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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They’ve got a camera that’s powered *by ambient wi-fi*.

9 June 2015 // 0 Comments

BBC News has some details on a wireless device that gets charged wirelessly, too: The battery-free camera was modified so it could scavenge power from ambient wi-fi signals, store it and then use it to take photos. The experiment was one of several by US researchers looking at ways to use wi-fi as a power source. … The system, known as power-over-wi-fi, has been developed by PhD student Vamsi Talla and colleagues at the Sensor Systems Lab at the University of Washington in Seattle. The team realised that the energy contained in ambient wi-fi signals that are now ubiquitous often came close to the operating voltages required by a variety of low power devices. … The team used the power beaming system to run a temperature sensor and a small surveillance camera that both sat several metres away from a wi-fi hotspot. The low-power camera gathered energy from wi-fi and stored it in a capacitor […]

Wood chips (of the computer variety).

27 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Science Daily peers into the smoke clouds to see the truth behind biodegradable computer chips make from wood: Portable electronics — typically made of non-renewable, non-biodegradable and potentially toxic materials — are discarded at an alarming rate in consumers’ pursuit of the next best electronic gadget. In an effort to alleviate the environmental burden of electronic devices, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has collaborated with researchers in the Madison-based U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) to develop a surprising solution: a semiconductor chip made almost entirely of wood. … “The majority of material in a chip is support. We only use less than a couple of micrometers for everything else,”[UW-Madison electrical and computer engineering professor Zhenqiang “Jack” Ma] says. “Now the chips are so safe you can put them in the forest and fungus will degrade it. They become as safe as fertilizer.”

Mobile phone microscope saving lives (and eyes) in Africa

12 May 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature has more on a cell phone gizmo that’s changing how medicine is done in remote places: In a study in Science Translational Medicine on 6 May, bioengineer Daniel Fletcher of the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues give one example of how mobile phones may change medicine in far-flung areas. They describe a camera-phone microscope and app that can immediately detect the presence of the African eye worm parasite Loa loa in a blood sample. An endemic problem in Central Africa, L. loa grows into a worm that wiggles into the tissue of the eye. The worms are even more problematic when they are picked up along with two other parasitic nematodes, Onchocerca volvulus (which causes river blindness) and Wuchereria bancrofti (which can cause severe limb swelling). This is because one drug typically given to treat those two other parasites, called ivermectin, can cause serious side effects such as brain swelling if a […]

Programmable solids. Any shape you like.

2 March 2015 // 0 Comments

Science magazine is shaping up for a flexible future, with a whole new kind of 3D LCD screen: The moving images we see on a display are created by controlling the net orientation of the molecules, which changes the optical polarization of the liquid so that it either blocks or transmits light. But what if instead of producing an image on a flat screen, your LCD television could transform into different three-dimensional (3D) objects, and then back to a flat screen? Is it possible for soft materials to reproduce shapes instead of images? On page 982 of this issue, Ware et al. (1) demonstrate this possibility with liquid crystal elastomers (LCEs). There are images of the LCEs making different textures on Science‘s Twitter feed.

Screen light too bright, can’t get to sleep at night (now, eyes won’t focus right).

4 November 2014 // 0 Comments

I don’t normally go to Business Insider for science news, but they’ve actually got a pretty good rundown of recent research into the problems with taking smart phones to bed with you: Blue light is part of the full light spectrum, which means we’re exposed to it by the sun every day. However, nighttime exposure to that light, which is emitted at high levels by smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other LED screens, may be damaging your vision. It also suppresses production of the hormone melatonin, which throws off your body’s natural sleep cues. … 1. The damage that this habit does to our eyes alone is both significant and surprising. Direct exposure to blue light can cause damage to the retina. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation warns that retinal damage caused by blue light may lead to macular degeneration, which causes the loss of central vision — the ability to see what’s in front of […]

Clean suit filters pollution out of the air. (And hooks you up to the internet.)

29 September 2014 // 0 Comments

Dezeen, the design magazine, gives the specs on a high-tech suit that cleans the air around the wearer: Designers Borre Akkersdijk and Eva de Laat collaborated with Martijn ten Bhomer from the Eindhoven University of Technology, StudioFriso and Want to create a one-piece suit that has electrical threads woven into the fabric, enabling it to provide GPS, wifi and air-cleaning technologies. “The BB.Suit started because everyone was talking about wearable technology, the bracelets, the glasses,” Akkersdijk told Dezeen. “We thought about how we could really integrate the electrical threads and sensors and not just stick them on.” … “Cold plasma technology is a really high voltage that splits up the particles in the air,” Akkersdijk explained. “It grabs the dust and then it drops, so all the bad particles in the air go down to the ground.” An air-quality sensor integrated into the suit counts the particles of carbon monoxide, methane and dust around the […]

Brain-to-brain communication via EEG over the internet.

4 September 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily breaks the news that telepathy – brain communication through machines – is not only possible, but scientists have already done it across 5,000 miles: “We wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances by leveraging existing communication pathways,” explains coauthor Alvaro Pascual-Leone, MD, PhD, Director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. “One such pathway is, of course, the internet, so our question became, ‘Could we develop an experiment that would bypass the talking or typing part of internet and establish direct brain-to-brain communication between subjects located far away from each other in India and France?’” It turned out the answer was “yes.” In the neuroscientific equivalent of instant […]

Hemp really IS a super-material… in circuitry, that is.

13 August 2014 // 0 Comments

Laboratory Equipment reveals recent findings (as cannabis becomes easier to research) that the marijuana plant might make better supercapacitors than the “wonder material” graphene: David Mitlin explains that supercapacitors are energy storage devices that have huge potential to transform the way future electronics are powered. Unlike today’s rechargeable batteries, which sip up energy over several hours, supercapacitors can charge and discharge within seconds. But they normally can’t store nearly as much energy as batteries, an important property known as energy density. One approach researchers are taking to boost supercapacitors’ energy density is to design better electrodes. Mitlin’s team has figured out how to make them from certain hemp fibers — and they can hold as much energy as the current top contender: graphene. “Our device’s electrochemical performance is on par with or better than graphene-based devices,” Mitlin says. “The key advantage is that our electrodes are made from bio-waste using a simple process, and therefore, […]

E-smell delivered across the Atlantic

19 June 2014 // 0 Comments

Live Science hails a bold new step in connectivity as researchers in New York City successfully transmitted a smell to Paris… via the internet: NEW YORK — The first transatlantic “scent messages” were exchanged today (June 17) between New York City and Paris, and they smelled like champagne and macaroons. At the American Museum of Natural History here in Manhattan, co-inventors David Edwards, a Harvard professor, and Rachel Field showcased their novel scent-messaging platform, which involves tagging photographs with scents selected from a palette of aromas, and sending them via email or social networks. The messages are then played back on a new device called an oPhone. … The scent messages, called oNotes, are composed in an iPhone app called oSnap, which also launched today. Using oSnap, users can mix and match from 32 primitive aromas to produce more than 300,000 unique scents, Edwards said. The 32 aromas are placed inside oPhone’s eight “oChips,” which […]

SONG: “Starter Home”

24 March 2014 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Starter Home.” [Download] (To download: double right-click & “Save As”) ARTIST: grant. SOURCE: Based on “Home Tweet Home: High-Tech Solutions for House and Apartment,” New York Times, 7 March 2014, as used in the post “This home really speaks to me. Over the internet…” ABSTRACT: I recorded most of the music – the backing tracks, everything but the guitar and voice – while on the road visiting friends last week. Turned out pretty well, I think. The guitar has a D-string tuned down an octave, which makes finger-picking (if you can call what I do that) sound really fun. The song… well, I was pretty sure I’d go for the house story as soon as I heard it. The hook for *me* was to do something along the lines of “Lisa” by The Prayers And Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers, a poignant little song that, after a few listens, becomes clear that it’s narrated […]

This home really speaks to me. Over the internet…

10 March 2014 // 1 Comment

The New York Times looks inside the house of tomorrow, which is staying in touch with its owner via Twitter: So it is with Tom Coates’s San Francisco home, which live-tweets the movements of its many gadgets. The account, bearing the dignified title @HouseofCoates, updates the world, and the house’s more than 1,000 followers, on the lighting in the kitchen, the temperature in the sitting room and the frequency with which Mr. Coates weighs himself. For a time, it also tweeted the result. “I have stopped doing that recently because I’ve put on a ton of weight,” he said. A self-described early adopter, Mr. Coates, 41, became obsessed with the idea of web-connected sensors several years ago, and outfitted his home with more than he can count. He has light switches that are controlled by his iPhone, a device that measures whether his plants need water, a motion sensor that informs him, via Twitter, anytime […]

Laser-powered “optochips” could make tiny tech.

30 October 2013 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg explains that circuits using lasers are already around, but tend to be too bulky to fit into your average TV set or smartphone. That might not be true for much longer, though: Through this latest study, the researchers demonstrate how such lasers could be exploited to improve their performance and, potentially, lead to the miniaturisation of future technological devices. The research showcases how, in the future, new ‘bosonic lasers’ emitting terahertz radiation could be fine-tuned to vary or minimise the power required by the laser or to alter the intensity of terahertz radiation. … Dr Gabriela Slavcheva, from the [University of Bath] Department of Physics, said: “There are no such similar resources currently available and this research really opens up the way for new applications in medicine, biology, security, sensing and in high speed computers and high speed communications. “The bosonic terahertz laser will work in tandem with a conventional light emitting diode (LED), […]

NATO creates electronic-stopping beam.

12 September 2013 // 0 Comments

The Telegraph is comparing it to a James Bond movie – a ray that makes any electronic devices in range stop working: Scientists from the UK, Norway, the US, Germany, France and a number of other countries have been working as part of the Nato Science and Technology Organisation to use high powered radio waves and microwaves as non-lethal weapons. Dr Ernst Krogager, task group chairman of the Nato STO group that has been leading this work, code-named SCI-250, described the new electromagnetic beam in a video released on the Nato website. He said: “The ignition generates a very high intensity pulse and it will interfere with the electronic control system inside the car so the car will stop.” The video shows the system being tested in a number of scenarios to defend vehicles and checkpoints from suicide bomb attacks and approaching vehicles. … The new device has been developed in collaboration with defence company […]

Graphene makes *different* computer chips.

4 September 2013 // 0 Comments

University of California, Riverside, researchers have made a very small breakthrough in the way computers work… one that might lead to big changes soon. They’re using atom-thin sheets of carbon to create an entirely new kind of logic circuit: Graphene is a single-atom thick carbon crystal with unique properties beneficial for electronics including extremely high electron mobility and phonon thermal conductivity. However, graphene does not have an energy band gap, which is a specific property of semiconductor materials that separate electrons from holes and allows a transistor implemented with a given material to be completely switched off. … “Most researchers have tried to change graphene to make it more like conventional semiconductors for applications in logic circuits,” [Alexander Balandin, a professor of electrical engineering,] said. “This usually results in degradation of graphene properties. For example, attempts to induce an energy band gap commonly result in decreasing electron mobility while still not leading to sufficiently large […]

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