Atomic Butterflies

When I first moved to my current house some 20-years ago, my next-door neighbour had a buddleia growing in their garden which overhung part of my driveway. In the summer, the shrub was a resting spot for a multitude of red admiral butterflies, which exploded into a swarm if I got too close. Sadly, thatContinue reading “Atomic Butterflies”

Death by Liquorice

A blog post for the non-expert The media is reporting a 54-year-old construction worker from Massachusetts has died of liquorice poisoning. Not for the first time when dealing with such issues, the press reports are so similar that they were likely all cloned from the original source, a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine.Continue reading “Death by Liquorice”

Serial killers are no joke

For those of you reading this in the UK, you may have seen the three-part drama on ITV called Des, which followed the serial killing career of Dennis Nilsen. An horrific and macabre story and yet somehow frighteningly captivating. As scary as serial killers are, they represent a minuscule proportion of the population and soContinue reading “Serial killers are no joke”

Cannabis tyres

I started my post-graduate scientific career as a plant biochemist (phytochemist to be more precise). Once talking to a geologist about how fascinating plants are, he replied, “plants just get in the way of the rocks,” and so I guess your interests very much depend on your viewpoint. I moved up the career evolutionary  treeContinue reading “Cannabis tyres”

Ammonium nitrate: a Jekyll and Hyde chemical

Please donate to the appeal if you can, as hospitals are reporting they are unable to treat further casualties as hundreds of beds immediately filled up following the blast. __________________________________________________________________________________________ The explosion which rocked Beirut’s Port was almost certainly caused by inappropriate storage of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. But what is ammonium nitrate and whyContinue reading “Ammonium nitrate: a Jekyll and Hyde chemical”

What is interferon and is it effective against Covid-19?

A blog post for the non-expert Our best hope against Covid-19 is an effective vaccine, and efforts in that direction are galloping along like no other time in history. There are so many vaccines being investigated, it’s hard to keep up with the numbers, but at the time of writing there appear to be wellContinue reading “What is interferon and is it effective against Covid-19?”

Covid-19 was genetically-engineered

A Covid-19 blog post for the non-expert The story that Covid-19 is a genetically-engineered virus from a Wuhan laboratory has gone viral across the internet (dated pun intended). President Trump implied it, and the Daily Express ran a 10th March headline, “Coronavirus may have been genetically engineered for the efficient spreading in the human population,Continue reading “Covid-19 was genetically-engineered”

Education through adversity

A different sort of pandemic blog post, and a rather personal one. There are problems reopening schools, universities are going virtual and post-graduates are struggling to complete. Education is having a hard time, and many students are rightly concerned about the impact this will have on their careers. If I was in this situation, I’dContinue reading “Education through adversity”

A sober look at dexamethasone

A Covid-19 blog post for the non-expert It stared with a 16th June 2020 press release  from the University of Oxford “Low-cost dexamethasone reduce death by up to one third in hospitalised patients with severe respiratory complications of COVID-19” – which triggered the equivalent of a media cytokine storm (pun explained shortly). I do not want,Continue reading “A sober look at dexamethasone”