Since going out with Ben, I’ve developed a love of amber. He has family in Suffolk, and in Suffolk they have a lot of amber.
Amber is like little chunks of solidified sunshine. Well, that’s not entirely true – amber comes in a lot of different colours, including the familiar Jurassic Park orangey yellow, but also green, gold, red…
The Natural History Museum has had this necklace for sale for quite a while now, and every time I visit their museum shop, I covet it. The little cubes are beautiful, and they different colours show off amber to their full effect. Shame about the £100 price tag, but really, it deserves it -
I have a new teapot. So clearly, I need this. I’m sure you all understand.
From the V&A shop, £45
No, I’m not talking about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ song. Although that is a brilliant song. Let’s watch the video, just quickly…
OK, now where was I? MAPS.
Recently, the Londonist announced the exciting news that their series of hand-drawn London maps is to be included in an exhibition at the Museum of London in April next year. To be fair, this announcement was the first I’d even heard about their series of hand drawn maps, but having had a look, I am so, SO impressed.
This one of the entirety of zone 1 (and then some) is adorable, and very funny.
This one of Kings Cross is simple and very sweet.
This masterpiece depicting Mayfair is STUNNING.
But I think my favourite so far has to be this very original map of Brixton (and I don’t just love it because it’s my end of town). It’s very imaginative, and I love that the artist has emphasized their favourite haunts by making them into fruit on the tree.
You can have a browse of all the other entries and read more about the upcoming exhibit on the Londonist’s website.
And if this has all given you the cartography bug then guess what: they’re still looking for entries! Yes, YOU TOO could have the chance to appear in the exhibition. From the Londonist’s own website:
“That’s still a long way off, so there’s time for new submissions. If you’d like to be considered for inclusion in the exhibition (and be featured on Londonist), simply send us a doodle of your local neighbourhood, the area you work in, or some random part of town that deserves more attention. Or get really creative and draw London in the year 3000, or London based on works of fiction, or an animal’s eye view of London…or whatever your imagination can come up with.
Send all entries to hello – at – londonist.com. There’s no real deadline, but the sooner you send something in, the sooner we’ll put it up on the site.”
I hope that’s awakened the artist in you. Good luck!
Image credits: simplified map of London from allmaps.com.au, hand-maps from handmaps.org
Phew. OK, my first lab report of the semester is away, out of my hands, done.
It was a tricky one to churn out: not because it was difficult to write, but because I have been rather busy. From Cambridge to Hastings, I have been running around a lot the last few weeks. But no matter – that’s what laptops are for, right?
I love my laptop. It means I can work pretty much everywhere. I have a little HP number (with a missing Alt key, but it’s still my baby). I hear stories of people’s laptops (particularly Macs) breaking down, but I have always used HP and they have never failed me (touch wood!)
I’ve been writing on the tube, in cafés, in museums, in bed. I tend to get a lot of work done “on the run” – I’m sure a lot of students do, even if it’s “just” reading. I always have a book in my bag.
Recently, I’ve adopted the bed for doing work at home, because my desk in the living room is simply too close to the kitchen, and I find myself procrastinating. So, I prop myself up with four pillows, and arm myself with a cup of tea, and get a lot done.
Outside the house, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time at the Wellcome Collection, sitting in their café/restaurant. Not only do they have free wifi, but their caterers, Peyton and Byrne, produce delicious, wholesome food. I finally tried one of their Mainly Frosting cupcakes the other day…. Yum.
But where is your favourite place to get work done? Where do you usually study? What’s the WEIRDEST place you’ve set up in to get your work done? Maybe I’m not the only one who writes lab reports in museums!
Image credits: I took it. ME. MY cake.
I went back to South Kensington again yesterday. After my trip to the Science Museum, I came back home, pottered around for a bit, and then went to the Science Museum’s Dana Centre.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t know much about Dana before I went there tonight. But the event, No Pain, No Gain, popped up on my twitter feed a couple of nights ago, and I thought, “Why not?” It looked interesting – pain is something we all experience, and with three different speakers, we were bound to be in for some fun.
The Dana Centre is very cute – not what I expected at all. What I expected was a lecture theatre or hall or stage or something more formal. Instead, there was d. cafe and a load of chairs, with some temporary staging for the speakers to sit on. It was very relaxed and informal, with people supping glasses of wine and positively taunting me with their chips (I resisted getting some – go me).
There was quite a mixed bag in terms of audience members: some were obvious students (with varying degrees of eagerness), some were just Londonites looking for an alternative evening out. Some (as it transpired in the Q&A session following the talk) were even trained professionals: notably, there was a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist sitting across from me.
All in all, there was a really good atmosphere prior to the talk, so I settled down and prepared myself.
Promptly at 7pm, the speakers arrived on stage.
First, the facilitator Andrew Rice (Professor of Pain Research, Imperial College London) gave us a general introduction, with a brief overview of why people are interested in studying pain. There are obviously many different types of pain – acute, chronic, and then the weirder kinds like Phantom Limb pain and pain which causes pleasure (either inflicting or receiving it).
That over, he introduced the first speaker, Julie Keeble of King’s College London. She seemed to be full of nervous energy, which was quite exciting. What was more exciting was that she talked about her current research and clinical trials on TRPV1 blockers (TRPV1 is basically a protein channel that responds to noxious heat signals – in other words, when it gets activated and you feel a burning sensation!) She briefly summed up current drug treatments for pain, with the respective pros and cons. She drew attention to chronic pain problems, such as rheumatoid arthritis, and how the current drug treatments for this are not ideal. But if you can block the pain signals in the first place… A tricky balance: you don’t want to block ALL pain signals, otherwise you won’t realise when your cup of tea is too hot, and end up burning your throat. Hence the ongoing research. It sounds promising, and I hope to hear more soon.
Next up was another Imperial bod, Praveen Anand of the Imperial College London Pain Centre. His slides had far more neurosci jargon, and I think he may have tried to cover more bases than he had time allotted to him… But it was fascinating none the less. He brought to light some interesting factlets, like the multiple uses for some common SSRIs – not only do they treat depression, but they have some effectiveness in treating diabetic foot pain. Who knew? Well, he did, obviously… And, chillis activate the same nerve channels as heat signals. Whilst chillis don’t actual change the physical temperature of your mouth, they do provoke the same nerve patterns! The same is true for mint –> cold.
He briefly discussed congenital insensitivity to pain and erythromelalgia, but unhelpfully the facilitator and some of the “backstage crew” interrupted him a couple of times to ask him to wrap it up, which did distract me a little bit. I know why they were doing it, but it was a bit frustrating.
Finally, we had the lovely Katja Wiech from the University of Oxford. She was great fun: I have to be honest, I think she was my favourite speaker, but I may be slightly biased as she was the one talking about the psychology of pain. She looked at the subjectivity of painful experiences, and what a sense of control can do to our tolerance of pain. She has conducted fMRI studies of religious versus atheist subjects, and found significant differences between the distress experienced in either group when in pain. The data suggests that by “passing control” over the God, the religious participants where less distressed by pain than their atheist counterparts. Different areas in the brain are active whilst the participant is in control (or has given over control to someone they trust) than when they feel out of control of their pain. Weird.
After we’d done our clapping, there was then a half hour Q&A. Topics covered included the activity of synthetic drugs (and why more “messy” drugs like naturally derived opiates, cannabinoids etc. are more favourable), the gender divide on pain experience, brain plasticity and age, and… guess what…
I asked a question.
“Right at the beginning of the evening, you mentioned masochism but none of the speakers touched upon the subject at all. I was wondering if any of you had any insights into this phenomenon.”
And they did. It was wonderful, and they spent a fair amount of time discussing it. Apparently, it’s quite a hot topic at the moment, so I may have to do further reading, but research has shown that certain levels of pain do actually make pleasure centres in the brain fire – it’s not purely psychological, but may have basis in biology. A possible dissertation topic, perhaps?
A thoroughly good evening, and I’m sure I will go again. I even suggested possible future themes on my feedback form.
The Dana Centre is on Queen’s Gate, a stones throw from NHM and SciMus, in South Kensington. Most events are free, but you do need to book tickets in advance. There’s a handful of space-related talks coming up – not really my forté but I’m sure they’ll be bang on, if the talk I went to is anything to go by.
Oh, and who knew that NHM goes green during the night?
Don’t worry folks: I’m not having an identity crisis. I’ve just come back from the Science Museum!
I think nearly everyone I know has been to the Science Museum. Most likely, like me, you were taken by your parents when you were hyperactive and young, and they set you loose on the dozens of interactive activities dotted around the building. Hopefully, whilst you were jabbing at buttons, some science crept into your head, and you got the learning bug. I most certainly did.
Science is about curiosity. How does it work? Why is it like that? What happens if…?
I’ve always been interested in people – maybe it’s because, growing up as a bit of a geek and a loner, I could observe their strangeness from the outside. People do some bizarre things. So what is it that makes people what they are? Well the “Who Am I?” exhibit endeavours to explore that.
The six basic human emotions: anger, fear, disgust, surprise, happiness and sadness. Which is which?
In line with the Science Museum’s tradition, there are plenty of interactive activities on offer. But don’t despair, adults – I enjoyed these too! Even if the “emotion provoking” activity freaked me out a bit – but then that was the aim!
This permanent exhibit touches on aspects of human nature from emotion, memory, gender, feeding behaviours, and even the origin of our species. What is it that sets us apart from all other animals? What exactly IS consciousness anyway? Tricky questions, and as with a lot of museum exhibits, they are not satisfactorily answered. I suppose it is up to the visitor to decide to pursue curious topics in greater detail…
A reconstruction of what our European ancestors may have looked like, based on Romanian bone fragments, 35,000 years old. I found this face strangely mesmerising.
For me, the above photo is one of the most interesting: it is a reconstruction of the brain of one of the most famous memory patients in the world. The patient is question was known as HM (now that he has sadly passed away, his real name, Henry Molaison, can be revealed). HM suffered from severe epilepsy, resulting in many seizures every single day. In 1953, he was referred for treatment, and the source of his epilepsy was narrowed down to his right and left medial temporal lobes (MTLs, shown in green in the photo above). He agreed to have surgery to have parts of these removed (on both sides) in the hope that it would help to control the severity of his debilitating seizures.
The surgery was a mixed blessing: it did bring his epilepsy under control, but it also left him with severe anterograde amnesia. His working memory and procedural memory were still ok: he was still intelligent, charismatic and often witty (just listen to some of the interview recordings of him chatting to psychologists & neuroscientists) but he was unable to form new long term memories. Despite working with neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin for 30 years, every time they met for an interview was, for all intents and purposes, the first time HM had ever met her.
HM was determined to help scientists as best as he could to understand his amnesia so that it might help others. When he died in 2008, he left his brain to science, to be examined for further investigation. A hugely interesting and kind hearted, selfless man, despite his cruel fate.
An early model of MRI cap. Looks like an awesome sci-fi costume.
A Micro TMS cap (deactivates neurons temporarily, making you sleeeeeep) and an EEG cap (electroencephalograph)
Anyway, the long and short of it is: “Who Am I?” is thought provoking, fun, and curious. Some things you will already know about, but may have never seen before. Some things will be entirely new. Hopefully, you will want to know ever more. Congratulations to the Science Museum for having such a wonderful exhibit devoted to us humans, and particularly the strong focus on mind and consciousness: a psychological and neuroscientific focus within the museum has, until now, been sorely underrespresented.
The Science Museum is in South Kensington, and is open every day of the week (10-6). Entry is free to most of the museum, including “Who Am I?”. Go on. Be curious.
…and change is Nature’s delight.
Thanks to Marcus Aurelius for putting it so succinctly.
Why so reflective? Well, today was my last official day as a staff member at the Horniman Museum (voluntary or otherwise – my duties have been varied!)
I first started at the museum back in June 2009, totalling my time there at a year and three months. I started out as a frightened volunteer, answering questions and guiding people around the museum. I learnt a lot about bees, and defended the fox in the Nature Base from over-enthusiastic children.
The Horniman’s distinctive clocktower
I quickly made myself known to various staff members – mainly the Learning teams and the Visitor Assistants. I soon found my duties expanding, as I volunteered my services around to different departments. I was at a Cafe Scientifique balloon debate, a family Play Day, I received Disabilities & Diversity training…
The Natural History Gallery, with the famous walrus
My eagerness to help “behind the scenes” got me a short stint (2-3 weeks) helping to kick start the audit of the Hands On Base, and the Learning team made further use of my organisational skills by letting me help with school bookings administration.
Frederick Horniman’s beautiful conservatory
After chumming-up with a fellow volunteer (who was involved with the marketing team), I was paid to help steward the museum’s annual “Fusion Fest”, a cultural event in the Horniman’s 16 acre gardens. After this, I got to know everyone in the marketing team better, leading to my temporary and ad hoc paid employment doing market research (they have asked me back on more than one occasion to help with projects). Last week, they even asked me to help out at a high profile fund-raising event, which was wonderful.
Just to prove that I was there…
But, nothing is forever. I should really be excited, as my reasons for leaving are concerned with personal growth: I start my Psychology MSc next week (I may have mentioned this before, as I am starting to stress out, rather…) and that will take up the lion’s share of my time. But in addition to my studies, I am an enthusiastic volunteer at SANE (a London based mental health charity, who do wonderful work) and a committed member of the English Arts Chorale (who make my life difficult by being based in Reigate, Surrey). And obviously, there are the day to day runnings of things, and the one-off events that come up from time to time (like playing the double bass – it’s been a while!). I’m also considering taking up another volunteer position to further my CV, possibly at The Stroke Association or the Royal Hospital For Neurodisability.
And did I mention that I (would like to) have a social life?
So, something had to give, and I made the difficult decision of pulling away from the beautiful Horniman. Whilst I have vowed that I will return as a visitor, and I have told various departments that, free time permitting, I would be happy to help out at events, I can no longer commit to regular volunteering.
It has been a really wonderful experience (with its ups and downs, and a lot to be learned!), and I will miss it, a lot.
I’ll be honest: I do occasionally remember I have a blog, and think “Oh, I should really post something” but somehow, everything else is far more important. Even sitting on the sofa, vegging at the TV.
But I have had a busy week! Not only have I been grappling with London Met’s PY1026C module (Research Methods 1), but I have managed to struggle through the entire thing with some awful cold/tummy bug. Hurrah.
I didn’t manage to finish my final lab report today, but as that’s only due by Wednesday, I’m not stressing overly.
But it was surprisingly enjoyable – our lecturer (one Giovanni Moneta) was hugely entertaining, and actually made basic statistical analysis a joy to learn. Whilst I am still a bit miffed about the set up at London Met, I am glad I attended the course, if just to hear him use boxing as an analysis for psychological research:
“I’m a good boy – I train every day”
“Who gives a shit? Punch him out!!”
Other things I have been enjoying lately include German pastries (holy crap, that website hits you like an 18-wheeler), watching Ben get scared and helping out at the Horniman Museum‘s fund-raising event:
The Horniman Conservatory
This involved me lurking around the Gardens of the Horniman, holding a clipboard and chatting to about 100 perfectly fabulous middle-class benefactors. I had a great time, learnt a lot about the Gardens’ redevelopment plans, and was even given delicious canapés, prepared by the wonderful Suzanne James and her team.
Finally, I would like to share with you my most recent and most favourite clothing purchase:
That’s right: it’s a jumper with a “fox stole” design. I adore this. I saw it in Time Out two weeks ago and had to have it.
At £38, it is not something I would usually buy (what with having no money…) but it was too good to be true. It’s a silver fox, people! I was so pleased when I finally got hold of it from Debenhams (I went in twice to find they didn’t have it in my size until a shop assistant offered to have it delivered free to my flat), that I wore it two days in a row. I even had a compliment from the wonderful Miranda Richardson (a story which I have told to death now – let’s just accept that I met her).
However, upon first washing – and I was VERY careful to follow the label’s instructions to the letter – PART of it shrank. Not all of it – just part. Now, as it is 1% Angora (the white parts of the fox are slightly fluffy) I would imagine that if anything shrank, it would be these parts. However, only the head end shrank, not the tail. Bizarre.
But yesterday I went back to Debenhams at Clapham Junction, and they replaced it, no quibbles. They even refunded me £7.60 as said jumper is currently on sale
I will be washing the fox by hand from now on. It is simply too wonderful to risk!