In London…

I will get down to the task of giving my informed opinion on this weekend’s Science Online London 2009, though it has to be said I’m pretty sure I missed 30% of it; it wasn’t until mid-afternoon on Saturday that I actually capitulated and became a twitterer. I joined the live-feed, jumping in at the deep end and being swept away in a wave of information, though not the Google wave, which came later. With nary a grasp of the twitter culture, nomenclature nor software I started monitoring the virtual debate whilst also taking notes on a lecture by Dave Munger (aka 50% of Cognitive Daily) being given through the virtual venue of Second Life.

So while I get to grips with twitter, read through the notes of the conference (courtesy of The Mind Wobbles – a piece of prodigiously talented live-blogging), and read the #solo09 twitter-feed, I’ll leave you with some evidence of a different kind –

The one where Jim (finally) also becomes ‘a tourist’.

South Kensington Subway Buckingham Palace The Treasury

Bali bomb memorial The cenotaph Parade ground of the Guard House

The Thames and Houses of Parliament IMG_4467_950 The London Eye

Flat White, Berwick St, Soho Princi, Waldour St, Soho Gorgeous Princi food - yes, that is a water fountain and infinity pool behind

The Royal Institution of Great Britain The Natural History Museum The Natural History Museum (Darwin now in his rightful place at the top of the stairs)

The Minerals and Vault Prince Albert's instument exhibit, Museum of Science & Industry Deck chairs on the Serpentine, Hyde Park


To whom are they selling…?

IN the past few years I have found myself on the receiving end of some fairly bizarre advertising campaigns from large biotech companies.

First there was MWG Biotech (as they were called at the time), who make short stretches of single-stranded DNA called oligonucleotides, which many of us use in our experiments. They decided to market these using cartoon characters, the chief of whom was ‘Olly Oligo”. This was the first time I asked myself, ‘who the hell are they aiming this at?’

Then we were assaulted with the extremely kitch ‘PCR Song‘ from Bio-Rad. Thanks for this guys, it took weeks to try and forget it.

PCR song
Bio-Rad's PCR Song

Then came Eppendorf’s ‘It’s called epMotion‘ music video for a robotic liquid handling station; a deliberately tongue-in-cheek boy-band styled affair, also available as a ring tone. I wasn’t swayed.

Eppendorf's epMotion boys
Eppendorf's epMotion boys

The most recent shockers, inciting this post, are from the Biotech giant Roche, who are marketing a means of monitoring cell cultures using electrical impedance measurements, xCELLigence. However, they’ve gone for a more obvious tack. They’ve done a rock video.

Roche's exCELLigence rock
Roche's exCELLigence rock

Actually, they loved it so much, they did a second rock video. Why do just one when you can have two videos for twice the price?

I’m actually now speechless.


For some time now I have have been fascinated by kinetic sculpture; a fusion of art and engineering that demonstrates a high degree of human aesthetic understanding and kineto-mechanical motion. I used to be obsessed with complicated, intricate, interactive, clock-work like mechanisms, but I never had the skill to assemble any of my ideas; about the most I could achieve was a marble (glass ball) mouse race or domino rally. The kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen is a leading proponent and I’ve particularly love his piece Strandbeest, which is a wind-propelled kinetic sculpture.

Continue reading “Kininspirational…”


When I poured the boiling water from my kettle into my bowl of Weetabix, rather than my mug, I knew I wasn’t going to get much done today.

Every other Monday I have early-o’clock meetings with The Consortium, which means getting up at stupid-o’clock and generally dithering on otherwise straight-forward tasks for half an hour, until my higher brain functions kick-start. Today was no different, with the exception that my brain has been running on overdrive ever since.

In an attempt to assuage today’s thirst for knowledge, I’ve finished two non-fiction books (the subect of a later blog), skimmed two others and read copious wikis, blogs and usernets of various topics, from the Slavoj Žižek’s study on violence to the excellent and obsessive self-portraiture photo projects of Noah Kalina (Noah K) and Jonathan Keller (JK).

Noah K created the emotive video “Everyday“, set to the haunting music of Carly Commando, wherein we see the last six and a half years of his life quite literally flash before our eyes. The video is a time-lapse montage constructed from a picture he took of himself, every day, over this period.  Over the five minutes that the video runs, we stare into the eyes of a complete stranger as he ages, and somewhere around the 2nd or 3rd minute, you start to realise the immensely personal nature of this observation. Even though, at the end of it, we may not know anything specific about his life, you can’t help but feel that you somehow know him.

I’m not sure that our brains are really hard-wired to process such imagery, which is why it is so excellent; time is precious, and we hate to see it thrown away, yet this is partly what we are seeing, a gratuitous display of time-travel with a whole day reduced to a fraction of a second. We have no idea what he was doing just before, or after, these pictures were taken, what he was thinking or how his life was going; well enough to maintain his project it seems. Evidently Noah K.’s gained some notoriety, with the ultimate accolade of having been parodied in The Simpsons, along with a slew of other awards.

A related project, and one that has been running for somewhat longer, is that of Jonathan Keller (JK). I  encourage you to take a look at his video montage. He scrolls through 8 years at an even greater speed than Noah K., and whilst not set to quite as enjoyable a soundtrack, he has managed the greater precision in positioning of his face in each photo.

His website is more than a little chaotic, but if you can navigate your way through it, and I insist that you should, you will find his further links to other “obsessive” projects by himself, and others. All of these tug very strongly at my obsessive and collective tendencies; the repetitive nature of my job means that I have a huge array of possible time-lapse projects from which to choose, not least of which myself. Watch this space.

ON a completely separate note. I discovered the table that I want/need/desire; it’s called “MILK“, it’s Danish, the designer wants to sell them, and I want to buy one. Supply and demand, you can’t argue with it:

If someone out there is ready to buy it for me, then I’m very ready to receive it.


Best of the web

Stavros: GPS artwork.

Core77: contemporary design.

Julian Beever: Now this guy is a talent. I came across him in Gent a few years ago, when I very nearly fell through the pavement in one of his “anamorphic illusion” drawings. They’re SO real!

Visualsoftheworld: longest website in the world.

Computer suicide: laptop commits suicide to save the wolrd from its owner’s Master’s thesis.

Banksy: social commentary, freely given.