Female African-American Mathematicians at NASA in 1961
Posted on February 24, 2017 Comments (0)
Hidden Figures is a film based on the experiences of female African-American mathematicians at NASA in 1961 including Katherine Johnson. It is easy to forget our history if we don’t make an effort to remember.
Popular movie adaptations are not the best source for completely accurate history but they are a great way to raise awareness when they hold somewhat close to historical events.
It is amazing to see what was accomplished and also remember how badly mistaken our society was in important ways. We have made strides as a society, but we still have significant problems we need to address. Movies like Hidden Figures are a positive reminder of what can be accomplished when we give people opportunities. We need to remember that lesson and do what we can to remove the barriers that continue today.
NASA video on Katherine Johnson’s career:
Backyard Wildlife: Large Lizards
Posted on February 2, 2017 Comments (0)
These photos were taken across the street from my condo in downtown Johor Bahru, Malaysia. From my window I could see Singapore.
It is at least a meter long from head to tail (probably longer, the tail is really long). Still it isn’t huge since it is very narrow (more like a very thick snake with legs than anything else).
A few months before seeing the lizard in the photos I saw a really big lizard 1 block from the Johor Bahru Customs Immigration and Quarantine complex. It was easily 2 meters long (head to end of the tail) and quite large (stout). It was a different species I am pretty sure.
I was standing for awhile looking at a cool patch of wild greenery. All of a sudden I heard a noise and looked down; this large lizard probably got tired of me standing so and moved quickly into the brush. I hadn’t seen it. I would guess it was sunning itself, before I wandered over. Too bad I didn’t have my camera ready.
WindTree – Harnessing Breezes for Electricity
Posted on January 22, 2017 Comments (1)
This style of wind power looks cool. The WindTree turns small breezes into electricity. Its production varies with the wind speed and its average output ranges between 1,500 kWh and 2,000 kWh. Peak power is 3,500 kWh.
But I don’t see how it can be effective given the large cost. The WindTree is being offered for installation late in 2017 in the USA and Canada at $67,500 – excluding delivery, installation and taxes (they estimate almost $100,000 total). It really seems to me the prices would have to come down by more than 75% to make any real impact in the market.
An average household in the USA uses 901 kWh per month.
The tree is 36 feet tall and 26 feet in width. The first trees were installed in France in 2015, the company is based in France.
It is good to see us investigating numerous ways to generate clean energy. But unless the price of this drastically reduces over time it doesn’t seem likely to contribute much to our energy needs.
14 Year Old Signs $700,000 MOU for a Drone to Detect and Defuse Land Mines
Posted on January 14, 2017 Comments (2)
Harshwardhan Zala, from Gujarat, India has signed an agreement worth Rs. 5 crore (US$733,940) to explore the possibility of commercial production of a drone created by him which can help in detecting and defusing landmines.
Harshwardhan started work on the prototype of the landmine-detecting drone last year after reading in newspapers about high army casualties due to landmines. Aerobotics7 is the company founded by the 14 years old.
[missing video – removed 🙁 ]
The video has Harshwardhan speaking a bit of English but mainly some other language that I don’t understand. If I understand right, his drone is 98% accurate at identifying mines (where the current solutions are 92% accurate – and much more dangerous for those having to walk around testing). His solution is 17 times faster and 22 times cheaper than the current solutions. Once the mine is detected by the drone through an infrared sensor, a 50 gram detonator will complete the task of defusing it (blowing it up).
This video shows a bit of the drone itself (non-English audio)
Pepper – A Social Robot from Softbank
Posted on January 8, 2017 Comments (0)
Pepper is a social robot developed in France and part of the Japanese conglomerate Softbank.
Pepper robots are at work in retail stores in Asia and Europe as sales associates. The first personal robots have been available in Japan for 2 years now and may be available elsewhere soon.
Unexpected Risks Found In Editing Genes To Prevent Inherited Disorders
Posted on January 1, 2017 Comments (0)
Mitochondrial replacement seeks to remove genes known to cause genetic defects from embryos in order to allow for a baby to avoid inheriting the defect.
Mitochondrial Replacement Techniques: Ethical, Social, and Policy Considerations from the USA National Academy of Sciences
- limiting clinical investigations to women who are otherwise at risk of transmitting a serious mtDNA disease, where the mutation’s pathogenicity is undisputed, and the clinical presentation of the disease is predicted to be severe, as characterized by early mortality or substantial impairment of basic function; and
- transferring only male embryos for gestation to avoid introducing heritable genetic modification during initial clinical investigations.
Following successful initial investigations of MRT in males, the committee recommends that FDA could consider extending MRT research to include the transfer of female embryos if clear evidence of safety and efficacy from male cohorts, using identical MRT procedures, were available, regardless of how long it took to collect this evidence; preclinical research in animals had shown evidence of intergenerational safety and efficacy; and FDA’s decisions were consistent with the outcomes of public and scientific deliberations to establish a shared framework concerning the acceptability of and moral limits on heritable genetic modification.
The research in this area is interesting and our ability to help achieve healthy lives continues to grow. The path to a bright future though is not without risk. It requires careful action to pursue breakthrough improvements while minimizing the risks we take to achieve better lives for us all.
The findings confirmed the suspicions of many researchers, and the conclusions drawn by Mitalipov and his team were unequivocal: The potential for conflicts between transplanted and original mitochondrial genomes is real, and more sophisticated matching of donor and recipient eggs — pairing mothers whose mitochondria share genetic similarities, for example — is needed to avoid potential tragedies.
“This study shows the potential as well as the risks of gene therapy in the germline,” Mitalipov says. This is especially true of mitochondria, because its genomes are so different than the genomes in the nucleus of cells. Slight variations between mitochondrial genomes, he adds, “turn out to matter a great deal.”
20 Most Popular Post on the Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 2016
Posted on December 26, 2016 Comments (0)
These were the most popular (by number of page views) posts on our blog in 2016.
- Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (2008)
- Underwater Pedestrian Walkway (2011)
- Science Sort of Explains: Hiccups (2008)
- Why is it Colder at Higher Elevations? (2008)
- Ranking Countries by Scientific Publication Citations: USA, UK, Germany… (2015)
- How Lysozyme Protein in Our Tear-Drops Kill Bacteria (2012)
- Science Toys You Can Make With Your Kids (2005)
- Loan Forgiveness Program for Engineering Students (2008)
- S&P 500 CEO’s: Engineering is the Most Common Major (2009)
- 3D Printing at Home: Today, Challenges and Opportunities (2015)
Engineering Mosquitos to Prevent the Transmission of Diseases
Posted on December 20, 2016 Comments (2)
Mosquitos are responsible for huge amount of suffering and death. In 2015 200,000,000 people were infected with malaria and 500,000 died.
It is amazing what knowledge science has provided about the causes of human disease. It is great to have videos like this available that let us learn a bit about it from a short and understandable video.
Using our scientific knowledge to design and implement solutions offers great possibilities. But we also have to worry about the risks of such attempts. Making decisions about what risks to take requires well informed people that are able to understand the opportunities and risks and make intelligent decisions.
PISA Science Education Results Show Singapore, Japan and Estonia Leading
Posted on December 14, 2016 Comments (2)
The most comprehensive comparison of student achievement in math and science around the globe is completed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The 2015 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) focuses on science understanding of 15 year olds (the 2012 report focused on math).
2015 results for the science portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):
- 1 – Singapore – 556
- 2 – Japan – 538
- 3 – Estonia – 534
- 4 – Taiwan – 532
- 5 – Finland – 531
- 6 – Canada – 528
- 7 – Vietnam – 525
- 8 – China – 520*
- 9 – Korea – 516
- 13 – Germany – 509
- 13 – UK – 509
- 23 – USA – 496
- 26 – Sweden – 493 (this is also the OECD average)
- 56 – Mexico – 416
- 61 – Brazil – 401
* I am merging several distinct Chinese locations reported in the official report.
The 2015 PISA include 72 participating countries and economies. From the PISA report:
Related: 2009 results of science education student achievement around the globe – 2012 results for the science portion (math was the focus in 2012) – The Economic Consequences of Investing in Science Education – Country H-index Ranking for Science Publications
Eating Nuts May Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease, Cancer and Other Diseases
Posted on December 6, 2016 Comments (3)
A large analysis of current research shows that people who eat at least 20g of nuts a day have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases. The analysis of all current studies on nut consumption and disease risk has revealed that 20g a day – equivalent to a handful – can cut people’s risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 30%, their risk of cancer by 15%, and their risk of premature death by 22%.
While this is reassuring news to those of us (like me) that frequently eat nuts I am not sold on their evidence. Heath research is prone to overstating the benefits. Still there is little reason to avoid making nuts part of a healthy diet. That is a big part of the reason I have. They offer benefits and maybe even great ones (as indicated in this research) without much risk.
An average of at least 20g of nut consumption was also associated with a reduced risk of dying from respiratory disease by about a half, and diabetes by nearly 40 percent, although the researchers note that there is less data about these diseases in relation to nut consumption.
The study, led by researchers from Imperial College London and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, is published in the journal BMC Medicine, Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies (open access paper).
The research team analysed 29 published studies from around the world that involved up to 819,000 participants, including more than 12,000 cases of coronary heart disease, 9,000 cases of stroke, 18,000 cases of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and more than 85,000 deaths.
While there was some variation between the populations that were studied, such as between men and women, people living in different regions, or people with different risk factors, the researchers found that nut consumption was associated with a reduction in disease risk across most of them.
Backyard Wildlife: Family of Raccoons
Posted on November 19, 2016 Comments (4)
I took this photo of this mother Raccoon with 3 youngsters in my backyard. Raccoon’s are pretty big; it is somewhat amazing to me they manage to find enough to eat. I have seen individuals around over the years (not very often though) but only saw this family twice.
I continue to have many wildlife sightings in my backyard which is quite nice.