Author's details

Name: Steve Cook
Date registered: 16/04/2012
URL: http://www.polypompholyx.com


Nerd of this parish.

Latest posts

  1. Organism of the week #29 – Galling — 06/10/2015
  2. Organism of the week #28 – Fractal art — 17/09/2015
  3. Living dangerously — 06/09/2015
  4. Organism of the week #27 – Alien haemorrhoids — 06/09/2015
  5. Statistical power — 26/08/2015

Most commented posts

  1. Educational RCTs — 17 comments
  2. A brief history of rubbish — 5 comments
  3. The Michaelis-Menten model is not applicable to most enzymes in a cell — 4 comments
  4. Moose objects and roles — 3 comments
  5. Stentorian — 2 comments

Author's posts listings

Oct 06

Organism of the week #29 – Galling

Andricus quercuscalicis on Quercus robur [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

Today is the first day of the new (academic) year at $WORK, but – aside from a couple of intro lectures – this is the calm before the real storm, which arrives in the form of a deluge of biological chemistry in November. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a few mugshots of some weird ciliate or other around …

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Sep 17

Organism of the week #28 – Fractal art

Humata tyermannii [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

Flowers are essentially tarts. Prostitutes for the bees. (Uncle Monty, Withnail and I) Our tiny garden has only passing acquaintance with sunshine, so about the only plants that really thrive in its dingy clutches are shade-loving ferns. This Japanese painted fern is my current favourite: who needs flowers anyway, when leaves look like this? The colour is spectacular, but …

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Sep 06

Living dangerously


Towards the end of the last millennium, I spent a lot of time befriending arsenic. The last two years of my PhD involved measuring how much iodine had fallen off a chemical used as a wood preservative day-in, day-out, and arsenic trioxide was the most exciting component of an otherwise excruciatingly dull test for iodide ions. …

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Sep 06

Organism of the week #27 – Alien haemorrhoids

Magnolia ×soulangeana fruit [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

A quickie this week: magnolia fruit look like something from another planet.

Aug 26

Statistical power

Fair coin simulation [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

In a recent(ish) post, we saw that if a fair coin is flipped 30 times, the probability it will give us 10 or fewer heads is less than 5% (4.937% to be pointlessly precise). Fisher quantified this using the p value of a data set: the probability of obtaining data (or a test statistic based on those data) at …

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Aug 23

Organism of the week #26 – Oxymoron

Acanthus mollis [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

Plants can have some very odd names. Bears are not renowned for their trousers, and this spiky sod is the last thing anyone would want to make a pair of trousers from, but “bear’s breeches” it is. Even its Latin name is odd: acanthus means spiny, and mollis means smooth; a literal oxymoron. It might not look very familiar, but it may be the …

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Aug 17

Organism of the week #25 – Bull headed

Bucephalus minimus [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

This is another of the things we have found down a microscope in one of our undergraduate practicals, but for once it’s not a ciliate. This is the larva of a parasitic fluke called Bucephalus, which is the Greek for ‘bull headed’. It’s appropriate for this fluke not because it looks like Alexander the Great’s horse, but because …

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Aug 10

A graph to show

A graph to show [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

I’ve never been sure where “a graph to show…” comes from. As far as I can tell, A-level specifications don’t use or specify this wording, and you wouldn’t typically see it in a figure legend in a scientific paper. But if you ask first-year students to put a title on a graph without any further guidance, almost every one of them will default …

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Aug 10

Organism of the week #24 – Danse Macabre

Yersinia_pestis [Public Domain, credit: NIH]

For three centuries, the Black Death was routinely epidemic in London. The first outbreak – in 1348 – probably killed half the population of England; the last outbreak – from 1665 to 1666 – probably killed a quarter of the population of London. In 1665, Isleworth was a small village several hours’ walk (or row) from …

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Aug 03

Organism of the week #23 – Rattled

Rhinanthus minor (field) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

My annual summer ritual to stave off death for one more year involves running round Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, which are situated conveniently close to $WORK. I lumbered merry as a shroud. That aches and sweats o’er trails and heights, When all at once I saw a crowd, A host, of golden parasites: Yellow rattle is a member of the broomrape family, which …

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