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React Magazine


@react_magazine Hello everyone,

1 Science Hero: Charles Algernon Parsons by Elspeth K. Ritchie 2 NCL News by Claire Tweedy 3-4 NCL Research: Life after Graduation by Ruth Rowland-Jones 5-6 NCL Research: NEPG 2014 by Laura Kay and Sarah Billington 7-8 NCL Research: Extreme Mining: Too Far into the Beyond? by Penelope Polson 9 -10 Science Hack Day by Gesa Junge 11-12 Issue Theme: Life after Death; Body, Tissue and Organ Donation by Nicole Ong 13-14 Issue Theme: Body Disposal by Alice Johnson 15 Opinion Piece: Sex, Drugs & Rock’n’roll by Marco Silipo 16 SciFi: End of the Story by Juliana Heather 17 Lollapaloozalogy by Elspeth K. Ritchie 18 ‘Mazing Mathematics by Steve Humble a.k.a Dr Maths 19 Body Worlds: Vital by Calum Kirk 20 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 are back with issue 6! Sorry it took us a while; we have made some changes which will mean that from now on we’ll publish issues at the start of each semester rather than the end of each term. This will give you all more time to read the magazine as well as relax deadlines for contributors. In this issue, we have decided to take a look into the future and focus on the theme of “What lies beyond”. On page 11 and 13, we take look at what happens to our bodies after we die and all the options you have. If you are more concerned with the more immediate future, go to page 3 for an insight into the world after graduation, or read all about the NEPG conference on page 5 for some more inspiration on career choices. Or, if you’d rather not think about that right now (we completely understand), check out the articles on the future of mineral mining (page 7) and the questions of whether or not you can be too old to become a great scientist (the answer is

no, you will be relieved to see – page 16). We have also been out and about to give you first-hand accounts of the Body Worlds: Vital exhibition at the Life Science Centre (page 20) and the Sparks North East hack day (page 15). Our regular puzzle sections are of course also present, as is the science profile. Lastly, we are always looking for new contributors – editing, writing, illustrating or just helping out with distribution, whatever takes your fancy, we would love to hear from you. We would also like to thank everyone for keeping {react} going throughout two years. We have recently been awarded funding by the university Postgraduate Innovation Fund to keep us going for at least one more year and this would not have been possible without your support, both as contributors and readers. We hope you enjoy this issue! Calum and Gesa

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 December 2014, 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.

The Team EDITORS: Elspeth K. Ritchie, Gesa Junge, Calum Kirk SUB EDITORS: Alexander Giffen, Holly Holmes, Alice Johnson, Michael Savage, Holly White


NEWS EDITOR: Clare Tweedy

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




Science Hero: Charles Algernon Parsons by Elspeth Ritchie

UK to Move to Forefront of Genetic Research

Charles Algernon Parsons may not be a household name, but the world would likely be very different with his contributions to engineering, turbine design, and perhaps even marketing.

An extensive genome sequencing project to improve disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment was announced on 01 Aug 14 by Genomics England, who will run the project. Backed by a £300 million investment, the project will compare the genomes of patients with cancer and a number of rare diseases with those of healthy individuals to identify genetic differences which may provide novel targets for tests or drugs.

Born in 1854, Parsons spent his childhood being

privately tutored along with his brothers. After studying mathematics at Trinity College Dublin and Cambridge, Parsons joined W. G. Armstrong & Co., an engineering firm producing hydraulic machinery in Elswick. Joining the company was unusual not only because Parsons joined as an apprentice but also because he was the son of William Parson, an astronomer and the third Earl of Rosse in Ireland. After moving to Leeds to work on rocket‑powered torpedoes with Kitsons & Co., Parsons returned to the North East to join Clarke, Chapman & Co., who can still be found in Gatesheads as art of Langley Holdings Limited. In 1884, Parsons developed a steam turbine and an electrical generator. Together these produced a relatively cheap source of electricity with a drastically improved output and revolutionised marine transport. The first ship powered by Parsons’ steam turbine was the Turbinia, which was built in Wallsend by a firm called Brown and Hood. Despite some initial obstacles with the propellers such as discovering cavitation (the formation of “bubbles” or “voids” in a liquid which can cause damage) and then creating a solution to this newly discovered phenomenon, the Turbinia was successfully launched. Able to reach over 34 knots (63 km/h), the Turbinia was the “North Sea greyhound”. It wasn’t enough for the Turbinia to excel in trials. Parsons and company decided to wow the crowds by showing up unannounced at the

1897 Spithead Navy Review celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and started racing the other boats present. Historical records don’t state whether the Turbinia ramped a jump Dukes of Hazzard-style while evading the Navy boat that tried to stop her, but we believe it would have left Queen Victoria very much amused. The marketing didn’t stop with publicity stunts. Parsons embraced new media developments by inviting photographer and cinematographer Alfred J. West to document the Turbinia’s unrivalled speed and power. Having caught the Admiralty’s interest, Parsons established the Turbinia Works in Wallsend to construct two turbine-powered destroyers, the HMS Viper and the HMS Cobra, which launched in 1899. By 1905 it was decided that all future Royal Navy vessels would use steam turbines. Soon after, the HMS Dreadnought was launched, a boat so revolutionary that previous generations of ships were declared obsolete. Parsons’ design wasn’t limited to warships. A year after appearing at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, the first turbine-powered merchant vessel was launched. It wasn’t long before Parsons’ turbine could be found in almost every class of ship from ferries to ocean liners. The ocean liner RMS Mauretania (sister ship to the infamous RMS Lusitania) set the unofficial record for fastest trans-Atlantic crossing (“The Blue Riband”) in 1909 and held onto it for 20 years thanks to her turbine engines. As the fourth item to be certified in the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers’ “Mechanical Engineering Heritage” program, Parson’s steam turbine is recognized around the world as the foundation for a new era of international travel and interaction that defined the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th. But you don’t need to travel to the Electric Power and Historical Museum in Yokohama to see a Parsons’ turbine engine. You can see one in Newcastle’s own Discovery Museum along with the Turbinia herself.


* Illustration by Will Burr

by Clare Tweedy

It is believed that around 100,000 human genomes will be mapped by 2017 with the results to be made available to scientists and drug companies for use in their research. With a large variability between individual cases of cancer, finding a common method of diagnosis is of increasing importance, in addition to the possible tailoring of treatment based on the specific mutations responsible for the disease.

Barnacle Glue May Help Explain Surface Adhesion Barnacle glue has long been unparalleled in strength by synthetic products with much to be learned from one of nature’s strongest glues. An international team led by Newcastle University has made progress in understanding how barnacle glue is so effective by imaging the adhesion process. The findings show that barnacle larvae produce droplets of oil to clear water before sticking to a surface, which may explain how barnacles overcome water barriers to attach to

surfaces. By understanding how barnacle glues naturally interact with a surface, synthetic versions can be developed for use in medical implants and engineering. It also allows for the developments to prevent this adhesion. The attachment of barnacles and other marine life on ships increases drag and costs the industry billions each year. The use of marine paint to prevent this adhesion could be improved through this research and potentially aid the shipping industry.

Raw Plant Oils Could Be Used to Power Off-Grid Homes A Newcastle University-led team has developed a novel system using raw plant oils to provide off-grid electricity. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the research enabled a small-scale dwelling to be powered through biofuels with the ultimate goal of minimising the amount of energy typically lost as heat. Instead, this heat was used to cool and heat the system in a process known as trigeneration, which is already used on a larger scale by

businesses. On a small-scale, the use of electricity can fluctuate greatly with the use of appliances, unlike the more stable need for heating and cooling. Storing and using waste energy for these purposes can improve the energy efficiency of an individual dwelling. It is hoped that the design will one day be available for commercial use, with the use of raw plant oils providing a sustainable method to run the system.

Folic Acid Study May Impact Flour Fortification Recent research from Newcastle University suggests that folic acid may not be processed in the same way as the natural form of folic acid, folate. The vitamin is understood to prevent neural tube defects in embryos, amongst other benefits. Most commonly ingested via green vegetables and metabolised in the gut, 86% of folic acid was found to be un-metabolised in blood samples from the hepatic portal vein (which carries blood from the gut to the liver), compared to the majority

of the natural folate being metabolised. The fortification of flour with folic acid is a current issue of debate in the UK. A number of countries, including the USA, have already introduced mass folic acid fortification in food products. This research may begin to suggest that an alternate source of folate may be required for fortification, to ensure that the vitamin is metabolised efficiently, and that the body is treating it the same way as its natural counterpart.


NCL Research Life after University By Ruth Rowland-Jones First things first, congratulations to all of you about to reach the end of your undergraduate degree! It was a tough ride. You likely had your ups and downs, but you are nearly there. Spirits are high, celebrations are being planned, and you are excited about the future and finally finishing your exams. But what’s next? Suddenly the excitement turns to nerves and the dreaded realization occurs: What do I do now? There was probably a plan in place for a lot of you. You did your A levels in math, science, and so on. You had to get certain grades to get into the university you applied for, to do the degree you wanted to do. It felt like years of your life have built up to that moment of leaving home and going to university. However, the three or four years you spend doing your degree fly by, which doesn’t quite seem fair. You may still have a plan that extends beyond your undergraduate degree. Perhaps you want to continue in academia and do postgraduate study? Or maybe your plan is to go straight into industry? Or perhaps you’re so sick of the course you’ve done that you want out and are looking at other options. It is possible that you have no clue what you want to do or how you go about getting to a certain point. It’s normal to feel a little lost, not knowing which avenue you should take. What seemed fairly straight forward at school now feels like a maze – lots of options to take, unsure what is around the corner, and not knowing if the route you take is the correct one. This feature goes through some (but definitely not all!) of the options available, focussing on the opinions of people who took a range of routes and ended up in different areas of science and engineering.


The first thing to consider is whether you want to continue on to postgraduate study. Many people will be put off of continuing at university after finishing their first degree. They want to reach out and finally start their careers in the ‘real world’. One person I spoke to said that they felt they needed a break from studying and wanted to go and earn some money. They decided to leave university after getting their BSc and started work as a scientist in industry. The initial plan was to work for a few years, get some industrial experience, and then perhaps go back to university to do a PhD after. After five years in a large pharmaceutical company, they moved to a contract manufacturing organisation and have never looked back. The advice they were given is that to carry out a PhD, you really need to have drive and motivation. They enjoy their job, have good future career prospects, and have found that their career has not been hindered by only having a Bachelor’s degree as experience is just as valued, if not more so.

working in industry, for example, management of an enterprise and innovation and intellectual property. Perhaps there is a happy a medium after all. “I would say the industrial experience has been invaluable and given me a real commercial awareness that I may not have gained on a more traditional PhD.” What are the options after completing a doctorate? There is a notion that the natural progression from a PhD is to stay in academia, which once again people can shy away from. Two people were interviewed and asked what they did or plan to do after completing their doctorates, neither of which stayed in academia. One of them carried out a PhD in chemical engineering after their BSc and Master’s in Chemistry. Now they are working in Oil and Gas and say: “I always wanted to work in Industry. I prefer the drive you get from a commercial background to achieve things that have real world applications.”

Others, however, argue whether having one degree is enough. With so many going to university and obtaining a good degree, a number of people have found that one degree isn’t sufficient to stand out from the crowd, especially in science. They have found that a postgraduate degree or increased experience enhances their possibility to get a good job at the end of it.

This shows that you are not limited to academia by carrying out a PhD. Another person who carried out the EngD, which is perhaps more geared-up for a career in industry has decided to move into the legal arena and will start training as a patent attorney in the coming months. This particularly demonstrates that if anything a doctorate opens more doors rather than labels you in one particular role.

“After looking for a job with a Master’s degree I found I could earn similar money and obtain a higher degree by completing a PhD. Now I have it I have better job prospects.”

This feature has hopefully highlighted that yes, it may feel like a maze, but that there are many options you can take, many people you can ask advice from, and most importantly, you are not limited to one route. You may start off on one path, but you have plenty of opportunities to change your mind, to take the skills you developed in a role and apply them to something different.

For those of you who do not want to stay at university any longer but feel they need this additional experience, there is also an option to carry out an Engineering Doctorate (EngD), which combines research with industrial training. The research is carried out in collaboration with a company and is based full-time in industry. Taught modules are carried out alongside the research to give a more rounded knowledge of

When asking one person if, in hindsight, they wish they had done something different, their answer was simply: “No, everything you do leads you to where you are.” To end this piece, here are few words of advice from people who have already made these choices and come out the other end: “Gain as much practical experience as possible, such as summer placements, year in industry etc. The unfortunate reality is there is an oversupply of graduates (less in science and engineering). This makes securing a job very difficult so you need to stand out by having that something extra.”

“Work hard, but study what you enjoy!”

“Only do something you love, or have a moral interest in, there will be no other motivation to keep going at many times in your career.

*Illustration by Hannah Scully


North East Post Graduate Conference 2014 by Laura Kay and Sarah Billington Interested in a career in research? Whatever area of science you’re interested in, here’s one word you’ll hear from the word go: conference. Ah, conferences! Conferences can be scary things, regardless of whether you’re a complete newbie or a conference veteran. If you’re an MRes, PhD or perhaps even just an undergraduate student interested in research, we believe the North East Postgraduate Conference (NEPG) has something for you. From practising those ‘networking skills’ you hear so much about, to presenting to a relaxed crowd or even just easing yourself into the conference scene, the NEPG caters for postgraduate students of all levels. This year, we’re hoping to be bigger and

better than ever. We’ll be at Newcastle Civic Centre on October 31st, just 5 minutes’ walk from Newcastle University. So whether you want a chance to present your research, attend scientific and careers talks or simply meet new peers whilst grabbing a free lunch (yep, free!), why not come along and join us?

What is the NEPG? The NEPG was established in 2005, with the hope of creating a conference for postgraduate students, by postgraduate students. The idea of the original committee was to create a relaxed space for students to communicate their research and meet new peers without the pressure of supervisors or other senior scientists hanging around. The initial conference proved a success and now the NEPG is in its 9th year running.


* Image courtesy of NEPG

What’s in it for me? Whether you’ve got research you’d like to show off or if you’ve never attended a conference before, we believe NEPG has something for everyone. You’ll get a free conference pack when you arrive and a free lunch is provided in the early afternoon. There are opportunities for oral or poster presentations, but also a whole range of amazing talks for those who aren’t quite ready or simply don’t wish to present. As always, biosciences companies will be around to chat about any questions or issues you may have and the conference is a great way to meet people! We’ve got a whole range of sessions planned for different disciplines across the medical and biosciences sectors and in addition, we’ve also got careers workshops planned: something for everyone!

Is it really free? Yes, absolutely! Thanks to kind financial support from our sponsors, the NEPG is completely free to register and attend. You’ll also get a free lunch and conference pack.

What kind of people go to NEPG? NEPG is for postgraduates, by postgraduates. Most of our delegates are MRes and PhD students. Last year, over 450 postgraduates registered from 9 different universities across the UK. This year, we’re welcoming postgraduates from as far as Lancaster, Sheffield, Glasgow and Leeds. Just 5 minutes’ walk from Newcastle University, the conference is a great way to meet researchers from across the North of the UK and find out about the exciting research being undertaken in other institutions.

How do I register?

Are there any keynote speakers planned? This year, we’re honoured to have Dr Mark Prescott joining us. Head of Research and Policy at The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), Dr Prescott trained as a zoologist and has over 20 years of research experience in primatology. Author of over 35 articles on the behaviour, care and use of nonhuman primates, Dr Prescott serves on several key advisory and ethical review boards nationally and internationally. He will be delivering a talk regarding the important work and impact of NC3Rs, entitled “The future’s bright – the future’s 3Rs”. We also have two other exciting keynote speakers lined up, but we’re keeping them a surprise for now. Keep an eye on our website ( to find out more!

What do postgraduates think about the conference? The NEPG generally receives a lot of positive feedback from attendees. Here’s a bit of feedback we got for NEPG 2013:

Registering or submitting an abstract is easy. Go to and click ‘register to attend’. Registration closes on Friday 26th September 2014 and spaces are limited, so you’re encouraged to register as soon as possible. Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity!

Anything else? You can keep updated by following us on Twitter @NEPG2014 or liking us on Facebook (search for ‘NEPG 2014’). You can also keep up-to-date by regularly checking our website: We look forward to welcoming you to Newcastle Civic Centre this October! The North East Postgraduate Conference (NEPG) 2014 will be held at Newcastle Civic Centre on Friday 31st October 2014. If you have any specific questions or are interested in helping out on the day, please feel free to email the team at:

The NEPG conference is a really great way for students from the North East to network. It was really good to find out what other research is going on in the area and meet people doing similar research in a friendly environment.” “The NEPG was a really useful opportunity to hear about the research of my peers both here at Newcastle and at other universities. I was impressed by the high standards of both posters and presentations and came away with a few ideas for my own project.” “I would definitely like to participate and present my work in the NEPG conference next year, as I found this to be a platform of high repute, and interaction should be encouraged more among the scientists on future research direction.

NCL Research


NCL Research

Asteroid mining

Extreme Mining: Too Far into the Beyond? by Penny Polson The demand for precious metals is increasing as our thirst for smart phones, tablets and other innovations reliant on specific raw materials become more common in our society. A large amount of raw materials used in such technologies are found within Chinese borders, which drives other countries to find new ways to ensure their own supply for future generations. But are we going too far into the beyond when considering extracting these products from the deep ocean and outer-space? Deep Sea Mining Veins of gold, zinc, copper and other precious metals run through two different types of deep ocean habitats: hydrothermal vents, and manganese nodules. Hydrothermal vents occur along boundaries of tectonic plate movement, where fractures created in the ocean crust bring water down below, where it gets super-heated and then forced back to the surface of the ocean floor. This creates the iconic ‘smoking chimneys’, which warm the water around them and support chemosynthetic life (organisms that use sulphur, instead of sunlight, to create energy). Manganese nodules form with much less flourish. They slowly accumulate at a rate of up to 1-2cm over a millennia, meaning that once they are destroyed, humans will never see them develop


Image courtesy of wikipedia commons

again. Their hard surface plays an important role in the deep water ecosystem (see fact box below). Similar negative environmental issues which result from deepwater oil drilling are also associated with deep sea mining. The surrounding rock which has no economic value may be discarded around the area, smothering organisms and clogging the fragile filter feeding systems of some invertebrates. The drill head also needs to be lubricated with chemicals which may have a polluting effect on the ecosystem. On the other hand, there are convincing arguments amongst the scientific community about how great an impact mining will have on the deep sea community. For example, hydrothermal vents may only last 40-50 years before dispersing, while new vents consistently appear along the volcanic fault line. Therefore, some scientists argue the effects on these communities from mining will be minimal, as they commonly come and go, along with their associated communities. Despite this conflict, deep water mining has begun off the coast of Papua New Guinea and is being observed with great interest by both the scientific community and companies who have not yet taken the plunge into mining raw materials from the deep ocean.

Why do deep ocean habitats matter? The ocean floor is a vast expanse of soft mud. Hard surfaces provided by manganese nodules and hydrothermal vents create rare habitable space for sessile (non-moving) organisms to settle, which in turn support communities of swimming organisms around them. Anemones, barnacles and tube worms don’t sound like spectacular organisms, but every animal group is important in the ocean ecosystem, especially in the deep ocean where energy is assimilated by either consuming what little has managed to drift down from the surface, or been created by chemosynthesis.

Unlike deep sea mining, asteroid mining is an idea still high in the sky, with no practical applications being attempted so far. But Earth’s precious metals are likely to have originated from asteroid impacts, so there is value in considering going straight to the source. Asteroids orbiting near our planet contain rich deposits of precious metals. They can be categorised into the following types, depending on the composition of their elements:

S-Type are most abundant in metals, which include precious gold and platinum, and more common cobalt and nickel. C-Type is the most common asteroid type, and is composed of a significant amount of water. While this means they have a lower commercial benefit for precious metal enterprises, water is still a useful element to find in space, especially when considering breaking inter-planetary missions. M-Type are much less common than those listed above, but contain a higher proportion of metals. Due to the hazardous nature of working in space, prospective mining company Planetary Resources (which have the financial backing

of James Cameron) are investigating asteroid mining using robots. However, it is not immediately clear whether there would be an economic benefit to spending vast amounts of money on technology to bring limited amounts of precious metals back to Earth. While precious metal prospects look good for mining on S-Type asteroids orbiting Earth, the initial drive to mine asteroids seems to be for the use of C-Type asteroids, for hydrogen and oxygen to be used to refuel rocket ships during long haul rocket flights and to destinations such as Mars. This concept is certainly forward thinking, where they are predicting a new space age for humankind in upcoming decades – enough to make it worth their while installing a ‘gas station’ for the rocket ships to refuel along the way.

Should we go there? Deep ocean mining has clear unknown environmental consequences, while asteroid mining appears to be leaning towards rocket refuelling to begin with, and moving onto precious metals in the following decades. It is important to understand that the demand for precious metals is not just found in our smart phones and tablet devices. Many innovative green technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells and solar panels contain such raw materials, which creates an interesting dilemma when weighing up environmental cost versus benefit. We may decimate deep ocean ecosystems, or introduce excess carbon into the atmosphere with increasing rocket trips, but in turn we may gain resources that will increase our environmental friendliness.

It is therefore difficult to establish whether extreme mining is too far into the beyond. If the beyond leads to a cleaner future, with less human impact on the environment as our population continues to expand, then that can only be good. But if unique ecosystems are sacrificed in the process, it questions what types of environments will be left to protect.

Illustration by Hannah Scully


Scince Hack Day by Gesa Junge If you haven’t a clue what a hack day is, don’t worry - you are not alone. Most of us at the Sparks Northeast “Science Collider” hack day weren’t sure what to expect at first. However it turned out that the concept was actually quite simple: Take a set of scientific data and turn it into something cool within some time limit, usually 24 hours. Hack days have traditionally been based around civic or government data and involved graphic designers and developers. They are becoming more popular in other fields, too, as they are great for making scientific data available and accessible to the general public. In fact, the first ever issue of {react} (the unpublished Issue 0) was created at a hack day two years ago! For the Sparks Northeast event, there were no restrictions on based on participants’ background or the sort of projects they could develop, which made it a fantastically interesting two days. Teams of up to four could be formed from people who had never met in their lives with each person bringing a different skill set to the table. That is probably the most important feature of a hack day: a good mix of people and skills. The datasets provided were similarly diverse, ensuring there would be something for everyone. These ranged from numeric data generated

in experiments such as measures of neuronal activity in crabs or step counts, to microscopy images and information about cancer provided by Cancer Research UK. So what does one make of those datasets? Data from Cancer Research UK was used in the winning project “Talking Web”, a voice-controlled app to access information and read out to the user. Electrophysiology crab data became “Stefano the Crab”, a model illustrating the nerve circuits in a crab by changing sounds depending on the nerve firing which the user can alter by pressing the “add dopamine” button.

Several additional workshops were available during the weekend outside the 24 hack. Participants could take part for a change of scenery, a break from the project, or just because it’s really good fun to turn a webcam into a microscope (it actually works), learn about communicating through science comics or have your arm controlled by a Spikerbox, a DIY neuroscience kit.

There were a lot of different and interesting ideas that came out of 24 hours as the data inspired creative thinking. Some were health care-related or educational projects such as an app to help people reach their recommended 10,000 steps goal. There was a quiz-type game to help better convey information on cancer and an advertising campaign to improve detection of lung cancer or information on cancer support.

Winners From left to right: Jannetta Steyn (Chaos Genome), James Rutherford, Janine Fenton (Stefano the Crab), Phil Hayton (Crab Synth), Brian Degger (Stefano the Crab), Jonathan Hamilton (Talking Web), Shelly Knotts (Stefano the Crab) Ashleigh Herriot, Holger Ballweg (Stefano the Crab) The Organisers: James Rutherford, Ashleigh Herriot

Others leaned towards more creative activities. “Crab Synth” generated music based on the electric firing of neurons. A set of sensors personalised a microscope image based on a person’s biometric data, while “Chaos Genome” was a visual representation of different mutations in the breast cancer gene BRCA1. All in all, between the workshops, the hacking, playing with data, and the really fun and surprisingly relaxed atmosphere (nobody seemed to mind the time pressure!), it was a brilliant event. A number of projects will be showcased at the Centre for Life later this year, so keep an eye out for those. Also, if you think a hack day is something you might enjoy, follow @ SparksNorthEast on Twitter!


* Images courtesy of Gesa Junge and Samuel Hawksby-Robinson


Issue Theme Life After Death: Tissue, Organ, and Body Donation by Nicole Ong Death is a topic we rarely discuss. Why? Is it because we fear the unknown? Or is it because we are still young? In order for us to consider tissue, organ and body donation, we need to give death, or more specifically life after death, some thought and be informed in this area. It is only then will we be able to change our attitudes on this important issue. There are two main types of organ donation, the first being living donations and the latter being deceased donations. Living donations are further classified into four other categories which are as follows: 1) Directed donation A form of donation where a healthy person donates their organ to a specific recipient which whom they have a genetic or pre-existing emotional relationship. 2) Directed altruistic donation A form of donation being directed to a specific individual where there is no qualifying genetic or pre-existing emotional relationship between the donor and recipient. 3) Non-directed altruistic donation A form of donation where a healthy person donates an organ to someone they have never met and are not known to them. 4) Paired and pooled donation A form of donation where a healthy donor is unable to donate because they are either incompatible with their recipient, or prefer a better match. They may then have their donor organs swapped with another donor and recipient in the same situation such as in the National Living Donor Kidney Sharing Schemes. In situations where more donors are involved it is a paired donation and where more than two pairs are involved it is a pooled donation.

Why are tissue, organ and body donation important? The increased incidence of vital organ failure worldwide has risen significantly in the past decade, thus increasing the demand for tissue and organ transplantation. However, the low number of tissue and organ donors and the scarcity of organs appropriate for transplantation have led to a tissue and organ shortage crisis. Patients in need of tissue and organ transplantation are usually very ill or dying as one or more of their own organs is failing. They range from babies and children through to older people. By receiving a tissue or organ transplantation, their lives could be saved lives and more often, their lives could be greatly improved. By donating your organs after you die, you can save or improve as many as 50 lives. In the case of body donations, body donors could contribute to anatomy, the study of the structure of the human body which is one of the most important courses in the education of healthcare professionals. Besides being used for teaching, donated bodies are used in the development of new surgical procedures, such as plastic surgery procedures like flap reconstruction for burn victims, surgical approaches to various internal organs, and many other surgical and medical procedures by research physicians. At the rate at which medical science is advancing, it is increasingly necessary for physicians and other biomedical scientists to conduct special anatomical studies and research. By agreeing to be a body donor, we will play an important role in helping healthcare students to master the complex anatomy of the human body and will provide researchers with the essential tools to help patients of tomorrow. In conclusion, becoming a tissue, organ or body donor is a major decision. But if one chose to become a donor, the impact one would have on either the life of a patient or in the advancement of medical science will most definitely be significant. As medical or science students,


we are constantly relying on the generosity of people for our education and thus we of all students are most likely to be able to understand the importance of such donations. Therefore, shouldn’t we help shoulder the responsibility of breaking the misconception of the public on tissue, organ and body donation and inspire others along the way?

What is tissue, organ and body donation? Tissue Donation

The donation of tissue such as corneas, cartilage and heart valves to a living recipient.

Organ Donation

The donation of an organ or organs of the human body, from a living or dead person to living recipients.

Body donation

The donation of the whole body after death for research and education.

Factors stopping us from tissue, organ and body donation

# Most of the information on tissue, organ and body donation is learnt passively by the public through social-media channels, i.e. television, newspapers, and magazines. Therefore misconceptions are easily made as the information they provide are rarely adequate. The common misconceptions are listed below: 1) Doctors would not work as hard to save the life of a tissue, organ and body donor. The primary duty of a doctor is to save your life. Therefore they are legally and ethically obligated to maintain life to the best of their ability. 2) Tissue and organ extraction happen in patients that might still be alive. An individual must be clinically deceased from brain or cardiac death before any form of posthumous organ donation can proceed. This is determined by two independent senior doctors. 3) Tissue and organ donors might not be able to have an open casket funeral. It will not be physically evident to family and friends after donating tissues and organs as your body is treated with the upmost respect by staff.

Statistics of donations in the UK (between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014) Tissue donation

Cornea transplant: 3,724 people had their sight restored

Organ donation

4,655 organ transplants were carried out from 2,466 donors. From these transplants, • 1,328 lives were saved • 3,301 patients lives were dramatically improved

Figures for each type of organ transplant: o o o o o o

4) There is an age and health limit to tissue, organ and body donations The decision of determining the use of the tissues, organs and bodies of donors is based on strict medical criteria, not age. 5) Rich and famous people get priority for tissue and organ donations Identity or social status is not taken into consideration when determining if the patient is a candidate for transplant. The factors that are taken into account for instance are the amount of time on the waiting list, organ match and perceived benefit from transplantation.

Kidney - 3,257 Pancreas - 261 Heart - 206 Lung - 218 Liver - 924 Bowel - 26

Illustration by Hannah Scully


Issue Theme Body Disposal by Alice Johnson Regardless of whether or not there is life after death, the fact remains that we leave behind a body. In 2012, a staggering 56 million people were estimated to have died worldwide. Disposing of such a huge amount of bodies is a daunting prospect, especially when the world’s population is still rising. Consequently, we are faced with the problem of what to do with all the bodies. Fortunately for us, although the carcasses may be piling up, technology and innovation are also on the rise.

well as featuring in numerous Body Worlds exhibitions and starring in one of the latest James Bond films (Casino Royale), your body could go on to teach future doctors and surgeons, contribute to important scientific research and act as a diagnostic aid for disease. In addition to whole body plastination, whole organs, blood vessels, slices of brain tissue and other areas of interest can be plastinated. Sheet plastination is where slices of the body are preserved, so anatomy can be clearly observed, even studied at a microscopic level. According to von Hagens, he came up with the idea for this process by watching a butcher slicing meat… Creepy! What am I waiting for? Sign me up! You can sign up too at en/plastinarium_e/body_donation.html.

One of the most interesting – and in my opinion, one of the bravest – ways of donating your body to science is to have it plastinated. Plastination is a fascinating method of body preservation, which involves replacing the entire content of the soluble fats and body liquid that remain within the corpse with reactive polymers. This technique prevents decay by removing the fuel which putrefying bacteria feed on. It was invented by Gunther Von Hagens at the Anatomical Institute of Heidelberg University in 1977. The process can take up to 1500 working hours per body. Therefore, plastination scientists can spend an entire year preparing a specimen for exhibition.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, instead of committing to having your body preserved and potentially immortalised on film for evermore, why not donate your corpse to a body farm? The Anthropological Research Facility in Knoxville, Tennessee is one of the leading forensic research centres in the world. The facility consists of a large number of rotting bodies at varying stages of decay, strewn across roughly two acres of land. Aside from creating a gruesome setting for a horror film, the research centre also provides forensic scientists with a fantastic environment for controlled scientific study. If you donate your body here, you will be contributing to the study of decomposition, allowing scientists to learn how to determine the explicit nature and time of death. Factors used to derive this information include gross morphological transition, skin blackening and maggot growth. Feeling queasy?

Once these specimens have undergone the plastination process, they can be used to contribute to science in a variety of ways. As


Illustration by Hannah Scully

Let’s move on. However, if it does sound appealing, you can bequeath your body at: Thirdly, if you’re anything like me, you won’t want to leave university. Donating your body to your university medical school after you die means that you don’t have to! An eternal student, imagine that? Well, at least until the medical students have finished cutting you to pieces… Amongst other things, your body will help teach future surgeons how to operate; contribute to the research behind the anatomy of the brain, leading to new thoughts and theories on consciousness as well as potentially contributing to cures for illnesses such as Alzheimer’s; and educating medical students on how the human body works. Consequently, if you’re brave enough to allow a class of keen youngsters examine your dead, naked corpse, then go and bequeath your body right away at http://www.ncl.! Don’t like the idea of having your whole body donated? You could just donate your organs. Nowadays, you can even pick which organs you

would like to donate, so if you don’t like the idea of having your oculi removed, then you can eye up other options! Iris-pect that decision... By donating your organs, you could help transform the lives of seriously ill people and contribute to

our understanding of how organs function. If this takes your fancy, visit the NHS organ donation website at The aforementioned contributions that you can make to science are not for the faint hearted. If you’re looking for a less gory option, then maybe a Bios is the best thing for you. UrnaBios is a project started by Gerald Moliné in 1997, which intends to offer an alternative method of remembering the deceased. In my opinion, this method of disposing of the dead could play a huge part in improving the world ecologically. [HH3] The Bios is an urn made entirely from coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose, which are all biodegradable. The idea behind it is that your ashes provide nourishment for the growth of a tree, so your death gives birth to new life. Furthermore, the UrnasBios (https:// group are developing a new app so people can keep track of how much oxygen your tree will produce. Helping the environment one tree at a time!

The majority of today’s generation suffers from an existential crisis at least once in their lives. Instead of obsessing about the meaning behind our existence, maybe we should focus more on how we can contribute to science after we die. Nowadays there are numerous ways to deal with remains, and what could be a better dying wish than to give back to the World in some way? Illustration by Hannah Scully


Issue Theme

Opinion Piece

End of the Story by Juliana Heather

Sex, Drugs & Rock'n'Roll by Marco Silipo “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” is not just a song by Ian Dury. It is the stereotype of transgression, bad attitudes and nonconformity. Whoever fallows a “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” lifestyle is criticized for misbehaviour and an unhealthy lifestyle. However people might ignore that a scrupulous and clever “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” lifestyle is positively related to a number of physiological factors, which could result in a greater well-being and good mental health. Let’s take a look how this could be. Rock & Roll A music event provides an excellent

environment for connecting with new persons, and studies have shown that interacting with people can help prevent against cardiovascular diseases. While you may know oxytocin as “the love hormone”, it is also known as “the bonding hormone”. The release of oxytocin positively affects social behaviour and is responsible for empathetic behaviour. This in turn affects bonding between friends, parents, offspring and partners. You don’t need to go to a live event to benefit from rock and roll. Listening to enjoyable music stimulates the production of endorphins. Responsible for a blissful state of euphoria and improved happiness and calmness, endorphins are a good remedy against insomnia. Endorphins also boost the immune system, as well as protecting against heart attacks and ageing due to their antioxidant properties.

Drugs A century ago Cannabis was used for multiple purposes and was particularly noted for its sedative and analgesic effects. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a cannabinoid extracted from the leaves of the Cannabis family,


and it is responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. However cannabidiol (CBD), which can also be extracted from the plant’s leaves, deters the psychoactive effects of THC and, in fact, inhibits the toxic effects of THC. Not stopping with reducing effects from one drug, CBD was shown in one study to have protective functions against damage caused by alcohol consumption. CBD can help reduce anxiety and has antipsychotic properties leading some researchers to suggest the molecule a possible cure for schizophrenia. Blocking the production of specific proteins involved in the immune response and the action of cyclooxygenase 2 confers anti-inflammatory properties with investigations into possible use in breast cancer treatment yielding promising results. Multiple studies have supported Cannabis as a prospective therapy against chronic migraines. While other drugs such as LSD and psilocybin (extracted from magic mushrooms) have great analgesic and antiheadache properties, any potential medical usage is still controversial due to side effects.

Sex During intimate moments, high levels of oxytocin (yes, the love hormone returns) are produced. Thanks to antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties, this hormone power house has countless activities which influence many aspects of life. From regulating of erections in males to stimulating milk ejection during breast feeding, it can also raise pain thresholds due to anaesthetic and analgesic properties. At the end of the sexual intercourse the body produces also endorphins and prolactin. These substances further contribute to post coitus relaxation and bliss. You’re certain to find people happy to support the notion that sex is also good physical activity. However studies have shown that stressful and unhealthy lifestyles (dietary, smoking, or being sedentary) and obsessive usage of electronicdevises are all factors that, at present, negatively influence sexual desires.

In the late 19th century, 60% of physicists did their award-winning discoveries before they turned 40. Barely a century after that, only 19% achieved the same. Back to the original question, what if there was a Resolution in our society? Well, cosmic neutrinos might not have been discovered, since Raymond Davis did not finish his experiments until he was 80 years old. The wall of the Sistine Chapel would depict something other than Michelangelo’s Last Judgement. Not to mention that George Martin would never have a chance to complete his Chronicle of Ice and Fire! The world would certainly be different. And perhaps there’s no such thing as a Resolution in real life, but ageism, the discrimination of groups of people on the basis of their age does exist, and in many countries laws against Ageism are new or inexistent. Star Trek wasn’t the first to bring these matters to light. Rod Serling’s first draft for the pilot of The Twilight Zone was a story about a society where people are executed when they turn 60 due to their inability to contribute to society, but the network considered the plot too depressive and the episode was never filmed. A few years later, in 1967, William Nolan published “Logan’s Run” a book about a dystopian future in which equilibrium between consumption and production of resources is maintained by individuals reporting to execution when they turn 21. If that was the rule, not even Einstein’s Relativity would have made the cut! There has never been a law ordering people’s executions at a certain age. Science fiction has an element of exaggeration to it. But the great thing about science fiction is that thinking about these impossible (or at least, unlikely) scenarios makes us think about our own world. And in this In an effort to answer this question, Benjamin case, the conclusion is that Einstein was mistaken. Jones, of the Kellogg School of Management It’s not possible to establish “reasonable age” THESE COLUMNS ARE aSTILL JOINED scrutinised the lives of hundreds of Nobel Prize after which people don’t have anything more to TO THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE winners, focusing on their age at the time they contribute. There’s no such thing asWHOOPS being “too did the seminal work for their award-winning old” for science or anything else. Especially for life. discoveries. Not only did he find that scientific discovery is not a privilege of the young, but that the “age of invention” as he calls it, is on the rise. Stardate 44805.3. The Enterprise is assisting an alien scientist in testing what may be a way to revitalise his world’s dying sun. Accomplishing that before his death has been Timicin’s only wish. When the mission fails he’s inconsolable, because this was his only chance. As it turns out, Timicin is a few days away from turning 60, and in his world, whenever people reach that age they are expected to commit suicide, a ritual referred to as the Resolution. Timicin is expected to undergo the Resolution in spite of the possible catastrophic repercussions of the sudden termination of his work. In his own words, “alive he’s a greater threat to his world than a dying sun”. What if there was such a custom on Earth? Would things really be all that different? After all, Newton finished his theory of gravitation at 24, Einstein, his theory of Relativity at 26. It’s been suggested that science is young man’s game. In fact, Albert Einstein once stated that “A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so.” Can that be true?

* Illustration by Hannah Scully


An ology is a branch of learning. Chances are that if you’re at university, you’re studying an ology. But if by some chance you’ve managed to get in without studying anything, we have a few suggestions for you. As you’ve probably heard of the more commonly known ologies, such as biology, here’s a few lesser known ologies to whet your whistle. You just need to match them up first to find out what you’re studying.

A. Acarology 1. Horses B. Tropology 2. Writings of bathroom walls C. Areology 3. Disease classification D. Bromatology 4. Cave exploration E. Cynology 5. Death F. Desmology 6. Food G. Gerontology 7. Fermentation H. Heliology 8. Figures of speech I. Hippology 9. Ticks and mites J. Kymatology 10. Peace K. Metrology 11. Measurement L. Vexillology 12. Mars M. Nephology 13. Fruits N. Nosology 14. Mountains and their mapping O. Odonatology 15. Diet P. Tesgestology 16. Old age Q. Pomology 17. Flags R. Latrinology 18. Ligaments S. Thanatology 19. Waves and wave motions T. Selenology 20. Dragonflies and damselflies U. Sitiobiology 21. Sleep V. Somnology 22. Friction and lubrication W. Speleology 23. Clouds X. Irenology 24. The Moon Y. Tribology 25. Dogs Z. Zymology 26. The Sun

'Mazing Mathematics by Dr Maths

During the British Science Festival 2013, ten mathematical mazes were placed around Newcastle. Relive those heady days by completing the maze below (or at least attempting to complete it).

Find a path through the maze from Start to Finish. You must go over the coloured crosses in the following order: red-green-yellow, red-green-yellow, and so on.

Answers A9, B8, C12, D6, E25, F18, G16, H26, I1, J19, K11, L17, M23, N3, O20, P14, Q13, R2, S5, T24, U15, V21, W4, X10, Y22, Z7


Lollapaloozalogy by Elspeth Ritchie


Listings From now until the end of November, the Centre for Life is hosting “Body Worlds: Vital”, a version of the world renowned and phenomenally successful attraction which displays real human bodies. Donated by the individuals themselves specifically for the displays, each body has been preserved using a process called plastination. The technique was invented by Gunther van Hagen (creator of the exhibition) when he was an anatomy assistant. Plastination is a four step procedure which, put very simply, involves replacing the fat, liquid and bone of the human body with various molten polymers which are then allowed to set hard in the desired positions. This is a highly complex and time consuming technique (each full body specimen takes around 1500 hours to complete) but which retains the fine details of each specimen as well as allowing each specimen to be displayed in unique positions. Many of the displays at Body Worlds: Vital are in positions emulating sports or energetic activities such as running or playing a guitar, positions not possible using traditional preservation techniques and which are chosen for their educational potential. Education about the intricacies of the human body is the ultimate aim of all the Body Worlds exhibits. But there is of course controversy surrounding an exhibition which features displays which were at one time real people. Even still this is a highly worthwhile visit. So as someone who has personally been round the exhibit, let me briefly share my thoughts on why you should go to this exhibition. First, it’s not just skinless people on display. There are a number of full human bodies on display, but the majority of the exhibition is of individual organs. These organs are arguably more fascinating as they highlight specific body systems and disease states. For example, one display compared a healthy brain with one with brain damage following a stroke. While hand




Body Worlds: Vital by Calum Kirk crafted models may be just as educational, the detail in these specimens combined with the knowledge that these were real organ increases the impact of each display. This makes each much more memorable, to be pondered about and read up on later. Second, it’s not as gruesome as you might think. In fact I think that it’s fact that the displays look so much like sculptures, rather than real bodies, that it leaves a feeling of discomfort, rather than horror, upon first seeing them. Aspects such as colouration of the tissues are accurate to maintain their education potential, but it is clear even from behind glass that they’re plastic. So your eyes tell you their sculptures while your brain reminds you they were once people. The impossibility of some of the displays compounds the uncanny sensation. For example, there are displays showing just the blood vessels (the veins, arteries and capillaries) of an organ but retained in the same recognisable shape. The end result though is in fact truly quite beautiful. This brings me to my final thought. While the aim of Body Worlds is one of education, the artistic beauty of these displays cannot be over looked. The level of craftsmanship is incredible but this is the whole exhibition is also feels and is lit like an art gallery, while each display has a title related to its pose rather than the organ system it displays.

So whether it’s to learn more about the human body, to appreciate the craftsmanship of the pieces, the artistry or just plain old curiosity, I urge you to see this world renowned exhibition while it is here in Newcastle.


17 May- 30 Nov

BODY WORLDS Vital - The Exhibition of Real Human Bodies

20 Jul - 02 Nov

Lydia Gifford Art Exhibition


01 Aug - 11 Oct

Daniel Buren Art Exhibition


13 Sep - 31 Dec

Space: a Beginner’s Guide



07 Oct 14

1:00-2:00 PM Reclamation of hydrate inhibitors from subsea gas pipelines

08 Oct 14

1:15 PM

09 Oct 14

10 AM-11:30 World War One costume: Behind the scenes tour

15 Oct 14

6:00 PM

21 Oct 14

1:00-2:00 PM “Unravelling the complexity of catalytic kinetics: computational method development, applications and perspective”

Research Beehive

24 Oct 14

3:00-4:30 PM DLHE Report 2014 - What do our graduates do

King’s Gate L1.26

30 Oct 14

3:00-4:30 PM DLHE Report 2014 - What do our graduates do

King’s Gate L1.20

04 Nov 14

1:00-2:00 PM Design of dynamical behaviour in enzyme catalysed reactions

Research Beehive

14 Nov 14

3:00-4:30 PM Acdemic Rep Campaigns Training

18 Nov 14

1:00-2:00 PM “Dynamics of cells and deformable particles in flow - a modeller’s view”

19 Nov 14

3:00-4:30 PM Negotiation Skills Training

Posh Frocks & Tight Breeches: Jane Austen fact, fiction & fashion The History of Aerial Surveillance, by Arthur Dodds

1-2:00 PM

02 Dec 14

“High temperature solid looping cycles for efficient carbon capture and storage” Winter Graduation Ceremonies

02-04 Dec 14

Research Beehive Discovery Museum Discovery Museum Discovery Museum

Students’ Union Research Beehive Students’ Union Research Beehive Various

03 Dec 14

3:00-4:30 PM Presentation Skills Training

04 Dec 14

10-11:30 AM World War One costume: Behind the scenes tour

Discovery Museum

09 Dec 14

1:00-2:00 PM Polymers for Biomaterials

Research Beehive

Event Exhibit Seminar Conference

Students’ Union

LSC = Life Science Centre DM = The Discovery Museum RB = The Research Beehive, Newcastle University

Body Worlds: Vital runs from now until November 30th


{react} issue 6 "What lies Beyond"  

Issue 6 of {react} science magazine - science by Newcastle University students. In this issue, we have decided to take a look into the futur...

{react} issue 6 "What lies Beyond"  

Issue 6 of {react} science magazine - science by Newcastle University students. In this issue, we have decided to take a look into the futur...