Steve Cook

Nerd of this parish.

Most commented posts

  1. Modular origami — 31 comments
  2. Educational RCTs — 17 comments
  3. The Michaelis-Menten model is not applicable to most enzymes in a cell — 6 comments
  4. A brief history of rubbish — 5 comments
  5. The magnolia misunderstanding — 5 comments

Author's posts


I had to teach myself a bit of Python recently, so decided to do it by implementing this thing (it’s uploaded here as a text file). It takes a nice intuitive mark-down for phylogenetic trees (below) and spits out a Newick file (-f nwk), or a Wikipedia clade format (-f wp). It’s not amazing …

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Concrete jungle

Lophophora williamsii [CC-BY-SA-4.0 Steve Cook]

The Barbican is a sprawling concrete brutality as apt to divide opinion as Marmite or skinny jeans. Built in the 60s and 70s as a housing estate and cultural centre on a vast bomb-site in the City of London, it does not sound like a promising place to go botanising, but after the fire-weed was …

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Atrichum undulatum [CC-BY-SA-4.0 Steve Cook]

When we went to the Berlin Botanischer Garten in 2005, we saw some pretty cool stuff,  including a flowering Welwitschia and some fantastic tree ferns. However, like every other botanical garden I’ve ever visited, mosses , hornworts and liverworts were effectively ignored, or – worse – treated as dreary also-rans at the start of one …

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Here be dragons

Jardin Canario [CC-BY-SA-4.0 Steve Cook]

Previously on Bagging Botanic Gardens: Maspalomas et al., Wisley, Brussels, Down House, Much Else Besides. The minute I found out there was a botanic garden in the north of Gran Canaria as well, a return visit became inevitable. The Jardín Botánico Canario “Viera y Clavijo” is in the outskirts of Las Palmas, and is much larger than …

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Hairy kneecap

Euplotes patella [CC-BY-SA-4.0 Yikai Feng]

Our microscopy practical always turns up something new, which is the main reason I enjoy it. This year it was a ciliate called Euplotes patella. This kneecap-shaped critter is a single-celled organism masquerading as a tiny animal. The appendages that look like long hairs or legs are bundles of extra-long cilia called cirri, which it …

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Stems all the way down

Cotinus coggygria [CC-BY-SA-4.0 Steve Cook]

In the days when potted plants were more than just disposable land-filler, my Nan would try to force her wizened poinsettia to flower by sticking it into a bin-liner with some apples every night from October until December. Sum total of flowers she ever saw: zero. Ho hum. But how many poinsettia flowers can you …

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More botanical baggings

Eden Project [CC-BY-SA-4.0 Steve Cook]

Previously on Bagging Botanic Gardens: Wisley, Brussels, Down House, Much Else Besides. Eden Project An old clay pit in Cornwall doesn’t sound like the most promising place to find a tropical forest, but the alleged proximity of the entrance to Magrathea might go some way to explaining it. The Eden Project’s bubble-wrap domes are now such …

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Modular origami

270 (sonobe colourchange) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

A few months ago, I went to a creative origami lunchtime session organised by some lovely people at $WORK. I’d done origami a bit when I was younger, but mostly just frogs and cranes, which have since helped me while away the hours when invigilating exams. However, at this lunchtime session I was shown how …

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Organism of the week #31 – Tardigrades

Tardigrades [CC-BY-SA-3.0 Steve Cook]

Tardigrades make me squee. These little relatives of the arthropods and velvet-worms are found in the water around mosses, and they are quite easy to find if you have a cheap microscope and a little patience. Like spiders, they have eight legs, but unlike the legs of a spider, they’re plump and stumpy, and end in the little ‘fingers’ …

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Organism of the week #30 – Sticky situation

Passiflora foetida flower [CC-BY-3.0 Alex Lomas]

All science is either physics or stamp-collecting. This rather mean-spirited dismissal of chemistry and biology as “stamp-collecting” is attributed to Ernest Rutherford, the physicist usually (not wholly fairly) credited with discovering the atomic nucleus and the proton. Shortly after Rutherford’s death in 1937, particle physicists discovered the muon, pi mesons, kaons, the electron neutrino, the anti-proton, the lambda baryon, xi cascades, and …

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