Friday, September 29, 2017

Arctic and Science cafe anniversary

You often hear the expression "down under" when talking about Australia. So when the Summit Station and Arctic are in the news, is it "up over?" 

This mind-worm question has me in its grip this Friday afternoon after the incredibly fun and successful Science cafe 10th anniversary event held on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 at the Historic Arkansas Museum.

If you were there, you were treated to several mind altering hands-on virtual reality demos from the UALR Emerging Analytics Lab. The VR applications that encompassed medicine to archaeology were amazing. Plus we had tons of food, Stone's Throw Brewery beer, Loblolly ice cream, cake, food, door prizes, and an interesting virtual reality Science cafe discussion with Carolina Cruz-Neira, director/developer of all things VR. 

If you have a Science cafe in your area, find it and attend the interesting events on a variety of subjects. I started our SC in March of 2007 and it has been super great meeting tons of scientists and local experts talking about topics that they are passionate about. Go science!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Epic Weather Affects Research too

As friends and family paddle out of Hurricane Harvey's wake and Floridians brace for Irma, researchers are making hard decisions about research facilities, costly instrumentation, samples and model systems in the path of oncoming destruction. 

This article by The Scientist gives a great overview of things to be considered as part of organized emergency preparedness for scientists in the face of approaching threats.

Some of these preparations include backing up data and moving critical specimens, organisms, and animals to distant facilities. It is crazy enough trying to get your family safe during violent weather, but having to secure your life's work adds another layer of complexity to the drill. We're thinking about you. Go Science! 

Friday, July 7, 2017

3D Printed Yeast - Brew a glass at a time

I have been interested in 3D printing and all it ramifications for several years. I've even written about it in the Manufacturing Engineering Handbook (see Chapter 15) and have attended national conferences that had me spellbound. 

Today, I came across a breakthrough that everyone can get behind - 3D printed yeast in a tiny lattice bioreactor that keep fermenting glucose forever! (At least they have been going for months and months with no slowing down.)

Dr. Alshakim Nelson and his lab group in the Chemistry dept. at the University of Washington have created ethanol from the 3D printed yeast-infused 1 cm structures and plan to try other substances like proteins or even drugs. 

The question to run on the heels of this discovery is, "Can yeast added to a hydrogel cube be put into fruit juice and it will convert the sugar in the drink to alcohol?" You could brew your own alcoholic beverages in a matter of hours or overnight! For lightweight drinkers like me, you could stop the process at just the alcohol level you want. Science win! And who says the basic sciences don't work for the common good? Go Science!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Plastic Ocean Pollution Alarming

If you are like me, your recycle barrel gets full 2x-3x faster than your garbage bin. We know it's important to recycle plastic and even have little rectangular symbols to help us decide what to recycle and where. 

However, plastic pollution in the oceans is another story. Up to 10 - 20 million tons of plastic litter finds its way into the oceans each year. 

Since the 1960s, scientists have been finding seabirds with stomachs full of plastic. Great floating plastic trash areas like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and Great Atlantic Garbage Patch extend from coast to coast. And tiny fragments called microplastics are insidious in the environment as well. Ranging in size from 100 nanometers to 5 millimeters, they are part of everything from personal-care products to industrial abrasives used for paint removal/cleaning. 

But there is more to the problem, the small size of colorful plastic particles trick many different types of birds, mammals, fish, and more to think they have found food. So they eat them and then other animals eat those - all the way up the food network. Plus, plastics are made of chemicals that break down in the bodies of these consumers. It is not clearly known how much harm this causes (different organisms are different), just that many breakdown chemicals found in plastics are known carcinogens.

So, what can we do in addition to recycling the heck out of our trash? Rethink single use plastics like coffee cup lids. Bring your own to your local barista. If we all shift away from plastics as much as possible. We will make a difference. Go science!