The facts of science

By Ann Fenech, on 14 June 2010

Did you know that the smell of seaside is really dimethyl sulfide from bacteria (Coast), or that the probability of winning the lottery is equivalent to the probability of dying in 1hour…27mins…and 2s (Matt Parker)?

As a scientist, I love facts. ‘How can you not’ I ask? And this festival provided me with more than its fair share of them. I slipped quite a number of them into other posts, but some of them have escaped that fate…until now!

What else did I learn? Well, Henrietta Lacks‘ cells, known as HeLa – the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture – double in number every 24hrs (Is this the golden age of science writing?). Or that most Mexican waves require 25 people to start and travel at 27 miles per hour? (The Wavewatcher’s Companion).

However my favourite is probably this: Did you know that the fraction line is known as the vinculum. Mathgasm anyone? (Stand-Up Mathematics). Yeah I’m ever so slightly geeky!

Moving on to the somewhat bizarre? Quentin Cooper (FameLab International) stated that the periodic table is the scientific equivalent of a six-pack…where did he come up with that?

But the most inspirational thing I heard? The distinction would fall on the Moroccan Famelab contestant:

“If I wasn’t a scientist I would do my best to become one”

And that is what I have reminded myself during this festival…exactly why I do what I do and why I love what I do. And I will echo his words once again: If I wasn’t a scientist I would definitely try my best to be one!

the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture