New 3-D printing method could jump-start creation of tiny medical devices for the body

Ben P. Stein in Phys.Org:

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new method of 3-D-printing gels and other soft materials. Published in a new paper, it has the potential to create complex structures with nanometer-scale precision. Because many gels are compatible with living cells, the new method could jump-start the production of soft tiny medical devices such as drug delivery systems or flexible electrodes that can be inserted into the human body.

lpl竞猜官网A standard 3-D printer makes solid structures by creating sheets of material—typically plastic or rubber—and building them up layer by layer, like a lasagna, until the entire object is created. Using a 3-D printer to fabricate an object made of gel is a “bit more of a delicate cooking process,” said NIST researcher Andrei Kolmakov. In the standard method, the 3-D printer chamber is filled with a soup of long-chain polymers—long groups of molecules bonded together—dissolved in water. Then “spices” are added—special molecules that are sensitive to light. When light from the 3-D printer activates those special molecules, they stitch together the chains of polymers so that they form a fluffy weblike . This scaffolding, still surrounded by , is the gel. Typically, modern 3-D gel printers have used ultraviolet or visible laser light to initiate formation of the gel scaffolding. However, Kolmakov and his colleagues have focused their attention on a different 3-D-printing technique to fabricate gels, using beams of electrons or X-rays.

More .

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

“He Drank It Black”: On Dinah Lenney’s “Coffee”

Markman Ellis in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

What does coffee do to you? Dinah Lenney’s Coffee is a free-form exploration of such surprisingly complicated questions: Why do we drink coffee? What gives it its power? Humans have been considering these and other coffee-related queries (like “Is it good for my health?” and “Is it good for my society?”) for centuries, ever since they first encountered the substance. Lenney is most interested in coffee’s direct effects on our lived experience, and what they mean.

The active property of coffee is called caffeine, as we all know. The word for the compound was coined in 1830, as a result of research by two different groups of scientists — one in Jena, Germany, led by a young chemist Ferdinand Runge, and the other in France, led by Pierre Jean Robiquet and Pierre Joseph Pelletier. Both groups successfully isolated the active substance of coffee in an organic “base” or vegetable salt. They showed that this salt caused the effects associated with coffee in humans. Caffeine, in other words, is the drug, and coffee is its vehicle. In 1861, Adolph Strecker defined the molecular structure of caffeine in the formula C8H10N4O2lpl竞猜官网. Caffeine isn’t everything, though: coffee still tastes reasonably like coffee without caffeine, and coffee’s distinctive flavors, we now think, reside in a different set of chemical substances, including aromatic oils and volatile flavonoids, most of which are produced during the pyrolytic roasting process.

More .

Oppenheimer’s Letter of Recommendation for Richard Feynman (1943)

Jørgen Veisdal in Cantor’s Paradise:

It is the beginning of November, 1943. The Manhattan project is in its fourth year of operations, and ’s  is eleven months into its mission of designing and building the first atomic bomb. Oppenheimer had in 1942 been headhunted to the project by its Director, Lieutenant General  (1896–1970) on the strength of the recommendation of physicist  (1892–1962). He was 39 years old at the time, and came to the project already a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. There, starting in the mid 1930s he had worked on deuteron-induced nuclear reactions, the so-called , whose experiments were conducted at the newly built UC Berkeley cyclotron.

Although a classified endeavor, it was not uncommon for scientists and engineers on the project to communicate between themselves in letter-form about how things were proceeding. Indeed, communication across both institutions and scientific branches was imperative for ensuring a successful “”. Classified, of course, many such letters have since been made available to the public. When reading through Oppenheimer’s communications, one in particular stands out.

More .

Notes on the Economics of Cancel Culture

Justin E. H. Smith in his Substack Newsletter:

I recall an illuminating moment a decade or so ago. Cathy Guisewite had just announced she would step back from creating new instalments of her long-running  comic. The blogosphere, as it was called then, was all revved up, heatedly discussing the legacy of the perpetual dieter, hen-pecked by her mother, conflicted about her low-energy boyfriend Irving, never able to resist a box of chocolate, always discovering runs in her pantyhose, always frazzled. An acquaintance of mine, an up-and-coming journalist whom I knew in real life to have subtle opinions and an appreciation for the complexity of life, entered the online conversation. Cathy, she judged, was harmful to women’s self-image, and it is therefore good that she is —in the old sense of the word— to be cancelled.

Few people will know this about me, but I happen to like Cathy. I don’t think much about her, but to recall her to mind does make me happy for at least a moment. In fact I have to admit that I like all those comforting and mediocre representations traditionally and perplexingly known in the US as “the funnies”. What I wouldn’t give to read the Sunday comics in some hokey local American newspaper! MarmadukeZiggyGarfieldFamily Circus: none of them transformed into next-level memes on the internet, no  or lpl竞猜官网, but just as they were meant to be by their hokey normie creators.

More .

New York Becomes Feral Again

Jeremiah Moss at n+1:

ON MY DOORMAT, a large, greasy-golden rat is curled as if sleeping, tucked into the corner where my apartment door meets the wall of the hallway. Her dark, shining eyes are open. I can’t tell if she’s dead or dying, alive enough to dart into my apartment, so I close the door quick. I can’t get out of my apartment without stepping over the rat and I have no intention of doing that. She gives me the shivers. In twenty-five years, I have never seen a rat inside the building and this weird intrusion concerns me as an indication of entropic breakdown in the system gone too far. When the exterminator comes for his monthly visit, he will tell me that, since the pandemic began, the rats of New York have been leaving the subterranean zone to venture upwards into buildings, into hallways and apartments, searching for food. This, he will say, is unusual behavior for a rat.

more .

The Now

Luc Sante at The Paris Review:

When I was a teenager I was, like most teenagers, preoccupied with the idea that somewhere on the horizon there was a Now. The present moment came to a peak out there; it achieved a continuous apotheosis of nowness, a wave endlessly breaking on an invisible shore. I wasn’t quite sure what specific form this climax took, but it had to involve some concatenation of records, poems, pictures, parties, and behavior. Out there all of those items would be somehow made manifest: the pictures walking along in the middle of the street, the right song broadcast in the air every minute, the parties behaving like the poems and vice versa. Since it was 1967 when I became a teenager, I suspected that the Now would stir together rock ’n’ roll bands and mod girls and cigarettes and bearded poets and sunglasses and Italian movie stars and pointy shoes and spies. But there had to be much more than that, things I could barely guess. The present would be occurring in New York and Paris and London and California while I lay in my narrow bed in New Jersey, which was a swamplike clot of the dead recent past.

more .

4 Reasons to Doubt Mitch McConnell’s Power

David Frum in The Atlantic:

The smart play for Trump is to postpone the nomination to reduce the risk of Democratic mobilization, and to warn Republicans of the risks should he lose. Trump’s people do not usually execute the smart play. They are often the victims of the hyper-ideological media they consume, which deceive them about what actually is the smart play. This time, though, they may just be desperate enough to break long-standing pattern and try something different.

Will the conservative legal establishment play ball?

The judicial status quo enormously favors conservatives. Even should Democrats win big in November, it will take many years for them to catch up to the huge Republican lead in judicial appointments. By then, who knows, the GOP may have retaken the Senate, and of course it may well find a way to hold on in 2020. But a last-minute overreach by McConnell could seem so illegitimate to Democrats as to justify radical countermoves should they win in November: increasing the number of appellate judges and Supreme Court justices; conceivably even opening impeachment hearings against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

McConnell may want the win badly enough to dismiss those risks. But many conservative-leaning lawyers in the country may be more cautious. And their voices will get a hearing in a contentious nomination fight—not only by the national media, but by some of the less Trump-y Republican senators. This could be enough to slow down a process that has no time to spare. Mitch McConnell has gotten his way so often that it’s hard to imagine he might ever lose. But the political balance of power is shifting this fall, and for once, McConnell may be on the wrong side of a power dynamic.

More .

Cystic fibrosis drugs target the malformed proteins at the root of the disease

Sarah DeWeerdt in Nature:

Over the course of two decades spent developing treatments for the genetic lung disease cystic fibrosis, biologist Fredrick Van Goor has had hundreds of conversations with patients. But he remembers one in particular. The discussion was about the genetics of cystic fibrosis, a disease that develops when a person inherits two faulty copies of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. This gene encodes the CFTR protein, which resides in the cell membrane and transports chloride and bicarbonate ions out of the cell. More than 2,000 variants of CFTR have been identified, and more than 350 of them are known to produce enough disruption in the protein’s function to trigger the debilitating and life-shortening condition. The focus of the conversation was the inevitable inequities of personalized medicine, which can be highly effective for people who meet certain criteria, but will leave others behind — as was the case for this patient. “He described it as being on a sinking ship, when all of the other lifeboats have left,” Van Goor recalls. “That image has stuck with me.”

lpl竞猜官网Van Goor, the head of cystic fibrosis research at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in San Diego, California, had a major role in building the biggest lifeboat for cystic fibrosis yet: the blockbuster combination drug Trikafta. The drug achieved sales of US$420 million in the first 10 weeks after its launch in late 2019, far exceeding expectations. “I think it has made a big difference,” says Martina Gentzsch, a molecular biologist studying CFTR at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “The success in the clinic really justifies that this is an absolutely outstanding treatment.” Trikafta is indicated for people with cystic fibrosis who carry at least one copy of a mutation known as F508del. This is the most common cystic fibrosis mutation, present in more than 80% of the over 90,000 people with cystic fibrosis worldwide.

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Tuesday Poem

The History of Everything II

a lament for the lost phrase, a lay for the never-said
a song for the thoughts that timid knocked but
were not asked in, who wander lonely looking for drink,
dance, welcome, setting up camp on the edge of a dream,
fleeing just before you open your eyes

“Out of the four elements, all things are formed.”
In the kitchen, the dishwasher sings a sloshy song.
Over the airwaves, the Modern Jazz Quartet brings
an obbligato of silver fire. I said “Air,” so must look for earth
lpl竞猜官网 and find her in the garden jamming with Forsythia.

waking to the sun rising thinking how
long Light took to get here from the first
let there be thinking how far it has to go
before “Time that takes survey
of all the world, Must have a stop”

Day in gray pajamas yawns, stretches behind
the far hills then dresses in bright clothes
to walk about the backyard with his friends.
He reaches through the window to touch
my forehead with a father’s blessing.

lpl竞猜官网Forest Floor Seen as a Prayer Rug

Rot of leaf, twig, branch. Bits, pieces
of fallen trees, armies of mushrooms
beneath cap helmets. The droppings
of small animals upon the grainy moss.
What place better to ask blessing?

lpl竞猜官网Thinking of Angels

Sometimes we see a sliver of light like the reflection
off a shiny surface but there is no shiny surface, sometimes
between you and the sea, a transparent opaqueness.
They haven’t fallen – they’ve drifted down, drawn
lpl竞猜官网 by the gravity of what? flesh? love? hunger? ending?

by Nils Peterson

Caesura Editions, 2019


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Monday, September 21, 2020

It Was Naive Ever to Invest Too Much Hope in the Supreme Court

by Joseph Shieber

I remember as a child watching the made-for-tv movie , based on the   of the same name about the Gideon v. Wainright (1963) Supreme Court decision that cemented the right to legal representation for criminal defendants. At the time, I was inspired by the idea that the Supreme Court was an arena that meted out justice as a reward for the rightness of one’s arguments — even if the person making those arguments was an untutored prison inmate.

lpl竞猜官网That made-for-tv movie appeared in 1980. Within just a few years, that sort of adulatory attention to the Supreme Court and its role in guaranteeing civil liberties would seem quaint.

In a recent  in The Bulwark, Adam J. White gives a representative account of the Republican perspective on what happened next:

Over three decades, Democratic Senators ratcheted up the stakes at every turn, with Republicans almost always playing catch-up. In 1987, barely one year after the Senate confirmed Antonin Scalia’s appointment to the Court with a 98-0 vote, Senator Kennedy and his colleagues blindsided the Reagan administration with an unprecedented declaration of total war against Robert Bork. Even after Bork, and the failed war on Clarence Thomas, Senate Republicans did not react in kind: they joined Senate Democrats in confirming Ruth Bader Ginsburg 96–3, and Stephen Breyer 87–9. Senate Republicans would not begin to return fire on Democratic nominations to the Supreme Court until 2009, after the heated Roberts and Alito hearings.

lpl竞猜官网Whether White’s account is the result of ignorance or selective memory for rhetorical effect, the only way that the recent lack of comity over presidential Supreme Court nominations could even conceivably be charged to the Democrats is if we limit our historical survey to the past three decades.

Read more »

Monday Poem

God gave names to all the animals,
in the beginning, in the beginning
…………………….….. —Bob Dylan


to be called anything,
to be called, Jim, for instance,
is to be tagged for life
unless you choose otherwise
and pull a new name from a hat;
a new you —say, Ed, which would amount
to a tangle of official undoing
as bureaucrats mined reams of documents
to remake an identity with digital white-out
in a shitstorm of confusion to fashion a new you
when it would be more direct,
though sweatingly more difficult
(wrenching perhaps, perhaps
impossible) to turn your heart and head
inside out and scour what is feckless,
cramped, and sour into gleaming radiance
as when you slid new into the world
so that a new name would be redundant
and need never to be said  —or
lpl竞猜官网 start young

Jim Culleny

The venerable prejudice against manual labour

by Emrys Westacott

Whether or not a certain line of work is shameful or honorable is culturally relative, varying greatly between places and over time. Farmers, soldiers, actors, dentists, prostitutes, pirates and priests have all been respected or despised in some society or other. There are numerous reasons why certain kinds of work have been looked down on. Subjecting oneself to the will of another; doing tasks that are considered inappropriate given one’s sex, race, age, or class; doing work that is unpopular (tax collector); or deemed immoral (prostitution), or viewed as worthless (what David Graeber labelled “bullshit jobs”), or which are just very poorly paid–all these could be reasons why a kind of work is despised, even by those who do it. One of the oldest prejudices though, at least among the upper classes in many societies, is against manual labour.

The word “manual” derives from manus, Latin for “hand,” and even in English the linguistic connection between physical labor and “hand” persists: we still speak of “farmhands” or “factory hands.” But the concept of manual labor extends to any kind of work that requires bodily strength, or where the physical aspect of the activity is thought to greatly outweigh the cerebral. This sort of work has been looked down on by social elites in many societies from time immemorial. Some reasons for this are fairly obvious. Manual labor is often dirty, unhealthy, exhausting and unpleasant; much of it is also unskilled, tedious, and poorly paid. These are all seen as good reasons for avoiding it if possible, at least as a way to make a living. So it is generally assumed (at least by the privileged few who don’t have to do it) that those who spend their days engaged in work of this kind probably have little choice: they must be either slaves, or serfs, or people of limited ability who are unable to find a better way to put food on the table. And even if they start out with a capacity for “higher things”­–like delicate feelings, or moral virtue– long hours of menial drudgery will crush it out of them. Read more »

Fake News and Phase Transitions: The Physics of Social Interaction

by Jochen Szangolies

Figure 1: Supporters of opposing teams at a football match, aligned according to team preference

Aristotle characterized humans as zoon logon echon, the rational animal. In general, we like to believe that our opinions are formed through reason—that we have arrived at them by means of a process of weighing the alternatives, selecting that which we deem most appropriate. This implies a certain mutual intelligibility—I might not share your opinion, but I should be able to appreciate why you hold it.

Yet, with—it seems—increasing frequency, we find ourselves baffled by others’ opinions. Who could, in this day and age, earnestly believe that the Earth is flat? How can a president hold a nearly steady approval rating of over 40%, despite an unprecedented record of lies, scandals, and incompetence?

One might thus conclude that Aristotle somewhat overstated his case. But the issue is more complex: those holding odd beliefs are not typically less intelligent. An answer may be found in the way modern communication media have restructured society, leading to the process of opinion-formation no longer chiefly taking place at the individual, but at the collective level, largely unmoored from concerns of factuality and appropriateness. This is best understood by studying the physics of phase transitions. Read more »

Not Even Wrong #3: Reunion

by Jackson Arn

You are waiting for me to do something.
I can tell because your eyes have the look cheap mirrors get
when the edges rust and curl and there is nothing
to do but throw them out. You’re powerless,
yes, but at least not alone, if that makes
it better. In fact your rusted tilt
is kind of sexy in the stray antlered way
I’d thought improper, but I need to think more.
As soon as I can hear my voice I’ll use it
to make a paragraph, a soft one
to rest on, or a shield. That is my
defense, like spitting or a blowfish-ball—
can you blame me? The house was an oven
that night. Guests were planted
around each vase, yellow jackets for yellow flowers.
I thought I saw your eyes reply, so I pushed
until you heard the scenery collapse, and me.

And finding you here now,
the delay is tasteful and not too ironic.
Regret is for people who haven’t found a place
for everything—did you take me
for one of them? Me? My thighs are swollen
with the hibernation, my back is a red
canyon of dust and grooves
remembered to the ground that nursed me, and still
we repel daintily, like ruined magnets
lpl竞猜官网 whose squirming is a kind of family.

Even when you go away you follow me.
Your going’s written upside-down on me,
predictably, which is a type of comfort. I will stagger
through roped-off run-down hallways
I’ll bluff my way through mirrors
and find graffiti-less brick walls,
and enjoy the possibilities: number one,
somewhere you’re seeing the same
and building something clever with it,
or plain in the gruff Shaker way
I never understood—building, anyway,
with the same junk I’ve got. And two,
you never went back, never climbed through
the frame, never remembered anything, or remembered
you’d forgotten a thing that weighed something,
and are still waiting for me to do something.

Mies van der Rohe and the End of Birds

by Eric Miller


My grandmother’s last dwelling smelled especially of aerosol hairspray and black currant preserves, a pair of odours that could epitomize, in a pinch, the domestic fragrance of provincial Ontario in the twentieth century. Toward the end of her independent life, she lived in a little box, a suburban tract house, and there I often sat plying a pencil on newsprint sheets cheap enough they threatened to flake and almost to burn up under my hands, so responsive was their yellow to the acidifying suggestion of time. Bending at her table, holding a ruler in hands revealed by this act to be minutely tremulous, I drew legions of little boxes—myself shut, the whole while, inside her own mere carton of a house. My diagrams, however, were simpler far than the design of her bungalow, for—remotely affected by some concept of modern architecture—I was going through a siege of trying to draw cubes and other parallelepipeds. I aimed for perspectival accuracy, exercised persuasively from many vantages on an attractive visual problem: the hexahedron. It happened the paper tore under the stiff pink frustration of an ageing eraser, or (after I had pared my implement’s tip) the lance-like point of sharpened graphite poked right through and broke on the grain of the tabletop. Now and then, a tear smudged my straight lines: a humble mammal dab, expressed helpless from brim glands to blur the incorruptible angles.


In labouring thus over these basic solids, I must have had in mind the precedent of a particular architect. Although at last my grandmother’s house and my ideal drawings embodied the same repertoire of forms, I sought after a great elegance missing from her address. It was surely Mies van der Rohe, evangel of glass and the perpendicular, who inspired me, since his structures, for all their glistening giganticism, stood within range of even my representational ability. In fact, the new Toronto-Dominion Centre, downtown, provided a model. Fifty-six storeys tall! Just think, what is a Mies van der Rohe building?

It is a box.

lpl竞猜官网A box of what?

Of windows, and therefore of light.

lpl竞猜官网But does the box contain anything else?

According to its herald and conceiver, it is supposed to exemplify, not to contain, the truth. Read more »