Saturday, February 26, 2011

Giant agar dish and inoculation of the dress

Today we've had a really busy day. Sarah & Brian made 10L of agar and poured it into our homemade petri dish. The Chinese shop even ran out of clolourless agar so we had some yellow, green and red too, which is kind of exciting looking! Then we made our embroidered dress damp and pressed it into the agar. Finally we harvested all our bacteria (that we'd grown on other agar dishes) and innoculated the dress. Pretty pooped now!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lots and lots of embroidery and some bacteria!

We visited the micro lab at the hospital to find out what our nasal swabs had grown - the white plates showed none of us were carriers of MRSA but several of the group had Staphlococcus aureus (of a non-resistant strain). Then we went back to Lighthouse to embroider (lots)! And then to the hostel also to embroider!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Regency dresses with Martin at Brighton Museum

Today we were incredibly lucky to visit Brighton Museum stores with Curator Martin Pell who showed us one hundred years of dresses covering the Regency period and surrounding times. The Regency period was 1780-1830. In the slideshow there are images of the detailed embroidery and patterns in the fabrics - we're going to be using these as inspiration for the embroidery we'll do to our regency bacteria dress. The threads we use have been dyed and impregnated with natural antimicrobials.

Visiting Simon's lab

Here we are in the lab painting with coloured bacteria. I think we also look like bacteria moving around - we vanish to visit the warm rooms. I think I also captured a spider walking across the lens.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lab life day 2

Today we went out on a big ramble aound Brighton visiting the fish mongers for some fish to grow some bioluminescent bacteria, to various monuments associated with the Regency period and Mrs Fitzherbert, the Brighton Pavilion and of course the seaside! WHile we were in the lab I also set up a time lapse (a photo was taken every minute) - you can see we were pretty busy with visitors!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Infective Textiles at Laboratory Life, Brighton

A couple of days ago I headed down to Brighton to join Laboratory Life at Lighthouse. This art-science set of collaborations has drawn together members of both art and science communities to work on some really amazing projects. I am working with Anna Dumitriu on a project called Infective Textiles. We're going to try and use bacteria to colour and pattern fabric and then, as its Brighton, create a Regency dress. We spent yesterday getting to know each other in the team - there's Anna, Brian, Sarah, Rosie and me - and getting together some ideas of how the project might work. Today we went on several field trips to source some bits and pieces. Our first port of call was to the hospital microbiology labs to pick up some of the more scientific bits of kit - a microscope, some agar plates, bins for disposing of the bacterial waste at the end. Then we popped into ASDA for the less scientific things - plastic boxes, salt, spring water etc. And finally we drove a little way down the coast to Widewater Lagoon and Nature Reserve where the water is a little brackish and there are some good sulphur eating bacteria in the mud. There were also a lot of swans ( and rabbit droppings!) but we had a fun time in the freezing cold splashing about in our wellies! Back at Lighthouse Oron Catts gave a short talk about tissue culture histories and there was an interesting debate afterwards about using living organisms in art (and science) pieces. Thought it was nearly tea time after all that we did get a moment to make up some of (Dr Simon) Park's Kitchen agar - from agar (from the Chinese supermarket), marmite, honey and pea protein powder (it was supposed to be skimmed milk powder but somehow we lost that on the way back from the supermarket!!). Tea was had at the basketmakers.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Molecular gastronomy

This year is the International Year of Chemistry and we decided we would celebrate with a little molecular gastronomy. But not Heston Blumenthal for us, noooo we thought we'd make edible molecular models! We asked our friends what they would make - from insulin to methane came back the answers. I sketched out all the potential molecules (on the back on an envelope no less - quite unintentionally) and we chose two to make. The bonds would be lollipop sticks and the atoms would be cake balls (ala Bakarella)

'back of an envelope!'

Can you guess what they were? Or highlight the following text to find out They were vanilin (at the top of the page) and theobromine (at the bottom of the page) from vanilla and chocolate respectively. We made cake from 5 eggs, 220g butter, 220g sugar and 220g self raising flour. Then we split the batter into two, adding vanilla essence to one half and cocoa to the other. Once cooked we mixed the crumbled cake with vanilla frosting/icing and shaped the sticky mixture into 46 cake balls/atoms. Using a little melted chocolate coating we stuck the lollipop sticks into all of them (plus some doubles!) and let them set in the fridge.
'sketch molecules'

We started with the uncoated cake balls making a 'sketch' model before we got into the serious business of coating the cakes with chocolate coating (candy coat from Hobbycraft). Once coated each cake ball/atom was pushed into a piece of oasis by the lollipop stick/bond so it could set. Popping them into the freezer helped quite a lot. Then time for assembly, we heated up a skewer to melt the chocolate coating so that we could push the bonds in and voila molecules were made!
We've been carefully counting bonds and fingers crossed everything is present and correct! Remarkably tricky but great fun.

The chocolatey brown atoms are carbon, the red ones are oxygen, the blues are nitrogen and the white ones are hydrogen.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


A while ago I got really excited about wordl, well today I have found something even better (could there be?!!) and that's Tagxedo - where you can make a word cloud and make it an interesting shape too!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

String Bean

Today we went in search of new fish tank plants but the usual place was completely sold out. So pottering a bit further down the road we happened upon another garden centre with aquatics and a tea shop! We were lucky in the plant department and then had a very yummy cup of tea and piece of carrot cake :-)!!

Last weekend we all had a super time in Guildford - going out for tea at Olivio before seeing Alan Ayckbourn's Life of Riley at YAT. Then a trip to see the butterflies in the Glasshouse at RHS Wisley!

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