Sunny St. Helens… or is it?

May 28th, 2017

Sunday 28th May 2017

Gloomy, chilly, and damp – yes, it must be a bank holiday weekend. On the plus side though - the last few months have been pretty hot, dry, and sunny for us, leaving folks gardens resembling the surface of The Moon – at this rate they’ll be no string beans with the Sunday roasts this year!
So, what are we saying for today? Well, we’ve had a little overnight rain, which has brought out all of the molluscs, and, as the dampness lingers – then so do they, but it’s not actually raining at the moment, but we have got…

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… Stratus – a layer of cloud completely covering the sky, add this to the cool north-westerly breeze, and a recent temperature of 15oC - then you’d be forgiven for wanting to burrow under the duvet and go back into hibernation. However, atmospheric pressure is rising, meaning that the area of low pressure bringing all this rubbish is moving off to the north, great stuff, especially, as this is allowing an area of high pressure to move in – OK, so the latest Met Office ‘rainfall radar’ shows no rain anywhere near us – which is good, but the latest satellite image shows a lot of cloud continuing to head our way… which basically means today will probably remain quite gloomy, but, there is a chance the cloud will thin and even break up later to give some sunshine.
So, don’t bin off the bouncy castle and paddling pool just yet!

© Willow Science 2017

Sunny St. Helens… or is it?

May 27th, 2017

Saturday 27th May 2017

Hmm, yes and no today – we started off with a lot of sun, after a little overnight rain which was, to be fair, nothing an amoeba would really notice, barely dampened the top of the wheelie bin.
However, we’ve had plenty of these little critters passing through…

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… cumulus clouds… which can develop into cumulonimbus clouds (thunderclouds) given half the chance… which we have actually had… moving to the east – with the odd rumble of thunder… and rain… I counted 3 spots on my window.
It’s pretty warm though – about 24oC just recently, which is good, but it’s also much fresher than what we’ve had in the last few days, the breeze, a south to south-westerly jobbie, is well strong – I’ve seen the odd bird flying backwards cos of it!
Atmospheric pressure is quite low, and is still falling – which means an area of low pressure is coming towards us – so things could get a whole load gloomier, wetter, and windier – basically: much less BBQ friendly!
The latest (Met Office) satellite pictures are certainly showing this, and on the ‘rainfall radar’ you can defo see showers heading our way – but it’s like ‘one of those days’ where some areas could get absolutely drenched… whereas others could stay as dry as The Sahara Desert… during a summer heatwave!
Brolly on standby methinks.

© Willow Science 2017

Cancer Awareness - ‘Nutcare’

April 15th, 2015

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OK nuts - don’t neglect um, they’re there for a reason - mainly for reproduction… and something to do with hormones - great, especially since most of the time, they cause no problems, but occasionally… yes, cancer can happen. However, um being hidden away and stuff means that they often get forgotten about - but regular ‘nutcare’ is important - gentle inspection is a must - try and get used to how they feel - and yeah, go for it - make notes, draw diagrams, take photos… and even, jot down a few measurements just for future comparison. Get to know your way around them, understand their dynamics… their connection with the universe… what makes them tick, then, if owt goes wrong - you’ll be ‘on it’ straight away.
As for the question of ‘when and where’ to carry out a ‘nut inspection’ - well, this is always best done in a quiet place, a spot where you can give them your full attention - the bath, couch, or bed for instance - it doesn’t take long, and hopefully, they’ll be OK each time, but, should a problem arise, then treatment is available… the main thing being to, get in there early as this will often help you with your chances of making a full, and, speedy recovery. :)

© Willow Science 2015

Vicky xx

Cancer Awareness - Watch out!!!

April 14th, 2015

Lumps and bumps are a fact of life - don’t be sitting there acting like you haven’t got any - go on… check it out. I’ll give you a sec.
OK then, so what have you got… bony bits… gristly bits… the odd squidgy bit? It’s always good to know exactly, what you’ve got ‘hanging around’ - yes, make notes, draw diagrams… take photos (especially, if your memory is as rubbish as mine) - cos, if owt changes in the future, then you need to ‘get on it’ - quick - and have some sort of a reference for comparison.
Oh, throughout life, your body alters no doubt… stuff comes and goes - most of this is not too bad, but it’s the stuff that comes, stays and grows that you need to be aware of… or, things that you’ve already got, that, and for no apparent reason, suddenly looks and feels quite different… and not just women - anyone can succumb to cancer - it’s just not that fussy about whose life it invades.
So, you’ve gotta be alert, and get at this thing early… it’s no good leaving it, as, once it’s come… it’s unlikely to go all by itself - it needs a good shove - and the sooner you do this… the better. :)

© Willow Science 2015

Vicky xx

Welcome to Willow Science - BBQ safety

April 13th, 2015

Hello, I think I’m really going to enjoy this opportunity as a science writer as helping people learn all about germs and the diseases they cause is what really excites me, and, to be honest, was the main reason I chose to study microbiology in the first place. As a subject, it gives you everything - slime, fungus, and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction at being able to study and understand something that you can’t even see with the naked eye.
However, in my quest to bring diseases to you, I’ve already had to overcome much adversity; in this, my very first post, I was really pushed to the limit. You see I, like most people, love a good barbecue… and staring at pictures of perfectly cooked burgers, chicken wings, and sausages, fresh from the grill, all in the name of research… OMG - back in a mo!
Hmm, that’s better, now, where was I?
Yes, barbecues are a staple part of the long British summer - a chance to get together with family, friends, their pets, whilst also, becoming reacquainted with the ‘natural world’ after your recent winter hibernation.
However, in the ensuing chaos of dodging wasps, scraping ants from your legs, and keeping the kids out of the pond, one should never forget the importance of food safety at these occasions - remember, focus, because if you don’t, you could end up with Salmonella, or some other nasty little bug that could well cause food poisoning - which is a big deal, as its symptoms can be pretty gruesome and could end up lasting for days - with most of the ‘action’ revolving around diarrhoea, vomiting, and stomach pains which come about, usually, as a result of toxins produced by the offending microbe.
So, you want to try and avoid all of this nonsense - and where better to go for advice than to the Food Standards Agency (a bunch of folks who know all about food… and safety), where basically, what they’re saying about handling meat at a barbecue is to:

(1) Try to pre-cook all your meat in the oven - then whack it on the barbecue to give it that smoky taste you’re after. Yum!

(2) OK, so it may look charred and frazzled on the outside, but this doesn’t always mean your meat is cooked thoroughly on the inside, therefore, to make sure, simply cut into it and check that there are no pink bits, it’s piping hot, and that the juices are running clear. Remember - be a hero - if in doubt - cook it a little longer!

(3) Beware of portable barbecues - oh, not cos they’ll have your eye out or anything else dodgy like that (well, not under normal circumstances they won’t), it’s just that they take a little longer to cook your food. Be vigilant… and patient… get a good book to work through whilst you’re waiting (War and Peace should just about do it).

(4) Cross-contamination at these events can be a real problem - keep raw and cooked foods well separated, use different utensils and equipment for each, wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat, and especially, when you’ve been to the toilet, handled any pets, blown your nose, or, been foraging around in the bin!

(5) This one may catch you by surprise - but try and refrain from giving your raw meat a wash as it’s well known that the splashing action of water in this way can actually propel dangerous microbes all over the place from the food. But worry not; the heat of cooking will kill off any microbes present on your meat.

(6) Serve your glorious creations with utensils, and, on to plates, using cutlery that have not been in contact with any raw meat - a beautiful ‘marinated flamingo breast’ is no good if it’s served with an E. coli garnish!

And there you have it folks. OK, so I’m not saying that if you follow all these guidelines to the exact letter, then I’m sure things will go perfectly and you’ll have a day to remember for all the right reasons. It’s more like, that if you follow these guidelines you’ll reduce your chances of something going wrong as you can never completely rule out the unexpected from happening.
Yes - a random seagull flying overhead and dropping a Campylobacter-laden poop right in the middle of your meatball, pasta salad can never be entirely foreseen!

References:

Food Standards Agency (FSA). food.gov.uk (July 2014) Six tips for a top barbecue.

Murray, P.R., Rosenthal, K.S., Kobayashi, G.S., Pfaller, M.A. Ed. (2002) Medical Microbiology 4th ed. Mosby.

Prescott, L.M., Harley, J.P., Klein, D.A. Ed. (1996) Microbiology 3rd ed. Wm. C. Brown Publishers.

© Willow Science 2015

Vicky :) xx