Archive for the ‘Science in Action’ category

A Microscope on Your Cell Phone

October 8, 2010

posted by: Damon Diehl

Dr. Daniel Fletcher‘s research group at University of California Berkley has developed a microscope attachment for cell phones. Termed the “CellScope“, the attachment turns “the camera of a standard cell phone into a diagnostic-quality microscope with a magnification of 5x-50x.”

We think this is cool.

We think it’s even cooler that Aardman Animation (the folks behind the fantastic Wallace & Gromit films) have used the CellScope to make the world’s smallest stop-motion animated film. Here’s a link to the film, “Dot”; and here’s a link to how it was made.

NIF in the News

May 3, 2010

posted by: Damon Diehl

CNN has a nice glossy article on the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).  The goal of NIF is to generate energy through controlled fusion triggered by laser pulses. NIF is now the largest laser in the world, a title formerly held by the Laboratory for Laser Energetics (LLE) here in Rochester, NY. There’s some friendly competition between the two projects, but the relationship is fundamentally collaborative. There is a constant flow of technology, knowledge, and even personnel between the two projects. ASE is quite proud of our long history of supporting LLE (almost everyone who works here as also worked at LLE directly or indirectly over ASE’s history). My big contribution to the lab was developing the alignment method for the large mirrors that focus the back and side illumination onto the target during some experiments, a topic we may cover in a future entry, as it has a very nice blend of optics and mathematics (which is what I do best). ASE also has had a big hand in developing the many optical diagnostic packages that monitor the quality of the system as a whole.

Rochester Optical Technology Provides Assistance in Haiti

March 3, 2010

We want to take a moment to applaud the University of Rochester’s Center for Emerging & Innovative Sciences (CEIS), the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Imaging Algorithms and Systems (LIAS), and especially our close colleagues at Geospatial Systems, Inc. (GSI), for developing the laser sensors and high-definition imaging technology that were used to quickly map the regions of Haiti devastated by the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010. Aid workers used these maps to find routes to deliver services to people in greatest need. A bit more information is available in the February 25, 2010 NYSTAR Sci*Tech News Bytes newsletter. You can also read Governor Paterson’s letter of commendation.

“Productive Stupidity” or “Failure Is the Only Way to Win the Nobel Prize”

March 2, 2010

I wanted to point people toward a really good article that appeared in the SPIE Professional back in October 2009 entitled “Productive Stupidity” by Martin A. Schwartz. It’s a reprint of his article “The importance of stupidity in scientific research”, which previously appeared in Journal of Cell Science 121, 1771 (2008). The thrust of the article is that “science is supposed to be hard,” and most of the time you’re going to be wrong… at least if you’re doing it right. That fact can be extremely difficult to accept, especially when we have built our entire education system around getting answers “right” on an exam. Even classroom laboratory research is generally focused on reproducing a certain result, rather than self-discovery. The upshot is that most science students leave college still believing that getting the “wrong” result is bad. If you are truly doing new research, then you are testing things that no one has done before, and that means that most of the time what your experiments reveal will not be quite what you expected.  Figuring out the how and the why of unexpected results is what scientific research is really all about. (As Celia recently discovered over at Ph.D.)

And just to drive this point home one more time, I encourage folks to listen to this interview with 2009 Physics Nobel Laureate George E. Smith. Around the 11 minute mark he talks about what it was about the Bell Labs environment that made their discovery of the CCD camera possible. He summarizes it this way:

In the exploratory efforts we had… we thought that if half of the projects you started actually worked, you weren’t being imaginative enough… not taking enough risks.