Student Blogging Challenege Nomination

As many of you know, I am participating in the Student Blogging Challenge this year. As part of the Challenge, I am nominating a fellow student blog to be considered one of the “Best Student Blogs” participating in the challenge.

After much consideration, I have come to the conclusion that “Mae’s Way” is an excellent blog worthy of such a nomination. This blog has many qualities that are often associated with successful blogs. “Mae’s Way” is an exceptional student blog due to—among other reasons: the passion behind the blog posts, the relevance and up to dateness of posts, the research behind posts, the thought provoking perspective of the author, the personality of the author—which becomes evident when one visits the blog—, the fact that there is an intended audience for the blog, the writing style and technique used throughout the blog, the various properly cited sources in the posts, the appealing appearance of the blog, and the ability of the blog to spark on-line conversations concerning topics of importance.

The sheer passion behind the posts of “Mae’s Way” makes it an outstanding blog to read. Kira—the author of this blog—writes about many different topics such as experiences she has had, interesting places she has visited, and other topics that she considers relevant and important. When writing about these topics, her interest in them is revealed and becomes evident as the writing itself appears to be very enthusiastic. I found that her post Climbing to ‘Get Over It’ —which was about her experience climbing the O2—was particularly expressive. For instance, her closing statements on the experience were “Once the climb was over, once we took off the heavy suit and tacky shoes to keep us safe, it was rewarding to be able to say ‘I’ve climbed the O2 arena’. I would love to climb the O2 again, and maybe without the fear of the unknown before I started.”

“Mae’s Way” is also fascinating due to the relevance and currentness of the posts. The topics Kira writes about are—for the most part—interesting and relevant. Some posts (such as  Climbing to ‘Get Over It’ and Moose ‘Hunting’ Every August) are about personal experiences, making them fascinating reads. Other posts, such as Love Shouldn’t Hurt (a post on domestic violence) are eye-opening and highly significant, adding value to the life of the reader. Posts in “Mae’s Way” are also current—a new post is added every week. This ensures the relevance and importance of topics discussed on the blog.

Furthermore, the majority of blog posts in this blog are based on research, making it a credible, exemplary blog that is worth reading. In order for one to create a quality blog, some background research is most definitely required. Kira completed this research in many of her posts, such as in the post Love Shouldn’t Hurt. This post includes a wealth of information on domestic violence and even includes several concerning statistics such as “An estimated 17,500 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually for sexual exploitation or forced labor.”

The intriguing yet not overpowering perspective of the posts found on “Mae’s Way” makes it a quality blog. When reading posts, viewers can fully see and understand the point of view Kira has on various issues, while not being pressured to have the exact same perspective themselves. Some may vouch for a completely objective blog; however, the quality of a blog increases with slight subjectivity, as a blog is meant to be an online location for the communication and transfer of thoughts, which cannot occur without a certain degree of opinion. A post in which the perspective of Kira is especially evident but in which there is still room for interpretation and disagreement is Would You Call It a ‘Job’ If You Loved It So Much?.

“Mae’s Way” also reflects the personality of Kira in a pleasant fashion, making the blog exemplary. This is shown through the topics Kira has chosen to write about and is also evident in her “About” page. After one explores the blog, it becomes clear that Kira has an altogether unique personality: she has written about—among other things—various places she has been to, concerts she has attended, domestic violence, and her dreams for the future.

The intended audience of this blog is evident yet rather open, increasing the overall excellence of the blog. In her “About” page, Kira clearly states that the established audience of her blog is “all who will enjoy reading the posts of  a… not so ordinary high school student”. This audience is a rather large one, making the blog accessible to an incredible amount of people while still being focused enough to ensure that her posts are geared towards those who enjoy reading about fascinating thoughts and experiences Kira has had.

The writing style and technique used throughout the posts of “Mae’s Way” also make it an exceptional blog. Kira’s voice is very clear and unique throughout all her posts, adding to the overall originality and relevance of the blog. Her writing style is also appropriate for the blog, as it is professional enough to appear credible but relaxed enough to create a sense of comfort and ease for her audience. Furthermore, the organization of Kira’s writing is logical and easy to follow, making it enjoyable to read her posts. The general lack of spelling and grammatical errors in “Mae’s Way” also help add to the credibility and worth of the blog. This excellent writing style, technique, voice, and organization is clear in all of her posts; however, I found that this style and technique was particularly effective in  Exploring a Rain Forest from Bird’s Eye View. This post is organized in a logical sequence: diving straight into a specific moment of a trip she had to Costa Rica, reviewing the whole trip, discussing traveling in general, and then asking readers what their experiences with traveling are.

Kira’s blog also has a certain reliable and admirable quality due to the array of properly linked and cited sources that are used for the fundamental research at the core of most “Mae’s Way” blog posts. The sources  Kira uses to supply her blog with fact are all incredibly varied. This ensures that she is well-informed when posting and does not unknowingly post the biased opinions of others. These sources are all conveniently linked, so that readers may conduct their own research, should they find an interest in the topics. This also avoids legal issues with “borrowed” work—Kira has made sure to properly acknowledge and cite all work that is not her own. One post that had an especially large number of sources and links is  Love Shouldn’t Hurt.

The distinctive overall appearance of Kira’s blog is also highly professional, contributing to superbness of the student blog. “Mae’s Way” has a visually appealing theme that seems to suit the blog itself rather well. Furthermore, this blog is equipped with many intriguing, relevant features. One of these elements is a somewhat large slideshow displaying several photographs she took herself while traveling, giving viewers a quick sense of her personality—as she mentions in several of her posts, she enjoys photography and traveling. Kira has also included a flag counter on the sidebar of her blog, which shows how many people have viewed her blog and what locations worldwide they came from. Furthermore, an “About” page and a “Book Reviews” page is included in the blog. Additionally, the blog also includes a relevant image and useful links in nearly every blog post, making the posts more engaging for viewers.

Kira also makes her blog highly accessible and noteworthy by questioning readers about topics of interest in order to ignite conversations. At the end of many blog posts she asks questions such as “Have you taken a trip of a lifetime with your family/friends? Have you ever been somewhere with a completely different culture then where you are from? I’d love to hear” (Exploring a Rain Forest from Bird’s Eye View). This begins conversations and gives the blog an open, accessible atmosphere. This is displayed by the fact that Kira has received several comments in response to her questions. The post Moose ‘Hunting’ Every August received a notably large number of comments.

After careful analysis, I have found that “Mae’s Way” is an exemplary student blog. The blog is captivating due to the passion behind posts,  the relevance and currentness of the posts, the intriguing but not overpowering perspective of the author on the posts, the personal taste of the writing, the fact that the blog is geared towards a particular group of readers, the writing style and technique of the writing in the posts as well as the organization and grammatical accuracy of the writing, the variety of sources used and the credit attributed to those sources, the overall appearance of the blog, and the relevant discussions that take place on the blog due to the open, questioning nature of the posts.

Nanotechnology from Nature: Improvements in Ultrasound

Gas vesicles—incredibly tiny organelles found in photosynthetic microorganisms such as bacteria and archaea—can be used for improvements in ultrasound imaging. This seemingly bizarre idea came to engineer Mikhail Shapiro as he was reading an article.

Ultrasound functions by emitting sound waves into people’s tissue and organs. When these waves encounter a structure that has a different density (such as bone), some of the sound waves bounce back and return. If this process is timed, it is possible to establish the depth of the tissue or organ inside the organism, If one times how long this takes, it is possible to establish how deep the tissue or organ is, creating an image of the inside of the body.

This all works well, but there are difficulties if one wants to image something that is not strictly considered major anatomy—for instance, the bloodstream. In the bloodstream, structures known as microbubbles scatter sound waves in a way that allows the flow of blood in the bloodstream to be imaged. However the rather large size of microbubbles does not permit them to be used outside of the bloodstream. One might think the obvious solution to this problem would be to create even smaller microbubbles; however, due to the nature of microbubbles they cannot be made much smaller than they already are.

Taking a completely different approach would allow for a solution: gas vesicles—incredibly small nanostructures—can be used instead of microbubbles in order to image cells. Of course, there are several difficulties and obstacles with this solution as well, but Shapiro and his group have been working on solving these issues. To read more about how gas vesicles may be used in this way, please read this article.

This is an image of gas vesicles. Credit: Mikhail Shapiro/Caltech

Shapiro and others who worked on this project (Patrick Goodwill, Arkosnato Neogy, David Schaffer, and Steven Conolly of UC Berkeley, and Melissa Yin and F. Stuart Foster) have published a paper online in Nature Nanotechnology tiled “Biogenic gas nanostructures as ultrasonic molecular reporters”.

This discovery is very useful in the medical world, as the new ultrasound can help people track and view the growth of many different cell types (such as neurons and tumor cells) using ultrasound. Ultrasound is a very useful medical tool: it is noninvasive, carries few risks, is very easy to use (as it is portable), and is an effective diagnostic method in medicine. Improvements in this technology will lead to the earlier tracking of diseases and, consequently, to improved health in many different fields of medicine such as cardiology, obstetrics, gynecology, musculoskeletal health, and oncology. Detection of a health problem is the first step towards recovery, and often times treatment is given too late. With improved ultrasound techniques, people may benefit from a quicker diagnosis and longer lives.

This discovery is indeed incredible. The fact that it has been inspired by something found in nature—gas vesicles—makes it even more so.  Mikhail Shapiro put it rather well when he said “People have struggled to make synthetic nanoscale imaging agents for ultrasound for many years…To me, it’s quite amazing that we can borrow something that nature has evolved for a completely different purpose and use it for in vivo ultrasound imaging. It shows just how much nature has to offer us as engineers.” Using nature as an inspiration can (and has) lead to many breakthroughs in the medical world. Scientists and engineers alike should use the wonderful resource available to them—and to everyone—in order to make and invent new technologies. These scientists and their research should be supported, as it can be incredibly beneficial to human health and quality of life.

Do you also find that nature has been a useful tool in scientific and technical advances? Do you support scientific research? Please share any thoughts you may have on this discovery (or related discoveries) below.

Astronomy: Are we Alone?

Some of my blog readers have expressed an interest in astronomy, so in this week’s post I will include information about two recent discoveries in the field of astronomy.

At Caltech, “dim matter” has been viewed using newly developed technology: the Cosmic Web Imager, which is located on the Hale 200-inch telescope at Palomar Observatory.

The universe is made up of many galaxies which are connected by “intergalactic medium” (IGM): a diffuse gas known as “dim matter” (this name was chosen in order to differentiate this “dim matter” from bright matter and dark matter). Prior to the development and use of the Cosmic Web Imager, IGM had not really been seen by people directly. It is now possible for astronomers to take pictures of IGM, substantially improving human understanding of IGM, galactic mobility, and intergalactic science.

The photo below was taken by the Cosmic Web Imager. The image shows a quasar (QSO 1549+19) as well as the encompassing hydrogen gas (hydrogen is blue).

Credit: Christopher Martin, Robert Hurt

For more information about IGM and the development of the Cosmic Web Imager, read this article.

On a somewhat related note, an Earth-size planet (Kepler-186f) has recently been discovered in the habitable zone. This is the most Earth-like planet discovered to date. The composition of Kepler-186f is currently unknown, but data suggests that it is made of varying amounts of rock, iron, ice, and water.

Below is a diagram of planets in the habitable zone. Kepler-186f is circled in red.

Credit: NASA

To find out more about this discovery, I encourage you to read this article.

To read another post I’ve made about expolanets, click the following link: The Existence of 715 “New” Exoplanets (Some of Which May Contain Life) is Confirmed

Although there is currently no way to tell, it is possible that Kepler-186f may support intelligent life forms. Speculating about such matters is one of my favorite pass-times. I personally believe in the existence of extraterrestrials, regardless of the fact that some people scorn the notion. I see the issue as follows: in an infinite universe, there is a high probability that the existence what we consider “life” is not restricted to a single planet, but instead exists on many planets.

I would now like to open this discussion to any readers. Do any of you also believe in extraterrestrial existence? Do you believe that the search for extraterrestrial life is a worthy one? Is extraterrestrial existence relevant to humans?

Please post a comment in the section below.

If, by any chance, extraterrestrial life fascinates you from a scientific perspective, please visit this site. SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) is a very credible organization that is sponsored by NASA, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and many more well-known organizations.

For those readers who are intrigued by astronomy, this site is regularly updated with recent discoveries and news stories about astronomy. This site is also updated with recent research news in the field of astronomy.

Please post any questions, concerns, or thoughts you may have regarding anything mentioned in this post below.

 

 

 

Unexplained Phenomenon: “Space” Cherry Tree Blooms Years Early

In Japan, a “space” cherry tree has bloomed years earlier than was anticipated.

In 2008, the seeds of this tree had traveled to space. Japanese astronauts took 265 seeds up to the ISS (International Space Station) on a mission. After returning to Earth, the seeds were planted in fourteen areas throughout Japan.

The seeds were originally taken from an old tree—presumably 1,250 years old—outside the Buddhist temple of Gifu.

A seed from the mission planted near this temple is now blooming, only four years after the mission. This is indeed surprising, as a regular cherry tree would not have started blossoming for another six years. The early bloom is not the only mystery about this tree: the flowers of the tree are strange. It would be expected that the flowers each have roughly thirty petals—instead, they have only five.

Three other cherry trees from the mission have also started blooming, intriguing scientists and monks with the unusually quick growth.

Some speculate that exposure to cosmic rays has sped up the growth and sprouting process of these seeds. However, as of now, there is no definitive answer to explain this incident.

To learn more about this, please read this article.

I myself am not sure what to make of this unexplained phenomenon. I do not know why or how this anomaly came to be, but I must admit it is indeed baffling and deserves some thought as well as some investigation. Perhaps the cosmic ray theory could be tested: many seeds could be exposed to cosmic rays and planted in identical conditions alongside a control group to see if any differences in growth between the two sets of trees are significant.

Often times, with today’s technologies and discoveries, it seems as if there is nothing that we—as humans—cannot explain. This makes puzzling phenomena such as the early bloom and rapid growth of this cherry tree even more mysterious and mind-bending than it would regularly be.

Why do you think these trees blossomed early? Do you have any theories of your own? Do you also find the situation interesting and perplexing? Share your opinion below.

Is What You Remember Really A Memory?

Memories: they are essential to all intelligent life forms. Without memory, we would merely have a very limited set of genetic instructions dictating how we live our lives. An ability to remember events of the past has been useful evolutionary in many circumstances, allowing humans and other complex organisms to survive and prosper. But what exactly is a memory?

When people think of the word “memory”, they tend to imagine a single, accurate snippet of a past event. However, memory is far more complex than such a snapshot.

Technically speaking, a memory is a set of neural connections that is repeated in a certain sequence in one’s brain. However, this sequence can, and often does, change and become modified. In fact, recent evidence suggests that every time somebody recalls a memory the memory is altered.

This means that memories are not necessarily as sturdy as people some may believe they are; however, there is indeed a reason for this. In order for our mind to function properly, we must devote a lot of energy and energy to maintain neural connections. People do form memories of nearly everything they have experienced—some of these memories are simply inaccessible. If people were to remember every event of the past with complete accuracy, they would become overwhelmed and this would have detrimental effects on other integral parts of regular neural function. This means that some memories must either be altered or unavailable in order to maintain normal neural behavior. This is demonstrated clearly when one looks at  savants: people who have amazing capabilities to accurately remember huge amounts of information but lack other basic neural abilities, such as social capabilities. Another reason memories are altered on a regular basis may be due to conflicting messages from different areas of the brain: a confusion of some sort.

Memories are stored mainly in certain regions of the brain such as the hippocampus and temporal lobes, but many different regions of the brain are involved in recalling a memory. For instance, the emotional regions of the brain are activated when people recall an event of the past. This can affect people’s mood and attitude in very profound ways.

I personally find the way in which memories function and are formed incredibly fascinating and relevant to all people, albeit the topic is somewhat mysterious and not fully understood. Please share any information or thoughts you may have regarding this topic or similar subjects.

Should you find this topic or similar topics interesting, I recommend the book  Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life by Sandra Aamodt, PhD and Sam Wang, PhD. This is a very good introductory book about memory as well as other thought-provoking, baffling aspects of the human brain. It is rich with interesting tidbits while also remaining accessible to the general population.

I look forward to hearing from all of you.

Signal from the Beginning of Time is Detected: Implications are Astonishing

A telescope  (BICEP 2) at the South Pole has detected ripples in space from the very beginning of time. This is the first evidence that gravitational waves surged through the universe during an explosive period of time known as inflation (the exponential expansion of the universe directly after the Big Bang).

Below is a video about this discovery:

During the first few moments of existence (following the Big Bang), tiny, quantum fluctuations were magnified exponentially due to cosmic inflation. This was responsible for creating density waves and gravitational waves.

Cosmic microwave background radiation (present from the first moments of time) can become polarized and heavily influenced by gravitational waves. Gravitational waves leave behind a distinctive pattern of polarization—known as B-mode polarization—on this radiation. The detection of such a pattern would be a signal from the very beginning of time and, very recently, such a detection was made by the BICEP2 collaboration.

this is the B-mode polarization pattern that gravitational waves left behind in cosmic microwave background radiation
Credit: The BICEP2 Collaboration

In 1996, a member of the team predicted that a detection of this type would be made. Six years later, the BICEP program began at Caltech. BICEP2 is the second stage of this program. Other organizations working on the project include: the University of California at San Diego, the University of British Columbia, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Toronto, Cardiff University, and Commissariat à l’energie atomique.

The detection of the B-mode polarization on cosmic microwave background radiation required a lot of hard work and innovative thinking. The team responsible actually created new technology to achieve the task. To read more about how this was accomplished, please visit this link.

As project co-leader Jamie Bock said, “The implications for this detection stagger the mind”. The Big Bang Theory has been verified due to this discovery. The detection also suggests that cosmic inflation theory is indeed correct (to read a more technical document about inflation, click this link). If cosmic inflation take place, multiple universes were probably created. For this reason, the detection also suggests the existence of a multiverse. To read more about the multiverse implications of this discovery, click this link.

Physicists are going to continue studying gravitational waves in order to find out more about other enigmas. This could possibly lead to clarifications concerning the nature of dark energy and dark matter.

Furthermore, the discovery could lead to the unification of all forces and lead to the long-sought for unified “Theory of Everything”. The signal detected insinuates the existence of gravitons and the quantization of gravity. Gravity has always been a somewhat troublesome force in physics, as the rules of quantum mechanics could not describe gravity in the past—gravity was described instead by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. This differed greatly from all other forces. However, the BICEP2 detection may lead to the application of quantum theory to gravity.

To read more about the effects, implications, and the scientists involved in the BICEP2 discovery, read this article in The New York Times.

I find that the BICEP2 detection is indeed mind-boggling. At long last, a unified theory may come forward. I am thrilled to hear about this and hope to hear more about this topic. I believe that this is the biggest step forward in theoretical physics since the discovery of the Higgs boson.

What other effects do you think might this have on the future? What do you believe the significance of this detection is? Please share your view on this discovery below.

Faster Internet? Caltech’s New Laser May be the Answer!

I’m sure some of you may have already heard that a new laser developed at Caltech could lead to a faster internet. This information was released over a month ago, and the team performing research has been working on the project for five years.

Credit: Amnon Yariv/Caltech

The optical-fiber network used today still employs the distributed-feedback semiconductor (S-DFB) laser—a laser that was developed over 40 years ago by the same researcher who has been working on the new laser mentioned in this post—to transmit information. Some major modifications in the way the S-DFB laser functions have been made by a team at Caltech in order to create a newer laser with greater ability to transmit information.

To read more about how this laser was developed, please visit the article at Caltech. In order to view the official research paper “High-coherence semiconductor lasers based on integral high-Q resonators in hybrid Si/III-V platforms” on this subject, please visit this link at Caltech or the PNAS paper. A relatively shortened version of the article can also be viewed here.

I find the development of this new laser incredibly promising and sincerely hope that the benefits this laser brings will be worthwhile. In today’s world, astronomical numbers of people use the internet for a wide array of purposes. This makes internet speed a substantial factor in the development of our society.

Please share your thoughts on internet use and speed in the comments section below. Had you heard of this laser prior to reading my post? Do you think the creation of this laser is an important step forward? Feel free to share any opinions you may have regarding this topic.

On a similar note regarding the age of widespread internet use, I would like to briefly discuss internet privacy. I’ve inserted the link to the student blogging challenge post concerning this issue here. Several videos are provided on the site.

In the past few months, I have heard a lot of misconceptions about internet privacy and I would like to clear some things up. Very large amounts of information about every internet user (or nonuser) can be found on the internet. This information ranges from private data posted on secure sites by hospitals concerning the health of individuals, to Google searches (Google records the IP address of every computer that uses the search engine, as well as the account used should the user have a Google account), texts and emails, online purchases (ex Amazon), credit card information (such as items purchased and amount spent), private user information on sites users registered with, posts and comments on social media sites and blogs (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even this blog would be included) and even geographic location (for those who have GPS technology installed in their smartphone(s)).

This may come as a slight shock to the uninformed individual; however, it is important for one to differentiate between the varying degrees of accessibility of the information recorded in these instances. When internet users register for an account on a site, the information they provide the site with can be easily obtained in some cases. Depending on the security of the site, privacy settings, and the Terms of Agreement for the site, this information can be open freely to all who choose to view it. Even if the information is kept private, it can be hacked easily on unsecured sites. Other information, such as texts, emails, GPS location, and Google searches are incredibly difficult to find and hack, due to the resources available to the companies safeguarding the data. This information is not stored in a user-friendly way, so if somebody wishes to acquire this information they must not only be a professional hacker but must also know exactly what they are looking for.

Generally, it would be useful for the average individual to make a conscious effort to limit use of social networking sites, post only information they are comfortable with everybody (including employers, coworkers, friends, enemies, and strangers) viewing online, check privacy settings periodically, and provide unsecured networking sites with vague or false personal information. While it is true that other personal information such as Google searches and credit card data is also present online, the majority of internet users need not worry about others accessing this information: users should instead focus on controlling the availability of more accessible, vulnerable personal data when possible.

Feel free to share your thoughts on internet privacy and related topics below. I look forward to hearing from you.

First Long-Distance Neutrinos are Detected at NOvA Experiment

Personally, I have a fascination with neutrinos. Neutrinos are fundamental particles of the universe, and if we wish to ever understand how the universe has evolved, we must first understand neutrinos. These incredibly curious particles hardly have any mass, rarely interact with matter (which, consequently, makes them very difficult to detect), travel at nearly light speed, and have many other intriguing and some unknown properties. For those of you who are unfamiliar with neutrinos, please visit this site for a very basic easy-to-understand overview of neutrinos.

The video below explains both the properties of neutrinos relevant to the NOvA experiment and the NOvA experiment itself easily and concisely (it is roughly 5 minutes in length): (Credit: Fermilab)

 For those of you who did not watch the video, I would be happy to briefly summarize both the NOvA experiment in general and the significance of the detection of long-distance neutrinos.

As many of you may know, neutrinos exist in three different flavor states (electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino). Neutrinos can change—or oscillate—between these states. This process results in a mass oscillation of neutrinos as well, and is still somewhat of a mystery in physics. The goal of NOvA is to study these oscillations (more specifically, the oscillation of a muon neutrino to an electron neutrino) and, ultimately, determine the different mass states of neutrinos (which are currently unknown).

The NOvA experiment is conducted by 208 scientists from the United States, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Greece, India, Russia, and the United Kingdom. The experiment began collecting data in 2013 and will be fully constructed by roughly the summer of 2014. The first run will be roughly six years.To read more about NOvA, visit their site.

 The NOvA experiment is currently taking place at Fermilab (America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics research located near Chicago, Illinois). There are three major parts to this experiment: the accelerator, the near detector, and the far detector.

 The particle accelerator at Fermilab (the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago) is responsible for creating beams of neutrinos and antineutrinos. This is done by smashing protons into a graphite target, which creates many different particles (some of which decay into neutrinos) and filtering out all particles that are not neutrinos or antineutrinos). This “beam” of neutrinos is aimed at the near and far detectors.

 The near detector is, as the name implies, a neutrino detector near Fermilab responsible for examining the neutrinos produced on site.

 The far detector, which is not yet fully constructed, is located much farther from Fermilab and was created so that there would be enough time for neutrinos to oscillate before reaching this detector. This detector will be fully built and operational sometime this summer. However, to everyone’s delight neutrinos have already been detected at this site. This is indeed good news. The co-leader of this experiment—Harvard physicist Gary Feldman—said “The first neutrinos mean we’re on our way,” “We started meeting more than 10 years ago to discuss how to design this experiment, so we are eager to get under way.” Deputy project leader for NOvA—Fermilab physicist Rick Tesarek shared a similar sentiment: “Seeing neutrinos in the first modules of the detector in Minnesota is a major milestone,” “Now we can start doing physics.”

 To read more about the NOvA experiment and the detection of long-distance neutrinos, please visit this page.

Part of the NOvA detector. Credit: Fermilab

I find this research incredibly exciting. However, there are those who fail to see the true significance of this: neutrino research could possibly lead to a better understanding of the fundamental nature of our universe. This could, in effect, alter human life in unforeseen ways. Quantum mechanics led to the development of much of the technology we take for granted today—who is to say that neutrino research could not lead to something similar?

I know that I look forward to hearing more about what NOvA discovers and support this project wholeheartedly.

If you are at all interested in particle physics or neutrinos, I highly recommend the book Neutrino by Oxford professor of physics Frank Close. This book does a wonderful job of explaining neutrinos inside and out, for those who have a deep understanding of physics as well as for those who simply have a mild interest in the topic. Visit this site for more information.

 Please feel free to share your opinions on this research—whatever they may be—below. How do you think neutrino research could influence the future?

Light Bending Silicon Chip is Created: Can Function as a Small Projector

At Caltech, a Ali Hajimiri and his group researchers have created a silicon chip that can act as a projector that is lens-free. The results of this research was shared recently: on March 10.

This is a picture of the silicon chip. Photo Credit: Ali Hajimiri/Caltech. Please click the image for more information.

 

In order to understand what is unique about this new way of projecting, one must first understand how regular projectors we use today work. On a very basic level, a beam of light is passed through a very small image. Lenses are used to map each point to a matching, larger point on a bigger screen. To find out more about how projectors today work, click here.

In this new chip, lenses and bulbs are not needed. This is indeed an advantage, because it reduces costs and allows for the production of a smaller device. This chip utilizes what is known as  “integrated optical phased array” (OPA) to project the image. The light source for this chip is a laser diode.

You may find yourself wondering how this new chip works. In the experiments performed at Caltech, the researchers controlled the coherence of light to bend light waves on the edge of the chips, in a sense. The OPA chips change the timing of the light waves, which results in the beam of light changing direction. This process is relatively complex, as there are many different array beams that must merge to create a single beam of light and, consequently, a spot on the screen. Unlike projectors of the past (which were mechanical in nature), this chip is electronic, making it possible for all of the above processes to occur very quickly.

To learn more about the specifics of how this chip works and was created, please visit this link.

In the experiments, the researchers used infrared electromagnetic radiation to display the images rather than light from the visible spectrum. However, there are known ways to extend this technology in such a way that it functions with light from the visible spectrum.

This picture shows the projection of the letters “CIT” using the chip. This projection is one of infrared radiation. Credit: Ali Hajimiri/Caltech. Please click the image for more information.

Below are two very short videos showing the projection of letters using infrared light.

The projection of triangles using infrared radiation. Credit: Ali Hajimiri/Caltech

A projection of the letters “CIT” using infrared radiation. Credit: Ali Hajimiri/Caltech.

There will be various applications for this technology in the future. For instance, such a chip could be integrated in cell phones in order to allow for widespread use. Furthermore, the chip could be used in mapmaking, robotics, geographical measurements, and positioning. Ali Hajimiri said “But I don’t want to limit the device to just a few purposes. The beauty of this thing is that these chips are small and can be made at a very low cost—and this opens up lots of interesting possibilities”.

This technology is far from perfect, but I believe that it could be very useful in the future. The cost of projectors would most definitely be reduced and I know that I would personally want to have such a chip embedded into my phone, as it has the potential for being useful in many situations. For instance, if I were with a large group friends or colleagues and suddenly remembered that I had wanted to show them a video or presentation, it would be possible for me to project this presentation onto a wall or flat surface in the room, avoiding the chaotic situation that might result if the chip were not on my phone and a large number of people attempted to surround me to view such a video or presentation on my phone screen.

Please share your thoughts on this invention below. Would you want to use such an projector yourself? Do you believe it would be useful? What other possible applications do you see for this device? Have you heard of any similar or related research?