George’s Gentle Geordie Geography

The Geordie geography of TV’s George Gently (which has been on for years) is quite amazing…I watch it because it’s filmed in the land of my birth. But, Scene 1 might be in a children’s home in Teesside (which they spell Teeside), next scene is Gently, who’s based in Durham, which is on the Wear, nipping down to said kids’ home with sidekick mod copper John, then they’re back in time for Gently to quickly get to South Shields only it isn’t South Shields (on the Tyne), which they call “Shields”, it’s Seaton Sluice, which is back over the Tyne and further North. Then they’re driving into somewhere they said was Whitley Bay, but there are grassy sand dunes and it’s so obviously Druridge Bay (where they didn’t build a nuclear power station, I was at the punk protest gig in 1977!).

Next, they’re in Cullercoats, where I grew up, but it’s not, it’s somewhere near Roker, and so on and so forth, until Gently, case solved is standing knee deep in his waders flyfishing on a wear (against fishing rules, I think) in the shadow of Durham Cathedral (his favourite building).

Somehow they span three counties, three rivers, and at least a hundred different attempts at an authentic Geordie accent and all the while not once mentioning The Toon, Mac’ems, or the name of the place they’re actually meant to be stationed in. Oh, and they never have scenes where they are driving for more than a few seconds, presumably for fear of framing modern street furniture, like that enormous CCTV pole outside the Spanish City in S02E03.

It is good though…I love the authenticity of the interiors, all that bevelled glass and kitsch ornaments…and it certainly beats Heartbeat. Next week, Sciencebase dissects Vera’s “Geordie accent” and her eternal penchant for the Rendezvous Cafe on Whitley seafront…

100 songs

Having mentioned 100 million chemicals just now, by sheer chance, I noticed that “Push the Button” stacks up as my 100th original tune on SoundCloud. It’s part of the double A-side “single” – Life Love, and Lonicera, which includes my big time Pseudo Gabriel sledgehammer of a song, “Push the Button” and Wild Honeysuckle which features my feverish festival falsetto, songs of sexuality on steroids…but NOT NSFW ;-) By,the way, the double A-side became a “triple A-side” and now it’s an 8-track.


We know it's all electrified and open to abuse
But schmooze it up, confuse it up it is the only muse
Push the button!

100 million chemicals

One little bit of chemistry news that I always try to cover are the milestones as the Chemical Abstracts Service announces the next “round number” in its database of chemical structures. It was September 2007 when I mentioned their reaching 50 million structures, but I am fairly sure I wrote about their 10 millionth in newscientist back in the early 1990s…

This week, CAS announced the 100 millionth chemical substance in its registry in the service’s 50th anniversary. That is quite astounding, 100 million chemicals! On average a new substance registered every two and a half minutes since 1965, although three quarters of the entries were added only in the last decade.


The 100 millionth (entry references CAS RN 1786400-23-4) is a drug for acute myeloid leukaemia, developed by Coferon in Stony Brook, New York, USA.

Dexter on the Rocks

A fascinating paper highlighted in F1000 Prime suggests that powdered tomato (the red-coloured lycopene in it, actually) has a protective effect on a liver diseased by alcohol. Specifically, “dietary tomato powder inhibits alcohol-induced hepatic injury by suppressing cytochrome p450 2E1 induction in rodent models.” So if you’re a boozed up critter it might help. What I am waiting with baited breath to see are the tabloid headlines when they get wind of this research:

Bloody Mary cures ailing liver

That kind of thing…


This from the paper’s abstract:

Chronic and excessive alcohol consumption leads to the development of alcoholic liver disease (ALD) and greatly increases the risk of liver cancer. Induction of the cytochrome p450 2E1 (CYP2E1) enzyme by chronic and excessive alcohol intake is known to play a role in the pathogenesis of ALD. High intake of tomatoes, rich in the carotenoid lycopene, is associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease.

Of course, the paper says nothing of the sort wrt the Bloody Mary, it just hints at a component of tomato powder having a putatively beneficial effect on liver enzymes in a laboratory animal. I gave it a tweet and Justin Brower aka Nature Poisons, a forensic toxicologist and organic chemist, offered up the idea of a powdered Bloody Mary made from “powdered alcohol” and powdered tomato, he called it “The Jane Doe Bloodstain”, to which I then offered the hashtag Dexter. Thus, was born the ultimate boozy liver scientist’s cocktail: A Dexter on the
Rocks. Watch out for the gory end of season finale…cheers!

CC “Bloody Mary” photo by

Allergy myths debunked

Here’s a very quickfire summary of an excellent article by Sally Bloomfield of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, published in The Conversation.


  • Fewer childhood infections does not lead to more allergies
  • Our modern “obsession” with cleanliness is not to blame for more people having allergies
  • Being less hygienic will not reverse the allergy trend
  • Synthetic chemicals are not to blame for allergies

On that latter issue about “synthetic” chemicals Bloomfield makes a very important point that the public should know:

Many people believe that ‘man-made’ chemicals are more likely to cause allergic reactions, leading to many synthetic substances in products being replaced by ‘atural alternatives’. However, the most common allergic reactions are to naturally occurring allergens, in foods such as eggs, milk and nuts, in common garden plants such as primroses and chrysanthemums, and things in the environment such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander. Some natural replacements for synthetic substances could actually increase the risk of allergic reactions.

Creative Commons photo by peapodlabs

Skipping breakfast – good or bad?

Is skipping breakfast bad for you? Back in the 1970s, there was a campaign that led with the line “go to work on an egg”, but that was just a promo for the egg marketing people, or was it? The so-called “health” and “lifestyle” magazines often splash with the idea that you must have a good breakfast as it “sets you up for the day” and helps avoid snacking during the rest of the day, controls sugar spikes, helps metabolism, all that kind of tosh.


About a year ago British tabloids got hold of a story claiming that brekkie isn’t the most important meal, it was a tiny trial and the news stories were dismantled by NHS Choices’ “Behind the headlines”. On several occasions prior to that there were news reports that regularly skipping breakfast leads to a greater risk of having a heart attack in men. And before that claims that missing breakfast when you’re a child can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life. And, then there was the question of the big breakfast and whether skipping breakfast leads to our seeking out fatty foods later in the day. Again media stories critiqued by the NHS (follow those links).

The NHS site has some recipes for people who feel they ought to have breakfast but cannot face the traditional breakfast fare first thing in the morning. WebMD reckons breakfast is important. As does Johns Hopkins in some advice for students. Similar fodder on the Mayo Clinic site. But for every dozen breaskfast recipes mentioned on the web, every 365 breakfast bars unwrapped, there seems to be at least one citation of some study or another that suggests skipping breakfast is not bad for you, may well do you good, or perhaps not, who knows, definitely maybe!

It would be nice if there were a simple answer. And, perhaps there is: eat when you’re hungry, get plenty of fresh air and exercise, drink enough water so that you don’t feel thirsty and avoid the real nasties: tobacco smoke, drunk drivers and (when you’re really ill) quacks such as homeopaths.

CC “Full English Breakfast” photo by homard