roman-concrete-& brickwork image

Monuments of Imperial Rome have survived for more than a thousand years, despite repeated floods and earthquakes. Now researchers have a new clue as to why—the use of volcanic rock in their cement.

Researchers looked at Trajan’s Market and several other Imperial Roman structures to analyze the remarkable resilience of the concrete. They then reproduced a standard Imperial-age mortar—a simple mix of lime, water, and a specific kind of volcanic ash from an area now known as Pozzuoli. The recipe was taken from records of the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius.

Scientists already knew that this particular Roman blend of concrete proved extremely tough; what they didn’t know was exactly why. After letting the test concrete toughen up over 180 and then looking at it via X-rays, the scientists here noticed dense growths of plate-like crystals made of a durable mineral known as strätlingite. Those crystals prevented the spread of microscopic cracks in parts of the mortar, which usually breaks down in modern-day cements.

They detailed their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Henry Sapiecha

Phi Sciences

Phi Sciences

Sourcd & published by Henry Sapiecha


Thanks to an EEG headset and a compressed air cannon, destroying things with your brain just got a whole lot easier.
Think Cards

LVL1, a hackerspace in Louisville Kentucky, has designed this rig that fulfills the fantasies of every disgruntled person ever: by looking at something (in this case, an unlucky watermelon) and concentrating hard enough, to can blow it into bite-size chunks.

No genetic tinkering or use of Force is required, just a hacked up Star Wars Force Trainer (which reads brainwaves, sort of) that controls a CO2 cannon jammed up the wazoo of a watermelon. Concentrate hard enough, and the headset will sense the power of your will and signal the cannon to fire, turning the watermelon (which, for the record, didn’t ever do anything to you) into a tasty pulp.

Instructions to build your own “Mind over Melon” brain explodey device will be available soon on the LVL1 wiki, but until it’s ready, just watch the video below over and over while repeating “no power in the ‘verse can stop me.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


In war and disaster, ignorance is dangerous & deadly, so it’s important that soldiers and front liners & those in the trenches get the information they need as quickly as possible. Dr. Peter White, a scientist with Britain’s Ministry of Defence, has invented a handheld device that makes collecting samples and carrying out tests in the field much simpler and faster than previously possible. Developed at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Integrated Multiplex Assay and Sampling System (IMASS) can collect samples of and detect eight different substances simultaneously.
Testimonial Monkey

Originally designed to sample and detect hazardous and explosive materials, IMASS is a very simple device. Essentially, it’s a plastic cylinder containing eight assay strips. These strips can test powder, liquids or surfaces directly by removing the cap and touching IMASS to the area. The assay strips then react to the sample in the same way as a home pregnancy kit, providing a positive or negative result. Exactly what the strips detect depends on the needs of the user, and IMASS can be custom outfitted for specific substances with strips that are chemistry or immunoassay-based. It can also be used for enzymatic detection.

Having it easy to use is particularly important, since IMASS is intended for field use. “Devices that are currently fielded do not integrate sampling with detection and are not easy to use if you are wearing gloves,” said Dr. White. “This invention combines a mature, established detection technology into an integrated handheld device that could be used by a generalist front line operator wearing protective clothing.”
Phi Sciences

The original users of IMASS are front line troops and counter-terrorism personnel, but that will soon expand to include British forensic and security forces. With this in mind, the Home Office has provided funding to Dstl to study how IMASS can be used in anti-terrorism operations.

In addition, overseas markets have shown interest in the device. Dstl through its technology transfer company Ploughshare Innovations Ltd has licensed the patented technology to BBI Detection Ltd. BBI has further developed IMASS for detecting food allergens and illegal drugs, and sees more applications in hospitals or in bio-threat situations where responders must work in cumbersome protective clothing.

Sources: Ministry of Defence, BBI International
Groper Career Test

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

‘Killer paper’ could prolong shelf life of foods

By Ben Coxworth

16:04 January 19, 2011

Silver is a known killer of harmful bacteria, and has already been incorporated into things such as antibacterial keyboardswashing machineswater filters, and plastic coatings for medical devices. Now, scientists have added another potential product to the list: silver nanoparticle-impregnated “killer paper” packaging, that could help keep food from spoiling.

Led by Aharon Gedanken from Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, the team discovered that paper could be covered with silver nanoparticles through the application of ultrasonic radiation – a process known as ultrasonication. It involves the formation and subsequent collapse of acoustic bubbles near a solid surface, which creates microjets that throw the desired nanoparticles onto that surface. To the team’s knowledge, this was only the second time that ultrasonication had ever been attempted on paper.

Unlike previous attempts at creating antibacterial paper, this one-step method was reportedly quite effective, and produced a smooth, homogenous, long-lasting coating. By varying the nanoparticle concentration and the application time, the thickness of the coating could be varied as needed. When exposed to E. coli and S. aureus bacteria, both of which cause food poisoning, the paper killed them all off within three hours.

The scientists stated that the ultrasonication process could also be used to apply other nanomaterials to paper, which could be used to tweak its hydrophobicity, conductivity, or texture.

While the addition of ionic silver to foods has been used in the past to ward off bacteria, the paper would reportedly serve as a longer-term solution, as it would act as a slow-release reservoir for the silver. Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging has previously looked into the use of sorbic acid-coated plastic as an antibacterial food wrap.

The killer paper research was recently published in the journal Langmuir.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

5. The TSA needs a Barry White theme song

It’s unlikely that John Pistole, the Transportation Security Agency’s dour chief who once warned that terrorism must “always be considered imminent,” expected such public vilification over his agency’s new airport screening procedures.

But a protest that began with a few bloggers has, since Pistole announced the pat-down or body-scan policy in a one-paragraph note on a few weeks ago, become something closer to public execration. TSA screeners have been twitted by Saturday Night Live, Grammy-winning musician Steve Vaus, and cartoonist Tom Tomorrow. The agency itself has been rebuked by some of the same politicians who voted unanimously to create it a decade ago.

The surprise is that, beyond exempting flight attendants and pilots, the TSA has remained unyielding and impenitent. All Pistole would tell CBS News this week is that he’ll continue asking: “How can we be better informed if we modify our screening? Then, what are the risks that we deal with?” That’s Washington-ese for “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby.”

Photo by TSA

Read more:

Received & published by Henry Sapiecha

Be careful microwaving water!!!

The Scenario: A man decided to have a quick cup of coffee. He places a cup of water in a microwave oven to heat it up (something he has done numerous times before). When the timer shut the oven off, he removed the cup from the oven. As he was about to add the coffee granules to the hot water, he noticed the water did not appear to
be boiling, but suddenly the water “blew up” into his face scalding him.
Why did this happen?

The water actually became “superheated.” Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius at normal atmospheric pressure but in a microwave oven it can be superheated without tell tale bubbles appearing. If a litre of water is superheated by only 1 degree, it is in an unstable state and can suddenly produce about 3 litres of steam while quickly returning to boiling point.
The following conditions promote this potentially dangerous event:- Using a container with a very smooth surface, such as an unscratched glass or glazed container; heating for too long; or quickly adding a substance such as coffee granules or even a spoon. Even a jarring action can cause it to “explode.”
How to avoid it:
• The best advice is not to heat water in a microwave oven. Use an electric jug or kettle or a saucepan on a stove.
• Before putting the water into the oven, insert a non-metal object with a surface that is not smooth. (e.g. a wooden stirrer).
• Use a container, the surface of which is at least a little scratched or not new.
• Do not heat for longer than the recommended time for the quantity of water used.
• Tap the outside of the container with a solid object while it is still in the microwave oven.
An explanation:

In a microwave oven, the water is usually hotter than the container, whereas parts of a kettle or saucepan are usually hotter than the water. Further, the surfaces of some containers used in microwave ovens may be very smooth, almost at a molecular scale, whereas this is not true for kettles or saucepans.
Microwave ovens heat the water directly: the microwaves pass through the container and the water, and the water itself absorbs energy from them. The container absorbs little energy directly. In a kettle or saucepan, the container itself (saucepan) or a heating element (some kettles) is hotter than the water. The hottest points cause a small amount of local superheating, boiling is initiated here, and this then stirs the water.

Received & published by Henry Sapiecha

Faster DNA Analysis

at Room Temperature

Science (Aug. 12, 2010) — DNA microarrays are one of the most powerful tools in molecular biology today. The devices, which can be used to probe biological samples and detect particular genes or genetic sequences, are employed in everything from forensic analysis to disease detection to drug development.

Now Paul Li and colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada have combined DNA microarrays with microfluidic devices, which are used for the precise control of liquids at the nanoscale. In an upcoming issue of the journal Biomicrofluidics, which is published by the American Institute of Physics (AIP), Li and his colleagues describe how the first combined device can be used for probing and detecting DNA.

The key to Li’s result: gold nanoparticles. Suspended in liquid and mixed with DNA, the nanometer-scale spheres of gold act as mini magnets that adhere to each of the DNA’s twin strands. When the DNA is heated, the two strands separate, and the gold nanoparticles keep them apart, which allows the single strands to be probed with other pieces of DNA that are engineered to recognize particular sequences.

Li, whose work is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, is applying for a patent for his technique. He sees a host of benefits from the combination of DNA microarrays and microfluidics.

“It’s faster and requires a relatively small sample,” he says, adding in his paper that “the whole procedure is accomplished at room temperature in an hour and apparatus for high temperature… is not required”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Brain scans could steer career choices

IRVINE, Calif. (UPI) — Your talents and abilities could someday be revealed through a brain scan, possibly guiding your career choices, U.S. scientists say.

Neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine, scanned 6,000 volunteers in an effort to build a brain “map” that could match particular areas to particular skills and knowledge, The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday.

While being scanned, volunteers performed cognitive tests to see if there was a connection between brain and aptitude, the newspaper said.

Researchers said the amount of gray matter, areas of the brain used for computations, and white matter, used for communication, and where they were positioned seemed to suggest how good someone would be at a number of tasks including arithmetic, learning and remembering facts and figures.

The results, though preliminary, suggest brain scans could eventually be used to help a person consider a career path, psychologist Professor Richard Haier said.

“A person’s pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses is related to their brain structure, so there is a possibility that brain scans could provide unique information that would be helpful for vocational choice,” he said.

Copyright 2010 by United Press International

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha