Posts Tagged 'science'

The Chemistry Of Cookies

Cookies are awesome.  No question.  They look brilliant, taste fantastic, and smell amazing!

But have you ever wondered why?  No?  To be honest I hadn’t either, but that inescapable desire for freshly baked cookies once the smell hits your nose is all to do with science.

You stick cookie dough into an oven, and magically, you get a plate of warm, gooey cookies. Except it’s not magic; it’s science.

Here’s another gem from Ted-Ed educator Stephanie Warren that explains exactly why.

So next time you bake some cookies there’s no need to set the kitchen timer, just wait for your nose let you know when the Maillard reaction has taken place.

Proof that “science can be pretty sweet”.  Happy baking!


Origami Robot

Origami and Robots – two things that I love.

Put them together and we seem to be on the verge of having our very own real life transformers (my preference resides with the original, not Michael Bay’s modern day efforts).

Ok, not quite as spectacular as Optimus Prime, nor does it function as much other than a flat sheet when not in robot form, but we now have something that can not only assemble itself but then walk away to do its job… without any human input!

Origami can produce stunningly complex shapes and geometry from a single sheet of paper, it’s even used more often than you might realise in science such as arranging sensors or amplifiers in particularly tight spaces, or understanding 6-dimensional spaces in Cosmology.

Inspired by the 1980s hit toy Shrinky Dinks (I remember making numerous keyrings and magnets) that, when heated, shrink to a hard finish without altering their colour or shape, scientists from Harvard and MIT now have a full electro-mechanical system.

The system consists of a flat polystyrene sheet, a flexible circuit board across each carefully designed hinge, two motors, a microcontroller and two batteries.  The microcontroller instructs the circuits to heat up which folds up the sheet, then, once cooled, the polystyrene hardens and the robot crawls off as tasked.

origami robot

The team from Harvard believes that future versions of this could help with activities from the mundane in helping people sweep leaves off their driveway to launching flat pack satelites that self-assemble into space.

Time and transport costs could also soon cost a fraction of what they are now if functional products can be shipped around as flat sheets and auto-assembled on site (a shelter for disaster zones is a perfect example).

In emergency situations or hard-to-reach places—under a crevice or pile of rubble, let’s say—the ability to deploy a compact robot that can then rearrange itself into a functional one could be a godsend.

There are still many obstacles to overcome, such as the frequency with which these prototypes catch fire due to the heat generated in folding, or the fact that the assembly alone completely drains the battery, but the future holds almost unlimited possibilities for these little guys, and all for materials that cost less than $100 (~£60).

A flat sheet of material is still a long way away from a 1967 Camaro SS or a Western Star truck cab, but given how those films usually end up that’s probably a good thing.

Read the full scientific journal here.





The Science Of Snow Making

With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in full flow I stumbled across this rather apt video from the The New York Times.

It never really occurred to me that there might not be enough snow for all the events to take place, I mean, after all, aren’t the host nations for the Winter Olympics picked because they are cold and snowy?

Turns out that more often than you’d think snow is made by machines as an addition to what is already made by nature.  The equivalent of a 2ft depth across 500 football fields to be more exact.  Quite the addition.

Machines make snow the same way nature does, by freezing water droplets. But they do it a few feet above the ground, rather than in the much colder conditions high in the atmosphere.

Via The Kids Should See This.

The Universe In A Glass Of Wine

It’s Friday, it’s been a long week, and so a glass (or two) of wine is on the cards for this evening.

it is true that if we look in glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe.

Don’t feel guilty, there’s a lot of science and inspiration in that glass you’re holding.  In fact, renowned Physisict Richard Feynman used a simple glass of wine to illustrate how everything in our universe is connected and inexplicably linked.

Feynman’s wise words have been wonderfully visualised by Joe Hanson of science blog It’s Okay to be Smart.

Have a great weekend!

Noisy Jelly

Noisy Jelly.  No, that’s not a typo, I do actually mean Noisy Jelly.

French interaction designers Raphaël Pluvinage and Marianne Cauvard were obviously bored with simply eating their jelly and wanted to stimulate more than just their taste buds.  Cue Noisy Jelly – an interactive and tactile musical instrument which you can make yourself… out of jelly.

NOISY JELLY from Raphaël Pluvinage on Vimeo.

The game board itself is in fact a capacitive sensing device with the differences in the jelly shape and salt concentration, that you create yourself with water and agar powder, affecting the sound.

You can also influence the final audible output with the strength of contact and manipulation you place on it with your hand and fingers.

Found via CR Blog.

E. Chromi

Three years ago a group of seven Cambridge University undergraduates embarked on a summer of genetic engineering, specifically at a bacterial level.

The multi-disciplinary group of designers and scientists designed DNA sequences that encouraged the bacteria to secrete coloured pigments at wavelengths within the spectrum of visible light, meaning that us humans can see them.

This synthetic biology of a single DNA sequence is known as a BioBrick, a mix of designed genes from existing organisms that enable certain types of bacteria to be even more useful.

For example, programming the bacteria to produce a warning colour if toxins are present in what would otherwise be unsafe drinking water.  Indicator potential such as this led to E. chromi winning the Grand Prize at the 2009 International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM).

E. chromi – living colour from bacteria.  Really fascinating stuff.

Follow @echromi on Twitter for their latest project updates.

Nano Art

Recently Wired magazine pitched an article enquiring “can science be art?”.  Given the following, it’s simply a resounding yes.

Ever since his PhD in 1994 Albert Folch, associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington, has been creating beautiful images – the result of a combination of atomic-force and scanning-electron microscopies.  In 1997 he uploaded some of his favourites to the internet and found that other people loved them too, “they were an instant hit”.  You can see why.

Folch has since refined the technique him and his team used in the late nineties, and nowadays uses a high end Canon SLR and a Nikon SMZ1500 dissection microscope to take pictures of both living cells and manipulated micro fluids to a wondrous and beautiful result.  Art on a nano scale, fantastic.

Be sure to check out the Folch Lab YouTube Channel too, some mesmerising effects to be seen.

I could’ve posted many more photos on here, so do check out Albert Folch’s gallery and the Flickr group Lab On A Chip.  Beautiful.

Subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 19,250 other followers

Follow Inspirational Geek on
Bookmark and Share

%d bloggers like this: