Into the blue. Environmental Chemistry Outreach Exhibit


Dear imaginary readers,

it’s with excitement that I can say I will be part of this amazing event curated by the Environmental Chemistry Group of the Royal society of Chemistry.

It will take place at Manchester Runaway Visitor Park from Tuesday the 25th until Saturday the 29th of October.

Into the blue will bring alive the world of environmental science and research by immersing visitors in a hands-on science exhibition, experiencing the best of the UK’s environmental science research and the cutting-edge technology that is used to measure and monitor our environment.

Some lucky visitors will be able to go on board and experience the UK’s most advanced research aircraft, to ask questions of real scientists and interact with a range of exhibits from all of NERC’s centres.

For more information and tickets visit the NERC website.

I can’t wait for that!





Today is Ada Lovelace day

Dear imaginary readers, today we celebrate a special day. It’s Ada Lovelace day!

This day is meant to be an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Ada Lovelace, “analyst and metaphysician” who did “poetical science”, is known for her work on the first mechanical general purpose computer, the analytical engine. Her notes on the engine include what is recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. The first computer programmer was a woman.


You can find the whole comic and many other interesting ones in Sydney Padua website.


Wearing a toilet seat on his head, David Hu, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biology at Georgia Institute of Technology, walks away with his team's Ig Nobel Prize in Physics for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds) at the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prizes awards ceremony at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts September 17, 2015. The annual prizes, meant to entertain and encourage global research and innovation, are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel Prizes. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl - RTS1NI9
Wearing a toilet seat on his head, David Hu, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biology at Georgia Institute of Technology, walks away with his team’s Ig Nobel Prize in Physics for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds). Photography: REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl – RTS1NI9

Have you ever heard about the Ig Nobels? Well, if the answer is negative, you definitely must find out more. The Ig Nobels are a very peculiar form of scientific award. In fact these prizes are conferred to scientists for achievements and discoveries that first make people laugh then make them think. The Ig Nobel prize is handed out by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine at the Harvard University for silly sounding scientific discoveries that often have surprisingly practical applications.

The following are the 2015 winners, awarded of this important reward last Thursday during the 25th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony.

CHEMISTRY PRIZE — Callum Ormonde and Colin Raston [AUSTRALIA], and Tom Yuan, Stephan Kudlacek, Sameeran Kunche, Joshua N. Smith, William A. Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese, Tivoli Olsen, Mariam Iftikhar, Gregory Weiss [USA], for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg.

PHYSICS PRIZE — Patricia Yang [USA and TAIWAN], David Hu [USA and TAIWAN], and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo [USA], for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

LITERATURE PRIZE — Mark Dingemanse [THE NETHERLANDS, USA], Francisco Torreira [THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM, USA], and Nick J. Enfield [AUSTRALIA, THE NETHERLANDS], for discovering that the word “huh?” (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language — and for not being quite sure why.

MANAGEMENT PRIZE — Gennaro Bernile [ITALY, SINGAPORE, USA], Vineet Bhagwat [USA, INDIA], and P. Raghavendra Rau [UK, INDIA, FRANCE, LUXEMBOURG, GERMANY, JAPAN], for discovering that many business leaders developed in childhood a fondness for risk-taking, when they experienced natural disasters (such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and wildfires) that — for them — had no dire personal consequences.

ECONOMICS PRIZE — The Bangkok Metropolitan Police [THAILAND], for offering to pay policemen extra cash if the policemen refuse to take bribes.

MEDICINE PRIZE — Awarded jointly to two groups: Hajime Kimata [JAPAN, CHINA]; and to Jaroslava Durdiaková [SLOVAKIA, US, UK], Peter Celec [SLOVAKIA, GERMANY], Natália Kamodyová, Tatiana Sedláčková, Gabriela Repiská, Barbara Sviežená, and Gabriel Minárik [SLOVAKIA], for experiments to study the biomedical benefits or biomedical consequences of intense kissing (and other intimate, interpersonal activities).

MATHEMATICS PRIZE — Elisabeth Oberzaucher [AUSTRIA, GERMANY, UK] and Karl Grammer [AUSTRIA, GERMANY], for trying to use mathematical techniques to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children.

BIOLOGY PRIZE — Bruno Grossi, Omar Larach, Mauricio Canals, Rodrigo A. Vásquez [CHILE], José Iriarte-Díaz [CHILE, USA], for observing that when you attach a weighted stick to the rear end of a chicken, the chicken then walks in a manner similar to that in which dinosaurs are thought to have walked.

DIAGNOSTIC MEDICINE PRIZE — Diallah Karim [CANADA, UK], Anthony Harnden [NEW ZEALAND, UK, US], Nigel D’Souza [BAHRAIN, BELGIUM, DUBAI, INDIA, SOUTH AFRICA, US, UK], Andrew Huang [CHINA, UK], Abdel Kader Allouni [SYRIA, UK], Helen Ashdown [UK], Richard J. Stevens [UK], and Simon Kreckler [UK], for determining that acute appendicitis can be accurately diagnosed by the amount of pain evident when the patient is driven over speed bumps.

PHYSIOLOGY and ENTOMOLOGY PRIZE — Awarded jointly to two individuals: Justin Schmidt [USA, CANADA], for painstakingly creating the Schmidt Sting Pain Index, which rates the relative pain people feel when stung by various insects; and to Michael L. Smith [USA, UK, THE NETHERLANDS], for carefully arranging for honey bees to sting him repeatedly on 25 different locations on his body, to learn which locations are the least painful (the skull, middle toe tip, and upper arm). and which are the most painful (the nostril, upper lip, and penis shaft).

You can find out last year winners here.

Watch the whole ceremony:

The art of pipetting

Dear imaginary readers, I think that many of you, even if you are actually fictional characters, may work as science or laboratory technicians. By chance it happens that I work as a lab tech myself .

One of the part that I like the most of my job is to interact with young people, who may be very enthusiastic and at the same time showing a lack in terms of experience of lab practice. When they make mistakes I use to take it with irony, just laugh about it and start again (it is the same thing that I do for my gaffes).

Some of my colleagues don’t seem to have the same reaction, and can get quite frustrated and angry, when they have to repeat the same thing more than two times. We tough it would have been a good idea to find video tutorials on basic lab techniques. The first one we explored was the art of pipetting.

That’s how we came across a funny video realized by the Dryden High School art students, who wrote and produced this unique and amusing video featuring student videography and student actors, as part of a project merging art and science to increase science awareness in non-science students and classes, with support from Cornell’s NIH-funded ASSET program.

The video they put together is a must-see for everyone who works in a laboratory in any capacity. It may distract the audience on the practical task of pipetting, but I think it may be an effective tool especially in secondary schools.

Having a laugh has never hurt anyone. Enjoy!

“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” Mark Twain



Art of Science

Dear imaginary readers, can you look at nature and find its intrinsic beauty? That is what artist has always done, producing different visions and reproduction of the natural world.

What about scientists? Are they able to reproduce the hidden aesthetics and symmetry of it? Well, to me, the answer is necessarily yes. In the past a scientist was often an artist as well.

Think about Leonardo, for example. Visual art has been important for the scientific community as a way to share knowledge, results, and new achievements (see also my previous blog post Science drawings at the Royal Society).

The fact that art and science are  interconnected is still true. The authors of the images exposed at “Art of Science”, edition 2014, organized by the Princeton University, are mainly researchers, PhDs students, and undergraduates students. The exhibition aims to show the link between science and art, even when the artistic side of it comes out in a random accidental way.

The images displayed are the products of research projects, and they are chosen both for their aesthetic excellence and for their scientific or technical interest.

They have the power to raise attention on the process of the scientific research, and attract the general public, giving them the opportunity to appreciate the overlapping of science and art, and the secret beauty of the micro and macroscopic world seen with the eyes of scientists.

These are the four winners:

  • First Place
Watermarks, by Sara Sadri (postdoctoral researcher
  • Second Place
Fungus among us, by James S. Waters (postdoctoral researcher)
  • Third Place
Portrait of the artist in the air shower, by Yasmin Afsar (graduate student)
  • People’s choice
Fruit fly factory by Yogesh Goyal (graduate student), Bomyi Lim (graduate student), Miriam Osterfield (post-doc), Stas Shvartsman (faculty member of staff)

You can admire all the images participants at the “Art of Science” 2014 and the online galleries from previous years here.

Why it’s crucial to get more women in science

Dear imaginary readers, because today is the national women’s day, I would like to share with you a very interesting article written by Marguerite Del Giudice, published on National Geographuc on November 2014. Even though it focuses mainly on the USA situation, I believe it is worth a reading, both for women and men.

I would also like to remember to all the women that the battle for equality it is still on, and I hope we will fight other battles as our, like the ones for the minorances and the oppresses of the world.

I will leave you with a quote by Rose Luxemburg, the one who is believed to have chosed the 8th of March as an international date to celebrate the fight for their rights of the women from all over the world.


Alfred Eisenstaedt, Time & Life Pictures, Getty Images
Rachel Carson, who revealed the unregulated use of DDT and other pesticides by the chemical industry in her book “Silent Spring”, would have gotten a Ph.D. in biology from John Hopkins University but was overburdened by three jobs and the responsibility of caring for her mother. Alfred Eisenstaedt, Time & Life Pictures, Getty.

Why it’s crucial to get more women in science

Amid growing signs that gender bias has affected research outcomes and damaged women’s health, there’s a new push to make science more relevant to them.

James Gross, a psychology professor at Stanford University, has a 13-year-old daughter who loves math and science. It hasn’t occurred to her yet that that’s unusual, he says. “But I know in the next couple of years, it will.”

She’s already being pulled out of class to do advanced things “with a couple of other kids, who are guys,” he says. And as someone who studies human emotion for a profession, Gross says, “I know as time goes on, she’ll feel increasingly lonely as a girl who’s interested in math and science”—and be at risk of narrowing her choices in life before finding out how far she could have gone. (See “In Her Words: Sylvia Earle on Women in Science.”)

Gross’s concern speaks volumes about what has been a touchy subject in the world of science for a long time: Why are there still so few women in science, and how might that affect what we learn from research?

Women now make up half the national workforce, earn more college and graduate degrees than men, and by some estimates represent the largest single economic force in the world. Yet the gender gap in science persists, to a greater degree than in other professions, particularly in high-end, math-intensive fields such as computer science and engineering.

According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, women in fields commonly referred to as STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) made up 7 percent of that workforce in 1970, a figure that had jumped to 23 percent by 1990. But the rise essentially stopped there. Two decades later, in 2011, women made up 26 percent of the science workforce.

It’s not that women aren’t wanted. “I don’t know any institution today that is not trying to hire more women scientists and engineers,” says one science historian. But many cultural forces continue to stand in the way—ranging from girls being steered toward other professions from an early age and gender bias and sexual harassment in the workplace to the potentially career-stalling effects on women of having children……you can read the full article here.

"The fate of wine is to be drunk, and the fate of glucose is to be oxidized." Primo Levi, Carbon, The periodic system.