SONG: "Jump, Jump, Jump."

SONG: “Jump, Jump, Jump”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “Fish and Adaptation: Mangrove Fish Jumps into Air in Warming Water”, Nature World News, 21 Oct 2015, as used in the post “Global warming might make the fish jump.”

ABSTRACT: First, let me say that this was done on time, even early. It started as a jokey thing I was singing to my son while he was watching me play guitar on the couch, and I decided what the hell. They call it “playing” music for a reason. (I guess if I spoke …

Read more

SONG: All Praise Black Ice

SONG: “All Praise Black Ice”.

ARTIST: grant.

SOURCE: Based on “New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto”,, 8 Oct 2015, as used in the post “There’s water ice on another planet. Not Mars. Pluto.”


Laryngitis followed by a business trip and here I am, a couple weeks late. I hope the brass section makes up for that.

(Yes, there’s brass in there, somewhere. I really need help mastering these things, but one does what one can in between everything e…

Read more

Science Art: Taf. V: Feuer-Salamander by Bruno Dürigen.


Fire salamanders.

They don’t look so hot.


Read more

Science Art: Chemical Laboratory room. Experimental Research labs, Burroughs Wellcome and Co. Tuckahoe, New York

Click to embiggen

Welcome to Wellcome.

They’ve got all kinds of wonderful things in their image gallery, including this marvelous experimenter in an even more marvelous experimental lab.

In 1935, this was where the future was made.

Read more

Science Art: Idolo de ignota localidad, Idolo de Arica, Idolo de ignota localidad.

Click to embiggen

Three idols, from the Anales del Museo Nacional de Chile, published between 1892 and 1910.

I found them in the Biodiversity Heritage Library, which is usually full of biological specimens.

These three, however, are a little different… even if no one knows where two of them came from. Arica is a port city near two valleys that divide the Atacama Desert in north Chile.

He (or more likely she, even though as described in the text, “no hai tetas” and “la barba es d…

Read more

SONG: Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)

24 September 2015 // 0 Comments

SONG: “Levitating Diamonds (Tiny Impossible Things)”. [Download] 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 to save time, transposed them into a MIDI thing with an Irish harp soundfont or something like that. The only “live” guitar on here is the little accent tweedles at the end of each verse, laden with all kinds of distortion and delay. Idea-wise, I’m not sure this conveys how weird it is to have something large enough to witness (in some way) that’s in a Schrodinger’s Cat-style superposition. I mean, I’m not sure […]

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 […]

Let’s take a moment to consider the phrase “injectable brain implant.” Because it exists.

9 June 2015 // 0 Comments

Nature describes (and even has photos of) an electronic mesh that can be rolled up and squirted out of a syringe into a mouse brain where it can monitor (and stimulate) individual neurons: If eventually shown to be safe, the soft mesh might even be used in humans to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, says Charles Lieber, a chemist at Harvard University on Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the team. The work was published in Nature Nanotechnology on 8 June. … So far, even the best technologies have been composed of relatively rigid electronics that act like sandpaper on delicate neurons. They also struggle to track the same neuron over a long period, because individual cells move when an animal breathes or its heart beats. The Harvard team solved these problems by using a mesh of conductive polymer threads with either nanoscale electrodes or transistors attached at their intersections. Each strand is as soft as […]

Insects in tiny space suits. Real ones. In a vacuum.

29 January 2015 // 0 Comments

Can’t beat NBC’s headline for this: Insects Wear Tiny Spacesuits, for Science: Scanning electron microscopes (SEM) provide incredibly detailed images of biological specimens, but the instruments have not been able to image living organisms because of the powerful vacuum environment required. But now, a team of researchers has developed a way to image mosquitoes and other insects in an SEM, by wrapping them in a substance that keeps the organisms alive, without interfering with the imaging process. There’s a video of the nano-suits (1,000th the width of a human hair) in action.

Bendy ceramics.

12 September 2014 // 0 Comments

Science Daily explores the weird, microscopic world of making ceramics that can bend and twist and smush and reform: Caltech materials scientist Julia Greer and her colleagues…explain how they used the method to produce a ceramic (e.g., a piece of chalk or a brick) that contains about 99.9 percent air yet is incredibly strong, and that can recover its original shape after being smashed by more than 50 percent. “Ceramics have always been thought to be heavy and brittle,” says Greer, a professor of materials science and mechanics in the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech. “We’re showing that in fact, they don’t have to be either. This very clearly demonstrates that if you use the concept of the nanoscale to create structures and then use those nanostructures like LEGO to construct larger materials, you can obtain nearly any set of properties you want. You can create materials by design.”. … They found […]

Home-baked carbon crystals – graphene made to order.

22 April 2014 // 0 Comments

Nature is sharing a fun little recipe for whipping up the super-material graphene in a kitchen blender: In Nature Materials, a team led by [Jonathan] Coleman [at Trinity College, Dublin,] (and funded by the UK-based firm Thomas Swan) describe how they took a high-power (400-watt) kitchen blender and added half a litre of water, 10–25 millilitres of detergent and 20–50 grams of graphite powder (found in pencil leads). They turned the machine on for 10–30 minutes. The result, the team reports: a large number of micrometre-sized flakes of graphene, suspended in the water. Coleman adds, hastily, that the recipe involves a delicate balance of surfactant and graphite, which he has not yet disclosed (this barrier dissuaded me from trying it out; he is preparing a detailed kitchen recipe for later publication). And in his laboratory, centrifuges, electron microscopes and spectrometers were also used to separate out the graphene and test the outcome. … “It is […]

Latest graphene surprise: a better conductor than expected.

11 February 2014 // 0 Comments

Or: “Weird substance gets weirder.” Nature has more on how the latest tests have thrown models of how carbon circuits are supposed to work into disarray: In graphene, electrons can move faster than in any other material at room temperature. But techniques that cut sheets of graphene into the narrow ribbons needed to form wires of a nano-scale circuit leave ragged edges, which disrupt the electron flow (see ‘Graphene: The quest for supercarbon’). Now a team led by physicist Walt de Heer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta has made ribbons that conduct electric charges for more than 10 micrometres without meeting resistance — 1,000 times farther than in typical graphene nanoribbons. The ribbons made by de Heer’s team in fact conduct electrons ten times better than standard theories of electron transport suggest they should, say the authors. This unimpeded motion means that circuits could transmit signals faster and without the overheating issues […]

Waterproof? *METAL* proof.

26 November 2013 // 0 Comments

Remember the superhero fashion designer in The Incredibles? Nature unfolds the true story of a “super-material” that repels liquids so well, it resists molten metal: Kripa Varanasi, a mechanical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and his colleagues used a water-repellent material which they further engineered by adding tiny ridges 0.1 millimetres high. They then recorded water droplets hitting the surface with a high-speed camera that filmed at 10,000 frames per second or more. The ridges forced the liquid to splash asymmetrically, so that it recoiled faster than on a macroscopically smooth surface. The time that the water spent in contact with the surface fell by 37% compared to the same material with no ridges, the authors measured. The researchers repeated the experiment with droplets of molten tin. On a surface without ridges, the liquid metal quickly solidified. But the effect of the ridges was strong enough to make the droplets bounce […]

3D smartphone display, no glasses required.

16 September 2013 // 0 Comments

We’re getting closer to having hologram projectors in our pockets, as befits people living in the future. PhysOrg reports on the latest step – a system that converts mobile-device displays into three-dimensional images: Launched earlier this year, EyeFly3D, the first glasses-free 3D accessory for smartphones, has just picked up its first award from IES. The technology is based on a simple concept of taking a regular plastic film and engineering about half a million uniform-sized mini lenses onto its surface, turning the plastic into an add-on screen protector that produces unprecedented, distortion-free, brilliant 3D content on mobile devices. … For this engineering feat, scientists from A*STAR’s IMRE and TP employ a combination of materials nanotechnology and integrated software, using a unique nanoimprinting process on the plastic – akin to making a waffle – to create an array of high resolution lenses. The engineered lenses are so small that they are barely visible to the human […]

Tiny diamonds zap cancer.

11 September 2013 // 0 Comments

PhysOrg has the brilliant news about using itty bitty flecks of precious stones to boost the power of medication to treat exceptionally stubborn cases of leukemia: Daunorubicin is currently one of the most common drugs used to treat leukemia. The drug works by slowing down or stopping cancer cells from growing, causing many of them to die. It is also common, however, for leukemia to become resistant to this drug after treatment. One mechanism by which this opposition, commonly known as chemoresistance, happens is through the expression of drug transporter pumps in leukemia cells that actively pump out chemotherapeutics, including Daunorubicin. … The team of scientists from NUS and UCLA turned to nanodiamonds, which are tiny, carbon-based particles that are 2 to 8 nanometers in diameter, as an option to address chemoresistance. Dr Chow studied the biological basis of how nanodiamonds can potentially overcome chemoresistance. The scientists bound the surfaces of nanodiamonds with Daunorubicin, and […]

Science Art: Fulleride Cs3C60 by Dmitri Zaitsev and Joffe Ilya Naftolevich

8 September 2013 // 0 Comments

This is a buckyball crystal, a form of carbon that no one had ever seen until the 1980s. Now, it’s starting to get used in all kinds of unexpected ways. Formally, this stuff is is known as Carbon-60 or buckminsterfullerene, because the molecule looks so much like a geodesic dome as envisioned by R. Buckminster Fuller. Because of its weird shape, fulleride can do strange things at the sub-molecular level. In some ways, the discovery of buckyballs marked the dawn of nanotechnology. And also a great missed advertising opportunity for professional soccer….

Lasers made of sound. Call them… phasers.

18 March 2013 // 0 Comments

Wired reveals the weird ways nanotechnologists are making sound behave like light… this time, by creating a Star Trek weapon in the lab: Because laser is an acronym for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation,” these new contraptions – which exploit particles of sound called phonons – should properly be called phasers. Such devices could one day be used in ultrasound medical imaging, computer parts, high-precision measurements, and many other places. … “In our work, we got rid of this optical part,” said engineer Imran Mahboob of NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Japan, co-author of a paper describing the new sound lasers that appears Mar. 18 in Physical Review Letters. Because they need one less part, these new phasers “are much easier to integrate into other applications and devices.” In traditional lasers, a bunch of electrons in a gas or crystal are excited all at the same time. When they relax back to their […]

We’ll all be staring at quantum dots.

20 February 2013 // 0 Comments

The Economist is gazing into the pretty colors…not of quantum computers, but quantum television screens: An LCD screen works with a backlight shining through red, blue or green filters to produce the pixels which make up an image. Many televisions use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as the backlight because they are brighter and use less power than fluorescent bulbs. Sony’s new televisions uses quantum dots with conventional LEDs to produce a hybrid backlight of greater intensity. In time, though, quantum dots might be used directly as the coloured pixels on screens. When a voltage is applied to a quantum dot it causes electrons contained in the crystal to release energy in the form of light. Changing the size of the dots changes the amount of energy released, which in turn determines the wavelength, and therefore the colour of the emitted light. This means they can be made into nanoscopic LEDs and, in principle, be tailored to […]

Draw your own circuits with nanotube pencils.

11 October 2012 // 0 Comments

Extreme Tech gets right to the point of a new technology – a mechanical pencil that can draw functional electronic circuits: With MIT’s carbon nanotube pencil, the lead is formed by compressing single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), until you have a substance that looks and behaves very similarly to graphite. The difference, though, is that drawing with MIT’s pencil actually deposits whole carbon nanotubes on paper — and carbon nanotubes have some rather exciting properties. In this case, MIT is utilizing the fact that SWCNTs are very electrically conductive — and that this conductivity can be massively altered by the introduction of just a few other atoms, namely ammonia. … There are two main takeaways here. The first is that MIT has found a form of carbon nanotubes that is stable, safe, and cheap to produce. Second, carbon nanotubes have been used in sensors before, but usually the process involves dissolving SWCNTs in solvents, which can […]

Weird carbon goes *plasmonic*.

22 June 2012 // 0 Comments

Graphene, as we all now know, is the latest strange form of carbon to wow material scientists with its unusual properties. Well, New Scientist shows that graphene is even stranger than we thought, turning regular old electricity into ultra-focused plasmons: When light hits some materials in just the right way, ripples of electrons called plasmons appear on the surface. These rippling surfaces can focus light through openings smaller than light’s wavelength, so might allow microscopes with unprecedented resolution. … “We can basically turn plasmons on and off, something you cannot do with metals,” says Dmitri Basov of the University of California, San Diego, who led one of the teams. As well as microscopes, the ability to switch plasmons could be useful when building circuits and also metamaterials, which can bend light around objects by controlling its path. Getting closer to magic every day.

1 2