Cleaning Up the Plastic Pollution in Our Oceans
Posted on January 30, 2016 Comments (0)
This is an interesting talk on an important topic: cleaning up plastic in the ocean. ,a student from the Netherlands, looked to find a solution to a problem others said couldn’t be solved.
This is exactly the type of wonderful activity that inspired people can accomplish using science and engineering. He collected an understanding of the 50 issues that supposedly makes a solution impossible.
After getting funding (sparked by an explosion of viral social media) he worked on exploring the “insolvable” problems (having withdrawn from school to work on this problem). It is wonderful to see what we can do when inspired people use science and engineering to make the world a better place.
From their website, The Ocean Cleanup
The plastic will be stored in an internal buffer within the platform at the tip of the V-shaped array. The plastic in the buffer will regularly be emptied onto a vessel that comes to collect it for transport to land. This will occur approximately once every six weeks, depending on the size of the vessel.
Besides monetary support, your relevant knowledge and skills may be a very welcome addition to The Ocean Cleanup. Our work requires not only scientific and technical expertise, but also assistance with legal, commercial and policy matters. If you would like to get actively involved in our work, If you would like to get actively involved in our work, please visit the careers page.
They aim to put a full scale pilot project in place in 3 to 4 years.
Ancient Chinese Natural Gas Drilling Using Bamboo
Posted on January 23, 2016 Comments (0)
This very interesting article is a great read about the history of Chinese bamboo drilling by Oliver Kuhn.
At some point around 2,000 years ago the leap from hand and shovel dug wells to percussively drilled ones was made. By the beginning of the 3rd century AD, wells were being drilled up to 140m deep. The drilling technique used can still be seen in China today, when rural farmers drill water wells. The drill bit is made of iron, the pipe bamboo. The rig is constructed from bamboo; one or more men stands on a wooden plank lever, much like a seesaw, and this lifts up the drill stem a metre or so. The pipe is allowed to drop, and the drill bit crashes down into the rock, pulverizing it. Inch by inch, month by month, the drilling slowly progresses.
A major breakthrough was achieved around 1050 AD, allowing deeper wells, when solid bamboo pipe was replaced by thin, light, flexible bamboo “cable”. This dramatically lowered the weight that needed to be lifted from the surface, a weight that increased with the depth being drilled. By the 1700s Sichuan wells were typically in the range of 300 – 400m deep
One bamboo pipe line would take away the brine, and others the gas. The 2,000 year plus Sichuan salt industry has drilled approximately 130,000 brine and gas wells, and 10% of those were in the immediate Zigong area. Zigong has a cumulative gas production over this period of over 30 billion cubic metres. The area continues to be a major salt producer, and many of the historical wells are still in production.
As recently as the 1950s there was still over 95km of bamboo pipeline in operation in the Zigong area.
Related: Research on Ancient Roman Concrete Will Allow the Creation of More Durable and Environmentally Friendly Concrete – Why did China’s Scientific Innovation Stop? – Hyperloop – Fast Transportation Using a Better Engineering Solution Than We Do Now
Backyard Wildlife: Fox
Posted on January 17, 2016 Comments (2)
I have seen this (or another fox) several times recently but this was the first time it stayed visible long enough for me to get a photo. It is fun having backyard wildlife to connect us to nature.
A few years ago another fox enjoyed laying out in the sun in my backyard for a few weeks.
I am amazed how many animals I have seen in my backyard in a very urban area. In the last few weeks, in addition to this fox: possum, raccoon (I’ll post photos later), deer, squirrels, and various birds.
Here is an updated photo of deer, since my first few sightings didn’t result in a good photo.
$1 Device To Give Throat Cancer Patients Their Voice Again
Posted on January 2, 2016 Comments (0)
We need to keep developing cost effective solutions to provide for the needs of billions of people around the world. It is great to see appropriate technology solutions at work making people’s lives better.
Related: Appropriate Technology Health Care Solution Could Save 72,000 Lives a Year – Manufacturing Biological Sensors Using Silk and Looms – Pedal Powered Washing Machine – Appropriate Technology: Self Adjusting Glasses
20 Most Popular Post on Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog in 2015
Posted on December 26, 2015 Comments (1)
These were the most popular (by number of page views) posts on our blog in 2015.
- Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (2008)
- 3D Printing at Home: Today, Challenges and Opportunities (2015)
- Why is it Colder at Higher Elevations? (2008)
- Top Countries for Science and Math Education: Finland, Hong Kong and Korea (2010 – showing 2009 PISA results, related: Math Education Results Show China, Singapore, Korea and Japan Leading (2014 -showing 2012 PISA results)
- Nanotechnology Breakthroughs for Computer Chips (2007)
- Molten Salt Solar Reactor Approved by California (2010)
- Science Sort of Explains: Hiccups (2008)
- Science Toys You Can Make With Your Kids (2005)
- Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe Hybrid Image (2009)
- Loan Forgiveness Program for Engineering Students (2008)
- Science and Optical Illusions (2010)
- Ranking Countries by Scientific Publication Citations: USA, UK, Germany… (2015)
- S&P 500 CEO’s: Engineering is the Most Common Major (2009)
- 59 MPG Toyota iQ Diesel Available in Europe (2008)
- How Lysozyme Protein in Our Tear-Drops Kill Bacteria (2012)
- Home Halloween Engineering: Gaping Hole Costume (2010)
- 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: the Structure and Function of the Ribosome (2009)
- Using Bacteria to Carry Nanoparticles Into Cells (2007)
- Underwater Pedestrian Walkway (2011)
- Lexus Has Built a Working Hoverboard (2015)
This list shows how popular old posts can remain over time. 12 of these were also in the top 20 in 2014, 8 are new to the list this year. 3 of those are 2015 posts, in 2014 1 post from 2014 made the top 20. The distribution over the years of publication of the posts in the list this year:
Engineering Solutions to Make Our Living Spaces Less Noisy
Posted on December 20, 2015 Comments (0)
I am sensitive to noise so the engineering tools available to reduce noise is something I am interested in. I wish those building apartments, condos and hotels paid more attention to these options.
A compounding issue is that it takes only a very small gap to let in a lot of sound.
“If you have a weakness in a wall that is only 1 percent of the total area, the sound transmitted through could double,”
There are many products to aid in reducing sound into your home. Sound Sense shows a wide variety of products available to aid in those efforts.
Soundproofing 101 provides some good basic explanations of the issues involved in soundproofing solutions.
It does sound extreme but I have considered this for a bedroom. Or even scaling it down into a enclosed sleep chamber, just to let me have a quite space to sleep.
Our Poor Antibiotic Practices Have Sped the Evolution of Resistantce to Our Last-Resort Antibiotic
Posted on December 12, 2015 Comments (2)
The risk to human health due to anti-biotic resistance continues to be a huge public health concern. Our continued failure to adopt better antibiotics practices increase that risk. Those bad practices include feeding large amounts of antibiotics to farm animals to increase yields and increase the evolution of drug resistant bacteria.
In 2012, the World Health Organization called colistin critically important for human health, meaning its use in animals should be limited to avoid promoting resistance. Yet in 2013, the European Medicines Agency reported that polymyxins were the fifth most heavily used type of antibiotic in European livestock.
Colistin, an antibiotic that previously was a last defense against resistant strains of bacteria, is even more heavily used in China than Europe (it is not clear how the resistance developed but it likely developed in one place, most likely China, and spread rather than emerging in 2 places). The USA has been more responsible and has not risked human health through the widespread use of colistin in farm animals. But the USA still uses antibiotics irresponsibly to promote livestock growth at the risk of human lives being lost as antibiotics lose their effectiveness as bacteria evolve resistance (which is sped by poor practices in agri-business).
Antibiotic resistance is an enormous risk to human health. Millions of lives could be lost and we have have years to reduce those risks. Scientists are doing a great deal of work to find new tools to help us avoid catastrophe but we have been far too careless in our practices, especially in the massive use of antibiotics merely to boost yields in agribusiness.
Related: Are you ready for a world without antibiotics? (2010) – 80% of the Antibiotics in the USA are Used in Agriculture and Aquaculture – What Happens If the Overuse of Antibiotics Leads to Them No Longer Working? – Waste Treatment Plants Result in Super Bacteria (2009) – CDC Again Stresses Urgent Need to Adjust Practices or Pay a Steep Price (2013)
Beehive Fence Protects Farms from Elephants
Posted on December 5, 2015 Comments (1)
Another cool use of appropriate technology. One of the problems with Elephants in Africa is when they go into farm fields and eat crops and destroy crops. The elephants and bees project is helping farmers deal with that problem.
By doing so they eliminate the need of farmers to protect their crops by killing elephant. The project uses bees natural behavior and elephants natural desire to avoid bees to create a fence that works to keep elephants out.
The beehives are hung on wires stretched between fenceposts around the farm. If an elephant bumps into the wires to try and enter the farm the bees will swarm and the elephants will run away (and the elephants will send an warning to other elephants to stay away). The fences are being used in Africa and India.
And this fence also produces honey. You can donate to the project to help elephants, bees and people.
Related: Insightful Problem Solving in an Asian Elephant – Elephant Underpass in Kenya – Using Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies in Roadless Areas – Fighting Elephant Poaching With Science (2007) – Europe Bans Certain Pesticides, USA Just Keeps Looking, Bees Keep Dying (2013)
Using Diatom Algae to Deliver Chemotherapy Drugs Directly to Cancer Cells
Posted on November 26, 2015 Comments (2)
I am thankful for scientists doing the time consuming and important research to find new ways to fight disease. Here is an interesting webcast discussing how chemotherapy is used to fight cancer and how scientists are looking to algae to deliver the chemotherapy drugs to better target cancer cells (while not savaging our health cells).
I am also thankful to the funding sources that pay for this research (and for cool explanations of science, like SciShow).
Read more about the genetically engineered algae kills 90% of cancer cells without harming healthy ones. The algae are a diatom and many diatoms look very cool.
Sadly the actual research paper (by government funded university professors) is published by a closed science publisher (when are we finally going to stop this practice that was outdated over a decade ago?). Thankfully those responsible for SciShow are much more interested in promoting science than maintaining outdated business models (in direct contrast to so many science journal publishers).
Related post on cool delivery methods for life saving drugs: Using Bacteria to Carry Nanoparticles Into Cells – Self-Assembling Cubes Could Deliver Medicine (2006) – Nanoparticles With Scorpion Venom Slow Cancer Spread – NASA Biocapsules Deliver Medical Interventions Based Upon What They Detect in the Body
Parasite Evolved from Cnidarians (Jellyfish etc.)
Posted on November 22, 2015 Comments (0)
This is another instance of science research providing us interesting details about the very odd ways life has evolved on earth.
Genome sequencing confirms that myxozoans, a diverse group of microscopic parasites that infect invertebrate and vertebrate hosts, are actually highly reduced cnidarians — the phylum that includes jellyfish, corals and sea anemones.
“This is a remarkable case of extreme degeneration of an animal body plan,” said Paulyn Cartwright, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kansas (KU) and principal investigator on the research project. “First, we confirmed they’re cnidarians. Now we need to investigate how they got to be that way.”
Not only has the parasitic micro jellyfish evolved a stripped-down body plan of just a few cells, but via data generated at the KU Medical Center’s Genome Sequencing Facility researchers also found the myxozoan genome was drastically simplified.
“These were 20 to 40 times smaller than average jellyfish genomes,” Cartwright said. “It’s one of the smallest animal genomes ever reported. It only has about 20 million base pairs, whereas the average Cnidarian has over 300 million. These are tiny little genomes by comparison.”
Despite its radical phasedown of the modern jellyfish’s body structure and genome over millions of years, Myxozoa has retained the essential characteristic of the jellyfish — its stinger, or “nematocyst” — along with the genes needed to make it.
“Because they’re so weird, it’s difficult to imagine they were jellyfish,” she said. “They don’t have a mouth or a gut. They have just a few cells. But then they have this complex structure that looks just like stinging cell of cnidarian. Jellyfish tentacles are loaded with them — little firing weapons.”
The findings are the stuff of scientific fascination but also could have a commercial effect. Myxozoa commonly plague commercial fish stock such as trout and salmon.
“They’re a very diverse group of parasites, and some have been well-studied because they infect fish and can wreak havoc in aquaculture of economic importance,” Cartwright said.
200,000 People Die Every Year in Europe from Adverse Drug Effects – How Can We Improve?
Posted on November 15, 2015 Comments (1)
A new integrated computational method helps predicting adverse drug reaction more reliably than with traditional computing methods. This improved ability to foresee the possible adverse effects of drugs may entail saving many lives in the future.
Most computer tools employed today to detect possible adverse effects of compounds that are candidates for new medicines are based on detecting labile fragments in the drug’s structure. These fragments can potentially transform to form reactive metabolites, which can have toxic properties. This is what is known as idiosyncratic toxicity and is a big headache for the pharmaceutical industry, as it tends to be detected in late development stages of the drug and even when it is already on the market, often causing the drug to be withdrawn.
Jordi Mestres, coordinator of the IMIM and UPF research group on Systems Pharmacology at the Biomedical Informatics Program (GRIB) states ‘With this study we have contributed to complementing the detection of these quite unstable fragments, with information on the mechanism of action of the drug, based on three aspects: similarity to other medicines, prediction of their pharmacological profile, and interference with specific biological pathways. The optimal integration of these four aspects results in a clear improvement of our ability to anticipate adverse effects with higher confidence, which entails an extremely positive impact on society’.
In Europe, nearly 200,000 people die every year from adverse drug reactions, seven times more than in traffic accidents. An estimated 5% of hospitalisations are due to adverse effects and they are the fifth most common cause of hospital death. In addition, elderly people tend to take more than one drug at the same time, which multiplies the chances of suffering from adverse effects due to potential drug-drug interactions. In an increasingly aging society, this problem is becoming much more serious.
I think interactions is a hugely important area that needs a great deal more research. Doing so is very complex, which means it isn’t surprising so much more work is needed. The work of my father (and George Box and others) on multi-factorial experimentation is a powerful tool to aid this work (and that connection is likely one of the reasons I find the area of interactions so interesting – along with the realization there is so much benefit possible if we focus in that area more). Previous post on this Curious Cat Science and Engineering blog: Introduction to Fractional Factorial Designed Experiments.
The human and financial costs of adverse effects are very high. That is why the discovery of new medicines is increasingly focused more on predicting possible adverse effects at the initial stages of developing a new drug. This work hopes to contribute to setting the path toward a new generation of more reliable computational tools with regard to predicting the adverse effects of therapeutically-relevant small molecules. Advancing large-scale predictive safety at the pre-clinical phase is now becoming closer than ever, with expectations to lead to safer drugs for the entire population.
The research is published in closed science journal so I don’t link to it. I happily link to open science publications. Read the full press release which includes a link to the closed science journal.
Related: Lifestyle Drugs and Risk – Root Cause, Interactions, Robustness and Design of Experiments – One factor at a time (OFAT) Versus Factorial Designs – The Purpose of Mulit-Factorial Designed Experiments – 11 Year Old Using Design of Experiments – Over-reliance on Prescription Drugs to Aid Children’s Sleep?