Science Ahoy!

a legacy of our discomgoogolation

Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category


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As if we needed an excuse to drink beer.

a group of Rice University students are […] using genetic engineering to create beer that contains resveratrol, a chemical in wine that’s been shown to reduce cancer and heart disease in lab animals.

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Written by Elgie Shepard

October 17, 2008 at 8:03 am

Slimy Propulsion

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First the gecko.  Now the snail.

`A UC San Diego engineer has revealed a new mode of propulsion based on how water snails create ripples of slime to crawl upside down beneath the surface. […]

Some freshwater and marine snails crawl by “hanging” from the water surface while secreting a trail of mucus. The snail’s foot wrinkles into little rippling waves, which produces corresponding waves in the mucus layer that it secretes between the foot and the air. […]

Anette Hosoi of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has already imitated the adhesive/ lubricating propulsive method of land snails to drive a robotic device.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 11, 2008 at 11:57 am

Technology Challenged

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Some of us are technologically challenged.  Don’t discriminate us, it is a natural shortcoming that is beyond our control.

My Nokia T-mobile phone died out of energy drain, and I was clueless for the last two hours on how to switch it back on.  Tried holding down the red hang-up button until all blood circulation to my thumb ceased.  Held the # button until I could no more.  Held the menu button with my right thumb, the * button with my left, the caller id button with the left toe and number 5 with the right toe, but to no avail.

So, decided to leave it in the hands of higher power and googled “”how to switch on a nokia”.  These are the top hits:

It is truly comforting to know that there are other desperate souls out there who beg Nokia to have a labeled on-off switch to turn the darn thing.

Amen to you, fellow human being in pain.

I particularly like the advise to buy a new phone, although I am not quite sure how useful THAT would be unless it has a SWITCH labeled and colored in fluorescent paint for techno-challenged people like us.

PS:  After rolling on the floor for a few minutes laughing at my Herculean efforts at switching on the blessed instrument, Aaron pressed some nondescript portion on the cell and voila, it came back to life.  Helps to have a techno geek around.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 6, 2008 at 4:10 pm

Something’s Fishy

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Electricity from coal? yes.  Wind? yes. Sun? yes.  Atoms? yes.


Applying modern engineering design tools to one of the basic units of life, they [researchers at Yale University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology] argue that artificial cells could be built that not only replicate the electrical behavior of electric eel cells but in fact improve on them. Artificial versions of the eel’s electricity generating cells could be developed as a power source for medical implants and other tiny devices, they say.

It seems electric eels have special cells called electrocytes that can generate electric potentials of up to 600 volts. The article goes on to say that

LaVan and partner Jian Xu developed a complex numerical model to represent the conversion of ion concentrations to electrical impulses and tested it against previously published data on electrocytes and nerve cells to verify its accuracy. Then they considered how to optimize the system to maximize power output by changing the overall mix of channel types.

Written by Elgie Shepard

October 4, 2008 at 11:18 am