave a comment

Since it’s snowing here at Lab News Towers, we thought we’d share the latest frosty-themed Image of the Month. It features in the December issue – out tomorrow – so you lucky things are getting a sneak peak before anyone else!

Snowflakes by Wilson Bentley

Snowflakes by Wilson Bentley

By way of a tribute to the wintery month’s ahead here is a collection of snow crystals taken by Wilson Bentley – also known as “The Snowflake Man.”

Wilson Alwyn “Snowflake” Bentley (February 10, 1865 – December 23, 1931) was born in Vermont, and is one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He perfected a process of catching flakes on black velvet in such a way that their images could be captured before they either melted or sublimated.

Bentley also photographed all forms of ice and natural water formations including clouds and fog. He was the first American to record raindrop sizes and was one of the first cloud physicists.


Your science Christmas gifts all wrapped up

November 26, 2010 at 8:35 am | Posted in Editorial Comment | Leave a comment
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It has come to our attention that in four weeks time, it’s Christmas Eve…that’s only 20 working days until Christmas. If you’re anything like the Lab News team you’ll be wondering what to get for that special scientist in your life, or indeed what to add to your own Christmas wish list.

As you all know, we’re always keen to help – so we’ve come up with  5 awesome Christmas presents to make your scientist happy

Personalised DNA Art



For a mere £295, have your DNA sequenced and your genetic profile made into a piece of art.

A present like this is going to earn massive brownie points on Christmas morning and it’s top of the list for everyone at Lab News Towers.

And a percentage of every sale goes to The Chase Children’s Hospice in Guilford, Surrey, so you know your money is also doing some good! For more, vist DNA Art’s website

Space Hopper
Now this is definitely one for the kids – and the big kids in us – a gigantic orange space hopper! Relive your childhood days bouncing around the laboratory/office…need we say more. From Argos £16.99  or £20 direct from the Science Museum

New Scotland Yard Forensics kit
Not sure if this is one for the adults or one for the kids, but how fun is this? Get to be a proper CSI detective with four interconnected crimes to solve using fingerprinting, ink testing, hair, fibre and substance tests ­– and there’s Crime Scene Tape – seal of the office, we’re going in! From the Science Museum £35

The Particle Zoo - electron

The Particle Zoo - electron

The Particle Zoo

The Lab News team’s inner children have emerged and we all want our own Particle Zoo… ok maybe just the Dark Matter… and the electron… and the Higgs boson…

These handmade Subatomic Particle Plushies are just awesome – and each comes with its own explanation label, so you know exactly what they are and what they can do. They’d make lovely stoking fillers – hint hint!

Prices range from around $10 to $345 for the whole set – but its well worth it. Get them all at The Particle Zoo

Star Wars Force Trainer
Every man I know wants to be a Jedi, and what better way than with the Star Wars Force Trainer. A wireless headset reads and interprets your brainwaves – the deeper your concentration, the greater your ability to move the Jedi Training Remote. And you’re guided through 15 levels by the Yoda, the Jedi Master himself…awesome! £76.50 from Curious Minds

On the lighter side…

November 23, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Editorial Comment | Leave a comment
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I was pointed towards this story on Twitter, and it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling – with all the hardcore science going on in Laboratory News I thought it was time for a break from the norm…

New equipment to scan babies brainsA whopping £220,000 has been raised by the Sick Kids Friends Foundation for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and they’re spending it on a new piece of brain scanning equipment.

The Medtronic Navigation equipment – a cutting-edge 3D “sat nav” mapping system – will help doctors scan the brains of babies and toddlers whose skull is too soft or are too small to undergo conventional procedures. It’ll be based at the new hospital at Little France and is one of only two scanners in the UK (the other is at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital).

The machine is really smart – it combines magnetic resonance imaging, computer tomography and fluoroscopy to create a 3D map of the child’s brain.

“This piece of equipment is a significant advance in neuro-surgical technology,” said Jerard Ross, consultant neurosurgeon, “It will help us manage patients, both new and old, who come to Sick Kids for help with a range of conditions, including hydrocephalus, and it will keep us at the cutting edge of paediatric neurosurgery for some time to come.”

The generosity of the Foundation doesn’t stop there: they’ve launched a public appeal to raise a further £100,000 to upgrade the hospital’s state-of-the-art operating theatre where surgeons carry out keyhole surgery on young children.

“This facility was funded by the Sick Kids Friends Foundation and has enabled us to remain one of the leading centres in the world for this type of surgery in children,” said Gordon MacKinley, consultant paediatric surgeon, “The OR1 upgrade with help us continue to be world leaders in this field.”

The future of science is in the app

November 18, 2010 at 10:03 am | Posted in Editorial Comment | Leave a comment
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NPL appIt is practically impossible to get me away from my computer – whether I’m writing, blogging or just surfing the web – you can be sure I’m in front of it for a good 8 hours a day. And if I’m not on my computer I’m on my phone, checking the latest tweets or who’s poked me on Facebook.

I’m not a big app user ­– I’ve only got one or two on my phone, and it’s not a fancy iPhone or Blackberry, just a regular Android phone I’m afraid to say. I’ve just got a press release in about the first app for iOS devices – that’s iPhones and iPads – from the National Physical Laboratory, which got me thinking – how useful would an app be to a scientist?

Scientists are a unique breed and I’m not sure how useful an app would be to a busy scientist – it’s not likely that a chemical-covered researcher is going to reach into their pocket to pull out a touchscreen phone to search for the latest app. The lab isn’t going to be a safe place to keep a rather expensive iPad either ­– just imagine the scratches and the damage done by constantly tapping the screen with dirty fingers, it’s just not practical.

The NPL app is designed to be used by lab researchers to do the fast accurate calculations without having to leave their work and consult textbooks, according to the PR. Apparently all fundamental constant values can be accurately copied into a scientific calculator making Fundamental Physical Constants easy to use for accurate calculations while working in the lab.

The app – available through the Apple Store – is the first to be designed the the UK’s national measurement institute, and will provide researchers with the most-up-to-date values ensuring that their work is traceable back to the highest degree of accuracy.

“For more than a century NPL has developed and maintained the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology,” said Tom Prior, business development manager at NPL, “Previously we have shared this expertise with scientists through published papers and reference books, but have now developed our first app to ensure that the data is as accessible as possible, enabling researchers to use the information quickly and accurately to progress their own work.”

It’s an interesting point – the NPL are embracing new technology so should the rest of science follow suit? Although scientists are advancing certain technologies, are they leaving others – like social networking and apps – behind?

Let us know what you think – do you think an app like this could be useful to you or would you prefer the traditional print medium? Has your lab embraced new technology, or are you stuck in your ways?

Its competition time…

November 16, 2010 at 9:15 am | Posted in Competition | Leave a comment

Fancy winning yourself a Free LAB PALTM Sample Labeller from Brady?

Just print out and complete the crossword below and fax back to 020 8253 4609 or scan and email to by the end of November. First out of the hat will win.

Here are the clues – good luck!


1 Is nothing but a subject relating to chemical elements (8)
6 Hit second lorry (6)
9 Brigadier initially left a sergeant with substance for whitening belts (6)
10 & 11 Normal answer that is used for the purpose of comparison (8,8)
12 & 14 Be mad before reaching room with ventilated enclosure (4-7)
16 & 18 Boater with strategy manipulating cell (7,7)
19 & 21 Suffer a hoax – it’s an order! (5,2,4)
22 To Ma, pine could be poisonous (8)
25 Refurbished station contained £1000 in Bulgarian money (8)
26 Salt coming from diode I exchanged (6)
27 During emergency a nickeliferous part of a highly poisonous gas (6)
28 Can shallow dish contain thin coated sheets? (8)


2 Condiment used as last resort (4)
3 Brown to go and dance (5)
4 Contrive to reach Chaldean city and find French financial agent (9)
5 In suitcase included some milk protein (6)
6 Resort in the country (5)
7 Strong staff employed by tyrant (3,2,4)
8 Combination of photos in varying colours arranged by groom with charm (10)
13 Rustics put rugby posts in game-birds’ enclosure (10)
15 Tome Ethan rewrote becoming the worse for wear (4-5)
17 Bird takes allowance of measurement in chemistry (9)
20 Elementary blue (6)
22 Alarm from reportedly icy Peter first (5)
23 An old sort of swelling (5)
24 Notice it opening (4)

Winner will be announced here in December

Where are the women?

November 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Editorial Comment | 2 Comments
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Since my last post, Can you name a famous female scientist? I’ve been thinking a bit more about good role models for young girls, and there the female science presence is on TV.

I mentioned the last post on Twitter (@laboratorynews), prompting @rpg7twit aka Richard P Grant to ask “Role models NOT important?” I think they most certainly are, and so do a lot of other people judging by his next tweet: “We had an interesting discussion last night at Eureka Live about women in science. Also see ‘female Brian Cox’ et al”.

It’s an interesting point – where are all the women in science and do we have a female equivalent of Professor Brian Cox? The Eureka Live event was discussing the recent Times Eureka 100: The Science List, and I was shocked to see only 11 of the 100 spots filled by women – the highest at number 10.

It’s a given that men and women are considered equals in this day and age, but science doesn’t seem to have caught on. Is it because science – and engineering, technology and maths for that matter – is still seen as a traditionally male environment, or is it that young girls don’t have enough role models?

I can’t remember who my role models were when I was younger – but I do know it wasn’t a female scientist. I’m ashamed to say it was probably someone like the Spice Girls, although they did teach us a lot about ‘girl power’!

So where are all the female scientists hiding, and is there a woman out there able to compete with Brian Cox? Let’s hope so…

Check out the December issue for my comment – I think its going to be based on this!

Can you name a famous female scientist?

November 5, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Editorial Comment | Leave a comment
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Marie Curie

Naming a female scientist is easy right? There’s Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell…

But it turns out that 88% of 18 to 24 year olds can’t name these or any other famous female scientist. What’s more, 47% couldn’t name a famous male scientist either. Ask them to name the latest celebs mentioned in the magazines and it’s a different story.

We were quite surprised by the results of the Royal Society survey (mentioned in the October 2010 issue), but when you consider that two-thirds of adults couldn’t name a famous female scientist either, its perhaps easier to see why the percentage is so high.

What’s more, when asked who they would preferred as a role model for a daughter, 20% of respondents said a Nobel Prize-winning scientist! Life-saving doctor came first with an impressive 47%, and only 5% thought celebrity chef or chart-topping pop star would be a suitable role model.

Rosalind Franklin

When asked what career they would like a daughter to pursue, 18% of respondents chose scientist, compared to 27% for lawyer, 26% for teacher and 17% for nurse.

So what do you make of this research? It seems parents would like their daughters to be scientists, even though they can’t name a single one. Ask young adults to name a famous female scientist they won’t have a clue, but ask them what’s going in the world of celebrity and they know more than you could ever need to know about the latest football/WAG couple.

Just in case you need any help, we’ve written a few useful biography pieces on famous female scientists: Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin

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