Elf Eldridge

TOSP Episode 20: February 14th 2012 - The Sciblogs Podcast

Feb 15, 2012

Greetings, TOSP listeners! This week’s podcast is a teensy bit late (heh), and a little different to usual as it was the first we’ve done and edited ‘On the Road’. We (well, Elf – aimee was driving like a loon between Auckland and Wellington as practice for the Rally) travelled to Christchurch to chat to some of New Zealand’s young emerging scientists from both MESA (the MacDiarmid Emerging Scientists Association) and Chiasma ostensibly to pose some of the BIG science questions being bandied around at the moment to see how NZ’s next generation of scientists would handle them. Their responses might surprise you! We asked them about where they would see the future of science in New Zealand and the world over the … Read More

‘Theranostics’ – Therapeutic Diagnostics - Just So Science

Dec 30, 2011

Theranostics, this odd combination of ‘therapeutics’ and ‘diagnostics’, describes a simultaneous diagnosis and treatment for a disease. One can imagine this in the form of existing compounds that are known to accumulate in tumor cells, thus allowing them to be tagged (radioactively or flourescently) to enable diagnosis and can also be functionalised with anti-tumor agents that inhibit tumor growth at the same time. Aimee and I discussed this several weeks ago on TOSP 14, where a 17 year old was able to create a nanoparticle capable of both releasing a drug that targets cancer stem cells and functionalizing the nanoparticle with gold and iron nanoparticles to allow its study using MRIs or optical diagnostic techniques. However, a new paper published in the Nano Letters journal in December 2011 has shown an entirely novel way to achieve a similar effect by … Read More

Just So Science – Nanotech in 1995 - Just So Science

Dec 28, 2011

Having had the amazing fortune of some free time over the Christmas period, I’ve just finished reading a rather excellent book re-telling the story behind some of the development of nanotechnology. The book in question is “Nano!” by Ed Regis, and provides an interesting perspective on the life and struggles of K. Eric Drexler, commonly attributed with the conception and drive behind much of the development of nanotechnology. Drexler, along with Feynman, was one of the few who was able to succinctly and eloquently express his vision for the future of mankind, should the manipulation and control of individual molecules become possible – the idea at the heart of true molecular nanotechnology. And what a future they imagine! A world where perfect molecular control is achieved (or so they say) would be a world without material needs, without hunger, without … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Feynman Hypothesis - Just So Science

Nov 23, 2011

In preparation for giving one of the talks I am required to give to complete my PhD, I’ve been reviewing some of the greatest physics stories. Given that my particular field of research is nanotechnology, it’s little wonder that my favourite at the moment is Richard Feynman’s “There’s plenty of room at the bottom” speech that he first gave on the last days of 1959. Feynman was well known for being both brilliant and a real ‘character’, but reading the transcript of his speech from the vantage of modern times gives a wondrous insight into his imagination. The advantage of reflecting on Feynman’s dreams is, amongst other things, that it helps us strip away the veils of what we’re accustomed to and view what we have (or have not!) achieved with some degree of clarity. He opens by asking his audience … Read More

“Just So Science” – Complex Star Dust - Just So Science

Nov 09, 2011

Finally getting around to reading Carl Sagan’s magnificent book, ‘Cosmos’, has had the rather wonderful effect of helping re-focus my attention from the worrying political ranting that goes hand-in-hand with every election, and turn once again my attention to the stars. I find it quite amazing just how distracting society and life down here can be, and the wonderful clarity and space that stems from placing your eye to a telescope and gazing at ancient, majestic alien worlds. There’s something deceptive about star gazing, that you only realise how little you can actually see, when you take the time to actually look. There seems to be a general attitude now that humans have, that we have discovered many of the most interesting mysteries of the cosmos – when nothing….absolutely nothing, could be further from the truth. We forget how little … Read More

Just So Storytelling – Tell Us a Story 2011 Winners - Just So Science

Oct 24, 2011

As we mentioned in TOSP this week, Thursday marked the finals of Victoria University’s ‘Tell us a Story’ science communication competition. The idea is simple: contestants have 7 minutes to tell a story that somehow involves either science or engineering, in order to get them thinking about communicating science to a non-specialist audience. In total around about 30 students competed, with the top 10 progressing to the finals. If you missed the competition you can view the finals in their entirety here. And the quality of these stories is STUNNING! Communicating any complex idea in 7 minutes is difficult at the best of times, but our contestants managed to cover topics from the active transport to artificial intelligence and everything in between. The ultimate winners were: Paul Menkirk, from the Marine Ecology laboratory who spoke about … Read More

World Space Week podcast — Episode 8: Talia Page and Stanislav Fort - Just So Science

Oct 11, 2011

Our final installment of this year’s World Space Week features two amazing people: Talia Page the Executive Director and Stanislav Fort the winner of the World Space Week’s Youth Inspiration Programme and consequently a flight into zero-gravity onboard the (aptly nicknamed) ‘Vomit Comet‘. We discuss what will sustain people till next space week, Stanislav’s vision for humanity as a young, smart inspiring physicist, and what role creativity has in driving mankind out amongst the stars. Full podcast available to download or listen here Or viewable via youtube here Whew! And that’s it for World Space Week 2011, for podcasts at least – but keep your eyes on Just So Science for 2 other science communication projects emerging in the near future. Read More

World Space Week podcast — Episode 7: Robert Zubrin - Just So Science

Oct 10, 2011

Well and truly ready for some serious conversation about the problems associated with the colonization of another planetary body, Hari and I chat to Robert Zubrin, President of the Mars Society, about the who, what, where, when and whys of human colonization of mars. Oh yeah, and Zubrin strongly believes that with sufficient investment in time and financial terms we could be there in 15 years. Dr. Zubrin is truly one of the most inspiring human being that we have ever had the pleasure of talking to! Full podcast available to listen or download here Or viewable on youtube here Our final episode for 2011 features Talia Page, Executive Director of the World Space Week Association and the winner of the 2011 Youth Inspiration Project (YIP), who had just stepped of his first ever Zero-G … Read More

World Space Week podcast — Episode 6: Melanie Johnston Hollitt - Just So Science

Oct 09, 2011

Hari and I continue our whirlwind tour though space ‘celebrities’ by interviewing Melanie Johnston Hollitt, one of the international founding board members for the Square Kilometer Array radiotelescope. One of the most ambitious scientific projects ever undertaken by mankind, the SKA will see an array of different telescopes spread over a continent-sized area of either South Africa or Australia and New Zealand (we find out which at the beginning of 2012!). The energy, technology and computational needs for a telescope this large are vast, and to be honest words really don’t do it justice, so here’s a picture instead. Radio image of Centaurus A The SKA will be able to collect the data for this image INSTANTLY. By comparison, it took one of our current largest telescopes 1600 hours to generate this image. It’s from a paper Melanie … Read More

World Space Week podcast — Episode 5: Mark Rocket - Just So Science

Oct 08, 2011

Having now whetted our appetites on reasons for going to space, Hari and I went looking for answers to what New Zealand’s future contribution to space may be – whether we’re doomed to sit on the sidelines and watch as other wealthier nations make it to low earth orbit and beyond, or whether there is a way we can get involved! With this in mind we interviewed Mark Rocket, a Kiwi entrepreneur, co-founder of Rocketlab and a booked passenger on Virgin Galactic. Mark’s an avid believer that New Zealand has the capabilities to put some innovative solutions together for commercial access to space and also took us through a little of New Zealand;s historic relationship with space exploration centering, of course, around William Pickering. Full podcast available to listen or download here. Tomorrow we look … Read More