Latest Posts

It's that time of year again!

Preludes' blog of words will be 3 years old on the 14th of December, and we also barrell roll into the Christmas season.

So this noble blogger will be taking a well deserved break to stuff herself full of Mr Kipling apple pies, meat and Baileys. I hope you can do something similar and keep cosy this holiday season - enjoy!

If you drink alcohol, you'll likely get drunk. It's pretty simple. But what's not so clear is why this happens. What actually causes the symptoms of being 'drunk'?

Ethanol the Infiltrator

Alcohol as we drink it is typically ethanol - a very special little molecule that, due to it's tiny size, can easily slip throughout our bodies to work it's mischief. Ethanol is made up of only six hydrogen atoms, one oxygen atom and two carbon atoms. It's water soluable, and so has a relatively easy route straight into our blood streams if the stomach and intestines don't help to absorb it. While also somewhat fat soluble, interestingly the body fat content of the drinker can have an affect on how they handle their drink. Those with more body fat typically suffer from worse hangovers the next day, which is why women are typically reported to have less tolerance for alcohol than men. Typically smaller body sizes don't help much either.

So what does ethanol do to make us 'drunk'?

Genrally when you drink some 80% will head into your small intestine, but 20% or so can be absorbed through your stomach walls and straight into your bloodstream. if you have a full stomach this tends to slow down the absorption. Once ethanol is in your bloodstream it gets to work mainly as an inhibitor, flooding up into your brain and interfering with neurotransmitters. When it hits the central nervous system the symptoms of drunkenness like loss of control  or vomiting start to take effect.

As it makes its way around your brain it usually first lingers in the cerebral cortex and slows things down, meaning that the areas that it's responsible for start to be affected. the cerebral cortex handles things like your behaviour, cognitive 'higher' thinking, and muscle movements. As things slow down you might feel less inhibited, which is often why you might find yourself operating at 'base level' and going after things that normally anxiety or common sense might regulate. For example, that third helping of greasy fish and chips might sure look good, or unprotected sex might suddenly seem like a good idea. The slower reactions physically are responsible for the alterations in vision as you process your environment more sluggishly, and why you're generally less sensitive to pain or touch in general.Overall, it's going to take a lot more effort to focus.

If ethanol reaches your limbic system you'll notice that your emotions are effected. This is generally why it's ill advised to drink when you're in a bad mood, as the limbic system typically controls your emotions. With this out of the picture, you'll usually find that your emotions are exaggerated, with intense highs and lows. This, matched up with the blocking of most of your inhibitions, is usually why people tend to get into fights while drunk.

As you drink more and more, more and more of your brain if effected. if it gets deep enough, into the medulla, then you're going to have serious issues. The medulla is the part of your brain that coordinates the things that you do 'without thinking'. If things slow down here you get sleepy and will, eventually, pass out. And quite possibly pee yourself.

Ok then: explain "breaking the seal"

Speaking on peeing yourself, most drinkers will know of the phenomenon of 'breaking the seal': that is, as soon as you start going to the toilet for a pee on a night out drinking, you'll be going every two minutes thereafter. Why is this?
Well one explanation is rather obvious: you're drinking loads of the stuff in one short sitting. For example I like cider and I'll usually grab a few pints on a night out (because they sell them in pints. And I like looking 'manly' with a big pint glass. Why yes I am an idiot.). Now think of the size of a pint glass. Having trouble contextualising it? Try imagining it as pints of milk instead. Yeah, it seems like quite a lot. kind of gross actually. No wonder our bladder is howling.

Another reason for the dodgy bladder control is down to ethanol affecting your pituitary gland. Here it slows down or stops the production of ADH - the Anti-diuretic hormone. This hormone tells your kidneys to conserve water and without it the liquid basically passes right through you. This is also the reason why, despite drinking pints of boozy liquid, you can end up badly dehydrated. So keep drinking normal water along with your alcohol to try and offset this.

And hangovers?

Hangovers are fairly easy to understand if you acknowledge that it's your body's response to you quite literally poisoning yourself. No wonder you feel like crap, you know? But the body is a resilient beast and while it'll be putting you through the ringer as it does, its hangover is a way of curing itself.

For example headaches are generally due to the aforementioned dehydration as your body tries to restore fluid levels. It narrows your blood vessels which restricts the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. The brain overcompensates in response, dilating its blood vessels and swelling, and the pain receptors in the brain lining start to inform you of the process...painfully. The older you are, the less water you have in your system to begin with, which can make things worse as the alcohol isn't diluted easily.

You might get stomach ache due to the irritation of your stomach and intestine walls (due to the ethanol merrily making its way through them), which causes swelling. This swelling delays the stomach's normal 'emptying' process, which causes a build up of gastric acids and that, combined with the delightful kebab you had the night before, can lead of nausea and vomiting. In addition your body's immune system is responding to an attempted poisoning, so evacuating the toxins in every way it know how seems a sensible option. That's another reason why you might find you lose some control over what comes out of you from either end.

Finally there is evidence that the immune system also produces high levels ot cytokines in their attempt to clean you up from 'infection'. If these levels are abnormally high sometimes it can even affect memory, which is one possible cause why some people can't remember the night before if the drinking was heavy enough.

While it offers a fascinating window into how your body works the hangover is clearly not pleasant, and has been scientifically proven to get worse as we get older, with age 29 being recognised as the time when things get really tough after a night on the tiles.

Now, of course, the disclaimer.

Look: alcohol is a drug that has been deliberately manufactured and cultivated by humans over thousands of years because it makes us feel good. Really we're no different to those lemurs who bite down on millipedes to get high as a kite, and it's natural. But, as you can see above, it can seriously screw with your body and mind and lead to short term and long term health problems. If in doubt, ask Frank - they're a really great resource that doesn't patronise you. My advice? Know your limits, keep your friends around you, always zip a £20 into a separate bit of your bag so you can afford a taxi home, and drink plenty of water - ideally one soft drink between each alcoholic drink. Keep safe out there guys.

- Drinking & you
- 8 reasons hangovers really do get worse with age - the Telegraph
- The molecular circus: Your body and how alcohol gets your drunk
- why do we get drunk? (how it works magazine)
-Why do we get hangovers? IFL science

It's widely believed that all humans originated from Africa, which makes the modern physical variations between different races of humans pretty fascinating. How did we evolve to all be so different?

BabyMetal. Not only are they fun music performers, but also own traditionally 'Asian' eyes.

Now, of course, curiosity about why some humans evolved differently than others has taken science down some damned dark places in the past. For example, when it intermingles with racist social prejudices and concepts of 'evolutionary superiority' you get eugenics and naziism. It would be wrong to approach this kind of subject and not acknowledge this past.
But if you accept that really none of these traits are superior to one another, you can learn something really interesting about how different populations of humans adapted to their different environments, which makes it a pretty fascinating branch of science.

Take, for example, the presence of epicanthic folds. Or, rather 'Asian' eyes vs 'Caucasian' eyes. Why did they appear? What function do they serve?

Biffy Clyro. Also fun music performers, but this time with traditionally 'Caucasian' eyes.

John David Ward of Quora explains why.

"I know this is going to sound really strange and clinical, but please bear with me. 

That distinctive Asiatic eye look is caused by a variety of things, including strong, forward projecting zygomatic arches (the cheek bones just under the eyes), relatively large epicanthic folds, smoothness caused by fat around the eye socket, and a flatter nose bridge. Not everyone has all of these traits, or has them to the same degree, but these traits all tend to reinforce each other visually, leading to a distinctive effect. 

In theory, these effects are presumably caused by a combination of continentality and sexual selection for neoteny (that is, for cuteness). The exact way this happened is still the subject of some controversy, but the correlation is well established.

The story goes that ancestors of the Asiatic peoples (that is, the people who live in modern day East Asia) migrated, in prehistoric times, from somewhere around Central Asia or Siberia to their current locations. That area is the place on Earth which is the farthest inland, and as a result experiences large seasonal swings in temperature. They would have adapted to deal with dry, cold winters, hot, bright summers, and dust. They would have had to deal with dust in the summer and glare from sunlight reflecting off snow in the winter, under conditions where survival was fairly difficult.

If environmental effects were all that mattered, moving south-east like this would have resulted in these Asiatic people losing their distinctive features as an adaptation to their now more temperate environment. But that wouldn't be instantaneous and environment is not the only factor in play. When these prehistoric Asiatic people reached more temperate and coastal areas, which were capable of supporting a larger population, they underwent a population explosion, which allowed sexual selection to take over. The Yellow River Civilization, for instance, which is the ancestor to the modern nation of China, had a relatively high population for many thousands of years.

Sexual selection is mating preference. That is, cuter people (as judged subjectively by the pool of potential mates) are more desired as reproductive partners and therefore are more likely to pass on their genes. Social selection in connection with infanticide in times of famine might also have played a role.

So we can say that features which originally arose as adaptations to an extreme, dusty climate were probably exapted through sexual selection.

Edit: I want to add that epicanthic folds are pretty common around the world, especially in children (they protect one's eyes while they're still developing), and the majority of people have low or flat nose bridges. So it's important to consider who you're comparing these Asiatic eyes to. 

If you're comparing them to Caucasians—which is not synonymous with "white" or "European" but is a collective term for the people who form the majority of the population in countries of the Middle East, Anatolia, Northern Africa, India, Europe, Russia, and former European colonies, who have commonalities, including facial features, regardless of their skin color—keep in mind that Caucasian eyes are not neutral. That is, they do not represent an unchanged original state; they have a distinctive look, too, and there's nothing obvious or inevitable about comparing East Asian eyes to Caucasian eyes rather than anyone else. The eyes of East Asian people look particularly different when you compare them to Caucasians, because the Caucasian peoples went through just about the opposite sort of evolution: their ancestors came from, and for the most part continue to live in, areas where the climate was stabilized by the presence of a nearby body of water (which, due to its tremendous specific heat capacity, tends to mediate year-old temperatures by emitting heat in the winter and absorbing it in the summer).

If you look at an atlas, you'll see for yourself that the north-western quadrant of the Old World is much craggier than the north-eastern quadrant, with a lot of coastline, full of islands (like the British isles and the islands belonging to Italy and Greece), peninsulas (like Denmark, Italy, Little Britain, Iberia, and Scandinavia), bays (like the Bay of Biscay), seas (like the Caspian Sea, the Black Sea, the Red Sea, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea, and the Mediterranean, most of which are remnants of the ancient inland Tethys Sea before it closed up), and gulfs (like the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden).

Image from Wikipedia, if you didn't recognize the style

So when someone is described as having Asian looking eyes or Caucasian looking eyes, often all we're really saying is that they look like their prehistoric ancestors came from a highly continental area (like the middle of the continent of Asia) or a highly coastal area (like the area around the remains of the Tethys sea), just as when we describe someone as white or black, we're really talking about, via skin color, whether they look like their ancestors came from high latitudes (closer to the poles) or low latitudes (closer to the equator). It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with where their relatives are actually from.

For instance, South Africa is relatively continental (Africa is a much bigger continent than people think). The indigenous people of South Africa, because they live in and have adapted to a location far enough from the equator to have pronounced seasons, and where the coastline is relatively smooth, have eyes that are frequently described as looking "Asian." You can see this in this image of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who is Xhosa, a ethnic group from South Africa:

Meanwhile, Melanesians and Australian aborigines, who migrated into their current locations by island-hopping through Southeast Asia, have eyes that look more "Caucasian," as you can see in this picture of Australian pop singer Christine Anu, who is a Torres Strait islander, and who had a brief role in The Matrix Reloaded:

Likewise, since Japan is an island country, is perhaps not surprising that the Ainu, who are the indigenous minority people of Japan, have facial features that have been described as "Caucasian," despite not being particularly closely related to any of the people of Europe, the Middle East, India, or North Africa.

See this picture of a random Ainu man:

Meanwhile, there are people in Europe who are (presumably) descended from the native people of the more continental region of Europe, called the Russian plain or the East European Plain, who have Asian-looking eyes, including quite pronounced epicanthic folds. Most of these people were, at some point, driven up into Finnland (or restricted to Finnland, since Finnland is sometimes considered part of the East European Plain itself) by the territorial expansion of the Eastern Slavs, so these sorts of features most commonly pop up in Scandinvia, but it can also be found occasionally in Poland (going by Wikipedia). For some reason I've never bothered to research, before routine contact with the Orient was established, European writers tended to describe these as "Tataric" features, despite the fact that they're not really present in Crimean Tatars, at least not today.

The most commonly cited example of Asian-looking eyes among Europeans is Björk Guðmundsdóttir, who, despite being of Icelandic nationality, has, through the genetic lottery, inherited via her Scandinavian ancestors a fairly impressive case:

Keep all this in mind when you think about the case of the anthropologists who examined the remains of Kinnewick Man found in Washington state. They were widely misreported as having stated that he was Caucasian. What they discovered, rather, was that measurement of Kinnewick Man's skull showed evidence of morphological adaptations to a coastal, rather than continental, climate which made him resemble that picture of an Ainu man more than that picture of Björk. That doesn't mean that he wasn't actually Native America. Osteology isn't everything. There's a lot more to a person than their facial features."

- Your local blogger's taste in music :p

Keep in touch....

Remember, you can follow Preludes: Blog of Words us on Twitter and Facebook. Or Subscribe to us on Blogluvin' to never miss a post.
Stay curious!

If you're interested in evolution you might like...

The Natural History Museum is on many a person's bucket-list to visit.

Now THIS is what I call a museum entrance!
After all, it's arguably the best place in England to view dinosaurs and few people have managed to avoid adopting a childhood fascination with the massive reptiles that carried on into adulthood. So, being a fellow dinosaur-enthusiast, I could hardly walk past it when I spent a few days in London.

I'm happy to report that the museum was well worth the visit. As we went mid week in the morning, the crowds were very manageable: when they did turn up it was mostly school groups of primary school children, so we could easily peek over their heads - win! As with all the London museums that we visited, we expected to be in and out in a couple of hours, but it sucked out the best part of the day. While our feet were complaining our brains were humming, and there's a surprising amount on display for any curious traveller to explore...

Pachycephalosaurus gives new meaning to the phrase  'thick-headed'
'THE' Dinosaur and the Amazing Building

When you step into the Natural History museum the first thing you notice isn't Dippy the Diplodocus in the centre, but the building itself. With it's striped stone, intricate nature-themed carvings and the cathedral-like height and use of light, I found myself gawping up at it all, completely stunned. It is - in a word - beautiful and is a perfect setting for the more traditional collections that you find inside. It feels eminently victorian, which sits well with the marble statue of Darwin who (currently) sits front and centre, welcoming you into the place. But, of course, the real celebrity is Dippy and it doesn't disappoint. Smaller than the Brontosaurus images you often have in mind, it is nevertheless both imposing and graceful, stretching out its head above the crowds almost close enough to touch. You start to get a real sense of the scale of dinosaurs, though if you wander to the sides and peek at the other isolated displays - such as a vast mammoth skull - Dippy seems quite modest in comparison.

"We're just a pair of charming fluffy cuties. Pay no attention to the teeth."
Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs!

Naturally, with Dippy at the helm, the most popular exhibit was going to be the dinosaurs. It's arranged in a long snaking moody corridor (a little like a queue at Alton Towers) and holds an impressive number of life-sized casts of famous dinosaur fossils as well as a couple of originals. It's well supported by displays that talk about dinosaur evolution, breeding practices, combat, behaviour and more. Being the most popular exhibit, you have to be prepared to be patient and walk at a shuffling pace, but there is plenty to look at and plenty of places to step away from the flow and take a bit of time. The iguanodon is especially impressive in its sheer size, as well as the hefty triceratops, T-Rex and the Ankylosaurus partially encased in rock. There were also fun animatronics on display, such as a T-rex and a pair of feathered raptors. If anything, it's as if they are swimming in the things, with some dinosaur skeletons even hanging from the ceiling. It certainly gives you plenty to look at.

Further proof that babies are eldritch horrors.
The Terror-Fetus Teaches Us About Human Development

With the dinosaurs under your belt you might be forgiven for thinking that most of the museum is over, but it's only the beginning! Drift around and soon you will come to the exhibition on human development. Here the museum very much shows it's age: while it's a great interactive experience especially for children, the exhibits themselves are very long in the tooth. The displays often feature videos with narration and an abundance of dubious fashion and haircuts that marks them as being filmed somewhere around the 80s at best. Even the accents seem dated. It's a little disappointing for such a prestigious museum, but there's still plenty to be learned and the section about the brain development of babies and small children is especially intriguing. Also, being the liberal that I am, I really appreciated the frankness and openness of the sex education on offer, including anatomically correct nude sculptures and illustrations. With this exhibit (and the museum in general) being so focused on children, it was heartening to see that science trumped prudishness in this case.
On a less serious note, this exhibition features a massive horrifying model of a fetus that is nestled in a cave-like section, so if you're a fan of the bizarre you should give it a peek.

You need to get yourself to the whale room. It's immense.

So. Much. Taxidermy.

Any museum about natural history worth its salt has a well stocked taxidermy section. As a kid it was what I loved most about our local museum, because it allowed me to see so many beautiful animals up close. So it's no surprise that The Natural History Museum has these long-dead creatures in spades all throughout the museum. One long corridor is dedicated to  walls of floor-to-ceiling fossils of ancient sea creatures. Another corridor holds cabinets of eggs, displays of various wings and feet, and even a case full of hundreds of species of beautiful humming birds. Mammals, reptiles, insects - you name it and you can see them here in the museum and they will suck hours of your time into studying them all. Perhaps the most impressive room is the 'whale room' which displays the evolution of horses, deer, elephants and more, all with examples of modern and ancient animals in full scale. Hanging above you and in the centre of the room is the marine life, showing the sheer vastness of whales and their marvellous anatomy. Climb up onto a balcony and you can learn about them as well as dolphins, manatees and narwhals. It's enough to take your breath away.

A timeline of our ancestors

A Hidden Gem of Human Evolution

Carry on through the museum and you may start to flag. You may wonder whether you're anywhere near the end. Fool! There is still plenty to see!
Towards the 'back' of the museum you come to the section on human evolution. For me it was a complete surprise, so to stumble across a wall of human skulls really caught me offgaurd and packed an emotional punch. They were beautiful to see, with our oldest ancestors at the bottom and homo sapiens  at the top. Follow the entrance through and it took you to a relatively modest exhibit in size that was packed with quality content for anyone who is fascinated by 'cavemen'. There were even more skulls, and plaster casts and two stunning models of a Neanderthal and modern human. Again there was no shyness in nudity for these models, which made them all the more striking, and the ability to stare each one in the face was quite magical. They were intelligent, perhaps a little standoffish, perhaps a little dangerous. Serious kudos to the sculptors for these.
A surprise find inside was also 'the hobbit' skeleton - a tiny and fascinating human species found in a cave some years ago - in complete form, stood up to their full (diminutive) height. For me, this exhibition was a gem.


Take the Escalator to the Terror-Dome and See How Our Planet Tries to Kill Us

Apparently glowing, womb-like caverns of terror are a theme around here.
Next to the human evolution section was the surprise of a stunning glowing orb with an escalator attached going, apparently, nowhere. Take the escalator up and you move through a gorgeous sculpture of magma and tectonic plates to emerge a floor higher to a massive exhibit all about our planet's geology. Personally, we were flagging at this point and geology isn't a personal interest of mine, so we moved through it quite quickly, but it was a quality exhibition with plenty of interactive displays about various rocks, minerals and sediments. There were plenty of examples that you were allowed to touch, including a pillar from the giant's causeway. The most interesting section for me was the one on earthquakes and how shifting tectonic plates cause them. They even had a display set up as a life-sized japanese grocery shop. Step onto it and it showed a video of a strong earthquake in action in the real-life version of the store, while the floor beneath you shifted and jerked around to simulate a real earthquake, clattering and shaking all the items around you. While I've no doubt that it was toned down a little so that it didn't actually injure anyone, it was still a striking simulation that helped you get in the mindset of the people affected by the catastrophe and to appreciate the raw power of the earth beneath our feet.

But Wait, There More...

 By the time we left the earth section we were well and truly knackered and perilously close to being late for our train home if we didn't get our timings for the return journey right. But if we had stayed on and been prepared to spend more money there were even more exhibitions that we could have explored. When we visited there were a couple of exhibits closed for renovation, but the paid exhibit on colours in nature looked impressive for anyone interested. Also we left the Darwin Centre largely untouched, where real science is being conducted every day. To get a sense of what's on if you want to make a trip to the museum, make sure to check their website.


So What's the Final Verdict?

In conclusion, the Natural History Museum is a brilliant collection of Mother Nature's best work, curated throughout the years by keen scientists who are in awe of her. It's far more than just a dinosaur museum and, should you visit, you need to make sure you give yourself all day to get around the place. If you do, you won't regret it.

Dont' worry. There's a cafe ;)

This week's post is brought to you by the fab little wisdom of The New Scientist's: 'Does Anything Eat wasps and 101 Other Questions'...How the Heck to Bruises work?

We've all had a good few bruises in our lives. I don't know about you, but as I kid I could pinpoint the exact origin and history as each bruise, but as I get older I find that they seem to spontaneously sprout on my body without any memory of them at all - our bodies cheerily working away to heal us when our big busy brains are occupied on other things. (Well, there are certain exceptions, such as thigh-high furniture corners that are impossible to not notice when you bounce off them like a howling pinball. I'm looking at you, bed!)

However you get them, bruises are certainly strange, often transitioning from reds to purples to greenish-yellows. As with most things colour-related, this is down to their changing composition.

Bruises occur when small capillaries (that is, blood vessels) break under the skin in response to pressure. Haemoglobin  in the blood gives the bruise it's reddish purplish colour. noticing that something is wrong, our usual little saviours the white blood cells rush in to help the healing process. to do this, they start to break down the Haemoglobin, which creates various breakdown products that start to change the colour of the bruise. the red lessens as the haemoglobin deteriorates and biliverdin and bilirubin - green and yellow respectively - are created. these sit around until these are in turn cleared and finally the bruise fades.

The curious thing about bruises is that they offer a snapshot into what goes on in our body every day, even before we launch ourselves at furniture. this breakdown of haemoglobin happens all the time in our blood when the red blood cells have grown old and expired. Our white cells will break down these cells, and then the remaining waste bilirubin is taken up to the liver where it is converted for bile - the same substance that digests your food and causes that awful acid taste when you vomit. if you have too much waste bilirubin hanging about in your body, it turns the skin yellowish as jaundice.

You might find, especially as an adult, that you've forgotten how you got a bruise, namely because they can appear a long time after the injury itself. This is down to blood again: often the injury might be sustained deep in the tissues of the afflicted body part. Since bruises are effectively leaked blood, sometimes it can take a while for them to reach the surface, and might even appear some distance away from the original injury.

Our bodies , as ever, continue to be equal parts awesome and a little gross. Just maybe hold off on the research for this one, ok?

'Contusion Confusion' - Does Anything Eat Wasps and 101 Other Questions - New Scientist (via reader submissions from Claire Adams, Frankie Wong and Stewart Lloyd)

It will comes as no surprise to my regular readers that I'm a Prof. Brian Cox fan
(Or 'Professor Lovely' as a delightfully snarky friend calls him)

When I heard that he was hosting a live tour I jumped at the chance to see one of his lectures 'for real', and headed to Sheffield City Hall on Thursday 6th Oct, ready to be educated in all things space, not really knowing what to expect.

When the show opened with a video of singing muppets I was, to say the least, a bit confused, but certainly entertained. Talk about an intro!

As it happened, the show was effectively an extension of Brian Cox and Robin Ince's Radio 4 programme 'The Infinite Monkey Cage', where Brian and Robin take a look at the world through a scientist's eyes, with Brian to provide the science and with Robin bringing humor and taking on the role of the interested and self-educated everyman. While the focus was on the lecture style, at times Robin would also interject to lighten the mood, banter, and join in with Brian as well as encouraging audience participation, such as through tweeting science questions. Robin was funny and charming and the two got along very well. Having never heard of 'The Infinite Monkey Cage' before, I was intrigued to check it out (but more on that later).

The meat of the show though was, of course, Brian's main lecture. It focused around the discovery of the Big Bang and how we can detect the size and composition of our incredibly large universe, and drifted into questions about the possibility of alien life on other planets and the probability of finding anything that resembles us. While fans will have been introduced to these concepts in varying details in his other programmes, it still managed to be fresh and was delivered with his classic mix of gentle passion and wonder, and his ability to make the concepts approachable without compromising on precision.This made the whole talk very engaging. While time flew during the lecture, Robin's interjections managed to keep everything fresh, which helped keep the energy levels going. All in all it was a great night out for anything with a curiosity for sciences, especially fans of Brian's wide range of work.

Can I still See Him?

If you'd like to check out the show the good news is that it has proved so popular that Brian Cox Live has been given a series of arena dates as well for 2017. These will be visiting Derby, Nottingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and Wembley in May 2017. There are also a whole host of 2016 dates still on the cards, running up to the 2nd of December, if you can score the tickets. So why not give it a try? I certainly enjoyed myself.

The Infinite Monkey Cage

As I said, Robin and Brian's banter was a lot of fun, so when they mentioned (through muppet-song) that the show was a product of the programme Infinite Monkey Cage naturally I had to go searching to find it.
The great news is that all 14 series' are available to download on BBC radio 4's Iplayer account here.
I've listened to a couple so far and they've been delightful, bringing in interesting guests (both comedians and scientists) to weigh in on a whole variety of subjects. I know where my 5GB data limit will be going on my phone on the morning commute....

.When you live in the arctic, you know not to let anything go to waste.

The curious gut skin parka is a perfect example of this philosophy being made, as the name suggests, out of the cleaned guts of seals, walruses or whales. Surprisingly delicate in appearance despite their practical purpose; they are partially see-through and designed to be worn on top of other clothing. They could also be attached to the hatch of a kyack, which serves as a great waterproof protection for travelling arctic waters.

When european sailors travelled up and met the inuit people, they were amazed by the coats as they found that they were superior to the western oilskins in that they were more water resistant, trapped in more heat and were far lighter. The coats were highly prized and often bought for use by the western visitors.

Despite their rudimentary material, the preparation of a gutskin coat is labour intensive and complex, with the full process of creating a coat taking up to a month. The intestines are retrieved,washed and peeled inside out to be scraped. Once cleaned, they are inflated and tied at each end until completely dry, with any holes being patched. After around two days the intestines are cut and rolled into tight bundles ready for use, and the parka itself can be put together.