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Periodic Tabloid

Harry Potter’s Invisibility in Jeopardy

Last year I wrote about the prospects for an “invisibility cloak” that works by bending light around an object so it can’t be observed. (See my post of 29 January 2009.) Amazing as it seems, this is not only theoretically possible but has already been realized for a limited range of wavelengths.

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See the Unseeable

When I was a graduate student in the 1970s, conventional wisdom held that light microscopy couldn’t resolve anything smaller than the wavelength of visible light (hundreds of nanometers). Electron microscopes overcame this size limitation but required “fixed” samples so no motions could be seen.

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Molecular Eats

Someone once remarked in my presence that the world would be so much better off if we just banned chemicals. Hmmm….

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A New Year’s Resolution: Work and Family Balance?

Last month four female scientists received Nobel prizes in economics, medicine, and chemistry. These women should be lauded for their scientific achievements as they become role models to women around the globe. In October, Science held a phone conference between these women and some science journalists, with highlights from the discussion concerning career and family balance posted on the Science Careers Blog. As of 31 December the blog had received no comments or trackbacks unlike many of the women-in-science blogs found throughout the Internet, which are rife with comments. What is there within the personal stories—even the anonymous stories—found in women-in-science blogs that leads to commenting and an e-community? The community of women’s professional networks and the ways in which career and family can be balanced are topics discussed thoroughly in the Women in Chemistry Oral History Project. Did these new Nobel laureates say anything in their conversation highlights that differs or stands out from the stories of other women or the blogosphere? Yes and no.

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A New Year

Tonight is New Year’s Eve. Traditionally we party to excess, anticipate a long day of college football tomorrow, and scrawl a resolution or two, later to be broken. Sheesh, this is civilization? Setting aside bacchanalia and sports, I still like the idea of resolutions.

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Did You Like High School Science?

Chances are that anyone reading a blog called Periodic Tabloid will have good memories of enjoying high-school science classes. A fondness for high-school science isn’t universally shared, however. Sadly, there are people who harbor a negative association with their high-school science experience. Can this be changed?

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Cap and Trade: It Ain’t Over Till . . .

There’s no doubt that the momentum for cap-and-trade legislation in Congress has seriously slowed and could be in trouble. It passed the House with a margin of seven votes and now seems to be stuck in the Senate. The health-care debate has sucked away both time and any remaining reservoir of bipartisanship. Former Republican supporters appear to be bailing. New opponents are entering the fray. Meantime, an August poll taken by Hart Research Associates has shown that the public prefers the concept of a carbon tax over the idea of cap and trade. Is it still possible to go back and make a fundamental change to the regulatory approach?

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Sleep and Dementia

Anyone who makes a living in the knowledge business, or who just simply enjoys the life of the mind, worries about the eventual prospect of dementia. Alzheimer’s and related diseases are relentless, irreversible, and anxiety producing. One antidote to anxiety is sleep.

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World Wide Views on Global Warming

One of the side events at COP15, sponsored by the Danish Board of Technology (DBT), reported on the results of an international deliberation among citizens from 38 countries. Specifically, the DBT organized national partners to recruit approximately 100 of their citizens, reflecting the demographic diversity of each region, to deliberate over climate change policy and advise their home country’s delegations to COP15. All deliberations were held on September 26, 2009 and the DBT immediately made available all the data on the website for World Wide Views on Global Warming. [Full disclosure: I helped to organize the World Wide Views event in Colorado and am attending COP15 through a National Science Foundation grant to study the outcomes and processes of the project].

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Who Needs Labs?

Whenever a new drug molecule comes along, industrious biochemists set to work figuring out its mechanism of action. The path of least resistance is for every specialized lab to toss some of the drug molecule into their favorite bioassay and see if anything happens. Usually something does, thereby making it hard to know what the critical target is leading to desired pharmacology.

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