Monday, March 31, 2014

losing our mobility

With the general resurgence of various nationalist and rightwing movements across Europe, which will probably have a significant impact on the European elections in May, there is the risk that we may lose mobility, which will also cause problems for science. My latest feature, written after the Swiss referendum on "mass immigration" takes a closer look at what's at stake.

New barriers to mobility in Europe?

Current Biology Volume 24, Issue 7, pR257–R259, 31 March 2014


Free access to full text and PDF download

... and now also with buttons for easy tweeting and sharing !

Friday, March 28, 2014

buskers in Oxford

I've come to realise in recent years that we have an amazing busking scene here in Oxford. There are quite a few artists and bands whose music I really love and whom I discovered in the streets of Oxford, and from quite a few I also bought CDs:

So as a new series on this blog, I will start introducing some of my favourite buskers. Starting with flamenco fusion band Fernando’s kitchen, who I saw a few years ago. They aren’t regulars on the Oxford scene, as they are based in London and Cambridge, so I’ve been extremely lucky to bump into them.

Since then, they have brought out a couple of new CDs which I ordered off their website. In fact, I also bought the cajón (which is the background for the CDs photo above) because of them. Percussionist and singer Heidi Joubert teaches cajón lessons on YouTube and in real life and by now also sells her own brand cajóns.

As I understand it, FK are consciously remaining independent of music labels and selling and promoting their own music, so the best way to get it is through their website (unless, of course, you're lucky enough to find them playing in the streets of London or Cambridge).

NB: Anybody wanting to join the vibrant Oxford busking scene needs a busking pass from the Oxford City Council, application details here. See also the code of practice and the map of the nine official busking spots here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

shakira - the eponymous album

It's a gift for anybody who loves the word "eponymous" as much as I do :) Seriously though, as I'm playing the album for the 5th time, here are my first impressions:

Having followed Shakira's output for nearly 15 years now, I expect nothing less than brilliance from her releases in Spanish but anticipate the English ones with some trepidation. Conflicts between the artist's vision and the label's views on commercial viability have obviously damaged past English releases. Considering this, the self-titled album is surprisingly good. All the eccentricities we've come to expect from her are firmly in place. The only obvious input from the sales guys is the duet with Rihanna, but as I like both the collaborator and the track, I'm fine with that. (I'm even ok with the football anthem.) Prick up your ears for the slower, more sensitive numbers, including cut me deep, 23, and broken record.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

colombian gold

I have fond memories of the gold museum (museo del oro) in Bogota, Colombia, which I visited back in 2000, so I was pleased to see that the Colombian gold came for a return visit to the UK, for the exhibition Beyond El Dorado at the British Museum which runs until March 23rd, i.e. Sunday.

I saw the exhibition in combination with the recent panel discussion on Colombia's resources, and took this opportunity to write a feature on Latin America's resources more generally, also covering Ecuador's oil:

Latin America’s resources: Blessing or curse?

Current Biology, Volume 24, Issue 6, R209-R211, 17 March 2014 doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.054

free access to full text and PDF download

This pendant, made in pre-Columbian times from the gold alloy tumbaga, is one of the objects displayed at the British Museum during the exhibition of Colombian gold artefacts, which runs until March 23rd. (© Museo del Oro – Banco de la República, Colombia.)

Thursday, March 06, 2014

fertiliser challenges

oooops, looks like I forgot to announce the publication of my feature on the challenges surrounding the fertiliser elements phosphorus and nitrogen:

Fertile Ground?

Chemistry & Industry January 2014, pp 24-27

Full text - free access

In the same issue of C&I I also have a review of the book:

The bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon and our gamble over Earth's future, by Paul Sabin

which appears on pp 50-51 (restricted access)

Monday, March 03, 2014

life on Mars

Planet Mars is in the focus of planetary research like never before. The rovers Opportunity and Curiosity as well as three separate orbiters are providing us with clues to the present and past condition for life of the red planet, while people at the non-profit company Mars-One are preparing for the future of life on Mars in the shape of human colonies.

To me the most mindboggling aspect of the whole story is the fact that Opportunity is still operating after 10 Earth years on Mars, while the computers used to guide its trip there must by now be all dead and buried.

Anyhow, read all about it in today's issue of Current Biology:

The past and future habitability of planet Mars

Current Biology, Volume 24, Issue 5, R175-R178, 3 March 2014 doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.02.029

Free access to full text and PDF download

A selfie of the rover Curiosity produced shortly after landing. By combining several takes, the editing removed the camera arm from the final mosaic image. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems.)

For background info, see Astrobiology - a brief introduction, 2nd ed., which describes the state of the field just before Curiosity landed.