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Cambridge’s Science Magazine produced by

in association with

Issue 7 Michaelmas 2006

Stem Cells What’s all the fuss about?

Face Recognition Mind-reading computers and brain biology

The Future of Science Foreseeing breakthroughs in research • String Theory • Schizophrenia • Antarctica • • Science and Film • Teleportation • Systems Biology •




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Your vision: Discovering fresh challenges. Our promise: The opportunity to explore new paths.

You’re innovative, talented and want to push yourself. You’re looking for an employer with whom you can realize your greatest ambitions. Come to the Deutsche Bank Open House and find out what perspectives we can offer you: Date: Wednesday, 11th October 2006 Time: Drop in anytime between 6.00pm - 8.00pm Location: University Arms Hotel, Regent Street, Cambridge Sign Up: To guarantee your place and gain fast entry into the event, register online in the ‘Events’ section of Expect the better career. For details on our divisions and to apply online, visit

A Passion to Perform.




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Michaelmas 2006

Issue 7


Features Tying It All Together


Gemma Simpson connects string theory and QCD to the Theory of Everything...................

All in the Mind?


Hannah Critchlow discusses schizophrenia: a disease of the brain, not the mind........................



Louise Woodley opens the door on free access to scientific information........................................

Face Value


Flora Greenwood and Gemma Simpson look at the recognition and interpretation of faces..........

Shedding Light On the Brain


Katherine Bridge highlights advances in visualizing neurons.............................................................

Untangling Teleportation


Tristan Farrow explains how teleportation is not just science fiction............................................

All Systems Are Go


Sheena Gordon and James Pickett take a trip to the world of systems biology...........................

Plus at Tom Baden shows how to study ions in neurons Ana Vasiliu introduces the Journal of Spurious Correlations


Focus ................................................................................................................................... 04 In Brief ................................................................................................................................08 A Day in the Life of... ...................................................................................................... 20 Away from the Bench ..................................................................................................... 22 Initiatives ............................................................................................................................ 23 History ............................................................................................................................... 24 Arts and Reviews .............................................................................................................26 Dr Hypothesis .................................................................................................................. 28 Front cover:‘Hemisphere’ by Renny Nisbet, exhibited at Wysing Arts Centre. The installation was connected to live signal data from sensing stations in the UK and Slovakia that monitor low frequency radio waves produced continuously by electrical storms around the Earth. The cover image shows one of several suspended polycarbonate units, which contain bass speakers emitting infrasound-generated standing waves in water at frequencies of incoming signal data. Audio was also generated several octaves above as a direct expression of all lightning activity on Earth.


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Issue 7: Michaelmas 2006 Lucky Tran

From The Editor

The start of a new academic year brings with it a host of new BlueSci readers.At BlueSci, we aim to produce a popular science magazine that is both informative and entertaining for all members of the University.The magazine contains feature articles that have been written by undergraduates, graduates or postdocs. Features articles in this issue cover diverse topics.TYING IT ALL TOGETHER discusses how string theory might lead to a testable Theory of Everything, while FREE-FOR-ALL introduces open-access publishing. For the more biologically inclined, SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE BRAIN, FACE VALUE and ALL IN THE MIND? deal with brain biology. BlueSci also contains regulars that appear in every issue. Members of the BlueSci team commission these articles. In INITIATIVES you can read about the activities of CUTEC.

AWAY FROM THE BENCH gives insight into what life as a scientist in Antarctica is like, while in A DAY IN THE LIFE… Peter Stern chats about life as an Editor. HISTORY and ARTS AND REVIEWS both take us back in time and trace the history of medical teaching and science in film, respectively. The final regular section is FOCUS. In this issue, FOCUS features an opinion piece by Professor Michael McIntyre, which I highly recommend, as well as an interview with Professor Austin Smith. In addition to the magazine, BlueSci produces a website that contains additional articles and is updated regularly with news articles. I hope you enjoy reading issue 7 of BlueSci! Sheena Gordon

From The Managing Editor Happy Second Birthday, BlueSci! According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, by the age of two a healthy toddler should be “increasingly more mobile and aware of himself and his surroundings”.This principle most certainly applies to BlueSci. During the last year, BlueSci team members have been as far afield as Belgium, for the Communicating European Research Conference, where we saw first hand science outreach initiatives in Europe. BlueSci has also teamed up with Cambridge University’s Scientific Society (CUSS), to film the after-dinner speeches at the CUSS annual dinner. Our “desire to explore new objects and people” is also increasing, with the recruitment of a team of news writers for BlueSci online. As part of Cambridge University Science Productions (CUSP), BlueSci has podcast interviews with the lecturers of the Darwin Lecture series; visit

Looking ahead to the coming year, we are pleased to be continuing our relationship with Varsity Publications.We’d like to thank the Varsity Business Manager, Chris Adams, and welcome his successor,Adam Edelshain. Furthermore, CUSP has undergone some restructuring. One of our aims is to provide staff and students of the University with opportunities to train in science communication. We have organized a series of hands-on workshops for Tuesday evenings. Workshop topics will include editing short films, writing and magazine production. We are very much looking forward to the “terrible-twos”—a time when BlueSci is expected to “experience huge intellectual and social change”. I hope that BlueSci continues to provide material that you consider enlightening and entertaining. Please feel free to email us with your feedback. Louise Woodley

Editor: Sheena Gordon Managing Editor: Louise Woodley Production Manager: Ryan Roark Submissions Editor: Ewan Smith Business Manager: Adam Edelshain Web News/In Brief Editor: Michael Marshall Web News Team: Hannah Critchlow, Peter Davenport, Subhajyoti De, Lucy Heady, David Jones, Gurman Kaur, James Pickett, Aswin Seshasayee, Gemma Simpson. Emily Tweed, Richard Van Noorden Web News Photographer: Rita Kalra Focus/Features Editors: James Pickett, Bojana Popovic, Margaret Olszewski, Serena Scollen, Jonathan Zwart, Jon Heras A Day in the Life of... Editor: Sheena Gordon Away from the Bench Editor: Sheena Gordon Initiatives Editor: Bojana Popovic History Editor: Margaret Olszewski Arts and Reviews Editor: Owain Vaughan Dr Hypothesis: Rob Young Copy Editors: Brendan D’Arcy, Ryan Roark, Jonathan Zwart Production Team: Katerina Bilitou, Si-houy Lao-Sirieix, Maureen Liu, Lara Moss, Sasha Krol, Jo Sharp Distribution Manager: Sheena Gordon CUSP Chairman: Michael Marshall ISSN 1748–6920

Varsity Publications Ltd 11/12 Trumpington Street Cambridge, CB2 1QA Tel: 01223 353422 Fax: 01223 352913 BlueSci is published by Varsity Publications Ltd and printed by Warners (Midlands) plc. All copyright is the exclusive property of Varsity Publications Ltd. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the publisher.

Next Issue: 19 January 2007 Submissions Deadline: 30 October 2006

Produced by CUSP & Published by Varsity Publications Ltd





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On scientific foresight and why we nee

Nicholas Pinhey

BlueSci identifies areas of promise in scientific research and learns that “the most interesting discoveries will Michael McIntyre is a Professor in theoretical fluid dynamics based at the University of Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the Academia Europaea. He edited of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics for 10 years and was awarded the Bartels Medal of the European Geophysical Union and the Rossby Medal, the highest award of the American Meteorological Society.

When BlueSci asked me to identify the most promising scientific area for major progress, I couldn’t help thinking about my personal experience as a researcher. As with others before me, I found that being in a hurry to answer such a question is not as important as it might seem. Rather, what’s important is openness to the unexpected. I was elected to the Royal Society for my part in discovering the ‘world’s largest breaking waves’.These waves are found in the Earth’s stratosphere and are essential to the dynamics of the ozone layer. Seeing why they matter and how they work illustrates what is typical of many scientific advances—from the most modest all the way to the greatest and most far-reaching. Advances usually come from finding new viewpoints and from seeing connections between areas, experimental or theoretical, previously thought to be unconnected. In my case there were on the one hand some clever space-based remote sensors, measuring infrared radiation from the stratosphere, and some well-established ways to analyze the data. On the other hand there were some esoteric bits of theory about fluid motion that most meteorologists, including members of funding committees, tended to regard as academic playthings irrelevant to the real world. I remember one redoubtable member of the UK Met Office dismissing them as belonging in cloud-cuckoo land. I had no reply, as I didn’t foresee the subsequent developments, in which I


demonstrated how the bits of theory cast a new light on the infrared measurements, in an unexpectedly simple way. Still less could I have justified working on the problem. I felt only a fascination with the various bits of theory for their own sake, along with an admiration for the spectroscopic wizardry of the remote sensing and a vague feeling that new understanding might be somewhere within reach. The great mathematician J. E. Littlewood put it aptly: “Most of the best work starts in hopeless muddle and floundering, sustained on the ‘smell’ that something is there.” No funding or foresight committee would listen to such talk. The same goes for everything else I’ve done that’s turned out to have any importance. Of course I can claim to be in good company.The history of science is littered with just this kind of thing; stories beginning in cloud-cuckoo land and ending in new insight. It’s no accident that the great geneticist J. B. S. Haldane used to distinguish four stages in the acceptance of a scientific advance: 1.This is worthless nonsense. 2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view. 3.This is true, but quite unimportant. 4. I always said so. The structure of DNA and its biological significance was one such case, according to no less a luminary than Sir Aaron Klug in a recent interview on BBC Radio 4. Before the 1960s,“biochemists thought it was a fancy, a figment of the imagina-


tion,” even after Watson and Crick had not only homed in on the structure, but had recognized its obvious potential to unzip and replicate. Foresight can be fun, as long as we don’t take it too seriously. I’m as excited as anyone by the vistas that seem to open up before us, some of which are described so engagingly in this issue. Stem cells, for instance, quite plainly have huge medical potential; systems biology recognizes the complexity of biochemical circuitry, which might require quantum computing to emulate; and string theory might become a coherent description of all the forces of physics. I’m an optimist at heart and believe that science, while not the Answer to Everything, is on balance a good thing for human societies. I’d argue this not only on the purely scientific level but also on the societal and cultural. It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come in a mere few centuries, a mere flash of evolutionary time.We no longer panic at the sight of a comet, burn witches, nor stone people to death. The Grameen Bank of Bangladesh has released millions of women from slavery. That such things have come to pass testifies to our astonishing potential and astonishing adaptability as a species—to our ability to keep open minds and find new viewpoints that withstand experimental testing. This is the power of open science and the attitudes that go with it. Open science—what most scientists call ‘science’—is the massively parallel problem-solving process discovered in the Renaissance, the process that transformed alchemy into chemistry. It is the process rediscovered by today’s open-source software community and explicitly targeted by Microsoft’s notorious Halloween

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e need science eries will be the unexpected ones” Documents.The process relies on the ‘scientific ideal’—giving primacy to the coherence and self-consistency of theory or software and, for the natural sciences, goodness-of-fit with experimental data. Open science also relies on the scientific ethic, aspired to if not always attained, which enables what anthropologists call a ‘gift culture’.The scientific ethic balances competition with cooperation and puts honesty, openness, and the acknowledgement of others’ contributions above financial or political reward.The scientist who can get up at a conference and say,

Foresight can be fun, as long as we don’t take it too seriously

“I was wrong; Dr X has shown that my theory doesn’t fit the data’’ or, “I was wrong; this research didn’t pan out as proposed,’’ may displease a commercial or political sponsor, but gains enormous respect among peers. Putting the scientific ideal and ethic first sends a powerful message that you care more about good science than about short-term, worldly gain or personal feelings. Open science is under threat, as never before, from huge commercial, political and legal forces that put worldly gain first and thus subvert the scientific ideal and ethic and impede the solution of problems—especially complex problems such

as those of software, medicine and genetic engineering. Such forces may explain why politicians keep demanding, and over-valuing, foresight exercises, as well as trying to micromanage science through the all-pervading audit culture. What’s astonishing, though, and to me inspirational, is that open science has the power to withstand such forces. An illustration is the story of the human and mouse genomes told by Sulston and Ferry. John Sulston is one of my heroes, not only for being a superb scientist but also for the way he and a small band of colleagues withstood the pressure of the corporate world and kept the genomes in the public domain. It’s just as well that open science can withstand the forces ranged against it. Open science is going to be a necessity, not a luxury, if we’re to maintain the hope of managing our future in any reasonable way. Assuming, optimistically, that technologically advanced societies survive at all, we’ll face a future dominated by complex systems of various kinds, compounding what are recognized by some systems analysts as the ‘wicked problems’ of human societies. These could dwarf the kind of problem exposed by today’s information-technology disasters. Coping with them will call for massively parallel problem-solving on a huge scale, as systems biology has already recognized. Consider for instance, the biological ‘programming language’ of genomes.The analogy with software may be imperfect, but it’ll do for now. Since we don’t have a complete understanding even of Escherichia coli and how it functions, despite having known its genome for some years, it seems safe to say that, in the analogy, only a tiny fraction of the biological programming language is known. By the time we know enough to make sophisticated genetic engineering a reality, we’ll have massive debugging problems just as we do with today’s computer software. Instead of IT disasters, we could have medical or even ecological disasters. The problem of debugging will always be with us, because every complex system has a combinatorially large number of ways to go wrong. The number of states and pathways scale not additively but multiplicatively with the size of the system, like the proverbial grains on the chessboard. Combinatorial largeness is also part of why it’s so difficult to foresee future

Fo c u s

In this issue of BlueSci we wanted to identify an area of research that held great promise; an area where major progress was predicted in the near future. So, we went to the experts.We asked some of the top academics in the University their opinions.We received a variety of responses; from the imaging of neurones in the brain to developments in ultra-cold atoms.We were particularly intrigued by the comments of Professor Michael McIntyre, who claimed that our survey was “impossible to answer” as his seminal contributions to science “could not have been predicted in advance, let alone justified to a funding body”. He shares some of his views below. Stem cell biology (see over) also drew our attention, as it ties in neatly with the opening of the Institute of Stem Cell Biology here in Cambridge. developments.When exploring unknown territory, or trying to understand complex systems—say, roughly in order of complexity, an atomic nucleus, a water molecule, a protein molecule, a government computer system, a bacterium, a eukaryotic cell, a nematode worm, an insect, a mammalian brain, an ecology with or without artificial genomes, human society, the Earth’s climate system—we are confronted with an everbranching tree of possibilities. Combinatorially large means unimaginably large; so this is a political problem as well as a scientific one. Science is an extension of ordinary perception. Both science and ordinary

The history of science is littered with stories beginning in cloudcuckoo land and ending in new insight

perception work by fitting models to data, though in the case of ordinary perception the model-fitting process is wholly, not just partly, unconscious. As the anthropologist and philosopher Gregory Bateson once wrote, “No organism can afford to be conscious of matters with which it could deal at unconscious levels.” Once again the reason is combinatorial largeness. If we lacked the ability to reject most possibilities unconsciously, we could not function. That is why scientific innovation often comes from exposing unconscious assumptions— again reminding us of the fallibility of foresight exercises. Scientific research is like driving in the fog—exposing unconscious assumptions about the road ahead, straining for new data and being prepared to fit new models when the road forks or twists unexpectedly. In some areas, including climate change, we can see the road beginning to slope downward, but we don’t yet know whether there’s a precipice ahead. Some of the forces ranged against open science are still trying to make us shut our eyes and step on the gas.

Title picture credits: United States Fish and Wildlife Service; NASA/ ESA and J. Hester; Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH;Wolfgang Beyer; NASA; Bruce S. Lieberman, University of Kansas; Paul B. Glaser and T. Don Tilley; US Army Photo, by K. Kempf; Jan Derk; STS-82 Crew, STScI, NASA; Ghim Wei Ho and Prof. Mark Welland, Nanostructure Center, University of Cambridge







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Stem Cells: “Useful, N What Are Stem Cells? and adult stem cells found in adult tissues. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, or can form all the different types of cell in the body, while adult stem cells are multipotent, or limited to producing a few specialized cell types. Embryonic stem cells can be obtained from an embryo very early in development. After fertilization, the egg divides to form a ball of undifferentiated cells, known as the blastocyst, from which embryonic stem cells are extracted. Adult stem cells can be found in the eyes, teeth, skin, bone marrow, blood stream, brain, spinal cord, skeletal muscle,

liver, gastrointestinal tract and pancreas. Adult stem cells are rare and very difficult to identify. Scientists are still unsure of the precise origin of adult stem cells; are they old embryonic stem cells, or are they formed in some other way? Embryonic stem cells are thought to be vital for the development of an organism from an embryo. Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are required to replace cells damaged by disease or injury. Which tissues have such a repair mechanism, and why they have it while others do not, are key questions of stem cell biology research.

Sarah Scott and Tom Walters

Stem cells possess the unique ability to develop into many different types of cell. When a stem cell divides to produce two daughter cells, the daughter cells have the potential to remain stem cells or becomes cells with a more specialized function such as muscle cells, red blood cells or brain cells. A stem cell can become a specialized cell, but a specialized cell cannot become a stem cell. Specialized cells can also divide a finite number of times, while stem cells can theoretically divide without limit. There are two main types of stem cell; embryonic stem cells found in embryos

A Recent Controversy One of the promises of stem cell biology research is that stem cells may be used to produce organs or tissues for transplantation in the treatment of disease. Embryonic stem cells are thought to hold more promise for this application, as they are less specialized than adult stem cells and can therefore produce more cell types. Early experiments, however, have shown that embryonic stem cells may cause a massive immune response in a patient with the cells being recognized as foreign.To avoid this, it is thought that the embryonic stem cells have to be derived from the patient into whom they are going to be transplanted. There are several responses to this challenge, such as reprogramming adult cells or adult stem cells to be embryonic stem cells or using methods similar to those used for cloning animals. In 2005, the South Korean biologist Woo Suk Hwang claimed that he was


able to generate patient-specific embryonic stem cells. His approach was to implant the nucleus from an adult skin cell into an oocyte, which he could then stimulate to develop into an egg from which he could harvest patient-

It’s obvious that it could be done, so there was no real reason to believe that it wouldn’t be done

specific embryonic stem cells. This was an enormous leap towards realizing the potential of stem cells in the treatment of disease. Later that year, however, concerns were raised about his results and an enquiry revealed that many of Hwang’s


data were fabricated. Professor Austin Smith comments: “Hwang’s gamble was that people were at first going to accept his research. You can’t review a paper thinking it’s fraudulent. It’s obvious that it could be done, so there was no real reason to believe that it wouldn’t be done. The big prize was in coming first and then other people would come along and really do it. “The impact of Hwang’s fraud on stem cell research in Europe and the US is probably positive. It’s a reality check—this isn’t easy. However, the impact on Korea, Korean science and potentially Asia more widely is very damaging for both its internal and external credibility.This was a guy who was cheating.” Hwang is on trial, charged with fraud and embezzlement of research funds. He has admitted broad responsibility for his deception and faces at least three years in prison if found guilty.

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Fo c u s

Not Just Fascinating” A Quick Chat with a Stem Cell Biologist Austin Smith is the Chair of the new Institute of Stem Cell Biology in Cambridge. Previously, he was a group leader at the Institute of Stem Cell Research in Edinburgh. His work examines the processes that govern the ability of stem cells to regenerate or differentiate into other cell types. Professor Smith is also a member of EuroStemCell, a European collaboration that aims to create the platform for realising the therapeutic potential of stem cell technologies. Barely a week passes without stem cells being in the headlines. Despite the ethical controversy that surrounds these cells, there is no doubt that they are capable of some remarkable cell biology and have the potential to provide enormous benefit to mankind. The University of Cambridge has a long and distinguished history in stem cell research including the pioneering of in vitro fertilization treatment and the discovery of embryonic stem cells. It seems fitting that the Institute of Stem Cell Biology, a brand new centre for basic stem cell research, should be opened here in Cambridge. Professor Austin Smith is the Chairperson of this new hub of stem cell research. Why are stem cells so interesting? The fascination with stem cells is rooted in how they multiply whilst always maintaining the capacity to differentiate into a specialized cell.You can grow these cells in a laboratory for years and years and make millions and millions of them but as soon as you place them back in an embryo they immediately switch out from being a stem cell and behave like they’ve never been taken out. They have the capacity to integrate fully into an embryo, in a fully controlled way. More recently, as you begin to understand these

cells and have some control over them, you see they may be useful, not just interesting and fascinating. How may stem cells be useful? They should certainly be useful for transplantation of new organs and tissues, and also for learning and understanding about cellular disease processes and in the screening of new drugs.This may in turn greatly reduce the use of animals for laboratory experiments. Eventually it should be possible to make every cell from any other cell. This is a long-term goal of stem cell research.

It should be possible to make every cell from any other cell—this is a long-term goal of stem cell research

” What is the most exciting discovery in stem cell biology? The most exciting to date is still the development of embryonic stem cells in 1981 by Evans and Kaufman, in

Cambridge.That set the scene for everything tht has followed, although some of the important biological questions were put aside for 15 years. People became focused on using these cells for genetic engineering, which is a technology, rather than addressing biological questions. Now these questions have risen to the forefront of research once again. Do you have any fears regarding the way stem cell biology is developing? The problem at the moment is that there is a band-wagon in certain parts of the scientific and medical community where you just stick the stem cells in and see some kind of effect. They say this is due to the stem cells, without any evidence that the stem cells themselves are really contributing to any effect you see. For example, if you inject 1,000,000 cells into a damaged heart, then they’ll produce all kinds of cytokines that will modulate the inflammatory process and so may have a beneficial effect. If they form new heart cells in the heart, then in my opinion they’re likely to start inducing arrhythmias. What we really want to understand is: is there a real effect and what is the basis for that? Is it better to inject the cells or is it actually much more effective and safe to identify the molecules? There is a bit of a problem at the moment as we do not know the answers for some of the cases that are currently being pioneered. Austin Smith was interview by James Pickett, a PhD student in the Department of Pharmacology

Professor Austin Smith is part of a collaboration that brings together researchers from all over Europe to try to lay the groundwork for taking stem cells into clinical medicine. A short video entitled A Stem Cell Story has been produced and can be streamed directly from

What Is All the Fuss About? Putting aside all ethical debates and controversies, stem cell biology research has featured heavily in the media as it has heralded significant advances in the treatment of many incurable diseases and is predicted to continue to do so. A current example of a stem cell technology is bone marrow transplantation for the treatment of leukaemia. In leukaemia, the white cells of the blood proliferate uncontrollably. These troublesome white cells can be destroyed using radiation or chemotherapy, but must be

replaced for normal functioning of the patient’s immune system. Based on results from stem cell biology research, doctors realized that the bone marrow contains haematopoietic stem cells, capable of generating healthy white blood cells to repopulate the blood. Bone marrow transplants from healthy individuals resulted, and leukaemia is now a potentially treatable disease. It is hoped that this principle of transplantation will be applied to many other diseases in the future. For instance,


Parkinson’s disease causes a gradual loss of the control of movement in sufferers. It is caused by the slow death of neurons in the brain, and there is no cure. Stem cell biology research might make it possible to differentiate adult stem cells from the brain into neurons, which could then be implanted into patient brains. Scientists are currently faced with the challenge of isolating and culturing adult stem cells, as well as defining the specific factors required to make stem cells become a specialized cell type.




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In Brief


In Brief Coalitions in Capuchin Monkeys

CUSP Covers BA Festival of Science

Bigger Babies Hit Puberty Earlier

Cambridge University Science Productions (CUSP) has produced a series of webcasts from the BA Festival of Science. The BA Festival is a week-long science festival that is held in a different UK location every year.This year it was held in Norwich. The Festival brings together over 300 of the UK’s top scientists and engineers to discuss the latest developments in science and engineering with the public.The theme of the Festival was ‘People, Science and Society’. The address by Frances Cairncross, the BA president, explored the economic impact of climate change and the ‘human’ context of scientific development. CUSP has produced webcasts from the BA Festival for the second year running. The webcasts include coverage of the keynote Award Lectures, several segments on the interface between science and art, and a series of live studio debates.The main presenters were Greg Foot (formerly of CUSP and now at the BBC) and Matt Cunningham (from GMTV’s Toonattik). The webcasts were produced in collaboration with students from Imperial College’s Science Communication course and technical staff from the University of East Anglia. The webcasts are available at MM

Weight gain in infancy causes children to start puberty earlier. In a paper published in the July issue of Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, researchers led by David Dunger from the Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, discussed whether childhood obesity could be causing increasingly young children to enter puberty. Once a child enters a pubescent age, weight will play a part in dictating when puberty will begin. For example, a malnourished child will start puberty much later.That seems logical, but there is also growing evidence to suggest that your weight as a baby could program when you will hit puberty in later life. Whether the increase in childhood obesity will lead to earlier puberty is uncertain. It is currently estimated that the age of onset of puberty will decrease by 6–12 months every 100 years. The paper calls for a long-term investigation into this figure. The decreasing age of puberty has long been thought to be influenced by a variety of factors, including ethnic background, geographic and socio-economic factors. A study in Norway and Denmark found that the onset of menstruation in young women had fallen rapidly since the nineteenth century, by up to 12 months per decade. GS

SciSoc Events

New Model of Early Human Settlements

Cambridge University Scientific Society has a busy term planned. On 10 October, New Scientist editor Jeremy Webb will be giving a talk. 23 November sees Raj Persaud speaking about science and the media. Other speakers include the science writer Simon Singh, robotics expert Noel Sharkey and Anne Forde of Science. Anne MacLaren will also be speaking on the ethics of embryo research. Talks are held in the Pharmacology Lecture Theatre,Tennis Court Road.

Geneticists and zoologists at the University of Cambridge have produced the most accurate model yet of how modern humans came to populate the planet. There is a consensus amongst archaeologists that the modern human population originated from a single population somewhere in East Africa between 45,000 and 75,000 years ago. However, other questions such as the migration speed and the size of the original settlement are hotly disputed. The model, developed by a team led by Hua Liu and published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, fits well with


Renata Ferreira

Capuchin monkeys protect the most subordinate of the contestants in conflicts involving immature monkeys, according to a study conducted by the Universities of Cambridge, Sao Paulo and Stirling. The team looked at instances when a third-party monkey intervened in support of one participant in a fight. This is an example of ‘coalition’ behaviour. The dominant male, known as the alpha male, was the most likely to intervene in conflicts.This may be a way of showing the female monkeys his protective abilities.The alpha male projected his role as a ‘protector’ in the group by favouring the most subordinate of the two immature contestants. The study, led by Renata Ferreira and published in the American Journal of Primatology, looked at 20 capuchin monkeys ranging in a semi-free state. Whether or not the monkeys were related did not affect coalition behaviour during a conflict. The tendency of the monkeys to remain close to each other was more important.The pattern of supporting the youngest combatant was not seen in a conflict amongst adults. GK


current archaeological data. It suggests that the process of human colonization may not be as complex as first thought. In the team’s model, a small group of individuals leave a settlement and establish their own a short distance away. Once the new colony has grown to a certain size, the process repeats itself and a new settlement sprouts off forming a chain of settlements. Using the model, the authors estimate that the original settlement in East Africa was composed of about 3000 individuals, with the first migrants leaving it about 56,000 years ago. LH

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Tying It All Together Gemma Simpson connects string theory and QCD to the Theory of Everything

bining string theory with other theories in the field, it may yet be resurrected. Enter quantum chromo dynamics. QCD is the theory that the strong nuclear force holds fundamental particles, called quarks, together.The quarks form the larger particles found in an atom’s nucleus, the nucleons. The strong nuclear force also holds the nucleons together to form an atom’s nucleus. This can be pictured as a bag of oranges—the quarks are the orange segments, the oranges are the nucleons and

tested in the laboratory—and it has been. This was reported in a recent paper by Katz that describes a theory of quarks and how they combine to form atoms.This new theory predicts the masses of atoms that have been confirmed experimentally.The agreement between the theory and the experimental data represents a huge leap forward toward the development of a ToE. Katz comments that this could be “one of the most exciting concepts to emerge in physics theory in the last several decades”.

String theory assumes that the smallest building blocks of matter are strings rather than point-like particles

Gravity A weak, long-range force that pulls bodies with mass toward each other

Electromagnetic Force A strong, long-range force that acts on charged particles

Strong Nuclear Force A strong, short-range force that holds elementary particles together

Weak Nuclear Force A weak, short-range force important in beta decay

the entire bag is the nucleus. The netted bag and the peel of the oranges are analogous to the strong nuclear force holding all of the components together. One of the main differences between string theory and QCD is the connection with gravity. QCD describes only the strong nuclear force. String theory, on the other hand, relates to every possible particle in the universe, including gravitons, which are thought to carry the force of gravity. Despite this difference, Katz and his colleagues have noticed a startling relationship between QCD and string theory.The outcome of this relationship is that a theory combining QCD and string theory can be


Equinox Graphics

The Theory of Everything (ToE) sounds rather grand, but it is based on a relatively simple idea: it should combine what we know about the four fundamental forces of the universe into a single theory. If we can achieve a ToE then scientists will be able to model even further back in time, possibly to the beginning of the universe. A proposed ToE should generate testable hypotheses. A recently developed theory, which combines string theory and quantum chromo dynamics (QCD), seems to be the most suitable candidate thus far. The four forces of the universe have different qualities that must be considered. The first force is electromagnetism, which is responsible for electricity and magnetism. Similar to a long-jumper, this force acts with speed over a long range. The second force, known as the weak nuclear force, is a weak force with a short range which can change a particle’s flavour so that it appears in different guises, for example a proton could become a neutron simply by changing one of its composite ingredients. Thirdly, there is the aptly named strong nuclear force, which is like a wrestler with tremendous strength but only with a short range. Scientists are succeeding in combining these three forces into a single theory, but there is the fourth stubborn sibling to consider—gravity. Gravity holds us to the Earth, it holds the Earth in orbit around the sun, and it wakes up scientists who have fallen asleep under apple trees! String theory has long been the top contender for realising a ToE. String theory assumes that the smallest building blocks of matter are miniscule strings rather than point-like particles. If you compare a length of string to a speck of dust you notice obvious physical differences. The string can be tied into a loop, made into a cat’s cradle or used as a skipping rope; the speck of dust just sits there. Because of these physical differences, string theory avoids the problems that other theories encounter when trying to describe particles, such as incorporating a particle’s geometry into describing the four universal forces. But, despite hoping that string theory could be tested with a set of rigorous experiments, it remains a theory. Professor Emanuel Katz of Stanford University points out that it is “highly unlikely” that we could test string theory experimentally, “given recent developments, which suggest that string theory might allow something like 10500 different solutions to how the universe is composed.”The inability to test string theory is its major drawback. However, by com-

Dr Nick Evans of the University of Southampton, however, warns us not to get too excited too quickly.“I view it [the new theory] like alchemy—from alchemy came chemistry... but there was a lot wrong too—you never know what is wrong until after the event. People always want to leap to the final answer, but we are very probably hundreds of years from knowing what it is.” Let us all hope that this new theory continues to be supported by the experimental data and that we have, in fact, developed the true ToE. Gemma Simpson recently completed a MPhil in the Cavendish Laboratory



All in the Mind?



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Hannah Critchlow discusses schizophrenia: a disease of the brain, not the mind

Mental health, particularly schizophrenia, was until the latter part of last century heavily stigmatized, poorly understood and in many ways socially ignored. Such stigma is gradually dissipating as scientific knowledge, and the public’s awareness, increase. Nevertheless, many people still think schizophrenia can be defined by hallucinations and delusions of grandeur, or believing oneself to be God. While these traits are often seen in people suffering from schizophrenia, they make up a small percentage of the total symptoms of the disease. Due to the many possible combinations of symptoms presented by schizophrenic patients, there is controversy over whether the term schizophrenia adequately describes the disease. Diagnosis is based on psychiatric findings, since there is still no clear-cut biological test. It may be that the term schizophrenia actually represents a number of disorders that have been clumped together. Eugen Bleuler, the

Crow went on to show that brain hemisphere asymmetry or brain torque— unique to humans—is abnormal in schizophrenic patients. He hypothesizes that brain asymmetry evolved as a necessity for humans to gain language skills, and that psychosis arises when this asymmetry fails to develop properly. He is now

A reduced number of connections between brain cells increases the likelihood of aberrant communication within the brain, leading to delusions, hallucinations and cognitive deficits

performed scans of patients’ brains and saw enlarged cerebral ventricles. Crow states that his group’s findings were “quite controversial at the time”, with professors at the Institute of Psychiatry writing to say that “the data were wrong.” But, the data have held up,

Schizophrenia is not simply psychological. The team performed scans of patients’ brains and saw enlarged cerebral ventricles

eminent psychiatrist who in 1908 named the disorder by combining the Greek words for split (schizo) and mind (phrene), was aware of the symptom variation and described them in the plural, as the schizophrenias. Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating of psychiatric illnesses, with 65 million people worldwide afflicted by the disorder. Over 40% of patients attempt suicide, and approximately 15% succeed. Over 120 genes have been implicated in predisposing an individual to the disease.These genes interplay with environmental factors such as stress and cannabis smoking. One of the puzzles surrounding schizophrenia is the consistent 1% worldwide prevalence of the disease, as the majority of patients do not reproduce. Does schizophrenia offer an evolutionary advantage? Professor Tim Crow, Honorary Director of The Prince of Wales International Centre


for SANE Research, presented his controversial theory on the evolution of psychosis as part of the Francis Crick Graduate Lecture series at the University of Cambridge. In 1976, Crow and colleagues demonstrated that schizophrenia was not simply psychological. The team

although Crow stresses that the data are “quantitative and [that enlarged cerebral ventricles are] not a discrete marker [for the disease], with there being overlap between patient and control groups”. These findings paved the way for further investigations by research groups around the world.

studying the genetics of how this asymmetry arose, focusing on the evolution of the chromosomes that determine gender. He has identified the gene protocadherin, which is involved in cell adhesion in the brain, and is investigating how this gene is regulated, what role it played in the evolution of language and its influence on psychosis. Many of the genes implicated in schizophrenia are involved in neurodevelopment, communication within the brain and metabolic regulation. Crow states that such “genetic linkage and association studies [that find out which genes are mutated in patients] are inconsistent. Candidate genes [those found to be altered in schizophrenic patients] fade away as new studies come up where new candidate genes take their place.” Crow postulates that the “inconsistency of the genetic data may be due to short term epigenetic control of genes [the regulation of genes without alteration in the

Symptoms of Schizophrenia A sufferer of schizophrenia can experience any combination of the following symptoms: 1. Cognitive deficits such as impairments in reasoning, memory, learning, flexible thinking and planning; 2. Negative symptoms such as apathy, social withdrawal, emotional unresponsiveness and a loss of feelings of reward; 3. Positive symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions and disorganized thought.


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DNA] such that schizophrenia is generated and dissipated throughout the population all the time”. Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies have also shown that schizophrenic patients possess not only larger ventricles but also smaller brain grey matter volumes. This correlates with findings of decreased dendritic spine densities in patients. Dendritic spines are minute structures that transmit messages within the brain. Therefore, it appears that a reduced number of connections between brain cells increases the likelihood of aberrant communication within the brain, leading to delusions, hallucinations and cognitive deficits. Intriguingly, a computer simulation demonstrated that as the potential for communication between cells decreases, processing information becomes faster and more accurate until a threshold is reached. The threshold is the point where the model perceives stimuli where none was given. This can be interpreted as mimicking of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, the hallucinations. This information ties in neatly with the decreased connectivity observed in schizophrenic patients and provides a cellular basis for the evolutionary conundrum that surrounds the persistence of schizophrenia in the population. There are numerous drugs, termed antipsychotics, available for the treatment of schizophrenia. The first, haloperidol, was discovered serendipitously in the 1950s. It was originally designed as a pain reliever. Investigating the action of haloperidol on brain receptors revealed it to be a dopamine receptor antagonist, meaning it blocks the receptor from activation. A large number of drugs with a similar mechanism (typical antipsychotics) were subsequently developed.These drugs, however, blocked receptor activation in all regions that the receptors were present and thus had significant side effects, often resulting in patient’s non-compliance in taking medication. Atypical antipsychotics emerged later and can treat the disease without the negative side effects. This is largely due to less dopamine receptor antagonism and high serotonin receptor antagonism—the opposite pharmacology to hallucinogens such as LSD. However, these atypical antipsychotics are still not truly effective in treating the disease. The alarmingly high suicide rate amongst schizophrenic patients is a striking indicator of the severe requirement for new treatments. Although schizophrenia has revealed itself to be a disease of the brain and not of the mind, over the last 10 years, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been used in combination with drugs as a treatment for schizophrenia. Professor Philippa Garety, of the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London and the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, speaking to the

Guardian said, “Medication often helps change people’s acute psychotic experiences… but it doesn’t always help to change how they felt about them at the time.” Garety gave an example of a schizophrenic man who, after medication, had stopped seeing things jump out of mirrors at him, but was still acutely troubled by the sense that he was being watched. He thought there were cameras on every street corner, above his bed and in his flat. Garety comments that, “CBT was able to help

tion, exhibit certain aspects of the disease. By and large, patient and animal studies are being used to complement one another, to investigate the disease more fully and to help bring a drug to treat the disease onto the market. An interesting result from recent population studies is that schizophrenics are much more likely to smoke than are controls. Scientists have discovered that activating nicotinic receptors in the brain by smoking a cigarette enhances cognitive function, and thus it

Schizophrenia is one of the most debilitating of psychiatric illnesses, with 65 million people worldwide afflicted by the disorder

him because we looked at how he was making sense of his experiences and at his triggers.” After 20 hours of CBT spread over a year, this man stopped thinking that he was being watched. So, the quest is on for scientists to develop new and better antipsychotics which could be used in combination with therapies such as CBT. In an attempt to understand how the brain is altered by the disease, scientists are imaging and profiling brains of patients. Confounding factors such as the medication, previous substance abuse and the degree and type of schizophrenia from which the patient suffers, make interpretation of the data difficult. Scientists are also investigating rodents which, by using genetic and behavioural manipula-

Right Occipital Meaning

appears that heavily smoking schizophrenic patients are in fact self-medicating. Furthermore, in one study of over 50,000 Swedish conscripts, cigarette smoking has been shown to have a protective effect against developing schizophrenia in later life. Drug companies are now in the process of developing pharmacological agents to take advantage of this discovery. So, while the tobacco-puffing English may have a detrimental decrease in cognitive function come the 2007 smoking ban, at least there may be a new treatment for schizophrenia on the horizon. Hannah Critchlow is a PhD student in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Left Occipital Speech Perception

Right Frontal Thought

Left Frontal Speech Generation Charlotte Bruce


Human brain torque; the right frontal regions are larger than the left, and left occipital regions are larger than the right






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Agnes Becker


Louise Woodley opens the door on free access to scientific information One of the oldest practices in science is that following their hard-earned Eureka moment, scientists publish their findings so that the rest of the scientific community may share in their discoveries, cite their work and build upon it. This is how scientific theories are disseminated and adopted and how research reputations are built or destroyed. In reality, this spawns fights for first authorship, secrecy to avoid being scooped and the ultimate quest of having one’s material published in the most prestigious journal. Publishing papers is integral to the academic lifestyle and the framework of scientific publishing is undergoing a mini-revolution as many scientists and members of the public are fighting for an open-access model of publication. Open access is the immediate publication of articles on the Internet so that anyone can access them free of charge. Only time will tell if this new model of publication will become a reality for all scientific journals. Traditionally, scientific publications have profited by charging readers for access. This model disadvantages institutions and individuals, from both the scientific community and society at large, who cannot afford the expensive subscription costs. On average, it costs over 80 US cents per page to subscribe to a scientific journal. Furthermore, even at the most well-funded research centres, the budget allocated for the purchase of journal subscriptions has remained static for several years— despite the large increase in the number of journals available and the fact that the cost of subscriptions has increased above the rate of inflation for several years running. The result is a decreased access to literature for many scientists, despite more articles than ever before being published.This will ultimately lead to misguided and possibly duplicated research, which is a waste of already scarce research funds.


Unsurprisingly, academic librarians with a passion to disseminate information have been among the strongest supporters of the open-access model. Another key driver of the movement is the opportunity to communicate with anyone, almost anywhere, through the Internet. Online distribution is cost-effective and reaches an audience that print publication never could. As early as the 1990s, scientists were starting to use the Internet as a free repository of information with tools such as Genbank listing gene sequences. It was only in the early 2000s, however, that open-access publishing gained momentum. A succession of high-profile meetings were held to discuss the definition,

Open access leads to papers being more widely read and cited… it is changing the way people can interact with the literature, making it more powerful

implementation and financial implications of open access. These resulted first in a commitment to implement open access, for example via the Budapest Open Access Initiative 2002, and then in more precise definitions and strategies. The Bethseda Convention in April 2003 released the following two criteria for defining an open-access publication: “1. The author(s) and copyright holder(s) grant(s) to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual right of access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly


and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship, as well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their personal use. 2. A complete version of the work and all supplemental materials, including a copy of the permission as stated above, in a suitable standard electronic format is deposited immediately upon initial publication in at least one online repository that is supported by an academic institution, scholarly society, government agency, or other well-established organization that seeks to enable open access, unrestricted distribution, interoperability, and long-term archiving.” Further, the Bethseda Convention saw the formation of an agreement between a group of institutions and funding agencies who pledged not only to set aside money to fund any shortfall that researchers might experience in pursuing the open-access route, but also to acknowledge the researcher’s ‘service to the community’ when considering future grant applications.This was a step towards persuading scientists, understandably concerned by impact factor (a quantitative tool for ranking journals) and thus unlikely to abandon the traditional journals without a serious, career-enhancing alternative, to consider publishing in open-access journals. Later in 2003, another meeting held by the Max Planck Society in Berlin produced the Berlin Declaration, another formal statement of open-access intentions. While the academics were forming bonds and strengthening their resolve, practical infrastructure was being established. The Directory of Open-Access Journals, the main resource for listings of all journals that operate an open access policy, was launched and PLoS Biology, the flagship journal of the Public Library of Science

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(PLoS), was established. Now with a total of six open-access journals, and offices in both San Francisco and here in Cambridge, PLoS is a successful publisher operating under the open-access model. While PLoS is probably the best known open-access journal, authors have two broad options when openaccess publishing.They can either follow the ‘gold route’, where they submit papers to journals, such as PLoS, that make their articles accessible immediately, or they can follow the ‘green route’, where they self-archive their papers in an open-access repository, usually six months after publication. In the UK, The Wellcome Trust, to whom the ideals of open access are not new following their push for the human genome to be freely available, commissioned two reports which came out in support of open-access publishing. The first report examined the financial implications of traditional publishing, where the costs are incurred by the consumer and the publisher profits, while the author and peer reviewer have the cost of time and no payment. It concluded that this is essentially a failing market. Scientists are using public funds to produce results and are freely authoring and reviewing papers upon which they are expected to spend more public funds to read. In contrast, the second report assessed the financial implications of the openaccess model where the author may be required to pay a publication fee. The

results were surprising; the report predicted a 30% reduction in costs due mainly to the reduction in variable costs incurred, like marketing and subscriptions management, and not, as expected, due to savings without a print edition. After these two reports, The Wellcome Trust has pushed for the establishment of UK PubMed Central, a local version of

It remains to be seen whether open access is financially sustainable or if scientific integrity is compromised by asking authors to pay to submit their work

the US site, where they insist that all research funded by The Wellcome Trust grants must be deposited within six months of publication.Although not open access in the truest sense, it claims that this is the best way of managing the rapidly changing situation in scientific publishing. Putting aside the apparent financial benefits and the ethical argument that information should be free-for-all, why should the scientific community embrace openaccess publishing? Mark Patterson, the Director of Publishing at Cambridge PLoS

argues that, “data now show that open access leads to papers being more widely read and cited. Open access is changing the way people can interact with the literature, making it more powerful and allowing it to be systematically searched.” There have also been many criticisms of the open-access model. It remains to be seen whether open access is financially sustainable or if scientific integrity is compromised by asking authors to pay to submit their work. There is concern that open-access publishing prejudices the publisher in favour of those who can meet the publication costs. Reputable publishers can counter this by having peer-review policies. The open-access movement has many supporters and has made huge progress in a short period of time. By June this year there were 2273 peer-reviewed journals listed in the Directory of OpenAccess Journals. There are still regular conferences and debates on open access, with much to be done to make it a workable option for all journals. From a philanthropic viewpoint, the refreshing thing about the whole movement is that it demonstrates that it is still possible in a commercial world to take a well-established system and change it on a noticeable scale, for mainly ethical reasons.This has to be positive for the image of science in general. Louise Woodley is a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry

Varsity publishes THE MAYS, a collection of prose, poetry and non-fiction writing from students in Cambridge and Oxford. Past Guest Editors include Stephen Fry, Philip Pullman, Ted Hughes, Andrew Motion and Zadie Smith. Applications are now open to edit and design THE MAYS 15. Email for details.






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Face Value How do humans recognize faces? Flora Greenwood reveals the importance of a part of the brain details of a face may also discriminate the fine details of a bird, for instance. However, Nancy Kanwisher, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that there is a special area of the brain just for face processing. She calls it the ‘fusiform face area’. Whilst experiments by Gauthier and others have called this into question, one recent study published in Science using monkeys gave new evidence to support Kanwisher’s theory. Researchers found an area in the brains of two monkeys in which an overwhelming 97% of neurons showed a selective response to faces.These neurons did not respond to other objects such as bodies, fruits, gadgets and hands. This is incredible when one considers the economy of nature in many other areas, but is not surprising as face recognition is crucial for social success. Consistent with Kanwisher’s theory, a recent paper in Nature demonstrates a causal link between the activity of faceselective neuronal clusters and the perception of faces. In this study, monkeys were required to categorize noisy images as face or non-face.The researchers found that if they stimulated clusters of prospective face-selective neurons in the inferior temporal cortex (the key area for complex object perception), they biased the monkey’s decision towards the face category. One can also imagine further specialization within face-selective clusters to allow perception of different types of faces and expressions. Are we born with this gift, or is it learned through experience? Humans are exceptional in their ability for learning.

Jon Heras and Lakshmi Harihar

You see someone on the street and cringe because you recognize their face from a brief drunken meeting a few weeks earlier. The name is likely to have been forgotten, but the face is somehow effortlessly locked inside your memory. Whether we want to or not, humans are likely to recognize or feel familiarity with a face even if only seen once. How do we do this? Faces are generally highly similar, with only subtle variations, making us experts at this particular form of visual memory. Moreover, we are astonishingly good at judging emotion from facial expression, even if we can only see the eyes. Do we have a specialized ‘face module’ in the brain that deals only with faces? And if so, are we born with it, or does it develop during early life? One of the most intriguing neurological conditions is prosopagnosia, which is an impairment of face recognition that can occur following brain damage. Patients with prosopagnosia can often recognize other objects without difficulty, distinguishing the condition as a visual impairment specific to faces.The existence of prosopagnosia makes a strong case for a specialized face module in the brain, although some researchers argue not for a face module as such, but for a module specialized for the discrimination of complex objects. Isabel Gauthier, Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University, has used neuroimaging to show that neurons in the suspected face module are also used for discrimination of non-face categories, such as birds or cars. This suggests that the neurons specialized for discrimination of the fine


This means that human babies are far more helpless than the young of other species. Experiments done as early as nine minutes after birth suggest that babies prefer to look at faces or face-like objects compared to other objects. This is hardly surprising when one considers the evolutionary need to study and learn about faces around you. In addition, face modules have been found in baby monkeys. So, it seems that we may well be born with some sort of ready-made neural processor that has a particular affinity for faces. It is likely that during early life this processor improves its expert discriminatory abilities and nearby areas develop the human flair for analysis of expression. This has important implications for social skills and the feeling of empathy.

Nine minutes after birth babies prefer to look at faces or face-like objects compared to other objects

An interesting question arising from these observations is whether these face areas of the brain are somehow linked to autism.Autistic patients are known to pay little attention to faces when compared with non-autistic controls and their fusiform face area is not as active in responding to faces in neuroimaging studies. Perhaps a lack of attention paid to faces during childhood causes underdevelopment of the fusiform face area. While the human brain has an amazing ability to acquire perceptual expertise for many objects, there is mounting evidence in support of one or multiple specialized face-recognition regions. WJ, a farmer who developed prosopagnosia after a stroke, is an intriguing case study, as he had difficulty recognising family and friends but was able to recognize individual sheep in his flock.The question should no longer be if a specialized region exists, but rather how the activation of neurons in this region works in conjunction with other areas to allow face recognition and the perception of expression. Flora Greenwood is a recent graduate in Natural Sciences, specializing in Neuroscience


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Can computers interpret faces? The ability to read and decipher the facial expressions of another human being is vital to survival. In fact, interpreting the facial expressions and gestures of others may be so fundamental to human survival that we have evolved a specialized region of the brain to do it. In the age of the computer, the burning question becomes: can we program a machine to have the same capability? The answer may well be yes, as image processing, and possibly Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), may facilitate the creation of a formula for interpreting facial expressions and complex emotions. Professor Peter Robinson, of the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, has recently unveiled an “emotionally aware” computer system designed to read people’s minds by analyzing their facial expressions:“the system we have developed allows a wide range of mental states to be identified just by pointing a video camera at someone.” To date, the machine is able to detect facial expressions of agreeing, concentrating, disagreeing, being interested, thinking and being unsure with about 80% accuracy. The computer processes images of a person’s face captured by a camera. The software recognises 25 different areas of the face and analyzes how these areas move with respect to one another. Using mathematical models, it then works out what emotions the person is portraying. The applications of such a mind-reading computer range from improving people’s driving, to helping companies tailor their advertising to the prospective consumer’s mood: “imagine a computer that could pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something, a future where mobile phones, cars and websites could read our mind and react to our mood.”

Jon Heras and Lakshmi Harihar

Gemma Simpson reveals how computers are trained to read minds

“it’s sad because people then avoid having conversations with them.” El Kaliouby is currently constructing an “emotional social intelligence prosthetic” device, which consists of a camera small enough to be pinned to the side of the user’s glasses. The camera is connected to a hand-held computer with image recog-

The machine is able to detect facial expressions of agreeing, concentrating, disagreeing, being interested, thinking and being unsure with about 80% accuracy

Perhaps one of the most interesting applications for such a device is that it could alert an autistic user if the person to whom they are talking is showing signs of getting bored or annoyed. One of the problems facing those with autism is the inability to pick up on social cues.“Failure to notice that they are boring or confusing their listeners can be particularly damaging for people with autism,” says Rana El Kaliouby of the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

nition software that can read the emotions of the images taken. If the wearer seems to be failing to engage the listener, the software developed by Robinson makes the hand-held computer vibrate. Magnetic Resonance Imaging is another technique that may facilitate the reading of emotions. A MRI scanning machine passes a large magnetic field through a person, enabling the measurement of changes in brain activity. What the scanner actually detects are changes in


the amount of oxygen that is being transported in the blood to specific parts of the brain. When a part of the brain is active, the neural activity associated with it requires more oxygen. Using this technology, we are beginning to understand which areas of the brain process certain emotional stimuli. For example, a fearful looking face activates part of the brain known as the amygdale. People with brain damage in this area often struggle to recognize emotions such as fear and disgust. The ability of MRI to read minds was demonstrated when scientists were able to determine which of two different scenes from a movie people were watching just by studying their brain activity. Despite this, the prospect of a hand-held MRI scanner that you can point at people to decipher their inner thoughts and emotions is almost certainly science fiction. Socially intelligent prosthetics, however, remain a viable possibility. Perhaps soon humans will not be the only ones who can read your mind. Gemma Simpson recently completed a MPhil in the Cavendish Laboratory




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Equinox Graphics


S HEDDING LIGHT O N THE BRAIN Katherine Bridge highlights advances in visualizing neurons A hundred billion nerve cells are all chattering away to each other in your brain helping you to learn and forget what you are told in your lectures, letting you feel happiness and telling you that you like the taste of chocolate.The most intriguing thing about these activities is that we still don’t really know how the brain works. We hope that technology will one day enable us to understand fully the development of this complex organ and what happens when something in it goes wrong. One reason why neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease remain poorly understood is the difficulty of visualizing what is going on in the brain. Until recently, scientists have relied mainly on post-mortem brain tissue and on cultured brain cells to understand how the brain works, but because of shortcomings of both approaches, many areas of this research are still unexplored.What is really needed is a way to look at what is happening in individual nerve cells in real life as the brain gets damaged. The answer to this problem may come unexpectedly from the scourge of the holiday-maker: the jelly-fish.There is one kind of jelly-fish that has turned out to be very useful to neuroscientists. Aequorea victoria is a bioluminescent jelly-fish that literally glows green. In the 1960s, Osama Shimamura discovered that the green


colour was due to a fluorescent protein known as green fluorescent protein, or GFP. Scientists soon realized that GFP could be exceedingly useful. It is a very stable protein that does not require anything except oxygen to work and is encoded in the genome of the jelly-fish. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the full potential of GFP in scientific research began to be realized, when scientists discovered that the GFP gene could be put into other organisms to turn them green.Within a few years, green worms, green flies and green mice were produced. By subtly altering the genetic

expressed in the body is controlled by genetic sequences called promoters which switch genes on and off. By putting fluorescent proteins under the control of a promoter that switches genes on only in nerves, they made 25 different kinds of mice with just their nerves labelled in green, blue, yellow or red. All these mice were different, some with almost all nerves labelled and others with only a few.These differences allowed scientists to look at specific nerves and even follow individual cells to discover how they are connected to each other and what happens when they are damaged.

The GFP gene can be put into organisms to turn them green... green worms, green flies and green mice

sequence of GFP it can be changed to appear many different colours. Entirely green mice may be pretty, but unfortunately they do not really tell us much about the nervous system. But in 2000, Guoping Feng and his colleagues at the University of Washington in St. Louis made a breakthrough in the field of neuroscience. Where and when genes are


In the past few decades our understanding of genetics has vastly improved and has led to many human diseases being reproduced, to varying extents, in mice. We cannot make a fluorescent green human or look into the brain as it gets damaged, so these mouse models of human diseases are vital in increasing our understanding of disease. In the brains of

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patients with Alzheimer’s disease, proteins that are usually harmless to nerves can undergo changes that result in the formation of harmful protein clumps known as plaques.At the University of Washington, Robert Brendza and his colleagues have used genetics to replicate these plaques in those of Feng’s mice that have their nerves labelled yellow. By removing the brains of the mice and examining them

New equipment is being developed with lenses that allow scientists to get images of nerves buried deep in the body

under a microscope, they have shown how individual nerves react. The nerves close to the plaques swell up and die. At the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, Michael Coleman and colleagues have used yellow fluorescent mice to examine how individual nerves break down when they are cut or damaged. They also investigate how in diseases, like motor neuron disease, it is not just the brain nerves that are affected, but also the nerves that connect to muscles and that carry signals up and down the spinal cord to and from the brain. This information has allowed scientists to begin to understand how and when nerves start to degenerate in these diseases. Although exciting, this work still requires the brain or nerves to be taken out of the animal and imaged after death. Visualizing fluorescent nerves requires the use of a standard fluorescent microscope. In order to give off light, fluorescent proteins must first be exposed to a light source at a slightly different wavelength; blue light for GFP. Some of the light is absorbed by the fluorescent protein.The rest is re-emitted with less energy, appearing as a different colour from the incident light source. This light is detected by the microscope, allowing a picture of the tissue to be created. Fluorescence microscopes are suitable for looking at slices of tissue but cannot be used to image a live brain. Clear images are produced by focusing the microscope on the nerve in question. In a living organism, this could be a long way down, buried deep in the brain, and normal microscopes are simply not powerful enough to visualize deep into the tissue. However, new equipment is being developed with lenses that allow scientists to see much further, so that they can get images of nerves buried deep in the body. Microscopes are also being developed using fibre-optic technology to send and receive light down tiny tubes that can be inserted through incisions to give greater access to the nerves. Scientists are already starting to implement this technology to image nerves in real life. Martin Kerschensteiner, a neurobiologist working at Harvard University,

hours of its being damaged. Furthermore, he imaged axons trying, and failing, to grow back over the next few days, providing vital information on how nerves react to injury that has never before been possible to obtain. So, what about the future? These techniques are far from perfect but are already allowing scientists to watch how nerves behave in real life, and improvements are being developed. It is possible that this technology could open the door to observing all kinds of other processes, since it is not just nerves that change in

damaged brains. Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease in which nerve cells and the cells that surround them are damaged by the body’s immune system. Many nerve cells have a fatty coating called myelin that helps them to transmit information more efficiently and protects the cell. This myelin is produced by specialized cells in the brain called oligodendrocytes. In multiple sclerosis the myelin is attacked by the immune system, leaving nerves naked and susceptible to damage. Mice have already been made with labelled oligodendrocytes. Thus it may be possible to watch how different cells interact with nerves as they get damaged and recover. It may not just be whole cells that can be visualized, but also the smaller molecular components that make them work. Could we watch nerves releasing the chemicals they use to communicate and thereby observe them chatting in real life? As time goes by we are discovering more and more about how our brains work. By using these fluorescent mice under strict government animal welfare legislation, scientists have already discovered how individual nerves react to disease and injury. In the future we may even have videos not only of nerves but of other cells in the brain. Katherine Bridge is a PhD student in the Babraham Institute

Klebes Laboratory, Germany

has produced real-time video images of nerves in the spinal cords of Feng’s fluorescent mice. When spinal cords are injured, it is frequently the axon, the long, middle part of a nerve cell, that is damaged. In Kerschensteiner’s experiments he used a needle to cut a single axon while an animal was anaesthetized. He was able to record the axon ‘dying back’ away from the site of injury within

Adult fruit fly expressing green fluorescent protein

Katherine Bridge, Robert Adalbert and Simon Walker

Equinox Graphics


Nerves from the spinal cord of a mouse labelled with yellow flourescent protein






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Untangling Teleportation Tristan Farrow explains how teleportation is not just science fiction he poked fun at it with the chimera “spooky action at a distance”. It is unique to the quantum world of tiny objects, with no counterpart in the world of large bodies. As objects grow larger, quantum effects become more and more fragile as the surrounding environment interferes—a process known as decoherence. If two indistinguishable particles become entangled, the quantum state of one affects the state of its twin, but in exactly the opposite sense. They have “opposite luck”, to use the phrase coined by Charles Bennett, who first proposed a teleportation scheme at IBM in 1993. This is true of quantum properties such as polarization and atomic spin. In 2004, two groups of quantum physicists, at the University of Innsbruck in Austria and the US National Institute of

Information about the internal configuration of an atom is teleported from one atom to another some distance away

Standards and Technology, announced in Nature that they had successfully teleported quantum states between charged atoms a few microns apart.The scheme works as follows. Let’s say one wanted to teleport the quantum state of an atom A across to another atom B some distance away.To do that, one needs a third messenger atom M, which you must first entangle with the atom B by holding them close in a magnetic field and firing a laser at them. Next, one performs a measurement on M and A jointly.The actual teleportation occurs during this measurement, when the quantum information on A is transferred across to B, via the messenger particle M (which is entangled with B).This specific operation does not reveal the actual state on teleportee atom A, so it doesn’t violate Heisenberg’s uncertainty

principle. But it does let one know whether the teleported state on atom B is identical to the original, or whether it needs to undergo further transformations at the target station to recreate an exact replica of teleportee A. Although the teleportation itself is instantaneous, in a certain technical sense, there is no getting around Einstein’s postulate that the overall operation cannot be completed faster than the speed of light.The origin of this law is not an arbitrary constraint, but rather lies deeply buried in special relativity. It ensures that the overall operation does not violate causality: the result of the joint measurement on M and A has to be communicated by conventional means such as a telephone, across to the target station, so that atom B can undergo the appropriate transformations (doing nothing, state changes, or both), until it is an exact replica of A. The teleportee is left completely scrambled. Experimental teleportation represents a leap towards building a quantum computer—a processor that promises to dwarf the power of today’s supercomputers by using quantum information instead of classical bits. Physicists are very excited since teleportation promises a realistic replacement for large physical circuits. A quantum computer would only need ghost circuitry—links needed to teleport fragile quantum information, rather than directly railroading it via physical channels.And what’s more, with atomic teleportation, the outcome of each teleportation is deterministic. One of the major obstacles in realizing a quantum machine is decoherence. As for teleporting humans, no fundamental law of physics prevents us from separately analyzing the quantum states— all 1029 of them—of each atom in the human body, and teleporting those one by one into another host body somewhere on Mars. But teleporting anything of a size beyond a few atoms is impossible with today’s technology, if only because of the impossibly large amount of data. Tristan Farrow is a PhD student in the Cavendish Laboratory

Tom Walters

In Star Trek, all Captain Kirk has to do is say “Beam me up, Scotty” and he dematerializes from a desolate planet and reappears on board the USS Enterprise.Teleportation, however, is not so simple. A body cannot be disassembled atom by atom and rebuilt elsewhere. But, teleportation should not be confined to the realm of science fiction, as it is in fact reality. Information about the internal configuration of an atom, its ‘quantum state’, can be is teleported from one atom to another some distance away. Without any physical contact between the two, the quantum state of the original atom is replicated exactly. For a particle, this includes its spin, a quantized parameter related to angular momentum, and for a photon, this includes its polarization, the direction in which the photon’s electric field oscillates. Crucially, teleportation destroys the quantum state of the original particle and thus is not a facsimile or duplication process, but a genuine quantum state teleportation. Copying quantum objects such as atoms or photons is forbidden by Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. The more accurately one tries to determine an atom’s properties, such as its position or kinetic energy, the closer one has to get to it, until the probing eventually alters the object you are trying to measure. By measuring, say, the atom’s kinetic energy accurately, one can’t measure its position well enough. So, one can never gather enough information to reproduce anything exactly. For this reason, scientists long believed teleportation to be impossible. Yet it works. It can replicate, but not duplicate, quantum states with complete precision. The key lies in a loophole in quantum physics called entanglement, which allows information about quantum states to be transferred between atoms without any need for quantum measurements. No quantum particle is ever duplicated, so the uncertainty principle is never violated. Entanglement is a form of super-correlation between atom-sized particles that makes them sense each other’s presence even if they are literally worlds apart. Einstein found it so hard to believe that



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All Systems Are Go Have you ever considered the Underground network to be analogous to the immune system? Unless you have been exposed to systems biology, probably not. Systems biology is a new approach to biology that has developed alongside technological innovations that have enabled data collection at the level of the entire organism. Some predict that systems biology is on track to replace some of the more traditional styles of research within a decade. The premise of systems biology is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.To a systems biologist, an organism is a complex network of interacting genes, proteins and biochemical reactions that cannot be understood using the reductionist approach.Attempts to understand a system by splitting it into smaller parts, studying each part and then trying to put it all back together are destined to fail due to the redundancy and complexity inherent in biological systems. Returning to the Underground network analogy, to understand why the Tube at King’s Cross is late, one must not only consider the Piccadilly line, but all the intersecting lines such as the Central line. Many critics of systems biology believe that this is not a new concept and that until recently technologies were the limiting factor. They have a valid point, as the automation of once tedious experiments has facilitated the global approach of systems biology. Scientists can now determine the relative expression levels of thousands of genes based on the amount of mRNA present, using microarrays. With mass spectrometry, proteomics can also identify and quantify all the proteins in a cell. The application of these high-throughput techniques in isolation, however, does not constitute the systems biology approach. It simply creates a list—and a list of tube station names without their order in the network is somewhat useless. Systems biology seeks to define a network by integrating data from different biological levels—from genes and proteins to organelles and cells to physiological systems and organisms. Consider the Piccadilly line as representing a protein signalling cascade that leads to the activation of a transcription factor; the intersecting Central line could be the gene(s) switched on, while the intersecting Victoria line could have activated the cascade in the first place.This metaphor reinforces that the entire network must be studied to understand the true nature of what is going on. Professor Seth Grant, a systems biologist at The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, comments that “systems biology tries to take large sets

Katerina Bilitou

Sheena Gordon and James Pickett take a trip to the world of systems biology

The premise of systems biology is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts

of proteins or genes and demonstrate some common features, or how they work together, to produce pieces of physiology.” The primary goal of systems biology is to combine data from all biological levels into a computer model that generates testable hypotheses. The validity of these models can be tested iteratively until the predictions accurately reflect the biological reality. Such models could suggest the basis of a disease, identify potential drug targets and predict possible drawbacks of particular drugs. It was realized early on that, in order to build holistic models, there must be a standardized method of data exchange and organization. Systems Biology Markup Language (SBML) and Systems Biology Graphical Notation (SBGN) were thus created. SBML is a machinereadable format that facilitates the exchange of data between different softwares, while SBGN is a visual representa-

tion of the data, much like the electronic circuit diagrams used in engineering. In the absence of a universal notation, the different lines of the Underground would be drawn at different scales. With these models at the cornerstone of systems biology, it requires a multitude of scientists with different skills: experimental biologists, computational biologists, statisticians, mathematicians, computer scientists, engineers and physicists are all required if the potential of systems biology is to be realized. The next time you are waiting for the Tube, marvel at what a complex system it is and hope that one day we have a tube map detailing the activities of all biological organisms. Sheena Gordon is a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry James Pickett is a PhD student in the Department of Pharmacology

A Systems Biologist in Cambridge Professor Seth Grant from The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute currently uses systems biology to elucidate the molecular basis of learning and memory. By using proteomics, genomics, disease studies, model organisms and computer models, his group has recently identified a 200-protein complex essential for transforming the electrical activity of neurons in the brain into biochemical signals in the rest of the body. Nearly one third of the proteins in this complex have been implicated in mental illnesses, reinforcing the importance of this molecular machine to human health.





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A Science Editor Peter Stern takes us behind the scenes of a scientific publication and tells how he can “make a career, but not break a career” Any scientist trying to survive in the academic world will undoubtedly face the realities of the publish-or-perish philosophy. To begin and then sustain one’s research career, results must be obtained and manuscripts must be published. Not only that, if one dreams of tenure or even a professorship, then these manuscripts have to be published in high-impact journals, journals like Science, which receives over 12,000 manuscripts per year, of which fewer than 8% are published.These journals are making careers and guiding the focus of research. Peter Stern has been a Senior Editor, specializing in neurobiology, at Science for the last eight years. How does a Senior Editor at Science pass the working day? You have to read—you have to read all day long. You have to read all the manuscripts that are being assigned to you; you also have to read the major journals in your field. So, most of my time is spent looking at the computer screen and reading. What is the most challenging aspect of your job? In a broad sense, the idea that you always have to be ahead of the curve.You have to see developments even when they are not there yet.We try to be at the forefront of research, constantly scouting where the new things are. Also when I have to say a certain field has matured and is no longer of note to Science. What is the best part of your job? The best part is the opportunity to see such a broad field—to see the development in my particular area many months before others will see it. Another thing that I like is this: I have always been interested in the sciences in very general terms; being in constant interaction with my colleagues who are experts in physics, chemistry, palaeontology; and being told by them what the latest paper is that they are accepting. Also being told the context; why this particular paper is really important and the discussion that has been going on. It broadens your horizons immensely. How do you ensure that you are always aware of the hot topics? Going to scientific conferences is very important.You have to go to the plenary talks and the symposia. I spend a lot of time at the poster sessions where very often the hot stuff is being presented. It is very often presented by the youngsters— so this is extremely enlightening for me. There is another side to the meetings; the social aspect. It is important to get to know many people on a personal basis. That improves your understanding of how they tick, in terms of what their experiments are, what their strategies are and when they are submitting their papers. Also when I ask people to review a paper for me it is often very good to know the personality of the individual. The other aspect is laboratory visits.


Professor Juergen Sandkuehler, Medical University of Vienna

A D ay i n t h e L i f e o f …


These give you a feel for what is going on and for what certain technologies can achieve.When people tell you about all the problems they have and the many experiments that fail, it gives you some feel for the effort and sweat that has gone in. Do popular media influence what you consider to be a hot topic? In a way this is unavoidable because we are just part of the general discourse in society. On the other hand, we try to be the leaders in that we want to show where discussion should go in the future. Very often we try to publish the first papers that really trigger an avalanche of further submissions. To give you an example, some of the first papers on climate change were with us.The media later jumped on the band-wagon and elaborated and now it’s in the public domain. How does Science ensure equal coverage of all fields of research? We have a general formula. Over the course of a whole year there should be 40% physical sciences and 60% biological sciences.We usually manage quite well to do this. I have to say that I find it magic that it works out because every editor has his field and you want somehow to serve your field and publish more papers from that area. It means a kind of co-operative spirit; you have to keep the benefit of the magazine and the benefit of the scientific community at large in the back of your mind.

What quality controls does Science implement in the selection of a manuscript? The first quality control is the Board of Reviewing Editors. They are high-profile scientists in their field.Their job is less to go into the fine details of the manuscript, more to step back and look at the broad developments in the field and how this fits in.After their verdict, we send the manuscript out to the in-depth referees, usually active scientists.This is the review process common to many journals.You also discuss the manuscript broadly with your colleagues. Imagine publishing a paper that turns out to be wrong and dozens of postdocs around the world try to replicate it.They may waste their time if you publish something that turns out to be a dead end, and resources get wasted.This is why

Imagine publishing a paper that turns out to be wrong and dozens of postdocs around the world try to replicate it

Are the authors of rejected manuscripts often hostile towards you? Of course there is a certain level of frustration when you (an author) are rejected. But if I try to make it clear that this is a transparent process—that it has not been done by tossing a coin—that there is a great deal of intellectual input that came to that decision, very often people will accept it. I also tell people that I can make a career but I can’t break a career.


we try to be very conscientious when it comes to ultimate decisions. What prompted Science to pre-release manuscripts on the Internet? Science is published by the AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is a non-profit organisation. We are there to serve the community; the slogan is “Advancing science, serving society”.

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journals because you see them at meetings. Some of them are really quite pleasant people. They have the same sort of background and the same broad approach to things that we have. But, whenever a paper is with us, you stay ‘mum’. How do you think your job has changed over the last eight years? My job has changed enormously. When I started we were dealing with loads of printed paper. Everyday big

Dare to ask important questions… try to find out what is the big unanswered question and then go for it

Has pre-release of manuscripts on the Internet altered the editing process? No, the overall editing process has not changed. We did not speed up the reviewing process because we still want to have quality control. For example, I give my referees two weeks to review a manuscript. I think this is fair to the authors, as it is very unlikely that someone else will do the right experiment in just two weeks. Do you ever have the urge to advise scientists on what experiments need to be done? I have this very often. I say, “Oh, this is the question that I was asking many years ago and here they are with their results.” I also see several papers, which may not come in at the same time, that give a kind of broader picture. Many pieces fall together like a jigsaw puzzle. I want to call everyone and say, “Folks, this is what you have to do here.” But, you don’t do this. As an editor, whenever something is on my desk I have to treat it with absolute confidentiality. No information is allowed to go out. You just don’t open your mouth—end of story.

envelopes were arriving, sometimes containing four copies of a manuscript. We spent a lot of time using the fax machine and also on the phone. Now, everything is electronic. The majority of scientists submit their manuscripts through our website. In fact, these days I do not print out a manuscript until it reaches the so-called ‘pre-edit’ stage. This is when I really sit in a quiet room for several hours and go through the manuscript line by line. The editing process has also sped up. In the past, we sent the manuscripts to our Board Members by post. These days it takes a mouse click and it will appear on their screen. In a way, it is all handling of information.We also have a large database of the track record of scientists, their submissions and when they have reviewed a paper for us.

What advice would you give to a scientist who wants to publish in Science? Try to answer a fundamental question; dare to be innovative; be extremely critical with your own data: make sure that you have done all the controls and be critical with your interpretation so that what you see is what you really see and not what you want to see. I think the most important one is ‘dare to ask important questions’. Try to find out what is the big unanswered question and then go for it. What advice would you give to an aspiring editor? Try to be as broad as possible within your own field.Most of the editors at Science have done at least two postdocs after their PhD, very often in different fields.They can judge experiments not only from what they have read in the literature, but from their own hands-on experience. Try to be excited by scientific findings; and maintain this interest. Love to be astonished by new things.Try

I had the feeling that some of the openaccess advocates were behaving like zealots

How easy do you think it would be for an Editor to return to the bench? One of the problems in many fields is that you have to have hands-on contact with the machinery. There is a high turnover in technology. On the other hand, with the broad background and overview that an Editor has, an Editor could easily fit in the laboratory environment. An Editor knows much more on the theoretical side.The biggest challenge would be going back to the bench and learning to use the new equipment.

Does Science pay attention to impact factor? I personally don’t. I think at the moment impact factor is written too large.Too many committees, for example when they are awarding tenure, put too much attention on impact factor. I know that Science at the moment has the highest impact factor of all the general interest journals. But, I am happy to publish a paper that will only be cited a few times if I feel that this pushes the field forward. The scientific quality is more important.

Do you communicate with the editors of your competing journals? Not really. We have a friendly meeting with our colleagues from Nature once a year. There is the famous Nature versus Science cricket match and it always happens here in Cambridge. Of course after a while you get to know most of your colleagues from other

What is Science doing in response to the push for open-access publishing? At the moment, we are just following the traditional publishing system, the ‘tried and tested’ way, but things may change in the future.We are not dogmatic in any way. Initially, I had the feeling that some of the open-access advocates were behaving like zealots. They wanted

to change everything completely. So, in that sense an organisation like the AAAS, which has been around for 150 years, sees things a bit differently. In the meantime, we know that the open-access publishers have to increase their charges otherwise they can’t keep their costs low. At the moment everything published in Science is released for free after one year. There is some push that this should go down to six months from the grant-giving committees. I don’t think it will hurt us to go down because the impact of Science is its immediacy. We are quite relaxed, submission numbers are still going up; it doesn’t deter people to send their best stuff to us.


A D ay i n t h e L i f e o f …

So, time and again, we try to find out what our readers and the people publishing with us want. One of the important aspects has always been speed.A scientist wants to be the first when they have a new result— they don’t want to be scooped. We tried to react to that by releasing the paper online before publishing it in print. In the meantime, many other journals have copied us and do similar things.

to always stay young-at-heart so that you get excited by new ideas that come around. In what area of neurobiology do you think the big discoveries are going to happen in the next year? The next 12 months are a relatively narrow period of time.We are thinking in longer terms. At the moment there is a great deal of different experiments that somehow need to be synthesized to try to understand higher cognitive functions. How does it happen that our brains experience space and time; how do we integrate all these different channels of input in a coherent picture of the world; how do we constantly update this with our memories? That is one of the big things that I am waiting for. Peter Stern was interview by Sheena Gordon, a PhD student in the Department of Biochemistry



Away from the Bench


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In Antarctica Julius Rix and colleagues brave the cold for science There I was, halfway through writing up my PhD thesis, when I began to think about what I would do after I had finished. I had realized that I wanted to do something different and I certainly did not want to be sitting in front of a computer. I found out that the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) was looking for Electronic Field Engineers and, despite thinking that I had little chance of getting the job, I decided to apply. It is now one year on from when I starting working for BAS and I can say that it has been an amazing year. I have completed the first seven months of a 30month stint at Halley base in the Antarctic. Halley, named after the astronomer Sir Edmond Halley, is the survey’s most southerly base and is actually built on a floating ice-shelf that is flowing north at about 500 metres per year. For 10 months of the year, Halley, the base where the ozone hole was discovered in 1985, is physically cut off from the rest of the world.

During the summer, the sun never sets; in winter we will not see daylight for months

I arrived in Antarctica in the summer month of December, aboard the supply ship, the R. R. S. Ernest Shackleton. The ship returned in February, taking with it the summer staff, and leaving me and 15 other winter staff to look after the base and the scientific equipment for the next 10 months. During the summer, the sun never sets; in winter, however, we will not see daylight for over four months. My job is to maintain the Advanced Ionospheric Sounder (AIS), which is a powerful radar used to study the ionosphere. The research carried out at Halley can be categorized into upper or lower atmospheric science. The upper atmos-

Julius Rix


Julius Rix (far right) and colleagues

pheric science is concerned with how the sun affects the Earth’s atmosphere. The sun constantly sends streams of particles that slam into the Earth’s magnetic field. These collisions bend the magnetic field into a tail behind the Earth, creating space weather. Particles and energy are also dumped into the upper atmosphere along the magnetic field lines, resulting in the beautiful aurora that we regularly observe at Halley.These particles can also affect the lower atmosphere and climate. The AIS bounces radio waves off charged particles and so measures how these solar events affect the ionosphere.The Southern Hemisphere Auroral Radar Experiment works in a similar manner to the AIS, but points towards the South Pole. Magnetometers at Halley and at remote sites further south measure the changes in the magnetic field, while riometers measure how radio waves from distant galaxies are absorbed by the ionosphere. A number of optical experiments are performed to measure the chemical processes in the upper and middle atmospheres. The lower atmospheric science studies the local climate in detail. Ozone observations and measurements have been carried out since Halley was constructed 50 years ago.Automatic weather stations at remote

Julius Rix Julius Rix is an Electronic Field Engineer with the British Antarctic Survey at Halley

The view from the mast to which the AIS antenna is attached


sites send data to Halley. A weather balloon is launched every day and continuous weather measurements are relayed to the Met Office and input into global climate models. A number of air measurements are also performed in the clean air sector of the base. Snow accumulation is also measured; in the last six months, we have had a metre of snow accumulate. Halley is part of a global network collecting monthly snow samples for the International Atomic Energy Agency. The majority of the maintenance at Halley is due to the weather and snow accumulation. Raising equipment out of the snow and repairing instruments damaged during blows takes up a great deal of time.The temperature rose to 0.5ºC during the summer and has been low as –48ºC in the winter. For most of the time, it is around –30ºC.The wind has on occasion reached 70 knots.This all makes the task of maintaining the scientific instruments much more difficult. On a more personal note, being so isolated means we have to make an effort to entertain ourselves. We organize various theme nights that involve dressing up, as well as special dinners and trivia nights. Being on a nice flat ice-shelf means many of us go kite-boarding or kite-skiing when the wind is right. Cross-country skiing and skijouring (skiing behind a skidoo) are also popular. Everyone goes off base to explore, abseil into and jumar out of crevasses with the base Field Assistant on preand post-winter trips. We are all looking forward to the sun’s return, so we can visit our local emperor penguin colony.


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I n i t i at i ve s

The Business of Innovation

Ben Jones

Cambridge is full of people with bright ideas: research that goes on every day in the University could produce new technologies that would revolutionize our lives. There is a vast amount of potential, but unfortunately much of this remains unrealized. In response to this, in 2003 the Cambridge University Technology and Enterprise Club (CUTEC) was established with the mission of enhancing the entrepreneurial spirit amongst both students and academics. CUTEC organizes a variety of speaker series and workshops which aim to develop the commercial insight of members of the University.

CUTEC enhances the entrepreneurial spirit amongst both students and academics

Ben Jones

CUTEC’s seminal event is an annual conference which was held in Cambridge this year.The purpose was to bring together entrepreneurially-minded students and potential sources of investment and advice, in the form of venture capitalists (companies which invest other people’s money in new businesses), business angels (individuals who invest their own money in new businesses), seasoned entrepreneurs and other business professionals and academics. Entitled From Science to Growth: Capturing Value from Innovation, the conference focused on trends in future drivers of innovation and how entrepreneurs and

investors will capture value from such trends. There was a great mix of speakers and panellists, and each provided a different yet complementary perspective. The conference kicked off with a keynote address from Ray Anderson, the recipient of the Technology Entrepreneur of the Year 2006 award. Anderson is a serial entrepreneur in computing and telecommunications. His presentation was inspiring and reinforced the necessity of foresight: one of his companies sponsored the first international conference on the World Wide Web. One of the more controversial presentations was by Carl Franklin, author of the book Why Innovation Fails. In front of an audience of many optimistic, risktaking entrepreneurs, Franklin focused on the pitfalls and opportunities of failure in the business world. He illustrated his point using real innovations that were supposed to be certain to succeed but went on to flop. His key message was that it is essential to understand the consumer’s needs: a program connecting a fridge to the Internet such that items are purchased when they are removed from the fridge, sounds like a wonderful idea until you realize that you don’t want to order a pint of milk every time you make a cup of tea. Another highlight was a panel discussion on how innovations could emerge from universities. A broad mix of panellists, from CEOs to professors, made for a range of perspectives and a lively, informative and entertaining discussion. Complementary to this was a presentation by Professor Chris Abell. With two successful biotechnology companies under his belt, Abell is an academic who has crossed the boundary between academia and the marketplace. There was also a technology showcase, where finalists from high-profile business competitions presented posters outlining their business plans or fledgling companies. The showcase gave participants an idea of the technologies that were being developed and forming the bases of new companies. There was also the potential for the companies to attract investment, with numerous venture capitalists and other potential investors present. There


Ben Jones

Lucy Butler reports on the activities of CUTEC

were plenty of opportunities to network, including the compulsory ‘pitch and punt’ trip and a cocktail party. CUTEC, in collaboration with the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI), is also involved in an initiative called i-Teams. iTeams brings together university students from diverse disciplines, researchers who have developed a potentially commercial innovation or idea and mentors from the business community. The students are arranged in teams, and over the course of a term they assess the commercial feasibility of the researcher’s technology and brainstorm applications and markets.The team is supported by their business mentors and participates in a structured programme organized by CMI’s entrepreneur-in-residence, Amy Mokady. The programme concludes with each team giving a presentation of its recommendations to the researcher. CUTEC gives its members the opportunity to gain the knowledge, experience and confidence required for survival in the business world—it is like being involved in a start-up company! CUTEC is now recruiting members for next year. Lucy Butler is a PhD student in the Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience The i-Teams product I worked on... “…was visual tracking software. It was developed to track individuals on CCTV footage. The teams are multidisciplinary to stimulate a wide range of possible ideas during brainstorming. As a biologist, my immediate thought was that this software could be used for semen analysis or to track cells in microscopy. The inventor, an engineer, had not thought of this and one of my colleagues in the team had trouble to even pronounce the word ‘microscopy’—as we discovered when he gave part of our final presentation!”






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Humble Beginnings

Jason Kimmings

Addenbrook’s Hospital Archives

Nick Jackson traces the history of medical teaching in Cambridge

Catharine’s College. But there were no institutionalized links between University medical teaching and the town’s hospitals until the nineteenth century. This early period of medical teaching was considerably different from modern medical programmes. Students of the Cambridge medical faculty in the Middle Ages—of whom there were always substantially fewer than in the faculties of law and divinity—were first required to pass a standard seven-subject humanities syllabus. Under the University’s Statutes, they then spent a minimum of five years reading and disputing the Articella, a standard collection of Greek and Arabic texts.

The medical requirements were so vaguely set out that twice in the 1600s petitions were brought against the University for the poor quality of medical instruction

After studying the humanities, many prospective physicians travelled to continental universities in Paris or Padua, where the reputation of medical teaching exceeded that at the University of Cambridge. On their return they would be awarded a University of Cambridge

Griffith Ward, Addenbrook’s Hospital old site, circa 1896 (above) Addenbrook’s Hospital old site, circa 1870 (top left) and as it stands today (top right) The site is now home to the Judge Business School


degree, enabling them to practise as doctors in England. In 1421, the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford successfully petitioned Parliament to restrict that privilege to their medical graduates. The small number of Cambridge physicians trained following this—just 134 between 1500 and 1589—made this a valuable privilege that opened social and economic doors. Between 1200 and 1500, a third of all Cambridge medical graduates became court physicians in London and abroad. At the end of the sixteenth century, three Trinity College fellows in succession acted as doctor to Ivan the Terrible.

Addenbrook’s Hospital Archives

Medicine is one of the most venerable degree subjects at the University of Cambridge, and one that has transformed radically since its introduction in the Middle Ages. Like law and divinity, medicine has been a part of the University’s curriculum in one form or another since the thirteenth century. Although the earliest medical degree of which proof survives was awarded to James Freis in 1460, the first evidence of medical teaching at the University of Cambridge dates from the 1270s, when Nigel de Thornton, Doctor of Physic (medicine), bequeathed property to the University, including a medical lecture room. Throughout its history, medical teaching at the University evolved separately from that of the town’s hospitals. Organized medical care began in Cambridge in 1169 when the leper hospital of St Mary Magdalene was founded at Stourbridge, and a general hospital, dedicated to St John the Evangelist, was established by the townsman Henry Frost around 1195. In time, the paths of the University and the hospitals intersected. A second leper hospital was built on Trumpington Street in 1361 by Henry Tangmere, one of the founders of Corpus Christi College. In 1766, Addenbrooke’s Hospital was founded thanks to a bequest left by a fellow of St


The greatest sixteenth-century proponent of change was John Caius. A graduate of Gonville Hall, Caius went to study medicine in Padua in 1539, where he lodged with the great Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius. Caius did not return to Cambridge until 1557, but by that time he was President of the Royal College of Physicians and had written the first medical treatise in English, a first-hand account of an outbreak of sweating sickness (a disease whose nature remains mysterious to this day). After renaming his old college as Gonville and Caius and becoming its Master, Caius instituted the first regular programme of dissections in Cambridge, formalized in 1565 by an annual grant of two cadavers to Caius College. Caius’ own lectures on anatomy were attended by the young William Harvey, who first described the circulation of the blood. Although Harvey left Cambridge and had no further connections with the university, it is optimistic to ascribe his work solely to Caius’ good influence. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries brought piecemeal progress to medicine at Cambridge. The University’s outstanding medical minds—such as William Heberden, whose Commentaries

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detailed a lifetime’s careful observation of clinical cases and a rationalist’s debunking of quack cures and superstitions—were mired in mediocrity. The number of medical students was still small (267 between 1610 and 1658), and the medical requirements so vaguely set out that twice in the 1600s petitions were brought against the University—one by the Master of Caius—castigating it for the poor quality of medical instruction. The director of medical teaching was the occupant of the Regius chair of Physic, endowed by Henry VIII in 1540, but successive incumbents, even if noteworthy medics, spent little time attending to their students.The most celebrated of the early professors, Francis Glisson, Regius chair from 1636–1677, was rarely in Cambridge, and there is scant evidence that his predecessors paid much attention to lecturing or performing public dissections. For almost the whole of the eighteenth century the chair was held by just two men, Christopher Green and Russell Plumptre, neither of whom published during their tenure. A chair of Anatomy was established in 1707. Its first occupant, George Rolfe, was excused for negligence, though not before occupying the post for 21 years. In Rolfe’s defence, acquiring cadavers for dissection was difficult in the early 1700s. The University’s attempt to pass an act in 1723 allowing it to appropriate the bodies of executed criminals was defeated by clerical opposition. Despite these setbacks, a new anatomical theatre was opened in 1728. Conforming to the pattern of Peter Paauw’s celebrated 1597 Anatomiezaal at Leyden University, the building played host to the dissection of the bodies that the University was able to procure. Other improvements in facilities included the Botanic Garden, first planted in 1762 on the north side of Pembroke Street, and “an elegant chymical laboratory” established by Trinity College in 1703. But in general, “the Arts subservient to Medicine”, as Richard Dale of Queens’

Addenbrook’s Hospital Archives


George Humphry (left) and George Paget (right) were instrumental in putting medical education in Cambridge on a proper footing

course. A Board of Medical Studies was established and split the medical degree into three parts covering every branch of medicine and related science. At the same time, with anxious glances cast towards the advances of scientific facilities in Germany, a new suite of physiological laboratories was built, where lectures in embryology started in 1875. The new Board faced a fundamental problem:should the University have a medical school that offered complete medical training? The traditional route by which aspiring medics did much of their training elsewhere was still followed, though London now replaced Padua or Paris. But full training in Cambridge would require a suitable hospital, and the only one available was Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Was it big enough for the University’s needs? Haviland’s previous position as physician to Addenbrooke’s Hospital enabled him to strengthen ties between the Hospital and the University and to institutionalize ward rounds by students in 1841.

The Lancet worried that new doctors would “quit the University mere theorists” without the breadth of practical experience they needed

College complained in 1759, had “no appointments [at Cambridge] to encourage teachers in them,” until the turn of the nineteenth century. Ultimately, it was the government that acted as the catalyst for change when, in 1850, a Royal Commission was appointed to assess the University. Despite the Regius chair, John Haviland, testifying that Cambridge medicine was at a “very low ebb”, the Commission’s recommendations amounted to little. But, wary of further state interference, the Senate house set up its own commission to overhaul the medical

Nevertheless, by the 1870s the widespread opinion was that the Hospital did not have enough clinical material for students to receive full training. This view was championed by The Lancet and by George Humphry, Professor of Human Anatomy from 1866. Proponents of Addenbrooke’s Hospital were led by Regius chair, George Paget, who invoked the spectre of Cambridge’s weakness in the face of German universities with their unified schools. The debate rumbled on through the 1870s, but Humphry’s faction was stymied by the Board’s decision


in 1878 confirming that a complete school was both desirable and feasible. Thus, despite The Lancet’s worries that new doctors would “quit the University mere theorists” without the breadth of practical experience they needed, in 1882 the modern Cambridge medical school was founded, with new chairs and lectureships endowed in physiology, pathology, surgery and midwifery. Humphry bowed to his defeat with good grace and personal sacrifice, accepting the chair of Surgery without a stipend. The course reforms prompted a surge in student numbers. In 1883–4, with 90 freshers, the University of Cambridge had the second highest intake of medical students. The degree requirements were continuously tightened, with botany being replaced in the syllabus from 1880 by pharmaceutical chemistry, and the Department of Psychology emerging in the 1890s. The increasing prestige of Cambridge medicine was confirmed by the election of Alexander Hill, a lecturer in physiology, as Master of Downing College. In 1900, the relationship between the University and Addenbrooke’s Hospital was bolstered with the Hospital Governors’ decision to make numerous academics ex officio part of the Hospital staff, and a new building for the medical school was opened on Corn Exchange Street in 1904. By the time of World War One, the intake of new students had reached over 400 a year. Medicine at the University of Cambridge leapt from behind its peers to the forefront of both medicine and medical education in less than a hundred years. Its humble origins in ancient texts and its leaders’ often wilful attachment to mediocrity were overshadowed by both fresh discoveries and the demands of a competitive medical market. Nick Jackson is a second year PhD student in the Department of History



Arts & Reviews



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Science and the Cinema Mico Tatalovic and Alison Frank review the relationship between film and science documentaries, which initially focused on science and then moved on to scenes of everyday life. Marey’s first films, for example, studied human locomotion, as well as the movement and development of other organisms. Now, more than a century after the first movie camera was used to break animal movement into its detailed constituent parts, film continues to be crucial in studying the motion of living creatures. For example, Adrian Thomas and his biomechanics group at the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford still use film to study insect flight.The group’s experiments involve passing a smoke trail over a flying insect and filming what happens to the air around the insect’s wings and body. This plays a crucial role in discerning unconventional mechanisms of insect flight. Film is also used in contemporary studies of animal behaviour and, perhaps most intriguingly of all, in the detailed examination of cellular processes.

Film is used in studies of animal behaviour and in the examination of cellular processes

Catherine Williams

At first sight, film and science may appear to have little connection.Yet it was through science that the technology required for film was first developed. In fact, it was in direct response to scientific needs that a crucial moment in the growth of cinema occurred. Etienne-Jules Marey, a French physician, inventor and photographer, was the first to use photographic materials in a cinematic way in the 1880s. However, Marey’s principle motivation in developing the cinematic medium was a desire to study animal locomotion. In order to examine the details of animal movement in terms of biomechanics, it is necessary to have a camera that can capture many images within a brief space of time: Marey’s first cinematic recording device, the photographic gun, met this need with the ability to record 12 images per second. His subsequent invention, which built upon the work of photographers such as Eastman, Jansen and Muybridge, was known as the chronophotograph. It could capture up to 60 images per second and the resulting strips of images could be shown as motion pictures. This nascent technology was picked up by the Lumière brothers, who turned the focus of their family business from still photography equipment to the production of movie cameras. In order to demonstrate their combined movie camera and projector they recorded short films that they showed at public screenings. The influence of Marey on Louis Lumière, the brother more involved in the production of these short films, is evident in the nature of the early movies, many of them


The initial interest shown by Marey and the Lumières in filming the life of marine organisms continued in the films of French scientist Jean Painlevé, one of the fathers of the science documentary. Painlevé made over 200 films for scientific purposes. However, his work also had important artistic consequences. Captivated by what he was observing, he began to make films departing from a purely scientific approach. He filmed a range of intriguing organisms with which most people would not be familiar, and added modern music and a narration that was both witty and educational. In this way he created short films for the layman that were both scientific and artistic. Most of his work for the general public has an aquatic theme, including Hyas and Stenorhynchus (1929), The Seahorse (1934), Sea Urchins (1954), The Love Life of the Octopus (1965) and Acera and the Witches’ Dance (1972). For Painlevé, science and art could come together in most extraordinary ways: his films explore both the art that exists in nature and its life-forms and cinematic techniques that can connect scientific documentary with art. Painlevé pioneered the use of enlargement and microscopy to show the increasing levels of complexity in an organism’s morphology the closer one gets to it.The possibility of filming processes that take place under a microscope, in tandem with the ability to label certain molecules using fluorescent molecular markers of different colours, has resulted in a profound understanding of many cellular processes, such as cytoplasmic trafficking of cytoskeleton movements. Film allows us to observe what happens within a living cell in real time; we can also slow down or speed up the film in order to get a better picture of underlying cellular processes. One example of this can be found in the interactive CDs that come with many cell biology text books. They often have short clips of films made in research labs showing the relevant cellular processes. These educational films give students a greater appreciation of scientific ideas. Animated educational films have also been used effectively to demonstrate the processes occurring within the body, even on a cellular level. Of particular interest are the animated films that combine scientific ideas with artistic personification of cells and other structures, enabling storylines to be developed. These communicate basic scientific or medical ideas to the youngest of audiences. A popular example of this use of film is


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Film has come a long way since Marey’s investigations and the first efforts to use film as a way of sharing scientific facts and views. Today there are specific television channels, such as The Discovery Channel, National Geographic and The Animal Channel, devoted solely to showing documentary and science films. Although it is rare for science films to be produced for general cinema audiences, there are exceptions, such as the recent March of the Penguins, which tracks the life journey of those hardy Antarctic inhabitants. Many people see scientific documentaries in 3-D Imax theatres, where movies feature subjects such as coral reefs, insect microcosms and outer space.

“ © Les Documents Cinématographiques

A worm (left) filmed by Painlevé (right), circa 1930

A locomotion series captured by Marey, circa 1882

For Painlevé, science and art could come together in most extraordinary ways

Interest in scientific film has led to a growth in the number of courses offered in science communication and scientific media production. Meanwhile, the combined worlds of science and film are opening up to amateur enthusiasts: with the advent of relatively cheap, yet good quality cameras, and the ability of many digital still cameras and even mobile phones to record movies (the first feature-length film captured entirely by mobile phone was produced in 2006), access to the required technology is becoming ever easier.The result is that increasing numbers of people are beginning to explore film as a medium for both the creation of art and for the study of science. Mico Tatalovic is a PhD student in the Department of Zoology Alison Frank is PhD student in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Oxford

A r t s & R ev i ew s

the French animated series of the 1980s called Il était une fois... la vie. This cartoon series features recurring characters such as blood cells, hormonal messengers, bacteria, viruses, and immune cells, shown as little humanoids within the body going about their own business (that is, performing their cellular functions), and interacting in a variety of ways according to various external or internal influences.


Dr Hypothesis


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Dr Hypothesis Please email your queries to for your chance to win a £10 book voucher

Lakshmi Harihar

Dear Dr Hypothesis, When I was on a trip to Italy over the summer holidays, I heard a group of Italian sparrows cheeping to each other. This got me wondering: can birds from different countries understand each other, or is it all pigeon to them? Passerine Phil

DR HYPOTHESIS SAYS: Phil, this is quite a difficult question to answer without being able to ask the birds directly. I can tell you that ornithologists—people who study birds—know that different species of birds can sing characteristic songs, and it is therefore believed that different species cannot understand each other… just like we can’t understand the languages of other animals. Bird song is also thought to vary within a species in much the same way that people can speak different dialects of

Dr Hypothesis asked: What colour is molten gold? Why?

the same language. Continuing this analogy, I suspect that birds of the same species, but in different countries, may be able to recognize the meaning of a foreign bird’s chirping, even if they can’t understand every single word.

night sky. Despite this, I was stumped when a friend asked me who had named the planet Uranus. And, perhaps more importantly, were they having a laugh? Can you please help me maintain my pride? Celestial Clive

Dear Dr Hypothesis, I work as a postman, which is a fantastic job in the summer. It is not so good in the winter, however, due to the risk of ice and other cold-weather-related problems. In the dark mornings on my rounds, I have spent a lot of time wondering why I am able to see my breath at this time of day, but at no other time. Can you help me figure this out? Delivering Derek

DR HYPOTHESIS SAYS: Uranus was discovered by Sir William Herschel on 13 March 1781. He originally recorded it as a comet and named it George’s Star, after King George III. Unsurprisingly, European astronomers were not as keen as Sir William on this name, and several discussions ensued as to what the planet should be called. It was the editor of the Berlin Astronomisches Jahrbuch who ultimately suggested Uranus, the Latin name for the Greek god of the sky. Reluctant to give up their sovereignty, the British continued to use the name George’s Star until at least 1850. So Clive, you can tell your friend that the naming of Uranus was definitely not a laughing matter for eighteenthcentury astronomers.

DR HYPOTHESIS SAYS: You can see your breath because of the chemistry between air and water and the phenomenon of condensation. Condensation is the conversion of a vapour to a liquid. As you are no doubt aware, water can be suspended in the air as vapour.The concentration of water that can be held like this decreases as the air cools down. You are able to see your breath as the water in it condenses. The temperature has fallen to a level at which your breath has more water in it than the air can hold. Dear Dr Hypothesis, As the nights start becoming longer, I’m looking forward to getting my woolly jumper on, filling up my Thermos and getting back to my first love: astronomy. I pride myself on being a bit of an expert on the

Lakshmi Harihar


The Diophantine Dog House Dr Hypothesis’ research assistant Tom Pugh challenges you to try your hand at this mathematical mystery:

One of our readers answered: Molten gold can be a variety of colours because it is almost always alloyed with other metals. If it contains copper it will be redder, iron makes it blue, and aluminium makes it purple, while natural bismuth and silver make it black. It may surprise you to know that gold, more often than not, contains 8–10% silver.

Mr and Mrs Diophantine love dogs. Last year they had six, and a month ago Mrs Diophantine bought more. On top of that they have kennels, which until yesterday contained four times as many dogs as there were in the house, plus two guard dogs Brutus and Bruno. Yesterday, the summer holidays began, and their neighbours dropped their dogs off at the Diophantine Dog House, adding a third again to the number of dogs in the kennel. Mr and Mrs Diophantine can only handle looking after 50 dogs in total at any one time. How many dogs are they currently looking after? Visit for the answer



Michaelmas 2006

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BlueSci Issue 07 - Michaelmas 2006  
BlueSci Issue 07 - Michaelmas 2006  

Cambridge University science magazine FOCUS: The Future of Science