Online Insights with Steve Davis on FIVEaa, Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 23, 2009

Captain Skellett’s Science Blog

Science Week ends today, so I thought I had better mark the occasion by sharing some science sites.

The first is by a young, Adelaide-based, science communicator, Captain Skellet, who I met at a Twitter forum I was presenting last week. Her blog is like New Scientist meets Sex And The City meets Pirates of the Caribbean because amid the intriguing science articles, there are diary entries from the goings on in Captain Skellett’s life, and little pirate-like quips!

Three recent blog posts caught my eye:

  • Companies offering personal genome scans – the post centres on the practice of companies offering the service of analysing your saliva and giving you some insights into your health and your history, based on your genes. The services cost around US$1000 and you get to learn your current likelihood of developing certain diseases, to find out where your ancestors came from, and one gives you the chance to then connect “genetically” with other people from around the globe. It is a spooky kind of Facebook. The captain’s take is to live in blissful ignorance. Or, in her pirate voice, “My advice is to just have a mug o’ rum and stop stressing about things you can’t change.”
  • How to mend a broken heart – the captain scoffs at suggestions we could be growing spare hearts within two decades because she points out that hearts are just too darn complicated. What she does share are some intriguing insights into science and the heart, revealing there is a new technique being trialled that can actually spur a damaged heart to start repairing itself or get a donor heart for a few years because after a little rest a tired, worn out heart will have restored itself to good health. Amazing.
  • Chemical condom – her most recent post (at the time of this segment going to air) is about a new substance which women can use to avoid pregnancy and HIV. The substance turns to gel inside the body and when semen arrives on the scene, it changes to a tight micro-mesh that traps sperm. Add some antiviral mixture to the concoction and we have a major weapon in the fight against HIV and Aids in the third world. The mesh is 40 nanometers small and HIV particles are around 100 nanometers – so the little blighters get trapped (to use a piratism).

It is a fun, inspiring read designed to give you some great conversation starters at A Schooner Of Science.

The Swiney Flu


Another Adelaide science contact, this time Kay Walker, a health researcher, pointed out a post from Mike the Mad Biologist on the issue of covering our mouths when we sneeze. Kay is asthmatic and so gets very nervous around people who take no effort to keep their germs to themselves because if she catches a cold or flu it can be very debilitating.

The gist of Mike’s post is this dilemma: Should we comment on others’ public hygiene? He raised the question because “a couple days ago, while waiting for the T, a guy about ten feet away sneezed several times without even attempting to cover his face; he didn’t even make a ‘matador’, bullshit fake effort. Because of the angle of the light and what not, I could easily see the massive spray of mucus flying out of his nose. I mean stuff everywhere.”

The post also picks up on health messages worldwide using the slogan, catch it, bin it, kill it. The message means use a tissue once, dispose of it straight away, and wash hands and surfaces.

In the comments to the post, someone shares that they respond to poor public hygiene in the workplace by going out and buying extra boxes of tissues and hand gel and “sharing” some with the infector casually, saying “I was just stocking up, here have some too”.

What do you do? I certainly look away and move away if possible, I cancel appointments with clients (or give them the option, at least) and hope they do the same, and I will now be disposing of tissues ASAP instead of using them conservatively.

You can see the rest of Mike’s post on his Mad Biologist blog.


Welcome to the era of foreverism. That is what Trend Watching has dubbed it. is a trend firm and its website contains a series of illuminating and interesting reports on various trends.

The most recent report was on foreverism which refers to the persistent nature of our online identities and behaviours. In essence, the report says that once we have created our profile on our favourite social network site or sites, we have the means to be perpetually in touch with brands and friends  – forever. In a quote from Jeff Jarvis, the report says “with their blogs, MySpace pages, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Seesmic conversations, Twitter feeds, and all the means for sharing their lives yet to be invented, they will leave lifelong Google tracks that will make it easier to find them.”

Two of the key trends covered in this report are:

  • Forever conversationalism – this covers that fact that consumers can now start and stay engaged in meaningful dialogue with brands because “all of a sudden, big brands have assigned Chief Bloggers, Directors of Digital Care, Customer Relationships Experts, Social Media Strategists, Heads of Social Media, and yes, ‘Corporate Twitterers’ to personally (wo)man their Twitter conversations”. It should also shake up the traditional news article, which the authors suggest will soon become a relic of the past. Instead, stories begin from a reader question or a reporter signalling intent to do a story, and then evolves into a conversation/interview, and then continues developing and being reshaped forever.
  • Forever beta – this is the notion of having an “almost ready for market” version out in the marketplace so that consumers can give feedback and developers can make changes. TCHO is a chocolate maker in California and it has finally released an official version of one of its chocolates after 1,026 iterations – that means more than 1,000 versions of the product resulting in feedback and changes until everyone was happy it was perfect; consumers and management.

You can find out more at

Clumsy Crooks

Something light to finish with, Clumsy Crooks captures the idiotic side of criminal life, documenting the various stuff ups where crimes just go wrong. Here are a few favourites:

  • Chinese motorbike – A Chinese man was arrested for stealing a motorcycle – part by part over five years from the factory where he worked. Zhang, an assembly line worker in a motorcycle factory in Chongqing, had always wanted his own motorbike but could never afford one. Must be a Johnny Cash fan – check out “one piece at a time” …
  • Wrong target – A brazen burglar picked the wrong place to target: a police station. Police Chief Steve Scibelli said it was pretty embarrassing to have a thief hit his downtown station last week, stealing a radio, two stun guns and a Crown Victoria patrol car.
  • Whoops – As getaways go, this one wasn’t pretty. Nor was it successful.London police say the driver in a stolen car involved in an accident shortly after 2 a.m. yesterday jumped from the car and fled on foot — smack into a telephone pole.
  • That’s big of him – Two Chinese women who work at the same factory were shocked to discover they were both married to the same man. Cui Bin, 42, of Zhengzhou, has been jailed for three months for bigamy after the story came out, reports Dahe Daily.
  • Cocaine goes straight to the hips – Customs officers arrested a smuggler with six and a half kilos of cocaine hidden in his shorts after becoming suspicious of his big bum. Officials at El Prat de Llobregat airport, Barcelona, forced him to strip and found specially made pants with dozens of tiny pockets sewn in to hold the drugs.
  • Gotta be a record – A man vying for the title of New Zealand’s most incompetent criminal left his name and contact details with a shop before robbing it and fleeing. The man, it seems, was a regular customer of the shop: Just minutes before the robbery, the man had approached the assistant, saying he wanted a copy of Pink Floyd’s album “The Wall” held for him. He wrote his name and contact details down for the assistant. He also had other long-standing requests for albums at the shop, also accompanied by his name and contact details.

You can keep up with these bizarre stories at clumsy crooks.