Amusing News Aliquots
May09

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. Because having Siri read you walking directions wasn’t futuristic enough, you can now get haptic footwear that while gently guide you in the direction you should walk. [Springwise] Shampoos and bodywashes may contain a carcinogen. It’s bad news for those who showered today, and good news for those looking for excuse not to. [SFGate] Four lion cubs passed a swim test this week at the National Zoo. The accomplishment means the cubs are now one step closer to posing for their own swimsuit calendar. [io9]  The CEO of the Philadelphia Zoo says he is trying to turn a visit to his park into “more of a safari-like experience.” Hard to imagine anything going wrong with that idea. [New York Post] Hard to imagine? Well, we’ve got a scenario: Petting zoo brings a baby bear for college students to snuggle to ease stress of finals week. Bear bites multiple students. Bear and students tested for rabies. Students have worse things to stress about than finals. [Time] Got a decommissioned tank just rusting away in your backyard? Do what this Czech town did: Add a slide and splash of colorful paint and conquer the playground! [Inventor Spot] In other military news, keep an eye on your bananas. China has an army of trained monkeys.  [Washington Post]...

Read More
Tattoo Advice For Penning A Synthetic Symphony
Mar24

Tattoo Advice For Penning A Synthetic Symphony

This week I wrote about the “Atalanta Fugi­ens,” a gorgeous 17th century alchemy text that includes a musical score. What’s crazy is that this score is not just a background melody for the musically inclined alchemist. The score is actually a recipe for making the philosophers’ stone, with individual musical parts for the chemical components, mercury, sulfur, and salt. I’m desperately hoping some modern-day chemist will be inspired to write a musical score for their next total synthesis, and that some journal agrees to publish this music in the Materials & Methods section. (Or at the very least, the Supplementary Information section.) Butt! A word of warning: Should any musically inclined chemist decide to pen a synthetic opera, however, they should certainly consider the admonishment of medieval artist Hieronymous Bosch. Namely, DO NOT tattoo that score on to your behind. Taking a closer look at the hell component of Bosch’s masterpiece “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” discriminating viewers will note that the poor soul with the Gregorian chant on his nether region is being whipped by a demon tongue. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Incidentally, that demon-whipped, butt-hugging music is also available for download, thanks to Amelia Hamrick, a student in Oklahoma. Have a...

Read More
Amusing News Aliquots
Jan16

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. Finally, a book that explores the proper etiquette for spitting up a hair ball in public: “Pride and Prejudice and Kitties.” [Mother Nature Network] More feline news: Looks like U.S. prisons are too posh. After all, cats looking for a comfortable home are now breaking into them. [Glens Falls Post-Star] Think your graduate work was tough? At least you didn’t have to attach a camera to an alligator’s back. [Seriously, Science?] Study suggests MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” might be driving down teen pregnancies. Next up, “Teens Who Don’t Do Their Homework”? [USA Today] While the Newscripts gang was bundled up and hiding from the polar vortex, this Canadian fellow created a colored ice fort. [BoingBoing] Did we all just assume that the flying V formation gave birds an aerodynamics push? Turns out it was just scientifically shown for the first time. [NPR] Police arrest man for insobriety after his parrot tells police that he is drunk. It’s hard not to feel sorry for the man. He thought he had a parrot for a pet, but it turns out his pet was really a rat. [United Press International] In the real-life Japanese version of “Good Will Hunting,” the university janitor creates a gorgeous, unsolvable maze in his spare time. [Viralnova] Skip the plug-in night-lights, now you can buy bioluminescent house plants for all your nighttime low-light needs. [Popular Science] When those pesky moral dilemma tests are presented in virtual reality–complete with carnage and screams–turns out people get more emotionally riled, but also more utilitarian. Sorry, best friend. [Time]  ...

Read More
In Print: Balloon Returns Home, Earthshaking Stadium
Dec16

In Print: Balloon Returns Home, Earthshaking Stadium

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in this week’s issue of C&EN. Purdue University‘s Association of Mechanical & Electrical Technologists (AMET)–a hands-on STEM-oriented student organization that works on everything from robots to Rube Goldberg devices to rockets–expected the weather balloon that it launched on Nov. 16 to return to Purdue’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus. As this week’s Newscripts column describes, however, the trek back home was anything but predictable. Takeoff of the balloon started easily enough, as this video from the balloon shows: When the balloon reached an altitude of 40,000 feet, however, AMET lost all contact. As a result, the organization didn’t know the kinds of spectacular views their balloon was enjoying as it ascended to a height of 95,000 feet above Earth. That ascension is captured in the following videos: Because everything that goes up must come down, the balloon soon plummeted back to Earth: And it wound up in the soybean fields of Joseph Recker, who lives near the town of Kalida in northwestern Ohio, 170 miles from Purdue’s campus. The crash landing can be seen at the 16 minute, 10 second, mark of the following video: But that’s only the start of the weather balloon’s incredible journey. After finding the balloon in his fields, Recker noticed it had a variety of expensive-looking devices on it, including a radiation monitor, GPS unit, pressure sensors, temperature sensors, and accelerometers. Correctly presuming that the balloon’s owners would want their expensive device returned to them, Recker tried playing the balloon’s video camera for clues about who had launched the device. Unfortunately, Recker didn’t have the equipment needed to watch the video at home, so he took the camera to a nearby fertilizer facility. There, Recker was able to play the video, which, at its beginning, had captured a number of students setting up the balloon for launch. Noticing that many of these students were wearing Purdue apparel, Recker put two and two together and contacted the university. “None of us believed that we’d ever see the balloon again,” says Dahlon P. Lyles, AMET project manager and a Purdue student researcher. “And so all of us were just amazed that it survived and how much effort the farmer went through to actually find it and get it returned.” Lyles tells Newscripts that, since returning back home, the balloon has been signed by all AMET members and placed in the organization’s workroom alongside other burst balloons. And the balloon doesn’t just serve as a cool trophy for the organization. The balloon has also provided AMET with...

Read More
Amusing News Aliquots
Dec12

Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber. It’s delicate work taking these splendid snowflake glamour shots. [chaoticmind] via [io9] Camels are landing jobs during the holiday season. Joe Camel, however, is still smoking silently and waiting for the phone to ring. [Washington Post] What’s worse than a robotic telemarketer? A robotic telemarketer that adamantly insists she’s a real person. Meet Samantha West. [Time] Who says huffing organic solvents dulls the memory? Check out what Derek Lowe’s readers have to say about reagents they’ll never forget. [In the Pipeline] The next time a coworker asks you how you’re doing, don’t tell them you’re sleepy. Tell them you’re suffering from “sleep inertia.” Then, when they ask you what that is, lift up your head and say in a haughty voice, “Oh, well, I guess somebody doesn’t read the New Yorker!” [New Yorker] “When the picture on their 50-inch box television started flickering, Mike took off the back panel and found the guts throbbing with ants.”  Best to read this piece on Rasberry crazy ants with a can of Raid nearby. [New York Times] NASA scientists say life may have once been present on a Mars lake. No word yet on how much alien waterfront property may have cost. [BBC] Next time you’re stumbling out of a bar, take comfort in statistics that show people who drink alcohol regularly (and even too regularly) live longer than teetotalers. Just don’t smugly stumble to your car, because stats can’t save you from yourself. [Business Insider] Forget bared teeth, growling, and beating of chests–male chameleons get ready for epic showdowns by quickly changing their bodies from bright color to bright color. [NBC...

Read More
Aaaaaand They’re Off: The 2013 World Cell Race Results
Dec10

Aaaaaand They’re Off: The 2013 World Cell Race Results

Today’s post is by Nader Heidari, an associate editor at C&EN who loves watching cells race and paint dry. On Nov. 22, cells raced down ultrathin channels, vying for the position of fastest cell in the 2013 World Cell Race. At speeds of up to 300 micrometers/hour, cells blew down the maze-like track, running into dead ends and occasionally getting confused and turning around. Many cell lines didn’t finish, but glory came to those who did. This year’s victor (shown in the race video above) was MDA MB 231 s1, a human breast cancer cell line from Alexis Gautreau of the Laboratory of Enzymology & Structural Biochemistry, in France. Gautreau will receive a €400 voucher (that’s about $650) from Ibidi, one of the event’s sponsors. The winning cells weren’t the fastest, nor were they the smartest, but they prevailed because of their persistence and because they got a good head-start by entering the maze of channels more quickly than their competitors. Slow and steady wins the race! In second place was MFH 152, a sarcoma cell line from Mohamed Jemaà in Ariane Abrieu’s lab at the Research Center for Macromolecular Biochemistry, in France. Although they were fast and accurate, these cells took too long to actually start the race, falling behind MDA MB 231, according to the race organizers. Cell-racing fans don’t have to wait until late next year for another dose of mitochondria-pumping action: The organizers are looking to start the first “Dicty World Race,” tentatively scheduled for March 21, 2014. The stars of this show would be Dictyostelium, a type of slime mold. So keep an eye out for some pedal-to-the-flagella protist action! Related Stories: Cellular...

Read More