Passing Gas

Making Gases More Transportable: Methane Gas Converted To Powder Form

Scientists have developed a material made out of a mixture of silica and water which can soak up large quantities of methane molecules. The material looks and acts like a fine white powder which, if developed for industrial use, might be easily transported or used as a vehicle fuel.

Methane is the principal component of natural gas and can be burnt in oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water. The abundance of the gas and its relatively clean burning process makes it a good source of fuel, but due to its gaseous state at room temperature, methane is difficult to transport from its source.

Asking for Directions

15 of the Most Amazing Mazes and Labyrinths

Unlike a labyrinth, which is designed to be contemplative but easy to complete, a maze is intentionally difficult to navigate. Both labyrinths and mazes symbolically reveal two sides of the human spirit: complexity and simplicity; mystery and design; intuition and sensory experience. They are emblematic of the eternal philosophical tension between free will and fate. Here are some of the most complex, beautiful, and creative mazes and labyrinths around the world.

Acid Trip Illusion


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When it tells you to look away at the end, look at something with contrast and texture, like with lettering. Not the wall. You can keep looking at the video — the effect you see is in your mind, not in the video.

Stir, Stir, Stir

Thursday I stirred the pot and linked to some dredged-up Larry Summers controversy (It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time); I was dealing with a cold and didn’t include commentary while my head was foggy.

But I’m starting to feel better, and Cherish has raised some points and so here’s what my thinking behind this was.

One of the confounding issues here is the source amnesia that is going on — we remember statements made by non-credible sources, and forget the source before we forget the statement. We remember things not because they are true, but because they are repeated, and with that comes myths and falsehoods stuck in our memory. We all “know” Al Gore invented the internet, but fewer know that Gore didn’t actually claim that. The Summers controversy is similar. (And when I taught, I discovered that my students had a “not” filter: if you told them “X is not true,” the first thing they would do is forget the negation and thereafter believe that “X is true.”) So the first order of business is to read what he actually said, rather than rely on what we remember, or what others repeatedly told us he said.

Secondly, a disclaimer. Sexism and discrimination exist. Of this I have no doubt. I’ve seen it happen, both in academia and elsewhere (Sheesh, I was in the military, which is (still) a bastion for such behavior). I don’t like it, and try not to be a practitioner. Nothing in this should be misconstrued to think I’m denying or condoning such behavior.

The problem is this: there are times when the discussion about disparity of representation in areas of STEM (particularly academia) begins and ends with sex discrimination, and I have a problem with that. What I don’t understand why how other scientists don’t take issue with dismissal of requests to look at the situation scientifically, as with an attitude of not looking at other data, or how raising a question of “Have we looked at X?” is shouted down.
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Piiiiics iiiiin Spaaaaaace!

No, not the Swinetrek. The International Space Station turns 10

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the first launched module of the International Space Station (ISS). The module Zarya was lifted into orbit on November 20th, 1998 by a Russian Proton rocket lifting off from Baikonur, Kazhakstan. In the decade since, 44 manned flights and 34 unmanned flights have carried further modules, solar arrays, support equipment, supplies and a total of 167 human beings from 15 countries to the ISS, and it still has a ways to go until it is done. Originally planned to be complete in 2003, the target date for completion is now 2011. Aside from time spent on construction, ISS crew members work on a good deal of research involving biology and physics in conditions of microgravity. If humans are ever to leave the Earth for extended periods, the ISS is designed to be the place where we will discover the best materials, procedures and safety measures to make it a reality. (32 photos total)

The Little Picture

It’s really the Big Picture, but the topic is Peering into the micro world

A team of University of Michigan researchers has recently created a set of electron microscope images of carbon nanotube structures depicting images of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama. John Hart, leader of the research team says it wasn’t a political statement, but an attempt to draw attention to what is possible these days with nanotechnology, and imaging at the very small scale. I’ll take him up on this invitation and share with you some other images of very tiny things in our world. For visualizing the scale, most measurements below are in microns – one micron is a millionth of a meter – human hair is approximately 100 microns thick. (32 photos total)

My own electron microscope pictures are not quite so ornate.