Gavin

I try to write about [interesting] science as interestingly, and as well as I can...


Making the immune system work for you: The story of CAMPATH-1H

Harnessing the human immune system, for our own ends, has been a goal of medics and researchers for decades. The immune system is one of evolutions most impressive creations. Given limited genetic resources it’s capable of producing billions of unique antibodies and receptors to recognise pathogens. Given this diversity, this power for recognising many different proteins, there is a problem: stopping the immune system from attacking its own body. Fortunately a system exists. Immune cells ...(Read More)

Eavesdropping Moths Predict Bats Next move: Deploy Countermeasures…

In a North Carolina laboratory, a live moth was clamped tight in a box with a microphone and made to panic. Through the panic, its powers of prediction were probed. The moth, a species of tiger moth called Bertholdia trigona, isn’t psychic. Instead, the moths’ hearing is the key. It’s one of two weapons it uses to stymy a deadly predator: the big brown bat. The panicking, if moths can truly be said to panic, ...(Read More)

Why read about Science?

This post is about why should anyone bother to write about science, to ‘do’ science writing. But really I’m interested in two other things here, consider this post a conversation starter. Firstly, you, the reader, why do you read about science? Or if you don’t, what would it take for you to do so? (Also, how did you get here?) And secondly, science writers, why do you think science writing is important? Why should people ...(Read More)

Science Hubb update: Designs, facebook pages and being published! Yay!

This post is just on a few things I thought I’d update you with about what been going on lately with Science Hubb. First up, and least consequential, I made a new logo and header things for the site, which you can see above. I struggled for a while trying to thing of designs that felt appropriate and then actually designing it – procrasta-designing? –  but am fairly happy with it now. What do you think? Does ...(Read More)

Osedax: Ancient bone eaters

  Somewhere, in the depths of the ocean, a marine ambrosia descends from above; the body of a dead whale.  Despite the depth, the corpse won’t be in solitude long; a mini-ecosystem will soon erupt around it, one that could last a decade. The body draws hag fish, sea cucumbers, rat tail fish, brittle star fish, a host of other invertebrates and myriad species of bacteria, all come to feast on the marine bounty. And soon ...(Read More)

Flying Mammals and a New Jumping Gene

Within our DNA are the remains of thousands, maybe millions, of genetic nomads. They once roamed free through the landscape of our genomes; now most are silenced and still, unable to move. These are the ‘jumping genes’, or ‘transposable elements’ to give them their proper name; curious stretches of mobile DNA. Almost 50% of our DNA is made of these remnants. We see them in virtually all organisms, from bacteria, insects and fish all the ...(Read More)

Slimy, Weird, Cheaters

Lurking in gutters, gardens and forests, just under-foot, lies something strange. Something almost alien. They lead independent lives as single cells foraging for, and feeding on, bacteria. But when food becomes scarce they work together, in their millions, forming a multicellular ‘organism’ of individuals. In this form they’re more mobile; moving about, looking for food or new environments, displaying something akin to a brainless form of intelligence. They are everywhere, on almost every continent; but ...(Read More)

Food fight: Bacteria’s biological warfare

You’re not just eating for one. You’re eating for trillions. We like to think of ourselves as an individual, but the truth is we are never alone. We are a buzzing hive of bacteria and other microbes that make up our ‘microbiome’. They eke out a living in whatever niches they can find, our skin or parts of our digestive system; we are an ecosystem. Like all ecosystems there is competition for resources, and some ...(Read More)

Fighting fat with… fat?

What do explosives and weight loss have in common?* To find out we need to go back to World War One, to a munitions factory in France. People working with explosives were running high temperatures and losing weight. Some dangerously so. This was no fever, due to some viral or bacterial infection. It was due to a chemical they were using, similar in structure to TNT: dinitrophenol (DNP). Later, in the 1930s, DNP popped up ...(Read More)

A dried up celibate kleptomaniac

If there’s one thing that biologists agree on, it’s that sex is good. Really good*. Huge amounts of time and energy are invested in it. Well, alas, not so much in the act per se, as much as in finding a way to have sex; to tempt a mate or dispatch a rival. But is it really worth the ego busting knock-backs, the frustration, the time and energy? One quirky animal certainly doesn’t think so; it’s ...(Read More)