Tuesday, 15 December 2009

I have moved to Sciblogs

Hello everyone :)

As you may or may not be aware, I'm also part of the stable of bloggers to be found on Sciblogs. For the moment, I've decided to be lazy and rather than syndicating/double posting (which always requires a little extra work), I'm simply going to blog on Sciblogs for now. I can be found under the same blog name: misc.ience.

Hope to see you there!

Note: we reckon Sciblogs is actually Australasia's largest science blogging network (possible even the Southern Hemisphere's!)

Nano ho-ho

In the spirit of Christmas, I'd like to share with you all the world's smallest snowman.

(Click on image for link to site)

Credit: NPL site

The snowman was developed by the UK's National Physical Laboratory, and is a marvel of festivity-inspired nano-jollity.

According to the website, it's 10 ┬Ám across, which equates to roughly 1/5th the width of a human hair.

It wasn't made out of snowballs, of course, as these on average measure about half an inch, and we have yet to develop the ability to do the whole 'Honey, I shrunk the snowflake' thing.

Instead, it was made out of two tiny little tin balls. hilariously, they're normally used to correct microscope astigmatism, which brings to mind wonderful images of a microscope with glasses, peering at the objects/tissues it needs to focus on.

I'm looking forward to tiny Christmas trees with even tinier tinsel. Of course, a treetop angel on this scale might also bring whole new answers to the classic question involving angels and the heads of a pin...

Friday, 11 December 2009

Introducing Shady, or, how to get a robot to do what a blind can

The last couple of days have felt particularly roboty.

Why, you ask? Well, I shall be posting one some of the things that came across my tech-strewn desk, and I'll introduce the mini-topic with this one. Shady.

Cast your mind back to a hot, sunny day. For those of you living in Wellington, I might suggest a quick video search on teh intertubes, just to refresh your memory.

Right, now add to that image an image of you, sitting in a chair somewhere indoors (where exactly I shall leave up to you), with the sun blazing in through the window. Does the glare bounce irritatingly off your screen? Can you feel asymmetric bits of yourself burning?

Ok, now, what would your solution be? A blind, or possible a curtain? Moving said chair/screen? Leaving the indoors to go frolick in the outdoors (particularly given that vitamin d is apparently good for mood, and might also fight diabetes and food allergies)? To scream 'aarg, I'm melting'?

Well, some very clever lads at MIT (of course) have come up with an alternate solution. One that probably makes sense if you're robot mad, but otherwise tends to hike the eyebrow somewhat heavenward. Yes, they have built a robot, called Shady.

Basiacally, if someone is feeling a little over-exposed sunwise, they simply tell the little robot where to go, and it potters to that point and then unfurls a very solar wind sail-looking fan. Which shades said controller.

Credit: Shady's website

What makes it interesting, though, is the way that it does this. It really is actually quite clever, all comments aside. Basically, it pulls itself along trusses (reminding me in the process of some strange toy from my childhood, of which I have only the dimmest of memories, except this is obviously much more clever). It's very clever robotics, in fact. Now, why would we car about something that can haul itself around trusses? Well, because they form the skeleton of large proportions of the built environment, is why, and so there are applications for construction sites, inspections of sites, and perhaps even building or forming a truss itself.

Interestingly, I just started having flashbacks of a graphic novel read many years ago (Tom Strong Issue 2, by genius and hairy-guy Alan Moore, in fact) where small, modular machines gained sentience, got their act together (literally), and had to be defeated by superheroes because they were eating the city in their quest to make more of themselves.

For those of you interested in more details, have a look here. And see here for a vid of it being cute and useful and stuff.

To anyone who builds one: I shall be most impressed, and might send you a virtual beer or something :)

PittConnect and online scientists

Ah, social networking for scientists. Hooray!

PittCon, which describes itself self-effacingly as the "world’s annual premier Conference and Exposition on laboratory science", has gone one step further than simply bringing together some 20,000 people together in the name of laboratory-inspired joy.

After all, a few days simply isn't enough if one really wants to build connections, make other geeky science friends, and indulge (no doubt) in many impenetrable conversations. And so PittCon is proud to announce that it has set up a social networking site as well (well, online scientific community).

And, in one of those joyous occasions when naming new stuff is an evolutionary process, the new site is going to be called...can you guess it?...PitConnect.

Which makes me wonder whether all major (or minor) conferences should spin something like this off, just because it's so perfect. Or perhaps an uber-'Connect' might work.

Anyway, I digress. The press release says the following: was created to provide an online resource for scientists from all over the world to connect with each other to discuss problems, techniques, research, etc. In addition to listing the 1,936 technical sessions that will be presented at Pittcon 2010, Pittconnect provides contact information to enable users to communicate with colleagues, Pittcon 2010 speakers and exhibitors prior to and after the event. Once a participant has completed a short profile, he or she can begin to network by viewing the map displaying the sessions, exhibitors, and other users related to one's specific interests.
Also, the site intends to add functionality to allow profile links to LinkedIn and Twitter, and expanding the number of available groups.

Happy conferencing, everyone!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Absolutely stunning: 100 days in Glacier National Park

I came across this stunning set of photos while trawling teh intertubes earlier today.
(Click on picture to go to website)

Western Tanager (Day 50)
Credit: Chris Peterson 2009

It's a series of photos taken over 100 consecutive days in Glacier National Park (in the US). The photos were taken by Glacier Park Magazine editor Chris Peterson, and are quite something.

Says the blurb:
"When the project is complete, it will be a traveling show in 2010 to commemorate Glacier's Centennial. I'm using a mix of film and digital cameras, including an 8 by 10 field camera, a Kodak Pocket Vest camera, circa 1909, and a Speed Graphic, among others. The idea is to use the cameras that would have been used over the course of the Park's 100 years. Day-to-day work is done primarily with a Nikon digital camera, since I only process film about once a week due to time constraints (I have a regular job on top of this project)."

I guess I'm posting them up having been inspired by fellow Sciblogger (and ardent wildlife photographer) Brendan Moyle.

P.s. I reckon your photos are just as awesome, Brendan...

Monday, 7 December 2009

World leaders, 20 years on and sorry

This is really quite interesting.

(Click on link to go to website: once there, click on picture for slideshow)

Greenpeace is running an ad campaign in Copenhagen airport, featuring world leaders who are 20 years older ('though many look much more) and apologising for not having done enough...


Monday, 30 November 2009

The best of Royal Society publishing - 350 years' worth!

So, this is seriously, seriously cool. 350 years' worth of the Royal Society of London's best published papers.

(click on the picture to visit the site)

To expand, (teehee), it's actually an interactive, explorable timeline. And it's been launched to commemorate the Society's 350th birthday next year. The RS is definitely wearing the age quite well, all in all :)

The timeline's also got a bunch of fantastic images for those of you interested in imagery/design and is, generally, an awesome website.

The first papers are a bit grim, involving bellows and dogs' lungs. The last (most recent) paper was the RS's fascinating paper on geoengineering, and many of the 60 papers available coincide with major historical events, although they aren't necessarily connected. For example, in 2008, the term 'Cubism' was adopted; the same year, a paper was published entitled 'Reflection of alpha particles from thin foil'.

And, of course, people with an interest in language, or at the very least the English bits thereof, will find the changing expression fascinating. Not only in and of itself, but for what it can tell us about attitudes and beliefs at the time (for a great example, have a look at Fabiana's hilarious post on cockroaches).

And, without further ado, I shall leave you all here, as I want to go frolick in all this sciency goodness. I'm sure you do too.