A Ghost Heart

By Anupum Pant

Before I begin, I’m happy to announce that Awesci’s feed has been featured on a smartphone app, Dabblr. I covered it a couple of days back in the interviews section. If you missed it, you might want to know what Dabblr can do and why you should use it, especially if you are a student. 

At any given time, thousands of people are there on the heart transplant waiting list. Some of these people are eventually able to find a donor, while others aren’t able to. Hundreds of people who fail to find a donor, die every year. It’s a grim state, but little can be done to change it. Texas Heart Institute (THI) had a solution for this problem – use a Pig’s heart.

(There have been cases where people have survived for some time on artificial hearts too. It’s incredible how these things work.)

A pig’s heart is a lot like our own, in shape, size and function. Of course it can’t be just taken away from a pig and installed in a human. Or people from ancient times would have done it. The researchers from THI proposed this – make a ghost heart out of it first.

For making a “ghost heart”  – a kind of a structural scaffolding – they used a simple soap solution. Once they washed the pig heart in it and may be after some other processing, they had a pure protein scaffolding, stripped off of all living cells (decellularized), which could be customized and could be used to grow a custom heart for a specific human being – by using the patient’s bone-marrow stem cells. That way the new body where it would get installed won’t reject it.

In the near future, there’s a chance we could have humans with the hearts of pigs!

Ambergris – Whale Vomit Can Make You Rich

By Anupum Pant

It is yellow/gray, smells really bad and can make you rich [image]. Ambergris, or commonly known as whale vomit is a waxy, hard, flammable substance that sells for several thousand dollars a pound. Although it is known as whale vomit, it is usually excreted (not vomited) by the sperm whale. It is formed by the lumping of Bilary Secretions in a whale. They can’t be digested and are often excreted by whales. These lumps can float for years and might get washed to the beach or are found in whale abdomen.

A fresh lump would be black and slowly a lighter colored coating forms on it with age. Generally, lighter colored pieces have a sweeter smell because they have cured in the ocean for a longer time.

What makes it so costly?

Firstly, it is rare to find a lump of Ambergris. Secondly, as this substance ages, it leaves the stink and starts emitting a sweet, musky odor. Not all people like this smell. Other than its unique scent, the perfumes made of this substance last much longer than other scents that tend to evaporate. Both these reasons make it a substance in high demand.

Although the scent can be mimicked by using chemicals, there is nothing like using the real substance. Thus, whale vomit will always carry a premium price.

This year, Ken Wilman, while walking his dog on the beach, spotted a 6 lb lump of whale vomit that turned out to be worth £100,000.
Note to self: So, the next time you are going out for a walk on the beach, take your dog with you. And go on walks more often.

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Building A Solar Death Ray At Home

By Anupum Pant

Sun’s Energy

Sun is an huge fusion reactor. Every second it produces enough energy that could power the US for 9 million years. But from the perspective of people living on earth, most of it radiates into the space and gets ‘wasted’. Still by using even the part of energy that is received by us, a solar death ray that melts steel can be built.

Earth is only a fraction of the size of sun. In comparison, sun is so mind-boggling-ly big that I bet you can’t manually scroll this page from Sun, all the way to earth (and this is a heavily scaled down version of our Solar System). In short, earth is so small that it receives a microscopic fraction of the energy radiated out by the sun.

Technically: The total flux received by earth is about 343 Watt per meter squared. On the way to earth’s surface, 30% of this gets scattered by the atmosphere and 19% of it is absorbed by the clouds. So, out of 343, only 51 percent reaches the surface. Which is calculated to be about 175 Watt per meter squared. Which is a very small part of the energy that sun gives out. [Source]

And yet, sunlight received by earth has by far has the highest theoretical potential of the earth’s renewable energy sources.

Harnessing this energy

For humans, it is possible to directly harness this energy broadly in two ways – heat or electricity (photoelectric effect). We are interested in only the heat part here. To demonstrate the kind of heat that can be generated by focusing 2 meter square worth of this energy to a single point, watch how this equipment can melt steel in seconds (The melting point of steel is around 1500 degree centigrade).

Making at home

Building something similar at home is fairly easy as far as the concept is concerned. But the process can be very tedious. I found three interesting ways in which this can be done at home.

1. Using a satellite dish: A satellite dish is parabolic and is designed to focus signal to a single point. Instead of signal, you could use it to focus light (sun rays). To use an old dish for making a solar death ray, all you’ll have to do is stick 5,800 tiny pieces of mirrors on its surface, like Eric Jacqmain did. – [Source]

2. Use a projection TV: A projection TV has a huge Fresnel lens in front of it. It is kind of a convex lens that is flat. If you can find an old projection TV, you could use the screen to make a solar death ray like Grant Thompson did.

3. Using water: Another creative way could be to use water. By combining the power of gravity and stretching plastic, you could turn clear water into a parabolic lens like this [Video]. Although I don’t think something like this could be efficient enough to melt steel. It could still be used as an outdoor machine to cook breakfast.

EDIT: Why isn’t there a comments section?

First I forgot to add this and remembered only when a reader pointed it out. I promised in my yesterday’s post, that i’d tell you the reason behind a missing comments section on this blog. Here it goes…

I use a theme built by Leo Babauta (see FAQ) and am a fan of his teachings. It [the theme] has an inbuilt comment section but Leo doesn’t use comments on his blog. For me to not use it too, there are 3 reasons:

  1. I’m a fan of Leo Babauta and try to emulate his ways in my life. (not perfectly)
  2. I want to create a pure reading experience for the reader (now ads, which hinder the pure reading experience, are for experiment only). People who really like to interact usually mail me. And it is a much more enriching experience.
  3. Unlike every other blogger, comments have a great effect on me. This in turn affects my ability to write. For instance, comments which appreciate, seem flattering to me. As a result, I become complacent. If they are critical, I get concerned about my writing abilities. There are hardly any neutral comments. I’d like to focus my energy on writing than arguing on the internet.

I do have plans to include it in the future. It is just that I’m not sure when I’ll do it. Probably when I change my theme, I’ll do that.