The Art of Forgetting

By Anupum Pant

At school we were expected to remember things. Every single piece of misplaced information in your brain costed you points  in tests. You couldn’t afford to forget – The very mental pressure which caused panic and made you forget things!

Turns out, there is a forgetting protein in our brains called Musashi. It messes with the way nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other – basically makes you forget stuff.

Scientists have, genetically modified ringworms to clear Musashi off their brains. As expected, the Musashi free ringworms remembered things much better and were far less forgetful. [read more]

So, can’t we just do the same to our brains and never ever forget?  No, we can’t. If we did, we’d have our brains filled with information and there’d be no space to learn new things. We forget for a reason and it is totally normal. It’s probably high time that the educations system at schools be modified to embrace what is only natural – in fact, like  Vanessa Hill says in this new video from the BrainCraft channel, forgetting actually helps you remember!

Disposable Paper Microscope Costs Just 50 Cents

By Anupum Pant

Background

While doing my daily rounds on the internet today, I came across this awesome piece of modern engineering – An extremely durable and disposable microscope made out of paper and very tiny ball lenses. I saw it first on a Ted talk that I’ve attached below. Ingenious I say!

What’s new?

Microscopes are no longer those sensitive, bulky and costly instruments which were used to observe tiny life forms. These engineers have changed the age-old definition of the microscope. The fold-able paper microscope or foldscope is an origami microscope that weighs just 9 grams and is designed by a Manu Prakash, a Bioengineer professor and his team from Stanford. Instead of costing thousands of dollars, this ingenious origami microscope costs less than a dollar and is set to transform the way people use microscopes.

Besides being light, cheap and foldable, the microscope is water proof, durable to the extent that it can be dropped from the top of a building without getting damaged, does not require any external power, provides a 2000x magnification, can be assembled by a first grader in ten minutes, is easy to carry and is absolutely flat! What more can we ask for!

It can even project the image of bacteria on your wall. How cool is that! I bet your lab microscopes can’t do that.

It is set to transform the lives of those billions of people living in the developing countries. The piece of engineered paper will change the speed and accessibility of medical diagnosis in the poor nations.

Material and actual cost

Well, as the heading tells you it is a 50 cent microscope, not really. It costs only a little more than that. Still, it costs lesser than a dollar – about $0.97. Here is the material cost break-up:

  • Tiny Spherical lens: $0.56
  • 3V button battery: $0.06
  • LED light: $0.21
  • and a couple of other things like tape, paper and switch: $0.14
  • Total: $0.97

Beta testing: The team is currently looking for beta-testers for Foldscope. They’ll choose 10,000 people who would test it in a variety of settings and would help them generate an open source biology/microscopy field manual. See “Ten Thousand Microscopes signup” for details.

It reminds me of

The incredible cheap microscope discussed above is new and very precise. Until recently we didn’t have that. DIYs on the internet taught us to construct (not really) not-so-accurate microscope setups at home using a laser pointer.

All you were supposed to do is point the laser pointer through a suspended drop of bacteria infested water (or other clear liquids).This is how I toyed around (I still do) with a laser pointer to see hazy pictures of possible micro-organisms:

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Making Fresh Water With Apple and Tomato Peels

By Anupum Pant

Water on Earth

It’s Christmas! On this happy day let’s take a minute to look at what the major part of the world is facing today.

The present situation might not look as bad, but the truth is that we are running out of fresh water. To give you an idea about how much water is actually there on earth, this image of the whole world’s water compared with the size of earth is, in my view, the best thing that could prove it to you.

Fresh water in all the lakes and rivers on the whole planet is represented by the tiniest dot.  Yes, there is a third water sphere in the picture. You might have to squint to find it. So, that is the amount of fresh water we have here on earth.

global-water-volume-fresh
Source: http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/earthhowmuch.html

War for water: If this image isn’t much of a proof that fresh water is scarce, probably this will do the trick:
Countries consider fresh water a very precious resource. Several countries all around the world are fighting with their neighbors for this blue gold. Two good examples of that – [India starts water war] and [This]

The Point

Today, economically and technologically backward countries require good cost-effective methods to purify water. Scientists are doing a tremendous amount of work in this area and coming out with innovative methods to deal with the problem. Also, it is one great idea for taking up as a science fair project by students. One such recent research regarding this caught my attention.

The fruit peel method

Note: If you are wondering why have I written fruit when we are dealing with a tomato here, this might come as a shock to you that Tomato is actually a fruit. And BTW:

Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that a tomato doesn’t belong in a fruit salad. – Miles Kingston

Mr Ramakrishna Mallampati, under the guidance of Associate Professor Suresh Valiyaveettil of the Department of Chemistry at the NUS Faculty of Science, have discovered a new way of purifying water which is both innovative and cost effective. Moreover, it uses the waste product of a fruit, its peel, for something good. They hope that their new technology will comes as a boon to the people living in areas where a water treatment plant cannot be set up.

According to their research, a tomato’s peel, under certain conditions, can remove dissolved organic and inorganic chemicals, dyes and pesticides. Additionally, an apple’s peel was also found to have these wonderful properties. Apple’s peel loaded with Zirconium were found to be effective in removing phosphate, arsenate, arsenite, and chromate anions. This is the first time ever someone has used to remove two different kinds of pollutants using two different kinds of peels. Notably, all their processes can be scaled up for large scale applications.

I hope that this new discovery will come as a respite to all the poor nations where people die everyday due to the unavailability of drinking water – due to diseases.

Source: http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/#
Source: http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/#

For more details – [NUS researchers developed world’s first water treatment techniques using apple and tomato peels]

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