Studying our natural internal bacteria could help doctors cure diseases that affect millions
By Virginia HughesPosted 03.07.2011 at 11:00 am 7 Comments
When Jake Harvey visits the clinical center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, he is usually dirty, itchy and wheezing—not the happiest state of affairs for a 14-year-old boy. But his doctors require that for 24 hours prior to each visit, he refrain from bathing, or using the inhaler that soothes his asthma, or applying the ointment that softens his eczema. In order to study his illness, they need him to be in as close to his natural state as possible.
Smartphone makers, wireless carriers, and credit card companies have all proclaimed their love for near field communication over the last week. And we share their enthusiasm: NFC has a lot of exciting potential. Soon enough, we'll be able to make payments, unlock our houses, stop worrying about our cumbersome Wi-Fi passwords, and hop on the subway without a transit pass, all from our phones. Here's how.
Instructed by his father, 9-year-old Jose Hernandez marched up to the family television set to wriggle the rabbit-ears antenna, hoping to sharpen the black-and-white image of American men walking on the moon. It was December 1972, during Apollo 17, and Hernandez was transfixed.
"I would go outside, look at the moon, and come back inside and look at the images on TV. I remember being all of 9 years old and telling my parents, 'That's what I want to do when I grow up,'" he recalled. And he did it. He became an engineer and applied to be an astronaut 12 times before he finally made the cut in 2004. Then he made just one trip to space before hanging up his flight suit for good last month.
It wasn't because he'd realized his dream and moved on. It was because there was nothing in this country for him to fly.
What do you call an armor-penetrating munition? MAHEM. A smokescreen that instantly closes around a tank? DRAPES. A robot that scavenges and feeds itself? EATR, of course.
At the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the military's mad-science research wing, program managers must do the seemingly impossible. Not just slow down the speed of light and make fake blood. They also have to describe these pie-in-the-sky ideas to journalists, the public and Congress.
That's how you get some of the most amusing acronyms ever.
On the Labrador Sea, the scientific crew of the research vessel Knorr hunts for underwater storms, sinks a two-mile mooring--and gathers clues to the planet's fate
By Donovan HohnPosted 02.14.2011 at 11:53 am 0 Comments
As we pass through the Strait of Belle Isle and emerge from the shelter of Newfoundland's lee, the first mate pipes instructions from the bridge: Lash down or stow all belongings. Rough weather ahead. Two decks below in the main lab, Amy Bower loads onto her extra-large monitor what appear to be abstract paintings, giant red and orange blobs in a field of yellow, as her computer reads text aloud in a robotic voice. Nose almost touching the screen, she searches for clues in the colorful abstractions, which are in fact oversized topographical maps of the Labrador Sea.
A senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Bower is the chief scientist on the first leg of voyage 192, as it's officially called—a search for the hidden weather that roils beneath the sea. She also happens to suffer from not one but two congenital diseases: macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. She is legally blind. But in her 22 years as an oceanographer, she's confronted winter storms on the North Atlantic and Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. With the help of her computer and other instruments, Bower can see the ocean far more clearly than most of us.
The Michigan State University Engine Research Laboratory is usually calm, but by midmorning on this August day, everyone is on edge. Then, a few minutes before noon, assistant engineering professor Norbert Müller gets the call they’re all waiting for: The most influential man in energy research is here to see Müller’s work.
In 2003, scientists with the Human Genome Project announced the completion of their 13-year effort to identify the three billion base pairs that form the chemical rungs in DNA’s signature twisted-ladder shape. This first attempt to create a comprehensive map of a human biological system was more than just a breakthrough for geneticists, though. It also marked the launch of a new era of “-omic”-based research, in which biologists began shifting their attention from the individual parts within a system to studying the system itself.
As I may have mentioned, I have lately developed a bit of a thing for pea butter. Not some sort of pea-infused dairy butter, but the real deal, the pure green fat of tender garden peas laboriously isolated and concentrated, and spread on toast. I first had it when I was visiting the Modernist Cuisine laboratory/kitchen in Seattle last month, and now I very much want more.
In 2008, Dr. Nathan Myhrvold began to carve out a portion of the 20,000-square-foot warehouse outside Seattle that houses the research lab of Intellectual Ventures. The former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft had an idea for a cookbook he wanted to write, and he needed some kitchen space.
Maxime Bilet, the kitchen's head chef of R&D and a co-author (with Myhrvold and Chris Young) of the ambitious cookbook, led me through the kitchen, where four full-time staffers were in the process of making me lunch using a variety of outre apparatus. The usual kitchen accoutrements were on display -- stove, sink, cutting boards, refrigerators -- but Bilet's tour started with the ultrasonic bath.