Category → Techno-geek Tidbits
Do you remember what you did on Pi Day last Thursday (3/14)? American Chemical Society (ACS) student affiliates from Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, took the opportunity to “pi” their professors (literally) and made a short video about it:
And on a related note, if you think reading the digits in pi will take forever, check out this video of a man pronouncing the longest word in the world, which happens to be the chemical name of titin, the largest known protein. (Warning: you’ll need three and a half hours to get through this video, but as a reward, you get to watch this man’s beard grow.)
In this week’s issue of C&EN, I wrote about how 3-D printing fever has taken hold of some folks in academia. Sure, scientists and engineers COULD keep a 3-D printer in the lab strictly for printing out a molecular model, a prototype, or even an intricate lab logo. But they’re starting to do much more with the machines.
As Lee Cronin, a chemist at Scotland’s University of Glasgow, told me, in the early days of 3-D printing, “people thought it was cool but gimmicky.” Now, though, they’re beginning to use the technique to solve problems, he added.
In the story, I describe how some scientists have used 3-D printers to make lab equipment such as centrifuges, funnels, lab jacks, and electrophoresis gel combs. These early adopters claim that the machines, which build solid objects layer by layer from materials like plastics and ceramic powders, can save labs thousands of dollars. And, they say, 3-D printers help foster an open-access scientific community that will speed the progress of research.
One research group I didn’t get to mention in my story is that of Simon J. Leigh, a chemist-turned-engineer at the U.K.’s University of Warwick. Leigh and his team are developing new materials for 3-D printers, with the goal of eventually incorporating them into devices for the lab and beyond.
For instance, late last year, the researchers published a PloS One paper detailing how they concocted “carbomorph,” a material made of the thermoplastic polycaprolactone and 15 wt% carbon black. “The aim of the project was to develop a material that could go into a printer that’s off the shelf,” Leigh says. In addition to being electrically conductive, carbomorph had the added benefit of being extrudable by a standard low-cost 3-D printer (they used a Bits from Bytes 3000).
Leigh’s team demonstrated that the substance could also be incorporated into several devices. One of these instruments was an electronic interface. The researchers added carbomorph buttons to an electrical circuit: When a user pressed one of them, its capacitance increased and triggered an electrical signal. Being able to embed sensors like these anywhere on a device rather than adding them on at defined spots in post-production could be extraordinarily useful, Leigh says.
In one, perhaps gimmicky, example, Leigh and his team printed sensor buttons into a video-game controller. “But there’s no reason why the same process could not be used to make custom interfaces for scientific equipment,” he says.
In 2011, the research team also developed a magnetic material for 3-D printing that it used to manufacture a flow sensor. Specifically, the scientists added magnetite nanoparticles to a resin matrix and printed a tiny rotor (impeller). By monitoring the small piece’s rotational speed via external magnetic field, the researchers were able to determine the speed of liquid across it.
Why go to all the trouble of designing new materials and printing devices you could buy? Leigh says it’s almost a natural “evolutionary step.” First, there were desktop computers, next there will be desktop manufacturing systems. In science, especially, Leigh adds, “you want something that’s more bespoke these days. You don’t want to waste material or time” to get the equipment you need.
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Bethany Halford
Chemistry lab work can be tough. There are smelly solvents and reactions with the potential to explode. But at least you don’t have to worry about how you’ll feed the bedbugs. [PopSci]
Middle school science fair projects have gotten legit. Thirteen-year-old sends Hello Kitty to the stratosphere and back, with a video camera along for the ride. [Cosmic Log/NBC News]
Lusty male moth drives robot car towards the scent of his lady love, refuses to ask for directions. [Forbes]
The recently unearthed bones of Richard III beg the question: What’s the Shelf Life of DNA? [Slate]
Perhaps Ethan Hawke’s character from “Gattaca” isn’t the only one who should be paranoid — someone’s 3-D printing faces with your discarded DNA. [iO9]
Forget your umbrella? Spray your clothes with Ultra Ever Dry, a superhydrophobic and oleophobic nanotech coating (Um, actually, we’re not sure you should spray this on your clothes, but there’s a cool video). [NPR]
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.
From the Who Funds This? files: Prune-y fingers may help you get a grip. [News.com.au]
This week, scientists have been spending entirely too much time on Twitter cracking jokes that hit awfully close to home via the hashtag #overlyhonestmethods. We’ve always thought those “representative” data sets in papers were the only time the experiment worked … and now it’s been confirmed. [iO9]
So, this is news but not so amusing if you’ve got GI problems … there appears to be a barium shortage. [Topics in Radiography]
Scientists say the song “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones is one of safest to drive to. That’s funny. Cause’ it makes us bored and sleepy. [The Telegraph]
19 techs at a petrochemical plant in England win the Euromillions sweepstakes, netting them about $1.6 million (or about $84,000 each). Lucky ducks. [Gazette Live]
Pedometers are so 2012. For weight loss, check out the forkometer instead. [MarketWatch]
When we’re inundated with winter weather, the Newscripts gang will be working on its bulletproof snow fort. [Wired]
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.
Scientists come up with explanation of why Rudolph’s nose was red. And, no, it’s not because he drank one too many reindeer martinis. [CNET]
If you’re worried about putting on weight this holiday season, consider Le Whaf, a kitchen gadget that turns food and drink into calorie-free vapor. [Geek]
Check out BeetBox—the new instrument that makes root vegetables funky. [Gizmag]
Cosmetic surgeons used stem cells and dermal filler to give woman a face-lift. Whoopsie! Dermal filler contains hydroxylapatite, which signals stem cells to turn to bone. We don’t really need to tell you the rest. [io9]
Who says scientists are boring geeks who drone on about quantum efficiency and reaction yield? We here at the Newscripts blog LOVE science and think those geeks are rockstars. So we’ve selected an assortment of our favorite videos of the year depicting just how cool science can be. The clips were culled from 2012 blog posts as well as from the YouTube channel of Chemical & Engineering News.
So sit back, relax, warm yourself by the gentle glow of that Bunsen burner, and bask in the awesomeness of science.
In at number 10, Russell Hemley and researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science have gotten so good at growing their own diamonds from methane, they can make gems as big as 10 carat! Too bad they’re using them in high-pressure experiments rather than sending the Newscripts gang free samples.
Number 9: Reality TV isn’t just for privileged housewives, the gym-tan-laundry crowd, or survivors who like to eat bugs anymore. This year, MIT released a reality Web series following undergrads trying to pass an introductory chemistry course. Oh, the intrigue! Crystallization contests, rotovap malfunctions … this is the trailer that got us pumped for the series. [Link to original post]
Number 8: Adorable pandas + poop = instant classic. It really doesn’t even matter what the rest of the video is about. Although we did slip in some biofuel science. So you’re learning something while overloading on cute.
Number 7: Although the Newscripts gang loves to yell out requests for “Free Bird” at concerts, we also think Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” is pretty clutch, too. It’s even better when played by Tesla coils. [Link to original post]
Number 6: This year, researchers at Harvard and Caltech made a polymer sheet swim like a jellyfish. Why? We’re not so sure it matters. All we know is, right now, we’re heading out to procure some rat heart cells, a silicone sheet, and a vial of fibronectin because, well, we want one.
Number 5: You didn’t think you’d make it through a 2012 countdown without a Gangnam parody, did you? Good. Because here’s biochemistry, taught Gangnam-style. [Link to original post] Continue reading →
Happy Cyber Monday! Are those chestnuts we smell roasting on your Bunsen burner? Well, pour us a beaker full of egg nog because the Newscripts gang has been wading through the internet to find the perfect gift for the chemical lover in your life. And if this isn’t enough loot for you, browse our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 gift guides for more ideas.
Silly samplings of this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Lauren Wolf.
Twelve year old applies Dungeons & Dragons to a psychology experiment, gets published. [Discover]
Just in time for Election Day: Researchers find that female Republicans in the House of Representatives appear more feminine than woman Democrats. [Discoblog]
Grad student proposes pelting incoming asteroids with paint balls to deflect them from a collision course with Earth, wins competition. No, we’re not joking. [Daily Mail Online]
The latest in breast cancer detection: The heat-detecting bra. [Yahoo Voices]
Study shows that dogs follow suit after watching humans yawn. And chances are we’ve now made you yawn by even mentioning it. [ABC News]
Why do elephants have only a little hair? No punchlines here. These researchers think the peach fuzz keeps the pachyderms cool. [Improbable Research]