Candide

catholic by birth; scientist by choice; sinner by merit. gaidhlig-speaking neuroscience student at oxford. likes to question everything! @di_macd

Here are some pretty pictures I made using immunostaining and fluorescence microscopy!

Just met Richard Dawkins! I know hero-worshipping is anathema to reason and science, but seriously the Selfish Gene was what got me into Biology. He said he was pleased to hear it…

Also, I can’t put this on facebook because Oxford is a hotbed of reactionary Christianity (more so even than Uist).

So I spent today playing with human brains. The first time you hold someone’s loves, hopes and fears between your hands is really quite a numinous moment. It is just amazing to reflect that a person’s entire memory, their desires and hates, their quirks and oddities, are all written as a pattern of neural connections onto that orange-sized chunk of porridgy stuff. It makes me remember why I’m here, that in spite of how heavy and difficult the work load is, I really am in the privileged position of learning how our biology, our brains, our behavior, really works.

Just thought I’d like to share…

My Day As A TV Star

I did an hour long television interview yesterday, sitting on a rock in the middle of the sea.

Then I had to walk inspirationally along the beach, with the wind howling and the waves pounding.

Then I had to look out to the ocean and think deep thoughts as I did so.

I felt like Brian Cox. I had the aweinspiring backdrop and I got to expound about neuroscience and biology. (Also had to talk about uni which was less fun). (Also it was in Scottish Gaelic) (Also they are filming me again in Oxford, with the dreaming spires behind me - it will be humiliating! :[)

On another a note, Brian Cox was on Doctor Who. He should be the next Doctor!

xo-sz:

Meet Gunther. Isn’t he a babe?

xo-sz:

Meet Gunther. Isn’t he a babe?

ikenbot:

Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?
Side Note: With all of these recent scientific discoveries and observations like the Higgs Boson particle being found, or the recent Venus transit that wont occur again until 2117, or fresh news of more evidence towards Dark Matter’s existence and its implications I thought it would be great timing to highlight the importance of science news, information, and being a part of the community as a citizen. Scientific literacy seems all the more important as our technologies become more advanced and scientists alongside their tools begin to find out new groundbreaking things. Provided below are my favorite excerpts from Robert M. Hazen’s ‘Why should you be scientifically literate?’. Give it a read, become aware of one of the duties we as citizens should have taken up long ago, becoming literate in the world of science.
Road to Discovery of Self & Reality
by Robert M. Hazen
Why should you care about being scientifically literate? It will help you
— Understand issues that you come across daily in news stories and government debates
— Appreciate how the natural laws of science influence your life
— Gain perspective on the intellectual climate of our time
We live in an age of constant scientific discovery — a world shaped by revolutionary new technologies. Just look at your favorite newspaper. The chances are pretty good that in the next few days you’ll see a headline about global warming, cloning, fossils in meteorites, or genetically engineered food. Other stories featuring exotic materials, medical advances, DNA evidence, and new drugs all deal with issues that directly affect your life. As a consumer, as a business professional, and as a citizen, you will have to form opinions about these and other science-based issues if you are to participate fully in modern society.
More and more, scientific and technological issues dominate national discourse, from environmental debates on ozone depletion and acid rain, to economic threats from climate change and invasive species. Understanding these debates has become as basic as reading. All citizens need to be scientifically literate to:
 — appreciate the world around them  — make informed personal choices
It is the responsibility of scientists and educators to provide everyone with the background knowledge to help us cope with the fast-paced changes of today and tomorrow. What is scientific literacy? Why is it important? And how can we achieve scientific literacy for all citizens?
What is scientific literacy?
Scientific literacy, quite simply, is a mix of concepts, history, and philosophy that help you understand the scientific issues of our time.
— Scientific literacy is not the specialized, jargon-filled esoteric lingo of the experts. You don’t have to be able to synthesize new drugs to appreciate the importance of medical advances, nor do you need to be able to calculate the orbit of the space station to understand its role in space exploration.
— Scientific literacy is rooted in the most general scientific principles and broad knowledge of science; the scientifically literate citizen possesses facts and vocabulary sufficient to comprehend the context of the daily news.
— If you can understand scientific issues in magazines and newspapers (if you can tackle articles about genetic engineering or the ozone hole with the same ease that you would sports, politics, or the arts) then you are scientifically literate.
Admittedly, this definition of scientific literacy does not satisfy everyone. Some academics argue that science education should expose students to mathematical rigor and complex vocabulary. They want everyone to experience this taste of “real” science. But my colleagues and I feel strongly that those who insist that everyone must understand science at a deep level are confusing two important but separate aspects of scientific knowledge. As in many other endeavors, doing science is obviously distinct from using science; and scientific literacy concerns only the latter.
Surprisingly, intense study of a particular field of science does not necessarily make one scientifically literate. Indeed, I’m often amazed at the degree to which working scientists are often woefully uninformed in scientific fields outside their own field of professional expertise. I once asked a group of twenty-four Ph.D. physicists and geologists to explain the difference between DNA and RNA — perhaps the most basic idea in modern molecular biology. I found only three colleagues who could do so, and all three of those individuals did research in areas where this knowledge was useful. And I’d probably find the same sort of discouraging result if I asked biologists to explain the difference between a semiconductor and a superconductor. The education of professional scientists is often just as narrowly focused as the education of any other group of professionals, so scientists are just as likely to be ignorant of scientific matters outside their own specialty as anyone else.
Why is scientific literacy important?
Why should we care whether our citizens are scientifically literate? Why should you care about your own understanding of science? Three different arguments might convince you why it is important:
 — from civics  — from aesthetics  — from intellectual coherence
Civics
The first argument from civics is the one I’ve used thus far. We’re all faced with public issues whose discussion requires some scientific background, and therefore we all should have some level of scientific literacy. Our democratic government, which supports science education, sponsors basic scientific research, manages natural resources, and protects the environment, can be thwarted by a scientifically illiterate citizenry. Without an informed electorate (not to mention a scientifically informed legislature) some of the most fundamental objectives of our nation may not be served.
Aesthetics
The argument from aesthetics is less concrete, but is closely related to principles that are often made to support liberal education. According to this view, our world operates according to a few over-arching natural laws. Everything you do, everything you experience from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night, conforms to these laws of nature. Our scientific vision of the universe is exceedingly beautiful and elegant and it represents a crowning achievement of human civilization. You can share in the intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction to be gained from appreciating the unity between a boiling pot of water on a stove and the slow march of the continents, between the iridescent colors of a butterfly’s wing and the behavior of the fundamental constituents of matter. A scientifically illiterate person is effectively cut off from an immensely enriching part of life, just as surely as a person who cannot read.
Intellectual Coherence
Finally, we come to the third argument — the idea of intellectual coherence. Our society is inextricably tied to the discoveries of science — so much so that they often play a crucial role in setting the intellectual climate of an era. For example, the Copernican concept of the heliocentric universe played an important role in sweeping away the old thinking of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Age of Enlightenment. Similarly, Charles Darwin’s discovery of the mechanism of natural selection at once made understanding nature easier. And in this century the work of Freud and the development of quantum mechanics have made our natural world seem (at least superficially) less rational. In all of these cases, the general intellectual tenor of the times — what Germans call the Zeitgeist — was influenced by developments in science. How can anyone hope to appreciate the deep underlying threads of intellectual life in his or her own time without understanding the science that goes with it?
Full Article

ikenbot:

Why Should You Be Scientifically Literate?

Side Note: With all of these recent scientific discoveries and observations like the Higgs Boson particle being found, or the recent Venus transit that wont occur again until 2117, or fresh news of more evidence towards Dark Matter’s existence and its implications I thought it would be great timing to highlight the importance of science news, information, and being a part of the community as a citizen. Scientific literacy seems all the more important as our technologies become more advanced and scientists alongside their tools begin to find out new groundbreaking things. Provided below are my favorite excerpts from Robert M. Hazen’s ‘Why should you be scientifically literate?’. Give it a read, become aware of one of the duties we as citizens should have taken up long ago, becoming literate in the world of science.

Road to Discovery of Self & Reality

by Robert M. Hazen

Why should you care about being scientifically literate? It will help you

Understand issues that you come across daily in news stories and government debates

Appreciate how the natural laws of science influence your life

Gain perspective on the intellectual climate of our time

We live in an age of constant scientific discovery — a world shaped by revolutionary new technologies. Just look at your favorite newspaper. The chances are pretty good that in the next few days you’ll see a headline about global warming, cloning, fossils in meteorites, or genetically engineered food. Other stories featuring exotic materials, medical advances, DNA evidence, and new drugs all deal with issues that directly affect your life. As a consumer, as a business professional, and as a citizen, you will have to form opinions about these and other science-based issues if you are to participate fully in modern society.

More and more, scientific and technological issues dominate national discourse, from environmental debates on ozone depletion and acid rain, to economic threats from climate change and invasive species. Understanding these debates has become as basic as reading. All citizens need to be scientifically literate to:

— appreciate the world around them — make informed personal choices

It is the responsibility of scientists and educators to provide everyone with the background knowledge to help us cope with the fast-paced changes of today and tomorrow. What is scientific literacy? Why is it important? And how can we achieve scientific literacy for all citizens?

What is scientific literacy?

Scientific literacy, quite simply, is a mix of concepts, history, and philosophy that help you understand the scientific issues of our time.

— Scientific literacy is not the specialized, jargon-filled esoteric lingo of the experts. You don’t have to be able to synthesize new drugs to appreciate the importance of medical advances, nor do you need to be able to calculate the orbit of the space station to understand its role in space exploration.

— Scientific literacy is rooted in the most general scientific principles and broad knowledge of science; the scientifically literate citizen possesses facts and vocabulary sufficient to comprehend the context of the daily news.

— If you can understand scientific issues in magazines and newspapers (if you can tackle articles about genetic engineering or the ozone hole with the same ease that you would sports, politics, or the arts) then you are scientifically literate.

Admittedly, this definition of scientific literacy does not satisfy everyone. Some academics argue that science education should expose students to mathematical rigor and complex vocabulary. They want everyone to experience this taste of “real” science. But my colleagues and I feel strongly that those who insist that everyone must understand science at a deep level are confusing two important but separate aspects of scientific knowledge. As in many other endeavors, doing science is obviously distinct from using science; and scientific literacy concerns only the latter.

Surprisingly, intense study of a particular field of science does not necessarily make one scientifically literate. Indeed, I’m often amazed at the degree to which working scientists are often woefully uninformed in scientific fields outside their own field of professional expertise. I once asked a group of twenty-four Ph.D. physicists and geologists to explain the difference between DNA and RNA — perhaps the most basic idea in modern molecular biology. I found only three colleagues who could do so, and all three of those individuals did research in areas where this knowledge was useful. And I’d probably find the same sort of discouraging result if I asked biologists to explain the difference between a semiconductor and a superconductor. The education of professional scientists is often just as narrowly focused as the education of any other group of professionals, so scientists are just as likely to be ignorant of scientific matters outside their own specialty as anyone else.

Why is scientific literacy important?

Why should we care whether our citizens are scientifically literate? Why should you care about your own understanding of science? Three different arguments might convince you why it is important:

— from civics — from aesthetics — from intellectual coherence

Civics

The first argument from civics is the one I’ve used thus far. We’re all faced with public issues whose discussion requires some scientific background, and therefore we all should have some level of scientific literacy. Our democratic government, which supports science education, sponsors basic scientific research, manages natural resources, and protects the environment, can be thwarted by a scientifically illiterate citizenry. Without an informed electorate (not to mention a scientifically informed legislature) some of the most fundamental objectives of our nation may not be served.

Aesthetics

The argument from aesthetics is less concrete, but is closely related to principles that are often made to support liberal education. According to this view, our world operates according to a few over-arching natural laws. Everything you do, everything you experience from the moment you wake up in the morning to the moment you go to bed at night, conforms to these laws of nature. Our scientific vision of the universe is exceedingly beautiful and elegant and it represents a crowning achievement of human civilization. You can share in the intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction to be gained from appreciating the unity between a boiling pot of water on a stove and the slow march of the continents, between the iridescent colors of a butterfly’s wing and the behavior of the fundamental constituents of matter. A scientifically illiterate person is effectively cut off from an immensely enriching part of life, just as surely as a person who cannot read.

Intellectual Coherence

Finally, we come to the third argument — the idea of intellectual coherence. Our society is inextricably tied to the discoveries of science — so much so that they often play a crucial role in setting the intellectual climate of an era. For example, the Copernican concept of the heliocentric universe played an important role in sweeping away the old thinking of the Middle Ages and ushering in the Age of Enlightenment. Similarly, Charles Darwin’s discovery of the mechanism of natural selection at once made understanding nature easier. And in this century the work of Freud and the development of quantum mechanics have made our natural world seem (at least superficially) less rational. In all of these cases, the general intellectual tenor of the times — what Germans call the Zeitgeist — was influenced by developments in science. How can anyone hope to appreciate the deep underlying threads of intellectual life in his or her own time without understanding the science that goes with it?

Full Article

(Source: afro-dominicano, via earthandscience)

tarartara:

Art inspired by Neuroscience. Cajal.

tarartara:

Art inspired by Neuroscience. Cajal.

am9210:

Brain comparisons.

When you see real-life brains from different animals, probably the most striking thing is how titchy rat, mouse, bird, cat and even horse brains are compared to our own.

am9210:

Brain comparisons.

When you see real-life brains from different animals, probably the most striking thing is how titchy rat, mouse, bird, cat and even horse brains are compared to our own.

(via am9210-deactivated20121005)

Extending The Extended Phenotype

ralphewig:

DIY Transhumanism - We’ve all read the stories of people being augmented in the near future, better brains, stronger limbs, artificial senses, and longer lives via organ replacements. A few brave individuals however, are not content to wait for technology to come to them. Instead, they experiment on their own bodies to create the transhumanist vision of the future for themselves. The saying “history is not a spectator sport” has never rung so true!

Meet British Do-It-Yourself biohacker Lepht Anonym. Her website Patterns in the Void describes an array of self-experiments, ranging from additional senses via implanted magnetic sensors and a linked GPS smartphone to electromagnetically sensitive fingertips. When asked about mainstream transhumanist pundits and their attitudes of waiting for technology to be brought to them rather than cooking up bio-proofed implantable enhancements of their own, Lepht replies:

“The existing transhumanist movement is lame. It’s nano everything. It’s just ideas,” she says. “Anyone can do this. This is kitchen stuff.”  

You can’t help but be impressed by that kind of conviction and willingness to put yourself on the line - go Lepht!

There’s a reason humanity is an evolutionary singularity, on par with the origin of the eukaryotic cell, or the chordate body plan, or even of life itself. Sheer intelligence and ingenuity throws up so many new paths to the top of the peaks of the adaptive landscape, allowing us to transcend biological evolution…