New research on antibiotic resistance

27 07 2017

A new and iconoclastic analysis of antibiotic resistance got a lot of media coverage today.

And it reminded me of one of my very favourite scientific stories of all time. At the start of WWII, a team of Oxford biologists were working as fast as they could to extract and characterize the anti-microbial compound they had discovered in some moulds.  The very day that they finally had their first real breakthrough, finding that this compound could actually keep bacteria-infected mice from dying, team member Norman Heatley’s diary mainly focused on…

…the fact that he was working so hard, he’d accidentally come to the lab with his underpants on back to front.

A cornucopia for mice

26 07 2017

20170723_124406This is what Lindsey and Kelsy have been feeding mice this past week:

thyme, turmeric, parsley, anise, marjoram, clove, cumin, ginger, coriander, mint, oregano, sage, onion, garlic, nutmeg, basil, mustard, cocoa, cinnamon, and rosemary.

But why? Sensory enrichment? Nope: to create some mice who regularly smell of novel food which is then made available to their cagemates (who then eat it, helped by social learning), and other mice who merely smell of novel food (but no-one else gets a taste).

Lindsey’s doing this to try and find out whether the former mice, the ‘reliable demonstrators’, end up being preferred because they become associated with treats. If yes, then social learning might be helping to create social relationships within mouse colonies.

Buying free time boosts happiness

26 07 2017

Interesting research from UBC was published in PNAS this week (including that people don’t do it much even though it works!).

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Maria spotted some good coverage in the BBC too (because she’s so British now).

Mouse is very old

25 07 2017

Mouse (the cat) turned 21 earlier this month.  The Purina ‘cat age calculator‘ doesn’t even go this high, but it’s probably as though she’s about 96. She does still purr, though not every day any more; and she still comes upstairs for a her midday tipple of catnip, though only once a week or so now.  Her birth certificate (shared with Sophie) was drawn by one of Tim Halliday‘s daughters. (The Halliday family owned her mother; at a party at their house in 1996, Tim suddenly barked “Anyone want any half Abyssinian kittens?”, and the rest is history).

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Kinder Scientific? Blunder Scientific.

24 07 2017

This error message should have been my first warning, when I emailed Kinder Scientific for help at the end of March. It was the truth: support is not really to be found at this company.

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When I finally tracked down someone to talk to, I should have heeded the second warning: twice we failed to connect by phone because she did not understand time zones.

But I already had startle equipment purchased a long time ago from Kinder, and wanted to upgrade it for Emma (and then I needed it mending, too, as it started to malfunction). I was *trapped*.

Over the next few months (during which Emma’s mice aged and lost their hearing: the very thing we had wanted to assess), Kinder would take 4 weeks to answer my original question about retrofitting an airpuff facility to my tone-only boxes (and send the answer to the wrong person at UoG, so I didn’t see it for another month); send us the wrong dimension copper tubes for the new airpuff facility; resend us new tubes but accidentally have Fedex pick up the wrong parcel, so that the pipes took yet more days to arrive; argue with us when these tubes didn’t work either (they leaked at the connectors); and send us air regulators that didn’t function properly.


We were only saved from insanity and despair by a great plumber from local company Jim L, who was a whizz with solder, and also spotted and corrected the misassembled air regulators.

It wasn’t all bad. Kinder didn’t charge us for the repair, and they did send us this mug (which made Emma and I weep bitter tears of laughter; ah yes, if only we could actually use their equipment to GET data). Technical expert Kolby Severns was also a great help to Emma, always willing to Skype.

But would I buy equipment from them again? Never, ever in a million years.



Dogs sniffing out Parkinson’s

24 07 2017

Fascinating, useful for class next semester, and slightly creepy:

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“Selfish, shallow and self-absorbed”

24 07 2017

Nice programme on childlessness by the BBC’s “The Why Factor”: