Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stain Free Materials with Nanotechnology

Always looking for ways to become a laundry ninja, I happened across nanoparticle research being done by Dr. Anish Tuteja, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Arun Kota, PhD, at the University of Michigan on coatings that not only resist stains and liquids (e.g., honey, syrup, sulfuric acid, etc.) but actually bounce off it. 

The new coatings could be applied to waterproof paints that reduce drag on ships, phones to eliminate any and all fingerprints, as well as windshields and ski goggles that would never spot. Moreover, the coating could lead to breathable garments that would protect soldiers and scientists from chemicals and microorganisms. Go science!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Checking Out A Mars Comet Flyby

We tend to forget how much space hardware we have in our cosmic quiver. Now these space science assets are gearing up for a once-in-a-lifetime comet (C/2013 A1) flyby of Mars on October 19, 2014. The comet, also called Siding Spring, will pass within 87,000 miles (139,500 km) of our neighboring planet. This may not seem like a near miss, but to put it into perspective, it is less than half the distance to our moon from Earth. 

NASA expects Siding Spring (coming from the Oort Cloud 5,000 - 100,000 astronomical units away and thought to be left from the formation of the solar system) to pass by Mars with little problem, but the debris trail that accompanies comets may be a different story. [NASA rovers Curiosity and Opportunity should be fine and checking out the visitor.] Time will tell.

In any event, we Earthlings and our NASA instrumentation/satellites will have front row seats to the action. Go science!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Arkansas Science Festival

Since I love science and technology, some of you have probably heard me say, "All science, all the time" when asked about my interests and this blog. Well, here is another chance to share science research and discoveries. On October 6th, 2014, I will be hosting a Science Cafe at Godfrey's in Jonesboro, AR, starting at 6:30 p.m. as part of the Arkansas Science Festival.

The topic is: Rocket Science - Motors, Models, and Microorganisms in Space Exploration. My panelists will be David Thomas, Ph.D., Prof. of Biology, Lyon College, Ed Wilson, Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry, Harding University, and Tillman Kennon, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Science Education, Arkansas State University. Each of these folks do research in various aspects of space exploration. It will be a fun and relaxed evening with each panelist speaking for a few minutes about his work and then the event opened up for Q&A.

I may also be persuaded to provide a few stories from my 13 years at NASA- Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX and will have a some of my science books available for purchase afterwards. I look forward to seeing you there! Go science!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Crickets in Hawaii Go Silent

Flatwing cricket )Teleogryllus oceanicus)
Some people might not like the chirping sound that crickets make. I love it (except in the middle of the night from under the bed). 

In Hawaii, happy chirping crickets (trying to attract mates) attracted parasitic, burrowing flies (Ormia ochracea) that preyed on them by listening for their sounds. 

University of Minnesota biologist, Marlene Zuk, Ph.D. has studied crickets in Kauai since 1991. Every year that she traveled to the islands offered fewer and fewer cricket calls until there was silence in 2003. 

It turns out the crickets hadn't disappeared, but simply evolved into stealth mode to survive the predatory flies. Original males that rubbed their wings together like a file on comb teeth to attract females were targeted by the flies, but new and improved males with newly mutated wings (without the file/teeth structures) were safe. The silent crickets flourished "under the radar" of the burrowing flies and grew in numbers.

The same thing happened on the island of Oahu roughly 3 years later in a case of independent evolutionary convergence. (Mother Nature catches on when she has a good thing!)

It looks like the strong, silent type of male is attractive in the cricket world, too.
Go science!