“Look, Ma! No Needles!”: Is An Immunization Revolution Close at Hand?

Microscopic view of the tip of a syringe above the microprojections of the Nanopatch. (Source: Kendall/D2G2 Research Group)

Microscopic view of the tip of a syringe above the microprojections of the Nanopatch. (Source: Kendall/D2G2 Research Group)

It’s one of the lamentable rites of passage for parents who choose to vaccinate their children: those first needle pricks in those perfect, chubby thighs that, however quickly and effectively administered by medical staff, unleash the flood of wails and tears from our innocent babies. Well, those traumatic aspects to early doctor visits could be a thing of the past thanks to the development of a fingertip-sized, needle-free vaccination strip called the Nanopatch. Continue reading

Phylo: A Crowdsourced, Beautiful Biodiversity Game

European Honey Bee card. Image credit: Phylogame.org

European Honey Bee card. Image credit: Phylogame.org

They started with one provocative thought: “Kids know more about Pokemon than they do about the plants and animals in their backyard. We’d like to do something about that.”

And then the team behind the Science Creative Quarterly released the idea to the web to see what would happen. It was 2010.

Now, just a few years later, the resulting fruit of a crowdsourced labor is Phylo: The Trading Card Game. Phylo is a frankly beautiful, “sneakily educational”, immediately compelling and truly cross-functional collaboration of the artistic, gaming, scientific, education and even intellectual property law communities all coming together to create and curate a sort of “biodiversity Pokemon.”

Okay, sounds neat, but why?

Continue reading

A Sea Lion in Boogie Wonderland

Lion de mer Amnéville 01Back in June of 2010, my colleague and fellow blogger, Isobel, wrote a post on “Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo, YouTube and Scientific Discovery.” It featured a popular YouTube video of Snowball the sulfur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) dancing to the Backstreet Boys. Besides being adorable, and the kind of video you can’t watch without getting a big dumb grin on your face, it was notable because Snowball was ably exhibiting a behavior previously thought unique to humans: the ability to keep, and move in time with, a musical beat.

Well, it’s time to move (groove?) on over, Snowball, and make room for a new beat-keeping star. Ronan’s in town. Continue reading

Graphene: It Does Everything (Including Blow My Mind)

GrapheneSince I started working for Promega in 1999 (goodness, it’s been that long?), one of the “side benefits” I’ve enjoyed is the exposure I’ve gotten to science. See, I’m not a scientist, nor did I particularly love science in school. I was definitely more of an English/language arts/communication type person. Science wasn’t my strong suit, and — confession time — I didn’t find it all that interesting.

And then I grew up and got a job at a life science company, and now? Science is pretty awesome. I get my mind blown on a very regular basis. Most recently, my jaw is on the floor over graphene.

Have you heard of graphene? I hadn’t, until I happened upon an article about it. It’s been around for a while, though, so it’s entirely possible I’m just late to the party. Graphene is a material that was first isolated in 2005. It’s made from a layer of carbon one atom thick and was confirmed in 2008 as the world’s strongest known material. It’s flexible and more conductive than copper or silicon, and the potential uses for it are pretty inspiring. Continue reading

And You Thought Hot Chocolate Couldn’t Taste Any Better…

Hot Chocolate with MarshmallowsSo, I’m sitting at my desk right now. It’s cold outside. We’re in the late February doldrums of winter here in Wisconsin. As I look out the window at the snow blanketing the prairie around our office building and the blah gray sky, a cup of hot chocolate sounds pretty darn good. Late winter seems to bring out that particular craving for me. Maybe for you, too? I can just imagine how it’d taste: warm, frothy, velvety, creamy, rich, chocolaty, delicious. Can you taste it, too? Mmmm, hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is a good, good thing. This is not news. We know this.

But did you know the color of the cup you select from which to drink your hot chocolate directly affects how good it tastes? Yeah, me neither. But apparently it does. Continue reading

Wanted: Time to Knit

I am a knitter. At least I think I am. Are you allowed to call yourself a knitter if you only pick up the needles after you’ve worked a full day, walked the dog, fed and bathed your daughter, put her to bed, picked up all the toys and books, done the dishes, spot-cleaned the kitchen, made dinner, tidied up the house to the point where it at least doesn’t make you immediately sick to your stomach, and somehow manage to not fall asleep within 15 minutes of sitting down on the couch?

Sigh. Hold on a second. Just writing that sentence exhausted me. Welcome to modern motherhood!

So, anyways, knitting. I love to knit. I know there are a good handful of authors on this blog who love to knit. I know we have some readers who love to knit. But loving it and actually doing it are sometimes different things. If you’re like me, the all-too-common refrain, usually delivered with a sigh of resignation, is:

“I just wish I had more time to knit.” Continue reading

Productivity Slumping? You Probably Need a Cute Overload!

Imagine this hypothetical exchange, between a worker — named Chris, let’s say — and his or her boss:

Boss: “Chris, I asked you to meet with me today because I’m concerned about your productivity.”

Chris: “I know, and I’m sorry. There’s been a lot going on, and I’ve been distracted. I’m probably not operating at 100%.”

Boss: “Well, it’s beginning to affect your team and your deadlines.”

Chris: “I realize that; I’m really going to try to be better.”

Boss: “Chris, the bottom line is, I think we need to be a little more proactive and transparent about this, and look for how we might leverage some best practice low-hanging fruit to empower you to address this. You know, a sea change of a paradigm shift.”

Chris: “…I don’t know what you just said there, but yes, I’m on board.”

Boss: “Chris, the hard truth is that, I’m going to need you to spend more time looking at pictures of adorable kittens and puppies on the internet.” Continue reading

When I Grow Up, I Want To Write #PewPew Hashtags

Artist’s rendering of Curiosity using its ChemCam. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

I’m not generally a space nut, but I do get a huge kick out of the work we’ve done to put rovers on Mars. I’ve felt pride and loneliness on behalf of the earlier rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and cheered the unexpected longevity of their missions. They always felt so plucky and can-do; sort of a robotic extension of the American spirit on a daunting new frontier. Who’s a cute little robot pioneer doing incredibly valuable scientific exploration? You are! YOU ARE!

Earlier this month, hours after Mars Curiosity navigated it’s “seven minutes of terror” and successfully landed on the Red Planet, I laid in bed, having just soothed my daughter back to sleep. All that soothing had had the opposite effect on me: I was wide awake. I decided to try to wind myself back down by staring at the small illuminated screen on my phone and catching up on some tweets. What can I say? It makes me drowsy every…single…time…zzzzzzz. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed, I saw tweet after tweet from my friends and connections heralding the latest interplanetary achievement by NASA. Curiosity was on the ground! Successfully! They did it! The mood was nothing less than jubilant and awestruck, and I found myself getting completely sucked in. Yeah, this WAS super cool! I mean, we built a SKY CRANE? There was a guy with a MOHAWK? Whooo-hoo! USA! USA! USA! Continue reading

Under the Weather? Twitter Knew Over a Week Ago

I’m not feeling very well today, which stinks because it’s Friday and I had some really fun plans tonight. Instead, I’ll probably end up staying home for a quiet night with my husband and daughter and some takeout food, and an early night to bed. I’m not complaining too much, though, because let’s be honest, you enjoy those quiet nights when you have a one-year-old toddler! But a recent article in New Scientist makes me wonder if, had I been paying close enough attention to Twitter, I could maybe have known over a week ago that I would’ve been under the weather today, and save me from having to tell all my girlfriends I’m probably pooping out on them tonight. Continue reading

Harnessing the Power of Play to Keep the Lights On

My daughter is just shy of one year old and, now that she’s walking, we’re getting increasing glimpses into the active little toddler she’s going to become. Heaven help us. I think most adults marvel at — and sometimes lament —  the enviable amounts of endlessly renewable energy kids expend every day, but I’d never really thought of them as being an actual source of renewable energy until I read an article about playground designs that harness the energy of children’s movements and turn playtime into power, with fascinating and technologically compelling results. Here are a handful that I thought were super cool: Continue reading