Category Archives: Science

Know Your Ionising Radiation with Icohup Rium at CES 2018

Geiger counters are great for detecting and measuring ionising radiation but their biggest flaw is that they can’t discriminate between the different types of radiation; alpha, beta or gamma. Icohup‘s Rium detector addresses this with a compact and stylishly wooden unit. Allante and Billy discuss the benefits of radiation detectors without mentioning a single nuclear disaster.

Winner of a CES Innovation award, Icohup’s Rium uses scintillation spectrometry technology to not only detect levels of ionising radiation but also the type. This means that the Rium can determine if the radioactivity is natural or industrial, or if it’s a Cobalt, Uranium or Cesium source. The Rium unit is about the size of a packet of biscuits and is tastefully made of wood. Not sure if there’s a scientific reason for this, though it looks good anyway, and the small size means that it can be carried by a drone to record radioactivity in potentially hazardous areas.

Data is collected and displayed by a nearby smartphone and with geotagging of the radiation information, maps can be built easily to show radiation hotspots. The data can be transferred either by Bluetooth or by USB.

The Rium will be available shortly from Icohup for €399 (about US$500).

Allante Sparks is a video producer at PLuGHiTz Live Special Events.

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SE3D Offers 3D Printing for Living Cells at CES

While 3D printers struggle to find a place in homes and offices, they’ve revolutionised the world of prototyping and the development of “one offs” within design and manufacturing. SE3D hope to push 3D printing into education and science, and Todd discusses the possibilities with Dr Mayasar Lim from SE£D.

SE3D’s printer differs from other devices through the substrate used for the models. Instead of plastic or metal, it uses organic materials to build the structure. By using plant or animal calls, the model can then be used within demonstrations, experiments and trials to show the response to, say, enzymes or therapeutic treatments.

Aimed at both education and laboratory markets, the basic printer unit is around US$4,000 and SE3D can provide a package for schools that includes curricular materials along with reagents and other materials.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at

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Study Finds “Chemtrails” Do Not Exist

Contrails by Pete Nowicki on StockSnap io. jpgA study published in Environmental Research Letters was done for the purpose of addressing the claims made by some people about “chemtrails”. In short, the results showed that “chemtrails” are not real. What people are seeing can be explained by other factors.

The authors of the study included Ken Caldera of Carnegie Institution for Science.  The authors conducted a survey of two groups of experts: atmospheric chemists with expertise in condensation trails, and geochemists working on atmospheric deposition of dust and pollution. The purpose of the study was, for the first time ever, to evaluate the claims of those who believe in “chemtrails”.

“Chemtrails”, which are also refereed to as “covert geoengineering” could be described as a conspiracy theory. Some people believe in the existence of a secret large-scale atmospheric program (SLAP), which they say has been engaging in widespread chemical spraying. Those who believe that secret chemical spraying has been going on say that it has negative impacts on human health and the environment.

The study referred to an international survey of 3,015 people. Out of that group, 2.6% of the respondents said it was “completely true” that there was a secret government program that uses airplanes to put harmful chemicals into the air. Another 14% said it was “partly true”.

A total of 77 scientists took part in the study. A total of 76 out of the 77 scientists said they had not encountered evidence of a SLAP. They also agreed that the alleged evidence cited by the individuals who believe that secret atmospheric spraying was being done could be explained by other factors. Some of those factors included typical airplane contrail formation and poor data sampling.

One of the most interesting thing about this study, at least to me, is that it is not the authors’ goal “to sway those already convinced that there is a secret, large-scale spraying program”. The authors note that these believers “often reject counter-evidence as further proof of their theories”. Instead, the goal was to establish a source of objective science that can inform public discourse.


Belize road crew tears down 2,300 year old Mayan pyramid

Well, this is a mess than cannot be undone. While we all worried today mostly about Google I/O and what would be announced at the annual conference for geeks, news was coming out of Central American country Belize that had a much sadder note to it. It seems a road crew decided an ancient Mayan relic was in its way — or at least would provide needed gravel for a project.

According National Geographic’s Elizabeth Snodgrass “a construction company in Belize has been scooping stone out of the major pyramid at the site of Nohmul (meaning Big Mound), one of only 15 ancient Maya sites important enough to be noted on the National Geographic World Atlas”. The ruins have been dated to 300 BC, perhaps even earlier by some estimates.

Now it seems that nearly the entire main pyramid, which once stood over 60 feet tall, has been destroyed by road building crews, according to John Morris, associate director of research at Belize’s Institute of Archaeology.

Having traveled in the area just north of this site, visiting the ruins of both Tulum and Chichzen Itza, I feel for this terrible loss. The site can obviously not be restored, but hopefully such tragic events can be prevented in the future.

Troubling Satellite Gap

Whenever a major storm like Sandy develops, one of the tools that are used by scientist to follow and predict the storm’s path are the polar satellites. These satellites fly pole to pole, crossing the equator in the afternoon. The data that these satellites provide allow scientists to more accurately predict the path of the storm up to 5 days ahead. This can make it easier to prepare for disaster and get the relief to where it is needed.

There is a growing problem though these satellites are past their life expectancy and their replacements the J. P. S. S will not be ready until 2017. This will leave at least a year gap in coverage. This will make it more difficult to predict the path of a major storm. If the information coming from these satellites had not been available during the 2010 blizzard studies show that forecasters would have under estimated the storms power by half. The gap between the two system according to independent studies is a result of mismanagement, lack of funds and delays at NOAA ( National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association,)

Right now there is an army of utility trucks headed toward various locations on the East coast. Without these satellites and the information they provide it would have been more difficult for agencies to know where to send these trucks, possibly delaying the recovery by days. As the number of storms and their power seems to be increasing the data these satellites provide become more and more important.  We can not prevent natural disasters, but with the proper information we can limit their effect and get the relief where it is needed and that is where these satellites come in.

New Species of Acorn Worm Named After Yoda

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away….” is the familiar opening to the Star Wars movies. Somewhere in there, you will find a short, green, wise, Jedi master named Yoda. In a “galaxy” much closer to home, (far, far, under the ocean), scientists have found a new species of deep-sea acorn worms. One has been named after Yoda.

Yoda purpurata is one of three new species of acorn worms that were found by researchers during the ECOMAR research program. They used a remotely operated submersible to look for new animals that were living along the seafloor somewhere along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Iceland and the Azores.

The name Yoda purpurata translates to “purple Yoda”. This may sound strange, since we all know that Yoda is green, not purple. His light saber wasn’t purple either (that one belonged to Mace Windu). The new acorn worm, however, is a reddish-purple color. It has large lips that extend out from either side of its head, in a similar way to how Yoda’s ears extend out from his head. You can see some awesome pictures of Yoda purpurata (and several other acorn worms that have been found), here.

Find it, they did. Name it, they must. Inspired by a Jedi master, they were!

Image: From the Bottom of the Ocean by BigStock

Bill Nye Stands up Against Creationism

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect the site or it’s sponsors.

I am going to step on some toes in this article.  If you feel the need to click away then I understand.  After all I want to accommodate everyone’s beliefs, because everyone has a right to be heard.  That being said, Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”, recently made some comments that have raised a fire storm.  Bill isn’t backing down from them, and I support him 100%.

A video began circulating recently showing Nye demonizing parents for teaching anti-science to their children, specifically anti-evolution.  The video was titled, quite simply, “Creationism is not appropriate for children”.  The video has more than 4 million views, with a mix of supporters and detractors, but the vast majority have been supportive – 66,000 likes vs 13,000 dislikes.

In all seriousness, the U.S. currently has one of the worst track records for science education and creationists are largely responsible for this dismal record.  Religion has crept into our politics and states like Texas have even attempted to pass laws against the teaching of what is, in reality, a solid scientific theory.  Bare in mind that everything in science is a theory because it is always evolving as new evidence is found.  Evolution is every bit as solid of a “theory” as the theory of gravity.

Of course, religious groups have been up-in-arms over Nye’s comments with Ken Ham, who runs the Creation Museum, leading the charge.  Nye, in response, has appeared on CNN to defend his stance.  His views are no different than those of the vast majority of scientists, but he has the means to make them heard by the masses.  Sadly, Nye probably can’t change much, but if he sways just a few people away from trying to tell their children that the world is only 6,000 years old, then it will be a victory.