Art as Inspiration for Science

What inspires people to do science? Perhaps you, Dear Reader, are interested in understanding how the physical world works.  Maybe you saw a rainbow, or ocean waves on the beach, when you were a kid, and therefore have a love for optics, physics, or oceanography.

Image source

Scientific Inspiration? Image source.

Human-made objects can also inspire scientists.  Quite a few people I know really want to make gadgets like those that were in the original Star Trek TV series – like the medical tricorder, a handheld device that does immediate medical scans of a whole person; or remote sensing technology that can tell if a planet atmosphere is breathable, and what life forms are present on the planet surface, in less than a second. In fact, the X Prize Foundation started a competition in 2012, the Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize, which will award $10,000,000 to the team that makes the best tricorder. The innards of these devices are likely to include various nanotechnology parts.

For me, art is one of my inspirations for doing science.

For those of us who work with metal nanoparticles, the Lycurgus Cup is a seminal object.  Sam Lohse wrote briefly about the Cup in his blog post.  For people who make metal nanoparticles, the Lycurgus Cup is as significant as Harry Potter’s Goblet of Fire was to the Triwizard Tournament contestants! Continue reading

What Are Science Conferences Like?

Firstly, there are lots of scientists and very few lab coats or safety goggles — as they come to talk science instead of do science. There are lots of seminars — from the mind-shatteringly awesome to the “pretty OK”. There are also “poster sessions” where people quickly describe their research to one another, and those can be great for learning a lot in a short amount of time. “Science talk” usually takes up most of the time, but all the best conferences (in my opinion) leave plenty of time for social activities…like eating ice cream!

Bob-Joel-&-Christy

Christy Haynes, Joel Pedersen, and Robert Hamers (left to right) — living the science dream, with ice cream.

Joel Pedersen & Robert Hamers

Joel Pedersen & Robert Hamers

Thus marks the third time ice cream has come up as a topic on this blog…  I think we’re obsessed.

The Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology is well-represented at the most recent “Environmental Nanotechnology” Gordon Research Conference in Stowe, VT (just miles from the birthplace of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream). I’m sure they’re coming up with plenty of new ideas, and and seem to be having a great time!

Bob-&-Joel-Ben-&-Jerry

SCIENCE IS FUN!!!!

Nature’s Nanomachines Harnessed to Enable Healthier Delicious Ice Cream

The first ice cream worthy day of the year!

The first ice cream worthy day of the year!

To me, one of the most interesting aspects of nanotechnology is how close in size the nanoparticles we can make are to the nano-sized components of living organisms. These nano sized proteins, lipids and nucleic acids have evolved to form the network of biological machines to support the abundance of life on this planet. Just as we have only begun to understand how to engineer and control synthetic nanotechnology, we are similarly limited in our knowledge of nature’s nanomachines. While some biological nanotechnology has been used by inventive humans for centuries to brew beer or bake bread, we are just beginning to discover some of the potential applications of these complex and fascinating tools. As the weather here has turned warmer (well, sort of…), the thoughts of this scientist have turned to how one of these newly discovered biological nanomachines can change that most refreshing of summer treat: ice cream. Continue reading

Why Does Old Ice Cream Get Crunchy?

…and what does that have to do with sustainable nanotechnology?

As with all good meals of information, let’s start this one off with ice cream!

In an effort to grow out of my “slim fit” clothes, I’ve begun an ice-cream-after-every-dinner diet.

Eating-Ice-Cream

Even the cat likes my diet!

Cat-Licking-Bowl

An added bonus is that I go through jugs of ice cream so quickly that I NEVER have to deal with old, gross, crunchy ice cream! You know what I’m talking about. You reach into the back of your freezer, find that jug of 6-month-old ice cream, only to discover that it tastes like the perfect mixture of sugar, fat, and sand. Continue reading