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Cambridge University Science Magazine
Striking a Chord?

Humans have been making music for thousands of years. The oldest musical instrument dates to 36,000 years ago, and it is possible that the Neanderthals were already able to make music long before that. In fact, music may even predate the development of language! But much has changed since the first notes were blown on a flute made of bone. From the prehistoric age, medieval minstrels, Mozart and Duke Ellington, all the way to the present day, music has become more and more universal. In today’s high-speed society, most of us could not imagine a world without music. Many people use it as a creative outlet that counterbalances their day-to-day life, and some just listen to it in order to relax. And yet, we are rarely consciously aware of the importance music has in our lives. Indeed, there are few human abilities that we have possessed for such a long time and that we know so little about.

In this issue of BlueSci, we try to decipher this omnipresent phenomenon. In the Focus, we look at what music actually is, where it comes from, and finally ask the question why we play music. Our Regulars and Features, deal with music in a more specific way: we examine its relationship with science and how these two disciplines can profit from one another. We look at the life of Oliver Sacks who uses music in the treatment of his neurological patients and we listen to the sound of one of nature’s most fascinating phenomena: the Northern Lights.

But of course, music is not all that puzzles us. This diverse issue will introduce you to the science of cryptography and to the un-encrypted world of opensource software. We look at Cambridge as a scientific hot-spot and some of the issues it faces and, finally, we celebrate extraordinary achievements that have brought us to where we are now: we talk about science conducted on Mount Everest, 60 years after its summit was first climbed; 85 years after Fleming published his work on penicillin, we remember what treatments were available before that; and we look back at 100 years of research funded by the Medical Research Council.

As you know, we at BlueSci are always looking for new faces to contribute to our next issue. You could be an author, an editor, a member of our production team, film or radio crew or many other things. If you find yourself interested, please get in touch. That would truly be music to our ears! Jannis Meents
Issue 27: Easter 2013

Editor: Jannis Meents

Managing Editor: Felicity Davies

Business Manager: Michael Derringer

Second Editors: Sheenagh Aiken, Luke Burke, Laura Burzynski, Keren Carss, Maja Choma, Aaron Critch, Kathrin Felder, Nicola Hodson, Robin Lamboll, Ana Leal-Cervantes, Shaun Lim, Nicola Love, Vicki Moignard, Deirdre Murphy, Laura Pearce,

Laura Schmidt, Elly Smith, Nathan Smith, Caroline Sogot, Christoforos Tsantoulas, Theodosia Woo

Copy Editors: Luke Maishman, Laura Pearce, Martha Stokes, Theodosia Woo

News Editor: Joanna-Marie Howes

News Team: Mrinalini Dey, Joanna-Marie Howes, Toby McMaster

Reviews: Maja Choma, Yvonne Collins,ChristoforosTsantoulas

Focus Team: Matthew Dunstan, Nicola Hodson, Zac Kenton, Elly Smith

Weird and Wonderful: Jordan Ramsey, Joy Thompson, Theodosia Woo

Production Team: Philipp Kleppmann, Esther Lau, Shaun Lim, Louise Nicol, Laura Pearce, Caroline Sogot, Christoforos Tsantoulas

Illustrators: James Conan Baker, Josephine Birch, Alex Hahn, Aleesha Nandhra, Christos Panayi, Emily Pycroft

Cover Image: Dr Daniela Sahlender



Have You Heard the Northern Lights?

Macdonald, J. (1998). The Arctic Sky: Inuit Astronomy, Star Lore, and Legend. Toronto Ontario Museum.

The Myriad Genes -

Open to Everyone -

Commemorating a Commission -

Cracking Codes - Singh, S. (2000). The Science of Secrecy. London: Greener Books.


Waste of Research -

Making New Scientists -

Altitude Science -

The War Against Infection

Florey, H.W. (1945). Use of micro-organisms for therapeutic purposes. British Medical Journal, vol.2, no. 4427, pp. 635–642

The Notoriety of Oliver Sacks -

On a Scientific Note -