I’ve recently been interviewed by Chemical and Engineering News magazine, which is funny considering I’m neither a chemist nor an engineer. In fact, I’m likely to be fatally disastrous as either. Recently, a new burned bone paper came out in Analytical Chemistry (Mamede et al., ‘Potential of Bioapatite Hydroxyls for Research on Archeological Burned Bone’, Anal. Chem., 2018, 90 (19), pp 11556–11563). The paper explores the use of inelastic neutron scattering (INS) and FTIR-ATR to analyse burned bones and hopefully distinguish ancient burned bones from just ancient bones….Continue Reading “Incremental Growth”

So, I almost knocked over both Emily Thornberry and Floella Benjamin in one day… Forensic science is in a challenging place at the moment. The well-publicised closure of the national Forensic Science Service and the rapid marketisation of forensic provision has left the sector a little winded. Combined with the complexity of contracting out forensic services, the increasing demands associated with ISO accreditation, the budgetary cuts, the fragmentation of research and so on, it is little wonder that the criminal justice system and the public…Continue Reading “House of Lords Science & Technology Committee – Inquiry into Forensic Science”

It seems that everyone is writing posts about their holidays at the moment. And I’m going to be one of them! Recently I was off on leave, but because of my endless drive to better myself (I know, I know, how does one improve on this..?), some of my holiday was spent learning about stuff. Namely, the Romans and life along Hadrian’s Wall. A three-day stay allowed us to explore a number of fascinating sites in the area, like Corbridge, Birdoswald and the incomparable Vindolanda. I’m…Continue Reading “Another Brick in the Wall (which is a terrible pun, even by my standards…)”

The problem with having friends is that they invariably ask you to do things for them, and you can’t say no. This is one of the reasons why I generally try to avoid social connections – although I undermine my own principle here by being an absolute delight to be around… It was just such a request that took me to the docks in London… I’ve said before how much I enjoy visiting the Museum of London, and more so because I am good friends…Continue Reading “veni vidi vici”

This weekend there was an article on the BBC website about photographic student Harry Lloyd-Evans who photographs surgical implants that are recovered and recycled after cremation. On his website, Harry states that: “Implanted is a project which presents images of discarded surgical implants at the end of life. Most of the implants have been recovered following cremation, the exception being the pacemakers which are removed prior to cremation.” “On first viewing my images I found them unusual and strangely beautiful.  I decided to try to…Continue Reading “Implanting Art into the forensic sciences”

Criticism forms one of the pillars of academia. It’s constant and everywhere, and goes hand-in-hand with rejection – papers booted out, grant applications chucked in funders’ bins, mocking of your promotion application… In theory this criticism should be part of a process of improvement and enhancement. The idea is that peer-review in whatever form it takes, acts simultaneously as a gatekeeper to quality in the discipline, and also as a vehicle for improvement. Of course that only works if the criticism is constructive. It’s like…Continue Reading “Everyone’s a critic…”

I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see the recent Kenneth Branagh version of Murder on the Orient Express, but it’s very watchable. It’s got a great cast, it looks suitably opulent and has some nice lines in it. I’ve seen it twice now – once on my flight to Seattle for the AAFS in Feb, and then again this month at home. The nice thing about doing this is that you get to appreciate the film first as if in the dark,…Continue Reading “My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world…”

I was talking to my wife recently about the ‘Facebook-effect’ of being an academic – whereby people only see the positive things of the work, which results in a sense that everyone else is doing much better than you and that its so much easier for them. For me, I don’t like to go on about how hard it is to do the job well and get a decent work-life balance, because, being terribly British about it, I assume that no-one wants to hear me…Continue Reading “Publication bias”

To my shame, I knew very little about the history of Cyprus before I went there earlier this month. I knew our military went there, and that British youth head there for debauched holidays, but that’s about it. When we got to Cyprus, and after my eyes had adjusted to that unusual bright thing in the sky in January, the first thing that surprised me was how British the place was. Three-pronged plugs, roundabouts, pelican crossings. Naturally our first thought was “Ahh, this is another…Continue Reading “Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus”

This month saw our PhD student and resident lover-of-puns, Sam Griffiths take his viva. Readers of our old blog will remember that Sam has spent a number of years investigating the effect of submersion of bone in water. It was a complex piece of research which sought to bring together a range of analytical methods. He did experimental work, field work, scanning, all sorts. Wonderfully, he aced his viva, and is now Dr Sam Griffiths! Sam was based primarily at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton,…Continue Reading “Sibling Rivalry…”