Friday, 12 June 2015

New technique promises to reveal a person’s history of viral infections

Even before we became aware of emerging diseases like HIV and Ebola, there seemed to be plenty of viruses around. It felt like childhood was a blur of various illnesses—and these were the ones we hadn't been vaccinated for. So just how many types of viruses does a typical human get exposed to?

Ten, if a study in this week's issue of Science is to be believed. The study introduces a new way of getting a global history of all the viruses a person's immune system has had the pleasure of knowing. The technique has some significant limitations, but it still has the potential to provide new perspectives on how the human immune system functions.

First, the technique, which its creators are calling "VirScan." It relies on the fact that, after a person's immune system mounts an attack against a pathogen, a small collection of B cells, called memory B cells, continue to produce antibodies that recognize the invader. These allow the immune system to mobilize rapidly if the same pathogen is ever encountered again. But the memory B cells also allow us to study the antibodies they produce.

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New Book Spanning Wayne Thiebaud’s Career Gives a Peek Into His Slanted and Heavily Shadowed Landscapes


Bright, thick, and severe, Wayne Thiebaud‘s landscapes veer far from his well-known paintings of common objects and sweets. These works feature steep inclines and long shadows, providing a dramatic new perspective to seemingly banal landscapes and cityscapes.

Thiebaud was born in Mesa, Arizona in 1920 and during his early career spent time in the animation department of Walt Disney Studios and the Special Service Department as an artist and cartoonist in the Air Force. Thiebaud studied at both San Jose State University and California State University in Sacramento, and had his very first solo exhibition at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento.

Although Thiebaud is often associated with the Pop art movement, many of his early works pre-date classic pop pieces and he personally rejects the association. “I don’t care for pop art at all,” Thiebaud told The Wall Street Journal last year.  “Pop artists just appropriate. They steal too much for me.”

A new book scheduled for publication this fall by Rizzoli will span the length of Thiebaud’s career, covering his work from the 1950s until today. The 94-year-old artist selected all the works in the monograph and also wrote a reflective introduction. The book will include his dessert, candy, and common object still lifes while also taking a look at as his landscape and cityscape paintings that tend to focus on the Sacramento River valley and San Francisco. You can pre-order the book “Wayne Thiebaud” on Amazon now, and see more of his work on Artsy. (via B-sides)








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High Fashion Hits the Tony Awards Red Carpet 2015

vanessa hudgens tony awards

fashion designers tony awards

Did anyone else think last night's TONY Awards red carpet looked like an extension of the CFDA Awards? That was not a coincidence. In the past, the awards ceremony celebrating live theater was barely watched by television fans. Unlike the Academy Awards, it was not the destination for celebrity fashion inspiration.

Legendary costume designer for Broadway, William Ivey Long (hell, even my Hubby knows his work) reached out to Anna Wintour for help with all of the above. Together with Vogue staff and the team at PR company KCD Worldwide, they made sure to give the stars lots of styling and designer help for the evening.

Like your typical Anna Wintour fest, many fashion designers attended with a celebrity as their date. Bernadette Peters arrived with Zac Posen; Joseph Altuzarra escorted Vanessa Axente, and Francisco Costa had Kendall Jenner on his arm representing Calvin Klein.

kiesza altuzarra

Some of my favorites on the red carpet were slightly biased because I am a big fan of performer's talent and performances first. Just off of Mad Men and nominated for The Heidi Chronicles, Elisabeth Moss wore a flower embroidered Oscar de la Renta column dress. Vanessa Hudgens, who starred in Gigi on Broadway, wore a beautiful floral print gown by Naeem Khan.

Kelli O'Hara, whom I loved way back in her Jekyll & Hyde days was the big winner last night for Best Actress in a Musial. She also wore a gold Oscar de la Renta dress. Jennifer Lopez wore Valentino, Canadian singer Kiesza wore a stunning if unconventional dress from Aluzarra. One of my favorite actresses on Broadway (Wicked) and tv (Pushing Daisies) Kristen Chenoweth hosted the Awards in a slinky silver, Zac Posen.

Congratulations to all of the talent, both dramatic and sartorial this week. Bravo for making the Great White Way the great red way with amped up TONY Awards red carpet fashion.
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
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How Can We Live on Mars?

Why live on Earth when you can live on Mars? Well, strictly speaking, you can’t. Mars is a

The post How Can We Live on Mars? has been published on Technology Org.

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Rechargeable zinc-air batteries may be a way to counter energy dependency of fossil fuels

Europe’s current energy system is confronted with a number of uncertainties, chief among those the highly volatile fossil

The post Rechargeable zinc-air batteries may be a way to counter energy dependency of fossil fuels has been published on Technology Org.

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Scientists make enzymes from scratch

Experts say they have achieved a scientific milestone - creating enzymes out of artificial genetic material that they made in their lab. 
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Why combining Mentos and Coke creates a sugary volcano, and other cool candy tricks

How to make sparks fly in your mouth

We're issuing a science-based exception to the "don't chew with your mouth open" rule for this one. If you crunch Wint-O-Green Life Savers with your mouth open in the dark in front of a mirror, you should see some sparks start to fly. The light you see is due to a phenomenon called "triboluminescence."

When you chomp down on a mint, your teeth are fracturing crystals of sugar. This fracturing happens all the way down at the molecular level, where chemical bonds are broken. Because of the structure of the sugar crystal, the breaking of these chemical bonds causes a build-up of electrons that creates a miniature electrical field. Eventually, the electrons glom onto molecules like oxygen or nitrogen in the air, and emit a bit of light in the process. Usually we can't see this light because it's in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. But wintergreen candies contain a compound called methyl salicylate that fluoresces, converting that UV light into visible blue light.

(More from World Science Festival: Remembering polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk)

Why do Pop Rocks pop?

Carbon dioxide gas is the chemical key to making Pop Rocks crackle in your mouth. Pop Rocks are made by heating a mixture of carbon dioxide and candy (a combination of sugar, corn syrup, lactose, and flavoring) to temperatures above 320 degrees Fahrenheit inside a pressurized chamber. While there's still 600 pounds per square inch of pressure on the mixture, the candy-carbon dioxide combination is cooled. After cooling, the pressure is released and the candy shatters into pieces full of tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas.

When you stick some Pop Rocks in your mouth, the candy melts and the carbon dioxide bubbles escape from their sugary prisons with satisfying pops.

And, despite any rumors you might have heard, eating Pop Rocks and drinking soda together won't cause your stomach to explode. That urban legend seems to have spread based on the false notion that pop rocks and soda would combine like an acid and a base and react violently — but since they both just get their fizz from carbon dioxide, the worst thing that would happen to you would be a really big burp.

Why do Mentos and Diet Coke create a geyser?

While you won't get much of a thrill from mixing Pop Rocks and Coke, if you pop some Mentos mints into a bottle of Diet Coke, you'll get to see an impressive geyser:

In some ways, the reaction looks like a science fair volcano. But unlike a baking soda-vinegar geyser, the candy isn't combining with the Coke in an acid-base reaction (none of the ingredients in Mentos are basic). Instead, the Mentos serves as a little factory and launchpad for carbon dioxide bubbles — supercharging the normal bubble-formation process in the Coke. The mint's rough surface has thousands of tiny pores, an ideal landscape for lots of bubbles to form (a process called nucleation). As the bubbles grow they become more buoyant and float up to the top of the soda. The process keeps chugging along, creating more and more bubbles until it explodes out the top of the bottle in a foamy overflow.

Certain ingredients in Mentos, like aspartame and potassium benzoate, also speed the process by acting as surfactants — chemicals that lower the surface tension of the soda. This makes it even easier for bubbles to form on the candy. Too much surface tension in a liquid doesn't allow for much bubble formation — the attractions between molecules in the liquid are strong enough that the molecules at the surface resist moving up and away. Adding a surfactant, like Mentos in Coke or soap in water, loosens the liquid molecules' hold on each other a little bit, allowing for bubbles to form.

Appalachian State University physicist Tonya Coffey wrote an in-depth paper on the science behind the Coke-Mentos reaction published in the American Journal of Physics in 2008. Coffey found that combining Diet Coke and Fruit Mentos yielded the most impressive horizontal spray distance, flinging the soda nearly 17 feet from the bottle.

Making candy dance

For a less explosive demonstration of the powers of carbon dioxide fizziness, you can drop a few pieces of various kinds of candy or food into a glass of clear soda and see what happens. Anything with a rough surface — like raisins, or Valentine's Day conversation hearts — should provide a good surface for bubbles to form, as we saw with the Mentos. If the candy (or raisin) is light enough, the carbon dioxide bubbles should be able to buoy it up to the surface; when the bubble pops, the candy (or raisin) falls back down again. This up-and-down "dance" should last until the soda goes flat.

See the spectrum in black jellybeans

Plunk a wet black jellybean down on a piece of filter paper, and you'll be able to see that its blackness is actually made from a combination of hues. The various dyes in the bean will travel different distances away from the jellybean on the filter paper due to their different properties. Some shades of dye are more water-soluble, meaning they dissolve more easily and can be carried along the paper further. Some colors will be more attracted to the paper. The resulting rings of colors are called a separation pattern — something chemists use all the time to figure out what different chemical ingredients are in a mixture. You can try this same experiment with other colors of jellybeans and with other candies as well.

(More from World Science Festival: Getting sleep in the wild)

How to grow giant gummy bears

If you leave gummy bears in tap water for a while, they'll swell up into something more like Gummy Grizzlies. The reason for this is the process of osmosis — the tendency for water to perform a balancing act where it flows from a solution with fewer molecules dissolved into it into a solution that has more molecules in it (provided the two solutions are accessible to each other through a semipermeable membrane that allows certain molecules to cross its border, but which screens out others).

Gummy bears are actually a solution of water. These candies start out as a liquid mixture of water and gelatin, which is heated and then cooled, a process that draws water out of the bear and hardens it into a chewier texture. But there's still some water trapped in the matrix of gelatin that forms the bear. When you stick a gummy bear in water, osmotic pressure forces water molecules into the gummy bear, making the candy swell up like a sponge.

How to take the M off an M&M

If you leave an M&M or a Skittle in water for a little while, the 'M' or 'S' should peel off and float up to the surface. That's because the letters on the candy are made out of white edible ink that doesn't dissolve, unlike the dyes that color the candy shell.

Making soap bubbles with candy corn

This is one experiment you won't be able to do at home, unless you happen to live in a low-gravity environment:

NASA astronaut Don Pettit used his special stash of candy corn on the International Space Station to model how soap works. Soap molecules have a hydrophobic (water-hating) end and a hydrophilic (water-loving) end. When you scrub something with soap, the hydrophobic ends of the soap molecules automatically point towards little globules of grease and oil on your clothes (or your dishes, or your skin); eventually, the particles of grease are encased in little bubbles of soap and can be rinsed off with water.

(More from World Science Festival: How fear happens)

With his candy corn experiment, Pettit did the same trick, but in reverse: He coated one end of his candy corn pieces with oil, making it hydrophobic, then started adding kernels to a floating sphere of water. The hydrophobic ends naturally oriented themselves away from the center. After Pettit added enough candy corn, the sphere reached what's known as the "critical micelle concentration." The candy corn sphere wasn't mushy anymore, but behaved like a solid ball — or like a soap-coated grease globule ready to be rinsed off and away.

Why microwaved marshmallows puff up

Put a couple marshmallows in the microwave for about a minute, and you'll see them puff up. This is because the heat from the microwave softens the sugar in the marshmallow, and also causes the air pockets inside the sweet to expand. Because the sugary walls of the marshmallow are softer, the marshmallow puffs up. When cooled, the marshmallow shrinks down again — but is usually a bit crunchier than before, probably because some of the water inside it evaporated in the heat of the microwave.

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NASA wants to cut travel time to Mars “in half” with new propulsion tech

Speaking at an Aerojet Rocketdyne plant, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said that NASA is looking into advanced propulsion technologies that can cut the current eight-month journey to Mars "in half." Technologies such as solar-electric propulsion are definitely on the cards, but NASA may look towards more unconventional solutions such as nuclear rockets, too.

Over the past few years, there's been a lot of attention on getting astronauts on Mars, mostly fuelled by crazy projects like Mars One, the success of the Curiosity rover, and heavyweights like Elon Musk saying he wants to colonise Mars.

The main problem with getting humans to Mars is that, with our current liquid-fuelled rocket engines, it takes a very long time to get there; about eight months or so. If we can cut the journey in half, we significantly reduce the amount of food and water needed—which in turn cuts down the weight of the spacecraft, which in turn reduces the amount of fuel needed, which in turn feeds a very positive feedback loop. Less time in outer space means astronauts will be bombarded by less radiation, too.

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Charting the Milky Way From the Inside Out

Imagine trying to create a map of your house while confined to only the living room. You might

The post Charting the Milky Way From the Inside Out has been published on Technology Org.

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Viniq Hosts a Ruby Spa Day

viniq ruby cocktail
red door spa party
Day Two of Ms. Fabulous Cocktail Week. I was treated to an indulgent afternoon at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa in Midtown Manhattan. The host was Viniq Ruby, a gorgeous blend of vodka, berry, Moscato and citrus.

The theme of course, was ruby red. Ruby is my birthstone. Macarons looked like they were encrusted with crushed rubies. Sparkly jello shots made with Viniq looked like little jewels. We were treated to a multi-course cocktail tasting to feature the flavors of Viniq. I personally love the original in purple and the now the new Ruby version in red in the bottle itself. Its' signature look is an iridescent shimmering texture in the bottle as a result of mica being added. This is a sparkling additive usually found in candy and pastry but this is the only brand that featured it in the drink. I'm

The Red Door Spa is one of my favorite places in the city. The posh treatment rooms were like a maze of relaxation. Mini massages got everyone into a zen mood. Guests took turns receiving manicures in different shades of red. The final treatment was to get a fabulous braid creation.

If you're ready to indulge at home (and I will) here is a recipe for the "A-List" cocktail that I am grabbing for up top:

2 oz. Viniq Ruby
3 oz. champagne

Pour into a champagne glass and served chilled.
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On-demand X-rays at Synchrotron Light Sources

Consumers are now in the era of “on-demand” entertainment, in which they have access to the books, music

The post On-demand X-rays at Synchrotron Light Sources has been published on Technology Org.

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