Elf Eldridge

Nerdnite 6 – Review and Science! - Just So Science

Jul 21, 2011

I was lucky enough to attend the 6th installment of Wellington’s ‘Nerdnite’ on Monday evening at Bodega. As expected, I was treated to a glorious cacophony of different thoughts and experiences, from beer to cryptic crosswords to film editing to 3D printing.  By way of review, I’ll just say that the first 2 speakers were ok, having a little difficulty keeping to time causing their presentations to come across as a little ‘unrehearsed’. Subsequently the stage was taken by film editor, Nick Swinglehurst, and just WOW. His presentation was not only totally immersive, but provided some deep insights into the manipulation we are exposed to every day via the medium of film. His comments centreing on John Gardner’s “…vivid and continuous dream” – The Art of Fiction left me totally reconsidering how best … Read More

“Just So Science” -The Transient Teapot - Just So Science

Jul 18, 2011

Following on from the last astronomy post I thought it’s well worth mentioning Sagittarius, the little teapot appearing just over the eastern horizon during winter. Sagittarius has one of the densest clusters of Deep Sky Objects in all of the constellations, as it covers the very centre of our galaxy, making it spectacular to view from somewhere without much light pollution. The ‘teapot’ shape (the teapot sits with it’s spout pointing directly up from our eastern horizon) is the head, shoulders and bow of a celestial archer according to the greek constellations. Sagittarus - as seen from New Zealand just over the eastern horizon about an hour after dark in July 2011. The 'teapot' part of Sagittarius (different orientation to the first image, rotate this image 90 degrees to the left for the orientation … Read More

Weekend Nanotech – Viruses, Light and Microfluidics - Just So Science

Jul 17, 2011

Yes, another virus post so soon – but totally worth it! This paper [1] published in Nature Nanotech is an epic example of coupling between several cutting edge technologies to produce something truly incredible that pushes back the boundaries of what we believe is possible. As awesome as that is, it does mean that the details of the experiment are a little ….’complex’…. (i.e. not even I fully understand them!) but the implications remain the same regardless. First off the paper title: “Detecting single viruses and nanoparticles using whispering gallery microlasers”[1]. The first and last bits are simple enough, the group, from Washington University, use a tiny laser to detect virus particles and nanoparticles. That’s pretty impressive alone, as the particles they detect are between 20 and 60 nanometers in diameter, that’s 100 000 000 times smaller than you or … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Winter Wonders - Just So Science

Jul 13, 2011

Scorpius Rising As we quickly approach the middle of Winter, are also treated to both the best observing conditions of the year (when its not raining that is!) and a plethora of gorgeous sights up in the night sky. Having been introduced to Pearltrees by the lovely Miss Whitcroft, I’ll be using it in future posts to provide a simple way to know what you can see with a telescope or your naked eye in various constellations that I mention! So what are we treated to at the moment? Well both the constellations of Scorpius (apologies for the Northern Hemisphere constellation names, this is really the Great Fish-Hook of Maui) and Sagittarius are easily visible in our evening skies at the moment, beginning the evening just over the eastern horizon and … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Typhoon Titan and Synthetic Life - Just So Science

Jul 12, 2011

Saturn's Great White Spot - 2010/2011 (1) By way of comparison to the abnormal weather we’re experiencing at the moment, I thought I would mention the huge storm that appeared on Saturn last year, the Great White Spot, a single storm almost as big as our entire planet! We’ve observed several smaller such storms on saturn over the past few years, but none have been as large or long-lived as this one. The white colour, distinct from Saturn’s normal golden-cream hue from its helium, is caused by ammonia crystals floating to the top of Saturn’s clouds. As to why this occurred now – we think it’s probably a combination of Saturn’s seasonal springtime heating coupled with it’s current angle to the sun. Regardless, the storm and its tail are pretty spectacular, and certainly puts our little … Read More

“Just So Science” – Nature Nanotech Knows - Just So Science

Jun 30, 2011

There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about the biological implications of quantum effects. For those not familiar with quantum phenomena, they describe a set of bizarre properties molecules and light exhibit at very small length scales or at very low temperatures. Things like quantum tunelling, coherence and entanglement which typically are seldom observed in our normal, human world – which incidentally is why we find them so weird! They’re only strange as they don’t contribute to or idea of common sense, because we don’t see them that often. Well, that’s what we thought – new evidence has come to light suggesting that this is not entirely the case. Quantum in Photosynthesis Quantum in Bird's eye? Quantum computing? In fact, it has been shown to be a crucial factor in the efficiency of the light antennae in both … Read More

“Just So Science” – Chiron’s Secrets - Just So Science

Jun 29, 2011

One of the lesser known, yet most spectacular constellations in our southern sky is currently doing the rounds about the south celestial pole for almost the entire evening; the celestial centaur, Chiron a.k.a. Centaurus.  His front two hooves are marked by the two “pointers”, the two bright stars that point to the Southern Cross, which used to mark  out his back legs (but now is a constellation in its own right). The furthest away of the two pointers stars to the cross is Alpha Centauri, a triple star system (A, B and Proxima) containing the closest star to our own sun at about 4.3 light years away. Deep within Centaurus however, is the dusty elliptical galaxy, Centaurus A. Image of dust around Centaurus A Close up … Read More

Weekend Nanotech – The Inconvenient Ash - Just So Science

Jun 25, 2011

Estimated Ash distribution map from: http://passingparade-2009.blogspot.com/ Most people will be aware by now there is a rather large ash cloud spreading across the Southern Hemisphere from the eruption in Chile. Here in NZ it has been playing havoc with flights across the board- but many people aren’t sure why we’re so worried about ash! So I though I’d take the opportunity to explain a bit, and push a nanotech solution! First we need to understand what conditions are like inside a jet engine. In a word? Hot. 1200 degrees Celsius hot. Spinning at several thousand revolutions per minute (RPM). Now imagine throwing something into that. Something small (a few microns in diameter), hard and rocky (most volcanic ashes are some form of silicate) [2]. Another word that comes to mind. Chaos. Jet Engine in action … Read More

“Just So Science” – Technical Difficulties - Just So Science

Jun 20, 2011

I’ll be taking a short hiatus from blogging this week due to moving house and not having internet making blogging slightly problematic. A sneak preview of what’s to come however: night sky through different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, What’s in Hercules?, DNA Nanotech, ‘Quantum’ Biology, High Tech Clay, Fungal Batteries, new outreach programmes and much, much more…. plus the launch of a Nanotechnology podcast by myself and Elizabeth Connor (inaugural Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize winner)  within the next few months. So watch this space! … Read More

“Just So Science” – The Questioners - Just So Science

Jun 15, 2011

We’ve had a few excellent days at the observatory this week, with clear skies letting us open the Thomas Cooke telescope for the first time in what seems like ages! That said, it’s not the skies that have made the last week particularly notable – but the people and questions I’ve run into, so I thought I would answer some of the questions here instead, where I can use pictures and videos to my heart’s content! What happens when two stars collide? Kudos to the 7 (? okay sorry I’m awful at ages!) year old girl who asked me this. The answer to this question is far from clear or simple – firstly it depends on all sorts of variables, like the speed the stars are travelling and their masses etc, but I can show you some of the ‘theoretical’ … Read More