December 2015
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DNA-themed iPhone wallpaper

Ricardo Vidal of My Biotech Life just released some iPhone and iPod Touch wallpapers with the DNA Network logo on it. It’s pretty, go dowload:

Biology Gig Posters

Ron Vale gig poster

Concert posters are usually much cooler than scientific seminar announcements, but the UNC Chapel Hill Biology Department breaks this trend with “gig posters” for visiting lecturers.

Found in the easternblot Flickr pool.

(Incidentally, the “Blog This” feature on Flickr no longer seems to work for me. Somewhere along the line, the < and / are stripped from the code.)

Coffee breaks

I was reading the Incomplete Manifesto of Bruce Mau, and of the items reminded me of SciBarCamp:

39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.”

I found a little more about Hans Ulrich Obrist’s science and art “coffee breaks” here.

update – Also, SciBarCamp is in yesterday’s National Post. (I’m going to add this quote from the author, found on Jamie’s blog: “Don’t blame me for the title!”)

update 2 – I have been asked by several people to write up something for the session about “Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Science” I did at SciBarCamp. I decided that the whole process of online and offline discussion was perhaps more interesting and informative than the actual discussion itself, so, yes, I am writing up something about the session, but it’s packed into a larger thing about the whole discussion. It ended up being ten steps, and the first two plus the introduction are neatly typed up already. It’s too academic for this blog, so I am posting it over at Expression Patterns (my Nature Network blog). Here’s part one.

Etsy Wednesday – science-inspired design

Shelley submitted this week’s Etsy Wednesday. It’s not tagged as science, but it’s inspired by naturally occurring shapes. On top of that, the shop is called nervous system.


“Silicone rubber is cut into an organic network of distorting ellipses. The pattern displays shifts in direction and scale, creating a sense of movement and tension around the wrist. These complex forms recall those of radiolarians, plant cells and even the familiar honey comb.”

If you like this kind of science-inspired design, may I also recommend the current issue of SEED magazine? (SEED was kind enough to donate several copies of this issue for SciBarCamp, and we found out that while it makes for light reading, it’s a pretty heavy magazine when you have to carry it around in boxes of forty.)

Made With Molecules

ethanolglass.jpgI don’t know if this says something about Google’s perfect algorithms or more about my highly predictable tastes, but the targeted advertisement on top of my Gmail inbox just led me to Made With Molecules. It’s a site that sells jewelry and other pretty things with molecules on them, all designed by Raven Hanna, a PhD-holding “scientist turned artist”.

The best part? The designs often match the object on which they’re printed (see these beautiful ethanol champagne glasses) and come with an educational explanation.

The PEACE peptide holiday card is probably the geekiest thing I’ve seen all month! And if you have small children, you should start them young with these “sweet” glucose outfits!

The Green Roof at MEC

No, people in Canada do not actually leave their doors unlocked all the time. Only during the annual Doors Open Toronto event, where about 150 buildings in the city offer free access to the public. The idea behind the project is to get a chance to look inside some buildings you would otherwise never go and learn something about the architecture or functionality of the building. This year the program had a green theme. I visited Mountain Equipment Co-op, which led fifteen minute tours through the stockroom, up a ladder, and out of a trapdoor to the roof.

mecroof1.jpgWhat was so special about the roof? It’s green! Not painted green, but a “green roof” in the environmental sense. The roof on top of the MEC store holds 75% of rain water, so it reduces the amount of dirty run-off water that eventually ends up in the lake. According to our tour guide, if every building in the city had a green roof, the lake would always be clean enough to swim in. (I assume it’s calculated based on how much rain would be retained by the total flat roof area of the city, but we didn’t get any more details on the numbers.) The roof is also much cooler in summer than regular roofs (about 30 degrees celcius versus 50-60), which reduces the need for energy otherwise used for cooling.

mecroof.jpgThe roof is almost entirely maintenance-free. Twice a year an “Ecoman” comes by to check if no harmful plants have popped up: the roof can’t support a tree, for example, but the big green plant you see in the first picture is an anomaly that has been allowed to stay. There is also an automatic watering system that waters the plants for about 20 minutes if it gets very dry. The sprinklers are coupled to a detector that measures the moisture of the soil. Last summer it went on twice, and it hasn’t been switched on this year at all. So basically, the roof supports itself.

We were also shown what the plants grow on (second picture). They’re on a very lightweight base, and any excess water is collected on a sheet and in a drain.

The City of Toronto Green Roof website
has a list of some other green roofs in the city and a schematic drawing of a green roof similar to the one at MEC: