Friday, December 8, 2017

Scallops' Eyes are Amazing

It's known that scallops have dozens, sometimes hundreds, of eyes. In fact, their retinal design provides an elegant example of nature's engineering. However, these structures are difficult to study in a lab due to drying and other physical deterioration. 

So, Lia Addadi at the Weizmann Institute of Science and her team, including Benjamin Palmer and Gavin Taylor  decided to try a cryo-scanning electron microscope and the rapid freezing of samples to keep delicate and important structures intact. 

With this method, they discovered that scallops' eyes each have a segmented mirror that grows individually. They are made of square, flat, guanine crystals (a millionth of a meter wide) that link together into a grid. 

Stacked groups of grids (20-30) have liquid filling the spaces between them. The crystals and separating spaces are 74 and 86 billionths of a meter thick which works well at reflecting blue-green light in the ocean environment.

The group also noticed that the mirror crystal segments are not inactive, but seem to grow inside the cells of the scallop’s eye, filling them up. Then, they join together to form a uniform mosaic layer. 

So now that we know how scallops' eyes develop, the next research question is whether they all provide images individually or combine information into a single complex image? I can't wait to find out. Go science!

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!