Category → Techno-geek Tidbits
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]
Ned The Neuron
If you attended the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting earlier this week (SfN 2012) in New Orleans, you might have passed by a blonde woman carrying a fuzzy blue stuffed neuron. Lest you think you had one too many drinks on Bourbon Street, I’m here to tell you this was no hallucination.
The neuron’s name is Ned. He’s an adventurous sort with a bunch of fun-loving friends—Stella the stellate nerve cell and Bernard the bipolar retinal cell, to name a few. At the moment, Ned works in the motor cortex of the brain, helping humans put one foot in front of the other to traverse the great outdoors.
The blonde carrying Ned is Erica Warp. Once a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, studying spinal-cord development in zebrafish, Warp is Ned’s creator (and biggest fan). She dreamed him up during grad school, and when it came time to chart her future, she says the decision came down to “postdoc or Ned.” She chose the little blue guy.
Along with developer Jessica Voytek, Warp has created an educational story platform around Ned: It includes a storybook overlaid with audio and music as well as interactive diagrams and mini-games. Voytek and Warp came to New Orleans to present a poster about their efforts to bring Ned’s story to life and to promote their iPad app, “The Adventures of Ned the Neuron.” (Android users, your app is coming soon.)
“Neuroscience is a great gateway science for kids,” Warp says. “It’s cool. It’s something they can experience directly, through vision, touch, and other sensations.” But it’s also a subject that students typically don’t encounter until college, she adds. And that’s a shame.
That’s because it’s a science that’s accelerating—a true frontier. There’s so much neuroscientists are now finding out about the brain, and there’s still so much they don’t know, Warp says. Kids should experience this vibrant field earlier, she contends. “Even if they don’t end up going into science later in life, we want them to have a positive association with it.”
Voytek and Warp worked hard to get “The Adventures of Ned the Neuron” ready to launch at this year’s SfN meeting (having just established their company, Kizoom, in February). They managed to meet their deadline, although Warp says they are still doing some kid-testing and are making revisions to the app on the basis of feedback. Continue reading →
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.
Sea otters: Our latest adorable weapon in the fight against global warming. [Latinos Post]
Giant woolly mammothsicle found in Russia. Let’s all speculate about cloning the thing. [Yahoo!]
Want to make your own Stradivarius violin? Just add fungi. [iO9]
Scientists feed pigs wine or vodka to determine which is better for heart health. Miss Piggy would like a cosmopolitan, please. [UPI]
Now that it’s got making graphene in the bag, Scotch tape has moved on. The wonder adhesive now produces superconductors. [Geekosystem]
Alan Turing–famed mathematician, father of computer science, and all-around rockstar–to get his own Monopoly edition. [CNET]
The force is with these Kentucky hackers, who modified a Star Wars toy to blow up watermelons with the power of one’s mind. [CBC News]
In this week’s issue of C&EN, I wrote a Newscripts column about the Lava Project going on at Syracuse University. The earth scientists who help run the program in upstate New York weren’t satisfied with studying lava by traveling to volcanoes in parts unknown. These geologists make their own lava, right on campus, in half-ton quantities by melting down crushed basalt in a high-temperature furnace.
The project began, as I mention in my column, with the goal of creating a lava-flow sculpture—a giant piece of land art depicting what a person might experience in a real lava field. But it’s become much more than that, according to Jeffrey A. Karson, a Syracuse geologist and one of the leaders of the project.
Academics who study lava elsewhere sometimes make their own lava on a very small scale, Karson tells me. We’re talking enough lava to fill a thimble. But lava usually flows in larger quantities than that, AND it sometimes flows to where people live, Karson says. Studying these larger flows will “help us predict how they’re going to flow, and hopefully, how to manage those flows,” he adds.
One project the scientists at Syracuse have been working on is to study how lava interacts with ice. When Iceland’s volcano Grímsvötn erupted in May 2011, it famously spewed ash into the sky and disrupted flights in and out of Europe. But there were also some lava flows that occurred during the eruption, Karson says. Collaborating with Ben Edwards, a geologist at Dickinson College, in Pennsylvania, the Syracuse team have been pouring their molten lava onto ice beds and trying to reproduce some of the features that formed during that eruption. “We were able to learn quite a lot about the capability of lava to melt ice and snow, as well as the shapes lava flows take when they have interacted with ice and snow,” Karson explains. Continue reading →
Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Bethany Halford and Lauren Wolf.
Two Tesla coils perform “Sweet Home Alabama.” Rock on, electrical engineering students. [Improbable Research]
Squid cells dance to “Insane in the Membrane.” Rock on, neurobiology students. [Discoblog]
And you thought Nintendo’s Power Glove was rad back in the day. Now there’s Stanford’s cooling glove. It’s better than steroids. [Stanford News]
Soft lighting and mood music in a fast-food restaurant make patrons eat 175 calories less than usual, study shows. Newscripts wonders whether it might just be easier NOT to eat the fast food in the first place and … who funds this stuff? [ScienceDaily]
Really old bugs trapped in amber. Just because they’ve been dead for 230 million years doesn’t mean they can’t still give us the creepy crawlies. [CBC News]
MRSA vs. Marmite? [Daily Mail]
Improbable Research would like to know: Which is better, the Heck Reaction or the Hell Reaction? We’re sure that you’ve got opinions, dear readers. [Improbable Research]
Even amateur cooks know that cornstarch is clutch when it comes to thickening Thanksgiving gravy or homemade soup. But as amateur (geeky) thrill-seekers have discovered, filling a swimming pool with cornstarch and water leads to a strange and fun phenomenon: You can run and jump across the sort-of-solid surface. Stop for a second, though, and you’ll sink like a stone.
But the abnormal behavior of this “oobleck” (yes, it’s named after the Dr. Seuss book) doesn’t stop there. Vibrate a thin sheet of it on a loudspeaker at 20 Hz and “cornstarch monsters” will bounce upward as a solid and fall back down as a liquid.
Despite being a pourable liquid, oobleck momentarily acts like a solid when an external force is applied, making it surprisingly difficult to scoop up with a spoon.
Researchers have long thought that these wacky behaviors were a result of shear thickening, or the rapid increase of viscosity that occurs when fluid layers slide past each other. A common example of shear thickening in action is the wet-sand effect—when stepping on wet sand along a beach causes sand to dry directly underfoot.