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Buddhini Samarasinghe
Molecular Biologist & Science Communicator
Molecular Biologist & Science Communicator

Buddhini's posts

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Been listening to this album all day. What an amazing voice. This one really hits hard. 

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Friends, you know that I rarely use social media to brag or even #humblebrag about my personal life but as of yesterday I am the proud owner of two tickets to see a band that I adore with near-religious fervour, whose music has helped me survive some incredibly tough times over the past decade of my life, and so now I can’t help but write one of those braggadocios status updates along with an obligatory photo of aforementioned tickets because HOLY FLIPPING HECK I FINALLY HAVE TICKETS TO SEE THE MOUNTAIN GOATS IN OCTOBER AND I AM SO EXCITED AND THRILLED AND HAPPY ABOUT THIS!!

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Balcony Garden Update

I'm seeing the first honeysuckle buds for this year and I'm really excited! Last year, when I first bought the plant, the leaves had some powdery mildew but thankfully the new leaves this year seem to be clear. I hope I get lots of flowers this year. The Star Jasmine also has a lot of buds so I hope for several weeks of fragrance in my balcony thanks to the trellis which is now looking a lot more green.

The sweet peas and the rubber beans are getting bigger. I'm carefully training it up the wigwam.

The Japanese Maple is looking very lush and green now, but I still worry a bit because pretty much every location on my balcony is exposed to the wind so on really windy days it's painful to watch. Hopefully it survives days like today where the wind seems relentless.

I also bought some white Nemesias and a bright orange Calibrachoa for a spot of colour through the summer months ahead.

The tulips are on their way out now, but the 'sun-disc' daffodil is still really cute. I love the tiny, flat heads they have!

And last but certainly not least, I spotted a flower spike on my Amarylis! This is a bulb I got for Christmas in 2015, and I felt bad to throw it out after it was done flowering indoors so I planted it in a pot. If the flower spike does develop this one should look really pretty as the flower is white but outlined in red - very flashy!
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Even more tulips

My balcony garden is providing a much needed distraction from the real world. The 'National Velvet' tulips are living up to their name, with gorgeous, ruby red velvety petals. The 'Prinses Irene' tulips are peeking through underneath.

I repotted the Japanese Larch into a larger, wider pot so that hopefully in a couple of years I can train it as bonsai (I'm currently giving it as much space and soil as possible so that the trunk thickens!).

I planted a bunch of sweet peas along with a wigwam, and I'm hoping they will do well - I've never really grown these before but getting from seed -> seedling was pretty cool :D

The Jasmine and Honeysuckle I planted last year has come back which makes me happy because it means the root system is doing well. I hope they cover the entire trellis this year with fragrant flowers.

The Nerines and a couple of Amarylis bulbs are coming back, but I have no idea what to do to make the Amarylis flower again...!
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Tulip season

I planted these bulbs last autumn and they're just starting to bloom. The yellow is called 'Moonlight Girl' and the red is (I think) the 'National Velvet'.

I also planted a Japanese Maple ('Katsura') in a giant terra cotta pot - the leaves are so interesting! They start out tiny and orange, and then gradually lighten to a yellow that is outlined in pink, before turning green for the summer. Right now it's at the yellow/green stage. I hope it survives and I don't somehow end up killing it!
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Signs of Spring

It's been a quiet few months over winter dormancy but now my plants are starting to show signs of life. The Woodland Anemones are already flowering with gorgeous purple flowers, while the Crocuses are putting forth beautiful goblet shaped flowers. The Tulips and Daffodils are peeking up through the compost, while the Agapanthus and the Nerines are showing tiny green shoots amidst the dead foliage from last year. I think this is probably one of my favourite things about this time of the year; the sense of hope and expectation for at least some good things that lie ahead. 
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Herd Immunity

It's that time of year again when I share another Edge essay. To those of you who aren't familiar, every year, the Edge Foundation asks a thought-provoking question (known as the Edge Annual Question) and invites scientists and intellectuals to contribute with essays. This year's Edge Annual Question asks, "What Scientific Term Or Concept Ought To Be More Widely Known?". I had the pleasure of being invited to submit a contribution again this year and managed to find the time over the Christmas break :)

When I saw the question I immediately thought of 'Confirmation Bias', because...well just look at the state of the world around us right now :/. But alas, this year Edge were restricting responses to one per topic, first come first served. Even though I asked about Confirmation Bias within a couple of hours of the invitation email, apparently there were already 2 others who had made similar requests! So instead, I thought I'd write about something a bit more focused but is still incredibly important, given the increasing denialism and needless controversy around the topic.

The concept I chose is 'Herd Immunity'.

"Vaccines are one of the greatest successes of public health. They have helped us conquer diseases such as smallpox and polio, helping us live longer, healthier, more productive lives. And yet, because of decreasing levels of vaccination, the threshold required to provide protection through herd immunity becomes unattainable; as a result, previously eradicated diseases are starting to reappear. A vaccine can be seen as an act of individual responsibility, but it has a tremendous collective impact. Vaccination on a large scale not only prevents disease in an individual, but also helps protect the vulnerable in a population. To convince the general public of its necessity and encourage more people to get vaccinated, the concept of herd immunity must be more widely understood"

Full essay here:

I realise that writing about this topic will doubtless bring a rush of anti-vaccine activists over to tell me how wrong I am. Unfortunately, despite evidence to the contrary, these people view vaccine efficacy and safety as a matter of opinion, rather than one based on scientific fact. As such, comments will be moderated, and I will switch comments off when I cannot be around to babysit the discussion. Chances are, you are following me because I write about science. Thank you, for your interest and enthusiasm in science. However, topics like herd immunity and vaccines are a part of science. If that makes you uncomfortable or angry, please feel free to remove me from your circles because I will not hesitate to remove and block you if you troll my posts

Image: Herd Immunity in action (Wikipedia)

Happy New Year, everyone! :)

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A Wall of Kew

We finally hung up some art in our hallway - even though we moved into our new apartment just over a year ago, we haven't had much time to focus on making it 'pretty'. The vintage poster from Kew helps define the theme, so that the botanical watercolours I've been working on have some sort of cohesion. My goal was to try and trick people into thinking that these were pressed leaf specimens instead of paintings and as long as you don't look too closely I think it works - I really like how these have turned out :D
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Dark chocolate mousse cake with raspberries. Yum! Pretty happy with how it turned out although I do wish the raspberries were more evenly sized! 

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Your Friend Has Been Abused: What Do You Do?

This is a fantastic article by +A.V. Flox on practical steps we can all take to support survivors of abuse.

"The key is not to approach these situations like a prosecutor, looking for a “perfect” victim and a “perfect” villain, but to acknowledge that people are complicated and, in general, capable of everything between great good and gross harm. If people who harm actually were monsters, we would know them on sight, and they would not continue to move within our communities. But very few people are completely monstrous, so we must not rely on finding an obviousness that does not exist"

When I finally started talking publicly about Scott Lewis's abuse (, I had an incredible amount of support from my friends and family. It's how I found the strength to finally speak publicly about something I buried for three years. All those people knew how to center the survivor in their efforts; they helped me understand that what happened to me wasn't my fault, and that the responsibility for the abuse lies squarely with the abuser.

But I've also had the misfortune to encounter people who were woefully ill-equipped to support survivors. Friends of Scott Lewis's, who were unable to accept the fact that he was an abuser, despite the fact that countless people came forward independently with their stories of how he harmed them. They remained silent, tacitly supporting his behaviour, while continuing to tweet copiously about being an ally to marginalised people. The hypocrisy has been so disappointing, and it has made me very cynical whenever I see activists who spend more time talking about what great allies they are rather than, you know, actually being allies. I'm still not sure what makes us, the survivors of Scott Lewis's abuse, unworthy of their advocacy, but life is too short to waste with people like that.

I am heartened and hopeful after seeing how survivors and supporters can band together. Appreciating the good things in my life and the progress I have made is how I reclaim my power, and finally put this awful shitty encounter behind me for good. Thank you, to everyone who has been a part of my healing :)
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