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React Magazine @react_magazine

i Contents, Get Involved! ii Editorial, Fast Facts, The Team 1 {Profile} Science Hero: Rosalind Franklin by Verity Mitchell 2 {News} Science news by Claire Tweedy 3-4 {Lead Article} The British Science Festival 2013 by Elspeth Ritchie 5-6 {NCL Research} Top Five Genetic Traits by Emily Fisher 7-8 {NCL Research} Spectroscopy by Ruth Rowland-Jones 9-10 {NCL Research} Tomography in Penang, Malaysia by Andy Goh 11 {NCL Uni Science} Knock & Pre-Ignition by James Hendry 12 {NCL Uni Science} Engines With No Moving Parts by James Hendry 13-14 {Central Feature} Flash Flood by Thomas Lundy 15-16 {Issue Theme} Genetic Degradation by Verity Mitchell 17 {Issue Theme} Reflex Arcs by Joseph Crutwell 18 {Issue Theme} Anatomy of the Eye by Hayley Bouldon 19-20 {Issue Theme} Disruptive Technologies by Sadaf Atarod 21 {Opinion Piece} The World Without Us by Emad Ahmed 22 {Opinion Piece} Lord Robert Winston by Naomi Brown 23-24 {Science:fiction} Heroes & Villains by Kalvin Sahota 25 {Feature} DIY Lip Plumper by Beauty By The Geeks 26 {Puzzle Page} ‘Mazing Mathematics! by Steve Humble (Dr Maths) 27 {Advert} 28 {Listings}

Get Involved! {react} magazine gives students the opportunity to explore science communication, and we want to make your voices heard. Scientist or not, if you’re interested we’ve got several different ways for you to get stuck in. Prior experience is not necessary! Budding science writer? We want our content to be interesting, contemporary and accessible to all who care to read it. Contributing to {react} is not about writing technical 1000 word reports; we are looking for imaginative and insightful articles, from longer features and interviews to reviews and opinion pieces. You can write for our print issues, next published in November 2013, or help to create bespoke content for our website. If you would like to get more involved in editing the magazine, or are a budding writer but don’t feel ready to submit your own articles quite yet, you can apply to be on our editorial team.

Get in touch by email: Determined Doodler? {react} magazine isn’t just about the writing. We pride ourselves on being strongly design-led (we hope a quick flick through will demonstrate this!) and we don’t want to look like your average science magazine. {react} relies on student artists, designers, and layout editors to help bring our stories to life. You don’t need loads of experience, just an interest in the project and a willingness to learn on the job!

Get in touch by email: Printed on a termly basis, the magazine will be distributed on campus and available to local schools, sixth form colleges, and in public venues across the city. Our online content will be updated throughout the year, so there is always plenty to do.

Editorial For those just starting their university careers,

you might not believe us when we say it goes by in the blink of an eye. But once you get to the end of first year, you’ll be asking “Where did the time go?” You can’t begin to imagine how some old timers feel when it comes time to submit a doctoral thesis (seriously, where did those eight years of uni living go?) Only a few months ago Newcastle hosted the British Science Festival 2013. Relive those wonderful days with some of our highlights (p. 3-4) and take a closer look at one of the debates about highlighting the use of animal testing through medicinal product labelling (p. 22). On a lighter note, try your hand at a bit of DIY cosmetics from Beauty by the Geeks (p. 25) or get lost in one of Dr. Maths’ logical labyrinths (p. 26). Why stop the trip down memory lane with last September? Head further back to see the forgotten contributor to the discovery of DNA,

Rosalind Franklin (p. 1) and a look at the our beguilingly titled “Deep Past” (p. 15-16). Of course, it’s not enough to just look back. As scientists and engineers, we’re going to react to the past in all sorts of way. From developing technologies to deal with engine knock (p. 11) to doing away with moving parts all together (p. 12) and transforming light into monitoring tools (p. 7-8) or even treatment (p. 9-10), mankind seems to be all about disrupting the status quo. Even philanthropy isn’t safe from it (p. 19-20). But perhaps the world be better off without us (p. 21). Are we heroes or villains (p. 23-24)? Could it somehow be genetic (p. 5-6)? It’s an important question which deserves due consideration. However we have to admit that even with our fancy reflex arcs (p. 17) and complex eyes (p. 18), human reactions might never be as cool as what a startled squid can achieve in the blink of an eye (p. 13-14).

Fast Facts A normal blink lasts between 0.1 to 0.4 seconds. If it lasts more than 1 second, it is called a microsleep.

certain conditions. An increase in blink rate is associated with schizophrenia while reduced blink rates are associated with Parkinson’s disease.

On average, we normally blink about 10 times a minute. But if we’re focused on something perhaps an amazing article in {react} - that can decrease to 3/4 times a minute and lead to dry, tired eyes. So remember to a break every now and then.

Don’t worry if a baby stares at you without ever seeming to blink. While no one knows exactly why babies blink so little, it might have something to do with a smaller exposed area and spending so much time with their eyes closed while asleep anyway. Still, it’s good to know it is not because they are possessed or that there’s a Weeping Angel behind you!

How quickly you blink could be an indicator of

The Team EDITORS: Elspeth K. Ritchie, Gesa Junge DEPUTY EDITORS: Alice Johnson, Stephen Shackleton SUB EDITORS: Jamie Auxillos, Adam Field, Alexander Griffen, Lindsay Gill, Alice Johnson, Calum Kirk, Arun Krishna, Holly White, Stephen Shackleton NEWS EDITOR: Clare Tweedy CREATIVE DIRECTOR: John Dawson

DESIGN: John Dawson, Hannah Scully, Hazel Brill ILLUSTRATORS: Hannah Scully, Robyn Nevison, Hannah Scully, Hazel Brill NEW MEDIA EDITOR: Elizabeth Lewis BUSINESS: Scott Pygall SPECIAL THANKS: Ian Wylie, Dr Maths, The Life Science Centre

NOTES: Cover by Hannah Scully References for all articles in this magazine are available online at Creative Commons description @


Profile Science Hero: Rosalind Franklin by Verity Mitchell Rosalind Elsie Franklin was born in 1920 in Notting Hill, London, to a very influential family. In her early years, she excelled at St Paul’s Girls’ School and showed early academic promise. After graduating from Cambridge University with a degree in chemistry, she was awarded a research scholarship to explore the qualities of coal. During her PhD, she made discoveries which lead to the use of coal as a fuel and its use in wartime devices. She then collaborated with Jacques Mering at the Laboratoire Central des Services Chimiques de l’Etat in Paris. It was here where she learned X-ray diffraction techniques that would be essential to her later work with DNA at King’s College London, which commenced in 1951.

the correct helical structure for DNA. Despite this, Franklin’s work was published as a final instalment of a 3 piece series ran by Nature in 1953, which started by showcasing Watson and Cricks work. This made it seem like her research was completed after they had produced their model and just

Whilst at King’s College London, she utilised

X-ray diffraction to take images showing the helical nature of DNA, which have been described by J. D. Bernal as “amongst the most beautiful X-ray photographs of any substance ever taken.” James Watson and Francis Crick were working on the structure of DNA at a similar time to Rosalind Franklin; however, she wrote and submitted her papers while they were still developing their theories. Maurice Wilkins, who worked in the same lab as Franklin, passed on unpublished work from her research to Watson and Crick without her knowledge or permission. He showed the pair her famous Photo 51 and they were given access to crystallographic calculations. This showed the pair strong evidence that the DNA phosphate backbone was on the outside of the DNA helix, which was a contradiction to the leading theory at the time. These events suggest that her research was essential in leading Watson and Crick to


* Right-hand illustration by Robyn Nevison Left-hand illustration by Hannah Scully

supported their theory, which wasn’t fully accepted until about 1960, when enough scientific evidence confirming their theory had been found. Franklin moved to Birkbeck College in 1953. It was here where she worked on the structure of RNA and its role as the structure of many viruses. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1956 and spent several periods of time in hospital receiving treatment. She sadly lost her battle with cancer on 16th April 1958 and died at just 37 years old. Her exposure to X-ray radiation during her research is thought to be a contributory factor of her illness. As she died before the helical theory for DNA was accepted by the scientific society in 1960, her contribution has never been fully acknowledged, especially as none of her work was cited in the original paper by Watson and Crick. She was not nominated for a Nobel Prize for her work, despite all of the other main scientists who contributed to the theory receiving one, because they cannot be awarded to the deceased.

News Low calorie diet hope for Type 2 diabetes Researchers from Newcastle and Glasgow Universities funded by Diabetes UK are investigating whether a low calorie diet can be used as a viable treatment option for Type 2 diabetes. The team hopes to determine whether a short-term liquid diet followed by sensible eating will be enough to put a patient’s diabetes into remission. The liquid diet consists of 800 calories daily for a period of 8 to 20 weeks. Support will

by Clare Tweedy

be given to all patients on how to keep excess weight off in the long term and avoid the return of their symptoms. The project is estimated to cost £2.4 million and will involve patients in Tyneside and Scotland who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for a period longer than six years. It is anticipated that a successful response to this form of treatment could vastly improve the quality of life for millions of patients in the UK.

Medical devices created by 3D printing in national exhibition 3D printing technology is paving the way for personalised medical devices to meet patientspecific requirements. Newcastle University, in association with Peacocks Medical Group, has printed these personalised devices for use in the support and repositioning of bones and muscles. A number of these devices were recently displayed at London’s Science Museum as part of an exhibition entitled 3D: printing the future.

The supportive medical devices are secured to the outside of the body, though current research is anticipating their use within the body. With help from the body’s natural repair processes, a medical device could, for example, trigger the replacement of damaged tissue in the joints of a patient with arthritis. It is hoped that 3D printing will provide a cheap and relatively fast way to personalise medical devices for a patient’s use.

Ice channels beneath Antarctic hold clues to environmental change Ice channels have been found beneath a floating ice shelf in the Antarctic by a team of researchers, including staff from Newcastle University, using satellite images and radar. Standing at 250 metres in height, and stretching along the ice shelf for hundreds of kilometres, the channels are almost three times the height of Big Ben’s Clock Tower and may help researchers to better understand the

interaction of the ice with the surrounding ocean. It was previously thought that water flows in a thin layer just beneath the ice, but the discovery of giant ice channels suggests it moves in a more structured manner like that of a river. This has implications for the speed at which an ice sheet can melt, allowing researchers to accurately monitor their changes.

Brain cell death prevented by drug discovery Researchers at Nottingham and Leicester Universities have discovered a drug capable of protecting neurons in the brains of mice infected with a brain-attacking prion disease. Mice treated with the drug did not display the neuron death and resulting cognitive impairment expected. However due to unwanted sides effect in the pancreas,

the mice suffered weight loss and raised levels of glucose in the blood. These observations signal that further research is still needed to determine the clinical relevance of the drug in the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which affect millions worldwide.


Lead Article British Science Festival 2013 by Elspeth Ritchie According to organizers, tens of thousands attended the British Science Festival 2013 held in Newcastle from 7th-12th September. A given the number of activities available we can believe. With overnight events for both little kids and big (such as the all night sci-fi classics screening at Tyneside Cinema), days full of debates, lectures, and workshops, and evening events ranging from quizzes to stand-up all over Newcastle from the universities to the museums, there certainly was enough to keep tens of thousands busy. Obviously we couldn’t see it all, but here are a

few events we’d like to tell you about. Check out Naomi Brown’s thoughts on Robert Winston’s medicinal labelling debate (pg. 22) for a bit of analysis. We’ve also included a few activities for you try at home and relive those wonderful days (pg. 25 -26)

epiFection “Where were you on Saturday 7th September at 12 PM?” You might have been in town, out home, or reading you beloved issue 3 of {react}, but for everyone enrolled in the alternate reality game epiFection, it was the start of a week of decisions which could ultimately end up in their death. While there were several scheduled events accompanying the game, the majority of the action took place in an app. Each day players signed in to see the toll a mysterious infection was taking on the population of Newcastle. As the hospitals filled with infected and the death toll rose, decisions had to be made. They started out small, such as whether participants would wear a face mask when out and about, but escalated into whether players would self-quarantine and if non-essential travel should be banned. One of the scheduled events was a vote to decide whether money would be put towards a cure or a vaccine. On the last evening of the festival, players were invited a survivors party to discuss the event and what they had learned. After a week of infections and illnesses, it’s a good thing the goody bags included hand sanitiser.


* Photos courtesy of Mike Urwin

The Ugly Animal Preservation Society Simon Watt, President for Life of The Ugly Animal Preservation Society, is fed-up with the fluffist world we live in. Thousands of animals are endangered or threatened, but all we seem to hear of are pandas. In this travelling show, brave defenders of the unfluffy and sometimes downright icky made a stand against our cute-only conservation through stand-up. The exact line up of derpy animals defended changes as the show travels about the UK as does the cast of defenders,. The Newcastle show included the derpy dugong, the naked molerat (winner of the Brighton show), and the marine iguana (proudly defended by {react}’s own Carla Washbourne). The audience voted the dugong as Newcastle’s ugly animal mascot. Meanwhile, an international online vote gave the blobfish the honour of being the world’s ugliest animal.

{react} at the Hands On Exhibition Yes, that’s right. {react} were at the British Science Festival 2013, getting the young (and not so young) to try their hand at science journalism. One of the activities was to fill in a newspaper front page with something they had seen and tell us a bit about the science. Here are a few of the pages submitted. Enjoy!


NCL Research Build a Better Baby Adapted from "Reasons to Be Cheerful by Emily Fisher "

Technically it used to be that if someone was athletic, intelligent, friendly, and confident, he could be called a person of “good breeding”. At some point the phrase became far more strongly tied to having bags of money and titles to your name, but the general idea of inheriting “good” traits was still very much there. These days it’s a bit more common to hear

that they have ‘good genes’. On one hand, it’s a horrible phrase and an easy way to dismiss the hard work and efforts people put into their lives. After all, some of the best people for networking are the most naturally introverted, but they have recognised how to deal with networking events. Think how disheartening it is to be told the reason you did well at something is simply because “Oh, but you’re naturally good at it. You don’t have to try.” But there is an element of truth to the phrase as genes have been isolated that can contribute to our intelligence, the type of sport we would be best at and even our degree of empathy. Here’s a look at a few of genes and their variants that you might want to add into your offsprings’ genomes if the super sci-fi and ethically debatable notion of genetic engineered designer ever becomes a reality

Intelligence The recently identified FNBP1L gene has been linked to childhood intelligence inheritance and is most useful in predicting adult intelligence. Mutations at a location called rs236330 are associated with normally varying intelligence, and it is thought that 20-40% of our differences in IQ is due to combined effects of such mutations in our DNA.

Athleticism Ever wondered which type of sport you would be best suited to? The ACTN-3 gene could provide the answer. It produces a protein called a-actin-3 that is expressed in fast twitch muscle fibres and influences athletic performance. One form of the gene is more common in power athletes such as sprinters and martial artists who rely on high force, high speed muscle contractions. Different form of the gene is associated with endurance athletes such as triathlon participants. Predicting which type of sport someone is most likely to thrive at would be so much easier if we knew which ACTN3 he possesses.

Attractiveness The secret to good looks might actually be buried in the genetic code for our immune systems. Humans possess three different types of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules. Studies have shown that the combination of MHC molecules can not only determine how well the body responds to disease, but also how attractive the person is to others. One investigation used 20 men with all three MHC molecules (heterozygotes) and 20 men with MHC molecules that were the same (homozygotes). Their faces were rated by women, and 34 out of 36 preferred the heterozygous males. They were also able to initiate a stronger immune response. 66% of men in the UK are heterozygous for MHC, and their apparent attractiveness could be attributed to facial symmetry or skin appearance.

The Vitruvian Man by Leonardo Da Vinci


* Image courtesy of



Oxytocin a.k.a. “the love hormone” is associated with sociability, personal bonding and maternal behaviour. Produced by the OXTR gene, people with two copies of one version are typically more prosocial and behave in ways that benefit others. A different version of the gene is associated with lower levels of empathy and a higher risk of autism.

While being intelligent and athletic are generally universally considered beneficial, it’s the small quirks that set people apart from the rest, for example being creative. One gene you may not want when finding your creative side is a repeat polymorphism (multiple forms of the same thing) in a section of the DRD4 gene. People with this genetic quirk score lower in tests of divergent thinking and struggle with “outside the box” decisions ‘due to an inability to suppress or inhibit obvious responses

Happiness While not linked to a single gene, happiness is strongly influenced by 5-HTTLPR, “the depression gene”, which activates the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a drug created in the gut and brain that facilitates the reduction of stress hormones. In fact, regulating serotonin is the main action of antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). A study revealed that individuals with short 5-HTTLPR genes are more vulnerable to depression, whilst those with long 5-HTTLPR genes are genetically more likely to be happier.

DNA & Traits

Those with long 5-HTTLPR genes are genetically more likely to be happier

. Certainty in an uncertain situation Picture arriving in a new country. Everything is new - the climate, the culture, the language - and uncertain. Believe it or not, our genes can influence how we deal with these unpredictable situations thanks to genetic variants in the cholinergic system. The cholinergic system controls nervous impulses using a chemical called acetylcholine as a neurotransmitter. Small structural changes in the CHRNA4 gene alters the amount of acetylcholine involved in a nerve firing, making a response more or less likely. A rare variation of this gene is associated with decreased anxiety and increased curiosity in situations with unexpected uncertainty.

* Illustration by Emily Fisher


NCL Research Flash Analysis by Ruth Rowland-Jones Oil, gas and nuclear energy; medicine and pharmaceuticals; biopharmaceuticals and biotechnology; whatever the industry, measurement is a fundamental tool. By measuring the different properties of a process, greater understanding and control can be achieved. The various, routinely measured properties of a

chemical, and you can predict the reaction that takes place. You can then maintain system parameters such as temperature and pressure at their optimum to achieve the highest yield. However, bioprocesses have a life of their own. The reactions taking place are less straight forward, using up resources to grow and release metabolites. As a result, the system can be described as dynamic with many parameters changing simultaneously. So how can we measure a system that is constantly changing?

process can define the nature of the process – biologically (e.g. biomass and cellular viability), physically (e.g. pressure and temperature), chemically (e.g. concentrations of undesired byproducts). However, another important definition is the time in which any information about the process or material is obtained. Many of you will be familiar with taking a sample, walking over to the relevant machine and analysing it. This is known as ‘off-line’ or ‘at-line’ measurement. With this type of measurement there is a delay between the time the sample is taken and the time the measurement is carried out and information obtained. There are however methods for carrying out measurements ‘on-line’, which means the information is obtained as the processes occurs. On-line measurements are particularly important for bioprocesses. It could be considered that bioprocesses are harder to control than chemical processes. With the latter, you put X grams of a chemical into a reactor and Y grams of another

Spectroscopy Overview


* Bottom image courtesy of Illustration by Robyn Nevison

Spectroscopy is a technique that is of growing interest in bioprocesses monitoring. Some of you may be very familiar with spectroscopy - it is the study of electromagnetic radiation interacting with matter. When electromagnetic radiation interacts with matter, transitions between different energy

states take place. Different transitions include: electrons being promoted from their ground energy state to their excited state (electronic), chemical bonds moving between vibrational energy levels (vibrational), and atoms covalently bonded rotating relative to each other through rotational bonds (rotational). As a result, spectroscopy can identify specific functional groups, identifying the composition of a compound or a mixture.

Spectroscopy is a technique that is of growing interest in bioprocesses monitoring

Ultraviolet-Visible Spectroscopy (UV-VIS) is already routinely used in some the laboratories, perhaps to measure growth of bacteria by measuring a sample’s optical density (OD). This is an example of an off-line measurement. This means that a sample is removed from your system (say a bioreactor) and taken to the next required machine. Useful as this might be, there is still the time delay between taking the sample and measuring it. Not only this, but you have risked contamination by opening the system for sample removal and wasted material which cannot be returned. Similar problems occur when measuring metabolites as it is routine to remove samples regularly and put them in a bioanalyser. Vibrational spectroscopy such as Infra-red (IR), Raman, and fluorescence can however measure many of these analytes on-line and at the same time. These techniques have been developed into only requiring optical sensors that are non-invasive and do not require the removal of samples. The sensor can be placed in situ, that is the sensor is in direct contact with the process mixture.

these techniques have been shown to quantify analytes, including glucose, ammonium, and lactate, which are normally measured with off-line bioanalysers. These new techniques are also very rapid with their ability to measure on-line occurring in real-time. This is extremely important as it allows us to react to changes in the process almost immediately and have the potential to allow development of novel control strategies of the process. There is however a challenge when using spectral data. Identifying specific analyte concentrations from spectroscopic data can be difficult due to species absorbing at several different wavelengths and overlap of spectra. As a result, multivariate techniques such as principal component analysis (PCA) are required which effectively reduce the

dataset and identify the key areas of variability, but that’s a story for another day.

This feature has hopefully opened your eyes to the importance of on-line monitoring as well as to the huge potential that spectroscopy has in this field. In the ‘blink of an eye’ we can measure the changes in a process allowing for more efficient monitoring, measuring, modelling and control of current bioprocesses.

These technologies have huge potential. By shining a laser through an aqueous sample of cell culture a unique spectra is formed. These spectra can then be used to identify specific components in the mixture as well as the concentration. Already 532nm excited Raman spectrum on wavelength scale * Image courtesy of Bottom image courtesy of


NCL Research

TomoTherapy HD System: Progressing the treatment of cancer by Andy Goh During the latter part of my summer break, I spent most of my time back home in Malaysia, volunteering in Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital. Although I was completing mundane tasks in the office for the most part, I had the blessed opportunity to learn about a wonderful radiotherapy machine that the hospital had recently installed. The TomoTherapy HD system machine costs a whooping 14 million ringgit (approximately £2,800,000) but offers a massive contribution to radiotherapybased cancer treatment. I interviewed the head of the radiotherapy department Mr. Perumal, who has been with the hospital for eight years. How does radiotherapy kill cancer cells? Radiotherapy kills cancer cells by shooting a

megavoltage x-ray beam at the cells. The radiation damages the DNA of cancer cells, interrupting their cell division cycle, thus decreasing the size of the tumor. The body then removes these damaged cells through natural processes. In the process of treatment, healthy cells are damaged alongside cancer cells. However, it is important to note that normal cells recover better than cancer cells, as they receive proteins, carbohydrates and other nutrients from the patient’s diet.

How does the TomoTherapy HD system work? The purpose of the machine is to target the radiation to damage the cancer cells as much as possible and to avoid dealing too much damage to the surrounding healthy tissue. As healthy cells repair better than cancer cells, treatment is delivered in many fractions over several weeks to provide healthy cells enough time to recover, while dealing irreparable damage to tumor cells.

There are 3 steps in the system: First, patients go for a CT scan, which produces what we call a reference image, which reveals the location of the tumor and the surrounding tissues. This is vital in TomoTherapy treatment planning as the doctor examines the reference image to determine which part of the tumor to target and the amount of dose required. The doctor is fully aware of how much radiation each part of the body can safely handle and the doctor communicates this to the medical physicist, who plans the angles that the machine will shoot the beam at to match the doctor’s prescription. For instance, one planning could result in the tumor taking 90% of the radiation and the skin taking 10%. Second, the TomoTherapy HD system is capable of taking a CT scan of the tumor location directly before treatment. This allows for final patient positioning on the machine to ensure that the radiation is targeted right where it should be.

What does the “HD” stand for in TomoTherapy HD system? HD stands for helical direct, referring to the helical pattern in which the radiation is fired. This is a spiral pattern designed to deal maximum damage to cancer cells and minimum damage to healthy cells. The “Tomo” in TomoTherapy stands for “slice”, so slice therapy. Mount Miriam Cancer Hospital in Penang, Malaysia


* Image courtesy of

Finally, during treatment, the patient lies on a couch, which moves him through the center of the machine. The TomoTherapy HD system combines intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) with a helical delivery pattern. What we mean by IMRT is that the intensity of the radiation beam is modulated using a multileaf collimator (MLC), a special controller made up of “leaves” of metal. Each leaf can be moved to block the particle beam, for example two leaves opening and closing rapidly to control the intensity of radiation as it leaves a radiation-producing linear accelerator.

How could the machine be improved even further? The TomoTherapy HD system can be simply improved by making changes that brings us closer to achieving the goal of radiotherapy – to maximize our damage to cancer cells while at the same time, minimizing damage to the surrounding healthy cells.

The reason why the TomoTherapy HD system is so powerful is that it delivers very precise treatment and the image taken right before patient treatment allows us to plan the treatment and position the patient accurately.

How often do patients come in for treatment? This varies depending on the type of cancer the patient is suffering from. For example, an individual with lymphoma will come in everyday from Monday to Friday, and within three to four weeks the tumor is completely removed. However, patients are still required to go for follow-ups, which can be every month, two months or three months. The time it takes for cancers to be treated range from a minimum of four weeks to a maximum of eight weeks, with the treatment taking place every day from Monday to Friday.

How is the TomoTherapy HD system an improvement compared to previous machines

Normal Cells Normal cells of human connective tissue in culture. At a magnification of 500x, the cells were illuminated by darkfield amplified contrast technique.

Cancer Cells Cancer cells in culture from human connective tissue, illuminated by darkfield amplified contrast, at a magnification of 500x.

Prior to the arrival of the TomoTherapy HD system, the hospital was using the linear accelerator, or linac, which fires the beam in a straight line. This meant it was not so effective at excluding the healthy cells in its targeting of the cancer cells. 40% of patients after treatment with the linear accelerator suffered side effects such as skin reactions and diarrhea. With the TomoTherapy HD system, 30% of the patients suffer from these side effects. Another advantage of this system is its capability to obtain an image of the patient directly before treatment. This advantage allows us to ensure that the patient is in the correct position and that the radiation will be aimed in the correct direction. A prototype Tomotherapy device developed at the University of WisconsinMadison, Physical Sciences Laboratory

* Top two images courtesy of & 2306 Bottom image courtesy of


NCL Uni Science Knock and Pre-Ignition by James Hendry The story behind engine knock is a unique blend of chemistry, mechanical engineering and thermodynamics. Knock, ping, pinking and other symptoms arise from auto-ignition: when the fuel burns before the spark plug fires. The piston of a car engine compresses the fuel/air mixture and compressing a gas causes it to heat up. If this compression ratio is too high the fuel will combust early. This creates a dilemma – on one hand, a high compression ratio leads to a hot engine, and a hot engine has a higher Carnotcycle efficiency making for a more powerful engine. On the other hand, knock damages the engines and causes a drop in efficiency. This is a problem that’s been with us since the conception of internal combustion and continues to this day. But a number of solutions are available. Using Chemistry The phase-out of leaded petrol in the UK occurred around 2000. Many of you may remember four star petrol on the forecourts, but what is leaded petrol? Tetraethyl lead (TEL) is a compound added to leaded petrol that breaks down in the engine, producing free radical ethyl groups that then terminate chain reactions, preventing autoignition. It’s the ethyl group, not the lead, that does the business. Some classic cars now run on the same type of chemical based anti-knock agents using other metals. Haloalkanes were also added to prevent lead deposits in the engine, producing lead chloride and bromide gas in the exhaust. However TEL is environmentally unfriendly, and a new strategy replaced TEL addition. The aim was to increase the octane number of the fuel – a measure of how resistant that fuel is to auto ignition. Oil refineries use hot, gas reactors called catalytic reformers to upgrade fuel octane number


* Image courtesy of

by turning straight-chains into rings and branches. Adding an oxygen atom can also improve octane number. Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), being both branched and containing oxygen, has largely replaced lead additives as a general octane panacea in unleaded petrol. The bioethanol now added to petrol in the EU is an oxygenate and serves the same purpose.

Using Engine Design A diesel engine uses compression ignition instead of a spark plug. A readily auto-igniting fuel is actually preferred in a diesel engine. So diesel engines are able to use higher compression ratios, making them much more efficient. Environmentally, NOx gasses and incomplete combustion products offset this benefit to give roughly equal tallies for petrol vs. diesel engines. Strategies like homogenous charge compression ignition (HCCI) aim to marry diesel efficiency with petrol emissions. Making the fuel charge homogenous ensures the fuel burns completely, eliminating many of the emissions problems. Control systems are in development that allow HCCI engines to optimise themselves based on variables such as fuel and mechanical load. Interest in HCCI has gained resurgence in the last decade. The Bourke engine developed in the 1920s is one example of a claimed improvement in engine knock/compression ratio trade-off in what has become a long-standing puzzle for engineers. Whilst a complete solution may never be achieved, several milestones can be placed on a path of continuous improvement both in the fuels and the engines, away from the early days of internal combustion where low compression ratios were simply accepted. Future developments such as fuel cells will negate the need for combustion entirely. For the time being, you can’t knock the internal combustion engine.

NCL Uni Science Engines Without Moving Parts by James Hendry When machines fail, moving parts are often the first to go. Do any of your friends have a laptop that works fine, except for the CD drive? Moving parts create friction and up the cost of manufacture. Generally speaking, the less moving parts you have, the more robust your design will be. But how can we generate movement without moving parts? Certainly, examples like Maglev trains and smart materials (such as gel robots) count in this respect. But what about engines in a more strict sense – machines that convert heat into work? This article focusses on several examples of such engines. Pop-pop Boat Pop-pop boats first appeared around the end of the 19th century. These toy steamboats use a candle to power their very simple engine. Water boils inside the engine, sending a jet of water out the back of the boat, before condensing. This creates a vacuum that draws fresh water in.

Rocket Engines The speed of sound is the rate at which pressure is transmitted through air. A gas travelling above the speed of sound can’t transmit pressure changes in the opposite direction; some unexpected things happen to gasses above Mach one (i.e. when the speed of an object equals the speed of sound, so about 340 m/s at normal atmospheric pressure and 15°C). When a supersonic flow expands, it accelerates. This represents a conversion of heat into work. Based on a De-Laval nozzle, a rocket engine is designed to maximise this effect. The faster the gas leaves the rocket, the more thrust the shuttle has.

Ramjet Engines The inside of a ramjet engine compresses inlet gasses through its shape, rather than rotors that are used in conventional designs. They are more efficient than normal jet engines when operating above the speed of sound. Modern applications include drones and missiles. They’ve also been used in small helicopters, where they’re attached to the end of the propeller blades. Interestingly, a conflict exists here; ramjets work best above the speed of sound, but the efficiency of any propeller quickly falls off as the tip speed approaches the speed of sound.

Wave Disk Engine My last example - being a car engine – is strictly speaking, not completely without moving parts. The wave disk engine is a radical design currently in development, that uses shockwaves instead of pistons to compress and ignite the fuel. Potential applications include hybrid cars, due to the engine’s light weight and high efficiency. Four different engines, with four different philosophies on how to create movement, working in very different applications. From children’s toys to the Apollo missions and from bloodhound missiles to sustainable transport, engines with no moving parts represent an unorthodox approach to the problem of how we create movement, that has been ground-breaking in improving the efficiencies of design.

* Illustration by Hannah Scully


Flash Flood: A Sea Of Information, Transported In A Single Moment by Thomas Lundy In the depths of the ocean, a split second can


mean the difference between feeding or starving, fight or flight, life or death. Organisms existing here must be suitably adapted and highly evolved to survive in a world where the most minimal of gains can equate to massive rewards.


Coleoids are a subclass of cephalopods encompassing all the soft-bodied species, such as octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, which typically make a home of the deeper, darker and more dangerous zones of the ocean. Here, organisms have to be highly receptive and responsive to cues of all kinds, as communication between individuals can be rare. Squid and octopuses in particular are highly efficient visual communicators. They use physiological and neurological advantages to receive, process, and respond to outside stimuli by displaying different colours and patterns on their skin using pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells called chromatophores. Large amounts of vital information can be transferred, and all in the blink of an eye…


0.000s: The stimulus is created. This can be made by friend, foe, food, basically anything the cephalopod deems intriguing or threatening. A passing predator would be a stimulus to an exposed octopus, just as light reflecting off a shoal of fish would be stimulus to a hunting pack of squid. Many coleoids have highly evolved eyes to cope with the dark water, and as a result, visual cues are their common stimuli.

0.001s: Visual information created by the stimulus travels at the speed of light to the cephalopod’s eye. The Humboldt squid’s eyes are extremely large, and quickly focus by repositioning the lens in a camera-like fashion, rather than changing the shape in the way human eyes do. Movement causes the eye to focus, meaning they can respond quickly to an environmental stimulus.



0.011s: The information received through the eye travels via the optic ganglia to a central collection of fused ganglia, the cephalopods version of a brain. Its complex central nervous system, which involves a large network of ganglia and axons, extends throughout its body and limbs, giving the organism a rapidly responsive nature.

0.2 The pre cep stim

200s: e recipient of the communication – either edator, prey or peer – processes the phalopod’s colourful display it as a new mulus, and the whole cycle repeats itself.


0.187s: The colour and patterns displayed by the chromatophores can be changed in specific ways to communicate certain messages. Humboldt squid, renowned as deadly group hunters, can communicate via rapidly flashing red and white to co-ordinate attack strategies with other individuals. As with many animals, both marine and terrestrial, many species of squid, octopus and cuttlefish change colour in order to warn off other species or camouflage themselves from danger. Caribbean reef squid are even capable of unilateral communication, using chromatophores on each side of their body to simultaneously communicate distinct messages.



5 4

0.035s: In a few milliseconds the stimulus has been recognised and processed by the brain/ ganglia, and a response is decided upon and set in motion.

0.141s: The expansion and contraction of the chromatophores’ pigment sacs in the causes the chromatophores to increase in transparency/opacity as the pigment becomes more or less thinly spread, giving the effect of colour change as the amount of light reflected changes.

0.120s: Via the cephalopod’s large nerve axons, the nervous system communicates to radial muscles fibres arranged around the chromatophores cells in the skin – which are considered an organ due to their association with numerous muscle fibres. They are ordered to expand or contract a pigment-filled elastic sac inside the chromatophores.

0.070s: The pattern of the nerves operating the chromatophores is very similar to the position of the chromatophores in the skin. The action potential activating the nerves one after another (which are activated in a wave-like pattern) in the brain is mirrored by wave-like colour change in the skin.


Issue Theme The Deep Past by Verity Mitchell On a geological timescale, humans are still just a blip. How do we know so much about the deep past? Earth is just over 4.5 billion years old. However due to geological instability, land didn’t begin to form until about 4.3 billion years ago. Unicellular organisms such as bacteria were the first forms of life that evolved about 3.8 billion years. Multicellular life didn’t evolve until 2.8 billion years ago, with creatures that we would be familiar with today only appearing 570 million years ago, starting with arthropods and continuing to mammals 200 million years ago. It is thought that Homo sapiens diverged from chimpanzees about 200,000 years ago, meaning humans have only been present for 0.004% of the Earth’s history. Considering our very short time on the planet, how can we have possibly have created such a detailed timeline for Earth’s past? Humans have only started to wonder about the history of the earth relatively recently, with Charles Darwin playing a major role. He introduced the idea of divergent evolution where “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Evolution is key to understanding the deep past, because it can give us information on the ancient conditions of the planet and selective pressures, which have allowed the divergence of the organisms we know today.

chance of survival. This allowed them to pass on their advantageous alleles, fixing them in the population. Darwin hypothesised that a long time ago there must have been one common ancestor for all of the finches currently present. He claimed that as they spread across the islands and became exposed to different environments, they divergently evolved to adapt to their new habitats. This wildlife diversity in the Galápagos Islands supports the theory of how movement of the tectonic plates over a volcano hotspot created the islands over thousands of years and slowly separated the finches, leaving time for them to diverge. This case study gives us an idea of what the earth would have been like when established islands we know today, such as the Caribbean, were still forming. Evolution can sometimes cause confusion when trying to work out if organisms have evolved from a common ancestor, as unrelated organisms can develop similar or analogous traits. A good example of this are bats and birds. They have similar wings that allow them to fly; however, they developed them completely separately and are not present in their last common ancestor. Traits organisms share due to a common ancestor are called homologous traits. Analogous traits have been separated from homologous traits by the use of biological methods like genetics.

Knowledge can be gained about the past from observations, such as Darwin’s finches in the Galápagos Islands. He observed that, depending on the food source available on each island, the birds had adapted their head and beak shape to give them the maximum opportunity of gathering food and thus enabling them to have the best Darwin’s Finch


* Image courtesy of

The History of Life on Earth

Genetic evidence can be used to uncover the evolutionary relatedness of different groups of organisms. This method is called phylogenetics. The genetic code was present and has been preserved since the very first prokaryotes came into existence 3.8 billion years ago. The genome has highly accurate replication methods and as a result, fixed changes don’t occur very frequently. Consequently, the genetic code is an extremely good resource to trace the evolution and divergence of different organisms, because protein coding sections will go completely unchanged, or only have minor changes, for millions of years. The genetic code of different organisms can be used to construct phylogenetic trees. The biggest of these is called the tree of life, which shows how all living organisms diverged from the first prokaryotes. The amount of information we can obtain from genetic evidence is limited, because DNA degrades. Therefore, the ability to gather enough genetic code to put together a genome from an organism, can only last ~30,000 years, depending on the environmental conditions it has been preserved in. Mitochondrial DNA is more abundant and robust than genomic DNA; however, the amount of evidence we can gain from ancient mitochondrial DNA is also limited, due to its small size. Fossil evidence has been used extensively to learn about ancient organisms; especially with extinct organisms such as dinosaurs. Palaeontology has been around for thousands of years, the first records of interest being the ancient Greeks. This field gained new significance after

publication of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” Patterns of fossils have helped scientists identify the ancient supercontinent Pangaea, because there are bands of fossils of the same species across the planet, some covering South America, Africa, India, Antarctica and Australia. As these continents clearly have very different climates now, the same species would not be able to develop separately on them. This is because they have completely different environmental pressures and organisms would not be able to travel from one to the other. This evidence, together with the theory of continental drift, identified this supercontinent, which is estimated to have formed ~300 million years ago and broken up ~200 million years ago. We have only taken records of the climate for the very recent history, yet scientists have been able to predict what it would have been like for up to a potential billion years ago, by using air bubbles trapped in ice cores in the Arctic and Greenland. The characteristics and composition of the ice can be used to reconstruct the climate over the age range of the core through isotopic analysis. This method can take us back more accurately and much further into the past than any biological means, such as measuring tree rings. The climate is the key to how this planet has such abundant life and is really the key to our understanding of how the Earth has evolved into the diverse ecological system it has today. Most importantly, it may be useful in helping us to protect it for future generations.

* Image courtesy of


Issue Theme Reflex Arcs: Think Fast or Don't Think At All By Joseph Crutwell I’m sure the clumsy among us will all have injured themselves at some point, whether it be burning your hand on the cooker or stepping on something sharp, but do you ever wonder how your body seems to react to what has happened so rapidly, before you’re even aware of what’s happened yourself? The key is in a certain part of the nervous systems called reflex arcs. These short nerve pathways do not follow the route that most do, which is back to the brain. Instead the signal travels to the spinal cord and then back down to the point that was damaged or stimulated to provide a faster response. But why does avoiding the brain speed up response times by such an amount, aside from

the distance for the signal to travel being shorter? The truth is that for all that the brain is good for at complex tasks and problem solving, being able to perform all of this requires it to process every piece of incoming nerve information. Imagine you are the owner of the arm in the picture, accidentally touching a hot stove… If the signal from that unlucky finger went via your brain, you would have to first think to yourself, “My finger is burning” (you’d probably be a bit more panicked than this). Then your brain helps you decide the best course of action is to move your arm away by stimulating the muscle, something that takes up rather valuable time that could be spent removing the offending digit away from the nasty situation you’ve managed to get it into. Aside from your arm’s withdrawal reflex, one of the most commonly known arcs is the patellar or “knee jerk” reflex, which you will have most likely had tested yourself. The test is done by doctors by tapping lightly just above the knee with a specialised hammer. If you ever wondered what the pretence was for this unprovoked assault, the patellar reflex is an important factor in keeping your balance by constantly reacting to changes in gravity through differing contraction of your leg muscles. Without this reflex, people find it hard to maintain an upright posture and may have issues with walking. Reflex arcs are thought to have come about due to the rather large evolutionary advantage of increased speed in escaping from danger, other examples include ducking if an object is moving towards you and blinking if you hear a loud noise. There are too many to mention, but whatever the response, one thing’s for sure, it’s all about how quickly you react.


Reflex Arc Diagram * Illustration by Hannah Scully

Issue Theme Anatomy of the Eye By Hayley Boulden The human eye is an extraordinary achievement of evolution. They are the organs of vision, allowing us to see and interact with the world around us through their sensitivity to light. Most people know that light enters the eye through the dark circular opening in the centre of the iris, known as the pupil. The word derives from the Latin pupilla, meaning “little doll”, and alludes to the tiny reflected images one sees of oneself in another’s eyes. Yet merely comparing the eye and brain to a camera connected to a computer is an oversimplification. How does the visual system work, and what is the role of the various components that constitute it? Humans are only able to utilise a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum in order to achieve sight. In fact, whilst all wavelengths are constantly entering the eye - from gamma rays less than 1011 m to radio waves up to 104 m – only waves of about 400 nm to 750 nm can be deciphered by the brain. This range is known as visible light. The eye itself has developed specialised anatomical components that allow for photoreception: the ability to perceive, absorb and use light - in the case of humans - for vision. First, light passes through the transparent cornea, which is responsible for refracting or bending light rays so that they are focused onto the back of the eye. Some of this role is also shared by the lens, which adjusts our vision for viewing objects at different distances. Arguably the most important component is the layer at the back of the eye, which contains the cells and nerve fibres that allow us to see. It is called the retina. Two types of cell called photoreceptors are located here known as rod cells and cone cells. The more sensitive rod cells are responsible for nocturnal vision while cone cells allow us to see colours and have better focus.

The organisation of cells in the retina is also the basis for some visual illusions. Many people who drive have heard of blind spots or areas that can’t be seen without moving; this same principle is essentially true of the eye. If you were to draw two small crosses on a sheet of paper and move it towards you, whilst closing your right eye and focusing your left on the right cross, the other cross will appear to vanish. The term “blind spot” is simply this region of no vision, with the brain filling in the missing area. It is the place where all nerve fibres and blood vessels leave the eye, and so there are no photoreceptors present here. In contrast to mammals, other vertebrates, such as the zebrafish, are capable of regenerating damaged cells in the retina. Studies have already been undertaken to help us understand why human eyes are incapable of this. This research is helping us to discover how injured tissue could be stimulated to regenerate. Perhaps in the future, this knowledge could even be used to develop stem cell therapeutics and allow blind people to see again.

* Illustration by Robyn Nevison


Issue Theme Innovative Existence Through Disruptive Innovation by Sadaf Atarod We are in the 21st century and our lives are wrapped up with technology, or at least it seems true for the many of us. We are probably the most tech savvy generation, judging by all the gadgets around us. At the same time our human nature hasn’t changed much. We still like to explore for more; we enjoy a unique touch to our mass produced gadgets even if it means paying a few hundred pounds for that special skin for our latest iPhone or laptop. In essence, we still need to see and experience innovation in the daily products that we use, as well as the ability to add a personal touch. At the same time, you might have overheard

or even said it yourself, “Do we really need another gadget or another product?” and “Isn’t there enough variety already on the shelves to choose from?” While such comments hold some water, the actual core reason is not that we need another product. Instead we need a unique one. Something that we can connect with and say “that’s my signature style”. It may sound like a selfish statement, but if you look at it historically we’ve always created personalised products. It is only since the mass production era that we lost the personalized touch that came with hand-crafting with our products. It is not just technology or innovation that is enticing anymore but also its disruptiveness. Nearly three decades ago, Professor Clayton M. Christensen termed our new drive in technology advancement as ‘disruptive technology’ in his book ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma’. Others define it as a pre-existing product or technology with some promise of innovation that attracts customers. The customers buy into the concept of the new version and abandon the older version, even though the basic functions are the same. Smart phones are a good example. Even as an established product, the promise of innovation compels us to purchase the latest version. For technologies to survive, they


need to be adaptable to customer needs to be disruptive.

I Want It Now These days the technology news, blogs and forums are filled with 3D printing. The main difference between a 3D printer and your present printer is that instead of printing ink on paper, it prints an actual product from all sorts of materials, such as plastics. It is a disruptive technology because it improves an existing product (the printer), but simultaneously provides us with the ability to create something personal. However, 3D printing or additive manufacturing is not as new as we may think; the aerospace industry has been using the technology for years now, but it is the wider application of it that is new. Hopefully, soon many will be able to purchase a 3D printer for use at home and be able to print out their unique products. The medical industry is following the 3D printing movement, and 3D bioprinting of organs offers new direction in solving organ donor shortages and complications. Clinical applications are far off in the distance right now. But with the basic foundations are being built now, it might not be be an alien thing to have a kidney transplanted with a printed one in the future. While the world of 3D printing for biological applications has just kicked off, companies like Cortex have used 3D printing technology to create a new type of cast. The cast is a matrix that protects the broken limb and is printed based on the individual’s point of injury.

Innovation in Social and Environmental Responsibilities Disruptive technology has tapped on various sectors of our lives and has given our product industries the disruptive edge, so what about our social enterprises? What can we do to make them disruptive and be able to change the way we raise funds and help the less advantaged community? Can we apply the disruptive technology model to solve societal problems? Well the short answer is yes, through ‘disruptive philanthropy’ which is now changing the way we solve humanitarian issues.

Unlike disruptive technology, which may be available to only the elite or the affluent population at first, disruptive philanthropy breaks those barriers and is open to anyone willing to take part in a humanitarian action. It opens its doors to individuals who would like to volunteer to solve a humanitarian problem. Recently, I came across a disruptive philanthropist, Richard Loat, who is raising food and awareness for food banks through engaging volunteers in a game of sport through one of his projects such as FootyforFood in the UK. Similar projects exist that can alter the way

we help people. Newcastle University’s Professor Sugata Mitra’s project the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ has also resulted in ‘disruptive education’ where learning is no longer based on a rigid structure but a natural process to fulfil the urge to know and discover. It is good to know that we have evolved as conscious individuals who are not only keen on cluttering our lives with unique products but also to try and help others. So I leave you with this final thought: Are we actually a disruptive generation?

Sound Familiar? Past Audio Technologies and their Successors Technology



What Is It?



Leon Scott

A vibrating diaphragm and stylus used to capture sound graphically.

Wax Cylinder Phonograph


Thomas Edison

A stylus converted grooves on the side of a rotating wax cylinder into sound. The wax could shaved smoothed to make home recordings.

Emile Berliner

Originally seen as a curiousity, vinyl records coexisted with wax cylinders until the 1920s and despite the popularity of later technologies, some consider vinyl the best

Vinyl Records


Cassette Tape



While reel-to-reel magnetic tape cassettes existed before Philips' Compact Cassette, this was the one that brought them into everyday use.

Compact Disc


Philips and Sony

Sony and Philips teamed up to create an audio format based on LaserDisc video technology.


While Amazon had the first legal digital music sale in 1999, many associate infamous filesharing site Napster with when music became digital.

Music Download


* Image courtesy of


Opinion Piece Still Relevant: Alan Weisman's "The World WIthout Us" by Emad Ahmed Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published their fifth assessment report, with further uncomfortable findings about human impact on the world’s climate. The evidence continues to state that humans are the most likely reason behind the global temperature increase. This reminded me of a very interesting book about our effect on the environment, released in 2007 – the same year as the IPCC’s previous assessment report.

modern city life losing the battle against Mother Nature. Without all the rubbish we produce, rats would no longer roam the cities and large woody trees would thrive in areas where they are currently absent. According to the author, native flora and fauna would naturally out-compete the foreign species that have travelled across continents and animals native further north to Quebec and Ontario would be able to spread across these regions more easily.

Alan Weisman takes a very different approach

to this topic in his highly acclaimed “The World Without Us.” The premise of the book is quite simple: what would happen to the earth if humans simply vanished from existence tomorrow? He quickly rolls past the possible ways this could happen, with examples such as nuclear war; widespread disease; reduced human fertility; and our ultimate degradation, via bacteria and fungi, into much more manageable organic matter.

The author compares and contrasts our current modern urban environments with Eden and the ways some of our man-made ecosystems would quickly return to a previous age. Weisman uses the city of New York as a template of how life would continue without us, with various examples of


* Illustrations by Hannah Scully

The breakdown of our infrastructure is also detailed in very accessible language. Buildings and subways would collapse sooner than we think, due to underground streams flooding the foundations of these modern marvels. Bridges would take longer, perhaps a few centuries, as huge rust fragments would expand in the newly-created crevasses between the nuts and bolts, tightening the incredibly thick, steel suspension wires. Speaking of steel, it would be a constituent on a very small list of items still lingering far beyond our existence. This would also include highly stubborn, non-biodegradable plastics and other metals found in our home appliances. Alan Weisman is an experienced journalist and a masterful reporter who has written for numerous outlets on the topic of the environment, including a report on the Chernobyl disaster for Harper’s Magazine, which led to this book. “The World Without Us” remains – and will remain – a pageturner is due to the immediate removal of humans from the depressing, degrading story from the depressing future of our global environment. It is through this lens we can see what life would be like without us and how much of a devastating impact our ways have on our surroundings.

Opinion Piece Lord Winston at British Science Festival 2013 by Naomi Brown I recently had the honour of seeing Lord Robert Winston talk at the British Science Festival 2013. He is best known from his BBC presenting of ‘Child of Our Time’. He is also an exceptional medical doctor, a leading researcher specialising in fertility and a Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology. This interesting and inspirational man spoke both about his work in science and politics and in particular about the recent bill concerning animal testing he has tabled in the House of Lords.

Medicinal product labelling:

(1) All medicinal products’ labels shall state that the product has been produced as a result of research on animals. This label will be required on the individual packet of each medicinal product sold within the United Kingdom. (2) A pharmaceutical company is guilty of an offence if it fails to label its products under subsection (1) and is liable – (a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum,

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine. This penalty is applicable for each medicinal product sold or dispensed.

Medicinal Labelling Act 2013

Adam Rutherford, editor of the journal ‘Nature’,

questioned Lord Winston on his past, his views on animal testing, and its impact on research and medical advances. Rutherford asked why he had proposed this bill and what he hoped to achieve from it. Much debate was had throughout the evening over whether or not this bill will strike up more animosity amongst animal rights activists,

if some members of the public would stop taking their medication, and consequently, whether this bill would do more harm than good. The main purpose of this bill—whether it gets passed or not—is to increase transparency around animal testing. It is to ensure that everyone is aware that it is almost impossible to receive any licensed pharmaceutical product without stringent tests using animals first. Currently, any research involving animals requires three separate licenses from the home office and must undergo rigorous inspections before these licences are permitted. To ensure that no animals suffer unnecessarily, the home office also stresses the importance of replacement, reduction, and refinement in animal testing. This means that wherever possible, alternatives to animal testing will be used, such as cell cultures and computer models; the number of animals used shall be reduced, and any pain and suffering the animals may feel will be kept to a bare minimum. In the UK, there is little more we can do to protect laboratory animals without significantly restricting any future medical research. Lord Winston hopes that by opening up the floor for this controversial debate, the British public will be able to make fully informed decisions about animal testing. He wants to make the British public aware that animal testing is not done for trivial reasons. He hopes that animal testing can come out of the shadows and be considered a vital part of Britain’s worldleading medical research. The bill is due for its second reading in The House of Lords on the 25th of October. A third reading is required before it can be passed through The House of Commons. After that, it must gain Royal Assent. We shall have to wait to see the bill’s progress and what impact, if any, it has on the public’s perception on research involving animals.

* Image courtesy of

Lord Robert Winston


Science: Fiction Heroes & Villains; Sci-Fi to Reality by Kalvin Sahota One thing I loved when I was younger, and still love today, is the impossibility of being like my idols, Superman, Spiderman and Wolverine. They were all able to dodge and withstand numerous injuries, hide out in a secret lair and take down the bad guy, all while maintaining a social life. Even the concept of having a criminal empire, with henchman enforcing my will upon the people, seemed too far-fetched, to be considered a realistic career. Then the revival of the Batman movies occurred and with it, the idea that anyone could be a hero. Batman has no superpowers. With an endless

fortune and a faithful butler, Batman somehow maintains his social stature, whilst secretly being beaten to a bloody pulp by villains, who also have no superpowers. Even his arch enemy, the Joker, who was no more than a mere human, somehow managed to hijack boats and create public chaos, even though he spent most of his time near explosions and carnage, without even taking a scratch. This is when I started to wonder how possible would it be, in the 21st century, to arm myself with are the necessary components, using a hypothetical fortune and my trusted computer, to become the next comic book superstar.

Brand recognition – Outfit, logo and theme song For every hero or villain ever created, the key for keeping the streets safe and inspiring fear into the masses is brand recognition. If the public knows your logo and your costume, you can guarantee that that graffiti representing their allegiance will be spray painted across the city. All you need is a great design, eye-catching colour scheme and some creative flair. This is where comes in. is a unique website, where people from


all around the world, can be commissioned to draw, create, design or even tattoo themselves for $5 (£3.13). Doing a quick search across the site, there are many people who are offering to design costumes, logos and even theme songs. Next is to combine your design with a high-tech fabric. Nanotech fibres have been hailed to revolutionise the engineering industry, providing varying properties such as, high conductive properties and immense tensile strength. So how to combine these essential properties into clothing for a superhero uniform? Designed at the University of Zurich, a new polyester-based nanofibre material has been produced. Coated with millions of tiny, silicone filaments to create a nanostructure, the material is extremely hydrophobic, causing water to sit on the material, keeping you dry. Air is also trapped between the nanofilaments, contributing to maintain your body temperature. Combined with its high resistance to abrasions, this is one of many new wonder materials being designed to meet your everyday vigilante needs.

The secret lair From islands to sea fortresses, the 21st century has brought much advancement and provided us with many different alternatives for that secret lair, where after a long day you can let your hair down. My personal favourite would be ‘Project Utopia’. A concept by the UK-based design company Yacht Island Design, the large floating island is ideal for a secret base that can be relocated anywhere in the world. Powered by four rotors with a max speed of 15 knots, ‘Project Utopia’ comes with 13 floors, a pool, two large garages, a dive dock for a submarine and four helipads. With a casino, numerous sun decks and enough space for a small army of henchman, ‘Project Utopia’ is the ideal place to kick back and relax between missions.

Vehicles Batman has the Batcar and Wonder Woman owns an invisible airplane, so I would also need something eccentric and wild to keep vigil over the streets at night, something along the lines of the

‘Skycar 200 LS’. Designed by Moller International, the ‘Skycar 200 LS’ is one of the three current models of personal aerial transport the company produces. Originally designed for the military as a light aerial multipurpose vehicle, the ‘Skycar 200 LS’ comes in a modest red and has the ability to reach speeds of up to 242mph. Combined with the ability to climb to an altitude of 10,000ft in 3.8 minutes and a passenger seat for your sidekick, the £300,000 price tag seems very modest. Though, like any car, parking can be an issue. So something more compact, such as a jetpack, may be required. With a pre-order price tag of $100,000, the ‘Martin Jetpack’ is designed to take care of all your jet packing needs. With an early release date of 2014, the jetpack has been designed to climb to about 500ft and reach a maximum speed of 46mph, providing you with a speedy and compact getaway vehicle.

able to slow and root threatening individuals in one position, the foam is shot from a gun and sprayed over the target. Slowly hardening, sticky foam allows you to take the frozen individual back to your lair for torture and interrogation. Another non-lethal option is using a Dazzler. Originally used in the Falklands by the British, the Dazzler is a large torch light that emits visible light, which reacts with the optical nerves causing targets to become blinded and disorientated. Extended exposure would cause the victim to collapse, blackout and vomit, leading to the Dazzler also being known as the ‘puke gun’. The many innovations of the 21st century, allowing us to become vigilantes and crime bosses, have jumped a long way, making that story about a man dressed in a bat suit just a lot more plausible.

Protection - Body Armour The ability to withstand bullets and shake off baseball bats seems essential in the world of heroism and villainy. With that in mind, reliable body armour is required. Carbon nanotube is a new wonder product, with a cylindrical nanostructure made up of carbon molecules. Typically, carbon nanotubes are seen as rigid and stiff, but on-going research at the University of Cambridge has developed new techniques to form it into a string and produce body armour. Using a furnace running at 1300°C to break down hydrocarbons and with the aid of a catalyst, the carbon atoms are rebuilt into a thin strand and spun around onto a spool, producing a lightweight yet ultra-strong nanotube strand. Being about 5X stronger than Kevlar, it is perfect for high velocity gun fire.

Gadgets – Non-lethal force Gadgets are a must for evading the law, useful for incapacitating your enemies and escaping from many different situations. It is important to keep as many people alive in order to attain the required information. Therefore, rather than using the usual stun guns, knockout gas and flashbangs, a few alternatives have been developed to assist you in these situations. Sticky foam is a non-lethal incapacitant, designed at Sandia National University, which shares similarities with Spiderman’s web shooters. Being * Illustration by Robyn Nevison


Feature DIY Lip Plumper adapted from Beauty By The Geeks The winners of the coveted “Muckiest Stand 2013” award at the British Science Festival 2013 Hands On Exhibition were, without a doubt, Beauty by the Geeks. These Newcastle University students were not just talking about the science behind cosmetics; they invited everyone to try making their own ground up garlic facemasks and glitter-filled bathbombs. Yes, even the boys. With Christmas and New Year parties looming ahead, we thought we’d share their recipe for super smoochy lips and share a bit of the science below.

Check out more recipes and stylish science over at

Ingredients Vaseline Menthol Essential Oil Cinnamon Essential Oil Wintergreen Essential Oils


* Illustrations by Hannah Scully

Instructions 1.

Start off with just a bit of Vaseline.


Add a few drops of each essential oil and mix thoroughly.


Pucker up and apply.


Pout about by the mistletoe and prepare to ring in the New Year.

Do a bit of scientific experimentation to optimise your balm! You could try varying the amounts of the oils, perhaps a bit more cinnamon and a little less wintergreen? For a fiercer fullness, add in a tiny amount of cayenne pepper powered. And by tiny, we do mean tiny. {react} takes no responsibility if you happen to burn your lips off.

The Science That tingling sensation you feel is the oils irritating the delicate skin on your lips.The body’s response to this is inflammation, sending blood to the affected area which causes swelling, redness, and warmth. The mixture needs to be carefully balance so that the amount of oils is just enough irritation to cause plumping while the Vaseline helps soothe the sting. Too much oil in the mix could leave lips painfully inflamed and even affect their function.

Puzzle Page 'Mazing Mathematics By The A-Maze-Ing Dr. Maths, Steve Humble During the British Science Festival 2013, ten mathematical mazes were placed around Newcastle. While the rainy weather might have discouraged a few logic lovers from quite literally getting stuck in the mazes, here’s one to try without leaving the coziness of home. The Rule Travel along the paths from the Start to the Finish, making no left turns along the way.

Quick Hint Ever forget which side is left or right? Sounds silly but sometimes it happens, especially if you’re in a hurry or flustered. Don’t worry. Just hold out your hands with your palms facing away and curl down your pinky, ring, and middle fingers. The hand where the thumb and forefinger make an L is your left hand. The hand not making an L is your not left hand (a.k.a. the right hand).


Listings WHAT



09 Nov-23 Feb




30 Nov-02 Mar


Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013


05 Dec

2:30 PM

The Ethnographic Collections of the North East


05 Dec

5:30 PM 6:30 PM

Richard Burton: the aspirant scholar


06 Dec

10:00 AM 5:00 PM

Public speaking masterclass with Dr Maggie AderinPocock MBE


06 Dec

10:30 AM 5:00 PM

The Future of Epidemiology: Biomarkers meet Populations


06 Dec

7:00 PM 8:00 PM

Shale Gas: Geology, Hype, Reality

07 Dec

11:00 AM 3:00 PM

Winter Festival


10 Dec

2:00 PM

The Parsons Auxetophone


14 Dec

5:55 PM

Met Opera: Falstaff


16 Dec

5:30 PM 6:30 PM

RSC 4th Annual Kilcoyne Christmas Public Lecture: A Pollutant’s Tale


22 Dec

3:00 PM

Bolshoi Ballet: Sleeping Beauty


21 Jan

5:00 PM 6:00 PM

Holmes Lectures for Children: Powering the world


22 Jan

5:00 PM 6:00 PM

Holmes Lectures for Children: Water - vital for life


23 Jan

5:00 PM 6:00 PM

Holmes Lectures for Children: Feeding the world


03-04 Mar

9:30 AM 4:30 PM

Practicalities of Cellular Analysis, ‘Omics & Informatics: Solving the Cellular Puzzle



LSC = Life Science Centre GNM = Great North Museum (Hancock) Event Exhibit Lecture Conference

TBS = The Blaydon Suite, Centre For Life CA = Curtis Auditorium, Herschel Building, Newcastle University TC = Tyneside Cinema LT1 = LT1, Bedson Building, Newcastle University DM = The Discovery Museum RB = The Research Beehive, Newcastle University

*! DISCLAIMER !* Apologies for the tardiness of this issue. Our Creative Director’s son arrived in the middle of the design process and threw everything into disarray! If you would like to make a complaint, please address it to Jacob Dawson (left) and we’ll be sure that he looks at it


Issue 4: In the Blink of an Eye