December 2, 2012

Advent Atmosphere: The Greenhouse Effect

Venus, Earth and Mars are all similar in size, in similar orbits, and condensed out of the same gas cloud, so they ought to have about the same makeup of elements. But Mars is freezing cold with almost no atmosphere, Earth is nicely liveable, and...

Link to Naked Baby Jesus, December 02

Advent Art History: Naked Baby Jesus, December 02

Welcome to the Naked Baby Jesus Advent Calendar, Day Two! This is one of my favourite paintings of the late fourteenth century. There are many reasons I love this work, and the way the infant Christ clasps hold of St Simeon’s beard is only one...

A bug’s dinner

Advent Biology: A bug’s dinner

Imagine a spider, sitting quietly on the corner of its web waiting patiently for dinner to come knocking. A couple of the silk strands vibrate and our spider responds by advancing towards its supposed prey. However, other things can make good vibrations! In this case,...

December 1, 2012

Advent Art History: The Naked Baby Jesus Advent Calendar: December 01

Back in 2007, I was moved to share my enthusiasm for late medieval and early Renaissance art on my Livejournal. There was a bit of a furore at the time about censorship and nudity, with certain camps arguing from the viewpoint that all nudity was...

Advent Chemistry: Caffeine

If we’re looking at molecules I like, then there is really only one place to start. This, my friends, is caffeine, a molecule of great importance. Caffeine was discovered in 1819 by Frederick Ferdinand Runge, who named it after its presence in coffee. It is...

Advent Atmosphere: In The Beginning

I dithered for ages about what to do for this Advent series. I considered teaching you about carbonyl compounds and their reactions, but really, though that’s useful chemistry, it’s not very exciting to look at in depth unless you actually intend to use the knowledge....

Bitten by an eel

Advent Biology: Bitten by an eel

Due to their aqueous environment, fish feed rather differently from terrestrial vertebrates. Though there are different methods of capturing prey, the most widespread mechanism for dealing with it once caught involves the use of suction: by creating a lower pressure inside than in the surrounding...