The Little Things – Gifts

Hello, welcome to the second episode of my new series called The Little Things. If you didn’t know this is a series all about small changes that you can make in your day to day life to help save the world. Today we’re going to talk about presents!

I’m currently in the full run up to christmas, that means buying a lot of presents for my friends and family! This year I wanted to make a real effort to make my presents to my loved ones help the world out in one way or another. So I’ve come up with a list of five presents you could get your loved ones that help the earth out!

1 – Elephant Pants! – If you know someone who loves there PJ’s more than life itself like me this might be the perfect present. The Elephant Pants sell loungers, harem pants, kimonos and all things comfy! But better yet a portion of every sale goes toward anti-poaching of ivory, wildlife and habitat protection, and research on curing elephant diseases. Made in Thailand, the seamstresses are paid double the average wage and are given healthcare benefits! You can shop them here.

Tyke Unisex Loungers

2 – Devocean! – Perhaps you’re after something for someone who loves shiny things well Devoted To The Ocean has you covered. With every purchase of there gorgeous jewelry or beach essentials 20 percent of the net profits go to charitable organisations attempting to clear up the ocean and keep it safe particularly for turtles! You can shop them here.

3 – Nuubia San Francisco – If you are looking for a sweet treat for someone you love then look no further! These premium chocolates are made with no palm oil! As such they’ve been labelled orangutan safe and cruelty free chocolates. All of their packaging is FSC approved, oh and they look delicious. With vegan and gluten free options how can you say no! Note! This is probably one for my american friends as they are american based!!! Either way you can shop here.

nuubia chocolates

4 – Lush – I’m a huge fan of lush and if you know a lushie in your life you could add a charity pot to their gift. Lush do a lot for charity but 100% of the price of this specific body lotion is donated to small grassroots organizations working in the areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights. You can shop it here.

5 – Traidcraft – If you still want more choices then have a look at Traidcraft! They’ve got everything from homeware, food and fashion! All of their wonderful items are made through fair trade co-operatives. For example the blue duvet set I’ve listed below is handmade in India using natural resources, and its stunning! You can shop all of traidcrafts beautiful things here.

Please do leave ideas for similar wonderful things in the comments below!

Happy Shopping and Happy Christmas!

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*Note – I have not been paid to mention any of the products in this blog post – I just think they’re all really cool!

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Biology Presents!

Hello! Is it too soon… can I really start talking about christmas! Well as I’ve been shopping since October, I guess so! I have a few christmassy posts lined up until I go for my Christmas break and today I thought I’d give some recommendations for presents for the biological people in your life!

1 – A Cellfie Mug

I love this cute mug that is perfect for any biologist! You can get it here.

2 – Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World 

This book is most certainly on my christmas list. I love celebrating women in STEM and this book does that as well as being simply beautiful. You can get this book on amazon here.

3 – DNA Bookmark

What’s more perfect to go with a Biology book than a biology themed bookmark! This beautiful creation is from etsy and can be personalised with your loved ones initials. You can get it here!

4 – DNA Art?!

If you know a true DNA connoisseur how about this!  This company makes artwork from your own DNA, I think it would hang beautifully next to some qualification certificates! Have a look at it here.

5 – Air Plant and Shell combo

This is perfect for those that aren’t great with plants but would love a houseplant. This is a combination of an air plant growing in a shell, I think it would look perfect on any bathroom counter top! You can have a look here.

On Sunday there will be some more present recommendations but with a different twist so stay tuned!

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Have Yourself an Eco-Friendly Christmas!

Hello! It’s officially December and as I always take a bit of time off from blogging at the end of the year soooo that means it’s time to get christmassy! I have three posts that are all centered around christmas coming for you and today we’re talking about having an eco-friendly christmas!

Tip 1. Buy a real Christmas Tree but make it local!

Plastic trees are often made of non recyclable materials, so unless you plan to use it for a decade or more! Real trees are often purpose grown and in that time they can provide a habitat and will absorb CO2. However just pick it up from somewhere local and look for the FSC logo.

Tip 2. – RECYCLE RECYCLE RECYCLE

Christmas often means a whole heap of packaging! I understand that the easy option is to put all the junk in the bin but it makes such a difference if you recycle as much as you can. All of your wrapping paper should be going into the paper recycling!

Tip 3. Try and Cut Down Food Waste

Christmas is often a time for lots and lots of food. Make sure you try and make the most of every scrap of food you have. There are lots of fantastic leftover recipes out there but my personal favourite is a leftover pie! Or freeze things for a later date.

Tip 4. Get the lighting right!

My favourite thing about christmas is all the twinkly lights but not all lights are created equal. Certain lights will drain more energy which costs you more as well as the planet. Indoor LED fairy lights are a great option when decorating your home for Christmas. They don’t need much energy to run and are much more efficient than standard or even energy saving bulbs. LED lights generally don’t produce heat, making them ideal for decorating your Christmas tree and reducing the risk of fire hazard. Also utilize timers! All your Christmas lights should be on timers, from the strands adorning your trees to the lights outside. Don’t count on remembering to turn them off after a long day and plug the lights into a timer that remembers for you. Light timers can be found at any hardware store.

Tip 5. Presents!

There will be two more christmas themed posts coming up all about gift ideas for Biologists and for gifts that do good for the world. However, think about the presents that you receive and that you give. Try and keep packaging to a minimum and donate what you don’t use rather than throwing things away!

I hope you all have a wonderful christmas whatever you do!

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The Little Things – Water Bottles

Hello and welcome to a brand new series! This series is called The Little Things! We see a lot of news about how much of a dire state the world is in and it really is. But often these problems seem too big for one person to attempt to fix. That’s where this series comes along, all of these posts will be tiny changes that you can make in your everyday life that will benefit the world in the long run. Today we’re going to be talking about water bottles. I’ve spoken about the use of single use plastic bottles before in an episode of Becoming A Master which you can find here but today I want to go into more detail! (If you don’t have time to read the whole thing skip to the bottom to find a helpful infographic!)

Image result for plastic water bottlesWe all know that drinking water is incredibly important for your health and general well being. According to the NHS you should be drinking between 6 and 8 glasses of water a day and more if you are more active.

As many of us are busy working people having portable water containers is a must so you can try and drink enough water. In comes the handy plastic water bottle that you can get from almost anywhere! Not to mention that they are cheap! But I’m afraid that’s where the benefits end.

There are three main issues when it comes to using single use water bottles.

Issue 1 – To make water costs a lot of water!

It can take up to three litres of water to produce 1 litre of bottled water. It also takes up a huge amount of energy to make the bottles and transport them! 250ml of oil is used for every 1 litre of bottled water

Issue 2 – The Environment

As has been highly featured in Blue Planet Two, plastic presents a huge problem for our oceans. Many animals will eat the plastic and die, fish can get stuck in the plastic and filter feeders suffer from the ingestion of micro-plastics. Plastic is everywhere in our world and lots of our water bottles end up in the ocean.

Issue 3 – Reusing plastic water bottles can be harmful to you!

Many people will reuse the single use bottles however this can be harmful. Firstly because many do not appropriately wash these bottles which makes for a nice breeding ground for bacteria. Secondly if these bottles are exposed to heat like from being in a hot car or gym class, it can release a chemical compound called bisphenol A otherwise known as BPA. This can mimic the reactions of a chemical called oestrogen. In humans expose can be linked to different diseases but scientists are still unsure of how much BPA can cause different reactions. However, BPA can also affect many animals (linking back into my last point!).

So what’s the little thing you can do to help?!

Fairly simply exchange in your single use plastic bottle for a refillable one. They are all over the shops and come in lots of different designs! I have even found some stackable water bottles for those of you who want to keep your bottles in the fridge. The best ones however are made from stainless steel and will last you a lifetime!

This simple change can really help because you are saving water, energy and that plastic doesn’t end up in the ocean!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first episode of the little things! Let me know on twitter whether you use a refillable water bottle and send me a picture!

The Plastic Water Bottle Effect Infographic

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Happy Tuesday!

Hello and Happy Tuesday!

Just jumping on here quickly to let you know that I was interviewed by the lovely Rebecca from An Anxious Scientist! This was for her Meet A Scientist series which I absolutely love. Rebecca is definitely a writer I go to for inspiration for my own blog so it was such an honor for her to ask.

If you would like to go and read the blog and go and check out Rebeccas beautiful website and shop then just click HERE!

See you all tomorrow!

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The Science of Firework Colours

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, The Gunpowder Treason and plot”

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On this last day of ThatBiologist does Halloween we’re going to explore the science of fireworks! A long time a go I did a 6 facts in 60 seconds post on fireworks here. However today we’re going into more detail on firework colours!

Explosions have been around for a very long time and fireworks have often been used as a sign of celebration. Chinese people are believed to have made explosive rockets in the 6th century CE during the Sung dynasty (960–1279CE). The word “firework” comes from the Greek word pyrotechnics, which means “fire art” or “fire skill”. Fireworks are in essence a controlled explosion inside a missile.

The beautiful colours and styles of fireworks come from a chemical reaction. How it works is that there will be a particular metal compound and an explosion. The metal reacts with the explosion to produce a colour. Sodium compounds give yellow and orange, for example, copper and barium salts give green or blue, and calcium or strontium make red.

Here’s a very cool infographic from Compound Chem explaining that in a bit more detail:

Image result for firework chemical reaction

Make sure you stay safe this guy fawkes night as fireworks are very dangerous. This brings this years ThatBiologist Does Halloween to a close. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week of posts. Feel free to let me know your favourites with a quick tweet or in the comments below!

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Are Ghosts Real?

I’ve written a few posts like this in past years when ThatBiologist has done Halloween! I asked whether Vampires were real, Werewolves were real and finally whether zombies were real! But today I’m asking could ghosts be real?!

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Ghosts, thanks to popular culture, come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. From orbs to see through figures, ghosts come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. Ghosts are popularly theorized to be spirits of people that have passed away. There are thousands of famous ghost stories including people seeing the ghost of Anne Boleyn. Another ghostly case was that of Freddie Jackson who was a mechanic and died in World War I. The story goes that he did not want to be left out of a photo of his squadron even after death and makes an appearance in this photo:

Freddy Jackson

However are ghosts actually real? Many claim that ghosts are the mind playing tricks on you. After all many ghost stories are set in creepy, dark and quiet places. With the right story the mind might simply see what it wants to see and hear what it wants to hear.

Ghosts became very popular in the Victorian era particularly in fiction. In this time things were changing with the industrial revolution. Lighting was often provided by gas lights, these lights emitted carbon monoxide causing more people to have hallucinations. Photography allowed for photos to become “proof” of these phenomenons when in reality these photos were faked with quite literally smoke and mirrors.

In conclusion, are ghosts real? Well who am I to give a definitive answer. Although many cases of ghosts are probably a trick of the eye or spending a little too much time by a gas light, maybe just maybe one or two stories could be true.

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Where would we be without decay?

Decay is one of the most essential things that happens on this earth. Not that you really notice it happening in your day to day life but I can assure you would notice it really quickly if it stopped happening.

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What is decay?

According to the dictionary decay is: “the state or process of rotting or decomposition”. Or in other words when it is the process that breaks down a once living thing.

How does decay work?

Decay works because of organisms known as decomposers which are things like bacteria and fungi. These are organisms that literally live off of dead things and break them down. Some decomposers live in leaves or hang out in the guts of dead animals. These fungi and bacteria act like built-in destructors. Then eventually as things are decomposed into the soil more single celled organisms will join in on the decay party.

What would happen if decay stopped happening?

Life is a cycle. Without things dying we would not have life! Specifically things would stop living because of carbon. The process of decay releases carbon into the environment which allows for new life. This is effectively how the carbon cycle works!

So in short things would get grizzly pretty fast! However, if organisms such as insects stopped decaying then we would run out of room really quickly as well!

Can you stop decay?

Well as I just said you probably wouldn’t want to however, there are processes that stop or at least slow down rates of decay.  This can include in extreme environmental conditions such as the extreme cold and in bogs.

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Pumpkins!

Pumpkins are synonymous with the spooky time of year! Here are five things you didn’t know about them:

Number 1: The largest pumpkin ever grown was just under 922 kilograms and was the size of a small car!

Number 2: The first jack o lanterns were not carved in pumpkins. They were carved in turnips as they were more readily available for the Celtic holiday of Samhain (where the practice comes from). It wasn’t until 1867 when jack o lanterns were carved in pumpkins!

Number 3: Pumpkins are actually a fruit!

Number 4: Every part of the pumpkin plant is edible. There are recipes for all bits of the pumpkin including the flowers and leaves. My personal favourite part of a pumpkin to eat is the seeds!

Number 5: There are about 42 different types of pumpkin that come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes!

Have you carved a pumpkin this year? Send me a picture over on my twitter!!

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7 Weird Things That Can Kill You!

Welcome to the first post of ThatBiologist Does Halloween! An entire week dedicated to the goulish things in the world of biology. Today I’m going to jump in the deep end with 10 weird deaths.

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7 – Anthrax

Anthrax is an infection caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. It can affect the lungs, skin and cause gastrointestinal infections too. It can be extremely deadly without treatment and extremely uncomfortable. Anthrax spores have been used as biological warfare in the past. However, one weird death caused by Anthrax was of US congressman Michael F. Farley in 1921 when his shaving brush was infected with Anthrax.

 

6 – Carrot Juice

Carrots are delicious and nutritious! Although they do not actually provide any form of night vision, they are a great source of vitamin A as well as having vitamins K and B6. However, Basil Brown used to drink a gallon of carrot juice a day in the belief it would make him healthy. In 1974 he died after warning that this behavior would cause damage to his liver and overdosing on vitamin A.

5 – Robots

Many of our every day items are produced by robots as well as almost everything we do. The first human ever to be killed by a robot goes to Robert Williams who worked in a Ford assembly line. He was hit by a robotic arm and subsequently died.

4 – Yellow Fever

Yellow fever is a viral disease and the infection is common in parts of Africa, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. In some cases the disease can be fatal but a standard infection can cause symptoms such as  mild infection with fever, headache, chills, back pain, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting. Vomiting up blood and kidney failure are some of the more severe symptoms. It is spread by mosquito bites and the slightly weird death here is in 1900, American physician Jesse William Lazear tried to prove that Yellow Fever was transmitted by mosquitoes by letting infected mosquitoes bite him. He then contracted the disease and died proving himself right!

3 – Laughing

Some say laughter is the best medicine and most of the time it is. However there have been a few cases of death from laughter. One such case was of Alex Mitchell, he laughed at a TV programme for 25 minutes solid. He finally stopped and died from suffocation causing heart failure.

2 – Snakes

Snakes are wonderfully strange creatures and some are highly poisonous. The poisons can have all sorts of affects which can include causing organ failure leading to death. However, many snakes are very peaceful creatures and will run away first and if you see a snake it’s often better to turn and walk away too! Mack Wolford never got that message though. He was a pastor that believed Christians should handle snakes in order to show their faith in god. He however died from a rattlesnake bite in 2012. Stay away from snakes kids!

1 – Explosive powder

Explosions are dangerous I didn’t need to tell you that. We see enough evidence of it on the news. You would think then if ever you had to work with an explosive powder you would be hyper aware of its dangerous properties! Not for Vladimir Likhonos who had a habit of dropping his gum in citric acid powder to increase the sour flavor. He one day mixed up the two powers causing him to chew the explosive powder and consequently blow off his jaw!

 

It has amazed me some of the deaths I read researching this piece! I guess its a little reminder to always be grateful for what you have, anyway happy Halloween! See you tomorrow!

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