Science & Tech

Coverage of current events and announcements in the world of science, technology, engineering, software, and computing with an emphasis of focus on the MN scene.

Scientists Gather in Minnesota to Foster Understanding of Genome Engineering Technology

When you hear the phrase genome engineering, your mind might instinctively go to a place of science fiction, conjuring up images of augmented superhumans like Khan from Star Trek. You might think of real-life history, such as the horrors of the eugenics movement. Or you might gravitate toward the present-day debates over ideas such as cloning and GMOs. Genome engineering is a wide-ranging topic encompassing many schools of thought, and it has continually fascinated scientists and creatives alike. Yet despite this,...

One Woman’s Journey from Refugee Camp to Minnesota Medical School

In August of this year, the University of Minnesota Medical School will welcome a new class of medical students. Among the individuals who were accepted into the school this year is a young woman by the name of Hodan Abdi. Abdi’s admission into one of the world’s top ranked medical schools is particularly notable as it was just five years ago that she and her family made their way to the United States from the Sheder refugee camp in Ethiopia....

University of Minnesota Researchers Discover a New Magnetic Element

In our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to take magnets for granted. We may not think about it, but so many important tools we use all the time use magnets to function, from computers and other consumer electronics to medical equipment. Despite this prevalence, only three natural elements have been shown to be macroscopically magnetic: iron (Fe), cobalt (Co), and nickel (Ni). Recently, however, a new study out of the University of Minnesota, in conjunction with researchers from the University of...

A Minnesota Student Experiences the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars Program

As these stories often begin, I was on a plane. In one of the rare moment’s in a journalists life when they get to write about themselves, I had been selected as one of 171 community-college students from across the nation to be a part of the onsite experience portion of the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program, and so I was heading to St. Louis, Missouri, where I would wait for another plane that would take me to...

How Gamifying Everyday Tasks Turns Challenges into Fun

Earlier this spring, a member of the Twin Cities Geeks discussion group on Facebook posted a request: “Could I possibly commission a music geek to make me a personal fanfare/level up jingle to play when I accomplish a trying task? This is a serious request and part of an experiment to see if an auditory reward can help with executive dysfunction.” Lyd is an artist who makes abstract art using charcoal and oils. They are also an herbalist, a witch,...

In Gamifying the Language of Chemistry, CompoundIt! Is a Minnesota-Born Winner

In CompoundIt!, a board game created by Minneapolis science teacher Andrew Lyman-Buttler, chemistry and Scrabble-like mechanics join hands to create a uniquely geeky experience. The game—which is running a crowdfunding campaign through May 2, 2018—is billed as a “chemistry formula word game in which the ‘letters’ are chemical elements and the ‘words’ are compounds.” It challenges players to build binary compounds and polyatomic ions on the board from tiles representing individual elements. Lyman-Buttler describes his game as a “great new...

The Science of Star Trek: Discovery’s Mycelial Network

Warp drives, subspace networks, inertial dampeners, transporters, holodecks, universal translators, transparent aluminum. With Star Trek, the list of high-tech concepts and gadgets (both the more well-thought-out and grounded ideas and the slightly less realistic) is nearly endless. Now, thanks to the most recent iteration of the franchise, Star Trek: Discovery, words such as “spore drive” and “mycelial network” can be added to the list. Despite taking us to the past in terms of Trek canon, Star Trek: Discovery pushed us to look forward...

The Minneapolis Institute of Art Gets the Puzzle-Room Treatment with a New App

Augmented reality and puzzle rooms aren’t necessarily the first things that come to mind when thinking about art museums, but a new program being designed for the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) aims to change that. Thanks to the work of University of Minnesota technology architect Colin McFadden and digital preservation specialist Samantha Porter, with the help of a $50,000 3M Art and Technology Award, Mia will soon become one giant puzzle experience that visitors can play for free....

Oumuamua, a Messenger from Afar, Pays a Visit to Our Cosmic Backyard

It is difficult to deny the enormity of space and the cosmos, the scale of which can make one feel immensely small—yet at the same time can fill one with a deep sense of wonder at it’s magnitude. As Carl Sagan described, “our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark.” Despite the grandiosity of the space that surrounds our small planet, we continue to seek deeper meaning and to unravel the mysteries that have puzzled...

Foldscopes Give You the Power of Microscopes without Breaking the Bank

Manu Prakash and his team developed the Foldscope as a cheap way to test for malaria in places where it is challenging to use and maintain a research microscope. In addition, this foldable paper microscope—which reached its crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter within 24 hours when the campaign launched around this time last year—is also an affordable citizen-science tool. Foldscopes are to full-blown microscopes like a phone is to a DSLR camera: affordable, portable, and easy to use. I bought a...
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