My thoughts on the Google Pixel 2

As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve not written anything in a while. After starting a new job a few months ago I’ve been exceptionally tired and lacking motivation.  I got to that point in my mobile phone contract when I was bored of my phone and it wasn’t going to cost any more to upgrade – so thought writing about my new Google Pixel 2 would be a good reintroduction to my blog. Bear in mind most of the science behind mobile phones is physics, which is far from my specialty, so any science mentioned will be basic! But I’ll share my thoughts on the phone, then a little about smartphone science.

I managed to get my phone when it was released on Thursday 19th, alongside the free Google Home Mini that came with it (nice little extra!). To be honest, I couldn’t unbox it straight away like I really wanted – I was far too hungry after work so I had to contain my excitement for a bit longer…

It was an easy set up with helpful advice on transferring across from my iPhone. I was desperate to get playing with it: first impressions were tainted by the criticism I’ve heard about the relatively chunky bezels top and bottom, but it didn’t bother me – it looked clean and simple, it meant there were no extraneous lines or funny-looking joins anywhere. The latest OS Oreo seemed built for the Pixel and it was a welcome relief not to find all the usual bloatware from the manufacturer you would otherwise find.

The first feature I liked was the subtle motion wallpaper: although the display isn’t as high resolution at its XL sibling, it’s very impressive. The colours do look great on it, I imagine the OLED screen helps with that. There are basic components to every mobile phone: circuit board, screen, battery, microphone, speaker, antenna, those sort of things. And most of the smartphones this year have pretty similar specs, but the software is usually the thing that differentiates them.


The home screen with the clean layout: At a Glance on top and search bar at the bottle.  With this wallpaper, the waves gently crash against the sand.


Noticeably impressive, somewhat surprisingly, is the fingerprint scanner. It’s very quick and is convenient for me at least. The most recent fingerprint scanners are capacitive – measuring the difference and pattern of electrical charge when the ridges make contact.  There are no buttons involved in unlocking the phone or even to see notifications, it’s all pretty speedy and simple.

I’ve not tested the Always On display’s effect on battery life, but it is useful, giving the time and icons of notifications you may have.  A slightly creepy feature is Now Playing, where your phone just listens out for a series of offline musical patterns to show you what song’s on in the background – handy, but still creepy.

Now, the somewhat flagship feature of the phone – the camera, with the (for now) highest DxOMark rating of 98. Google hasn’t followed the trend of adding a second lens to the rear but have managed to quite effectively add Bokeh portrait mode via software, which also works with selfies. The image stabilisation is very effective – using optical and digital image stabilisation to get rid of all the jitters. I like it anyway! It’s 12 megapixel and capable of 4K video recording.  With Google’s unlimited cloud storage it’s definitely a good perk.  Having had a few days use of the camera, I’m pretty impressed but will need a while with different conditions to really find out its limits.

Having a Chromecast and now the free Google Home Mini too has meant it’s really easy to cast music and videos over to either. The Google Assistant is actually fairly useful – on the Pixel 2 and Home Mini, with the addition of the Active Edge “squeezy sides” on the phone to launch the assistant (and silence calls) is just a neat little extra. I mean it would’ve been nicer to customise the Active Edge to launch something of your preference but that’s just a software issue for now.

It’s hard to tell how good the battery will be, I’ve been using it a lot so not really typical use. At 2700mAh it’s not astonishing but Google’s advertised it to be quick charging, so we’ll see…

Overall I’ve enjoyed the Pixel 2 so far, it sits nicely in the hand and pocket and is quick and effective and doing what I’ve wanted.

Some basic properties of smartphones are quite interesting: some highly complex and some rather simple. The elements used can be relatively rare, as you can see below, one of the reasons they can be so expensive.


Something rather simple, albeit probably proprietary, is the popular feature of being waterproof. There’s usually a lot of glue around the edges and o-rings at the ports for mechanical protection, and a special small mesh for speakers etc, letting air in. They’re often coated in Gore-Tex.

Applying smartphone technology into something helpful to society like medicine has always been of personal interest; as you may or may not have read before, I’m diabetic, advances like the trials into reading blood glucose levels with a smartphone sound pretty cool. The ease of doing such mundane things several times a day is boring enough, also meaning carting around the equipment to actually test. Advances like this are always welcome! There’s currently a system that uses NFC in android phones to get glucose readings from a small device that sits on the arm – but it lasts 10 days and costs about £60 a pop.

Hopefully, that’s a good enough insight, for now.  Let me know your thoughts if you’re due for an upgrade soon!


What are we made of? The Basics

I’m not very philosophical, so strictly scientifically – what are we?  It’s a complex thing the body, tiny but important parts all together making a pretty robust organism. There are a few different ways to look at this, it depends on how microscopic you want to go: systems, organs, tissues, cells, molecules, atoms.  You could go smaller but it’s too small for me – quantum mechanics governs that stuff.

You could get roughly 160 billion helium atoms side-by-side in a centimeter but there’s a relatively huge gap between the middle (nucleus) and the electrons whizzing round the outside of the atom.   If the Earth was an atom, the nucleus would be a football stadium. All the space adds up, so we are mostly empty space, but so is everything else!  The atoms that make us are a little bigger than helium, but not hugely…

periodic table

Oxygen ~65%     Part of water (H2O) that’s in every cell in the main fluid of the body.

Carbon ~18.5%     It’s in every carbohydrate, protein, fat, all the organic chemicals in the body.

Hydrogen ~9.5%     The other part of water, and in your organic chemicals too, not very big or heavy, but very important.

Nitrogen ~3.3%     It’s in all your proteins, the amino acids that make them have it and the nucleic acids your DNA is made of.

Calcium ~1.5%     Bones and teeth: we all know how important they are! Also used in signaling to make muscles contract.

Phosphorous ~1%     The major player in energy is something called ATP, the P being phosphorus, so very important! It’s in bones too.

There’s a lot more, like sodium, potassium, and magnesium that help electrical signals in the body, that’s those “electrolytes” you may have seen in sports drinks. There’s probably hundreds of elements inside you, including arsenic and uranium! But the top four make up over 95% of your body weight, so there aren’t much of the others but we need them!

Thinking bigger, we get cells. Cells are amazing: they’re the functional units that make us, the building blocks. We have trillions of them and they’re all specialized.

Cells of the same type grouping together give us tissues; like muscle, nerve and connective tissue.  For example, muscle cells are built to contract, nerve cells are built to pass along electrical charges.  A big tissue is epithelial, made from tightly packed cells forming sheets – barriers to separate bits.

Organs are when you’ve got tissues working together for something specific. The biggest is the skin. Skin is pretty amazing, it has plenty of functions with all the kind of sensors it has.  The liver is the biggest internal organ and it too is amazingly complex with hundreds of vital functions.

Systems of the body are made of a group of organs like the digestive system from mouth, stomach, with a lot of intestines. There’s the respiratory system, cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, skeletal, muscular, lymphatic, reproductive, urinary, nervous… it’s a complex thing the body. This is a good site to learn more about all the different systems and their bits!

The Human Body

There we have the basics of the body, taken down to the littlest bits. Not that you’d put a price on a life, and the body is hugely complex, but if you could sell all the elements – I thought it’d be maybe £100, but a few years ago, the Royal Society of Chemistry ran a competition to guess the value of Benedict Cumberbatch and he went for around £96,500. So who knows your value, you could be worth millions! But let’s just not sell our elements, I mean I’m quite happy with mine?