Tag Archives: chemistry

WEBSITES ON CURRENT SCIENCE RECOMMENDED BY Dr.M FOR NON-SCIENTISTS

 

What's New in Science and Research?  How can Non-Scientists Find Out?   (http://dr-monsrs.net)
What’s New in Science and Research?  Where should Non-Scientists Look forThis?   (http://dr-monsrs.net)

 

If general readers want to keep up with research progress and current science events, there are numerous websites available on the internet.  Some even are updated daily with new material, but this is not what general readers require.  Non-scientists need articles, illustrations, and videos that are readily comprehensible, and present a brief overview rather than a long comprehensive review.  That audience is looking for brief illustrated explanations and summaries that serve as background or starting points for seeking further information.

I have recently discussed “How Can I Take the First Step to Learn About Science?” (see:    http://dr-monsrs.net/2014/12/05/how-can-i-take-the-first-step-to-learn-about-science/ ).  Here, I give my selection of just a few recommended websites covering almost everything in modern scientific research, along with my comments for each.  I believe these sources for information and learning stand out from many others.  Later, I will try to gather some recommendations for more specialized areas of science. 

If you are looking for information that is about techniques, amusing, detailed,  highly specific, promising some speculative bonanza, theoretical, unbelievable, or, unsupported by research results, then please look elsewhere! 

General Science

Covering all of science is particularly difficult since the number of smaller branches in each major division (biology/medicine, chemistry, physics) is indeed very large.  However, it is easy to recommend your first attention to the prominent weekly science journals, Science (http://www.sciencemag.org ), and Nature ( http://www.nature.com/news/index.html  ).  Both report on all parts of global science, as well as its interactions with society, governments, and industry.  Coverages in these prestigious journals are somewhat similar, but each has a different flavor.  You need not read both, so initially try each one to see which you prefer.  Many scientists read them every week to try to keep up with progress, controversies, and problems, or to learn about new job openings.  Readers who are not doctoral scientists should start by looking at their News sections, whose reports are comprehensible to all.  Their search boxes are easy to use, and typically yield many informative materials. 

Two long-standing magazines do a good job in presenting a large variety of reports about important current experimental research and the development of new technology: Popular Science ( http://www.popsci.com ), and Scientific American (http://www.scientificamerican.com ).  Most articles in both are designed to be fully understood by anyone in the public, and cover many different aspects of science.  They are widely read and studied by young people interested to learn about science and research.  The reports in Popular Science are more numerous and shorter, while those in Scientific American are fewer and longer.  Both present many explanatory illustrations, and are recommended for general readers. 

Major Branches of Science: Physics

The American Institute of Physics has several excellent websites, including one for their outstanding monthly journal, Physics Today (http://scitation.aip.org/content/aip/magazine/physicstoday/issues ).  This journal wonderfully covers all parts of modern physics, including research advances, controversies, policy issues, funding, and education.  I recommend Physics Today for readers with a general interest directed towards the physical sciences.  

Major Branches of Science: Biology and Medicine

Biological Science is so extremely diverse and spread out that it is completely unthinkable that any one source could even try to cover everything.  Accordingly, at present I am not able to recommend any single source for general readers; I will make a few recommendations for some of the larger specialized areas in biology and medicine at a later time.  

Major Branches of Science: Chemistry

News and materials about chemistry suited for general readers are readily available on several different websites.  For non-scientists, I recommend the long-standing weekly journal from the American Chemical Society, Chemical and Engineering News ( http://cen.acs.org/index.html ).  This presents important news about research, technology, controversies, and chemists.  It covers all the different aspects of chemistry with some emphasis on applied research, and is recommended for general readers whose interest is focused on chemistry.    

Concluding Remarks

It is my hope that these recommendations will be useful for all non-scientists interested in starting to learn about new developments in modern science.  My intention here is that these will serve as entry points for your interests and curiosity.  Use of my recommended sources should save much time for those who have been simply entering some term into the search box of any browser, and then are overwhelmed by being confronted with many dozens of different internet sites to check out.   

 

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SCIENTISTS TELL US ABOUT THEIR LIFE AND WORK, PART 8

 

Quotations by Prof. Nadrian (Ned) C. Seeman (from pages 20 and 23 of his Living History essay in ACA RefleXions, American Crystallographic Association, Summer 2014, Number 2, pages 19-23)
Quotations by Prof. Nadrian (Ned) C. Seeman (from pages 20 and 23 of his Living History essay in ACA RefleXions, American Crystallographic Association, Summer 2014, Number 2, pages 19-23)

 

In this series, I am recommending to you a few life stories about real scientists.  I prefer to let these scientists tell their own stories where possible.  Autobiographical accounts are interesting and entertaining for both non-scientists and other scientists.  My selections here mostly involve scientists I either know personally or at least know about.  If further materials like this are needed, they can be obtained readily on the internet or with input from librarians at public or university libraries, science teachers, and other scientists.

In the preceding segment of this series, the story of a very celebrated basic research scientist working on Protein Dynamics in Cell Biology was recommended (see “Scientists Tell Us About Their Life and Work, Part 7”).  Part 8 presents the life story of a research scientist who dreamed up and established an amazingly novel new branch of chemical engineering based upon the well-known double-helix of DNA.

Part 8 Recommendations:  NEW NANOSTRUCTURES BASED ON DNA

Prof. Nadrian (Ned) C. Seeman (1945 – present) originated several new fields of science and engineering: DNA Nanotechnology, DNA-Based Crystallography, and DNA-Based Computation.  His very creative investigations and innovative new concepts for “Structural DNA Technology” often were developed for practical applications (e.g., better production of highly ordered macromolecular crystals, nanocomputation, nano-electronics, nanomedicine, and nanorobotics); thus, he is both a basic and an applied researcher.  All of his dramatic innovations and unusual research topics are based on the structure and properties of DNA.  Numerous other research labs around the world now also are working with DNA-based nanostructures.

DNA is known to most as the double-stranded genetic material making up chromosomes.  The binding between each of the 2 associated strands takes place by specific pairing between their individual nucleotide bases; this binding is very specific and fairly strong.  In the laboratory, segments of synthetic single-stranded DNA can be  hybridized (reassociated) to form new double-stranded DNA; branch points and unpaired base sequences at the termini can be produced as desired, and are key points of technology for using DNA to produce new nanostructures.  Seeman developed and used these characteristic features from the early 1980’s to form self-assembled DNA polygons, and, 2-D and 3-D lattices; subsequently, he went on to invent nanomechanical devices (e.g., synthetic computers, robots, translators, and walkers), and other nanostructures (e.g., superstructures of DNA associated with other species, and nano-assembly lines).  In 2004-5, he was the founding president of a new professional science association, the International Society for Nanoscale Science, Computation and Engineering (see:  http://isnsce.org/ ).

Seeman’s unconventional research involves unique combinations of biochemistry, biophysics, chemical engineering, computer science, crystallography, nanoscience and nanotechnology, structural biology, and, thermodynamics.  His creative ideas and amazing lab studies for making new nanostructures involve both theory and practice, and are also being used to advance scientific knowledge and understanding about the biophysics of intermediates in the recombination of chromosomal DNA during its replication.

Prof. Seeman chairs the Department of Chemistry at New York University.  He has received many honors for his pioneering research, including the Sidhu Award from the Pittsburg Diffraction Society (1974), a Research Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health (1982), the Science and Technology Award from Popular Science Magazine (1993), the Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (1995), and the Nichols Medal from the NY Section of the American Chemical Society (2008).  He is an elected member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry (U.K.), and holds an Einstein Professorship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.  In 2010, Prof Seeman and Prof. Donald Eigler (IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, California) were jointly honored as awardees of the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience [1]; also see the photo of these 2 awardees receiving their Kavli Prize from H. M. King Harald of Norway [2].  Seeman is without question an embodiment of what Dr.M wrote about in an earlier essay on the significance of curiosity, creativity, inventiveness, and individualism in science (see:  http://dr-monsrs.net/2014/02/25/curiosity-creativity-inventiveness-and-individualism-in-science/ ).

[1]  Kavli Foundation, 2010.  2010 Kavli Prize in Nanoscience.  Available on the internet at:
http://www.kavlifoundation.org/2010-nanoscience-citation .

[2]   Kavli Foundation, 2010.  The Kavli Prize in Nanoscience (2010).  Available on the internet at:  http://registration.kavliprize.org/seksjon/vis.html?tid=27454 .

Lots of interesting information about Prof. Seeman is displayed on his laboratory home page (see: http://seemanlab4.chem.nyu.edu/ ).  My recommendations (below) start with Seeman’s own explanation of his research in DNA Nanotechnology, as written for non-scientists (1A).  For working scientists, his review article provides a stimulating overview (1B).  The second recommendation (2) is an official summary of why Seeman and Eigler were selected for the Kavli Prize in Nanoscience in 2010.  The third item is Prof. Seeman’s personal description about his own career in science (3), and is filled with stories and anecdotes about both his difficulties and his triumphs; all readers will find this to be a very fascinating account.  Dr.M considers that essay to be extraordinary, since it is probably the most unusually forthright and outspoken piece ever authored by a modern scientist.

(1A)  Seeman, N. C., 2004.  Nanotechnology and the double helix (preview).  Scientific American  290:64-75.  Available on the internet at:
 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/nanotechnology-and-the-double-helix .

(1B)  Seeman, N. C., 2010.  Nanomaterials based on DNA.  Annual Review of Biochemistry  79:65-87.  Available on the internet at:
http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev-biochem-060308-102244 .

(2)  Kavli Foundation, 2010.  2010 Nanoscience Prize explanatory notes.  Available on the internet at:
http://www.kavlifoundation.org/2010-nanoscience-prize-explanatory-notes .

(3)  Seeman, N. C., 2014.  The crystallographic roots of DNA nanotechnology.  ACA RefleXions, American Crystallographic Association, Number 2, Summer 2014, pages 19-23.  Available on the internet at: http://www.amercrystalassn.org/documents/2014%20newsletters/Summer%202014%20WEB.pdf .

 

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SCIENTISTS TELL US ABOUT THEIR LIFE AND WORK, PART 5

 

Quote from the 1993 Nobel Prize Lecture in Chemistry by Kary Banks Mullis

Quote from the 1993 Nobel Prize Lecture in Chemistry by Kary Banks Mullis

 

In this series, I am recommending to you a few life stories about real scientists.  I prefer to let these scientists tell their own stories where possible.  Autobiographical accounts are interesting and entertaining for both non-scientists and other scientists.  My selections here mostly involve scientists I either know personally or at least know about.  If further materials like this are needed, they can be obtained readily on the internet or with input from librarians at public or university libraries, science teachers, and other scientists.  In the preceding segment of this series, the life story of a world-renowned research scientist working in Experimental Pathology & Cell Biology was recommended (see “Scientists Tell Us About Their Life and Work, Part 4”).  Part 5 presents the adventures of an energetic individualist whose creative scientific research enabled the molecular genetics revolution to take place in biology and medicine.

Part 5 Recommendations:  CHEMISTRY & BIOCHEMISTRY

Kary Banks Mullis (1944 – present) is an extremely creative free-thinker who invented the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) during his chemical research studies at an industrial research center.  This technological breakthrough enables DNA amplification (i.e., creation of myriad exact copies of some length of DNA), and now has been expanded into many new protocols and new instrumentation for molecular genetics, paternity testing, genomics, and personalized medicine.  The 1993 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to him for this very influential research discovery.  Dr. Mullis recognized that his Nobel Prize provided the opportunity to be able to freely announce his reasoned viewpoints about controversial topics in science and in ordinary life; he always is a very outspoken scientist and a vibrant individual.  He has preferred to conduct research within industrial laboratories, and currently works as a Distinguished Researcher at the Children’s Hospital and Research Institute in Oakland, California.

A considerable number of very fascinating stories and personal information, as well as a very clear explanation of how the PCR operates, is available on the website of Dr. Mullis (http://www.karymullis.com ).  His childhood interest in chemistry and research is recorded as a most amusing video presentation (see “Sons of Sputnik: Kary Mullis at TEDxOrangeCoast”, available on the internet at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSVy1b-RyVM ).  The life story of Dr. Mullis epitomizes that many great researchers excel in personal determination, asking provocative questions, and thinking new thoughts (see my earlier article in the Scientists category on “Curiosity, Creativity, Inventiveness, and Individualism in Science”).

My first recommendation is his brief illustrated autobiography.  The second is a very personal account of how the notable discovery of PCR was made, and includes stories about his life as a student and a scientist.   The third is a video interview in 2005, 12 years after he became a Nobel Laureate; this includes some advice for young science students.  My fourth recommendation is his formal Nobel Prize lecture, presenting personal stories about his being a scientist, and including a vivid description of his “eureka moment” when he realized the significance of his amazing new research finding.

(1) Mullis, K.B., 2014.  Biography, and making rockets.  Available on the internet at:
http://www.karymullis.com/biography.shtml ).

(2) Mullis, K.B., 1993.  Autobiography, and addenda.  Available on the internet at:
http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1993/mullis-autobio.html.

(3) The Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1993), 2005.  Interview with Kary B. Mullis – Media Player at Nobelprize.com.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=428 .

(4) Nobel Prize Lecture by K.B. Mullis, 1993.  Nobel Lecture: The polymerase chain reaction.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1993/mullis-lecture.html .

 

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