From The CENtral Science Blogs
- Mar 7th, 2014By Rachel Pepling
- Mar 6th, 2014By Bethany Halford
- Mar 7th, 2014By Melody Bomgardner
- Jan 25th, 2014By David Kroll
- Feb 28th, 2014By Alex Tullo
- Feb 28th, 2014By Sarah Everts
- Feb 27th, 2014By Jyllian Kemsley
- Jan 26th, 2014By Rick Mullin
- Jan 26th, 2014By Glen Ernst
All Latest Posts
Tweet of the Week:
— Radium Yttrium (@DrRubidium) March 7, 2014
To the network:
Cleantech Chemistry: Selling it: Making chemicals from CO2
The Watch Glass: Probes study Venus
The Oscars were last Sunday. It was a time for us, the moviegoing public, to take to social media and cattily comment on Zac Efron’s inability to read a teleprompter …
— Caroline ♡ (@carojess99) March 3, 2014
John Travolta’s mispronunciation of the name of “Let It Go” singer Idina Menzel …
"You know what they call Idina Menzel in Paris" – John Travolta
— Josh Hara (@yoyoha) March 3, 2014
and Kim Novak’s bizarre spotlight-seeking behavior at an award show where she wasn’t even nominated …
— Sean O'Neal (@seanoneal) March 3, 2014
But what about us members of the moviegoing public who are also science nerds? Where can we go to talk about how our favorite subject permeated this year’s nominated films? Why, to the Newscripts blog, of course! This year, we break down the science portrayed in each of the Best Picture nominees, ranking them from least to most amount of scientific material tackled. And if you think we missed some crucial science in the movies, sound off in our comments section. Also, be warned, spoilers are sprinkled throughout this post, so if you’re planning to catch up on these nominees sometime in the future, proceed with caution. Now, without further ado, the nominees are ...
9. “12 Years a Slave”
Synopsis: Freeman Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is sold into slavery and spends 12 years toiling in the fields of the antebellum South. Director Steve McQueen uses excruciatingly long takes to force his audience to confront the violence of the U.S.’s dark past. By not cutting away from such cruelty, the film captivates in its brutal honesty. This really is the best picture of 2013.
Is there science? Not really. By virtue of being a period piece, “12 Years a Slave” comes closest to touching the subject of science when it reminds its audience of the technological advances our current society enjoys over pre-Civil War America; one such reminder occurs when Northup struggles to write a letter home to his family using ink he made from crushed berries. But outside of such reminders of our advancements in technology, the film doesn’t offer much scientific fodder.
8. “American Hustle”
Synopsis: A team of professional swindlers (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are forced to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a sting operation on corrupt politicians. Cowriter and director David O. Russell packs the movie with enough flashy costumes, big hair, and loud music to almost distract you from the fact that the movie’s glut of dialogue diminishes its coherence. Almost.
Is there science? Like “12 Years a Slave,” the science in “American Hustle” largely stems from the fact that the movie is a period piece, and no scene in the movie references science more overtly than the scene in which Bale’s bored housewife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, places an aluminum container with tinfoil in a microwave that was given as a gift to Bale’s character by Camden, N.J., mayor Carmine Polito. After the microwave bursts in flames, Lawrence berates her husband for bringing a “science oven” into their home that she believes “takes all the nutrition out of our food.” Surprisingly, concern over the nutritional content of microwaved food is something that we’re still debating today, although such worries are unfounded. Another point of contention with this scene in the movie? Apparently, metal can’t catch fire in a microwave. (Warning: Video contains not-safe-for-work language.)
Cleantech start-up Liquid Light is hitting the road to market its catalytic technology that takes in CO2 to make chemicals. C&EN science reporter Mitch Jacoby included the company in his July 1 feature about methods to use electrochemistry to convert CO2 to valuable products.
Earlier this week, the company announced that it now has a lab scale prototype and is targeting production of ethylene glycol (MEG – with the M for “mono”). MEG is commonly known to consumers as antifreeze, but the bulk of it is used as an intermediate chemical in the production of polyester and PET resins. Shell Chemicals is a leader in MEG production with its own OMEGA catalytic process.
C&EN spoke with Liquid Light’s CEO Kyle Teamey while he was at the airport. Teamey is calling on potential licensees who may be interested in investing in the firm’s next step: a larger, real-world installation to further demonstrate the technology. The firm currently has backing from VantagePoint Capital Partners, BP Ventures, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, and Osage University Partners.
The following is a lightly edited Q&A.
CC: What sources and types of CO2 streams are you targeting?
KT: The idea is to use industrial point sources of CO2, ideally one that is located in an existing chemical production area, petrochemical plant, or refinery site. In terms of cost structure, we assume the cost that is associated with using conventional carbon capture technology. Estimates from those technology providers have led us to assume $80 per ton, though it can range wildly between $5-150. We want pipeline grade CO2, relatively pure but not completely squeaky clean.
Still, we have a stable catalyst for making a lot of different chemicals, there are chemicals that can be made with very impure CO2, that includes SOx, NOx, oxygen, CO, and mercury. We’re not going to hook the thing up to a coal fire power plant, but there are opportunities out there.
CC: What would be the source of hydrogen?
KT: Customers would be able to use the lowest cost hydrogen available on market, like from dereforming of methane, or unconventional ones like water electrolysis. Ultimately we want to provide technology for customers to reach whatever goals they have – they could even set up at a remote site to use CO2.
CC: How did you come to lead this effort at Liquid Light?
KT: I was an entrepreneur in residence with a venture capital fund – I came in with the intent on starting this company. I’m more like a utility infielder than a pinch hitter.
CC: Who are you speaking with now to advance the technology, and what kind of reception are you getting as a tech start-up?
KT:There is still a lot of interest from the petrochemical industry in new carbon feedstocks. Particularly something, in the case of CO2, that is low cost. With a captive industrial point source, there is no price volatility of that input.
You can configure the process in such a way that you significantly reduce the carbon footprint of manufacturer, to help hit economic and environmental goals simultaneously. Most manufacturers look at this from an economic standpoint.We have a lot of people excited about the MEG process, other groups are interested in other chemicals aside from MEG. That’s why I’m at the airport this morning.
CC: How big is your lab prototype and what scale are you ultimately targeting?
KT: It’s coffee-table sized. The prototype weighs a lot. Ultimately we would go to world-scale size for the product we are making. With the electrochemical technology, you scale up by stacking. You can make smaller amounts of specialty chemicals or build out for larger market chemicals like MEG.
CC: What is it like to be involved at a start-up at this point in the process?
KT: The opportunity to bring a new chemical feedstock online is lots of fun – there is a lot of excitement. It is still a relatively early-stage company, but from a job perspective, I’ve found nothing is more satisfying than taking something from a concept to a reality. It has been really exciting to watch these things move into beaker scale a few years ago and then to lab scale. And now I can’t wait to get to the next scale.
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.
What you really need is this street-legal Batmobile. Only $1 million. [Short List]
Secret to living a long life? Good food and good sleep, says world’s oldest woman. Secret to happiness? Sheesh, what more do you want from her? [NBC News]
New app’s technology seeks to dramatically increase people’s reading speeds. No mention on how app plans to prevent people from skipping article entirely and scrolling to the tl;dr section. [33rd Square]
Turns out your taste buds can be tricked by juicy adjectives, familiar memories, and pleasing colors. Maybe we are in the matrix after all. [Popular Science]
Researchers find that caffeine dependence can lead to emotional problems. It’s distressing news, but thankfully the Newscripts gang always keeps a cup of joe at our sides to calm us down during moments like these. [Seattle Pi]
Study finds that a community in California experienced a decline in childhood obesity after it built a casino. The finding is leading many to believe that the casino’s all-you-can-eat buffet must not be that good. [Reuters]
A 13-year-old in England has become the youngest person in the world to ever build a nuclear fusion reactor. So stop holding your kid back, and start letting him play with nuclear technology already! [Daily Mail]
We like to see science tackling tough problems: Researchers develop tricks to get rid of that song that’s been stuck in your head. [Seriously, Science?]
Today’s guest post is by Andrei Yudin, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Toronto. His research group aims to build new bridges between basic chemistry research and drug discovery. During a sabbatical, Yudin launched a blog, and soon discovered that blogging brings several tangible benefits to his group as well as his research program. You can read his blog at www.amphoteros.com.
I have always been intrigued by science blogging, but the barrier to give it a shot of my own has been steep. When I started my sabbatical in July of 2013, I realized that I would have some extra time, making it the best moment for me to begin blogging. The idea of connecting with a target audience of fellow researchers using a new means was especially attractive to me. In addition, as I was running experiments during my sabbatical, my graduate students and faculty colleagues were curious about what it was I was cooking in the lab. I did not want them to think that I was “breaking bad”, so I decided to put it all out there – my successes, my failures, and a good dose of self-ridicule. This is how www.amphoteros.com saw its first post on July 20, 2013.
I quickly realized that there were relatively few research-oriented chemistry blogs, which stands in contrast to other disciplines such as biology. While the culture of chemistry is different and chemists do not often feel the need to collaborate with one another, our craft is becoming more interdisciplinary and new ways of communicating scientific findings and/or sharing opinions are only going to help.
At the moment, amphoteros is driven by my keen interest in science advances both basic and applied. People ask me how I find time for writing and coming up with original subject matter on a daily basis. I somehow do not feel challenged by this: there is always something “bloggable” I can come up with during my train ride back home. I cover a range of subjects and I always look forward to the feedback I get from the readers. The usual way I conceive my posts is by thinking about one of the dominant thoughts that has been consuming me on a given day. Typically, these musings are related to a particular publication, although I do not make a distinction between what’s current and what’s old. To me, something that is important, yet published 50 years ago, is current. In terms of content, I like to have a lot of graphics on my posts. This gives me a chance to practice ideas for my future lecture presentations. In academia, we always think about new ways of presenting our research in lectures, yet it is tough to sit down and implement them. I partially address this problem using my blog posts: many of them serve their purpose in lectures.
While I blog, I find it encouraging to communicate with like-minded individuals who provide interesting comments. People often contact me by email and say that they enjoy the content I offer. I also like receiving requests to cover certain topics. I am keen to see which subjects on the blog are particularly popular. Straightforward tracking mechanisms enable me to dig deeper into those areas.
My blogging activities have led to other tangible outcomes as well. For instance, I find it easier to recruit students as many of them find the material I write about both educational and interesting. I have gotten both graduate and postdoctoral applications as a direct result of my writings. I also find that, by following my blog posts, students who take my classes are better engaged with the material I teach. Blogging is also turning into a great mechanism to keep in touch with my former students.
One of the emerging trends I see is my lab engagement in writing blog posts. I already had several students guest-post interesting material and anticipate that these offerings will expand in the future. It is 2014 now, my sabbatical is over. Yet the blog is in good shape, I find time to write, and the readership is growing.
Hello Artful Science readers,
As you’ve probably noticed, Artful Science has been on hiatus for a few months while I’ve been on a research sabbatical and then working on other projects.
It will continue to be on pause until further notice but I hope to resume a new incarnation of Artful Science’s cultural heritage coverage sometime in the not-so-distant future.
In the meantime, I often tweet about research on art and artifacts, should you wish to follow me in the land of Twitter.
All my best from Berlin and thanks for reading,
Slowly but surely, though, beta testers in Google’s Explorers program have been making a case for the sophisticated eyewear by demonstrating its unique—sometimes scientific–capabilities. Physics teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel famously shared his visit to the Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, with his students via Glass. Ohio surgeon Christopher Kaeding gave medical students a live, bird’s eye view of a knee operation he conducted while wearing the device.
And now, a research team led by Aydogan Ozcan of the University of California, Los Angeles, is using Google Glass to help diagnose and track disease. The engineers designed an app for the wearable computer that images and reads rapid diagnostic tests such as pregnancy pee sticks. It also links the results to a scannable QR code, stores them, and tags them geographically.
“The new technology could enhance the tracking of dangerous diseases and improve response time in disaster-relief areas or quarantine zones where conventional medical tools are not available or feasible,” Ozcan says.
Among the first to be selected by Google as Explorers, Ozcan and his team demonstrated the capabilities of their new app by using it to read a few types of home HIV and prostate cancer tests—ones that require an oral swab or a drop of blood to work. They recently published their efforts in ACS Nano (2014, DOI: 10.1021/nn500614k). Continue reading →
Sorry for the radio silence last week. This overlord was a little overloaded. But to make up for it, here’s a double dose of network highlights.
Tweets of the weeks:
— Neil Withers (@NeilWithers) February 21, 2014
“Who would have guessed that the first NMR spectrum of ethanol would grow into the ability to watch the brain think?” – George Whitesides.
— Curious Wavefunction (@curiouswavefn) February 25, 2014
To the network:
Artful Science: A blogging siesta
Newscripts: Amusing News Aliquots (2/21) and Amusing News Aliquots (2/28) and Google Glass Might One Day Diagnose And Track Diseases Like HIV
The Chemical Notebook: The Curious Case Of Cereplast