Images of molecules

Using a specially-designed microscope under extreme vacuum and low temperature, and a measuring tip smaller than the size of an atom, scientists were able to get very clear images of molecules.  This technique, known as non-contact atomic force microscopy (I think I often strive for the titles of my pieces to be as clear as the names of scientific processes, but that’s another post altogether) is covered in this article on the Royal Society of Chemistry site.  The above image is a pentacene molecule on a copper surface.

The technique works without touching the molecule – instead (as I understand it) there is an overlap of the electrons between the sensing tip and the molecule itself.  Energy is exchanged and recorded, that data is then translated into an image.  In a way, this is a lot like traditional photography, where the camera doesn’t touch the object but records light bouncing off of it.  Maybe we need consumer-level imaging devices that aren’t light-based, but record other types of energy.

Via: Make blog

Sounds of nuclei

An interesting, if diffcult to understand, article on listening to the nuclei of atoms using NMR Spectroscopy by Prof. Dr. Water Bauer at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg.  While the science is complicated, the electronics to listen in are not.

How difficult is it to modify an existing spectrometer for auditory FID monitoring? If you are familiar with electronics it takes not more than half an hour of soldering and wiring.

According to the block diagram, just splice in two wires and plug them into a stereo.  Of course, you need the machine above, but who doesn’t have one of those, right?  The sound below is CH3CHO (found in coffee and ripe fruit, and is believed to be the chemical that causes hangovers), sampled four different times.

Via: Auditory Presentation of Free Induction Decay (FID) Signals Generated by NMR Spectrometers

Tumblr API

Tumblr’s API allows XML access to post content and related information.

For example, this link:

… it returns this XML file (truncated for this post):

<tumblr version=”1.0″>

<tumblelog name=”demo” timezone=”US/Eastern” title=”Demo”>
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit, sed diam nonummy nibh euismod tincidunt ut laoreet dolore magna aliquam erat volutpat.

<posts start=”0″ total=”6″>

<post id=”236″ url=”″ url-with-slug=”” type=”quote” date-gmt=”2006-11-08 19:27:00 GMT” date=”Wed, 08 Nov 2006 14:27:00″ unix-timestamp=”1163014020″ format=”html” reblog-key=”iKvmNy9T” slug=”it-does-not-matter-how-slow-you-go-so-long-as-you”>

It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop.

Wisdom of <a href=””>Confucius</a>

Sound of the first million years

If you can ignore the initial ultra-cheesy graphic (not the one above, which is the Cosmic Microwave Background), Mark Whittle’s article on the unpacking of the sound of the universe after the Big Bang is fascinating.  It turns out that in space, people can hear you scream… at least, during the first million years you can.  A few interesting quotes (emphasis Whittle’s), and a simulation of the sound:

… the Big Bang started out utterly silent! The initial expansion was absolutely pure and “radial” – no parts were catching up any other parts, and hence there were no pressure waves, and hence no sound. All was quiet.

… [at the time of the Big Bang] the Universe was much smaller (by at least a factor of 1000), and all the matter we now find in stars and galaxies was spread out uniformly. Add to this the fact that the young Universe was also much hotter, and we learn that over the first million years, all of space was filled with a hot thin uniform glowing gas, a billion times denser than the current cosmic density. Not only did the Universe have an atmosphere – in a sense, it was an atmosphere. It was within this atmosphere that sound waves could form and move in the young Universe.

… How do we measure the pressure variations in the primordial atmosphere? Simple: we look at the brightness variations on the CMB. These variations tell us the strength of the pressure waves were between one ten-thousandth (10-4) and one hundred thousandth (10-5). So these correspond to around 110 decibels. This is neither inaudibly quiet nor lethally loud: it is powerfully loud — it is about as loud as a rock concert!

This is what the universe sounded like, shifted up 50 octaves (to be audible) and compressed into 10 seconds.

Via: Mark Whittle


Apparently, these kids and their dad James Kochalka started a band named “KaBoomBoom” over their holiday break.  Three songs in total, my favorite is below; how can you beat a song called “Little Robots” and the lyrics “lasers and axes and swords and bombs”?