Ask A Biologist

I’ve been involved with Ask A Biologist (affectionately known as AAB) for quite a while now, so I am excited that the site is being relaunched today with a substantial make-over that should make it easier for everybody to use (you may notice that I’ve given my blog a make-over as well). The site was started by my buddy Dave Hone of Archosaur Musings fame and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it since its first tenuous steps.

AAB is a fantastic free resource that provides a direct line to researchers in the field of biology, palaeontology, medicine and other associated biosciences. We have fielded all kinds of questions, from Do Crocodiles play around to  Functional heterologous complementation. The site is intended to give authoritative answers whenever possible and informed opinions where answers are simply not available. This reflects the true nature of science, where the answer “I don’t know” is sometimes the most honest answer; one that can usually followed by a suggestion based on what is known. These are often the most interesting answers, because they lead to discussion and sometimes full debate – something that stimulates the development and testing of ideas (Dromaeosaur claws is a great example).

The public is composed of a huge variety of people with diverse backgrounds and very different experiences. This means that the contributors to the site are often faced with questions phrased in terms that they have not encountered before; it’s amazing how helpful this fresh perspective can be when you’re totally immersed in an area of study. If you are involved in bioscience at a professional level and you want to engage more fully with the public I would strongly recommend getting involved with AAB – it’s voluntary, but the rewards are substantial. For those of you who are not professional biology types, but you have questions about something to do with biology, I would recommend searching the archives of AAB and if you can’t find the answer there, then go  ahead and Ask A Biologist.

[For more information about registering as a contributor please leave a comment below and I will contact you with details]

Friday mystery object #39 answer

On Friday I deviated from my usual natural history theme when I gave you this object:

There were a host of suggestions, from a tea caddy to part of the Large Hadron Collider, however, one person managed to identify that this is actually a pin cushion – here it is folded out in all its glory:

So well done to KateV (who is also known as mum by me)!

This particular pincushion is European and made of cardboard and fabric – I would tell you more, but out database doesn’t seem to be responding this morning, so any additional information will have to follow once that’s up and running, since I am a total ignoramus about such cultural items. Hopefully more to follow…