Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Friday, 28 September 2018

How my mum taught me to read when I was about three

Given that I was 'about three' at the time my memories of this are not particularly strong 45 years on, so take this with a pinch of salt. This is what my mum told me, sadly she died in 2010 so I can't double-check anything (nor with dad who died in 2016).

Despite my early reading skills I showed no other flashes of competence (I was 19 months before I bothered with walking, my mum said she thought I probably had worked out how to do it before that - but also that I'd worked out that if I didn't walk I'd get ferried around more!) and despite my primary school thinking I was Oxbridge material I turned out to be not very inspiring academically as time went on and any success is more due to luck than hard work. Anyway, revenons à nos moutons as my mother used to say...

My mum was a stay-at-home mum and I was an inquisitive kid. At some point I must have noticed her or my dad reading books or newspapers, or possibly reacting to signs when out and about. Reportedly I'd often ask her "what does that say / mean?" and she'd tell me, I presume my dad did too if I asked him but the learning-to-read thing always seemed to be a mum thing.

She bought a little blackboard easel and some chalks and did what I suppose would be something like phonics with clusters of letters. To start with it would be oo words like look, book, cook and ee words like bee and see. At some point this must have expanded to include the full range of letters and by the time I was three and a half I was able to read simple books.

I went to school at four and a half by which time I could read with ease. I do have a vague memory of something along the lines of either seeing my name on the class register and pointing to it or being given a card and my mum asked to write my name on it (but I wrote it) and this causing a bit of a small stir but that was short-lived.

Most of the first couple of days involved plasticine-craft so I'm not sure at exactly what point it became obvious that I definitely could read independently but my mum told me that she'd picked me up from school one day and the teacher had almost challenged her with "You didn't tell us she could read" to which my mum replied "Well, you didn't ask me." I don't think she or dad thought what I was doing was particularly notable.

It was seen as notable in school though. I remember we read books that had numbers and letters like 4a, 4b and 4c (no idea what they were, possibly Janet and John). I was reading in the 7s and 8s. I have much stronger memories of being taken off upstairs to the staff room and made to read long lists of words to the other teachers (I don't think I had any idea what any of the words would have meant). No idea if my parents had approved this absence from class though to be honest if it was a reading class I pretty much had that down anyway. As far as I'm aware the rest of the class soon caught up and by the time we were five I think everyone could read perfectly well.

I don't think I have or had hyperlexia nor do I think I'm on the autism spectrum and I don't have any other particular skills. Fairly poor at arithmetic (not bad at maths and abstraction though), utterly useless at reading a map or locating where I am in space*. These days I'm not even much of a reader - it's like my eyes are on a train track and they keep jumping off every time a thought occurs to me. I can read a paragraph of a book and it will usually remind me of something interesting or spark an idea which will then occupy me as I daydream about it. Consequently I am more of an article reader than book reader ;) Good with reading long words though.

*Hopeless sense of direction: stuff like if I'm walking along a familiar road and enter a shop then when I exit, instead of continuing in the intended direction, I discover I've unwittingly walked backwards without noticing // the sheer amount of effort involved in navigating an unfamiliar place (I have to keep turning backwards to see what it will look like on the return journey as otherwise it will look like a place I've never seen before). Redoing the same mistaken journey: if I've taken it once and see the route again I tend to remember that I've been down that path before, so I walk that route again before realising. Having no idea how the map I'm looking at matches where I'm standing. Regularly having to start walking without knowing whether it's the right direction just so that I can see the direction the small blue 'me' dot on CityMapper is travelling in, and continue or course-correct based on a second reading.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

A homeopath has done a rap dissing skeptics :)

This must have seemed like a good idea at the time ;)

You can enjoy the full thing on YouTube, lyrics below the player. Not exactly the high watermark of homeopathic discourse...

Well the skeptics reckon it’s placebo
Is Homeopathy – but what do they know?
They’re bound to go extinct just like the dodo
They need to get back out in the gazebo
See them as they strut they think they’re well hard
Arnica won’t help them if their bed’s hard
I think it’s time they put their feet up backayard
Someone do us a favour and give 'em a mouthguard

All they ever says is it’s placebo
All they ever says - it’s placebo
Denialists attracting all the dweebos
See me now we’re givin you the heave-ho

We’re s'posed to disagree but be agreeable
Well that ain't gonna happen in the foreseeable
Cos all I hear you chatting is so feeble
"There’s no evidence, it’s totally unbelievable"
Seeing as you’re dying of pneumonia
Don’t come begging me for no bryonia
That homeopathic helpline ain’t gonna phone ya
You’ll be lying there alone and getting lonelier

All you ever says is it’s placeboAll you ever says - it’s placebo
Denialists attracting all the dweebos
See me now we’re givin you the heave-ho

They talk like that and I’m not even joking
If I was their mum I’d ask what they’d been smoking
Denialists – they need a damn good poking
What I want to know - who even let that bloke in?
Wastemen getting bankrolled by big pharma
I pity them next life that’s heavy karma
Don’t call them coconuts – call them bananas
They're pure haters and they love to stir up dramas

Well stir it up come on, make us famous
Homeopathy is nothing - but it’s dangerous?
I think you’re in a muddle now - don’t blame us
Just make your mind up boys you’re sounding brainless

Cos all you ever says is it’s placebo
All they ever says - it’s placebo
Denialists attracting all the dweebos
See me now we’re givin you the heave-ho

Them makin out it’s snake oil and we bought it
Tell me it’s placebo and I just ‘thought it’
Get down off your high horse and start to walk it
Listen up and we can start to sort it
There’s many a path and many a way to trek
So fix yourselves up and start to show respect
If all you can do is spread your toxic texts
See an Osteopath cos you’re a serious pain in the neck

Cos all you ever says is it’s placeboAll they ever says - it’s placebo
Denialists attracting all the dweebos
See me now we’re givin you the heave-ho

So listen up you all here’s what we think
It’s time you drew your pension - index linked
But tell us why you want to cause a stink
And who is paying you to pen and ink?

This medicine that’s permanent and gentle
Including physical, emotional and mental
Sustainable and so environmental
Homeopathy brings health that’s incremental
But maybe that won't profit all your cronies
GSK and Astrazeneca phonies
Your emperor’s new medicine’s balonies
You’re tellin more lies than mr blair – that’s Tony
So fix yourselves up and face the final answers
Your dirty game is up – you dodgy chancers
I’m not being funny but you’re at the end of your run sirs
You’re gravestones will say "all just back up dancers!"

So there’s our rap to the gradgrind skeptic band
Methinks they do protest too much eh fam?
That muggle medicine will soon run out of sand
We’re here to help but till then just talk to the hand.

Scientific talks in London - the 2018/2019 edition

by @JoBrodie,
  • Interesting Talks in London (not just science), also Interesting Talks in Oxford
  • Blackheath Scientific Society
    FRIDAY LECTURES AT 7.45pm on the THIRD FRIDAY of every month from September to May, unless otherwise indicated. MYCENAE HOUSE, 90 MYCENAE  ROAD, SE3 7SE
    Visitors are welcome at all meetings, and are requested to donate £3 to the Society.
  • Chelsea Physic Garden (Thursday Supper talks)
    Chelsea Physic Garden, 66 Royal Hospital Road, London, SW3 4HS. Talk - £17, Talk + Supper £34: supper sittings: 5.45pm or 8.30pm - talk is 7.00-8.15pm
  • Gresham College (lectures on a variety of topics, including science, medicine, tech)
  • Hampstead Scientific Society
    Lecture Meetings will be held at The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Church Row, Hampstead, London NW3 6UU. All meetings are on THURSDAYS at 8:15pm. Coffee and biscuits will be available during the evening for a small charge. Members of the public are invited.
  • Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution - Lectures / Events
    Lectures from 8.00-9.30pm
  • Kew Mutual Improvement Society (KMIS) - Information page (PDF) @Kewlectures)
    Mondays 6pm, Jodrell Lecture Theatre, RBG Kew £2.50 entry (excl. fundraising lectures which are individually priced). Schedule subject to change. Please arrive by 5:45pm.
  • Linnean Society
    Burlington House, Piccadilly
  • Richmond Scientific Society
    Monthly at 8pm on Wednesdays in the VESTRY HOUSE, 21 Paradise Rd TW9 1SA
    (opposite the top of Eton St). Paradise Road CAR PARK is nearby, approached only from the Sheen Rd / Church Rd end. Visitors are welcome at all our meetings.
    Annual Membership: Adult £10. Visitors (per lecture): £2. 
  • Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)
    1 Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AR
  • Royal Institution
  • Royal Society
  • Worshipful Society of Apothecaries - lectures free, booking advisable, time varies

January 2019 Monday 7 January 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Monty Don OBE (Writer, Gardener & TV Presenter)
Paradise Gardens: The World’s Most Beautiful Islamic Gardens
(Fundraising Lecture)

Monday 14 January 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Trevor Nicholson (Head Gardener, Harewood House)
The Gardens of Harewood House; Past Present and Future

Wednesday 16 January 2019 - Richmond Scientific Society
Dr Paul Driscoll, The Francis Crick Institute  
NMR in DNA Cells 

Thursday 17 January 2019 - Hampstead Scientific Society
Dr Georgina Meakin MCSFS FHEA (University College London) 
Forensic Science – DNA Evidence

Friday 18 January 2019 - Blackheath Scientific Society

Monday 21 January 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Dan Pearson (Landscape & Garden Designer)
Journey of a Plantsman (Fundraising Lecture)

Monday 28 January 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Alex Little (Kew Diploma student)
The Lost Botanic Garden of the Usambara Mountains & Selous Game Reserve

Elisa Biondi (Botanical Horticulturist, RBG Kew)
Kew Orchid Festival

February 2019
Monday 4 February 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Allison Legg & Andrea Topalovic-Arthan (Kew Diploma students)
Kyrgyzstan: Flora along the Silk Road

Monday 11 February 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Troy Scott Smith (Head Gardener, Sissinghurst)
Revitalising Vita at Sissinghurst

Wednesday 13 February 2019 - Richmond Scientific Society
Fiona Auty, National Physical Laboratory
Things we have measured at the NPL 

Friday 15 February 2019 - Blackheath Scientific Society
Process Intensification in the Chemical Industry: Prof. Asterios Gavriilidis, University College London
Historically most chemical reactions have been performed in large reactors or in large continuous plants. Micro-reactors are a recent development where the reaction takes place in a very small reactive zone allowing precise temperature control, excellent mixing, high pressures and substantial reducing of risk for highly exothermic reactions. The design of such reactions is a chemical engineering challenge requiring new fabrication techniques and a thorough understanding of fluid mechanics. 

Monday 18 February 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Alfonso Montiel (CEO, Lemon Tree Trust)
Waiting for Trees: How garden competitions in refugee camps are transforming the landscape.

Wednesday 20 February 2019 - Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Thomas Morris will be talking on the era cardiac surgery began in 1986.
Incursions into the Citadel of Life: The Origins of Heart Surgery in Britain

Thursday 21 February 2019 - Hampstead Scientific Society
Mike Howgate (Amateur Geological Society) 
101 Theories of Dinosaur Extinction

Monday 25 February 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Kit Strange (Botanical Horticulturist, RBG Kew)
Azerbaijan: The Jewel in the Caspian

March 2019
Monday 4 March 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Dr Michael Chester (RBG Kew Science)
The Elusive Role of the Chromosome in Plant Evolution

Monday 11 March 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Jinny Blom (Landscape & Garden Designer)
Landscape Pragmatist: Landscape Gardening Against the Odds

Wednesday 13 March 2019 - Richmond Scientific Society
Ann Sylph, Zoological Society of London
Women in Zoology
Friday 15 March 2019 - Blackheath Scientific Society
Dr Elinor Thompson, University of Greenwich
More Alike than unlike - Studying Biology Across Kingdoms
Some aspects of cell biology are seen in all organisms.  The talk will highlight some discoveries and techniques that are relevant in biomedicine from work mostly based on studies in plants and microbes.

Monday 18 March 2019 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Hugh Fletcher (Kew Diploma student)
Nut Culture and Cultivation in the Southern Appalachians

Richard Choksey (Kew Diploma student)
Paths to Redemption: The decolonisation of botanic gardens in the North Eastern United States

Thursday 21 March 2019 - Hampstead Scientific Society
Dr. Richard Stein (Hampstead Scientific Society)
The Roman Water Pump

April 2019
Wednesday 10 April 2019 - Richmond Scientific Society
Dr Georgina Meakin MCFSF FHEA, University College, London
Forensic Science - DNA Evidence 

Thursday 11 April 2019 - Hampstead Scientific Society
Prof. Andrew Stockman (University College London)
Human Colour Vision

Tuesday 16 April 2019 - Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Mark Geller talks on the ancient Babylonian medicine and ancient drugs lists.
The Simple and the Complex: the Assyrian Apothecary at Work

Friday 19 April 2018 - Blackheath Scientific Society
Dr Joseph Fabian, Imperial College
In the natural world there are unique products and technologies that can be used directly or slightly modified to benefit mankind.  Some of these discoveries will be discussed including the 'strain-gauges present in dragonfly wings' which allow superb manoeuverability, and the adhesive produced by a frog that adheres strongly to wet surfaces and could find applications in medicine

May 2019
Wednesday 15 May 2019 - Richmond Scientific Society
Dr Rob Feneck, Consultant Anaesthetist
The Heart, Ancient and Modern

Thursday 16 May 2019 - Hampstead Scientific Society
Dr. Elizabeth Liddle (University of Nottingham)
Brain Oscillations and Mental Health

Friday 17 May 2019 - Blackheath Scientific Society
Dr Lindsay J Hall, Quadram Institute Bioscience, Norwich Research Park
Gut Bacteria
There are more bacteria than cells in the human body and these live primarily in the digestive system.  They provide a critical role in digestion, the immune function and weight regulation.  Their role and mechanisms will be presented in this talk.

June 2019
Thursday 20 June 2019 - Hampstead Scientific Society
8pm  (note time change)
AGM: Wine & Cheese £zzz + scientific entertainment

Monday 17 June 2019 - Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Professor Mary Dixon-Woods talks on health systems worldwide who are challenged in delivering high quality care.
Why is Improving Quality and Safety in Healthcare so Hard?


Talks since completed

September 2018
Wednesday 12 September 2018 - Richmond Scientific Society
Dr Gordon Hunter, Kingston University
Applying Maths in Medical Imaging:Assisting the diagnosis of liver cancers from ultrasound videos 

Thursday 20 September 2018 - Hampstead Scientific Society
Dr Joel Davis (Natural History Museum)
The Story of Water on Mar

Friday 21 September 2018 - Blackheath Scientific Society
Mission to Jupiter's Ice Giant Moons: Dr Adam Masters, Imperial College
The mission is to study Ganymede, Calisto and Europa - all likely to have sub-surface oceans of water, be geologically active, and which could support forms of life.

October 2018
Wednesday 3 October 2018 - Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser
Medical Emergencies of Global Concern (6.30-7.30pm)

Thursday 4 October 2018 - Chelsea Physic Gardens, Supper talks
Pieter van der Merwe, Greenwich Curator Emeritus, National Maritime Museum
Captain Bligh and the Breadfruit
While most people have heard of the mutiny on the Bounty in 1789, relatively few will know that William Bligh fulfilled the mission – to transplant breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies – on a second voyage, with two ships, in 1791-93. This talk will explain the project, its problems, and the differing outcomes of these two remarkable Pacific voyages.

Monday 8 October 2018 - Royal Institution
Black History Month: balancing the equation 7-8.30pm (£16/10 and you can also donate the cost of a ticket!) 
Lisa Kennedy, Segun Fatumo and Riham Satti are having a panel discussion chaired by Alex Lathbridge.

Tuesday 9 October 2018 - Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Dr Tina Matthews, Consultant Cellular Pathologist, Epsom & St Helier University Hospital NHS Trust
Medical Professionalism, Public Institutions and the Alder Hey Children’s Organs Scandal
The First Sydney Selwyn Lecture, this talk is based upon the Dissertation submitted as part of that examination (6-7pm)

Tuesday 9 October 2018 - Kew Gardens, Jodrell Lecture Theatre
Dr. Łukasz Łuczaj (Botany Department, University of Rzeszow
Annual Distinguished Ethnobotanist Lecture 2018
‘Discovering new wild edible plants in Europe: from 19th century famine potherb to 21st century hipster food’

Wednesday 10 October 2018 - Richmond Scientific Society
Dr Emma Wooliams, National Physical Laboratory
Measuring the Earth from Space - and being a woman in science
Preceded by the Annual General Meeting. Wine & nibbles after the talk.    

Monday 15 October 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Jon Drori CBE (Prof. Author & Conservationist)
The Secret Life of Trees: Around the World in 80 Trees

Thursday 18 October 2018 - Hampstead Scientific Society
David Smart (University College London)
The Hampstead Storm 1975
Friday 19 October 2018 - Blackheath Scientific Society
Recent Advances in Forensic Science: Dr Leon Barron, King's College 
Many major advances in Forensic science have resulted from improvements in analytical methods. Dr Barron will describe recent work in tracing the manufacturing location of illicit drugs and explosives and getting fingerprints from porous surfaces (e.g. Ivory tusks).

Monday 22 October 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Aaron Bertelsen (Vegetable Gardener, Great Dixter)
The Great Dixter Vegetable Garden Through The Year

Wednesday 24 October 2018 - Richmond Scientific Society
David Warrilow, Royal Meteorological Society 
Climate Change: Science, Policy and Opinion  

Wednesday 24 October 2018 - Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Wendy Moore talks about Elliotson’s staged demonstrations on his patients at UCH.
How Society Physician John Elliotson held Victorian Britain Spellbound (6-7pm)

Thursday 25 October 2018 - Highgate Literary & Scientific Society
Dr Greg Hunt, Imperial College
Science Meeting: The Cassini Mission

Monday 29 October 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Dr Michael Heinrich (Prof. & Head of Pharmacy, UCL)
Ethnopharmacology: more than just the search for new drugs?

November 2018
Thursday 1 November 2018 - Chelsea Physic Gardens, Supper talks
Katrina van Grouw, author and illustrator
Unnatural selection
When Charles Darwin contemplated how best to introduce his controversial new theory of evolution to the general public, he chose to compare it with the selective breeding of domesticated animals, continuously shaped and moulded at the hand of man, and a subject increasingly popular in Victorian England. In her new book, Unnatural Selection, marking the 150th anniversary year of Darwin’s great work on domesticated animals, author and illustrator Katrina van Grouw explains why this analogy was more appropriate than even Darwin had realised.
Artificial selection is, in fact, more than just an analogy for natural selection – it’s the perfect example of evolution in action.

Monday 5 November 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Ana Oliveira (Kew Diploma student)
Japanese Historic Gardens and the Art of Slowing Down

Luke Senior (Kew Diploma student)
Honduras: Land Use and its effects on Flora

Friday 9 November 2018 - Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Drugs, Trade & Empire 1650-1950 – Symposium [NOT FREE, £50 symposium]   
Faculty of the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy & The British Society for the History of Pharmacy present a joint Symposium

Monday 12 November 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Robbie Blackhall-Miles (Conservationist & Plantsman)
Hunting Shapeshifters

Thursday 15 November 2018 - Hampstead Scientific Society
Prof. Nicholas Achilleos (University College London)
Space Missions to Giant Planets

Tuesday 13 November 2018 - Highgate Literary & Scientific Society
Jo Marchant, science journalist and author
Cure: a journey into the science of mind over body   
Science journalist Jo Marchant explores the links between our minds and bodies – and shares how we can use this new knowledge to improve our health and enhance our lives.

In recent years, scientists have uncovered startling evidence about how our mental state plays a crucial role in our physical symptoms, biological responses, immune systems and recovery rates. In her talk, Jo Marchant will cover some of the latest research, including how our beliefs can create some of the same physical changes as drugs; how virtual reality is banishing the worst pain in medicine; and how organ transplant doctors are training their patients’ immune systems using taste and smell.

Dr Jo Marchant is an award-winning science journalist and author of the New York Times bestseller Cure: A journey into the science of mind over body (2016). She has a PhD in genetics and has worked as an editor at the science publications New Scientist and Nature.

Friday 16 November 2018 - Blackheath Scientific Society

Monday 19 November 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Ashley Leiman OBE (Founder, Orangutan Foundation)
Saving The Orangutan’s World

Thursday 22 November 2018 - Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Dr Emma Spary talks on Parisian apothecaries who pursued different way of raising the status of their art.
Apothecaries, Advertisement and Antidotes in the Sun King’s Paris

Monday 26 November 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Ken Cox (Plant Hunter & Breeder, Glendoick Gardens)
Woodland Gardening

Wednesday 28 November 2018 - Richmond Scientific Society
Alex Jones, National Physical Laboratory  
Quantum Biology: From animal migration to future cell therapies    

Thursday 29 November 2018 - Royal Geographical Society
Liz Bonnin
Drowning in plastic (7.00-8.30pm), £8

December 2018
Monday 3 December 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Kathryn Bray (Kew Diploma student)
On Foot Through Bear Country: An introduction to the ecology of the Yukon

Tristan Agates (Kew Diploma student)
Greening the Urban Landscape in Singapore

Monday 10 December 2018 - Kew Mutual Improvement Society
Peter Wohlleben (Author & Forester)
The Hidden Life of Trees (Fundraising Lecture)

Thursday 13 December 2018 - Hampstead Scientific Society
Prof. Nick Lane (University College London) 
How Energy Flow Shapes the Evolution of Life

Friday 14 December 2018 - Blackheath Scientific Society
AGM and talks by Members

Wednesday 19 December 2018 - Richmond Scientific Society
Andrés Muñiz Piniella, C4AD CIC  
Scanning Probe Microscopy: measurements in the nanoscale
(Christmas meeting with wine and nibbles)