No One Is Prepared for Hagfish Slime
It expands by 10,000 times in a fraction of a second, it’s 100,000 times softer than Jell-O, and it fends off sharks and Priuses alike.
Exploring the Supply Chain of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines
The following text is a collection of notes I wrote down while exploring the process for manufacturing and distributing the two new vaccines that have appeared all over the news and in more and more people’s arms over the recent weeks. I started reading about mRNA but quickly found myself on tangents about glass vials and temperature tracking devices.
Researchers make their own enzyme pathway to get CO₂ out of the air
Before this century is over, we’re almost certainly going to need to pull massive amounts of carbon dioxide back out of the atmosphere. While we already know how to do carbon capture and storage, it takes a fair amount of energy and equipment, and someone has to pay for all that. It would be far more economical to pull CO2 out of the air if we could convert it to a useful product, like jet fuel. But processes like that also take a lot of energy, plus raw materials like hydrogen that take energy to create.
Plants and a huge range of microbes successfully pull carbon dioxide out of the air and use it to produce all sorts of complicated (and valuable!) chemicals. But the pathways they use to incorporate CO2 aren’t very efficient, so they can’t fix enough of the greenhouse gas or incorporate it into enough product to be especially useful. That has led a lot of people to look into re-engineering an enzyme that’s central to photosynthesis. But a team of European researchers has taken a radically different approach: engineering an entirely new biochemical pathway that incorporates the carbon of CO2 into molecules critical for the cell’s basic metabolism.
Reverse Engineering the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine
In this post, we’ll be taking a character-by-character look at the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine.
Now, these words may be somewhat jarring - the vaccine is a liquid that gets injected in your arm. How can we talk about source code? This is a good question, so let’s start off with a small part of the very source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, also known as BNT162b2, also known as Tozinameran also known as Comirnaty.
How Apples Go Bad
Perhaps owing to these gonzo genetics, apples are remarkably susceptible to disease and rot. Their tender skin and light flesh are a haven for small creatures. Their trees embrace myriad molds, viruses, and fungi: apple scab, black pox, southern blight, union necrosis. For farmers and hobby gardeners, the business of apple-growing is not so much aiding the fruits in their growth as scrambling to ward off their demise. Blight spreads quickly, and it’s not always apparent on the fruit’s surface. Even without the influence of invader or infection, an apple abets its own spoilage: its skin, minutely porous, exhales ethylene, a gaseous compound that induces ripening, and the fruit has no interest in stopping at the point where it serves our needs.
The Rise and Fall of Polywater
Chemicals, like humans, have unique fingerprints, and instruments called spectrometers can identify the elements and molecules from a chemical fingerprint, or spectrum. Yet success hinges on the size of the sample, where bigger is better. In published papers anomalous-water believers lamented there just wasn’t enough of it, certainly not enough to identify its molecular makeup. Scientists measured what they could with the tiny amounts of anomalous water available, largely physical properties, such as boiling point, appearance, thermal expansion, and viscosity. These observations bolstered their conviction that anomalous water was real, but for every believer there were many more skeptics who loudly dismissed the results. The matter would only be settled by a definitive chemical analysis from a spectrometer sensitive enough to determine the fluid’s chemical composition and structure.
It has taken many months, but I was finally able to make a decent aerogel!
I think I’ll stick with watching videos instead of making my own.
Instant stone (just add water!)
This basic technology has been known since prehistoric times: the kilning of limestone is older than pottery, much older than metalworking, and possibly older than agriculture. But over the millenia, better formulas for cement have been created, with superior mixtures of ingredients and improved processes.
Plus a follow up: https://rootsofprogress.org/cement-redux
Mary Sherman Morgan, Rocket Fuel Mixologist
The US had twice tried to launch Navy-designed Vanguard rockets, and both were spectacular failures. It was time to use their ace in the hole: the Redstone rocket, a direct descendant of the V-2s designed during WWII. The only problem was the propellant. It would never get the payload into orbit as-is.
The US Army awarded a contract to North American Aviation (NAA) to find a propellant that would do the job. But there was a catch: it was too late to make any changes to the engine’s design, so they had to work with big limitations. Oh, and the Army needed it two days before yesterday.
The Army sent a Colonel to NAA to deliver the contract, and to personally insist that they put their very best man on the job. And they did. What the Army didn’t count on was that NAA’s best man was actually a woman with no college degree.
If you’re looking for gold, look in trees
Prospecting for gold by looking for it in leaves has finally proved itself commercially in Australia
The quantities are minuscule. In areas where there is no gold, leaves may have a background level of 0.15 parts per billion (ppb) of gold; on gold-rich sites that can rise to 4ppb.
Mammalian Near-Infrared Image Vision through Injectable and Self-Powered Retinal Nanoantennae
Vision is an essential sensory modality for humans. Our visual system detects light between 400 and 700 nm (Dubois, 2009, Wyszecki and Stiles, 1982, Schnapf et al., 1988), so called visible light. In mammalian photoreceptor cells, light absorbing pigments, consisting of opsins and their covalently linked retinals, are known as intrinsic photon detectors. However, the detection of longer wavelength light, such as near-infrared (NIR) light, though a desirable ability, is a formidable challenge for mammals. This is because detecting longer wavelength light, with lower energy photons, requires opsins (e.g., human red cone opsins) to have much lower energy barriers. Consequently, this results in unendurable high thermal noise, thus making NIR visual pigments impractical (Ala-Laurila et al., 2003, Baylor et al., 1980, Luo et al., 2011, St George, 1952). This physical limitation means that no mammalian photoreceptor can effectively detect NIR light that exceeds 700 nm, and mammals are unable to see NIR light and to project a NIR image to the brain.
To this end, the successful integration of nanoparticles with biological systems has accelerated basic scientific discoveries and their translation into biomedical applications (Desai, 2012, Mitragotri et al., 2015). To develop abilities that do not exist naturally, miniature nanoscale devices and sensors designed to intimately interface with mammals including humans are of growing interest. Here, we report on an ocular injectable, self-powered, built-in NIR light nanoantenna that can extend the mammalian visual spectrum to the NIR range. These retinal photoreceptor-binding upconversion nanoparticles (pbUCNPs) act as miniature energy transducers that can transform mammalian invisible NIR light in vivo into short wavelength visible emissions (Liu et al., 2017, Wu et al., 2009). As sub-retinal injections are a commonly used ophthalmological practice in animals and humans (Hauswirth et al., 2008, Peng et al., 2017), our pbUCNPs were dissolved in PBS and then injected into the sub-retinal space in the eyes of mice. These nanoparticles were then anchored and bound to the photoreceptors in the mouse retina.
2017 Photomicrography competition
Not to be confused with microphotography.
Anatomy of a Moral Panic
The real story in this mess is not the threat that algorithms pose to Amazon shoppers, but the threat that algorithms pose to journalism.
Substances don’t have to be a liquid or a gas to behave like a fluid.
Swarms of fire ants display viscoelastic properties, meaning they can act like both a liquid and a solid.
Weird science of the day.
All the “wellness” products Americans love to buy are sold on both Infowars and Goop
Two thumbs up!
You Are Making Scrambled Eggs All Wrong
Boiled scrambled eggs. What will they think of next?
News leak: SEPTA's urine-repellent spray not a success
The situation remains fluid
Dilution of whisky – the molecular perspective
At ethanol concentrations of 59 vol-% or higher, guaiacol is increasingly surrounded by ethanol molecules and is driven to the bulk. This indicates that the taste of guaiacol in the whisky would be enhanced upon dilution prior to bottling. Our findings may apply to other flavour-giving amphipathic molecules and could contribute to optimising the production of spirits for desired tastes.
That Shouldn't Work; Manufacturing Computer Chips
This talk will go over how and why the design of a modern nanoscale transistor has developed. It includes the basics of the processes used to build chips, the incredible equipment that makes it all possible, and where the scaling (might) end. Plus some fun stories about what goes wrong inside a FAB.
One hour. Poorish audio, but great content.
Ultrasound Ages Liquor Two Years in Just Three Days
Just in time small batch aging to order?