Posts Tagged ‘Adelaide’

The Stupid Species – a science comedy

// March 11th, 2011 // Comments Off on The Stupid Species – a science comedy // Just for Fun, Science Communication

I just got home from seeing Daniel Keogh (from ABC’s the Hungry Beast, aka Professor Funk) performing in the 18+ science comedy show The Stupid Species – Why Everyone (except you) is an Idiot.

It. Was. Awesome.

From the complex and perplexing placebo effect to the Asch Conformity Test, it was a playful romp through the psychology of stupidity. Why is love risky (or whisky) business? How can different colours cure the sick? Why are expensive things deemed better than the cheap, but free things are the absolute best?

I could tell you, but not with as much pizazz as Professor Funk.

Go for the science. Stay for the hair (or the epic pants and jokes.)

I awarded major bonus points for starting the show with Venn Diagrams and Pie Graphs. Plus the video on the placebo effect was simply mind-blowing. Also there’s free wine testing *hell yeah!*

The show toured during last years National Science week, and is now in Adelaide on Saturday and Sunday night at the RiAus. Tickets are still available for Sunday at a tiny $10, or $8 for students (book here) and are worth double that. Take your friends, they’ll appreciate your confidence and good taste in comedy.

“We all like to think we’re special. In fact on average everyone thinks they’re above-average. Although we think we’re pretty smart our tendency towards irrational behaviour is what unites us all as humans – the stupid species,” says Daniel Keogh. Follow him @ProfessorFunk.

Inspiring Australia and the barcode of life, conferences

// February 7th, 2011 // Comments Off on Inspiring Australia and the barcode of life, conferences // Science Communication

Couple of interesting conferences coming up this year. The first one is Inspiring Australia in Melbourne from March 28-29. ‘Tis a science communication conference, tackling topics like social media, politics, and a whole bunch of exciting sci-comm stuff. Registration opens today, and it will be good.

The second conference is the Consortium for the Barcode of Life which will be hosted in bonny old Adelaide in November this year. Adelaide Uni scored the gig after competition with 19 applicants from around the globe. Previously the event has been hosted in Mexico City, Taipai and London.

DNA code is a bit like a barcode to begin with: Information hidden in a mysterious pattern that only a computer can analyse. The barcode of life refers to specifically to a certain small section of DNA which can be used to compare species. The section changes between species, but stays the same within members of the same species, and is accurate for most mammals and bees.

The consortium is to discuss and co-ordinate how to take DNA samples from all the animals IN THE WORLD, and have them on a giant database. Then when future scientists find a weird animal, they can take a sample, scan it in and *beep*, one lemur for $9.99. It’s a neat idea, and totally exciting that Adelaide is hosting this International event.

A night of chocolate at the RiAus

// February 3rd, 2011 // Comments Off on A night of chocolate at the RiAus // Science Communication

Chocolate Truffle

Image by Digital Sextant

Love chocolate? Tonight at Adelaide’s RiAus the spotlight is on gluttony and chocolate addictions.

It’s sold out, but you can watch the livestream here from 6:00 Adelaide time and have your own chocolate tastings at home.

Brendan Somerville from Haighs will talk about what makes chocolate so good. Chocolate has been around since the Aztec’s were big, originating some 3000 years ago in South America. Back then it was a bitter tasting drink, and nowhere near the delight we enjoy today.

Last year the cacao tree genome was sequenced, creating a blueprint of the source of chocolate. With it trees could be altered to become resistant to disease and to produce higher quality chocolate.

As well as using science to improve chocolate, we use it to justify eating just one more piece. Like red wine, chocolate in the right doses can be good for you. The medicinal powers ascribed to the “food of the gods” include:

Chocolate can suppress coughing.
Chocolate can lower blood pressure
Chocolate reduces stress

But there’s a downside, namely sugar and fat and a potential for addiction. The best chocolate to eat is small quantities of very dark chocolate, low in the bad stuff but high in the good stuff. Fortunately this is my favourite.

In the world of Food Porn Daily and Not So Humble Pie, any one of us can become a weapon of mass chocolate consumption. Cravings and addictions aren’t just limited to chocolate, I know for a fact they extend to Banana Caramel Cream Pie, particularly the one at Café Paparizzi in Malvern. So far I’ve managed to resist, but it’s only a matter of time.

Or is it? Dr Robyn Vale is also speaking tonight about how to resist temptation and avoid food cravings.

But purely for medicinal purposes, I think you should have a bit of chocolate while you watch the livestream.

So what are you craving right now?

Connecting via common ancestors and Genographics – Interview with Wolfgang Haak

// December 8th, 2010 // Comments Off on Connecting via common ancestors and Genographics – Interview with Wolfgang Haak // Recent Research, Science Communication

At the Genographic Event at the RiAus I also interviewed Dr Wolfgang Haak, who spoke about Y-chromosome markers to determine paternal ancestry. He’s been involved in the Genographic Project for three and a half years.

What are the benefits of understanding ancestry?

It’s pretty much a personal thing, at the end of the day, because I suppose everyone’s interested in his or her own genetic history. This is my personal driving force, finding out more about myself. Where’s my place in this planet, in this world, where do I tie into the global picture? That’s a big motivation for me, and as I find out more as I work with people that it’s the same motor or driving force with them as well.

We share a common ancestry after all, there’s a common interest in our genetic history as well.

What first attracted you to the Genographic Project?

I have always been interested in genetics, but I actually come from an anthropologic background and genetics is certainly a part of that. I also come from an Ancient DNA lab. This was a step further into more modern population genetics. This is about getting both things together. Having a modern day perspective, plus adding a timely depth to that picture that we get from modern day diversity.

Tell us about your own ancestry, have you genotyped yourself?

Yes, I’ve done both. Mitochondrial, I’m haplogroup H, and I can further pin that down to group H1, so that is a Palaeolithic, Mesolithic one that might have come into Europe prior to the last glacial maximum, around modern day Spain or Italy or even a South Eastern refuge. It’s not entirely clear but we’ll find out over the next couple of years.

On the paternal side its even more enigmatic. I’m part of a North African lineage that probably originated around the Horn of Africa, so there’s that connection on the Eastern side of Africa where it connects to Saudi Arabia, and that has a high frequency there into the Nile Valley, and from it spreads into South Eastern Europe. Not entirely sure when it spread across the Mediterranean region, but probably historic times rather than prehistoric times.

Genographics, Neanderthals and Cannibalism, an Interview with Carles Lalueza-Fox

// December 8th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Recent Research, Science Communication, Sex and Reproduction

After the event last night about the worldwide Genographic Project, I caught up with Prof Dr Carles Lalueza‑Fox, the first speaker on the night, for a quick interview. He’s an expert on Neanderthals, or Neandertals I think we call them now. Named after the Neander Valley where the first specimen was discovered.

What first sparked your interest in studying Neandertals?

When the first Neandertal sequence was retrieved in 1997 I had been working on ancient DNA for a while, but then Neandertals seemed to be something in a different league.

In the first ten years it was only possible to get mitochondrial DNA from Neandertals.

For me, I really liked Neandertals and human evolution as a child. Ancient DNA was something particularly difficult at the time, and the thing that brought me to the subject.

How human do you think Neandertals were?

How human?

Yes, tricky question.

Haha, yes. It’s a very long question, a very difficult question. One must always take into mind our tendencies are always fluctuating. We saw them as a very primitive human lineage in the early 20th Century, but I’d say that now we’re turning to the point where we see them as very similar to us.

Maybe the best thing to think about Neandertals is they are more different from us than any modern human to any other modern human. That’s the way we should think about them.

If we want to think of them as a different species that’s fine for me, but there is a range of difference between us and the Neandertals.

The cuts found along Neandertal bones you suggest are evidence for cannibalism. Could they just be an example of de-fleshing prior to burial?

Well, yeah, it might be right in some circumstances. But this is not only cutting, you know de-fleshing the bones. It’s also fragmenting the bones with small stone tools, very small fragments, and even the skull, and the faces. For me it’s very difficult to think that this kind of post mortem activity is something more because this is a complete destruction of the bones.

It’s very similar to what we see in other sites with fauna, the bones are broken to extract the marrow in the same way.

And it’s a pretty common thing, well, not common these days, but certainly we humans have our own history of cannibalism.

Yes, well there are several sites with the signs in Neandertals. But you almost think that life was very tough and they were structured in very small groups, so the fact that you find another one… I mean you’d say “hey, we are Neandertals all of us,” but I’d say that’s a modern conception.

Whereas for them it might be “hey, you’re not one of my family I may as well eat you.”

Yeah, the idea of humankind, in fact, is very recent. After the second World War, and the UNESCO thing. So even the idea of humankind is more recent than we might think now.

And what do you think of the possibility of Neandertals and humans mating?

I think it’s plausible with the data we have. It was probably something that was a minority, restricted in time and space, it was nothing important in my view. The thing is we can detect it now in non-African modern humans is because this was an expanding population, so even a small event of just a few, say it was, this was amplified later on.






Buy me a Beer!
    If you don't want me to mention your donation just check the box above.
  • $ 0.00
Twittarrr
Follow @CaptainSkellett (572 followers)