Science Art: Five of Spades, from Playing Cards: Engineering


This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)

They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…

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Science Art: Red White Blood Cells, by NCI-Frederick.


The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.

Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).

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SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”

ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.

Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…

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SONG: One (is the Loneliest Number) (penitential cover)

SONG: “One (Is The Loneliest Number)”.

ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)

SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.

ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …

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Science Art: To Scale: The Solar System by Wylie Overstreet.

To Scale: The Solar System from Wylie Overstreet on Vimeo.

I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.

That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?

This far away. …

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Science Art: Aequorea Forbesiana by Philip Henry Gosse.

Click to embiggen

This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.

He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.

A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …

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American bees get a (small) break.

15 September 2015 // 0 Comments

It’s tough being a bee for lots of reasons, but at least, as New Scientist reports, brain damage from chemical warfare won’t be as much of a problem any more – not in the United States. (Because it was, you know.) But now, America has banned one new neonicotinoid pesticide: As a result of the US decisions, rules on the controversial chemicals in the US and European Union are in bizarre contradiction. The US has approved most neonicotinoids while now banning sulfoxaflor. But the EU has banned most neonicotinoids for use on flowering crops and spring sown crops since 2013, but approved sulfoxaflor in July on the basis that it would not have any unacceptable effects on the environment. “The public will be justifiably confused and concerned,” says Matt Shardlow, CEO of Buglife, a British group that campaigns against neonicotinoids. The US ruling against sulfoxaflor, which is manufactured by Dow AgroSciences, was made by a […]

3D barcodes ensure pills (or microchips) are genuine.

14 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Popular Science reveals a new way to check if a little thing really is what it’s labeled as: Researchers from the University of Bradford and Sofmat, an anti-fraud technology company, developed a system to add microscopic indentations to the surface of a product. Tiny pins are set to different heights, each encoding a letter or digit. The pins can either be embedded in the mold a product is made from or stamped on afterwards. The resulting code is almost invisible, and too tiny to feel. But a quick laser scan could prove a product’s origin, which the engineers say could track and verify products to combat fakes. The annual global value of counterfeit goods has been projected to be more than $1.5 trillion by the International Chamber of Commerce. Counterfeit electronics are a problem, and counterfeit medication can be downright dangerous, containing the wrong dose or no active ingredient at all. This is especially an […]

Science Art: Aequorea Forbesiana by Philip Henry Gosse.

13 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle. He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853. A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. It was called Omphalos: an Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot because part of his argument was that Adam would have been created with a navel, even though no umbilical cord, no womb, no mother. This illustration isn’t from that book, though. It’s from A naturalist’s rambles on the Devonshire coast. I found this picture, and learned about Gosse, on the Scientific Illustration tumblr.

A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum.

10 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily might not be as into the poetry of that phrase as I am. They’re more into what it means make a diamond that halfway isn’t there: The research team is led by Nick Vamivakas at the University of Rochester who thinks their work will make extremely sensitive instruments for sensing tiny forces and torques possible, as well as a way to physically create larger-scale quantum systems known as macroscopic Schrödinger Cat states. … In a previous paper, the researchers had shown that nanodiamonds could be levitated in air using a trapping laser. The new paper now shows this can be done in vacuum, which they say is “a critical advance over previous nanodiamond optical tweezer experiments performed in liquids or at atmospheric pressure.” Nanodiamonds trapped at atmospheric pressure are continuously agitated by collisions with the air molecules around them. Trapping the diamonds in vacuum removes the effect of all these air molecules. “This […]

Polar bears might make it after all.

9 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily hails a new study that finds even in an iceless, seal-less Arctic, the polar bear might be able to survive: As climate change accelerates ice melt in the Arctic, polar bears may find caribou and snow geese replacing seals as an important food source, shows a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE. The research, by Linda Gormezano and Robert Rockwell at the American Museum of Natural History, is based on new computations incorporating caloric energy from terrestrial food sources and indicates that the bears’ extended stays on land may not be as grim as previously suggested. “Polar bears are opportunists and have been documented consuming various types and combinations of land-based food since the earliest natural history records,” said Rockwell, a research associate in the Museum’s Department of Ornithology who has been studying the Arctic ecology of the Western Hudson Bay for nearly 50 years. “Analysis of polar bear scats and […]

New Stonehenge discovery = “Archaeology on steroids.”

8 September 2015 // 0 Comments

The Guardian bulks up over scientific enthusiasm for a long-buried stone structure: Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a massive stone monument buried under a thick, grassy bank only two miles from Stonehenge. The hidden arrangement of up to 90 huge standing stones formed part of a C-shaped Neolithic arena that bordered a dry valley and faced directly towards the river Avon. … “What we are starting to see is the largest surviving stone monument, preserved underneath a bank, that has ever been discovered in Britain and possibly in Europe,” said Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist at Bradford University who leads the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project. “This is archaeology on steroids.” … Images of the buried stones show them lying down, but Gaffney believes they originally stood upright and were pushed over when the site was redeveloped by Neolithic builders. The recumbent stones became lost beneath a huge bank and were incorporated as a somewhat clumsy […]

Science Art: A tightly wrapped trefoil knot, identified as the second member of the glueball spectrum, 2003.

6 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Click to embiggen From John P. Ralston’s “The Bohr Atom of Glueballs,” an article describing how to model an atom using rope and glue. Sort of. Ralston does say it’s something anyone can do at home: Measure the {\it lengths} of closed knots tied from ordinary rope. The “double do-nut”, and the beautiful trefoil knot are examples. Tie the knots tightly, and glue or splice the tails into a seamless unity. Compare two knots with corresponding members of the mysterious particle states known as “glueball” candidates in the literature. Propose that the microscopic glueball mass ought to be proportional to the macroscopic mass of the corresponding knot. Have fun making eternal trefoils! A “glueball,” by the way, is a hypothetical particle made of nothing but gluons. Nobody’s made one of them yet….

Wormhole blueprints

4 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Not a hole that worms live in, but the kind that spaceships use to bounce around the galaxy. Science Daily explains how Spanish scientists have created a wormhole in the lab: Scientists in the Department of Physics at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have designed and created in the laboratory the first experimental ‘wormhole’ that can connect two regions of space magnetically. This consists of a tunnel that transfers the magnetic field from one point to the other while keeping it undetectable — invisible — all the way. The researchers used metamaterials and metasurfaces to build the tunnel experimentally, so that the magnetic field from a source, such as a magnet or a an electromagnet, appears at the other end of the ‘wormhole’ as an isolated magnetic monopole. This result is strange enough in itself, as magnetic monopoles — magnets with only one pole, whether north or south — do not exist in nature. The […]

The good news: There are lots more trees than we thought. The bad news: Well….

3 September 2015 // 0 Comments

Washington Post spells out the bad news. There are more trees than we thought, but that means there are a *whole lot* less than there used to be: In a blockbuster study released Wednesday in Nature, a team of 38 scientists finds that the planet is home to 3.04 trillion trees, blowing away the previously estimate of 400 billion. That means, the researchers say, that there are 422 trees for every person on Earth. However, in no way do the researchers consider this good news. The study also finds that there are 46 percent fewer trees on Earth than there were before humans started the lengthy, but recently accelerating, process of deforestation. “We can now say that there’s less trees than at any point in human civilization,” says Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral researcher at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who is the lead author on the research. “Since the spread of human […]

Gene therapy rescues brain cells from Alzheimer’s

2 September 2015 // 0 Comments

The Guardian reports on a new therapy – nerve growth factor – that effectively saves dying brain cells: The new results are preliminary findings from the very first human trials designed to test the potential benefits of nerve growth factor (NGF) gene therapy for Alzheimer’s patients. NGF was discovered in the 1940s by Rita Levi-Montalcini, who convincingly demonstrated that the small protein promotes the survival of certain sub-types of sensory neurons during development of the nervous system. Since then, others have shown that it also promotes the survival of acetylcholine-producing cells in the basal forebrain, which die off in Alzheimer’s. In 2001, Mark Tuszynski and his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine launched a clinical trial based on these findings. … In phase I of this trial, eight patients with mild Alzheimer’s Disease received ex vivo therapy to deliver the NGF gene directly into the brain. This involved first taking […]

Flesh Velcro fixes hearts.

31 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Irish Examiner looks into the “biological Velcro” that could soon help repair damaged hearts: Velcro uses two sheets of material, one covered by hooks and the other loops, that bind when brought together. In a similar way, the scientists used a biodegradable polymer implant containing interlocking T-shaped hooks to assemble different layers of heart cells into a 3D structure. The system allows individual layers to be given different kinds of treatment to maximise their survival. It also means assembled tissue can easily be dismantled, without causing damage. … The team, led by Professor Milica Radisic, from the University of Toronto in Canada, wrote in the journal Science Advances: “We envisioned designing living tissues that could be as easily and firmly assembled as two pieces of Velcro.

Self-driving trucks – no humans *at all* – on Florida’s roads this year.

28 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Popular Science warns us to slow down by construction sites and watch for self-driving trucks on Florida roads by year’s end: The rigs, which are part of a Department of Transportation pilot program, can navigate by following a pre-programmed lead car, via remote control, or by using GPS Waypoint navigation. Daimler’s self-driving tractor trailers have already been testing in Nevada under a special state-granted autonomous license. But like the Google autonomous cars on the road in California, Daimler’s trucks require a human driver to be on board—the vehicles scheduled to deploy to the Sunshine State don’t. The modified medium-duty Freightliners will be used for highway construction projects, and safety was cited as a key factor in removing from the driver from the equation. Video at the link.

“Secretive company” unveils better way to do fusion. (It’s legit.)

27 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Science magazine has an exclusive report on a fusion group that could change everything. They’ve got a reactor that works better than any power source we’ve seen yet: A privately funded company called Tri Alpha Energy has built a machine that forms a ball of superheated gas—at about 10 million degrees Celsius—and holds it steady for 5 milliseconds without decaying away. That may seem a mere blink of an eye, but it is far longer than other efforts with the technique and shows for the first time that it is possible to hold the gas in a steady state—the researchers stopped only when their machine ran out of juice. “They’ve succeeded finally in achieving a lifetime limited only by the power available to the system,” says particle physicist Burton Richter of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who sits on a board of advisers to Tri Alpha. … …[T]he main efforts in this field are […]

What makes tick-borne diseases so tough?

26 August 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature tries to figure out why we’re not making the headway we should against Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the rest of the tick-borne nasties: [Scott] Williams is testing whether vaccinating mice against Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease in the United States, can reduce the proportion of ticks that are infected. Health officials are looking on with interest. Connecticut has one of the highest rates of human Lyme disease in the country, and June is peak time for transmission. Borrelia burgdorferi infects an estimated 329,000 people in the United States each year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. And although most people who get prompt treatment recover quickly — Williams has had Lyme three times — up to one in five develops long-term and potentially life-threatening symptoms, including heart, vision or memory problems, or debilitating joint pain. … Even the time-honoured protective strategies […]

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