ABOUT Stephanie Swift

Avatar of Stephanie Swift

Stephanie Swift is a British postdoctoral scientist at McMaster University, Canada, where she works to understand how viruses interact with the immune system. She writes about lots of different aspects of science, and is very pleased to live in a wonderfully intricate world full of glorious things to write about.


Stephanie Swift: All Posts


The science behind FIFA’s footballs

Posted 16 June 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Lovers and haters of the World Cup alike can’t fail to be amazed by the skills of some professional footballers. Like David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo. But while some footballers have been blessed by biology, it’s not just the combined genetic talent of a player or a team that leads to a stunning win or a sorry loss. According to scientists at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, the aerodynamic performance of a football can introduce a skill set all... Read more

Watching it Burn: Soil Microbes vs. Wildfires

Posted 5 May 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Wildfires can devastate ecosystems across the world. In 2012, over 67,000 wildfires raced across more than 9 million acres of land in the US alone. Fuelled by wind and parched vegetation, wildfires burn through everything in their path: plants don’t stand a chance, and even mobile animals struggle to outpace the flames. But what impact do wildfires have on the beasties that live deep down in the soil? For example, soil-dwelling microbes, like bacteria? These incredibly important organisms help ecosystems... Read more

Swimming with Viruses

Posted 21 April 2014 by Stephanie Swift

You can find viruses everywhere: in the soil, in the clouds and in animals. According to scientists from the University of Oldenburg in Germany, there are also a ridiculous number of viruses buried at sea, in the sediments of the oceans. These sedimentary viruses don’t lie dormant on the seabed, but actively replicate down in the fathoms, even in the gyres of the ocean where most forms of life can’t be sustained since organic carbon is a scarce commodity. By... Read more

More evidence that red wine and aspirin protect against cancer

Posted 14 February 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Cancer is a disease of genes. DNA mutations mess with the genetic content of a cell, enabling it to escape the normal controls that restrict their growth. Now, a team of scientists led by Delphine Lissa and Guido Kroemer at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris have begun exploring ways to slow or stop the formation of cells containing multiple copies of chromosomes, which they think are an essential intermediate in cancer formation. Normal healthy cells... Read more

Bright Night Lights: Tracking Light Pollution from Space

Posted 3 February 2014 by Stephanie Swift

The creep and sprawl of artificial urban lighting is probably the most pervasive technological innovation of the 20th century. Keeping track of how artificial light is changing Europe’s nightscape is important, since more light is typically associated with greater economic development and urban expansion, but moderating light consumption helps to stabilise the ecosystem and energy security. Scientists have recently used satellite night images going back as far as 1992 (publicly available from the Defense Meterological Satellite Program databank) to analyse... Read more

Where in the body do our emotions lie?

Posted 17 January 2014 by Stephanie Swift

Emotions are strange things, bursting over us as we react to life’s joys and challenges. While they might be thought of as ethereal entities with no fixed form or function, emotions actually produce very tangible physical reactions throughout the body. These emotionally-driven physical reactions are important for surviving in the real world. For example, fear generates a helpful physical response that prepares your body to fight or flee. But we don’t really know if an emotion can fuel a reaction... Read more

Antibiotics release death sugars that help bad bugs to grow

Posted 23 December 2013 by Stephanie Swift

In the 1940’s, antibiotics were hailed as wonder drugs. “Syphilis is now curable!”, ran the posters. Yet in modern times, several dark sides of these drugs have come to light. The widespread overuse of antibiotic therapy has driven the emergence of superstrong bacteria, like MRSA, that resist the activity of conventional antibiotics. Antibiotic therapy is also troubled by the problematic core concept that it lacks specificity, and wipes out good and bad bugs alike. This is particularly worrying as we... Read more

A Marvellous Month of Science

Posted 3 December 2013 by Stephanie Swift

Fungal extracts prevent hepatitis C virus infection Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a huge cause of liver cancer, but current treatments are very expensive and not that great. Since HCV is a cunning little virus capable of quickly evolving drug resistance, simultaneously attacking it at several key points during its life cycle has the best chance of resolving infection. Researchers in Japan have now created and screened a library of 300 natural drugs isolated from fungi found on seaweed, mosses... Read more

Chilly temperatures help cancers grow

Posted 19 November 2013 by Stephanie Swift

At low temperatures, the human body has a hard time. As the cold sets in, blood vessels constrict to maintain heat and some body parts – like fingers and toes – begin to suffer. Metabolism ramps up to fight the cold and shivering sets in. As these conditions continue, everything becomes sluggish as the cells of your body do not work as well. The body enters a state of thermal stress and only the most vital systems, like the brain,... Read more

Creepy crawly centipedes are a source of new high-strength painkillers

Posted 8 November 2013 by Stephanie Swift

I'm dreading the day I get knocked up, since I know that my incredibly low pain threshold will have trouble dealing with the crazy horror that is childbirth. That’s why I was overjoyed to hear of some new research from Australia, where a new high-strength painkiller has been isolated from the venom of the Chinese red-headed centipede, Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans. In the insect world, centipedes are king of the hill – their venom is debilitating to their prey, helping them... Read more