Scotland is voting today on whether, after 307 years, to leave the United Kingdom and follow the uncertain path of independence. It seems a good moment to salute Scottish scientists. Three (of many) are shown above:
The burette, an important volumetric tool, was invented by Karl Friedrich Mohr somewhere around the middle of the 19th century. There had been other devices carrying the name “burette,” but they required pouring. Mohr introduced a rubber tube with a clamp that allowed the gradual drop-by-drop flow needed for titration (the clamp was later replaced by a tap). Mohr’s 1855 book on titration, which illustrated the device, helped it to become the key item of analytical equipment it still (in spite of more modern digital devices) is today. Thanks, Karl!
Once again, a Google ngram summarises the history, with the word “burette” rapidly gaining popularity from 1855, but being replaced by the word for the process, which itself faded after 1960 – perhaps because of the growth of other kinds of science.
Above is one of the nifty atomic emission spectrum scarves made by Becky Stern. An emission spectrum is the pattern of light colours produced by heated atoms, and the emission spectra of different chemical elements act as a kind of visual “fingerprint.” There’s something wonderfully geeky about putting one on a scarf – and they look great too.
A recent paper in PLoS ONE (by Jean Just, Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen, and Jørgen Olesen) reports the new species Dendrogramma discoides (marked with asterisks in the image from the paper above) and Dendrogramma enigmatica (unmarked above). These species were found in waters off south-east Australia.
DNA analysis would have been useful to work out in which animal phylum to place Dendrogramma. The usual candidates (left to right above) are Porifera (sponges), Ctenophora (comb jellies), Cnidaria (jellyfish), and the Bilateria – such as Echinodermata (which are bilaterally symmetrical as larvae) or Chordata.
The fascinating Dendrogramma specimens are not bilaterally symmetrical, and are not sponges. They lack specialised features of the Ctenophora and Cnidaria, such as Cnidarian stinging cells. So what are they? It seems likely that either a new phylum has to be defined; or that Dendrogramma must be placed in a restored Coelenterata (a former phylum which once contained the Ctenophora and Cnidaria); or that the boundaries of Ctenophora or Cnidaria need to be extended – but without DNA, the decision is difficult.
Below is an estimate of the new cases per day (calculated from the smoothed data). The acceleration of the disease appears to be continuing, which is very disturbing. See the WHO and CDC websites for more information.
The Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland has been erupting in a spectacular way. The photograph below was taken by Peter Hartree on 4 September (click to zoom):