Thursday, April 24, 2014


Continuing my series on musicians I've seen busking around here, PerKelt are a mediaeval/celtic fusion band mainly active in London and Oxford. They are playing lots of live gigs mainly in London and also pop around to play the Cornmarket Street open air circuit quite frequently.

The members are: Will Connor (percussions), Stepan Honc (guitar), Pavlina Bastlova (recorders, vocals).

They have two CDs out, which are both very popular in my household. More details on their official website.

Here's a recent concert video which they posted on YouTube: Quen a Omagen - Upstairs at the Castle

And here's my video of the band busking in the streets of Oxford (quite bad background noise, hoping to catch them at a better spot some time!): Tourdion.

A better street video: Ai Vist Lo Lop

PS: Coming soon - my video of another busker, with members of PerKelt shuffling around in the background, as they are waiting for their turn. That's how lucky we are, we have amazing musicians queuing up waiting to serve us!

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, April 15, 2014

origins of our species

Last month I attended a fascinating symposium on human evolution at Sitges, near Barcelona. I got the impression that the origins of our species are getting more complicated with all the new information coming in from genetic and archaeological finds. So my latest feature is called:

The complicated origins of our species

Current Biology Volume 24, Issue 8, pR295–R298, 14 April 2014

and it's on free access now until the next issue appears:

HTML text (with sharing buttons, hint, hint)

PDF download

Full moon rising over Sitges beaches and harbour (own photo).

Friday, April 11, 2014

prize coverage

I was recently awarded the GDCh Preis für Journalisten und Schriftsteller, that's the prize for journalists and authors from the German Chemical Society. This kind of thing is new to me, so I have no idea when where and how I should brag about it, but I'm guessing it might be useful to have an archive for the relevant press coverage, so here goes:

Chemistry Views magazine (10.3.2014)

Angewandte Chemie 2014, 126, 2570 (restricted access)

Angewandte Chemie Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 2536 (restricted access)

And I would never have found those three references if it hadn't been for the attention of chemists at my alma mater, the Phillipps Universität Marburg, who included them in their history brochure on page 21.

Articles connected to / motivated by the award:

Mein Weg zum Wissenschaftsjournalismus
Chemie in unserer Zeit 2014,48, 68-71 DOI: 10.1002/ciuz.201400659 [FREE access]

Es fehlt der wissenschaftliche Tiefgang
Nachrichten aus der Chemie 2014, 62, 750-752
An interview which the editors of Nachrichten conducted with me on the day after the award ceremony, referring back to some of the problems I addressed in my lecture.

photo of the event from the GDCh facebook page

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

sense and sensitivity

I've been following the work of Kevin Plaxco's lab on biosensors made from DNA aptamers since the beginnings, and last November there was a new breakthrough to report, the development of a sensor that can monitor the concentration of a target substance in real blood in real time.

I've taken this as an opportunity to write a feature on real time sensors which has now come out:

Biosensors in real time Chemistry & Industry 2014, Nr 4, pp 42-45
restricted access (but drop me a line if you want a pdf file)

In the same issue, I also have a review of the book Bioactives in Fruit:

The good fruit guide Chemistry & Industry 2014, Nr 4, p 51
restricted access (but drop me a line if you want a pdf file)

which is a good excuse to embed one of my foodporn photos:

Monday, April 07, 2014

sylva kay

In my new series on buskers I've seen in Oxford, here's a singer-songwriter whose work reminds me a bit of the 1990s (I hope she won't mind me saying), of people like Garbage and early Sheryl Crow. (It's got the right mix of stirring noisiness and quiet sensitivity for me, if that makes any sense at all.)

Sylva Kay is new on the Oxford scene, but is putting in a lot of appearances in Cornmarket Street, so with any luck Oxford based readers will have seen her or may find her soon.

She's got an album out called Undercut which you can buy as CD or vinyl LP from her or via her official website or check out on SoundCloud. No you can't borrow mine, because I play it every day.

On Saturday 5 April she played a proper indoors gig at the Wheatsheaf which was really lovely and hopefully the first of many at the wide range of venues we have here. You can find videos of the first three songs on my YouTube channel (see specific links below).

And I just discovered a short film from an earlier life of hers, when she lived in San Francisco. It's called Access every sparkle. Oh, and another video called Sylva's Sticks. During that time she was in a band that went through various reincarnations and name changes - a stomping collection of professionally produced recordings appears under the not very google-friendly name of "American City" on soundcloud.


A growing list of links (last update 26.6.2014):


PS something I love about pics of buskers is the complete randomness of shouty shop signs in the background, like the "change" in this one. There are a lot more of these to come in the series!

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.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

the unbearable lightness of party balloons

As befits the two months covering both carnival and April Fools day, the roundup of German pieces published in March/April includes an equal mix of serious and not so serious pieces. We find the unbearable lightness of party balloons, the equally unbearable inability of humans to handle antibiotics responsibly, quantum cubism, and the Microfluidic Electrochemical Detector for In vivo Continuous monitoring, or MEDIC, for short.

Aptamerensoren für kontinuierliche Bluttests
Chemie in unserer Zeit 2014,48, 88 DOI: 10.1002/ciuz.201400659 [abstract and limited access to full text]

See also my story in Chemistry World on the same topic: Free Access

Ausgeforscht: Die Leichtigkeit der Partyballons
Nachrichten aus der Chemie 2014, 62, 395

Ausgeforscht: Quanten-Kubismus
Nachrichten aus der Chemie 2014, 62, 495

Blickpunkt Biowissenschaften: Auf Resistenzen besser reagieren
Nachrichten aus der Chemie 2014, 62, 445-447