Category Archives: Lab Results

Science and research.

Notes from Underground (on the N/R/Q Line)

I’m sorry; since when do republicans tag?


…and 1-percenters ride the subway?



Just the Tips

Scientists. Smart, but not always so savvy. I recently found myself somehow on the mailing list for the newsletter of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If your organization goes by the acronym PNAS, ought you call your weekly dispatch the Tipsheet?

My introductory email explained that I may “show relevant parts of the PNAS tipsheet” to independent specialists to solicit informed comment. But each tipsheet is “NOT FOR PUBLIC RELEASE.”

I should hope not.

The Department of Energy Unwraps Explosive New Technology

R&D Magazine (what do you mean you don’t have a subscription?!) just named the winners of its annual R&D 100 Awards for excellence in the field of R and the related field of D. Among them, Argonne National Laboratory’s work in renewable methane production. The Department of Energy lab announced the exciting news today:

The Enhanced Renewable Methane Production System is a low-cost process that accelerates biological methane production rates at least fivefold. …This system addresses one of the largest barriers to the expansion of renewable methane – the naturally slow rate of production. To overcome this hurdle, Argonne researchers examined the natural biology of methane production… to accelerate biological methane production while sequestering CO2.

Click through to learn how they did it. Continue reading

Almost a Google Game

In lieu of your regularly scheduled programming (which has been preempted lately by life and napping anyway), today I present something Google-related, but less Game than Regurgitation.

Have you been on Google today? Did you notice the space theme? Did you wonder why there’s an astronaut on the page? Maybe I can help, with a couple  posts I wrote for


6 Surprising Facts about the First Manned Space Mission

FAQ: The Maiden Voyage of the Space Shuttle

Click on for a quick lesson on this important day in history, when, in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, and then 20 years later, the Space Shuttle took off on its first mission.

Hacking the Planet

The current issue of the Journal Nature includes a commentary on a decades-old goal to drill toward the center of the Earth:

Comment: Journey to the mantle of the Earth

This spring, researchers will mark the 50-year anniversary of an ambitious project by taking another step towards the same dream. They aim to drill through Earth’s crust under the ocean floor and down into the mantle and, for the first time ever, pull up a sample. In a Comment in Nature this week, the two co-chief scientists of that upcoming mission — Damon Teagle and Benoît Ildefonse — say that drilling into Earth’s mantle is now possible, and should hopefully begin within a decade.

The mantle makes up the bulk of our planet, stretching from the bottom of the crust — at 30–60 kilometres under the continents but just 6 kilometres under the oceans — down to the core 2,890 kilometres below. Retrieving a sample direct from the mantle would provide scientists with “a treasure trove comparable to the Apollo lunar rocks”, they write, and it would provide insight into the origins and evolution of our planet. But this goal has proven as difficult as going to the Moon: so far no one has drilled deeper than about 2 kilometres into the crust — a third of the way through.

The idea to drill into the mantle was born at a drinking club of notable earth scientists in 1957. ‘Project Mohole’ sailed in 1961. It took the first scientific core from the sea floor, and developed techniques for ocean drilling that are still used by the oil industry today. But it failed at its mission. Over the next few years, scientists will practise their deep drilling and assess three Pacific Ocean sites, looking for the best place to reawaken this dream.

Do I think this is news? Meh, maybe once they actually embark. But is it a great excuse to get you to watch the trailer for The Core? Absolutely:

If you’re wondering, yes, the trailer pretty much sums it all up. But if you haven’t seen, and don’t make a point of seeing, the whole thing, you’ll miss out on the origins of Unobtanium and the notion that the Earth’s core is, indeed, made of cheese.

You’ll also miss out on the potentially prophetic power of the film, which, eight years ago, predicted worldwide weather phenomena of apocalyptic proportions and birds falling from the sky. For all we know, San Fracisco Bay boiling and the Golden Gate Bridge befalling the fate of an ant in a young boy’s back yard might be next. Watching The Core could be our only hope of survival.

The Dangers of Secondhand Seinfeld

Help! I'm too fat to watch this!

Folks have been decrying the deleterious effects of TV for decades — so how did it take this long before someone realized that the tube could turn your brain to mush by proxy?

Harvard researchers this week published a study showing that Fijian teenage girls were more likely to have an eating disorder if their friends own television sets, whether or not they have one themselves. Continue reading

Israeli Scientists find Nano Star of David, Key to Peace in the Middle East?

"It's a beautiful star, but so small it has to be?"

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem this week published findings of a nanoparticle shaped like the six-pointed Star of David.

Their work … contributes to understanding how hybrid nanoparticles form. Hybrid nanoparticles are systems which combine two or more different materials on the same particle in which the combination provides multi-functionality to the particle. The discovery of the Hebrew University scientists is described in an article published now online and in the October 2010 issue of the journal Nature Materials. …

The researchers have been working to try and develop new nanoparticles made of two kinds of materials joined together. So far, scientists have only been aware of nanoparticles in which one material encapsulates the other (resembling an egg and a yolk), or where an island of one material forms on the other (much like the head of the match on a match-stick). This was not the case with the Star of David shapes.

Is it just me, or does this sound like a scientific allegory for Middle East relations? In related news, Palestinian leaders today issued an announcement that nanoscience is bullshit.


Morning Mindfuck

Good morning. Look at this shit. Think it’s moving? Well it’s not. I swear. Just a jpeg, kiddos. Focus even briefly on just one central dot and you’ll see it “stop.” Booya. Mindfucked.

That’s Mr. Pizza-Face to You: Embracing geekdom now for corporate dominance later

When I saw this commercial it surprised me to find that it was a PSA for a program from Time Warner Cable. It takes a lot for me to say nice things about Time Warner (shyster assholes), but this is a much-needed message, well delivered. According to the website:

In November 2009, Time Warner Cable launched Connect a Million Minds (CAMM), a philanthropic commitment of $100 million cash and in-kind donations. This five-year program was designed to inspire students to pursue learning opportunities and careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

What do I see in the future? Well, I do hope that the US ups its STEM game in the global marketplace. But it’s disheartening to think that our bosses will have been encouraged in adolescence to nurture the chips that being a geek in high school piles on their shoulders.

Still, here’s hoping the nerds of today in fact become the innovators of tomorrow. Back up plan: train all these kids to put customers on hold for an hour.

Prof Voids Laptop Warranty with Liquid Nitrogen

This demonstration in an OU physics course was intended to teach students not to bring laptops to class. The real takeaway? This would feel so freaking good:

Boy, talk about your computer freezing. Ba-zing!

For more fun uses of liquid nitrogen, check out this video from the chef of El Bulli and food author Harold McGee and get your hands on a copy of Jason X. Trust me.

[From Make via Engadget]