So You Want To Be A Scientist?

Material World , Radio 4’s weekly science show, is running a competition for anyone who has a scientific idea they want to investigate. A level students are eligible to enter, and if you are chosen you will be given help to develop your idea with assistance from top scientific researchers. Everyone has a scientific question they want to investigate! Why not enter this competition and develop yours?

Bald bears

Following on from a discussion in my A2 class this week, my attention has been drawn here. She looks so sad!


We talked about eye colour inheritance in a recent A2 lesson, and one student asked about how a person can have two different coloured eyes, such as in the example below.


We talked about how eye colouration is polygenic, meaning that more than one gene is involved. So there probably wasn’t a simple answer to the question!

Heterochromia iridum (having two differently coloured eyes) is caused by differing levels of pigmentation in the two eyes. This may be caused by an injury to the eye, which causes one eye to produce too much or too little pigmentation. This is called ‘acquired heterochromia’.

Heterochromia is also present in a number of inherited genetic conditions, such as Waardenburg’s syndrome. Such conditions are usually inherited as a ‘faulty allele’ of a gene, although each case is different (see here for a list of inherited genetic (congenital) disorders associated with heterochromia).

A third possibility is that during embryonic development a mitotic division went wrong. This resulted in an uneven distribution of chromosomes in the daughter cells. This diagram here shows how this could happen through a process called nondisjunction. The result is that some cells only carry one chromosome from a pair and thus only have one version of the gene. If these daughter cells go on to develop into eye pigmentation cells then they can express a recessive allele as they no longer contain the dominant allele. Thus one eye expresses the colour for the recessive allele whilst the other, having cells from a non-changed cell line, expresses the normal dominant allele.

There are a lot of ‘ifs’ in this route, but some cases of heterochromia are caused by this ‘mosaicism’.

David Bowie is famous for having two different coloured eyes. He got his, apparently, from being hit in the face during a fight. So now you know.


Lactose Intolerance

I was going to write a post about lactose intolerance following on from our lesson on carbohydrate digestion and the production of gas in the intestine from the fermentation of lactose by gut bacteria. However, this site here, produced by a biomedical scientist, does an excellent job of explaining what lactose intolerance is and the biology of the condition. So instead of replicating what is already on the web I thought I would just link to it instead.


Seeing that most people in the world are intolerant to lactose after weaning, is lactose intolerance actually an illness of the digestive system or just the digestive system acting normally?

And finally, a link to a site that explains the difference between an allergy and an intolerance.

Wellcome Image Awards 2009

N0028751_bigThe Wellcome Trust have anounced the winners of their Image Awards for this year. There are 19 winning images showcasing varying subject matter. You can view them here, or at the Wellcome Collection in London until Spring 2010.

Biological Sciences Review

The library is now taking subscriptions for the Biological Sciences Review magazine. It is a recommended text for the AS/A2 course. Subscriptions cost £12.50 (reduced rate) and the magazine is published four times throughout the year. If you are interested you should bring a cheque for £12.50 made payable to Turpin Distribution into school as soon as possible and hand it into the library.

As the publisher states on the website:

“Biological Sciences Review is written for students.

Each 44-page issue of Biological Sciences Review explores key topics on the new AS and A2 specifications. Specially written for students, each issue is designed to stretch and challenge their understanding through thought provoking articles.

Regular columns will help students develop understanding and skills. These include:

* Upgrade, Chief Examiner Bill Indge offers invaluable advice to get ahead in exam preparation
* How Science Works, a core element of the new specifications, this new column looks at examples of the ways in which scientists work and the potential impact of their work”

The library stocks past editions of the magazine and will have a subscription for this year also, but you may wish to have your own copy to add to your notes. It’s good.

The Cell

What’s that? You’re bored of the summer holidays? You need some good science TV to keep your biology appetite satisfied? Well that’s lucky, because BBC have a fantastic series on the cell. It’s called, appropriately, The Cell and is on Wendesday 10pm BBC4. If you haven’t seen it yet you’ve missed the first two episodes, but thankfully the iPlayer has the whole series, so you can catch up.

Proper science telly.

Richmond School Website

RSS The Guardian: Science

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    It will take weeks to understand exactly what happened, but images from Nasa’s Reconnaissance Orbiter show Schiaparelli’s parachute and landing siteThe landing site of a European spacecraft that was supposed to make a historic touchdown on Mars this week has been identified in images that suggest the probe suffered a violent collision at the surface.Images f […]
  • Will the failure of the Mars lander scupper ESA's plans to launch a rover? October 21, 2016
    As scientists pore over the data from the unsuccessful Schiaparelli probe, ESA must convince European ministers that rover mission is worth a further €300mFor mission scientists, at least, the question is simple. What mishap befell the European Schiaparelli lander in its six minute descent to Mars? From the moment the probe lost radio contact on its way down […]

RSS NHS Choices: Behind the Headlines

  • Sweetened drinks, including diet drinks, may raise diabetes risk October 21, 2016
    "Drinking more than two sugary or artificially sweetened soft drinks per day greatly increases the risk of diabetes, research has shown," The Guardian reports. The research was a Swedish cohort study of sweetened drink consumption over the past year for people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. They also looked at people with an uncommon form of diabe […]
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    "Brushing teeth thoroughly to remove plaque could help prevent heart attacks … by reducing inflammation," The Daily Telegraph reports. A study found that "Plaque HD" toothpaste was related to a drop in inflammation levels (but this could have been coincidental), but it did not investigate if this had any long-term effects on cardiovascula […]

RSS Bad Science

  • “Transparency, Beyond Publication Bias”. A video of my super-speedy talk at IJE. October 11, 2016
    People often talk about “trials transparency” as if this means “all trials must be published in an academic journal”. In reality, true transparency goes much further than this. We need Clinical Study Reports, and individual patient data, of course. But we also need the consent forms, so we can see what patients were told. We need […]
  • You should totally watch this entire day of the IJE conference October 7, 2016
    Today marks the end of an era. The International Journal of Epidemiology used to be a typical hotchpotch of isolated papers on worthy subjects. Occasionally, some were interesting, or related to your field. Under Shah Ebrahim and George Davey-Smith it became like nothing else: an epidemiology journal you’d happily subscribe to with your own money, and read i […]

RSS The Naked Scientists