Schrödinger's Kitten

Irreverent Science for Everyone

Thursday 05 January 2017

My First Ultrasonic Trapping Device

  • macro
  • mywork
  • waves

In my ongoing studies of making Small Shit That Does Shit™ (AKA functional nanomaterials) I have created a device that uses shaped, high frequency soundwaves to move around things a micrometer across (0.001 millimetres) without touching them. You could call it an audio-vibratory, physio-molecular transport device.

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The Path of Research Never Did Run Smooth

  • practical
  • macro

In the interests of presenting a more accurate picture of the genuine process of research, here is a fairly comprehensive list of things that did not go to plan in the first mini-research project I and partner undertook:

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Monday 22 September 2014

What I Did In My Three Years As Engineering-Cheerleader-In-Chief

  • personal
  • macro

I just came to the end of three years as the communications, events and marketing manager for UCL Engineering — 11 departments, 1,000 staff, and 3,500 students, working on things ranging from testing new biofuels to spotting browser insecurities. I did a lot of things for UCL Engineering, including writing about their discoveries and projects, taking photos, editing films, working out sponsorship, and commissioning merchandise. A few highlights...

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Monday 30 July 2012

Faster, Happier, More Carbon Fibre

  • macro
  • sport

Speaking as a bitter intellectual who was always picked last in PE, the Olympics suck. A host of wunderkind who had the good judgement to be born with a handful of genes optimising them for a highly-specialised nonsensical behaviour go on a jolly. A joyful populace gets to embrace the value of healthy exercise and physical activity by testing their posteriors' endurance and goggling at said prancing Greek godlings emblazoned with adverts for fast food. Some government blows a discretionary budget and then some on sports infrastructure — so much more crucial to the wellbeing of a country than digital infrastructure or sewer pipes — and 'rejuvenating' some poor estate to within an inch of its life with some excitingly edgy street art.

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Thursday 07 October 2010

Entropy, and the Lengths I Will Go To In Order To Justify My Squalor

  • macro
  • heat
  • universe

Entropy, or 'the measure of disorder in a system' (classic definition), is one of those nagging concepts, like quantum weirdness, that are easy to explain glibly, hard to grok, and seem to be fundamental to science as we know it and as we hope to know it better the following morning, slightly sweaty and with tousled hair and goofy grins. So it's a bit hubristic of me to invoke it to avoid tidying my room. But I do it anyway. This is why the second law of thermodynamics1 justifies my quite exceptional levels of messiness.

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Tuesday 11 August 2009

The Fruit Is A Lie

  • food
  • macro

We all know, I think, that a tomato is a fruit not a vegetable. It’s the sort of amazing fact printed on cereal boxes to amuse and entertain children with very low standards. The distinction is, so I fuzzily recall, that fruit are part of reproduction, whereas a vegetable is any other botanical bit we eat. Thus, fruit have seeds inside, veg don’t — veg can be leaves (cabbage), roots (parsnip) or buds (sprouts).

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Monday 13 July 2009

5 Things I Didn't, And You Probably Didn't, Know About CERN

  • macro
  • facilities

I was lucky enough to go to CERN last week. Unfortunately I was there for work, which meant I couldn't harass particle physicists as much as I wanted to, but I did get to see the Compact Muon Solenoid (compact as in only 15 metres tall), and I did learn some things I did not know, despite being a particle physics/CERN fangirl.

Since I was very little I have known of CERN — my dad's best friend worked there — and since I read my first book on particle physics (circa 8 years old) I have wanted to work in it. So I was very excited. We're talking squealing, jumping up and down, planning my pillaging of the guest shoppe, etc. With my camera batteries fully charged I set off...

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Wednesday 10 June 2009

Amateur Mosquito Investigation Part 2 (or The Biting Bastards are Truly Bastards)

  • insects
  • macro
  • DIY

Slight delay in results caused by being out of the country and applying for paying jobs.1 However I'm sure you'll be glad to hear that I have the results of the first experiment. For those who've forgotten, that's:

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Sunday 10 May 2009

Amateur Mosquito Investigation (or Getting the Biting Bastards Back)

  • insects
  • macro
  • DIY

The situation is this. I live in the French alps at the moment, as I am working at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in the capacity of Junior Science Pimp (OK, assistant press officer). I am suffering from insect bites, delivered by species unknown, but the modus operandi fits mosquitos.

I did a quick search on the internet on the subject of insect bites and how to prevent them, and found a lot of old wives' tales, hearsay, and unsubstantiated anecdotes. The best site I have found on the subject (giving paper and experiment references) is here, but I will also be searching the scientific literature as soon as I have access to journal archives (it is a crying shame that access to these things is so expensive that only scientific institutions can afford licences to view them. We all deserve access to knowledge!), but in the meantime I am setting up a small experiment to see what, if anything, will repel the little individuals.

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Monday 22 September 2008

Ways to Electrocute Yourself Around the Home

  • macro
  • safety
  • electrickery

I had a very bourgeois accident last week — while gaily opening a bottle of bubbly, fully half the bottle cascaded all over the gas hob, leaving me distraught and the hob sparking continuously for the next hour or so. In my wisdom, I decided to disassemble the hob, for ease of drying, using for protection the tea towel I used to sop up the wine. Who can tell me why this is a bad idea?

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