Nathalie Jonsson

Science Writer 

  1. Why You Are Dreaming Of A White Christmas

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    December is a dark month. In many places where people only experience a few hours of sunlight every day, December is a about fighting off the dark. In northern Sweden an energy company installed solar powered UV-lights at bus stops to offer a daily dose of light. The CEO of the company explained that they had seen an opportunity for installing the lights since there was no snow yet.

    A snow-covered landscape is brighter than any other. This is because of the albedo effect. Albedo is a unit for the ‘reflective power of a surface’ and can be experienced by wearing a black t-shirt on a sunny day. Black surfaces absorb most radiation as heat and reflect very little (a low albedo). White surfaces, on the other hand, reflect most of the light and absorb very little radiation as heat (high albedo).  Depending on how fresh the snow is, its albedo is typically between 95–80% (compared to 5–30% for other parts of landscape). The snow on the ground is often even brighter than the sky above it, especially under a blue sky.

    In northern Sweden the UV-lights were quickly removed since they were actually so bright that they blinded the bus drivers working in the area. Luckily, a few days later the snow fell and finally brought some much needed light…

    …In addition to the daily traffic problems and loud complaints from the general public as they desperately count down to the day it all goes away.

    Koenderink JJ, Richards WA. Why is snow so bright? Opt Soc Am A. 1992;9:643–648.

  2. Just Stop Caring And Do What You Want With Your Life

    Ever felt like you had problems getting started with creative work? The answer might be to work fast.

    Motivation is usually experienced in bursts. The worst enemy of motivation is time. Most often, when that great idea comes to you you’re ready to make it happen. The longer you wait the higher the risk of it being one of those great ideas that you tell people about. In the worst case your idea is really good. So good that someone else makes great success by actually completing the project.

    To be able to work fast you have remove all emotional ties to your work. An idea comes your way, you create it and then, there it is. Polishing it for too long or doubting if you are taking it in the right direction just stalls your production. Having no emotional attachment to your work allows you to be more open to feedback. Maybe the person offering advice actually knows better than you, maybe they are better at what they do than you, maybe they can offer that interesting perspective that you need to develop in the right direction. Involving others in the production process will lead to a better final outcome and can help to establish an idea in the making as yours.

    So. Yeah. Stop dreaming and start doing.

  3. The Homeless Man Who Became Radioman

    On a cold New York street in the mid 90s, a drunken homeless man named Craig Castaldo approached another desperate man in need of help. To Craig’s surprise, the desperate man on his knees did not want his help. Offended he walked off and the more he thought about what had just happened, the angrier he got.

    The desperate man on his knees was actor Bruce Willis trying to portray a homeless person for a scene in his latest movie. In between takes Craig got his revenge by shouting profanity at Willis in an Irish accent.

    This is how Radioman met cinema.

    Radioman is a documentary about a man who found a love for life through cinema. It follows Radioman, always seen with a radio hanging around his neck, as he spends his days (and sometimes nights) cycling through New York in search for the next movie shoot. Since the 90s he has been a well-known feature of the New York backdrop and a welcomed addition to any of Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg or Ron Howard’s films. ‘Radio’ as his friends George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Robin Williams call him, makes an appearance in an impressive number of movies. He gladly speaks about his movie set experiences and does not shy away form letting you know what stars he does and does not like. Even new star Robert Pattinson has the honour of being scrutinised by a skeptical Radio as they shoot a scene together.

    We also get to know the unlikely story of how a homeless man became a friend of the stars and on a daily basis still choses a humble life, sharing a dirty home with his dead mother’s belongings. A paradox that has made even the police and other authorities intervene while Radio has been on movie sets. His extreme lifestyle and big heart seems to bring much appreciated down-to-earth humanity to the New York movie scene.

    The documentary Radioman celebrates the joy of doing what you love without having to compromise your true personality.

  4. The Purpose ‘Junk DNA’, Has Been Uncovered

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    The definition of ‘gene’ is a piece of DNA that produces a protein in the body. However, only a small fraction of the DNA humans carry in our cells produce proteins. Since the role of the rest of the DNA was unclear it has for a long time been known as ‘junk DNA’.

    Due to a multinational effort, known as the ENCODE project, the function of this rest of the genetic material was recently uncovered. Roughly 80% of the human genome is associated with least one biochemical activity and about 18% of DNA is involved in regulating the protein-producing genes.

    Controlling when the genes that produce proteins should be switched on and off is important. Since all cells carry the entire DNA controlling when certain proteins should be produced can have major consequences for the whole body. Sometimes, a change in protein set-up can lead to illness and for those purposes knowing the intricate ways the DNA controls the cell is of great value.

    The data gathered is publicly available in a database on the ENCODE project portal and aims to be a genome version of Google Maps for scientists mapping DNA. The results have been described as “the most significant contribution to understanding the human genome since the last sequence was completed in 2003”.

  5. Who is less lonely?

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    Human, consisting mainly of carbon, floating in space with all other carbon atoms in the universe or human on earth who shares an odd and very rare human-shape to their carbon molecules with the rest of the human race?

  6. The Challenges Of Being A Scientist

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    Most likely your theories will be challenged and sometimes you are proved wrong. You can still be considered brilliant for fighting your corner.

     

  7. No Friends Without Kurt

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    In 1992 movie director Cameron Crowe released a young-adult rom com set in Seattle called ‘Singles’. It received some publicity and positive reviews but was no box office smash hit. The publicity mainly revolved around the soundtrack filled with songs from the emerging grunge scene, which was also heavily depicted in the film.

    Warner Bros. saw a bright future in the concept and approached Crowe about turning his movie into a series. Crowe declined. Warner Bros. went back to the drawing board, tweaked the idea slightly and in 1994 the show finally aired on TV as the glossy show ‘Friends’.