Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Whispering Galleries and Detecting Viruses

Do you remember when you were a young child and loved to stand under a dome and talk or even yell? The sound reverberated and made you feel very important! (Or as important as a 5 year old can feel.) The mystery of your amplified self was fun and thrilling.

Now researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, MO have gone many steps further than your simple childhood experimentation. 

Professor Nan Yang, PhD of the Nano/Micro Photonics Laboratory, Electrical and Systems Engineering Department at Washingtong Univ. has created an optical whispering gallery. It makes use of light "to interact with a single particle over thousands to millions of times to greatly enhance interactions between light and the sub-wavelength particle." The awesome sensitivity of this tiny, on-chip device is a huge breakthrough in the optical sensing of airborne particles and viruses.

Soon disease vectors like viruses will have no place to hide. Go science!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Science Images Online

Since I write about science, I often use or link to associated science and technology images. I've also taken some of my own photos to include in science updates. You can find this image of an equation written on glass and others at the stock photography site, Dreamstime.com

I think of science and technical photography as creative cross-training. It give me new ways of looking at things for my writing and research.

Interested in World War II diesel submarine technology? I took a series of photographs recently aboard the USS Razorback-394. Everything from views through a hatch, water cutoff valves, and navigation panels to an old school diving officer's checklist panel and torpedo launch controls.

Do you have ways to stir your creative or scientific creativity? Go science!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Human Touch

Think science isn't very "touchy feely?" Think again. 

Researchers, engineers and students in the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Biomechatronics Lab are building artificial limbs to be more tactile or sensitive to touch.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the team led by mechanical engineer, Veronica J. Santos, Ph.D. is creating a touch language translatable by computers and humans. The researchers test robotic touch with mechanical pressure sensors that interact with objects of various shapes, sizes and textures. With cutting edge instrumentation, Santos' team is able to translate touch interaction into computer data.

Santos' results will be used to for a formula or algorithm that allows the computer to identify patterns among the items in its library of tested experiences and things it has never felt before. This work will help researchers further develop artificial haptic (sense of touch) skills and provide robots and human prostheses with the "human touch."
Go Science!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Slime Mold Maps Roman Roads


Okay. I have officially heard it all. Microbiology and archaeology combine to retrace lost Roman roads. 

What?! 

I know. I was skeptical too. Well, here's basically how it works/tracks back to Roman times. Molds want to find food via the shortest path between points A and B. So, they meander (slime along) until they get to the food (a flake of oatmeal). The odd thing is that when food was placed in roughly the places (on agar in a petri dish) as 17 towns and major cities of the ancient Roman empire, the slime mold traveled the same route as the Roman roads. Researchers found this to be true of known (and still used) roads as well as military roads only described in ancient travel texts. Interesting! So next time I need directions, I might try a trusty slime mold. It would take days, but all for the advancement of science, I say!