Explainers at NYSCI

NYSCI Explainers talk shop, the art of explaining science, museum careers and professional know-how. Subscribe for tips, tricks, videos and fun things to do with science. Share your ideas too!
Contributing Authors

Micro Medicine

For years, we have been wasting time by taking medicine, vitamins, and various other drugs the hard way. First we uncap the childproof bottle and shake out way more capsules than necessary into the palm of our hands. Then, we select the one or two pills we’ll be taking, pour a glass of water, place it at the very back of our tongues, and swallow a huge gulp of water. Lots of people go through this process day after day, but what if it didn’t have to be that way?

MicroCHIPS is a company that has created an electronic drug delivery system that is small enough to fit on your fingertip. The 20mm x 7mm microchip is implanted under the skin of your stomach, your upper arm, or your rear-end! Tiny banks in the chip store the drug to be delivered. An internal battery sends an electric current through the device. A seal made of platinum and titanium then temporarily melts and allows the drug to be released each day.

The microchip can release the drug every day for up to 16 years, but also allows the user to turn off the device when necessary. This may not be a wise choice when dealing with medicines that are prescribed for everyday use, like insulin for diabetes, but it is a nice option when dispensing birth control.

Current uses for the device involve levonorgestrel, a hormone usually used in contraceptives. With MircroCHIPS’ invention, users no longer have to remember to take a pill, but when they are ready to conceive, a remote control can be used to switch the chip off. But don’t worry, the communication between the remote and the implant has to occur at skin contact, so no one can reprogram your implant from across the room.

So, if you had access to MicroCHIPS’ device, what would you fill it with?

ted:

5 fun facts about fireflies (aka your favorite summer bug):

Fireflies mate for a full evening and spend the whole night together. Awwww.

The lights you see from fireflies are courtship signals that males are sending to females.

But firefly romance is risky business. “Femme fatale” fireflies seduce males, and then suck their blood to get chemicals for their own survival.

Around 150 million years ago, the very first fireflies flew during the daytime and didn’t light up. Today, there are still some firefly species where only the females light up.

The chemical that makes fireflies light up first evolved as a warning sign to ward off predators — and it tastes terrible. Don’t eat the fireflies, folks. 

WATCH: The loves and lies of fireflies » 

Animal Madness

“Every animal with a mind has the capacity to lose hold of it,” said Dr. Braitman, author of the book entitled Animal Madness. Her book chronicles the stories of a few interesting characters in the animal kingdom. Anxious dogs, compulsive parrots, elephants in recovery and a panic ridden gorillas are just a few of the cases that Braitman discusses in her book.

From NYSCI’s own Wild Minds exhibit, we know that some animals can think. We know that that thinking can lead to the creation of tools and the solving of problems. We know that thinking animals participate in organized play, that they have the ability to communicate and that many of them are quite self-aware. As any pet owner or animal lover can testify, animals have complex minds and are rather emotional.

Many dogs who serve in war zones come home with PTSD-like symptoms similar to their human colleagues. Some other animals compulsively lick their tails like the repetitive hand washing of a person with O.C.D. And still others engage in behaviors like plucking out feathers or refusing to eat, not too different from those who struggle with self-mutilation and eating disorders.

The entire premise of Dr. Braitman’s book suggests humans are not the only ones who battle mental illness, but studying animals who have similar symptoms may help us understand ourselves!

Source: New York Times 

we-r-not-tour-guides:

This is why they invented shin guards

Hopefully we won’t see any bad acting in today’s championship match

Brazil World Cup 2014… Germany vs Argentina… who will come out on top?

Explainer Diaries #2! 

On June 5th, 2014 fifteen NYSCI Explainers were given the opportunity to visit the Google office in NYC! 

We began the day with a panel discussion about Google jobs. We met with extraordinary employees who told us about their journey to Google and the steps it took to work in such a large company. It was great to ask questions and converse with ‘googlers’ who were more than willing to give us advice!

We then took a tour around the Google building. We saw the scooter stations, free gourmet food courts, a massage lounge and even a Lego room! It was so much fun to see the open atmosphere that the ‘googlers’ worked in. 

The Explainers were able to experience the candid environment of Google and see the amazing perks of working there. And while it was great to see the fun behind Google, the Explainers appreciated and learned so much more from the employees who worked there. 

We learned that it is okay to not know exactly what you want to study in college and that it’s normal to make mistakes. What is more important than anything else is to do what you love, and that is what will get you far.

So leave a comment: What is your dream job, and is it something you would enjoy doing?

PAC-mecium

Classic 8-bit games like Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers and Tetris were well know for their electrically synthesized music and their basic graphics. Bioengineer, Ingmar Reidel-Kruse, at Stanford University has found a way to combine those nostalgic games with his study of microbiology. 
PAC-mecium is his take on Pac-Man. In the original game, the Pac-Man avatar must eat pellets and escape from ghosts. In Riedel-Kruse’s version, microbes called paramecia are the avatars, and they must run away from the huge hungry fish that swims through the game. 
You’re probably wondering how tiny microbes can serve as an avatar for a videogame when you can’t even see them with the naked eye. The key is in the device rigged by Riedel Kruse. It’s a chamber that has a glass bottom which emits electrodes, has a webcam, and a magnification lens. Turns out, when there is a change in the electrical field, the paramecium swim toward the electricity. The webcam and the magnification lens on the chamber work together to produce an enlarged image of the paramecium. 
The two specks in the bottom left corner of the image above are magnified microbes. Their image is being overlain onto the 8-bit game graphic. Using a remote control to guide the chamber, the paramecia follow the charge through the game. As they swim over the graphic of a yellow or blue pellet they “eat” the pellets for points, and swim for their lives to escape the 8-bit fish! 
Source: Popular Science

PAC-mecium

Classic 8-bit games like Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers and Tetris were well know for their electrically synthesized music and their basic graphics. Bioengineer, Ingmar Reidel-Kruse, at Stanford University has found a way to combine those nostalgic games with his study of microbiology.

PAC-mecium is his take on Pac-Man. In the original game, the Pac-Man avatar must eat pellets and escape from ghosts. In Riedel-Kruse’s version, microbes called paramecia are the avatars, and they must run away from the huge hungry fish that swims through the game.

You’re probably wondering how tiny microbes can serve as an avatar for a videogame when you can’t even see them with the naked eye. The key is in the device rigged by Riedel Kruse. It’s a chamber that has a glass bottom which emits electrodes, has a webcam, and a magnification lens. Turns out, when there is a change in the electrical field, the paramecium swim toward the electricity. The webcam and the magnification lens on the chamber work together to produce an enlarged image of the paramecium.

The two specks in the bottom left corner of the image above are magnified microbes. Their image is being overlain onto the 8-bit game graphic. Using a remote control to guide the chamber, the paramecia follow the charge through the game. As they swim over the graphic of a yellow or blue pellet they “eat” the pellets for points, and swim for their lives to escape the 8-bit fish!

Source: Popular Science

While bugs are considered delicacies in some cultures today, most of us consider bugs as irritants. They infest our food, bite our skin and disturb quiet nights. We all seem to have grown an ‘Ick’ Factor for insects and find them too repulsive to eat.

But what if we take aside our disgust and study the benefits of Entomophagy (consumption of insects). Most bugs have more Iron than red meat and contain 80% Protein content. Insects contain high amounts of energy-rich fat and fiber and also carry micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. The benefits should outweigh our repulsion!

So if you had a meal worm on your tongue like this NYSCI Explainer, could you put aside your ‘Ick’ Factor and swallow it?

When we visited etsy!

In the Palm of Your Hand

Here at NYSCI we don’t track our hours by punching in with time cards at those giant clocks.  Our system relies on geometry, measuring the shape of our hands and the angles at which our fingers and palms meet.  While it is difficult to imitate the shape of someone’s hand, fingerprints and retinal scans are even more specific to the individual.

We’ve all seen action movies where the bad guys gain access to secure locations by making molds of the fingerprint, but they often struggle to fool retinal scanners.  That’s because those scanners read vein patterns on the back of the eye.  Students at Lund University in Sweden realized how unique vein patterns are, and how difficult they’d be to fake, so why not use them at cash registers?

Don’t worry, they won’t be aiming price scanners at your eyes! Instead you’d place your palm on a scanning pad that detects the veins in your hand.  Just like a debit card, the money is taken out of your bank account right away, but more importantly, it completely eliminates the hassle of fumbling with your wallet to find your card.

According to the Lund University students, the hardest part of implementing this project was connecting all the dots.  The vein scanning terminals, the banks, the stores and of course the customers all had to be on the same page for it to work.  For now the program is active with 1,600 users in the immediate vicinity of the Lund University campus, but this is just the start of much shorter lines at the supermarket check-out.

Source: Science Daily

Yesterday was BUG DAY at The New York Hall of Science(nysci)! Check out the photos here.

Photo 1, 2, 3: Andrew Kelly

Photo 4, 5: NySci Explainers