First, Kenji Yoshino, a post-baccalaureate fellow at Grinnell College, came up with a way to build a microscope out of an old smartphone using just $10
worth of extra parts. Which is pretty awesome, in and of itself. But, then, scientist and blogger Bethany Brookshire tried to follow Yoshino's instructions. She sort-of succeeded — after a lot of small failures. But it's that story — about the messy, imperfect process of real-world DIY
— that really rocks. Read it, and you'll learn a lot about the process of making, and what it's like to make somebody else's project your own. In the real world, building the microscope is as much a learning experience as using the thing. — Maggie
This is a picture of a wave crashing on the New Jersey shore. It glows because of dinoflagellates — little, single-celled plants, animals, and bacteria that float around on the water, moving about with the help of long, moveable protein strands called flagella. Some dinoflagellates are bioluminescent; that is, chemical reactions inside their bodies produce light. The result is glowing oceans. Or, as maker Caleb Kraft recently discovered, the dinoflagellates also make for a soft blue nightlight with really nifty special effects.
You can watch Kraft's nightlight project at YouTube. It's pretty simple to do at home. At it's most basic, all you need to do is purchase some bioluminescent dinoflagellates online, keep them alive in your home, and give them a good shaking occasionally to trigger the chemical reaction.
A couple more helpful links:
• Where Kraft bought his dinoflagellates
• A guide to other dinoflagellate dealers, and to the care and feeding of unicellular organisms
• Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography who are studying dinoflagellate bioluminescence to better understand how it works and what role it plays in the ecosystem
• A detailed explanation of what dinoflagellates are and why they glow
Image: Red Tide Luminescense, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from piratelife's photostream
When one of Caroline Paul's cats disappeared for 5.5 weeks, it inspired her to find out what Tibula (the cat) was really up to when he left home. The process of this is pretty fascinating
. The outcome is, well, kind of cat like. What was Tibula doing when he wasn't at home? Avoiding the house and staring at himself in windows, apparently. — Maggie
You can build your own cicada detector and help Radiolab track the movements of a once-every-17-year cicada swarm
expected to invade the US East Coast this summer. — Maggie
It may be a little late for folks on the East Coast to round up the necessary parts before the blizzard really hits, but this would be a fun trapped-in-the-house project. It's not cheap, but it does give you the opportunity to see how subatomic particles interact with one another in the privacy of your own home. In a post at Scientific American George Musser explains how he put his experiment together
. A follow-up promises to show you how to use it, and what he found when he did. — Maggie
Learn to break an apple apart with your bare hands. Make a marshmallow gun. Breathe fire. The Cobbler is your video guide to hands-on, science-based projects that filled with fun
. — Maggie
This computer simulation uses what we know about physical forces in the universe to model how a galaxy might have been born, and how it might grow over 13.5 billion years.
This cosmological simulation follows the development of a single disk galaxy over about 13.5 billion years, from shortly after the Big Bang to the present time. Colors indicate old stars (red), young stars (white and bright blue) and the distribution of gas density (pale blue); the view is 300,000 light-years across. The simulation ran on the Pleiades supercomputer at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., and required about 1 million CPU hours. It assumes a universe dominated by dark energy and dark matter.
The result is a beautiful (if silent) video that is significantly labeled as public domain. It seemed like something you guys might enjoy playing around with.
Check out this Wikipedia article for more information on the growth of galaxies
Hurricane Hackers is a hashtag on Twitter (i.e., #hurricanehackers) and a crowdsource hub to create tech and social projects related to Hurricane Sandy. Proposed projects include an ad-hoc food and water delivery system for after the storm and live maps that show which businesses in a given area are actually open. You can propose projects or start working on projects other people have proposed. Check out the official Google Doc
, or the IRC channel
. (Via Shasha Costanza-Chock) — Maggie
This is seriously awesome. Researchers with the Mastadon Matrix Project need help sifting through "matrix" — the dirt that a fossil is embedded in. Join the Project, and you'll be sent a kilogram of matrix from a mastadon dig in New York State. You can do the analysis with inexpensive, easy-to-find equipment, and then send your discoveries back to the scientists. It's a great chance to do real, valuable scientific research in your school or home. Check it out!
(Via Karen Traphagen
) — Maggie