Periodic Tabloid

In Vino Veritas

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring organic compound produced by certain plants. One of the best sources is the skin of red grapes. Eating grapes or drinking red wine thus causes exposure to resveratrol. This may not be so bad if you are a fungus, a worm, or a fruit fly since there are various reports that this substance can lengthen their lifespan. Alas, such evidence is not definitive for those of us who are humans.

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Gasoline from Biomass without Fermentation

Most processes currently envisioned to produce alcohols from biomass depend on fermentation. That is, a living organism, often optimized through genetic engineering, converts the sugars or starches to alcohols. Besides being slow, the process usually takes place in a dilute system leading to an expensive water removal step.  

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Industrial Biotech is Accelerating

Several different news releases make it evident that industrial applications of genetic biotechnology, which seemed to be the domain of futurists, are now becoming a reality. One example of this new reality will be in the area of energy sciences and biofuels. 

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Reversible Stickiness

Some years ago I accidentally discovered a polymer-based adhesive that allowed the irreversible joining of two metal strips. Amazingly, the adhered juncture was stronger than the metal itself, but of course the bond was permanent and could not be undone. I haven’t thought much about adhesion in the intervening years, but a new publication  from the GM Research & Development Center has rekindled my interest.

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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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Carlson Vs. Moore

In one corner, we have Moore’s law. In the other corner, there is Carlson’s curve. Moore’s law— named after Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel—famously predicted over 40 years ago that the transistor density of integrated circuits would double about every two years. So far, it’s been right. Carlson’s curve—named after biologist Rob Carlson—refers to a graph showing the diminishing cost per base of sequencing DNA over time. Like transistor density, DNA sequencing prowess is similarly exponential, and showing no signs of slowing down.

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Seeing the Invisible

Nobody thought we could ever see the individual atoms and bonds of a molecule because the necessary light would be so energetic as to destroy the very molecule under observation. Luckily, intractable problems attract smart scientists.

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It’s OK to FRET

e all experience fret now and then, that is, worried, distressed, vexed, or troubled feelings and emotions. Not good. FRET, by contrast, is not so bad when it stands for fluorescence resonance energy transfer.

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Yet Another Escape Hatch for Moore’s Law

Moore’s law states that the number of transistors in integrated circuits doubles about every two years. This is why computers keep on getting smaller, why memory chips keep increasing in storage capacity, and why digital cameras keep having more megapixels.But can Moore’s law hold forever?

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