Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

Google Earth Finally Covers Edinburgh

Feb 12th, 2007

For ages most of Edinburgh was a blur, a resolution sufficient only to distinguish streets, not houses or cars. No longer, for now I can make out cars and even the shadows cast by bollards.

So what now…

Oct 5th, 2006

Its all been a bit hectic recently, as its been the transition from my Masters (Which I passed with distinction) to the PhD. However between this I though I’d take a bit of a break, so spent a few weeks at home, catching up with family and friends. Unlike the move to university there are no forced term dates, so trips home have to be seized as they are appropriate. This means its not really co-ordinated with other people, and besides I now have friends for whom home can be anywhere in the world.
Still, the majority of my friends, excluding those in Edinburgh, are located down South. Disturbingly, outside of Edinburgh it is now London that holds the highest concentration of people I know. I suppose its inevitable, it is after all the Nation’s capital and the largest city in the UK. I just wish it wasn’t quite so blatant about it. Meanwhile I’m stuck out on a bit of a limb, but am no longer alone, as a few friends will be moving up to join me in Scotland, albeit not in Edinburgh.
But outside of my gallivanting back home things have also been busy. I began my PhD mid September and the work is underway. At the moment things are still fairly organised, my lab-book is up to date and I know where and what everything is. I’m surprised this level of organisation has lasted this long; if I can keep it up for the next three year it will make the thesis easy enough to write.
In about eight weeks time I will be expected to produce my ten week report, which is to outline the direction of the project. The main role of this is to focus your work, ensure you know where your heading, and to provide scrap paper when the whole plan changes with the results of the first major experiment.
I’m hoping to update soon, discussing my work (Or rather the background to it. I will avoid the unpublished stuff for obvious reasons), the 2006 Nobel Prizes, a visit from Nobel Laureate Aaron Ciechanover and experiences at Biotechnology YES.

Edinburgh science festival

Apr 8th, 2006

I recently did some work at the Edinburgh Science Festival, which attempts to engage the public with science, particularly young children. While I’d like to say that this work was voluntary, it wasn’t, and this underlies something which I see as a far more serious problem.
The supposed aim of the Science Festival is to make science accessible, and to introduce it to the public, who may otherwise remain uninterested. This goal, I think, is worthwhile, particularly when you consider various reports that have appeared this year. However I can’t help thinking that the festival fails on two accounts:

  1. It only attracts people who are already interested in science.
  2. It charges for entry, and for a number of the ‘attractions.’

While the former is difficult to avoid, short of breaking into peoples living-rooms and offering to extract DNA from their bacon sandwich, the latter poses a serious and potentially avoidable problem. Charging has two effects, firstly discouraging people from dropping in casually, but more importantly excluding those from less financially secure backgrounds.
Science should be accessible to everyone, not just those with enough money. Yet an event which is meant to increase the accessibility of science still sees fit to exclude a significant number of people on a financial basis.
Now I’m aware that these things cost money to run, yet there are ways of helping meet costs. For one get people to work voluntarily, many will be happy to if actually given a push. Raise other revenue by increased sponsorship (There was some already) and voluntary donations. Alternatively, if this results in a shortfall the least you could do is offer free trips to schools from under-privileged areas.
I know this isn’t all idealistic pipe-dreams as I have seen it achieved in other organisations and groups, such as CHAOS. Why the Edinburgh Science Festival cannot achieve the same thing, I don’t know.

The baah-ley don’t you know…

Feb 9th, 2006

Today I managed to rope myself into going to see a ballet, and despite it being ‘Edward Scissorhands’ I still half expected something pretentious, inaccessible and dull. Still, I thought, you’ve got to try these things once. Although I doubt anyone has been on their deathbed thinking, ‘Damnit, if only I’d seen a ballet,’ I’m sure there are plenty of people who have never seen one despite a vague plan to ‘do it some-time.’

Now I must admit to liking the theatre, even if I don’t actually go all that often. There’s something vaguely ‘magical’ that it has, that the cinema has either lost, perhaps just through familiarity, or half an hour of previews. I know there’s a perfect word to capture what I want to say, only its slipped my mind.

But onto the production itself. Well although I don’t have much to compare it with I was pleasantly surprised, not only was it accessible but I actually enjoyed it. It was completely lacking in any pretentiousness, and had a style which was almost ‘cartoon like’ in nature, using a caricature of the well established Hollywood version of Suburban America and the characters within. Not only that but these characters were shown not just through different clothing and roles, but also in the manner in which they danced and moved.

My fears that it would be difficult to understand were also unfounded. It was surprising how much could be conveyed without the need for words. In some ways the ‘cartoon’ style helped here as it allowed for exaggerated actions, without them looking unnecessarily cheesy or grandiose. Secondly the choreography was excellent, seamlessly combining the movements associated with progressing the plot with more set-piece dance moments, which were themselves woven into the presented world as much as possible.

Once again my preconceptions were dashed when I was surprised by the variety in the styles of dance. The stereotyped image of the ballet I held before hand was one mainly of pirouettes and leotards, and although I realised that this was probably inaccurate I had still imagined that the style of dance was fairly rigidly defined. However ‘Edward Scissorhands’ embraced a number of styles from what I would consider ‘Traditional ballet,’ through dance more closely resembling ‘rock and roll,’ to the more general choreographed movements around the set. Clearly my prior understanding of ballet was deeply limited, and instead it is the central role of choreography and (non-vocal?) music to a production that is important, rather than a set style of dance.

Technically the production was excellent. Scene changes were smooth and barely noticeable and yet managed to produce dramatic changes in mood and setting. Not only did the set fly in and out un-noticed, but it did so without any disruption to the action on stage, leading to a number of moments of genuine surprise when the back-lights went up to reveal a completely different set to the one which was present a moment before. The set design also managed to match the character of the rest of the production, and produced a contracts between the Gothic opening and suburban America.

Overall I was very impressed. Although my experience is limited, and thus I am unable to compare it with other productions, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and rate it highly on its own merits. Yet ‘Edward Scissorhands’ was presented to me representing more than just itself, and also managed to destroy my preconceptions of what ballet was. While I’m sure there are a few ballets which will lie closely along my preconceptions the concept itself is no longer a turn-off, and I’m fully prepared to go along to another ballet in future, especially if its as good as ‘Edward Scissorhands.’

Previously: Welcome Back

Dec 12th, 2005

I got hacked, a couple of times actually. The first guy modified this page, the second took control a bit more noticeably. I’ve decided to leave this message here, rather than tracking down the original, as a lesson to myself.

Just hope I’ve patched the vulnerability.

Edit: Oh sod it. I decided to track down the original, and have quoted it below. I even corrected a few of the spelling errors.

After a long period of downtime my blog is finally back online, this time running under different software. Unfortunately the old blog died when my webhost went bankrupt, but through the wonders of Google I have again be able to save the content. I’ll probably just chuck the best of it in a static archive page.

For those of you who don’t know a lot has happened since the last time I posted here the main of which is my graduation and subsequent removal to Edinburgh. Here I’m studying in my Masters year of a four year combined PhD/Masters. I have just recently finished my first mini-project, a ten week lab research project in which not only did I get some decent and novel results but I also wasted several thousand pounds in simple mistakes. The biologists among you will find my addition of DNase to a transcription reaction amusing, the rest of you will be lost.

On Friday we had the unit Christmas party, complete with ceilidh, which proved very exhausting. Naturally, for someone tho has only been to one ceilidh before, I was at a complete loss for half the dances, but thankfully I was not alone in this. We all get another crack at it on Burns Night, so expect lots of grumblings about sore limbs around then. This event also signaled the beginning of the Christmas season in terms of events going on and somehow I seem to have been tied in to about four Christmas dinners, two of which have already happened. I also fear further dinners when I get hope, completely destroying my somewhat naive plans to have my overdraft cleared by January. Still, once Christmas is out the way I should get it paid off fairly quickly. I don’t like being in the red, even when it is interest free. Still, as a general trend income is greater than expenditure at the moment so things shouldn’t be be getting any worse.

My new lab project is working with yeast again, although this time is is S.Pombe, S.cervevisiae’s less famous brother. At the moment things are a bit slow as I’m having to get everything up and ready for the experiment proper, which will probably begin after Christmas. The aim is to over-express a particular gene, making the cells sick in the process. Following this I will over express lots of other genes and look for rescue, that is a gene that can make the sick cells healthy again. In doing so I should hopefully discover what the first gene does, as well as possibly identifying some new genes which have previously been uncharacterized. If it works it should be all very exciting and may mean that I get a chance to name a few genes.