Category: Chemistry

The Quantum Quandary

Author: Kristina Lenn

Editors: Alex Taylor, Zuleirys Santana-Rodriguez, and Whit Froehlich

My absolute favorite movie is The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and I love this movie for these reasons:

  1. The lesson of not giving in to naysayers is showcased throughout the movie.
  2. As a computationalist, I am proud to see my field obtain more visibility in the public eye.
  3. And duh – Benedict Cumberbatch!

However, one of my favorite scenes in the movie is when school-age Alan Turing is walking with his only friend, Christopher. Alan’s perceived oddities make him a target of ridicule among his classmates, but Christopher makes this very poignant statement: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.”

MARVELous Solar Cells

Author: Kristina Lenn

Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Andrew McAllister, and Sarah Kearns

Spoiler: For a better reading experience, make sure to see the amazing Doctor Strange!


I love Marvel movies, and they’re even more fun to watch as a scientist. In many of them, some energy source is at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Lest the source destroy not only the planet but also the entire galaxy, a bunch of unlikely misfits band together to ensure the energy source’s safety and security. The power source in question is something that has the paradoxical capability of both sustaining and destroying life, like the sun. Extraterrestrial battles take place with the brutish Hulk and the witty turbo-powered Iron Man. (Or, if you prefer Guardians of the Galaxy, you can fight with the smart-aleck Rocket and the cute-yet-somewhat-airheaded Groot.) The bad guys want to use this energy to have unlimited power; the good guys want to harness the energy in a more controlled manner.

La separación de agua: Una manera para almacenar energía solar

Escrito en inglés por Jimmy Brancho, traducido al español por Jean Carlos Rodriguez-Díaz y editado por Thibaut R. Pardo-García

La fuente de energía del futuro puede ser mucho más familiar de lo que piensas.

Muchas personas están emocionadas por el remplazo de combustibles fósiles por energía solar.
La recolección, tratamiento y quema de combustibles fósiles es uno de los mayores contribuyentes a la contaminación ambiental y conflictos políticos. ¿Podremos reducir estos problemas al usar energía solar? Al parecer, eso es lo que piensa la industria. La estadística más reciente del National Renewable Energy Laboratory Data Book demuestra que la cantidad de energía producida por instalaciones solares ha estado creciendo continuamente en la última década- casi un 75% de 2011 a 2012.

¿Qué se hace cuando el sol se acuesta? ¿Se supone que dejemos de ver Netflix por la noche?

Trasplante de Órganos de Cerdos a Humanos Podría Ser Posible en el Futuro Gracias a la Ingeniera Genética

Escrita por Attabey Rodríguez Benitez y editado por Cristina Maria Rios.

¿Te imaginas un futuro en el que los humanos podamos recibir órganos de animales en lugar de esperar por un donante? Esto podría ser posible gracias a una investigación llevada a cabo por una colaboración internacional entre laboratorios de Harvard y China que resultó en una publicación en la revista científica Science.

Organ Transplantation from Pigs to Humans Could Be Possible, Thanks to Gene Editing

Author: Attabey Rodríguez Benítez

Editors: Sarah Kearns, Jimmy Brancho, and Whit Froehlich

Can you imagine a future where humans could receive organs from animals instead of having to wait for a donor? Well, this could be possible thanks to evidence from an international collaboration between labs in Harvard and China which resulted in a publication in the prestigious journal Science.

Computing Levinthal’s Paradox: Protein Folding, Part 2

Author: Sarah Kearns

Editors: David Mertz, Zuleirys Santana Rodriguez, and Scott Barolo

In a previous post, we discussed how proteins fold into unique shapes that allow them to perform their biological functions. Through many physical and chemical properties, like hydrogen bonding and hydrophobicity, proteins are able to fold correctly. However, proteins can fold improperly, and sometimes these malformed peptides aggregate, leading to diseases like Alzheimer’s.

How can we figure out when the folding process goes wrong? Can we use computers to figure out the folding/misfolding process and develop methods to prevent or undo the damage done by protein aggregates?

De-coupling the GMO-glyphosate link

Author: Amira Aker

Editors: Brittany Dixon, Kevin Boehnke

Tinkering with an organism’s genes is the subject of one of the most controversial debates today – and rightfully so. The resulting organisms are commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and figuring out how to use GMOs in a safe and sustainable manner is hotly debated. This issue isn’t simply a matter of technology, but one of safety, ecology, economics and even morality. Yet, there has been a notable absence of discussion around the broad-based herbicide glyphosate in mainstream media; namely, that over 80% of GMOs on the market today are modified to tolerate glyphosate. This effective herbicide kills pesky weeds without affecting farmers’ GMO crops, saving time and, potentially, money. However, given the vast opportunities that GMO science opens to us, is dedicating so many resources to this single GMO product the right way to go?

New elements on the block

Author: David Mertz

Editors: Tricia Garay, Irene Park

Ever since an interactive display was built in my high school chemistry lab (one of only six such installations in the world), I’ve found the periodic table of elements to be a fascinating fixture of science. I remember watching the scientists prepare little displays for each individual element, including the metal gallium which they let me hold in my hand. It was different than most of the metals familiar to us. With a melting temperature just below 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), the metallic cube began to melt right on my palm.

Science behind-the-scenes: Which fields are “real sciences”?

Author: Bryan Moyers

Content Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Molly Kozminsky

Senior Editor: Alisha John

 

 

Well, that field isn’t really science.”

Oh, that’s just a soft science.”

Most people who work in the sciences have probably heard phrases like these.  Translation: that field is lesser.  The physicists say it about everyone lower than them in the pecking order, as do the chemists, biologists, and so on down the line.  The nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford famously said, “All science is either physics or stamp-collecting.”  People argue about this at scientific conferences and in the media.   The science and pop-culture webcomic xkcd has even parodied the issue.

Water splitting part II: Research at University of Michigan

By Jimmy Brancho

You know what they say: “You can’t store solar energy without cracking a few water molecules.”

Or, at least, many scientists around the world are working to make that so. As was discussed earlier on this blog, solar water splitting could enable a cleaner energy future by storing energy from the sun’s rays in a stable chemical fuel like hydrogen that can be used on-demand. Ideally, the only inputs needed would be water and sunlight, and the only waste product oxygen. However, the current state of technology is a long way off. Bart Bartlett, Charles McCrory, and Neil Dasgupta are among several faculty here at the University of Michigan that are working to make solar water splitting devices a reality. Each of them approaches the  problem from a diverse angle.