Monthly Archives: August 2014


Liquid nitrogen bucket challenge

The inevitable Ice Bucket Challenge notification came along, courtesy of the Brothers Pag. Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t swim, so I wasn’t prepared to take the risk of attempting the challenge.

Also I didn’t have any ice in my lab, but I did have a Dewar of Liquid Nitrogen, so here is Balloon Matt nobly taking the challenge in aid of the DEC Syria crisis appeal.

**SAFETY NOTICE** Don’t do this at home. If you have liquid nitrogen at home, why on earth do you have liquid nitrogen at home? Whilst pouring and transporting liquid N2, heavy duty cold-proof gloves and a face visor must be worn. Do not touch parts of the balloon directly after they have been in liquid nitrogen. NEVER POUR LIQUID NITROGEN OVER YOUR OWN HEAD a million things can go wrong and you can lose eyes skin and hair: remember what happened to Boris. Do not cool an air filled balloon for prolonged periods due to risks of liquid oxygen condensation. **THANK YOU**

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Space Geckos

Sex geckos and the nuclear football: a history of getting lost in space

For a science headline to capture the wider public’s imagination, it generally helps if it involves at least one of the following six things:

  1. An out-of-control experiment
  2. Space,
  3. The End Of Life As We Know It
  4. A non-western nation
  5. A weird animal,
  6. Sex

So it came as no surprise to see how quickly Foton-5, the spacecraft of Russia’s troubled biomedical research institute, made headlines around the world. The Washington Post website literally managed to hit 5 out of 6 crowd pleasers with the headline:  “There is a lizard sex satellite floating in space and Russia no longer has it under control.”

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The science at the end of the Whoniverse

Yes that’s right, Doctor Who is back on our screens, spitting himself out of dinosaurs’ mouths and into our hearts where he belongs. On this week’s episode, the first of Series 8, a homicidal android is stalking the streets of Victorian London, mutilating golden-hearted cockneys for their fleshier organs and turning the remains into donor kebabs in order to conceal the evidence of his crimes.

Slap bang into the middle of this mess lands the Tardis, lodged inside the throat of an exceptionally irritable tyrannosaur. Trapped on board are the wide-eyed Clara Oswald and the new and improved Time Lord Peter Capaldi – whose saurian features make the aforementioned reptile look positively cuddly.

The Doctor’s arrival is greeted with a clash of symbols.


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IBM 360 Computer

Before the web: a history of internet communications

Today is “Internaut Day”, marking the 23rd anniversary of the World Wide Web’s public unveiling. While working at CERN in 1991, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented “hypertext” – virtual content with embedded links to other text – and revolutionised the way we use computers. Continue reading

LUTN no text

Looking up Tycho’s nose

This week I decided to look up Tycho Brahe’s nose. After all, it is the title of our blog. And as you’d expect when looking up someone’s nose, you come across a fair amount of useless gunk. But keep poking around for long enough and those itchy fingers start uncovering some really fascinating nuggets.

The first thing everyone knows about Brahe – even before they know what he looks like or even how to pronounce his name – is that he had a gold prosthetic nose. Now I don’t know about you, but that strikes me as rude. It’s also mistaken, incidentally, but more than anything else it’s rude. So here’s a picture of Tycho Brahe (Brah, Bra-hay or Bra-hee, depending on how wrong you mind being) for you to look at while you think about just how rude you’ve been.

Why doesn't anyone remember those moustaches?!

Forget the nose – why doesn’t anyone remember those moustaches?!

Brahe’s original nose (not shown in the above) was cut off to spite his face by a fellow Dane named Manderup Parsberg while the two were students at the University of Rostock in Northern Germany. Many have claimed the duel was inspired by a mathematical disagreement, which is a cute story, but Tycho seems like the sort of person who would have challenged you to a duel if you looked the wrong way at his moose (don’t worry, we’ll come back to the moose).

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