Art and Nature

Making Nature is a special exhibition at the Wellcome Collection until May 2017. Subtitled “How we see animals”, it looks at how our perceptions of animals have been shaped by they way they have appealed to us as objects of curiosity, utility or entertainment. Read more

A Leap in the Dark

2016 will be one second longer. A leap second will be added at the end of the year at midnight UK time, to realign our clocks with the rotation of the earth. Normally, such a momentous event is heralded by an extra pip in the BBC Radio time signal; but at new year the pips are not heard on domestic radio as they replaced by the sound of Big Ben. 2016 was also a leap year, but leap years and leap seconds are quite different things. Read more

Setting the Standard

We rely on common standards every day, whether in time, currency, postcodes or browsing the internet. But standards don’t just appear. Measurement systems tend to evolve organically according to local needs, and standardisation is the difficult task of bringing them all together. Read more

Inner Secrets of the Lung

This incredible 19th century lung cast was one of the medical curiosities on display in a 2014 Harvard Museums exhibition. It shows how finely detailed models of inner lung structures were made by filling the airways with a hardening substance and dissolving the outer tissues. While this technique loses features such as muscles and blood vessels, it nevertheless gives some sense of the complexity of the airway tree. Read more

Lost Kingdoms

An odd thing about visiting southwest Britain is that you can buy a “Wessex” train pass. That may not sound odd, until you realise that Wessex ceased to exist a thousand years ago. If you’re used to the oddities of the British railway system, you might not be so surprised that you can buy a ticket to a place that doesn’t exist. Read more