For most of the 20th century, more than 60,000 people died in the US from polio, diphtheria and small pox each year. In 2016, the American death toll from these diseases was zero. Around the globe, two to three million deaths from these diseases and others, including measles, rubella and tetanus, are prevented each year.These remarkable statistics are a triumph of medicine and the single most effective public health measure in history: global vaccination programmes.
COVID-19, after the most rapid and sustained vaccine development programme in history, now looks set to be joining this list of fatal diseases that can…
‘Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind’
I came across that quote (from the zoologist Marston Bates) during a particularly low period in my research career, nothing seemed to be working. The days of failed experiments stretched into weeks and then months, with no end is site. The quote mirrored my mode.
At first Bate’s words seemed like a dark description of the scientific method that chimed with the distress I felt after yet another fruitless week in the lab. It conjured up an image of me, a lost scientist wondering down one…
Just how long is all of your DNA?
Let’s start with a quick recap. The sequence of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), is famously spelt out in just 4 letters — A T G and C. Each letter represent the repeating ‘bases’; adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine. And the famous DNA double helix is a twisted ladder, each rung made from a pair of bases. Adenine always pairs with thymine whilst cytosine pairs with guanine.
So the first thing we need to know is the distance between each rung on that DNA helical ladder. And that’s easy. Watson, Crick, Franklin and Gosling…
Curious Kids is a series by The Conversation, which gives children of all ages the chance to have their questions about the world answered by experts. All questions are welcome: you or an adult can send them — along with your name, age and town or city where you live — to firstname.lastname@example.org. We won’t be able to answer every question, but we’ll do our best. How is spider silk so easy to break when it’s stronger than steel? — George, aged ten, Hethersett, UK.
Did you know that the discovery of a way to make ammonia was the single most important reason for the world’s population explosion from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7 billion today? Or that polythene, the world’s most common plastic, was accidentally invented twice? Nope? Well here’s their stories plus 3 other chemistry inventions that make the world we live in.
Some homeopaths believe water has memory. That is how they explain the “medicinal properties” of their concoctions. Apparently people are treated even though the pill or potion may not contain a single molecule of the medicinal agent. But does water really have memory?
That depends on how you define memory. If for water it is defined as the property to have a stable state for sometime, then it has memory, just not a very good one — 50 femtoseconds is its retention time. That’s about 60 million million times shorter than the mythical goldfish’s three-second memory.
But with that “memory”…
I hate ironing, I’ll do more or less anything to avoid it. So faced with a giant pile of laundry I got easily distracted. I started to wonder why those shirts emerged from the machine looking like a tangled bag of rags. How come the cotton clothes get crumpled so easily? And what’s with easy-iron garments, why don’t they need so much pressing?
Since I’m a scientist I know it is important to understand the theory behind a methodology. And so it became imperative, before unleashing the iron and its board, that I found the answers to these pressing questions.
The imposing cliffs of Pointe du Hoc overlook the Normandy beaches where Allied troops landed on June 6 1944. The assaults marked the beginning of the liberation of German-occupied Europe. And the cliff tops were the perfect spot for artillery pieces capable of devastating any troops who tried to attack the Omaha and Utah beachheads.
The Allied command knew this and so, to shore up the attack, the navy bombarded Pointe de Hoc. Afraid this might not be enough, they also had a backup plan. A team of US Rangers scaled the 30-metre cliffs and, after locating the weaponry, deployed…
150 years ago a Russian chemist names Dimitri Mendeleev formulated a table of chemical elements. At the time he knew of just 63. Since then the table has grown to include 118 element. But have you ever wondered how those elements got their names?
These days the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC)have a set of rules which stipulate that “elements are named after a mythological concept or character (including an astronomical object); a mineral, or similar substance; a place or geographical region; a property of the element; or a scientist”.