Science-y Contests: Put On Your Dancing Shoes & Take A Lucky Guess
Sep18

Science-y Contests: Put On Your Dancing Shoes & Take A Lucky Guess

Two contests are afoot that chemists—particularly grad students—shouldn’t miss. Why? Well, there’s the eternal glory that comes with being victorious. But there’s also some cash and an iPad in it for the winners. And let’s face it, grad students can use all the free cash and prizes they can get. Contest 1: Dance Your Ph.D. Newscripts publicized this competition, sponsored by AAAS, earlier this year. The deadline is fast approaching. If you want to enter, you need to translate your Ph.D. project into a dance by October 1. There are four categories into which twinkle-toed grad students can place their submissions: chemistry, physics, biology, and social sciences. The top entry in each category gets $500. But that’s not all! The overall winner gets another $500 as well as travel and accomodation to attend TEDxBrussels, in Belgium, on Nov. 12. There, the danciest dancer—the Gene Kelly of Ph.D.s, if you will--will be crowned for all to see. The Newscripts gang would like to see chemists once again take the top prize, proving without a doubt that the central science is where it’s at, so get your submissions in soon! Contest 2: 70 Millionth Substance Contest According to the counter here, Chemical Abstracts Service--the division of the American Chemical Society that finds, collects, and organizes chemical information--has now entered more than 68,447,000 substances in its registry. To celebrate the day when the organization will add its 70 millionth chemical substance to the database, CAS is holding a little guessing competition. The division thinks the organic or inorganic entity in question will be registered either at the end of this year or early next year. Your job is to predict the date and time the lucky substance gets added. Prizes vary depending on when you submit your answer, but you could potentially win an iPad, Nook, or Kindle Fire. If the precise date and time isn’t guessed correctly, CAS goes into “The Price Is Right” mode and gives the award to the guess closest to the date and time the substance was added without going over. Take a look at the rules for entry here. And study them closely, Daniel-san. You MUST put your guess into the contest form by Nov. 16 or by the time the counter reaches 69.8 million substances—whichever comes first. CAS’s registry hit 50 million back on Sept. 7, 2009. You can read about that milestone here.   Do us proud, Newscripters. And if you win, do let us know (we’ll only take a little bit of the...

Read More
Science Is Awesome: Top 10 Video Clips Of The Year
Dec28

Science Is Awesome: Top 10 Video Clips Of The Year

Everybody loves a good end-of-the-year list recounting the highlights of time gone by. The best albums, best movies, people of the year (no matter how much controversy they occupy), and snarkiest comments pique everyone's interest. So Newscripts decided to get in on the act and choose the top 10 video clips that we blogged and C&EN posted to its YouTube channel during 2011. They embody everything we love about science and chemistry. In at Number 10, we're not sure whether this year’s rash of music video parodies actually helps students learn organic chemistry, but the results are pretty funny. Our favorite for 2011 is an homage to Cake’s “Short Skirt/Long Jacket,” courtesy of the University of Utah. Number 9: What’s a post-happy-hour businessman to do to keep from smelling like an ashtray? It’s microencapsulation—in the form of a scratch-and-sniff mint-perfumed suit—to the rescue. Number 8: This one's for all those young at heart--you know, those who have mixed detergents in the basement to see what would happen or for those who have microwaved random objects and noted their observations. The folks at Blendtec regularly blend everyday objects in their "Will It Blend?" series. Here, they have a go at glow sticks. Number 7: The materials scientist who won this year’s “Dance Your Ph.D.” contest placed himself in the "Physics" category with a clip about fabricating better hip replacements via the 3-D printing technique called selective laser melting. We’re claiming it as another win for chemistry. Number 6: Larry Principe, a history of science professor, studies alchemy at Johns Hopkins University. Check out this clip to learn more about how alchemists protected their recipes from falling into the wrong hands. Number 5: Researchers at Harvard built an all-polymer robot, and this is a clip showing it walk and navigate an obstacle. The awesomeness here speaks for itself. Number 4: You either loved it or cringed at it (but still secretly loved it)—"The Chemistry Dance," captured at the Spring ACS national meeting in Anaheim.  Number 3: A 3-D model of a virus puts itself together when shaken, not stirred. We wanna work in this guy's lab. And tied for Number 1 (because we just couldn't bring ourselves to choose between the awesomeness), a clip of scientists demonstrating the wonders of conductive silver ink and a clip of scientists at the University of Texas, Austin, demonstrating how 3-D objects can be "printed" via a process called laser sintering. Aaah, lasers. We love 'em, even when they're used for making stuff, rather than blowing it...

Read More
Physics Wins Dance Your Ph.D. Contest
Oct25

Physics Wins Dance Your Ph.D. Contest

After last year’s glorious win for chemistry in the annual Dance Your Ph.D. contest, held by Science magazine, the Newscripts gang was feeling pretty cocky. We thought a back-to-back win for chemists interpreting their doctoral work through dance was inevitable. Alas, an entry in the physics category won this year’s grand prize of $1,000. The award-winning clip (below) was made by Joel Miller, a biomedical engineering graduate student at the University of Western Australia, who created a dance about his Ph.D. research on titanium alloys. With selective laser melting, a 3-D printing process that fuses metal powder together to form custom parts, Miller is developing materials with suitable strength and flexibility to be used in hip replacements. Hmmm … seems a lot like chemistry to us. We’ll take credit anyway. The cool part is that Miller put his video together, not with a video camera (he didn’t have one), but by stringing together about 2,200 photos to make it look as though his “actors” were dancing. But enough about the physics category. The finalist in the chemistry category was FoSheng Hsu, a third-year grad student in Yuxin Mao’s group at Cornell University. Hsu tells Newscripts that the goal of his Ph.D. research is to obtain the crystal structure of a particular phosphoinositide phosphatase involved in trafficking of chemical species in cells. Specifically, Hsu (in video below) says he wants to get an X-ray structure of the enzyme complexed with its substrate “to better understand how they function in vivo.” In the video, Hsu initially plays the part of E. coli, showing how an engineered bacterium produces a protein of interest. After purification and crystallization, Hsu plays the part of the protein (with a ribbon structure for his arms), demonstrating the jittery folding process with a robotic dance. Hsu was inspired to make the video after being asked by some friends about X-ray crystallography, he says. They had just seen the movies “Contagion” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which apparently featured crystal structures in certain scenes. “This got me thinking, ‘How do I explain a complex scientific phenomenon in the simplest way that they will remember?’ ” he recalls. For his efforts, Hsu won the top prize in the chemistry category, which comes with $500. He says that he will donate 20% of the prize to charity. And the rest, he says, will go to “the many people waiting in line for me to take them out to...

Read More