Reading the news seems a lot like doom and gloom these days, what with the threat of nuclear war always on the headlines. The devastation that nuclear reactions can achieve is undeniable; however their effects reach far beyond the immediate blast damage and thermal radiation that can be observed. Another danger lurks – unseen and undetected – but nonetheless capable of widespread destruction.
Beneath the surface of the oceans, there is silence. Rarely disturbed, it is often forgotten that sound travels through water four times faster than in air. Whales however never forget, and have taken advantage of this, using low amplitude vocalizations that can be heard many kilometers away. But do these ‘songs’ carry a purpose? Or do whales simply like singing in the shower, so to speak?
Friday 28 September 1928. Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming would walk into his Imperial College laboratory on the morning of this day to find a petri dish containing staphylococcus bacteria to be contaminated by mold. The mold seemed to inhibit the growth of bacteria, leading Fleming to conclude that it had produced a substance harbouring anti-bacterial properties. The events that would conspire in the following years would arguably be the biggest success story the world has ever witnessed.
As I approached the completion of my undergraduate degree, I was definitely unsure of how research worked and the expectations that were required of me going forward. This resulted in a bit of confusion as I learned the ropes and how to handle my newfound freedom as I set out to do some proper research.
Looking back, I think what would have benefited me greatly was some simple guidance as I transitioned from routine, scheduled lectures to the erratic and unpredictable world of research. Guidance such as this feature article co-written with a fantastic collaborator.
“Such an exotic name!” you exclaim, “Surely it must be some elusive endangered African species that can only be found in two specific wetlands in the Congo Basin?”
Well, the zebrafish is indeed exotic, but in a different context – the importance of which is far greater than one might bestow upon this little creature.
Ethanol (alcohol) is a poison that is widely consumed all around the world. However drinking methanol the same way leads to poisoning of a different, irreversible kind. We look at the chemistry and biochemistry involved in two very similar molecules, and how they affect the body through different ways.
Ponder that. Your body is merely a vessel – a temporary host to immortal beings within: your genes. Their mission: to pass themselves on to their next host – hopefully stronger, fitter and better able to produce a more advanced spaceship for their next journey…