Dave Bradley’s Wishful Thinking

Award-winning science journalist turning his attention to his music releasing an eclectic mix of original acoustic and electric guitar songs under the name “ScienceBass”. You can listen to all the songs on my new album Wishful Thinking for free on the BandCamp site, but if you want to keep them on your phone, tablet, PC or media player, you’ll have pay to download – you can purchase it from BandCamp, iTunes, amazon mp3, ReverbNation etc!

Twitter improves account security, improves password reset

It can be difficult to keep up with security changes made by services and websites that you are a member of. If a company adds a new security related feature, it is often a good idea to implement it as soon as possible to improve your account’s overall security. Many companies have started to implement two-factor authentication schemes for instance to improve the login process […]

The post Twitter improves account security, improves password reset appeared first on gHacks Technology News.

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Elegant Henna Tattoo Crowns Help Cancer Patients Cope With Their Hair Loss

The art and tradition of using all-natural paste from the henna plant to create temporary henna tattoos goes back to ancient Asian and Middle-Eastern history, but there’s one group that has taken this ancient art form and given it a new, modern purpose. Henna Heals is a community of henna artists based in Canada that creates beautiful flowering henna crown tattoos for women who have lost their hair to cancer and chemotherapy.

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A meaty metaphor too far

I recently reported on a fascinating study on copper in which engineer Parag Banerjee of Washington University in St Louis, USA, and colleagues took a sideways look at the metal using Raman spectroscopy. Copper, like zinc and iron, is an intriguing material in many ways. Whereas most metals simply find themselves coated with a thin metal oxide layer when they are heated, this trio sprout tiny little metal hairs, nanowires, if you will. Banerjee and his team had read the literature on sprouting copper and noticed that most investigators took an aerial view, hence their orthogonal study. They hoped that their novel approach would reveal details of the underlying mechanism and why these nanowires emerge from the bulk rather than a crusty oxide layer forming.

It turns out that ionic transport is involved. As the metal is heated, a relatively thick oxide film forms. However, this film is comprised of two different copper oxides [copper(II) oxide and copper(I) oxide], so revealed the Raman spectra. As these oxides crystallize on the surface of the heated bulk metal, they form with narrow, vertical columns of grain running through them. In between these columns copper ions can traverse the grain boundaries and emerge through the layer as the nanoscopic wires. Quite a neat trick one has to say, but how to visualize it in everyday terms?

As I was writing the article, I was reminded of my children, both in their late teens now, who both, when they were much smaller, enjoyed messing around with "Play-Doh". In case you are not familiar, this is a brightly colored modeling clay material with an evocative and disturbingly appetizing, aroma, familiar to all parents of a certain age. I remember that my children had various moulds, knives and spikes to shape and tease the modeling clay; all consigned to the loft space until any grandchildren come along. There was even a hand-cranked device for extruding spaghetti-like strands of Play-Doh hair for laying on a model head. I also vaguely recall seeing in a toy shop catalog a model head full of holes through which strands might be extruded directly. Now, this image was not dissimilar to the mechanism being described by Banerjee, but obviously on a completely different scale and with non-metallic ingredients.

However, as I was modeling a metaphor for the article it occurred to me that Play-Doh is perhaps not universally recognizable after all and that a slight variation on the image was needed for a wider audience, particularly one with a technical bent and a wide age range. So, having discarded the modeling clay, I crafted a metaphor in which the sprouting copper nanowires were strands of ground beef extruded from a mincing machine. Why I didn’t just think of the spaghetti maker at the time I do not know. Needless, to say although the Play-Doh metaphor was childish, the virtual schematic of the ground beef was perhaps even more inappropriate for vegetarians and anyone who does not eat beef for whatever reason. The beefy metaphor did not make the final cut as published in my column on SpectroscopyNow, you will presumably be pleased to learn. Indeed, no metaphor was used. I simply described the observations and the description of copper nanowires emerging between grain boundaries. I reasoned that if you are bright enough to understand grain boundaries you probably do not need mixed metaphors with meat products and modeling clay.

Of course, as with much fundamental materials science, there are putative technological applications on the horizon that appear as a result of the clearer understanding of how these copper nanowires grow and how they might be exploited in solar-energy conversion, semiconductor sandwiches and water-splitting. I do not now intend to slice all my scientific metaphors, they have their place particularly in popular science communication, although I must confess that sandwich I just mentioned does not sound particularly appetizing.

David Bradley blogs at http://ift.tt/1dXIL6e and tweets @sciencebase, he is author of the popular science book "Deceived Wisdom".

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All of Bach for Free! New Site Will Put Performances of 1080 Bach Compositions Online

Bach wrote 1080 compositions during his lifetime. And now thanks to the new and certainly ambitious All of Bach web site, you can eventually watch the Netherlands Bach Society (founded in 1921) perform each and every one of those compositions. The site features six performances so far (see below), which means there’s [...]

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