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:

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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

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Death of the Aurora

As anyone who has completed the ICAEW’s Knowledge Stage will tell you, the Aurora SC582 is utter pants. Amazon’s reviews are usually split on opinion bit in the case of this product they are fairly united (here). Anon’s review just about sums it up:


This calculator is the only one that is allowed for use in ICAEW exams. However it is one of the worst calculators I have come across. The buttons are stiff and chunky, the keys are not responsive and the calculator is slow to react. This makes it difficult to use in an exam. When using one of these in an ICAEW exam, I found that often keys would “stick” and not enter into the calculator. This will give incorrect calculations, so you must be really careful. For this reason if you must use this in an exam I would recommend purchasing one to practice on beforehand.

Back on topic, yesterday I completed the last of my Knowledge stage exams (which I passed, woo!). This means there is no requirement to use this waste of space EVER again. Inspired from events earlier in the day I decided to put the calculator to it’s best use yet, an extra curricular electronics experiment. Unfortunately I don’t have access to useful tools such as a soldering iron so my tools were screwdrivers, pen knife, and sticky tape!


AuroraDeath-7After fiddling for several minutes I was able to extract the circuit board from the case in one piece. I then, as carefully as possible, tried to rewire the power supply back together with the sticky tape. This was significantly less than ideal. The contacts were only firm enough to power the screen while I was holding them. Shame. Regardless, I got a couple of pictures showing the calculator powered on and performing (very) simple calculations.



My plan was then to reassemble the calculator with a couple of buttons out of place, unfortunately due to the very weak original soldering one of the battery adapters fell off. I was able to re-expose the cable and tried to sticky tape this to the adapter. This however, was unsuccessful. Probably due to lack of pressure between the wire and adapter. By this time, I had spent too long fiddling and got bored… so I emptied the contents of the case all over the desk 🙂

My work here is complete.


Full Gallery


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Total graphics snob!

This Easter weekend I’ve been playing a lot of PC games. I finished off Mass Effect 3, played even more Battlefield 3 and played Crysis 2 from start to finish . I’ve had a lot of time this weekend to think about the most impressive graphics I’ve seen and so have listed some of my thoughts below.

Mass Effect 3


Mass Effect has very polished graphics, nothing particularly fancy but very well done. They leave the environments feeling a little clean. That said, many of the environments are on board spacecraft so that’s excusable. There hasn’t been a huge change since the graphics of ME2.

Battlefield 3

I’ve commented in the past about BF3’s stunning graphics (here). The real impact from the graphics in BF3 is the scale of the environments. The Back to Karkand expansion has highlighted the cleanliness of the original maps. The new additions feel much more detailed (which they are) while also benefiting from an improved ability to destroy everything!




Skyrim has been a huge game recently, again the most impressive aspect of the graphics is the shear size of the environment! It makes BF3 feel tiny! [Playing with the high res texture pack] The environment is filled with detail both indoors and outside.

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