Showing posts with label Laboratories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Laboratories. Show all posts

September 26, 2019

Beautiful Measurements

This is a beautiful set of nested brass weights from France. 

It dates back to 1852!

The weights range from 1 gram to 500 grams. 

These are weights, but also a form of art. 

It is located at the NIST Museum.


There is something comforting about weights, measures, and standards.

It puts an organized construct unto our universe and creates some objective scientific reality to our world. 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 6, 2018

Radio-Activity

So earlier in the week, I had a great opportunity to visit the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR). 

It was fascinating to see the reactor, control room, and all the cool experiments--not things you see every day, right? 

For safety, we had to wear devices that measured radioactivity and also go through machines that checked us afterward. 

When one person in our group went through the scanner, it went off with a red alert, and the poor individual obviously got really scared--like OMG is there some contamination on me or something.

But they went through again and it turned out it was just a false positive, thank G-d. 

I guess these really can be dangerous substances to work around, but still so marvelous how the scientists harness these neutron beams and direct them to all sort of fascinating scientific experiments. 

Being around all this science makes me think whether if I could do it all again--wondering aloud--whether I would pursue an education in one of these amazing scientific disciplines and work in the lab like a "mad scientist"--exploring and discovering new things and figuring out the mysteries of the universe and how the world really works. 

What a fun, fun field to work in!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal and Art by 4th grader, Phillip Kenney)
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May 31, 2018

Trace Amounts of Cocaine

So this is a funny story from today.

I had a wonderful opportunity to tour a couple of labs at NIST today.

One of them does work in contraband detection.

The scientist asks if anyone has any money in their wallet.

I pull out a dollar and hand it to him.

I ask him what happens if he finds any traces of bad stuff on the money from me.

He says, "A cage will fall from the ceiling" and I'll be in big trouble.

Uh, we all laugh a little.

He unfolds the money and puts it into the machine that looks for the contraband.

Oh sh*t, it comes up in the "red"--positive for cocaine.

Someone else says jokingly, "A little leftover from the weekend?"

I joke back, "Na, It's from this morning before work!"

Ha, ha, I think. 

It turns out the scientist explains that 90% of our currency actually tests positive for cocaine

I'm wondering whether this is a commentary on drug use and even the opioid epidemic in America.

The lab director explains a theory that the automated money counters spread traces of the drugs from bills and contaminates the other currency.

Aside from this little experiment today, I got to learn so much about creating standards for contraband detection systems and equipment and in another lab about magnetism. 

It is unbelievable how smart these scientists are--they are so unique and of the best in the world.

I am so happy to be able to learn from them even if it's contraband on money. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 20, 2018

Understanding Genius

So working in a place with scientific geniuses and even a history of Nobel Prize winners is serious business. 

I see things that I don't know what they are. 

I meet people that I don't understand what they do. 

But in all cases, I am in awe of the smart and good people and the work they are doing to advance us. 

Here was an example this week in randomly meeting someone and starting up a conversation:
Andy:  Hi. I'm Andy.  What do you do here?
Him:  I'm [so and so].  I do neutron scattering.
Andy: [Gulp followed by big smile] I know absolutely nothing about that.
Him:  Well, what do you do?
Andy:  I'm doing process engineering and enterprise service management.
Him: [Smile] I know absolutely nothing about that. 
Get the picture.

One for the books right.

In another instance, when asked what their group does, someone leans into me and goes:

"We fix sh*t."

I could tell he meant it. 

And you know what--I absolutely believed him.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 7, 2013

Rethinking How Blood Work Is Done

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating interview today with Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of a new company that has rethought how we do blood work for medical diagnosis.

Her company, Theranos, has certified phlebotomists for taking patient's blood, but instead of taking vials and vials of blood, they just take a pinprick worth--1/1,000 of a typical draw--from the tip of your finger.

Moreover, unlike with conventional blood work testing, "only about 62% of tests that doctors order are ultimately carried out,"partially because there is still not enough blood drawn, but with Theranos the tests are able to be done with only small drop sample sizes. 

With advanced, patented technology, Theranos does the tests (blood, urine, other) faster--in 4 hours or less, rather than in days, so you, the patient, can get the results quicker, and treatment for your condition sooner.

Moreover the results are said to be more precise to within a 10% variation--in contrast to typical labs tests that are within plus-or-minus 30% allowable error--a 60% error range!

With faster and better technology, Theranos helps your doctor to make a more accurate diagnosis and provide targeted treatment. 

The testing results are provided securely and electronically to the doctors in this very cool dashboard (pictured above) in which blood measurements can be quickly and easily seen on a scale of low-to-high, as well as whether something is deficient, insufficient, or at toxic levels. 

Also, Theranos provides trending of results over time, so the physician can quickly see whether the patient's condition is worsening or improving, and can make treatment decisions accordingly. 

And when the doctor releases the results, you'll be able to logon and see them for yourself as well. 

Further, Theranos is committing to conduct the blood work at a 50%-off discount on Medicare fees--they are saying, "we want to bill you at less than you're willing to reimburse."

I really like when someone bold and bright like Elizabeth Holmes comes along and breaks the old broken paradigms--really rethinking how something could/should be done better. 

In general, it often seems that the medical field is change/risk adverse (like with adoption of electronic health records), but Ms. Holmes has brought a better, faster, and cheaper testing and diagnostic process to all of us.  

I noticed that Theranos has a very impressive roster on it's board, including former Secretary of States Henry Kissinger and George Schultz and former Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry to name just a few. 

Theranos seems to be the company to watch in this medical diagnostic laboratory field. 

No more scary big needles--just a pin-prick and a few drops of blood...that's blood worth taking and testing. ;-) 

(Source Photo: Theranos Website)
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May 24, 2013

Willy Wonka Wears Google Glass TOO

I can only say that my fascination with Google continues to grow daily. 

Years ago, I used to joke, "What is this G-O-O-G-L-E?"

But now, I know and marvel at how Google is information!

And every type of information from news and facts to shopping and entertainment: 

Research is Google.
eCommerce is Google. 
Entertainment is Google. 

Google this...Google that. 

Archive, index, search, discover, access...learn, grow.

Google has quite literally ushered in a new age of enlightenment, no really!

The focus is on information...Google's mission statement is:

"Organize the world's information and make it universally acceptable and useful."

If you believe that knowledge and learning is one of the core underpinnings for personal growth and global development then you can appreciate how Google has been instrumental in unleashing the information age we are living in. 

Of course, information can be used for good and for evil--we still have free choice. 

But hopefully, by building not only our knowledge, but also understanding of risks, consequences, each other, and our purpose in life--we can use information to do more good than harm (not that we don't make mistakes, but they should be part of our learning as opposed to coming from malevolent intentions). 

Google is used for almost 2/3 of all searches.

Google has over 5 million eBooks and 18 million tunes.

Google's YouTube has over 4 billion hours of video watched a month.

Google's Blogger is the largest blogging site with over 46 million unique visitors in a month

But what raises Google as the information provider par excellence is not just that they provide easy to use search and access to information, but that they make it available anytime, anywhere.

Google Android powers 2/3 of global smartphones

Google Glass has a likely market potential for wearable IT and augmented reality of $11B by 2018.

Google's Driverless Car will help "every person [traveling] could gain lost hours back for working, reading, talking, or searching the Internet."

Google Fiber is bringing  connection speeds 100x faster than traditional networking to Kansas City, Provo, and Austin. 

Google is looking by 2020 to bring access to the 60% of the world that is not yet online

Dr. Astro Teller who oversees Google[x] lab and "moonshot factory" says, "we are serious as a heart attack about making the world a better place," and he compares themselves to Willy Wonka's magical chocolate factory. (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)

I like chocolate and information--and yes, both make the world a better place. ;-)

(Source Photo: here by (a)artwork)


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May 4, 2013

3-Bedroom Homes on Mars


I am very excited about Bigelow Aerospace's BA-330 space inhabiting module.

The BA-330 is an inflatable, expandable habitat that can be launched into orbit or used to colonize another planet. 

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (2 May 2013), the space vessels are inflatable--like a football or car tire.

The inner core is an airtight bladder for living. The outer shell is composed of protective layers of foam and bullet-resistant Vectran fabric. In the center is a metal framework of electronics and equipment.

The "space habitat is folded tightly into the trunk of a rocket for launch, and released in orbit, where is inflated with a breathable atmosphere." 

Internal pressure makes the hull rigid and the up to 40" of layered protective material make the habitat stronger and safer than conventional aluminum modules--and yet can be produced at half the cost!

The modules can be arranged vertically into the equivalent of a three-story home with kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, and gym. 

NASA has plans for one of these modules to join with the International Space Station and to test it for future uses. 

Bigelow wants to be the 1st space landlord renting out dwellings, work environments, and laboratories to tourists, scientists, and companies. "Bring your clothes and your money. We provide everything else."

For only $51M you can travel to the Bigelow Alpha Station--it's first commercial outpost--and enjoy 110 cubic meters for 60 days. 

Someday, these early ventures into space will seen as the pioneers crossing the oceans to discover and settle new far away lands, but the difference will be millions of miles and infinite choices. ;-)
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