Dolphins help their dying friend

After the video showing a dolphin going to divers for help I was glad to hear about a similar story from the BBC, a group of dolphins helping one of their own. This is special for a number of reasons. Dolphins have been recorded helping other dolphins but usually it was only one or two dolphins, this incident involved a number of individuals. Also this was observed and recorded by scientists who had been surveying cetaceans (cetaceans are marine mammals) in the area. The incident happened off the coast of Korea in 2008 but was only recently published in a scientific journal. I’m not sure why the delay but it is rather convenient for me. The paper is here but access is restricted. Continue reading


Hawaiian dolphin rescue

There is an amazing video that was released earlier this month showing some divers helping a dolphin who became entangled by a fishing line. The hook was embedded in it’s fine with the line caught on it’s mouth and fin, restricting it’s movements. Happily the divers were able to help the dolphin and, despite the caption in the clip, the hook and line were all removed. It’s heart-warming, although we shouldn’t forget that it was because of people that it got tangled in the first place, but it also begs the question whether the dolphin co-operated inadvertently or whether it deliberately went to the divers for help.

Continue reading

From the top of Lion’s Head

Our group of scientists, finally at the top (Pic: Heather Whitehorn)

Our group of scientists, finally at the top (Pic: Heather Whitehorn)

My lab is hosting a student from the University of Bristol so one of the other students decided it would be nice to have a lab outing. This Tuesday a group of us set off to climb Lion’s Head, one of the mountains around Cape Town. Continue reading

Videos: Something serious and something fun

I’m really having trouble getting back into writing. In the meanwhile I’ll share two short clips to keep people entertained.

The first one is educational, but with cute animations, and explains what evolution is.

For second one we shoot way off the obscure side of entertainment for the fourth episode of Charlie the Unicorn. It’s not my favourite Charlie but it’s still entertaining.


A death in the open-access movement

I saw an article on Yahoo! today about the death of Aaron Swartz. Swartz was a computer programmer who co-authored RSS 1.0 (If you subscribe to the feeds for either new posts or new comments it is thanks to a later version of RSS), was co-owner of Reddit, a Wikipedia editor and activist. He committed suicide on 11 January, seemingly due to depression and stress relating to charges against him with regards to his activism relating to the open access movement. Continue reading

Guest post: My academic life so far

This is a guest post written by Michael Kent who is doing a PhD in climatology at UCT and is one of the assistant tutors at Cape Town Nihongo Kai, our Japanese school. He has agreed to share his path into science and how he has been able to combine his studies with his other interests.


Although in 2003 I was finishing my last year of high school, I still had no clue what I wanted to do or study the following year. What I did know was that I enjoyed doing geography. This helped cement the idea that I should go and study further, and after some help from an advisor at school, I applied to do related courses at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Fortunately, my application was accepted and I began my studies in 2004. Continue reading

Quick link: Germs are us

It’s been quite a long break but I really should start easing my way back into this blog. I’ll start by sharing a fairly long piece from The New Yorker titled Germs Are Us. I’m a little upset to have found this because it’s basically the same topic I used for my article for the science writing competition I told you about. Not only is it much longer than mine (I had a 700 word limit) but it also covers pretty much every point I did and then more. On the other hand it might just mean I picked a relevant topic.