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Experimental Design Review—Before Results September 25, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff, Science.
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BMC Psychology has taken a novel (actually, a scorched earth) approach to the problem of irreproducible results in psych studies. Peer reviews of submitted studies will be checked for experimental methods only, until the end of the review process.  The thinking is, reviewers may be unconsciously biased by seeing results they agree with (or disagree with), rather than the value of the methods by which they were derived.

Given that as many as one-third of psych studies in a recent review (of a thousand studies) could not be reproduced, I think this is an excellent first step to cleaning house of cognitive biases.

Sadly, BMC Psychology is not one of the larger players in this field; it may be that this will enhance their prestige.

Words Fail September 22, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Toys, Uncategorizable, Video.
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Perched Upon My Chamber Door September 21, 2016

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Blue Jays are corvids (like ravens).  He was originally perched on the jar of pumpkin seeds we keep to feed him, but he couldn’t get far enough in from the rim.  He complained about it a little, which is when I brought the camera.IMG_20160921_083543

He arrived with a bit of bread in his mouth on the porch cabinet where we had laid out a bit of cat crunchies.

The Root of Salt Tolerance in Plants September 20, 2016

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A group of proteins in the roots of plants may be the route (see what I did there?) by which sodium ions enter.  Too much salt will, of course, kill many plants, so knowing the identity of the protein is critical.  It turns out the protein group in question is the same group responsible for admitting water, called aquaporins. 

"We discovered that it has characteristics similar to the properties previously identified for the pores responsible for sodium ion transport," says co-lead author Dr Caitlin Byrt, Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine. "This finding opens new possibilities for modifying how plants respond to high salt and low water conditions”—not to mention better fundamental understanding of plant water transport and potentially breeding salt-tolerant plants for Central California, when the soil gets completely poisoned Real Soon Now.

 

Homework:  Caitlin S Byrt et al. Non-selective cation channel activity of aquaporin AtPIP2;1 regulated by Caand pH, Plant, Cell & Environment (2016).

Graphene Nanoribbons in Spinal Recovery September 20, 2016

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Researchers at Rice University have caused rats with severed spinal columns to pass electrical signals 24 hours after “reapposition of the two sharply severed cords…re-establishes contact by regrowth.” There was a magic ingredient, however: polyethylene glycolated graphene nanoribbons, which were applied during the apposition. Two weeks later [ Video ], the rat could walk without losing balance, stand up on his hind limbs and use his forelimbs to feed himself with pellets. No recovery was observed in controls.

Christopher Reeves died a little too soon, apparently.

 

Homework:  Kim C, Sikkema WKA, Hwang I, Oh H, Kim UJ, Lee BH, Tour JM. Spinal cord fusion with PEG-GNRs (TexasPEG): Neurophysiological recovery in 24 hours in rats. Surg Neurol Int 13-Sep-2016;7:

Surface Chemistry Weekly Review September 19, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science, Star Trek Technology, Toys.
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Things are happening in the thrilling world of surface chemistry (which I know you all care about deeply), so I will attempt to translate from Science to Normal and explain the usefulness of each advance (as I see it. I am never wrong).

First, and array of carbon nanotubes was created by drawing up a substrate from a solution of high-purity nanotubes, causing them to string out nicely.

Abstract Image

The resulting array of CNTs were etched with electrons scoring a resist coating, the remainder of which was washed off with acetone.  Not sure how they got the palladium contacts attached, but that may be just standard solution chemistry.  I can think of two ways to do it, if the CNTs can take it.

The upshot of all this is an array of CNT FETs (50 per micrometer!) with “quasi-ballistic conduction” (meaning really fast, almost effortless electron flow). As reported in Science “The saturated on-state current density is as high as 900 μA μm−1 and is similar to or exceeds that of Si FETs when compared at and equivalent gate oxide thickness and at the same off-state current density. The on-state current density exceeds that of GaAs FETs as well. This breakthrough in CNT array performance is a critical advance toward the exploitation of CNTs in logic, high-speed communications, and other semiconductor electronics technologies“, that last bit being a trifle understated.  This is equivalent to Silicon-based FETs, and more advances are coming.  This technology will most likely supplant silicon-base transistors in the not-too-distant future, giving you and me the ever-increasing computation speed and lower power demands that we associate with The Future of Computing.

Homework: Quasi-ballistic carbon nanotube array transistors with current density exceeding Si and GaAs, Science Advances  02 Sep 2016:Vol. 2, no. 9, Gerald J. Brady1, Austin J. Way, Nathaniel S. Safron1, Harold T. Evensen, Padma Gopalan and Michael S. Arnold

 

Next, Kiel University (Germany; it’s OK, I had to look it up, too) materials scientists found a way to microscopically etch metals so that they could be strongly joined by glue.  Their etching process results in a water- and grease-repellent metal surface which takes glue beautifully: “…the here described novel nanoscale-surface sculpturing based on semiconductor etching knowledge turns surfaces of everyday metals into their most stable configuration, but leaves the bulk properties unaffected.” Possible improvements to everyday life include surface prep for painting, aluminum removal from titanium implants and of course, using glue for metal parts assembly, which will save buckets of time and money, as welding is expensive and often impractical.

Not exactly surface chemistry, but I include it because I feel it’s a fundamental advance in materials science techniques.

Homework:  Making metal surfaces strong, resistant, and multifunctional by nanoscale-sculpturing, M. Baytekin-Gerngross et al, Nanoscale Horiz. (2016)

 

Materials researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a technique that allows them to integrate graphene, graphene oxide (GO) and reduced graphene oxide (rGO) on silicon at room temperature by using a nanosecond-pulsed laser.  They have foolishly tried to insist that this is to be used for medical sensors (and it may well be), but the reduced form of graphene oxide is a semiconducting material.  This could be an alternate route to large-scale manufacturing of graphene-based semiconductors, which means (once again) low-power, small devices for The Future of Computing.

Homework: Wafer scale integration of reduced graphene oxide by novel laser processing at room temperature in air, Anagh Bhaumik1 and Jagdish Narayan, J. Appl. Phys. 120, 105304 (2016)

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading this far; you are very brave.

Some Things Speak For Themselves September 19, 2016

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Sorry about this.

The Madness of Crowds September 18, 2016

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A thoughtful dissection of crowd psychology is currently running in one of my feeds (ribbonfarm.com), which answers my questions about how persecuted folk end up in cultish groups.  It’s another long-form essay (and uh, book report : ) ), so only go there when you have time.

Where I Live September 12, 2016

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is basically a forest meadow.  Even though I rent a house with a front and back lawn, a vegetable garden and a white fence, I still find bear scat in my back yard.  A fox lives under the tree in my neighbor’s yard.  Deer are so common that we hardly notice them.  My neighbor had a bear break into his pigsty and eat all the piggies’ food (but not the pigs: apparently a vegetarian bear).

Then there are the birds.  I have already described the flocks of black phoebes that colonized our front porch and took flying lessons behind the house (very cute; they practiced touch-and-go flying while the mother bird watched carefully from the mulberry). 

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They fully displaced the starlings, for whom I have frankly never cared. And, every morning a pair of sandhill cranes flies in, eats bugs from the meadow behind the house and then takes off in the late evening, making the most interesting cries on landing and takeoff. You can barely see them in this photo:

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Trust me; they are there.  Really they are.  We have also seen a solitary male sandhill crane, but he looks very sad. He may be a widower. Here is a slightly better shot:IMG_20160825_200358

Possibly my favorite bird is this little fellow, who often comes and asks for pumpkin seeds we keep in a jar for him:

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He has perched on my knee while I was seated on the back porch sofa but I didn’t realize he would hold still for a photo, so I missed my opportunity for a very cute photo.

Pointillism is Not Dead September 12, 2016

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Taken in Bidwell Park.

Perovskite’s Progress September 4, 2016

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The Problem: we need power that is renewable and carbon-neutral.

Potential Solutions: nuclear, wind, hydro and solar.

Potential Problems With the Potential Solutions:

Nuclear—waste segregation  for 100,000 years, expensive plants that only last 50 years at best

Wind—not always available, but good start

Hydro—not nearly enough rivers and too many snail darters

Solar—expensive, and we need a lot of them

Solution: make solar so cheap as to be ubiquitous by economics alone. Traditional silicon cells have to be made in expensive, high-temperature processes, like growing a single crystal and slicing it, sputtering other materials on it, etc. Enter alternative materials, such as perovskite (CaTiO3. Actually XIIA2+VIB4+X2−3, but I digress). Perovskites can be manufactured with low-cost, low-energy wet methods (except maybe some annealing of deposited TiO3 ). In one-step solution processing, a lead halide and a methylammonium halide can be dissolved in a solvent and spin coated onto a substrate. Such spin-coated cells recently have shown efficiencies above 20%, competitive with silicon cells. You can make perovskite cells at home without spincoating:

The weird thing about the preceding video is that it was one of many.  A LOT of people are looking into perovskites for solar power applications…which is good, because there are a few problems.

Perovskites are prone to degrade under air and water. Bummer, seeing as how solar cells sit on rooftops with lots of both handy.  Researchers have begun to tackle this problem, most recently from the Graphene Flagship at Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) and the University of Rome Tor Vergata, who have significantly enhanced the stability of perovskite solar cells by adding a MoS2 buffer layer to retain 93% of the initial light conversion efficiency after 550 hours, compared to only 66% for cells without the MoS2 buffer layer. This is impressive as heck, especially since the MoS2 layer is sprayed on, keeping costs and power requirements low. Evidently the MoS2 layer prevents ion migration from the electrode, and aids in hole mobility.

 

Homework:

Solar Cells: Few-Layer MoS2 Flakes as Active Buffer Layer for Stable Perovskite Solar Cells (Adv. Energy Mater. 16/2016)

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin September 4, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Books, Brilliant words, Geek Stuff.
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The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin is another beautiful exploration of the enslavement of talented beings at the hands of merciless monsters, the (frightened) merely human.  The talented beings are oregens, who have the instinctive ability to use the energy of the earth in many often destructive ways. Usually they are killed like witches, but an empire made them slaves instead, to quell earthquakes and volcanoes. Usually successful, oregens nevertheless sometimes failed to keep Father Earth from causing volcanic winters, or Seasons.  This book is about one of them, and how it came about as a direct result of slavery.

It’s a damned good read (or listen, in the case of the link above), filled with pathos and sympathy for the abused and the foolish, and understanding of the wronged. It is thematically nuanced enough that you forget you are reading a polemic against slavery. In this sense it is very similar to N. K. Jemisin’s first book The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (lovingly reviewed by me earlier), which also got a boatload of award nominations (Hugo, Nebula, Tiptree and Sense of Gender). Given her astounding writing it is hardly surprising that The Fifth Season was nominated for Nebula and won the Hugo last year.

This is a trilogy, and you will buy into the main character so thoroughly you will pay for the next two books, so the commitment-phobic among you should probably stay away.

Gluten-free Pie Adventures I September 4, 2016

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Pillsbury’s Gluten Free Dough (it’s pie dough, not pizza dough—do not be deceived!) can be rolled out nicely in a large ziplock baggie and plopped over a piecrust quickly.  Be sure to bake the crust first if using freshly-picked blackberries as your filling…or else liquidy bottom crust will result in your otherwise perfect and tempting gluten-free blackberry pie:

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I ate a quarter of it before I could stop myself for a picture.  I imagine someone who has baked a pie at least once in their life could make a better-looking crust.  I make no apologies for my initial sortie into pie baking.

This shows how far we have come in only ten years; we couldn’t find ANYTHING like a gluten-free pie crust mix then. Now even mainstream food factories sell gluten-free items, albeit at grotesquely inflated prices.

Lucky S Mine September 4, 2016

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The Lucky S mine is actually quite close to my house as the crow flies…but we aren’t crows.  My wife’s Vanagon does not fly; it crawls, bumps, jounces and bounces over logging roads, Forest Service roads and four-wheeler roads (if you can call them that with a straight face) so that the ten miles to Lucky S mine is an hour’s ride (“ride” is rather more civilized a description than I had in mind, but this is a happy blog, dammit). We used the Beardsley grade road

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to get there which, if you stay on it long enough, will intersect the correct Forest Service road with a sign and everything to get you there.  I strongly recommend this route; the other way really does require skinny 4WD conveyances.

Do not trust this sign, however:

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We first came across the mine itself, which is a little ways from the town proper:

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There is a bog between the town and the mine proper. Do not attempt to follow the south road, as there is a large mudhole in the road even in summer.  I mean, my wife can drive through it in her Vanagon, but I wouldn’t trust anyone else to do it.

Bog pano

In the town, there is a store and hotel, although it’s challenging to tell one from the other.

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No pioneer ghost town would be complete without a relaxation center.  This one is particularly relaxed:

Mount Huff Golf Course Sunset September 4, 2016

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Golf Course pano

Plumas County apparently has several golf courses, but this one is three long miles from my house. It’s six holes and pretty well maintained for all that Plumas County is pretty far from the mainstream of California golfing and gets several feet of snow every year.

This panorama was stitched together from photos taken after the enchilada feast.  I should color-correct it (and probably will soon) to compensate for my phone’s poor reproduction.

Gluten-free Bread Machine Adventures IV September 4, 2016

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wherein Pamela’s Amazing Bread for Bread Makers is used according to directions.

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It was awesome, and easily more tasty and has better bread-like consistency than Bob’s Red Mill Wonderful Bread. Recommended most highly.

However, as a dignified laboratory scientist and notorious cheapskate, I will attempt to improve Bob’s Red Mill by careful experimentation because I have six bags of it and will waste nothing if I can help it.

Wicked Waves. August 31, 2016

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New from TOOOL  USD30.

Every Girl Should Have One August 29, 2016

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When I think of all the pool floats I have bought for my girls, I cringe when I realize I could have bought them this.  They never would have asked for another (for one thing. For another, the other kids at camp wouldn’t have swiped this sucker, that’s for damned sure).

From Amazon.

They Are Here Somewhere August 28, 2016

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Untitled 

From reddit.com.

Teach Your Children Well August 27, 2016

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Girls especially need to know how to slay dragons.