Category Archives: biology

Why shouldn’t you get your science from Prometheus?

Maybe it was my age, maybe it was the captivating performances, maybe it was the spine-tingling terror that the original film induced, but when I watched Alien sometime in the early Nineties (after hearing about from some kid at school who kept impersonating the grunts in the second film, Aliens), I came away breathless with awe. And I don’t remember having too much of a problem with the science either.

Skip forward twenty years, and oh-boy, do I wish I could hold the latest chapter–or prequel–in the Alien franchise, Prometheus, with the same reverence. Not only did I come away thinking that the film failed artistically, emotionally, and most of all, logically, it also must qualify as one of the most excreable examples of Hollywood attempting something the media-execs probably go round calling “Scienze”.

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Why is it important to identify “Patient Zero” in disease outbreaks?

I recently watched the excellent, Contagion, a film by Steven Soderbergh, which gives a harrowing, scientifically realistic depiction of the outbreak of a highly contagious, often fatal disease. Highlighting both the potentially rapid spread of virus outbreaks and the influence of social media scaremongers/conspiracists in today’s interconnected world, the film is a great advert for why we need our politics informed by scientists’ thinking more than ever.

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How can evolutionary theory be used to make video games?

Red Dead Redemption, GTA IV, Limbo. Works of creative genius by some of the most imaginative, most talented video game designers on the entire planet. All made by humans, of course. One PhD student at Imperial College, London, however, is on a mission to show that in the future some of our video games might be made, not be people, but by computers.

Step forward ANGELINA, one of the early AI pioneers of this new realm.

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How can you survive the Apocalypse? Part Three: Food

Tesco’s motto might be Every Little Helps, but in an apocalypse Britain’s biggest supermarket will probably be offering nothing–unless you raid one of its depots early before the rest of the desperate get there. Then you might be able to snag a year’s supply of petfood or something.

But, pillaging aside, what can the appliance of science do for your eating habits when Armageddon falls?

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How can you survive the apocalypse? Part Two: Water

Okay, so now you’ve sorted out the cosy shelter where you’re going to hunker down and ride out the collapse of civilization, it’s probably time you took care of your number one physical need: clean drinking water.

The bad news is with nobody home at the district water plant and your local supermarket overrun with flesh-eating zombies, turning on the tap or glugging bottles of Evian isn’t going to be an option anymore.

So where can you get your aqua vitae?

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