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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If our diets alone are making us obese, why are vervet monkeys and mice overweight too?

2 October 2015 // 0 Comments

Aeon asks some interesting questions about what’s really making us fatter – and why: As Richard L Atkinson, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin and editor of the International Journal of Obesity, put it in 2005: ‘The previous belief of many lay people and health professionals that obesity is simply the result of a lack of willpower and an inability to discipline eating habits is no longer defensible.’ Consider, for example, this troublesome fact, reported in 2010 by the biostatistician David B Allison and his co-authors at the University of Alabama in Birmingham: over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. In fact, the researchers examined records on those eight species and […]

One drink makes you cuter. (Not the people around you, but the person doing the drinking.)

3 March 2015 // 0 Comments

Live Science grants us deep insight into the biochemistry of the bar pickup, revealing that prospective partners look a whole lot better after they’ve had one drink than they do after two: In the study, 40 students at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom volunteered to get a little tipsy. To see how the students’ appearances changed with each drink, the researchers photographed their faces three times: when sober, after drinking the equivalent of one glass of wine, and after drinking a second alcoholic drink. The participants were asked to make a neutral facial expression for each photo. A separate group of heterosexual students then rated how attractive they found each headshot in side-by-side comparisons. They saw either a photo of a person sober next to a photo of the person taken after one drink, or a sober photo next to a photo taken after two drinks. It turned out that the photos […]

Love (hormone) against alcoholism.

25 February 2015 // 0 Comments

L.A. Times examines the biochemical power that love – or at least the “love hormone” oxytocin – has to neutralize alcohol and beat alcoholism: …[N]ew research finds that, in male rats at least, oxytocin also blunts the inebriating effects of moderately heavy doses of alcohol. It does so, the study found, by suppressing the activity of receptors in the brain–GABA receptors, which respond to the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid–that are key nodes in the circuitry of reward-related behaviors and addiction. That finding prompted the study’s authors to suggest the intriguing proposition that oxytocin might reduce cravings across a range of addictive behaviors. To explore the interaction between oxytocin and alcohol, researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia first gave young adult male rats an infusion of oxytocin and then administered a dose of alcohol roughly equivalent to a human drinking a bottle of wine over a few hours. On a battery of tests, a comparison […]

SONG: White coffee and omelets.

24 February 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “White Coffee and Omelets.” [Download] ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Cut Sugary Drinks; Add Coffee, Eggs“, Laboratory Equipment, 20 February 2015,as used in the post “Breakfast is championed (at last)”. ABSTRACT: Yeah, this is a song about high-cholesterol food as deus ex machina. The first thing that came to me was the chorus about General La Salle (while I was doing yard work, naturally). I’d been reading “The Pit and the Pendulum” to my son as a bedtime story (for peaceful sleep, of course) and we were both disconcerted by the ending. And the way nutritional guidelines keep veering off the expected route… similarly disconcerting. The percussion was inspired by a recent (or at least recent to me) Song Exploder on The Books. I couldn’t get my turntable to do the cool analog loopy thing with the runoff groove (the arm always wants to return home), but did get some interesting sounds using PVC […]

Breakfast is championed (at last)

21 February 2015 // 0 Comments

Laboratory Equipment preaches the (newly embraced) health benefits of a cholesterol-laden, high-caffeine breakfast, championing the joys of coffee and eggs, hold the sugar, not the salt: Recommendations this week from a government advisory committee call for an environmentally friendly diet lower in red and processed meats. But the panel would reverse previous guidance on limiting dietary cholesterol. And it says the caffeine in a few cups of coffee could actually be good for you. The committee also is backing off stricter limits on salt, though it says Americans still get much too much. It’s recommending the first real limits on added sugar, saying that’s especially a problem for young people. The Agriculture and Health and Human Services Departments will take those recommendations into account in writing final 2015 dietary guidelines by the end of the year. The guidelines affect nutritional patterns throughout the country — from federally subsidized school lunches to food package labels to […]

Honeybee stuff makes your hair grow.

19 December 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily takes a look at propolis, the sticky putty-like stuff honeybees use to seal up their hives. There are all kinds of health claims made about it, but one study shows that it can boost hair growth: People from ancient times had noticed propolis’ special properties and used it to treat tumors, inflammation and wounds. More recently, research has shown that the substance promotes the growth of certain cells involved in hair growth though no one had yet tested whether that in turn would result in new locks. … When [Ken Kobayashi and his team] tested propolis on mice that had been shaved or waxed, the mice that received the treatment regrew their fur faster than those that didn’t. The scientists also noticed that after the topical application, the number of special cells involved in the process of growing hair increased.

Antimicrobial soap might be killing you.

18 November 2014 // 0 Comments

Sorry, was that overdramatic? Science Daily is calmer in reporting that University of California researchers have found that Triclosan, the stuff that makes antibacterial soap work, causes liver fibrosis and cancer: “Triclosan’s increasing detection in environmental samples and its increasingly broad use in consumer products may overcome its moderate benefit and present a very real risk of liver toxicity for people, as it does in mice, particularly when combined with other compounds with similar action,” said Robert H. Tukey, PhD, professor in the departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Pharmacology. Tukey led the study, together with Bruce D. Hammock, PhD, professor at University of California, Davis. … Tukey, Hammock and their teams, including Mei-Fei Yueh, PhD, found that triclosan disrupted liver integrity and compromised liver function in mouse models. Mice exposed to triclosan for six months (roughly equivalent to 18 human years) were more susceptible to chemical-induced liver tumors. Their tumors were also larger and […]

“Amaze balls: Testicles site of most diverse proteins”

7 November 2014 // 0 Comments

Yes, New Scientist comes up with another headline you just can’t beat: Congratulations testicles, you make more unique proteins than any other tissue in the body. The proteins in our cells and tissues are responsible for everything from repair and maintenance to the production of signalling chemicals. You might expect that the brain, being our most sophisticated organ, would produce the widest array of proteins. But while the brain hosts 318 unique proteins that we know of, testicles are home to 999. Can’t beat the angle there, either.

Clean up E. coli by spilling some human proteins on it.

30 June 2014 // 0 Comments

OK, maybe “spilling” is a little imprecise, but Scientific American has the details on how to use a blood plasma extract to clean E. coli out of drinking water: The elegant method, devised by Teruyuki Komatsu and co-workers at Chuo University, Tokyo, begins by depositing microtubes made from alternating layers of human serum albumin (HSA) and poly-L-arginine onto a polycarbonate template. The template is then dissolved away to leave a hollow tube, which is just the right size to fit the E. coli bacterium. Key to removing E. coli from a solution is its strong binding affinity for HSA, which attracts the bacteria into the tube. So effective is this binding, that just 1.5?g of microtubes, added to a liter of contaminated water containing 100,000 bacteria were able to remove the bacteria with almost 100% efficiency. The final touch is the incorporation of a layer of magnetite (iron (II) oxide) nanoparticles into the microtubes to […]

Tobacco will save us all.

15 April 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily has the skinny on how we might wind up using fast-growing, high-density tobacco to save the planet from global warming – by creating bioethanol: In the course of the research, which has been echoed by the journal Molecular Breeding, tobacco plants of the Virginia Gold and Havana commercial cultivars have been grown. The plants were genetically modified to increase their production of starch and sugars, which contributes to the increase in ethanol production. As Prof [Jon Veramendi, head of the Basque Research Agrobiotechnology research group] explained, “what has been done now is fieldwork with these two tobacco cultivars and it has been found that the starch and sugars in the tobacco leaf are in fact higher.” Traditional tobacco growing allows the plant to develop and the leaves to grow and get bigger, as the nicotine is synthesised when the plant is more mature. However, if the plants are used for producing biofuels, the […]

A cure for love.

14 February 2014 // 0 Comments

New Scientist examines the biochemical roots of the emotion we call “love” – and the chemicals we could take to reverse the symptoms: …[E]thics aside, what could a cure for love look like? First things first: what is love? For Shakespeare, it “is an ever-fixed mark, that looks on tempests and is never shaken”. For neuroscientists, it’s less poetic: a neurobiological phenomenon that falls into three subtypes: lust, attraction and attachment – all of which increase our reproductive and parental success. Each aspect is grounded in a suite of overlapping chemical systems in the brain. There are ways to diminish each of them, says Helen Fisher at Rutgers University in New Jersey, but they aren’t always palatable. … Drugs that boost serotonin can offer relief to people with OCD, so it’s reasonable to think that they could also help to dampen lustful feelings. These drugs include antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are known […]

Let’s bake up some stem cells!

3 February 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature‘s sharing a recipe to make your own stem cells from scratch – by reprogramming ordinary cells in an acid bath: In 2006, Japanese researchers reported1 a technique for creating cells that have the embryonic ability to turn into almost any cell type in the mammalian body — the now-famous induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. In papers published this week in Nature2, 3, another Japanese team says that it has come up with a surprisingly simple method — exposure to stress, including a low pH — that can make cells that are even more malleable than iPS cells, and do it faster and more efficiently. “It’s amazing. I would have never thought external stress could have this effect,” says Yoshiki Sasai, a stem-cell researcher at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, and a co-author of the latest studies. It took Haruko Obokata, a young stem-cell biologist at the same centre, five years […]

Boeing announces (with much hype) new way to turn deserts into biofuel farms.

30 January 2014 // 0 Comments

Energy Post calls it “the BIGGEST BREAKTHROUGH EVER!” That seems a bit much, but it is interesting that a Boeing-sponsored group in Abu Dhabi has figured out how to make super-clean, super-cheap oil from salt-tolerant desert plants: What researchers at the Masdar Institute have been studying is a category of plants called halophytes. These plants have naturally evolved to be able to live on salt water. Not only that: they are also able to live in arid lands, in deserts. “If you look around you here [in Abu Dhabi], most of the plants you see are halophytes.” Clearly if it is possible to grow plants in deserts around the world, and use them for biofuels, that would be an ideal solution. It would solve the major problems of traditional biofuels – use of fresh water and arable land – at one stroke. “Twenty per cent of the world’s land is either desert or becoming desert […]

Lab-grown meat: first taste “feels like a conventional hamburger”

5 August 2013 // 0 Comments

AP (via Yahoo!) has the first reactions to meat grown in a petri dish rather than on a farm: Two volunteers who participated in the first public frying of hamburger grown in a lab said Monday that it had the texture of meat but was short of flavor because of the lack of fat. Mark Post, whose team at Maastricht University in the Netherlands developed the burger, hopes that making meat in labs could eventually help feed the world and fight climate change. That goal is many years distant, at best. … “I would say it’s close to meat. I miss the salt and pepper,” said Austrian nutritionist Hanni Ruetzler, one of the volunteer tasters. Both shunned the bun and sliced tomatoes to concentrate on the meat. “The absence is the fat, it’s a leanness to it, but the bite feels like a conventional hamburger,” said U.S. journalist Josh Schonwald. He added that he had […]

“Human meat is not on the menu. Sorry.”

27 February 2013 // 0 Comments

Reddit’s just had a Q&A with the CEO of a company dedicated to 3D printing edible meat: At Modern Meadow we’re developing technology to 3D-bioprint meat and leather. In fact, we’ve already made some, which you can see my co-founder and father eat in his TED talk here (at 5:33). Why are we doing this? Meat is one of the most environmentally taxing resources, taking up one third of all available (ice-free) land and is a leading contributor to climate change. Conversely, growing cultured meat requires 99% less land, 96% less water, emits 96% fewer greenhouse gases, and harms no animals in the process. … [–]newyankee What is the input , what is the output ? Explain like i am five, for 1 kg of meat , what is needed ? [–]aforgacs[S] The input are largely animal cells (muscle, fat and a couple other types – taken from a donor animal through a biopsy) and […]

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