Author Archives: Eva Amsen


For the past year and a half, Lou Woodley and I have been running MySciCareer, a website with first person science career stories. It’s not just jobs in research and it’s not just jobs outside of research – it’s both. MSCQuote_JenniferGardy

If you just watch the images on the front page for a while (or look at the ones in this post), you’ll see a lot of very different jobs and people come by. Researchers, writers, teachers, politicians, startup founders. The only thing they have in common is that they have been trained as a scientist at some point in their lives.


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El Dorado – The mythical city at the lake

El Dorado, the city of gold, was a popular legend in the 16th century. At that time, large parts of South America remained undiscovered, so who knew what secrets the continent held?

According to legend, El Dorado was located at Lake Parime. Sir Walter Raleigh was the first explorer to try to find the lake, in 1595. He didn’t find it, but that was no reason to believe it wasn’t there. Maybe they just hadn’t looked closely enough?

Lake Parime, a location marker for the city of El Dorado. At least one of these things is a myth.

Lake Parime, a location marker for the city of El Dorado. At least one of these things is a myth.

Several other expeditions set out in the direction of the supposed lake, but nobody was successful. Of course not. The lake, like the city of El Dorado itself, was just a myth.

Or was it?

According to our modern day oracle of Wikipedia, there is some geological evidence that suggests that there were indeed lakes in the past in the area where Lake Parime was thought to be, and that some those lakes could have carried gold that came from mountains upstream, leading to myths of an entire city of gold. Some researchers believe that the painted rock of Pedra Pintada was alongside an ancient lake. Others have found evidence that a 17th century earthquake drained an entire lake that could have been Lake Parime. But the one research paper cited on Wikipedia as reference to suggest that Lake Parime might have been the lake drained in a 1690 earthquake does not make this assumption at all.

Was there really a city of gold, or even a mysteriously vanished lake?

Citation needed.


Map: 1656 Sanson Map of Guiana, Venezuela, and El Dorado . Public domain. Via Wikimedia.

And on your right is the planet Pluto…

According to NASA, the New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach (about 7800 miles) to Pluto right now (7:49AM ET, 14 July 2015) after traveling three billion miles. If you want a travel post, that certainly fits the bill.

Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition

Every summer, the Royal Society in London opens their doors to the public for the Summer Science Exhibition – a week-long science fair, where universities and research institutes from across the UK show off some of their coolest and most popular research. The University of Leicester was there with a replica of the skeleton of King Richard III, whom they found buried under a parking lot a few years ago. The National Physical Laboratory and University of Coventry brought some conductive fabrics. The Royal Geographical Society had a block of ice and 3D images to illustrate their work studying glaciers at Mount Everest. And all of this in the beautiful Royal Society building, with paintings of former presidents (Newton!) on the walls and old equipment showcased in the hallways.

There were some talks and events throughout the week as well, but I didn’t make it to the exhibition until Sunday, and only had time to walk past the stands.

Here’s a quick impression of some of the things I saw!

Beatles-inspired author photos

In 1994, Bruce Alberts and his co-authors released the third edition of their popular textbook Molecular Biology of the Cell. On the back cover, all the authors are photographed crossing Abbey Road, because they worked on the book just around the corner from the famous crossing.


When they published another text book, Essential Cell Biology, they stuck with the joke and took a photo in the style of With The Beatles.


Now committed to a running gag, almost all subsequent editions of both textbooks have included author photos in the style of a Beatles album. I’ve listed them all on, with sliders to compare them to the corresponding album. I couldn’t get the sliders to work on this blog, unfortunately, but I will leave you with my favourite author photo, of the fourth edition of MBOC. Who do you recognize in the collage?


Images: Abbey Road parody: I photographed the back of my copy of Molecular Biology of the Cell, 3rd edition (1994). With The Beatles parody: This image comes from the blog of Svenn, who misidentifies it as the second edition of Essential Cell Biology – it’s the first (1997). Sgt Pepper parody: I found this posted on Reddit by a user called hookp. Don;t know if they took the photo, but it’s the back of the 4th edition of Molecular Biology of the Cell. All books published by Garland Science, and obviously all images are inspired by the Beatles.