Friday, 29 June 2012

Money and electronics under the microscope

NSB was recently lent one of those clever USB microscopes and has been fascinated by how the world looks "up close and personal".

To limber up, and get into the right frame of mind, it's perhaps worth starting by showing the level of magnifcation that the microscope can achieve.




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high mag


So, with that warm up out of the way, lets get stuck into the main event...

Here's what a £20 note looks like when magnified.

A £20 note - low mag

A £20 note - high mag

A £20 note - low mag

And this the reverse of a 20p piece...

20p coin - low mag

On the electronics front (which is admittedly a little sparse at the moment), here are some components from a remote control...

Components - low mag

Components - high mag

And a USB cable:
USB cable - low mag

A genuine Windows(TM) sticker:


Windows(TM) sticker - low mag

The garden under the microscope

NSB was recently lent one of those clever USB microscopes and has been fascinated by how the world looks "up close and personal".

To limber up, and get into the right frame of mind, it's perhaps worth starting by showing the level of magnifcation that the microscope can achieve.



low mag


high mag


So, with that warm up out of the way, lets get stuck into the main event...

Here's what some week red flowers when magnified.

Red flower cluster - low mag

Red Flower cluster - high mag

And this is the, surprisingly hairy, base of another small flower...

Hairy flower base

And, oh look !, a lovely pink rose petal...

Pink rose petal
Here is a feather.

Feather low

Feather high

A tiny bug on a leaf, invisible to the naked eye...

Tiny bug on leaf

The head of a woodlouse...


Woodlouse head - high mag

An unidentified insect...

Insect  -low mag

Insect  - High Mag

A different unidentifed insect...

Another Insect  - high mag

The head of an ant...

Ant - high mag

And the head of a spider...

Spider - high mag

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Talk : Allergy

The Nottingham Branch of the British Science Association, in collaboration wtih the University of Nottingham, recently held a talk entitled "Myths, media, medicine and madness – tackling ignorance about allergy an hour at a time".

This talk, presented by consultant paediatrician Dr Will Carroll, aimed to tackle a few myths that plague the field of allergy, and highlight how the science behind allergy is actually quite well known.

NSB unfortunately missed the talk, but Dr Will Carroll was kind enough to supply a summary by email, which is what this post is based on.

It’s perhaps worth just outlining what an allergy Is - and the NHS has a usefully clear explanation:



An allergy develops when the body’s immune system reacts to an allergen as though it is a threat, like an infection. It produces antibodies to fight off the allergen, in a reaction called the immune response.

The next time a person comes into contact with the allergen, the body "remembers" the previous exposure and produces more of the antibodies. This causes the release of chemicals in the body that lead to an allergic reaction.

SEM  images of Pollen from typical garden flowers

The internet remains a dangerous source of information for parents; yet is an excellent source of material for a talk about myths in the field of allergy. There really is some nonsense out there! Some of which looks and sounds plausible but has the potential for great harm.

Dr Carroll presented a few examples of such pseudoscientific treatments, including hair testing, vega testing, kinesiology and the York test (see also this article) - and then went on to point out how the media perpetuated the lack of understanding in this field .

One surprising point that Dr Carroll made was that there are about three times as many people who have an “allergic sensitisation” than are truly “allergic”.

To explain this a bit further, people who have an allergic sensitisation produce antibodies to combat certain foods or other stimulus - but DO NOT have any clinical reactions. This is to say, these people essentially do not know they are sensitized, and suffer no ill effects such as rashes etc - possibly because other 'good' antibodies block allergic type reactions. This is what happens when children 'outgrow' milk and egg allergy.

All of this shows just how complicated the interpretation of test results can be and that testing really does need to be performed by a clinician with allergy training.

Histamine

Note : Dr Carroll is also involved in the Midlands Asthma and Allergy Research Association (www.maara.org) -check it out, there is some interesting stuff there !

Image Sources : Pollen, Histamine

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Science Show at Notts Uni

A chance conversation with a representative of urn1350, the radio station of the University of Nottingham, has resulted in NSB finding out about an interesting show that the station hosts.

In amongst the, presumably, phat tunez and peng soundz, the station also has some talk shows. And one of these is called "The Science Show", which interviews University researchers about their work.

The show has a blog, which has posts on some of the interviews, covering topics as diverse as Gravitational Lensing and Tissue Engineering.

And it also has a, frankly awesome, set of podcasts!

NSB is hugely heartened to see this show, which is a new feature for this year, on the air and wishes "The Science Show" team all the very best - and is certainly looking forward to some fresh (in the yoof sense) output from then in the autumn.


The Science Show Team, looking suitably dubstep . . .er. .  . daddio

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Food under the microscope

NSB was recently lent one of those clever USB microscopes and has been fascinated by how the world looks "up close and personal".

To limber up, and get into the right frame of mind, it's perhaps worth starting by showing the level of magnifcation that the microscope can achieve.

low mag


high mag


So, with that warm up out of the way, lets get stuck into the main event...

Here's what fennel seeds look like when magnified.

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high mag


And this is a black peppercorn...

Peppercorn low mag


Peppercorn high mag


... and ground blac pepper.

Ground black pepper - low mag


Ground black pepper - high Mag


A surprisingly glossy breadcrust...

Breadcrust - low mag


Breadcrust - high mag


A look at ketchup shows that, as a thin film, it looks clear...

Ketchup - low mag


Ketchup - high mag


And finally, here is a grain of ASDA "Choc-o-rice" breakfast cereal...
Choc-o-rice low mag


Choc-o-rice section


Friday, 22 June 2012

Textiles under the microscope

NSB was recently lent one of those clever USB microscopes and has been fascinated by how the world looks "up close and personal".

To limber up, and get into the right frame of mind, it's perhaps worth starting by showing the level of magnifcation that the microscope can achieve.

low mag


high mag


So, with that warm up out of the way, lets get stuck into the main event...

Here's what NSB's wee shopping back looks like usually and when magnified.

The bag


letter "a" under low mag


letter "a" under high mag


And this is NSB's laptop strap...

The laptop strap


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High Mag


Check out the print detail on this cotton fabric...

The Fabric


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NSB's cargo trousers...

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High Mag


and lastly, this is what carpet looks like close up...

Low mag