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Author: Alchemystress | Views: 25592 | Comments: 4
Last by Alchemystress on Mar 03, 2011, 8:33pm
I thought I would do a few blog posts here and there about aspects of my research. So I warn you now, it is very possible I may geek out…a lot. There are quite a few things I cover in my work, so piece by piece, quick and dirty explanations will follow. Please feel free to ask questions, and if there are areas you would like me elaborate on and maybe make another blog post about, I will be more than happy to oblige.

The first one that I think is important to understand in my work is mass spectrometry. So what the hell is it, and why is it useful? In this post I will take a stab at introducing you to this powerful instrument, and then I shall write another post in which I will introduce you to the one I use and some things I do on it. First, I think a good base understanding of mass spec. is important.

Mass spectrometry is a powerful analytical technique that is used to characterize, identify, and quantify unknown compounds (here I point out that many people interchange spectrometry with spectroscopy, and that is incorrect: for spectroscopy, think light, and spectrometry, think electromagnetics).It is used in research, medicine, forensics, pharmaceuticals, archeology, geochemistry etc. The applications are endless. This is a very common instrument and tool used in . . . More
Author: Brian Krueger, PhD | Views: 16842 | Comments: 0
I recently posted a picture of the congressional vote count for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act showing the absolutely disgusting bi-partisan divide over this vote in 2009. Republicans should be ashamed.

However, someone added a link to an Examiner article posted a few days ago that said the Obama White House paid women 15% less in 2011. The article essentially says that Obama is a massive hypocrite and Democrats are truly the ones waging the war against women. If you read not very far into this story, they say the numbers are based on median salary, not the mean, and it's not classified by job title OR GS class (which would really get at equal pay for equal work - the whole point of the Ledbetter act!). Unfortunately, when I went to grab the data from the White House page, it didn't list GS class or gender. It'd be a lot more accurate to use GS class for this type of analysis because that takes into account the amount of experience a person has in each position, but doing the averages by job titles is still MUCH better than taking the median of the salaries. In a profession such as US politics whic . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 10188 | Comments: 12
Last by Unhappy on Jun 09, 2012, 1:16pm
Angela Monaghan is a geophysicist living in southwest Montana. In her spare time she trains and field trials her Hellfire Springer Spaniels, sporadically blogs as GeoFizz and tweets as MTHellfire.

*This entry contains a YouTube video*

"Tide goes in and tide goes can't explain that." Bill O'Reilly recently told Dave Silverman of American Atheists, during a recent airing on Fox News as they debated the integrity of religion.

Although I was disappointed Dave couldn't just blurt out "It's the MOON, moron" and melt Bill into a gooey puddle of religious ignorance, I did sympathize with him. (Just look at his stunned facial expression!) He was probably thinking the same thing I was, it's impossible to rationally argue with a person who thinks facts don't matter anyway.

The frightening aspect to a highly paid TV personality being so ignorant should be obvious. There are thousands, if not millions, of people watching who might be even more ignorant than "Bill-O The Clown", and who might believe every ignorant thing he says is true.

Recently, I was told through a Facebook i . . . More
Author: Alchemystress | Views: 6050 | Comments: 12
Last by Alchemystress on Mar 05, 2011, 5:10pm
A lot of people have been very curious about my tattoos, so I thought that I could start my blogging life by explaining one of my biggest and most important tattoos (I have about 8 in all). I am working on a sleeve, which is also very important, but it is a work in progress. Once it is close to finished, I will delve into the explanation and pictures of that one.

I waited to get tattoos until I was about 22 years old. That was on purpose, as I didn’t think I was mature enough before then to know what it was that I wanted. I am so glad that I waited; my ideas at the age of 18 were vastly different than at 22. I am very happy with what I have chosen at this point.

Nature has always played a huge role in my life; I go to the woods or to the sea, or just outside, to collect myself and calm my thoughts. I have always found this solace in nature, even from a very young age. My family has always been the kind that went hiking and explored the outdoors, and I am very grateful for that. Not only did they introduce me to the great outdoors but, before I could even walk, I was taken to almost every sort of museum you could imagine, where I played with Tesla coils and looked at Rembrandts. To this day I have a great appreciation for art and museums. Art holds a special place . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 5254 | Comments: 4
Last by Biff on Aug 09, 2012, 7:18am
Last week, 2007 chemical newsmaker 1,4-butanediol made it back on the front page with a US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruling on a lawsuit involving 1,4-butanediol contaminated children’s toy ‘Aqua Dots’ (left). In 2007, Aqua Dots contamination story first hit the news when Australia banned the product. The adhesive 1,5-pentanediol was normally used in Aqua Dots, but 1,4-butanediol was mistakenly used in the toy's manufacturing process. The one methylene group (‒CH2‒) difference between 1,5-pentanediol and 1,4-butanediol (below) led to Aqua Dots going from the most popular toy of 2007 to the most recalled toy of 2007-2009.

Why would using a chemical with one less a ‒CH2‒ cause such trouble? As . . . More
Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 2982 | Comments: 0
Before I get started with my summary of Day 2, I need to vent a bit. As a presenter 99% of the time you are not loud enough to not use a microphone, so please don’t try to forgo it. Also, 99% of the time you will cover 1 slide per minute. So, a 15 minute presentation should not have 40 slides. You will never cover all of that material. Please rethink what point you want to get across. I’m constantly disappointed by folks who have the fly through their results due to poor planning. I’m also disappointed when chairs don’t stick to the schedule. There are multiple sessions all over the place so when I show up at 10:15 to see talk X and you just started talk X-1 because you’re running 15 minutes late, that means I can’t see X and still make it to the 10:30 talk in a different session. The times are more than a suggestion!

. . . More
Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 2929 | Comments: 0
To be honest, most of today I was preoccupied getting ready for my talk in the afternoon. But, to take my mind of it I still tried to attend talks. I feel like sometimes conferences are hit or miss. Sometimes you could walk into a 15 minute contributed talk and be blown away. But other times the 30 minute invited talks could be a literature review or incremental research. A lot of the talks I went to today were incremental talks. It was a lot of “the field is at point A and we’ve brought it to A + dA”. So I heard about thin film transistors which could be useful for wearable electronics, but I didn’t feel like it was anything new. I heard another nanowire sensor talk, but again, nothing revolutionary.

. . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2741 | Comments: 8
Last by TheLeadingEdge on Apr 14, 2011, 11:58am
This week's guest blogger is Katie Fleming. She loves science, with an overwhelming Border collie-style bouncing enthusiasm. This crazy geeky love has gotten her a first class degree in biochemistry, a job as a freelance scientific production editor, and some serious aspirations to be a real-life science writer. She spends her spare time eating too much cake, gazing lovingly at molecular structures and blogging about biochemistry and the awesome science of everyday life at She would love to see you there. Katie can also be found on Twitter.


When I was first asked to feature here as a guest blogger I was a little nervous, my usual writing style is a bit like a scientific tea party, lots of excitable biochemical discussion and cake, so I wondered what subject I should pick. Then I remembered an article I read last year by Thomas Mayer and Andreas Marx about their five ‘desert island molecules’. These were the . . . More
Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 2732 | Comments: 0
Today was a travel day, but I was still able to attend a number of biomedical engineering talks which are personally interesting to me, and some talks on memristors, which some of my lab mates work on. I’ve explained elsewhere what a memristor is, but briefly it is a metal-insulator-metal material stack that has two resistance states (high and low). If that sounded like goobldy-gook to you, imagine a chunk of wood sandwiched in between two chunks of copper metal. Normally electricity won’t flow between the two chunks of copper through the wood (high resistance). In a memristor you can apply a high voltage to create a conductive path through the “wood” creating a low resistance state. This is useful for computers because it can be used as a memory device: high versus low translates to a 1 or a 0. If you make lots of these you have the memory chip that could be used in your computer or cell phone. These are better than what we have now because they take no power to maintain the data, and can be fabricated much smaller so you can store even more songs and apps on your phone.

. . . More
Author: Evie | Views: 2324 | Comments: 8
Last by Evie on Sep 11, 2010, 3:18pm
Hello boys and girls! Welcome to Flight 101!

I think it’s time we all got on the same page when it comes to understanding how a plane stays in the air.

Those are pretty nifty things, aren’t they? Airplanes? Did you ever wonder how it is they stay up there? Even though they are heavy as hell, and should come crashing down? Well.. No, it’s not magic, and it isn’t big J up in the sky giving a helping hand, it’s not even 'cause of all the people in the various houses of prayer throwing their hands up and chanting.. Nope. It’s actually just physics, geometry, and fluid mechanics at play.

This is a simplified explanation, 'cause it can get pretty messy and heavy on the math, but the concept itself is simple, and I think it’s worth knowing. Plus you will totally be able to impress the person seated near you on your next plane ride. *Note: you should probably avoid using this as a pick up line. Results may vary.

So, how do planes stay in the air? Lift! Lift is what we call the upward force that combats gravity, and keeps the plane afloat in the sea of gaseous molecules that make up our atmosphere. In order for Lift to be produced, the air and the plane must be in motion relative to each other.

Let’s take as an example, a 2D s . . . More
Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 2543 | Comments: 0
I was a little disappointed to see how little the MRS Fall Meeting was getting mentioned on Twitter, so I decided to summarize some of the cool things I learned day by day. Before I get started, though, why MRS? Materials research might not sound glamorous but without it we wouldn’t have the advanced electronics we have today. Indeed, work continues to advance the development of better, faster, cheaper electronic devices, but materials researchers also work on alternative energy (solar cells, fuel cells) and biomedical technology (stem cell engineering, diagnostic sensors). It is this broad array of topics that interests me, as well as the shear size of MRS. Monday night the poster sessions had over 500 posters. And there are different poster sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I end up finding more interesting talks than I can actually attend. So, what I’d like to do is show you all a sample of some of the most interesting things that I’ve come across for the four days I’m at MRS.

Side note: If you find or know anyone else covering this conference please send them my way. I'm on Twitter @NanoBioNick

Update: You can read my day-by-day coverage here: . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 2390 | Comments: 4
Last by Alchemystress on Feb 16, 2011, 7:11pm
This week's guest blogger is Anthony Haugh who currently lives in New Mexico, and has studied Electronics Technology and Photonics Technology. He later plans on obtaining his third degree in Optical Engineering after visiting Europe. He can be found on Twitter as @Boltary.


To my eternal amusement, every time someone asks me "what are your majors?" I get blank stares when I give the reply "Photonics Technology and Electronics Technology." Most of everyone I meet immediately understands the degree with that now-commonplace word "Electronics," but almost without exception I am asked "What is Photonics?" I admit that when I entered college I only had a limited understanding of what "Photonics" was besides Photons and Lasers. Even my spell-checker says it is a made-up word, so what is Photonics, and why is it important?

It turns out that "Photonics" is an extremely diverse field, and is about as vague as saying "Chemistry" or "Physics" when trying to talk about a field of science. Specifically, photonics is a sub-set of physics that focuses on the studies and applications of photons (Such as detection, generation, etc). Photons are odd little concepts that defy . . . More
Author: the modern scientist | Views: 1790 | Comments: 1
Last by Redshift42 on Jul 01, 2010, 12:39pm
Greetings fellow scientists, science-enthusiasts, and LabSpaces paparazzi! For those who don’t know me from my *ehem* Twitter omnipresence, I thought I’d share a little about myself and how I ended up in a career commonly—and often appropriately—preceded by the word “mad.” If you do know me, don’t zone out just yet. You may discover something new, and this material might be on tomorrow’s pop quiz...

My infatuation with science began when I was young and fancied myself as something of an athlete. During high school, I played three sports, in addition to participating in a bevy of other extracurricular activities. Keeping up with athletic practice, homework, and a smattering of social events took an incredible amount of energy. I became interested in nutrition, which I saw at the time as a way to optimize the ratio of energy generated vs time spent eating. (Note that there were many flaws in the design of this study. The most important flaw was that, like most teenagers, I neglected to include the variable now known to me as “sleep” in the equation. Though the wisdom of age has made me aware of its importance, I continue to convince myself at times that its correlation coefficient is 0 . . . More
Author: Nick Fahrenkopf | Views: 2081 | Comments: 0
Day 4 was also a travel day so I didn’t get to see much of the conference. I spent time packing, checking out, and getting out of the city before rush hour set in. But I did want to write about one unexpected but interesting talk, and recap some culinary highlights of the trip (sorry, I love food!)

. . . More
Author: the modern scientist | Views: 1547 | Comments: 13
Last by the modern scientist on Oct 23, 2010, 3:24pm
Greetings LabSpaces readers! Several times this summer, I tried (and failed) to kick the dust off this blog. I've decided to let those partially finished posts simmer a while longer because I simply could not pass up the opportunity to incorporate my other passion–all things Mac–into a blog post. As you probably noticed, this post coincides with an ongoing contest here at LabSpaces to win one of these magical devices, so perhaps it will further motivate those who are in the running.

I admit I was skeptical of the iPad when it was announced last January. I have a very capable computer and phone, so why would someone like me need another device? When would I use something that is too limited for serious computing and too big to fit into my tiny (and staying that way) purse? I never found good answers to these questions, so I didn't investigate further. As serendipity would have it, I was given an iPad as a gift about a month ago. Having used it regularly since then, I have found several uses–some of them scientific–for which the iPad is my device of choice. I have decided to share this list and, while I don't intend for this to turn into a review of iPad applications, I felt it would be us . . . More
Author: Evie | Views: 1564 | Comments: 6
Last by Dov Henis on Feb 05, 2013, 2:46pm
Back in the early 1900's, one of the many cool things Einstein found through his theory of General Relativity, was the theoretical existence of these things called Gravitational Waves.

As their name suggests they are predicted to be ripples, or fluctuations in the curvature of Space-Time, that propagate the way waves would, emanating from a source such as a black hole, neutron star, binary star, or any other ridiculously super massive object.

Apparently, Space-Time itself is curved, and becomes more or less curved depending upon the objects held in it. The more massive the object held in space-time is, the more curvature develops there.

When a highly massive object moves or gets accelerated, it affects that Space-Time significantly enough to cause these ripples or waves. The energy the waves carry and transport is called Gravitational Radiation, which travels at the speed of light and loses strength as it propagates, but never stops or even slows down.

Although there has yet to be direct observation of these waves, there is plenty of data to support their existence in the form of indirect observation. Like the observations of orbits of binary pulsars, that seem to be losing orbital energy at the exact rate that General Relativity predicted they w . . . More
Author: Evie | Views: 1387 | Comments: 7
Last by Dov Henis on Jun 24, 2012, 1:05am
Last week we heard that researchers from Imperial college London, have published a study dealing with newly engineered metamaterials. These materials allow for light hitting them to be sped up or slowed down. Doing this, creates a zone with effectively no light, rendering that zone, and everything in it, hidden from sight, or invisible. The press release can be found here.

Our vision sensors, or eyes if you like, seem to work by collecting light rays from the environment. Waves of light hit objects, bounce off those objects and get picked up by the eye. The light then enters the eye through the cornea, passes through the pupil, and hits the retina. The picture there is received upside down, and it's up to the brain to take over and flip it around, do some filtering, put it all into context and perspective, and hopefully not pull too many tricks on us, as it often does..

Basically one could argue that it makes no difference how accurate your vision sensors are, as it still all depends on the programming and functionality of the brain, to interpret the data and make sense . . . More
Author: Dangerous Experiments | Views: 857 | Comments: 0
This week's guest blogger is Ben Still. He's a postdoctoral researcher at the Particle Physics Research Centre Queen Mary, University of London. He can be found on twitter @benstill.


Last week around 150 scientists travelled to Japan to not only discuss exciting new physics but also how to re-build one of the biggest experiments on the planet. The Tokai to Kamioka (T2K) experiment is an international collaboration of around 500 scientists and engineers in total, from 12 different countries. We are using neutrinos, the smallest and most ghostly building blocks of nature, in an attempt to understand a major chapter in the creation story of the Universe.

The Meeting

Many of the participants of the meeting were retracing steps they took just months earlier when evacuating Japan after the March 11th earthquake. The quake devastated much of the north-eastern Japanese seaboard and with it the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC), the base of the T2K experiment. J-PARC itself was too damaged in the quake to host a meeting and so the venue was changed to the sister particle phys . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 743 | Comments: 2
Last by JaySeeDub on Jun 20, 2011, 9:18am
It was the cool of an English summer. The kind of cool temperatures that I love. There is sun, but it isn't the kind of summer that I grew up with. There is no oppressive and dry heat. Instead there's the hint of pleasant warmth. Maybe it's just me, because I've worn board shorts while snowboarding, but it was still on the warm side. Maybe it was just the nervous energy and excitement, that nearly had me wanting to rush the crowd.

The air smelled crisp and sweet. A remnant of the rain and mist of the previous days. Of the carefully manicured and cut lawns. Ryegrass. A durable grass. An absorbing grass. Necessary for the lawns and courts of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Rye makes the surface at Wimbledon so very different from any other court played all year. For the first week, the court plays fast. Low bounce, little change on the velocity of the ball after the bounce. Rewarding the server, the attacker. Punishing the returner and defender. Where attackers have historically reigned supreme - Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, Don Budge, Ellsworth Vines, Jack Kramer and Roger Federer. I'll admit to a bit of bias. I grew up learning to play attacking tennis. So I care nothing for the games of Rafael Nadal or Caroline Wozniacki. Serve and vol . . . More
Author: JaySeeDub | Views: 628 | Comments: 8
Last by Coma on Jan 31, 2011, 10:28pm
So you've got your 1-1/2 inch thick, 24-day, dry aged New York Strip, ready to try out my bordelaise, right? Now the question is, do you throw that perfectly aged, buttery piece of red meat goodness on the grill or do you stick it in a pan? Backyard enthusiasts would go for the grill. What's better than a hunk o' beast thrown onto the grill over a charcoal/wood/gas fire? What's more primal and better tasting than the juicy char derived from meat over fire? Well, they're wrong.

Now I'm not saying that backyard grilling and bbq are universally bad, it has its uses, but it isn't for that nice steak. We've all heard of the "Maillard reaction," right? Chemical reaction that happens with a lot of foods that involves non-ezymatic browning. Brown in this instance means flavor. You see, step one of the Maillard reaction is when the reducing end of a sugar reacts with the amine of an amino acid's backbone. This process produces an N-substituted glycosylamine and water.

Now that water is important. See, what are the byproducts when you burn a hydrocarbon? CO2(g) and H2O(g). That means that smoke you see coming up from your grill has water vapor. Now, if water is being formed, you want to completely limit its presence in any reaction . . . More