Author Archives: Jack Croxall

Scientists in fiction: the good, the bad and the poorly represented

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Science and scientists are a huge part of our society and, perfectly reasonably, this means that a good number of men and women in white have had starring roles in our fiction. Be it in books, comics, or on the silver screen, there really are a vast array of fictional scientists out there influencing how people perceive science-types and, by extension, the disciplines they devote their lives to. In this post, I discuss why I’m not entirely comfortable with some of the ways scientists have been represented in recent years, and speculate wildly over some of the problems Hollywood et al may be causing. To put it straight out there, my major gripe with science in fiction is what I like to refer to as ‘the polarisation of fictional scientists trend’. By this I essentially mean that, more often than not, a fictional scientist is either the saint-like expert who is ignored as he/she warns of impending disaster or doom (think Dennis …

Book Review: Into That Forest

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Into That Forest Author: Louis Nowra Published: 7 January 2013 Publisher: Egmont Books Summary: Wonderfully told and deeply moving ‒ an instant classic. It’s strange to think that, under the right conditions, humans can revert back to the wild state our ancestors worked so hard to detach civilised society from. After all, we still have the tools; keen eyesight and hearing, a decent sense of smell and a predators’ ability to problem solve, we just fail to utilise them, or simply employ them in different ways. And regressing to the wild-side is exactly what happens in Into That Forest; stranded in the Tasmanian wilderness, two young girls, Hannah and Becky, are adopted by a pair of Tasmanian tigers and spend the subsequent four years learning to hunt, read the outback and generally live as wild animals. As the girls integrate themselves with their new parents, they lose the use of English, instead opting to employ the grunts, snarls and body language of …

DVD Review: The Hunter

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The Hunter Released: 29 October 2012 Starring: Willem Dafoe, Frances O’Connor, Sam Neil Summary: A beautiful, poignant film with a magnificent central performance from Dafoe.  The thylacine (or Tasmanian tiger) officially became extinct in 1936 but, despite this fact, sightings have been widely reported across the Australian island state of Tasmania ever since. And this is what inspires the basic premise of The Hunter (based on the 1999 novel of the same name): having been reliably informed that a single tiger still survives near to a tiny Tasmanian logging town, a sinister biotech corporation hires Willem Dafoe’s shady character (alias Martin David) to hunt it down for them. Under the flaky guise of a researcher studying wild Tasmanian devils, Martin arrives at his mission site to a hostile reception: ‘we don’t like greenies around here’ is what one angry local tells him in the town bar. And so Martin begins the tricky task of tracking down his elusive quarry whilst trying not …

Book Review: In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw

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In Defence of Dogs Author: John Bradshaw Published: 5 July 2012 Publisher: Penguin Summary: Illuminating but, at times, a little too academic. One of the most widely held views of dog training is based on two scientific observations. Firstly, that dogs share 99.96% of their DNA with the grey wolves from which they’re descended, and secondly, that captive wolves housed in enclosures quarrel and fight until a particular individual is crowned dominant. These two notions have led to the popularisation of the ‘dominance model’ of domestic dog training, an ideology that encourages owners to continuously assert their authority on their furry companion in order to establish themselves as the superior, or alpha. However, anthrozoologist Dr John Bradshaw has a bone to pick with the dominance model of dog training, and In Defence of Dogs is where he presents his arguments. Bradshaw’s objections are compelling: he notes that, unlike the zoos in which a random assemblage of unrelated wolves are forced into an …

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

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A Monster Calls Author: Patrick Ness Published: 2 February 2012 Publisher: Walker Books Summary: Haunting and incredibly compelling – a must-read. Right from the foreword and first chapters of A Monster Calls, it’s clear that the novel is not so much about the tree monster pictured on the wonderful front cover, as the destructive influence of cancer: an illness that seems to touch everyone’s life at some point. The central theme is all the more pertinent as Siobhan Dowd, the author credited with the inception of A Monster Calls, tragically died from the disease long before she could finish the book. Whilst two of Dowd’s completed novels were published posthumously (Bog Child and Solace of the Road), A Monster Calls needed a champion to see it through to publication, and so Patrick Ness, author of the award winning Chaos Walking series, agreed to take the reins and finish the work. The book begins with Conor O’Malley, teenage son to a single …

Schrodinger’s catch up #3

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Here is the third of our weekly roundups of all the interesting news stories we’ve found during the past seven days. Feel free to add anything you’ve discovered yourself in the comments section below. Aspara-guess which plant can help prevent hangovers? Source: Discovery Giant marine reptile meets teenager in school vegetable patch Source: Discovery Space oddity: first original song recorded in space Source: Slugs are the real winners of 2012, Team GB Source: BBC You’ve got some nerve: new type of nerve cell in human brain discovered Source: Science Daily Extremely stinky plant blooms in Brazil Source: Piranh-Arnold  Schwarzenegger: piranha has strongest relative fish bite ever Source: Science Daily ‘Super-material’ gets thumbs up from government Source: Guardian Kinder school children are more popular than meanies Source: Scientists finally get inside the head of a Dinosaur Source: Science Daily Fish mad-wrasse recipe: scientists develop new fish food for wrasse Source: Fishnewseu ‘Bat Pack’ uncover health secrets in bat genome Source: Science …

Quiz 5 – Animals

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It’s that time again – it’s Unpopular Science’s fifth and final science quiz. This week the theme is animals. For those that don’t know, after this final week, whoever has the highest cumulative score will win a copy of Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall*. The quiz will close at 12pm on Thursday the 3rd of January and the winner will be announced in a post soon after, along with the final leaderboard. If you want your score to be tracked, add your name and email. If you just want a bit of fun, don’t worry. You can start the quiz by simply clicking Next. To see the leaders after the first four quizzes, see our leaderboard. You can still join in, by doing our first quiz here, our second here, our third quiz here and our fourth quiz here. The current high score is 28, so make sure you take part in every quiz to have the best chance of winning. * In the event of a tie, names will be drawn …

Quiz 4 – Physical Environment

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It’s that time again – it’s Unpopular Science’s fourth science quiz. This week the theme is the physical environment. For those that don’t know, after 5 weeks, whoever has the highest cumulative score will win a copy of  Tiger Wars by Steve Backshall*.  If you want your score to be tracked, add your name and email. If you just want a bit of fun, don’t worry. You can start the quiz by simply clicking Next. To see the leaders, see our leaderboard. You can still join in, by doing our first quiz here, our second here and our third quiz here.   * In the event of a tie, names will be drawn at random and the Editor’s decision is always final. One entry per person. Also, good luck!

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