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Showing posts from 2014

Salt and Water Waltz [Video]

If you have enjoyed watching the video above, then you are going to absolutely love the science behind it that makes it possible! 
All this chemical dancing was made possible by a simple finding that we can move objects using sound waves. This requires no spells that you can learn only at the Hogwarts School of Wizardry, but just the simple application of acoustic levitation. Scientists have been able to levitate light objects using nothing but sound waves (at particular frequencies) from a speaker. But researchers Dimos Poulikakos and Daniele Foresti at the University ETH Zurich have modified this well known method that not only allows them to levitate objects but also move them to their hearts desire! The result, the salt and water waltz above. 
This technique is known as acoustophoresis in the scientific world and can be applied in the pharmaceutical industry where one wishes to mix ingredients without contaminating them. 

If you work in a lab that has contamination issues, this i…

What is Shrimpoluminescence?

It is likely that you have heard the terms Chemiluminescence or Bioluminescence. While the former is light created during chemical reactions, the latter is the light created by living beings such as glow worms and plankton. But have you come across the term 'Shrimpoluminescence'?. Well, if you have not, welcome to Coffee Table Science, where we tell you today what is Shrimpoluminescence
Before we get there, you must first understand what sonoluminescence is. It is light created in a liquid by imploding bubbles, when they are excited by sound waves.
Scientists Frenzel and Schultes at the University of Cologne accidently came across this phenomenon when they were hoping to quicken the development process of photographic films by using ultrasound frequencies. Since, the scientists were working with developer fluid, they noticed tiny dots on the photographic film once it was developed. But it took a wait of another 55 years before Philip Gaitan and Lawrence Crum could design an …

Science and Christmas [Video]

When it comes to Christmas and Santa Claus there are so many questions that we don't seem to have answers to. Being a skeptic can sometimes take the fun out of the whole festival. 
Well the guys at AUT University (Aukland University of Technology) have tried to answer a few of those baffling questions, so that we (the skeptic) can lay back and enjoy the very things that make Christmas the greatest time of the year.

You never travel Alone!

If you are quite the traveller who likes visiting different countries and posting Instagram pictures of historic sites and tourist places you have been to, this is the probably the right time to tell you this
Well, this is not about some stalker following you or the government that keeps an eye on each and every one of us. Instead, this is about the unknown baggage you are carrying with you while you are criss crossing continents in the comfort of an aircraft, viz., the many many bacteria and fungal spores and the microscopic creatures such as house mites.
The Finding 
In a recent study published by researcher Rubaba Hamid Shafique and her colleagues from the Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agricultural University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan and University of Michigan, USA, the researchers studied two house mite populations from these two countries. On sequencing small parts of their genome, the researchers found these organisms had quite a few things that we…

Your handwash can give you cancer!

Smoking, alcoholism, exposure to radiation are well known causes of cancer but did you know that your hand wash is also a causative agent of cancer lurking around you in your everyday life. To be precise, its not the hand wash that causes cancer but an important ingredient called Triclosan that is the real culprit and unfortunately for us, it is being commonly used in most everyday products such as toothpaste, shampoo, mouthwashes and even deodorants. So, from the time you get up until the time you step out of your house, you are exposing yourself to a bunch of products that are carcinogens (substance capable of causing cancer) and when you step out, you know, you are no better either.
The obvious question then is, why are all these everyday products filled with such a harmful ingredient. To understand that, we need to first know why Triclosan is so popular among manufacturers of these products,
Why use Triclosan?
English: molecular formula of Triclosan (Photo credit: Wikipedia) It all…

RotM: Interview with Dr. Daniel Zurek

For this month's Researcher of the Month (RotM) interview, we spoke to Dr. Daniel B Zurek, Neuroethologist and Sensory Ecologist and also the Post Doctoral Associate, studying tiger beetles in the Morehouse the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Daniel recently published his findings about how tiger beetles pursue their prey in the journal Biology Letters and frankly spoke about his study and his interests with us. 
CTS:  Why should we study hunting in tiger beetles?  DZ: I am interested in the question of how visual systems of animals are adapted to their ecological needs. Tiger beetles are extremely fast running predators, which is a challenge for visual perception. Animals that are extremes in some way can make good study systems. Finding out where their limits are, and what ways nature has found to cope with these limits, can teach us a lot about general principles that might be common in other systems. It can also reveal interesting candidates for applications in engineering.…

The dance of Pendulums- Pendulum waves (Video)

The beauty of science and the conception of art. Pendulum Waves are a great example of a kinetics sculpture working on simple harmonics.

Whats brilliant about these structures is that it runs on simple physics, that takes 15 balls and suspends them at different, well calculated lengths. The Pendulums are placed in increasing order of length of the pendulum, so while the longest completes 51 oscillations in 60 seconds, the shortest takes completes 65, producing a dance that is a visual delight. ENJOY!

How Jackie Chan helped make solar cells better?

Supercop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)As the world warms up to using solar panels and harnessing the immense energy that is reflected back from the Earth everyday, there are still some major hurdles that we need to overcome before we can rely on this technology for all our energy needs.
Cost of solar panels has been a major point of debate but as governments around the world are encouraging consumers to adopt this technology, there are considerable grants pouring in to reduce the cost of installing solar panels and that is welcome relief.
The efficiency of the solar panel itself has been questioned on many occasions. General estimates of efficiency of solar panels has been put at 10-15%, which basically means that
these expensive panels are only capable of converting 10-15% of light incident on them into electricity.  Unarguably, this does sound quite low.  And has been picked up by detractors of renewable energy to ridicule. 
But did you know that the efficiency of gasoline powered engines st…

Your brain is plastic! [Coffee-byte]

We all, have our days when our brain just stops responding to anything we say or want it to do. There are times when it fails you in simple arithmetic like 6 + 9 = ? (did you get that right?) or the change the shop keeper owes you. Sometimes, this happens early in the mornings or sometimes its late in the night, after a hard day's work but at the bottom of it all, we are sure that as
we are getting old, our brain is finding it hard to keep up.
And this is the greatest lie that we tell ourselves!
In reality, the brain is up and running and its ready to learn new things everyday. What you need to ask yourself is whether you are challenging it enough.
Researchers Ping Li and his colleagues at the Center for Language Sciences at Penn State University set out to test this and enrolled a group of 39 native English speakers for their study. Over a period of six weeks, half of the participants in the study were assigned to learn Chinese vocabulary while the others did not. Both the groups…

Wonder why this was not part of Chemistry class, ever!

Like most kids growing up in India, I was encouraged to take up science after my secondary school and expected to make a career in medicine or engineering somewhere. While the debate will always continue whether such encouragement is good for the child or not, as a student of science, there was a lot of information that was being bombarded at me, some of which I liked and some of which I just could not get my head around. Unfortunately, Chemistry features in the list of subjects, I didn't understand completely.
There are so many things that happen in the Chemistry textbook and to make matters worse, it is further divided into Chemistry I and Chemistry II (the organic and the inorganic parts). There was only one way to get past the barrier and that was understand what you could and regurgitate it in the exams to the best of your ability. I think I managed it quite well for my board exams but then came the larger hurdle of biochemistry and knowing the intricate details of various bio…

Eat your veggies or your doctor will know! [Coffee-byte]

Fresh vegetables are important components
of a healthy diet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) We have always been told that fruits and vegetables are good for our health and as we all get health conscious by the day, we do make a conscious effort to eat them, except the ones that we do not like!

Take bitter gourd for instance. Sold as a health drink in the mornings, this supreme vegetable makes for an excellent candidate for lunch or even as a crisp accompaniment with dinner. But we use every excuse in the book to avoid eating it. However, we will not be able to fool ourselves any longer, because our physician will soon know whether we have actually been eating a proper diet or skipping the greens. 
When did this happen? 
This new development is thanks to the research conducted at the School of Public Health and Medicine at Yale University where researchers Susan Mayne and her colleagues have developed a simple blue laser which when held against the palm of your hand can (almost) instantly tell …

RotM: Interview with Prof. Michael Garstang

We continue our Researcher of the Month (RotM) series, with an interview with Professor Michael Garstang, Distinguished Investigator and Research Professor at the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virgina. Professor Garstang is also associated with a Simpsons Weather Associates, a private environmental research company and recently published a paper in PLoS One about response of elephants to seasonal changes.  

CTS: For the benefit of our readers, could you please tell us more about your findings in the recent study.
MG: Elephants, both in legend and in scientific observations, are said to respond to the onset of rains after a protracted period of dry conditions typical of their subtropical dry savanna habitat. In previous research (Michael Kelley and Michael Garstang published in “Animals” (2013)), we demonstrated that elephants are able to hear distant thunderstorms as far away as a few hundred kilometers.  Our research effort was to see if we could demonstrate…

Up Close with a Volcano [Video]

Volcanoes are of the most dreaded natural phenomenon! The US Geological Survey estimates around 1500 active volcanoes in the world and this number does not include the volcanic activity occurring on ocean floors. But there is a lot that we still need to understand about the  volcanoes. But to study them, we need to get closer to them and this is where the problem arises. The temperatures near an active volcano exceed 1000 degrees Celsius with ease which demands for special apparatus to fight heat and survival.
But a Shenzhen (China) based company has now shown that modern technology can help us reach places that we have never reached before without having to spend billions on development. All one needs to do is use existing technology smartly. Here,you can see how a $1000 quad-copter can bring you up close images of an eruption of a the Bardardbunga volcano in Iceland.

If you are visiting this post looking for some more manly footage of volcano and do no mind spending some additional t…

When Rocket Science Fails [Coffee-byte]

Even with all the developments in space technology and successful missions being sent to Mars, there is always a chance for something to go wrong. The Antares Rocket that supposed to carry supplies and science experiments to the International Space Station, exploded six seconds after take off from the Wallops Flight Faclity in Virginia. 
Although no one was injured, the loss of cargo and devastation at the launchpad would run into millions of dollars for NASA. The real estimate of loss will only be known after a complete analysis is done. The rocket, ferrying cargo to the ISS, was developed and operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation, which has already delivered cargo twice to the ISS. NASA has confirmed that there was no critical cargo on the flight and supplies on the ISS will not be affected by the failure of the mission. 
But irrespective of the losses, the failure of the rocket launch teaches us one important thing about space research, that there is a lot more to learn!

Transplanting a dead heart is now possible! [Coffee-byte]

In a ground breaking discovery in organ transplantation, doctors in Australia have been successful in transplanting a heart that had stopped beating for about 20 minutes. Usually, hearts are received from donors who have been declared brain dead but whose hearts are still beating. In this case, the heart had stopped beating but was then revived and then transplanted into a patient suffering from congenital heart failure. This transplantation was conducted at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney with the help of an innovative new device called OCS Heart.
The biggest constraint for heart transplants is that beating hearts can be kept on ice for only up to 4 hours within which they need to be transported and transplanted. This constraint majorly reduces the radius within which a heart can be transplanted to a needy donor. In addition to this, there is also a risk that cold conditions used during transportation may alter the activity of the heart which can be detected only after the heart …

Under the MRI

The MRI or the magnetic resonance imaging technique is probably one of the best modern day scientific inventions. this non invasive procedure has allowed us to peer into the human body and enhanced our understanding of ourselves. 
After my recent post on Sex under the MRI and the fascinating images the machine produced, I got to fishing outs some other fun stuff captured by this incredible machine.  Here's what I found! 

Fruits and Vegs
Captured by Andy Ellison, these images are a result of mere curiosity and fascination of how fruits, vegetables and flowers look under the MRI. I stumbled upon these images at, and the internet hound that I am, I sniffed my way to Andy's homepage, and I was absolutely blown away. Here are a few images of what I saw but I highly recommend you go and check them out for yourself. (Dont forget to check out his older posts.)

Answers- Banana, Maize/Corn,Garlic, Brussels Sprout, Cucumber, Tomato , Sunflower, Banana Flower, Onion, Grapes.