BBSRC 20 Year Anniversary Blog

I took some photos a few years ago when doing research in Oxford. I submitted them to a photo competition which unfortunately I didn't win. However, they are now being used in a new blog aimed at young non-sciencey types to raise awareness and enthusiasm for science. The following is a copy and paste from the blog,, the post from the 3 March 2014.

BBSRC Photo 1

BBSRC Photo 2

BBSRC Photo 3


Lasers light the way to new drugs

Look beyond the pretty lights and lasers and you will see a Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Array; a special type of model microscope that allows for multiple drug tests to be run simultaneously.

The test works by putting a drug and marker proteins inside an artificial cell, and then measures the effect the drug has on the speed that ions move into the cell.

This equipment, although only a concept device, could be key to new drug developments.

Research performed under Mark Wallace:

Images taken by BBSRC-funded James Berridge at Oxford University.

For more BBSRC-funded research go to:

Or for some images looking down a light microscope go to:

Playing with a Lensbaby Composer

Winchester Highstreet A little over a year ago I got a Lensbaby Composer (on Amazon). For Christmas this year, I was given the Creative Aperture Kit 2 (On Amazon). Given the inactivity on this website I figured I should give a run through of the sorts of images this Lensbaby could produce and a few samples of how the creative apertures can help enhance them.

When I first got the lens I experimented a little indoors and outdoors. One of the first things you'll notice about the photos is that not everything is in focus. The focal plane (ie the bit that's in focus) is curved due to the type of lens. So if everything is set up straight, the middle of the photo will be in focus and as you get towards the edges it'll become more out-of-focus. This can obviously be manipulated by tilting the lens in a particular direction in order to move the in-focus area around the photo.

This can allow your attention to be directed easily to a particular part of the photo.


Some other samples

CupcakesMini (2004 model)Winchester Highstreet


Using the Creative Apertures

RC Car with Christmas tree backgroundThe way you change the aperture with this Lensbaby is with a small supplied magnetic arm (ie manually). This also allows different shapes to be added which will change the way your image looks in an out-of-focus areas. There is one kit that allows you to literally make you own shapes (On Amazon). The kit I have comes with 9 pre made shapes. Once dropped into the lens, the first thing you'll want to do is take some out-of-focus photos of fairy lights! Thankfully at Christmas these are not usually far away. The photo on the left was one of the first few that I took showcasing the star aperture.

I've included a few more samples below showing the other shapes in use. I just wanted to explain the last one though. For this one I wanted to enhance the fairy lights in much the same way as an out-of-focus shot would have done, while still retaining the detail of an in focus one. I considered multiple exposures then 'photoshoping' then but, after some trial and error, managed to get it on a single exposure by adjusting the focus mid-shot. The result is weird and interesting... not unusual for any photo taken with a Lensbaby lens.

If you want a cheap lens for your regular photos this is not it, you cannot get 'normal' photos due to manual everything and the curved focal plane means you're only going to get half a photo in focus at best. However if you want a (relatively) cheap lens that you can have some fun with, then this is for you. The photos have a distinctive arty look which after a little practice, can produce Instagram beating photos with full DSLR quality straight from the camera.


More creative aperture examples

Greetings card Presents around the treeFocus effect Christmas tree

New toy – Polar RC3 GPS

RC3 GPS + sceneryI've been doing a lot of cycling recently in an effort to keep fit. In order to help maintain this new found momentum and add a further dimension to the stat-staring, I wanted to add heart rate data to my current GPS tracks.

Having read loads of reviews around different cycle computers and watch-type fitness computers I decided upon the Polar RC3 GPS BIKE (on Amazon). The bike version comes with a cadence sensor (for peddle RPM) and a generic watch mount for the handlebar. If this interests you, there is a really detailed review by DCRainmaker. This guy has also reviewed loads of other similar devices so well worth checking out if you're in the market for one.



Strava data graph Strava HR analysisI use Strava to track my rides. I've used others too but what I like most about Strava is the clean interface which has plenty of features even in the free accounts. Now with the new watch I not only have maps with distances and speeds but also cadence and heart rate data. I find it mildly addictive to look at all different stats from my rides particularly in the segments covered in the ride.

Segments are user submitted sections of roads/tracks that Strava then collates everyone's data and creates a leader board. From one ride to the next, it will tell you how you've performed informing you via achievements if you've got a personal record, 2nd or 3rd best time on a segment.

 How to get data from the watch to the likes of Strava?

Unfortunately Polar uses unusual file formats for it's heart rate data. From the Polar software you can easily export gpx and hrm files (thats the GPS route in one and everything else in the other). Everything accepts gpx files but not everything plays nice with the hrm ones.

After a little bit of search I found PC Thoughts blog on which the author has made a script which will combine the gpx and hrm to a tcx file which everything (specifically Strava) gets on with.

  1. Simply download the script (here)
  2. Plus the batch script (here)
  3. Finally "install" UnxUtils (here - simply copy contents to your x86 program files folder)

To use, put the script and batch in a folder with the gpx and hrm files and run the batch file... magic... you'll find tcx files for all your pairs of files.

If that sounds too tricky I did stumble across this website but have no experience using it. Looks like you upload your files to the website and it does it for you.

EDIT 13/1/14:

Since writing this post I have been using TcxCreator. This works really well for me... set a default output folder and simply drag/drop your gpx and hrm files and  it'll merge them together as tcx files. If you have done multiple rides it recognises this and keeps them as separate files. I found it also works with only the hrm part, I wanted to put my heart rate tracking info onto Strava as a stationary bike session. I was able to drag the hrm file and it was converted to a tcx and loaded seamlessly into Strava.

A reader has also brought my attention to This is web based, so no installation needed. However it merges the heart rate information into the gpx file, this is useful if your preferred tracking service doesn't like tcx files.

Cadence sensor RC3 GPS

[TASKER] Enhanced car mode with NFC toggle

Sony Xperia ZIt's been a while since I posted anything so it's fitting this'll be a long one! I recently got a Sony Xperia Z to replace my old LG Optimus 2X. Along with it's great screen, waterproofing and vast speed, it has NFC. With work I am driving to various client sites and it's an increasingly common occurrence to receive phone calls while driving. As I have no hands free kit I always used to take these calls using the speakerphone, requiring a swipe and then poke to answer the call.

Having been inspired by a work colleague using NFC to enable work mode on her phone, I thought I should use this to have a more robust car mode. Many of the newer Android phones already have a car mode which removes the need to swipe to answer and defaults to answering on the speakerphone. This can be turned on via tasker. However it would be just as simple to press the home screen icon if this was all that I wanted.

I bought some clear RapidNFC tags from Amazon, delivery was fast and well packaged.

It's worth noting that on my phone sometimes the task and profile names will differ slightly from those stated here, so if your screen doesn't look exactly the same as the screenshots don't panic!

Additional features

From previous posts, I've included auto responses from SMS and an automated work mode (based on time). I wanted to have the SMS functionality within car mode but not disrupt work mode when out of the car. The profiles have been tweaked to work with the new phone and some redundancy has been added to cope with car mode (ie speakerphone off).

Quick reminder for work time:

Profile Name Work Mode Normal Mode
Profile Active? Active Inactive
Context: Mon,Tue,Wed,Thu,Fri
8:25 till 18:00

Task Name: Work Time

  1. Alarm Volume [ Level:2 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  2. Media Volume [ Level:0 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  3. Ringer Volume [ Level:0 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  4. Default Ringtone [ Type:Notification Sound:Silent ]
  5. Default Ringtone [ Type:Ringer Sound:Cassiopeia ]
  6. Vibrate On Ringer [ Set:On ]
  7. Speakerphone [ Set:Off ]

Task Name: Normal Time

  1. Alarm Volume [ Level:2 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  2. Media Volume [ Level:5 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  3. Ringer Volume [ Level:4 Display:Off Sound:Off ]
  4. Default Ringtone [ Type:Notification Sound:Pop ]
  5. Default Ringtone [ Type:Ringer Sound:Warriors Of Time ]
  6. Vibrate On Ringer [ Set:On ]
  7. Speakerphone [ Set:Off ]
Closing Task
  1. Perform Task [ Name:Normal Time Stop:Off ]
  1.  None

Work time integration

I set up an additional profile which matches the contexts for Work Time but the opening task is simply:

Variable Set [ Name:%WORKTIME To:1 Do Maths:Off Append:Off]

and the closing task:

Variable Clear [ Name:%WORKTIME Pattern Matching:Off ]

These set the %WORKTIME variable (which has to be all capitals) to 1 whenever it is work time and clears the variable when it's not. This will allow the car mode to reset back into the appropriate setup when it's exited.

Auto response integration

The context of the profile has been simplified to be Event: Received SMS. There is no longer a requirement for Copilot detection or power source detection as this profile will be normally be inactive until activated as part of car mode. This profile is now called SMS Car Mode.

Car mode notifications

CALLS car mode setup

 The context for car mode is Variable Value %CARMODE matches 1. Once the switch has been set up this allows the car mode to be permanently active. This profile is called CALLS Car Mode.

  1. Notify [ Title:JB's magical Car Mode Text:Enabled Number:1 Permanent:On Priority:3
  2. Profile Status [ Name:Work Mode Set:Off
  3. Car Mode [ Set:On Go Home:Off
  4. Speakerphone [ Set:On
  5. Wait [ MS:0 Seconds:10 Minutes:0 Hours:0 Days:0
  6. In-Call Volume [ Level:5 Display:Off Sound:Off
  7. Ringer Volume [ Level:5 Display:On Sound:Off
  8. Media Volume [ Level:12 Display:Off Sound:Off ]

 The notification reminds me that car mode is active. Work mode is disabled so that,  for example, at 18:00 if I'm driving my phone doesn't switch into 'normal' mode. The phone's built in car mode enables simple one poke answering with speakerphone enabled (the speakerphone on is incase the built in car mode got disabled accidently*).

My current phone holder often presses the volume down button as it's gripping the phone so the 10 second delay allows me chance to secure the phone in the holder and stop pressing the volume button. The volumes are then reset to hear incoming calls (ringer), sat nav (media) and speakerphone (in-call). Due to the fact that the volume often gets lowered when attaching to the screen, I felt it was reassuring if one of the volume changes is displayed onscreen so that you can see that the volumes have increased to what they should be.

*I suspect the chances of accidentally exiting car mode when driving is extremely low but during testing, in my flat, I was jumping in and out of tasker/settings windows and sometimes it would close unexpectedly.

Car Mode exit taskCar mode exit task

  1. Notify Cancel [ Title:JB's magical Car Mode Warn Not Exist:Off ] 
  2. Car Mode [ Set:Off Go Home:Off
  3. If [ %WORKMODE ~ 1 ]
  4. Perform Task [ Name:Work Time Stop:Off Priority:5 ] 
  5. Else 
  6. Perform Task [ Name:Normal Time Stop:Off Priority:5 ] 
  7. End If 
  8. Profile Status [ Name:Work Mode Set:On ]

This is where the work mode intregration comes in... on exiting car mode it runs the correct task depending on whether it should be work time or normal time. This is possibly acting as redundancy as reactivating the profile should set these again but due to the critical importance of work mode being set, I deemed it worthwhile.

NFC toggling

To enable toggling, set up a named task with the following:

  1. Profile Status [ Name:CALLS Car Mode Set:Toggle ]
  2. Profile Status [ Name:SMS Car Mode Set:Toggle ]
  3. Variable Set [ Name:%CARMODE To:1 Do Maths:Off Append:Off]

NFC Tag size comparisonWhen this task is called it toggles the SMS and CALLS car modes to on and sets the %CARMODE variable to 1. The variable doesn't do anything else and never changes, as mentioned above it allows the CALLS Car Mode profile to be permanently active. The only thing left to do is set up the trigger for this task.

Using NFC ReTAG FREE you can associate NFC tags with various activities (including launching Android's standard car mode directly if you want a basic car mode). Once you've scanned your tag you need to assign your activity. The feature you need is within Labs > Tasker Task (advanced) which allows you to call the named task you just set up. If done correctly, scanning your NFC tag will now result in toggling your CALLS and SMS Car Mode profiles.

Remind me why I bothered if I can enable car mode directly from NFC ReTAG?

Method Doing nothing Standard car mode Enhanced car mode
Answering Swipe Single poke Single poke
Speakerphone Single poke Automatic Automatic
Display sleep Depends on your setup Phone will not sleep in car mode (unless you manually turn off screen) Phone will not sleep in car mode (unless you manually turn off screen)
Ringer volume As set As set Specific car options
Sat-nav (media) volume

As set

As set Specific car options
Speakerphone (in-call) volume As set As set Specific car options
Auto respond SMS No No   Yes
SMS over speakerphone No No   Yes
Seamless switch back to normal/work volume profiles No No  Yes

To find the apps needed use the links below:



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