Science Me! 13.8 Billion Years in The Making
Science Me! 13.8 Billion Years in The Making

What Happened to Gene Therapy?

Most people have heard of gene therapy, especially when research was ramping up during the 1990s. But few have any idea about how gene therapy actually works and where it is today. That’s because the science of gene therapy is kind of technical and the mass media don’t do technical, so we rarely get that side of the story. It’s in the same category as understanding how bioluminescence works, or how to solve a Rubik’s cube. I hate Rubik’s cubes, as much as I hate figuring out where the apostrophe goes in the plural possessive of Rubik’s. Rubickses’ cubes? That could work.

How Does DNA Work?

It’s an important and popular fact that DNA makes your world go around. Evolution has come up with some mind-boggling complex processes to record biological data, replicate it in all living cells, and execute that code in order to create and maintain life. Today I want to give you a glimpse of the amazing facility of DNA.

Isaac Asimov Quotes

Isaac Asimov was one of the greatest science fiction writers in history, as well as a professor of biochemistry and a prolific author of non-fiction. His best loved works include the Foundation series set in the distant future where humans have colonised the galaxy, and a book of interlinked short stories called I, Robot which he developed into an extensive series of humanity and morality tales during the dawn of the robotic era.

The Psychology of Facebook

Facebook has taken a lot of flack lately. And it’s not about to let up. Besides the revelations that most users – about 2 billion people – have had their profiles scraped and sold for commercial and political ends, now the very nature of social media is being exposed as potentially damaging to your mental health. But how could a website hurt you psychologically, let alone one that’s populated by news and photos from your friends?

Science vs Proverbs

In the spirit of challenging conventional wisdom, here’s how traditional proverbs stand up to scientific scrutiny.

How Do Jellyfish Have Sex?

How jellyfish have sex is really alien and unintuitive, at least in the eyes of humans. If they had vocal chords, or brains, or cognitive processing abilities, jellies would argue that they’re an ancient group of animals who mastered sexual reproduction a long time before us, and we’re the ones who are frankly odd-balling it with our penises and vaginas and miserable, painful childbirth.

Everything You Need to Know About Elon Musk

If superheroes were real, Elon Musk would be Science Man. Or Technology Chap. Or Business Acumen Person. Either way, he’s a major force behind our industrial and technological evolution, and that’s why we should all know who he is and what he’s doing. Because he’s literally trying to save the human race.

Undefined, Defined

Enter any number into a calculator and divide it by zero. What do you get? UNDEFINED. What in the name of Turing’s testicles does your calculator mean by undefined?

Classical Conditioning is Power

This is my friend Sutton, who volunteered for a harmless experiment in classical conditioning. Let’s start by poking him in the eye.

Alien Problems

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Evolution 101

All life on Earth is connected. Whether you’re a marine worm or a marmoset, the same genetic code proliferates your DNA. That’s the basis of Evolution 101.

The Science of BroScience

Do you even lift, bro? This is the mating call in BroScience: those who measure their self-worth by the amount of weight they can lift.

Nikola Tesla Quotes

Nikola Tesla is sometimes referred to as the man who invented the 20th century. And why not? It was Tesla who first produced the alternating current, radio waves, x-rays, radar, hydroelectric power and transistors. Unfortunately, due to his apparent lack of commercial sense, plus some ruthless exploitation of his patents by fellow scientists and businessmen, Tesla is the most underrated inventor in history (although in running a $50 billion car company named for him, Elon Musk is somewhat correcting that).

Atoms 101

The Ancient Greeks gave us the first concept of atoms, and so were not nearly as stupid as they looked, despite draping themselves in bed sheets.

Profile of a Body-Snatching Parasite

This is the true story of a parasitic flatworm called Curtuteria australis. This mysterious body-snatching organism lives within multiple hosts during its life-cycle. Curtuteria australis, or Curt because it's easier to write, doesn't have an easy life....

This Is a Bee

Sometimes you just have to draw a loosely scientific diagram of a bee and publish it on the internet without any questions being asked, ok? <a href="#" rel="nofollow" class="et_social_open_all"...

Nanomedicine: A Tiny Robot Invasion for Good

Nanomedicine is coming for you. In a good way. Industrial nanotechnology has already been around for a good few years: think self-cleaning paints, water-repellent clothes, glass coatings, engine lubricants, UV protection. In fact, the tiny, invisible world...

How to Spot a Hermaphrodite Lobster

It's actually easier than you think. Instead of poking around its sex organs like a lonely fisherman, look for the half-orange, half-black colouring, also known as the split-coloured lobster. Said to occur at a rate of 1-in-50 million, the two-tone...

Charles Darwin Quotes

Charles Darwin was a heavily bearded chap who published the theory of evolution by natural selection. Remarkably, his younger and equally full-bearded counterpart, Alfred Russel Wallace, came up with a strikingly similar idea independently. Together, they presented their theory in 1858 and Darwin expanded on it the following year in The Origin of Species.

Albert Einstein Quotes

As you very well know, Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist. He developed the general theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. On Einstein’s 72nd birthday in 1951, photographer Arthur Sasse was trying to persuade him to smile for the camera. Having already done so countless times that day, he stuck out his tongue instead. The photo became one of the most popular ever taken of Einstein. He rather enjoyed it himself and asked for nine copies for personal use. In 2009, the signed original was sold at auction for $74,324. Years later, I would illustrate this photograph for Science Me.

Who Built Stonehenge and Why?

Britain is full of ancient monuments. We practically trip over them on our morning stroll to the haberdashers. Medieval castles, Roman baths, Megalithic villages, giant hill figures: the landscape is littered with historic monuments, the most famous of...

How Old Do You Think You Are?

You think you know how old you are, but there are many different biological and cultural ways to measure how long you’ve been farting around on Earth.

What is Schrodinger’s Cat? And Can I Pet Him?

Don't be a silly sausage, you can't pet Schrodinger's Cat because he isn't real. He's a hypothetical cat in an 80-year-old thought experiment. He was created by Erwin Schrodinger in an attempt to illustrate his objection to quantum uncertainty. But the...

What is Science and Why Are You All Up In My Face With It?

Science is more than lab coats and test tubes and Einstein’s bad hair day. It’s a system of developing knowledge, based on what we can measure through direct observation. It comes from the Latin word scientia, which means knowledge. “Wait a second,” you say, “this already sounds terribly boring, just what kind of website is this?” Don’t worry, I pat you reassuringly on the head. Science comes to life when you apply these boring principles to the real world. Then you can make cool discoveries about it.

Science demands measurable data on which we scaffold our way to enlightenment. The past few centuries have seen us transform industry, technology and medicine thanks in whole to science. It’s how we’ve invented space rockets and morphine and augmented reality which makes our whole existence that much better. Imagine your day without the inventions of science. You wouldn’t get very far at all, unless you currently thrive semi-naked in the wilderness. My congratulations if you do. For narrative purposes I’m assuming you don’t.

 

The Four Principles of Science

1. Empiricism. Where knowledge comes from direct observation.

There’s no scientific validity to things we can’t measure – like ghosts, telepathy and homeopathy. They might just as well be made up.

Empiricism by Science Me

2. Testability. Where scientific ideas are falsifiable.

Scientific ideas – or hypotheses – must be framed in such a way that other scientists can verify or disprove their claims. Faith-based systems lack testability.

Testability by Science Me

3. Parsimony. Where we avoid making unfounded assumptions.

When you’re confronted with two possible explanations, choose the simplest explanation that makes the fewest unproven assumptions. People love to chalk mathematical coincidences down to psychic powers, but the truth is far simpler.

Parsimony by Science Me

4. Determinism. Where the universe is bound by cause and effect.

Your world – down to the neurons firing inside your brain – is a complex web of interactions. Every event has a mathematically predictable outcome. This renders notions like fate, karma and even free will moot, because they imply multiple causes for singular effects, and that’s not how reality works.

Determinism by Science Me


Take a look at the world through the scientific framework.
It becomes easy to debunk dead-end distractions and focus on things that are more likely to be true. A scientifically-minded society has a lot more to offer than a superstitious, indoctrinated one. So go ahead and wrangle with science, pull it apart, try to prove it wrong. See? You’re already sciencing.

 

“Science is different to all the other systems of thought. You don’t need faith in it, you can check that it works.”
– Brian Cox, Particle Physicist and author of Why Does E=MC2? (And Why Should We Care?)

 

Why Fox Pokes Cats

My son, Fox, loves animals. He went through a phase of poking and pestering cats to see their reaction. Psychologists call this bottom-up processing. Make no assumptions about cats: only scaffold your way up to new conclusions.

Eventually the cat would claw at him and run away. Fox learned the cat had sharp claws, and didn’t so much enjoy the interaction. Now when Fox meets a cat, he doesn’t have to go through the whole experimental rigmarole of poking it senseless to see what will happen. Now he’s top-down processing: we start with an already-established conclusion.

All children adopt this scientific framework naturally, because it’s intuitive. The problem is, it works so well that we get cocky about our ability to build knowledge, and we being to rely heavily on a top-down approach. As adults, we then fail to gather basic data in the light of new situations, and we forget our open-minded schema which would have led us to empirical truth.

I’m proposing we put on our science filter to make better choices. We all need this empirical lens to navigate the media minefield of pseudo-science and ideological indoctrination. Let’s make good decisions about education, medicine, climate change, genetic engineering, artificial intelligence – any area where evidence-based science can light our way. Let’s cast off our top-down assumptions, adopt a questioning approach, and play in ways we haven’t done since we were five years old and poking cats.

 

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.”
– Carl Sagan, Astrophysicist and author of Cosmos

 

Who Am I?

I’m just this girl, you know? I can try to be a tad more specific if you want, for example by giving you my name. Is that what you want, is it? Jesus Christ. We barely know each other. I don’t even know your name. This is really unfair.

Ok, my name is Becky Turner and I’m a sciencey fan living in Auckland, New Zealand. I’m 34 and getting to the point where I feel weird about announcing my age on the internet. I can almost guarantee I won’t be declaring my age when I’m 44, even though I’ll be a lot wiser and more interesting than I am now, and saying I’m 44 would really highlight that. Ageing is weird.

I studied biology and chemistry in school. The problem was, the chemistry got really complicated really fast, and it put me off a career in science for a good few years. I ended up becoming a writer instead. Years later, I would realise there are people with Chemistry Brains and people with Physics Brains and people with Biology Brains. And maybe a few other types of brains as well. The point is: you don’t have to be awesome at all of the scientific prongs to be a scientist; you just have to pick the one(s) that feels most intuitive to you.

For me, that’s biology. Specifically evolutionary biology because it answers so many questions about life today, and so I’m studying for a zoology degree while developing Science Me. I still love writing, and I’d really like to write sciencey books and tell the wonderous (yes, wonderous!) stories about how historic scientific discoveries were made, how they’ve changed the landscape of the world, and what we can expect from science in the future. If you like this website and can help make that happen then do contact me before someone else does / I fall off a cliff / I get pulled from the simulation for becoming too self aware.

Otherwise, please enjoy the rest of this website and share your favourite posts lavishly on social media. Bye!

 

What Happened to Gene Therapy?

Most people have heard of gene therapy, especially when research was ramping up during the 1990s. But few have any idea about how gene therapy actually works and where it is today. That’s because the science of gene therapy is kind of technical and the mass media don’t do technical, so we rarely get that side of the story. It’s in the same category as understanding how bioluminescence works, or how to solve a Rubik’s cube. I hate Rubik’s cubes, as much as I hate figuring out where the apostrophe goes in the plural possessive of Rubik’s. Rubickses’ cubes? That could work.

read more

How Does DNA Work?

It’s an important and popular fact that DNA makes your world go around. Evolution has come up with some mind-boggling complex processes to record biological data, replicate it in all living cells, and execute that code in order to create and maintain life. Today I want to give you a glimpse of the amazing facility of DNA.

read more

Isaac Asimov Quotes

Isaac Asimov was one of the greatest science fiction writers in history, as well as a professor of biochemistry and a prolific author of non-fiction. His best loved works include the Foundation series set in the distant future where humans have colonised the galaxy, and a book of interlinked short stories called I, Robot which he developed into an extensive series of humanity and morality tales during the dawn of the robotic era.

read more

The Psychology of Facebook

Facebook has taken a lot of flack lately. And it’s not about to let up. Besides the revelations that most users – about 2 billion people – have had their profiles scraped and sold for commercial and political ends, now the very nature of social media is being exposed as potentially damaging to your mental health. But how could a website hurt you psychologically, let alone one that’s populated by news and photos from your friends?

read more

Science vs Proverbs

In the spirit of challenging conventional wisdom, here’s how traditional proverbs stand up to scientific scrutiny.

read more

How Do Jellyfish Have Sex?

How jellyfish have sex is really alien and unintuitive, at least in the eyes of humans. If they had vocal chords, or brains, or cognitive processing abilities, jellies would argue that they’re an ancient group of animals who mastered sexual reproduction a long time before us, and we’re the ones who are frankly odd-balling it with our penises and vaginas and miserable, painful childbirth.

read more

 

All artwork and content on this site is Copyright © 2016-2018 Becky Turner & Pete Casale.

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