Return of the science cookies!

October 6, 2011 at 9:56 am | Posted in 40th birthday celebrations, Competition, Cooking with science, Do | Leave a comment
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This month we’re lucky enough to have a selection of cookies made by Quirky Cookies & Cakes aka Wendy – a self-confessed science groupie and geek – and her analytical chemist husband, Jason.

Working from their home in Derbyshire since 2009, Wendy has produced her bespoke biscuits and cakes using as many locally sourced ingredients as possible.  Each cookie is made to her own recipe, and intricately decorated with royal icing, and would make a fabulous addition to any celebration – our favourite is the exploding supernova, which has space dust on it so it also explodes in your mouth!

Wendy and Jason love a challenge, and if they haven’t got a suitable shape in their collection of over 500 different cutters they can even make their own. Quirky Cookies and Cakes welcome orders, just e-mail, call 01332 610997 or send a tweet to @quirkycookies Check out a selection of their cookies at

To be in with a chance of winning a fabulous selection of science cookies, just email your name, address and organisation/institution to by 28th October.


The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance by Eric R Scerri

September 6, 2011 at 8:41 am | Posted in Competition, Read | 3 Comments
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With the discovery of two new chemical elements this year – and the return of the Lab News Periodic Table Wallchart – we thought it only appropriate to suggest a suitable chemistry-based read for this month. And what better than The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance by Eric R Scerri.

The book begins with an overview of the importance of the Periodic Table, taking the reader on a journey of the early development of the chemical elements and their classification from Lavoisier, Boyle and Dalton and Cannizzaro to Mendeleev, Bohr and Lewis and Bury.

Unsurprisingly, the book has gained much praise and it’s easy to see why. It’s informative, but Scerri’s style is informal and engaging and it’s no wonder it’s been labelled as a must read for all chemists, but it’s certainly an equally enjoyable read for anyone with an interest in chemistry and the Periodic Table.

The Periodic Table: Its Story and Its Significance by Eric R Scerri, Oxford University Press, 2007, £22.50

And we’ve got four copies of The Periodic Table thanks to Eric R Scerri himself! To be in with a chance of winning, just send your name, organisation/institution and address to by 30th September.

Perfect Rigour by Masha Gessen

August 8, 2011 at 8:37 am | Posted in Competition, Read | 1 Comment
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In 2000, the Poincaré Conjecture was named as one of seven of the greatest unsolved mathematical problems in world, and the Clay Institute in Boston – recognising its complexity – offered $1m to anyone who could produce a solution. Grigori Perelman – a talented Russian mathematician – posted his solution to the mathematical conundrum online in 2002. His solution was validated in 2006, and in 2010, he was offered the $1m in recognition of his proof and mathematically ability – he refused every penny, the Fields Medal – mathematics’ highest honour – and he job offers that inevitably followed.

Journalist Masha Gessen wanted to find out why – and her task was made even harder as Perelman refused to bask in the limelight of his success, becoming a recluse and cutting off all communication with the outside world, especially journalists.

Perfect Rigour is like no other biography – Gessen says she never met with Perelman, and was forced to find out more about the genius from former classmates, teachers and colleagues in both America and Russia to paint a picture of a man who never wanted to be famous.

Perfect Rigour by Masha Gessen, Icon Books, March 2011, £7.99

We’ve got a copy of Perfect Rigour to give away – to be in with a chance of winning just send your name, address and organisation/institution to by 29th August.

The World’s Greatest Idea: the Fifty Greatest Ideas that have Changed Humanity

July 13, 2011 at 8:34 am | Posted in Competition, Read | Leave a comment
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What is the world’s greatest idea – fire, electricity, natural selection? In true Top of the Pops style, John Farndon counts us down from 50 to one – the World’s greatest ever idea – as complied by a panel of experts and voted for by the public. But what will it be – marriage, capitalism, or simply tea and coffee? You’ll have to read it to find out.

This is a witty and surprising read – you learn something new with each idea, even if it’s just where the public rates the idea! This is another great holiday/commuting book – it’s easy to read and the short sections make it an ideal book to dip in and out of whether travelling on the train or sunning yourself by the pool.

And we’ve got a copy to give away. For your chance to win just send your name, address, organisation/institution to by 29th July. Good luck!

Scientific Cookies

July 8, 2011 at 8:06 am | Posted in Competition, Cooking with science, Do | 6 Comments
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We came across these fab chemistry-based cookie cutters  and just had to give it a go – all in the name of science of course!

Each set of unique cookie cutters features a test tube, an atom, a conical flask and a beaker – plus the method for making your tasty cookies.

We had lots of fun experimenting with different methods – we found the one sent with the cutters wasn’t so good for keeping the shape of the our cookies, so we  tried a different one that involved putting them in the fridge (method here).

Once they were cooked and cooled came the fun part – decorating them. If only they looked as good as the ones at – all I can say is I tried!

We’ve got a set of Science Cookie Cutters to give away – to be in with a chance of winning, just send your name, address, organisation/institution to Good luck!

Teach us to Sit Still by Tim Parks

June 21, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Competition, Read | Leave a comment
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Plagued by what he thought was a prostate condition that couldn’t be explained or treated by conventional medicine, Tim Parks found mediation. His unlikely prescription of breathing exercises was the last place he wanted to find answers – it was all a bit ‘New Age’ for him.

Teach us to sit Still is Parks’ record of his own mysterious illness and his quest for relief from chronic pain. From being told it was a blocked vata – an energy flow into his body – to undergoing a painful cystoscopy, Parks is careful not to leave out any wince-inducing detail. And then a friend suggested breathing – it didn’t appeal but he gave it a go…

Parks details the last four or five years of his unpleasant and chronic health condition – while also touching on the effects of illness on other writers and the role of religion in shaping our sense of self – until he found the key that let him out of his personal and painful jail.

As Britons, we don’t like to talk about our embarrassing health problems, but this witty, engaging, uplifting and painfully honest self-examination might make you think it’s not such a bad idea.

We’ve got two copies of Teach us to Sit Still  to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, just send your name, address and organisation/institution to or tweet @laboratorynews #teachustositstill and we’ll put your name in the hat.

Size Matters: The Royal Institution Christmas lectures 2010

June 9, 2011 at 9:03 am | Posted in Competition, Watch | 1 Comment
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Ever wondered why a hamster would survive if you drop it from a great height, why an elephant couldn’t dance no matter how hard it tries or what happens to chocolate as it melts?

Well fret no more: Dr Mark Miodownik answered these – and many other questions – during his Size Matters series of Christmas lectures at the Royal Institution. Mark explored the importance of the micro and macroscale by dropping a hamster and dog – ok gunge-filled balloons – from a great height; introduced us to a flea circus and flew around the lecture theatre over three jam-packed lectures.

They were great fun to watch – and certainly kept the Lab News team entertained over the festive period. Unbeknown to us, the RI have been producing DVDs of the Christmas lectures since 2005, and this year – for the first time – they are available to order online via Amazon.

And we’ve got two to give away thanks to the lovely people at the RI. To be in with a chance of winning, just send your name, address and institution/organisation to by 29th June. Good luck!

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