Pfizer-BioNTech are making a mRNA vaccine, but what is that?

Covid-19 blog for the non-expert The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19 is all over the media. What hasn’t been in the headlines so much, is that this is a mRNA vaccine and if successful, it’ll be the first of its type. Some say they will not take it because it’s “rushed” but this misses the pointContinue reading “Pfizer-BioNTech are making a mRNA vaccine, but what is that?”

90% effective Covid-19 vaccine

The headlines are jubilant with “Covid-19” vaccine 90% effective. As one of those skeptical scientists, I’m in a difficult position because I don’t want to dampen any hope, but at the same time it’s worth questioning the headline to see what’s really behind it. The announcement was from Pfizer and BioNTech, and the media areContinue reading “90% effective Covid-19 vaccine”

New Covid-19 tests

A Covid-19 blog post for the non-expert We’ve been hearing how the UK government wants to return to normal life under its £100bn Operation Moonshot Covid-19 testing programme. Headlines such as those in the Daily Mail have proclaimed “Prospect’ of 10-minute ‘rapid turnaround’ Covid tests” but others including the BMJ are not so sure. I thought,Continue reading “New Covid-19 tests”

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”