December 4, 2013

Advent Chemistry: Freezing Mixture

How do you make things cold? This isn’t an academic question. Quite a lot of reactions, some of them very ordinary lab procedures, put out heat. You don’t want to burn yourself or your worktop on scalding hot glass because your mixture is hot, and...

December 3, 2013

More bits

Advent Computing: More bits

Yesterday I talked about encoding characters, i.e. letters and numbers and symbols, in bytes. One byte can represent any number between 0 and 255, and the near-universal standard known as ASCII gives a specific character for any number between 0 and 127. If you write...

Advent Oil & Gas: Reserves and reservoirs

Having looked at how oil and gas are formed, it makes sense to look at where it all is now.  Everyone knows that you oil and gas are found underground, but you can’t just drill anywhere and find the stuff. Oil and gas reservoirs need...

A Buchner funnel and side-arm flask

Advent Chemistry: Filtration, Faster

So, as mentioned, filtration is really slow. Sufficiently so that in reality, it’s hardly ever done that way. Unless there’s a compelling reason not to subject your mixture to anything more aggressive than gravity, you use a related, but more complicated bit of kit, and...

December 2, 2013

Bits

Advent Computing: Bits

If you watched yesterday’s video, you’ll have spotted the symbols that were being written to that “infinitely long” tape were “1” and “0”. There’s a reason binary – counting with only ones and zeros – is used so extensively in computing, and it’s essentially that it’s much...

Advent Biology: One bat, two bats, three bats, four…

So yesterday I started with bat transect surveys. While relatively quick and able to be carried out with minimum experience, in most environments and with fairly basic kit-though you can of course use more exciting and expensive equipment, like the EM3 which I’ll take a...

Advent Oil & Gas: Fossil fuels – what’s in a name?

It’s probably not escaped your notice that this series is about ‘oil and gas’, but you’ll also have heard a lot about ‘fossil fuels’ – they’re even in the title of this article!  What’s the difference?  The answer is somewhat complicated: fossil fuels are often oil...

Filter paper

Advent Chemistry: Filtration

You all know what a filter is. It’s that thing you make coffee with. It’s a way of seperating solid particles from liquids. A sieve is a filter, if not a very fine one. A teabag is a filter with leaves inside. It is one...

December 1, 2013

The Turing machine

Advent Computing: The Turing machine

If we’re going to have a series of posts about computer science, it’s probably helpful to define what a “computer” is. So let’s do that. The standard academic definition of a computer is what’s called a “Turing machine”. It goes a little bit like this:...

Advent Biology: A summer of Bats

A late entry from me, and very much self indulgent…so Ecology, then. My absolute favourite part of ecological studies is the fieldwork- I’m happy to be out in all weathers, in any gear, with scientific equipment ranging from GPS trackers to a bamboo pole and...

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