Posts Tagged ‘conference’

Scientists Can Be Funny!

September 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Apparently this is a genuine abstract from the American Geophysical Union conference in 1991:



REMINDER: This blog is moving! The new location is 

The new RSS Feed is:

Remember to update your subscriptions! This site will no longer be supported after September 30, 2011. 



Land Mine Detection With Stuff That Smells Good

March 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Punta Espora, Chile, Tierra del Fuego side of the Strait of Magellan - minefield warnig near the ferry terminal

At the March meeting of the American Physical Society, an abstract was presented entitled “Detection of Nitro aromatics via fluorescence quenching of pegylated and siloxanated 4, 8-dimethylcoumarins”.

The BBC reported that this study utilized curcumin, which is found in the spice turmeric and is one of the key ingredients in many curry powders.

Now, I wasn’t at the meeting so I may be wrong, but the abstract does not describe using curcumin, but coumarins. Coumarin is also a fragrant chemical compound, but it is not found in turmeric. It is actually used as a rodenticide and was banned as a food additive in the United States in 1954.

If I’m lucky enough to have a reader who knows more about this work, or was at the conference and saw this talk, I would very much appreciate a clarification. In any case, the research is still pretty interesting.

The abstract described the work of a team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The group reported their research into using optical sensors to detect chemical explosives, such as those found in land mines.

Optical sensors work by reacting the molecules released into the air of the chemical explosive. The optical properties of the sensor material changes after interacting with the explosive. Measuring these changes in optical properties is called fluorescence spectroscopy.

The group created co-polymers and tested their use in fluorescence quenching, which means that when you shine a light on these polymers in the presence of explosives such as trinitrotoluene (TNT), the light given off by them would dim.

The BBC also reports that

The team, which is funded in part by the US government, is already in discussions with a company to develop the technique into a portable detector device.

which, given the huge problem of land mines in war-torn countries, could turn out to be very useful.

What Would Happen if You Ran 45 Miles Everyday for 2 Months?

December 1, 2010 1 comment

Route of one TransEurope Footrace. Click to enlarge.

And I get proud of myself when I run 3 or 4 miles. This sure is humbling…

But running 2,800 miles (4,500 km) in 2 months is exactly what a group of a few dozen “Ultramarathoners” do every few years in Europe. Its called the TransEurope Footrace, and I am in awe.

Last year, 44 of the 66 participants in this race allowed themselves to be medically examined through the course of the race, to find out exactly what happens to people who exert themselves this way.

The results were presented at the Radiological Society of North American meeting in Chicago this week. The study was entitled: Longitudinal Follow-up of Changes of Body Tissue Composition in Ultra-Endurance Runners during 4.500 km Trans Europe Foot Race 2009 Measured by Whole-Body MR Imaging on a Mobile MR Imaging Truck-trailer. (Yes, the same conference that had the acupuncture presentation I wrote about yesterday.)

So they followed these runners around with an MRI machine in their truck (!) and through the course of the race took 6 full body scans of the runners and measured their body fat content and muscle volume. The results?

We found muscle mass catabolism also in the exposed muscles of the leg. This occurs in every subject. Over all nearly 34% of nonvisceral body fat has been gone after the race. But there was nearly 20% of visceral fat loss, also.

So they found that 7% of muscle mass in the leg was lost through the course of the race as well.

I’m not sure whats more impressive about this study: that they ran 4,500 km, or that they followed them with a friggin’ MRI machine in a friggin’ truck!

The Physics of Coffee Rings

November 24, 2010 Leave a comment

In keeping with the abstract on the physics of jump rope, the 63rd meeting of the American Physical Society has yielded yet another fascinating study.

63rd Annual Meeting of the APS Division of Fluid Dynamics

Volume 55, Number 16 

Abstract: RU.00007 : Coffee ring deposition in bands


  Shreyas Mandre
    (Brown University)

  Ning Wu
    (Colorado School of Mines)

  Joanna Aizenberg
    (Harvard University)

  Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan
    (Harvard University)

Microscopic particles suspended in a liquid are transported and deposited at a contact line, as the contact line recedes due to evaporation. A particle layer of uniform thickness is deposited if the particle concentration is above a threshold; below this threshold the deposit forms periodic bands oriented parallel to the contact line. We present a model for the formation of these bands based on evaporation leading to the breakup of the thin liquid film near the contact line. The threshold results from a competition between evaporation speed and deposition speed. Using this model, we predict the thickness and length of the bands, making the control of patterned deposition possible.

[My comments: The authors used glass particles in a liquid to mathematically model how rings form. They can make these predictions using parameters such as evaporation rate and surface tension of the liquid. Aside from just being interesting, this study may have some practical implications for working at small scales.

Controlling the ring deposition process would be useful for creating such things as new microphysics tools operating at a scale where pliers or other traditional tools for moving particles cannot operate,” notes Mandre. (From]