Wow! I think (at least some of) the Journalism undergrads at City University London enjoyed my talk on blogging. Frankly as ‘digital natives’ they probably know more about blogging and tweeting than I do, but I was happy to share my experiences with them and discuss how to blog as if you are already a professional journalist.
Forgot how much I loved teaching. Next stop (18-22 March): Bangladesh to speak with Environment Journalism MA students at Dhaka University about the future of environment journalism and getting their voices heard internationally.
Yay! My new feature for the Dana Foundation has gone up. It’s about using nanotechnology to treat brain cancer.
It is a compelling dream — to harness the abundant sunshine in an energy-deprived continent to fuel a better future for everyone. But African solar power researchers face many challenges. — Feature on African solar research published on SciDev.net
I wrote a blogpost for the Huffington Post on the Christmas “giving season”. It’s not a new idea (see the above image from 1902), but there are now more ways we can all get involved in giving - from mobile apps to giving circles. Philanthropy is no longer just for the super-rich of this world.
My latest story for SciDev.net, about a cool low-tech/high-tech fusion for future rapid diagnostics: multiplex test ‘chips’ made out of woven silk. Or as an interviewee suggested: “sari-nostics”.
Ever heard of a kind of snake that when it bites you, releases a neurotoxin so potent that it basically digests your nerve endings? Welcome to the Krait. I thought this was fascinating when I was doing my research for my latest news story for SciDev.net, about a new kind of rapid diagnosis dipstick test to identify the venom from different snakes if you have been bitten - the test for krait venom is under development.
Another fascinating fact is that 60-90 per cent of snake bites (dependant on region) don’t result in injection with venom. Not all snakes are venomous, of course, and even those that are can choose whether or not to release their venom - they might prefer to save their venom for a tasty morstel of mouse or rat.
This is shameless self-promotion. But it is really nice to receive feedback on your work, beyond what the click rate stats are. Are Storifies the future of science storytelling? It probably depends on the story you want to tell. It would be ace if the platform could source from journal papers - If only more of them were open access! But I suppose you can at least post up some cheeky PDFs at the risk of incurring some wrath from the gods of academic publishing.
Here is the tar sands Storify I pulled together.
I published a new Creatology blogpost on Scientific American with a long audio piece, which is a conversation with ‘Wild’ author Jay Griffiths, interspersed with readings from her amazing book. Yes, it’s almost half an hour long. Is this longform journalism? I’m feeling a bit anxious that people might not have half an hour in their busy lives to sit down and listen to the thing. But all of the readings, and Jay’s answers to my questions were engrossing, and I didn’t just find it hard to cut - I didn’t want to. I wanted to leave the conversation pretty much whole and unedited.
If you’ve read ‘Wild’, and you’re a mad fan like me, you’ll get it. I’m not alone: KT Tunstall, Radiohead and The Strokes are all into the ‘Wild’ phenomenon. There’s something deeply moving and - dare I say - healing about reading the book. It’s not a book to take lightly - instead absorb it, let it grow roots inside you. If you feel lost, let it find you.
That’s all I have to say about ‘Wild’.
Will we be eating meat grown in a lab in the future? Will it be the ethical choice? I consider the ins and outs of in vitro meat in a new Creatology blogpost on Scientific American.
Story for SciDev.net: new target for malaria vaccine -
Tidbits from the cutting room floor:
Malaria causes about one million deaths a year globally, most of which are children in Africa. Plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous malaria parasite, causing almost all malaria deaths.
People have been hunting for a malaria vaccine for more than 50 years. It has proved an incredibly tough nut to crack - but this new research gives hope for an efficient vaccine. Scientists from the developing world have a key role to play.
“Some of the proteins we have tested in this paper have been in collaboration with scientists in Senegal, and these are parasites freshly isolated from people’s arms,” said Julian Rayner from the Wellcome Sanger Institute. This is important because parasites replicated in the lab for decades might be different to current strains.
Partnerships with researchers around the developing world will be continue to be important while working on the vaccine, including work on malaria parasite genome sequencing, he added.
“It is only by understanding what is happening in the field in terms of the diversity of the parasite, in terms of the different mechanisms that the field parasites use to invade, we will know whether we have a vaccine that has a real chance of being applied or not,” he said.