Nailing Science: The Maths of Rivers

Creating scientifically accurate nail art whilst discussing my research in fluid dynamics with Dr Becky Smethurst and Dr Michaela Livingston-Banks at the University of Oxford.

We recorded 1h30mins of footage, so this is the heavily edited version of our chat ranging from the fluid dynamics equations needed to describe the flow of water in a river, the Coriolis effect, the experimental set up replicating this, and how these experiments can help with the clean up of pollution.

Optogenetics: the algae that started it all

It may seem like science fiction, but with optogenetics scientists can control the behaviour of animals by simply shining a light into their brains. And believe it or not this technology began… in algae! These single-celled plants are powered by the sun and contain built-in light detectors to control their behaviour. This discovery, and the isolation of the light sensitive protein that is responsible, led to the birth of the science we now call optogenetics. I went to see Cambridge University’s Otti Croze and Kyriacos Leptos to try to catch some of these incredible life-forms…

  • The algae Chlamydomonas Reinhardtii are invisible to the naked eye at around one hundreth of a millimetre or one tenth of the width of a human hair
  • Chlamydomonas contain a light-sensitive protein called channelrhodopsin which triggers the algae to swim using tiny arms called flagella
  • They are phototactic which means that they move towards light which they need to photosynthesise and survive
  • By introducing the light-sensitive protein into nerve cells in the brain scientists can use it as an on/off switch to control the cells by shining light onto them

You can listen to the full interview for the Naked Scientists here.

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