Issue 11

Focus: 

Is there room for two: Science or Art vs Science and Art?

“Are you left-brained or right brained?” Or does this question somewhat baffle you? You only have to refer to the beautiful imagery of the ‘Left Brain Right Brain’ advertisement campaign by Mercedes Benz to get the gist of it: “I am the left brain. I am a scientist…I am logic; I am the right brain. I am creativity…I am boundless imagination.”

This idea of ‘brain lateralisation’ originated from the ‘split-brain’ studies of the Nobel laureate Roger Sperry. In the 1960s, patients suffering from epilepsy underwent surgery to cut the corpus callosum that connects the left and right brain hemispheres to localize the spread of their seizures; in Sperry’s follow up of these patients he demonstrated that the left and right brain hemispheres specialize in different tasks. Read more »

Features: 

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Magnifying the Potential of Mobile Phone Microscopes

If you’re not up on your geeky gadgets, you might have missed the recent spate of mini-microscopes that have surfaced over the past few years. Thanks to widely available consumer electronics, several nifty mobile phone hacks can now allow you to see the world up close. While recent advances put affordable and impressive magnifying power in your pocket, these smaller, cooler microscopes aren’t just gimmicks; they may be the key to revolutionising global medicine and sparking the public’s interest in science. Read more »

Khan Online Academy Change Science Education?

Salman Khan, an MIT and Harvard graduate, had been helping his young cousin Nadia with her maths homework over Yahoo! Messenger, but when they couldn’t be online at the same time he began making video tutorials. To check her understanding, he added software that would generate questions related to the tutorial topic. Only once she could correctly answer 10 problems in a row was she allowed to move on to the next topic. Read more »

Panic! Panic! Panic!

  • Panic attack: When you are so overcome by anxiety that you feel physically in danger even though there is no real threat.
  • Did you know that NHS statistics show panic attacks affect one in ten people? 

There are various theories about what triggers a panic attack. The ‘learning theory’ suggests that when you encounter a situation previously experienced in a panic attack, you are more likely to experience another panic attack. In the ‘cognitive theory’, panic attacks are initiated by misinterpreting normal bodily actions as anxiety, so your brain overestimates the possibility of danger. Lastly, the ‘psychodynamic theory’ predicts that trauma can induce a self-protection mechanism of the brain, preventing you from remembering the event that initially caused the panic attack. Read more »

Regulars: 

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The Hitchhiker's guide to the Twitterverse

The following article was originally a blog post by Prof Dorothy Bishop and has been edited for publication with her permission.

 Created a mere five years ago, Twitter is a micro-blogging platform through which hundreds of millions of users regularly express their views and interests in 'tweets' of no more than 140 characters. If I tell people I’m on Twitter, I tend to get one of three reactions: Read more »

Flesh in a Flask

"That's the head in the middle," said the woman. "There's a mouth opening at the top, they dump nutrients in there. No eyes or beak or anything, they don't need those."

It was only eight years ago that Margaret Atwood unleashed her nightmarish ‘chickienobs’ on readers of Oryx and Crake. Today, while chickienobs themselves continue to exist only in the realm of fiction, another edible flesh reality is developing in science labs around the world: 'In vitro meat'. Read more »

Exploring the Musical Brain

Dr Katie Overy, of the University of Edinburgh’s Reid School of Music, has spent her career working in the fields of music, psychology, and neuroscience. This has brought her into contact with people approaching the same questions from different viewpoints: practitioners (e.g. teachers, parents, music therapists) and researchers, musicians, and scientists.

Throughout it all, Dr Overy's aim has been to understand the nature of musical experience through these differing perspectives, and to investigate the basis for claims that music can be beneficial to learning, and to facilitate links between the approaches.. The relationship between art and science, and other ‘opposing’ disciplines, is one that she understands well. I got the chance to chat with her about her career and some of her perceptions. Read more »