Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Fragments (7/29/11)

Another Friday, another round of interesting science articles for you to pass the time with.  This week there is wide range of things so there should be something for everyone.

-I love iced tea (hot tea is not my forte but whatever). Now, high school scientists have discovered undisclosed ingredients in many different varieties of teas. That's right, a bunch of high school students under the guidance of a few full-fledged scientists have uncovered that most tea brands that you buy can have unlisted amounts of ingredients. I like this story because they are high school students who are actively participating in research. (Bryan, dare I say 10-year plan?)

-Here's a little office prank you can try...
And I bet this person still gets crappy cellphone reception in their cubicle.

-Scientists in Hong Kong say they have dispelled one type of time travel.  They physics is sound but I still want to believe it can happen someday.  Decide for yourself!

-Want a luxury yacht that actually has a dock of it's own and a volcano?  Of course you do!

The Mousculator
-While we are asking hypothetical questions...have you ever been using your mouse and thought I wish I could do simple math while surfing the internet.  Search no further!  Canon has released the mouse/calculator.  Whew, that's so much easier than using the simple calculator on my computer!

-Test you eyesight on your computer with this awesome optical illusion picture. If you only click one link today, click this one!

-Alright, let's knock out all the big medicine news in one paragraph. Stem cell research was given the go ahead by a judge this week. This is actually a big step for stem cell researchers.  Other scientists claim that a universal flu vaccine can be as close as five years away.  They claim that they can target the parts of the flu virus that hasn't changed over many years, but I believe it may not have changed because we haven't targeted it yet.  Did you follow? (I call shenanigans, but it's worth the effort).  And now there is a new push by a few researchers to classify cancer on a new species.  Interesting idea, I feel like it is a matter of perspective but they intend to prove it so we will see.  And if you are interested in the current state of HIV is a quick update from a conference in Rome.

-If you like science movies, watch the following trailer for a web miniseries.  It's called H+ and is about implanting computers directly into humans so we are connected to the internet 24/7.  Scary? Yes. Enticing? Yes. Possible? Maybe someday.

Alright, if that does not at least get you through your lunch hour, then go watch an episode of Teen Mom and get the hell off my blog! But seriously, tell your friends if you like what you read here. Until next week!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bush League

Good example of 'Bush League' play!
It is the peak of summer, which means only one sport dominates the (and softball but they are similar enough that we can consider them one entity for the sake of the opening line of this blog entry).  Being from Brownsburg, IN, I hold baseball to a higher standard than most people.  I believe in playing the game the right way; with sportsmanship and class.  Now I remember playing Frosh and JV ball in high school and I had a coach who coined the term "Bush League" for me.  Now I know he wasn't the first person to use it, but it was the first time I was introduced to it.  Bush League refers to the minor leagues of the old days where non-conventional and unprofessional play dominated games.  Now, my coach would refer to a play or strategy as "Bush League" when the other team did things like;

-Steal bases when up by 10 runs
-Try gimmicky plays to pick a runner off second or third base (hidden ball trick)
-Run the score up
-Walk on  and off the field
-Bunt every guy because they couldn't hit our pitcher
-Bunt every guy because our pitcher was slow
-And my personal favorite...excessively taunting our pitcher as a runner on base

There are many other examples but you get the picture.  Now that coach (Coach Stayte) was a great coach for many reasons but the one thing I took away the most from him was that you should always play the game the right way.  Run on and off the field, respect the other players, always give 110%, etc.  A few years later when I coached little league baseball, my main philosophy was have fun and play the game the right way.  In three years as a coach I hovered around a .500 record and never won any championships.  But I believe we had more fun and learned more about the game of baseball than any other team.

Of course by now you are wondering, "Matt, why the hell are you talking about this?"  This week is the final week of the my summer softball league.  My team played in the Winner's Bracket final against the powerhouse of the league.  We lost and have to beat another team Thursday before we get another crack at the powerhouse.  But having played the powerhouse twice, I can honestly say they use some pretty Bush League tactics.

First of all, their pitcher wears a batting glove on his throwing hand.  Now, I know that is a little judgmental but my coaches would never allow that to happen and I would need a pretty serious reason to allow it on my team (he's been wearing it all summer and claims he was recruited to play baseball at Purdue; I call shananigans).  He also is the slooooowest pitcher I have ever seen and he talks to the batter everytime.  I took one practice swing while approaching the plate and he said, "Ready when you are batter!"  Then, once in the batter's box, I waited. And waited. And waited for him to pitch.  I was so mad I tried to hit it right back at him only to line out to the center fielder.

Second of all, they have a former minor league baseball player on their team.  Now I am not sure how he is related to Res Life but anyone who has their own baseball card should not be playing in this league (or at the very least should prevent Bush League play).

Next, the team takes advantage of some DH rule which I don't understand.  This allows them to bat their best players two or three times before their worst players bat at all.  I tried to say something about it, but because this is for fun and the scorekeeping is sloppy at best, I had no ground to stand on.

Lastly, and probably the most annoying thing of all is that their team is huge but they only play the bare minimum of players.  They have at least 18-20 people is shirts and probably 15 or so that bat...but only 10-11 play the field.  And at any given time they have 2-3 people in the coaches boxes by 1st and 3rd base, regardless of who's up to bat.  Between that and all the talking they do to each other and the other team, by the end of the game you just want them to 10-run you so we can all go home.

I understand that this is a Summer Softball league.  But no where in this alledged rule book is there a rule that says you cannot play the game with some dignity and class.  Going into to tomorrow's final games they are the heavy favorite, but they have already lost my respect.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Rockstar Status

A few days ago I was sitting around with some friends just hanging out and talking about random stuff.  Of course I was bringing up about every “fragment” that I have linked through this blog and got asked a sarcastic question, “Where do you get all this stuff?”  Good question.

Popular Science is one of my favorite place
to find the latest and greatest scientific
en devours.
I believe every person needs to be well-rounded and that includes having hobbies.  Now I enjoy playing guitar and playing video games (I can’t wait until Assassin’s Creed Revelations comes out), and I have always played sports like baseball, now softball, golf, and table tennis.  But one of my new hobbies has got to be reading about science research and breakthroughs.  Not necessarily the entire research articles but I like perusing the latest news sites for interesting stories.  And that is where I get all that stuff.  Being well versed in all disciplines of science can only help me in my career and life journey through science.

[Side note: I love science and learning how things work.  And I always have believed that everything has an explanation, a reason.  However, the explanation is not always quantifiable.  The best way I think I have heard this described is in The Script song, Science and Faith.  Take a listen and judge for yourself.  If this blog was a myspace page, that song would be playing in the background.]

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are in the elite group of
innovators who have made it into "Rockstar" status.
As I continue to fuel my new found hobby, I have found a whole world of discoveries that the mainstream media misses.  Every once in a while a big discovery makes onto the news, but all the war, politics, crime, and money seems to dilute any opportunity for good news in the research front to make itself known to the world.  My wish is that one day scientists and doctors are held to the same “rockstar” type status as celebrities and athletes.  Not because I secretly want to be a rockstar (that would be pretty sweet), but because they are the ones who deserve some attention for their contributions to society.  And like with all celebrities, the scientists who make great breakthroughs will have both crazed fans and irate objectors…but that’s why it’s fun, right?  Even though it is very unlikely that doctors, scientists, and inventors enjoy the same luxuries as all those artsy folk, we must at least acknowledge all areas of progress before the drive to find the "next big thing" is stalled by the complacency to play basketball or yet another super-hero movie.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Fragments (7/22/11)

HPLC Instrument...looks like fun, right?
I have to keep it short this week but here are a few fragments to get you through the day.  Also, I have been working on a few new ideas and thought I'd give a quick preview...

Under the Hood: High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) - I'll be using this a lot in the near future so writing about it not only relates to my work but also serves as a good refresher course for myself!

New post coming soon - "So you're gonna be a pharmacist? Not exactly."

Reboot of my original series "Behind the Bench."  I am revitalizing this idea to be a little more Q and A and a little less cheesy.  Also, it will hopefully feature both future researchers and pharmacists (so if you are interested let me know).

New post coming soon - "My Top 5 Medical Breakthroughs and How They Can Change The World!"

Alright now to this weeks fragments;

-At a convention in Europe a grad student from Berlin gave a presentation of the shape-shifting cell phone.  Watch the video (about 5 min) but it you are short on time fast forward towards the end and watch the part about bringing your cell phone to "life."  It is particularly entertaining!

PEG can be modified and made in
variable lengths depending on the
task at hand.  
-A team of researchers from Harvard and MIT have developed new synthetic vocal cords from a polymer.  Cool thing is that they used Polyethylene Glycol (or PEG for short) which is already approved for multiple health medical technologies and drug formulations.  Again the video is actually quite neat!

-Completely unrelated to science, Rick Reilly wrote an article on about welcoming Nebraska to the Big Ten.  Unfortunately Reilly used very few actual facts and just proceeded to belittle everyone associated with the Big Ten.  Read his article here, but for a more entertaining (and Boilermaker bias) read this breakdown of his article on

-Rock-paper-scissors statistics. Yeah, it's that important that we do research on it!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Making my "Cameo" Appearance

Hey everyone, I wrote a guest blog for the this week!  The site is a good "perspective" on the movie industry and has many different viewpoints about movies today.  I wrote a piece on the science within movies...check it out!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Fragments (7/15/11)

Well, it's that time of the week again folks! Do you ever have one of the weeks that seems to have a crazy flow and ebb like a roller coaster? That was my week in a nutshell, but I did get some really interesting micrographs of my new model drug and I hope to share a couple pictures with you, but I need to get approval before I put them up on the web.  Anyway, here are my favorite links of the week...

The trachea grown from a person's stem cells and successfully
transplanted into the patient.
-Scientists in Sweden have successfully grown the first "organ" from a patients own stem cells.  I say "organ" because it is actually the patients trachea, which isn't an organ by itself, but it is a huge step forward. I remember sitting in a lecture hall at Indianapolis my junior year in high school during a field trip for my AP Biology.  A visiting professor gave a 4 hour lecture about Biomedical Engineering and he described how they were growing ears in petri-dishes!  He said the technology was still ten years away at best and here we are 6 years later, did I  mention this is big news!

-Here is a video of a pretty cool optical illusion...of women's faces, enjoy!

-Another video, this time of a guy playing the guitar from inside the guitar.  The strings seem to bounce around in crazy designs, but it's just the rolling shutter of the iPhone.  The camera not the guy is inside the guitar (I know you were thinking it).

Euthanasia Coaster []
That's a 1600 foot drop and 7 loops!
-I went to King's Island a few week back and really enjoyed just riding roller coasters instead of blowing my money of carnival games because I was too scared to ride the coasters.  Anyway, I had heard of a new coaster which hopefully will just intrigue you but might also offend you.  It's a concept coaster named "The Euthanasia Coaster" because it kills all of it's passengers.  Yep, it is designed as a form of capital punishment. Basically it makes up blackout then kills you from oxygen deprivation.  Here is an article, and here is the wikipedia page.

-These kilobots from Harvard University are both really cool and a little disturbing because they could eventually rule the world.  And they cost $14 each!

-Earlier this week the space shuttle Discovery had it's last launch and I spent a good half hour looking at space shuttle stuff on the web.  Here's the best link, a 360 panoramic view of the cockpit.  See if you can find the duct-tape job that I could have engineered as a 12 year old! I also think that regardless of what the next space rocket is going to be, it better have a cockpit that at the very least looks like it's from this millennium.

Until next week!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Under the Hood: Nucleation

In this installment of "Under the Hood" I will briefly explain nucleation in chemical systems and how that relates to pharmaceutical research.

I find it hard to believe that anyone dislikes the Mentos and Diet Coke experiment.  So, for those of you who are curious about why that works it is because of nucleation.  Now Mythbusters proved that the rough surface of the Mentos leads to nucleation of carbon dioxide.  NOTE: The Mythbusters link is a great explanation of nucleation and may be all you need to understand this concept but I will try to provide a deeper incite into what is nucleation. Essentially, carbon dioxide is dissolved in the liquid of the Diet Coke and is sitting in the meta-stable "zone" of supersaturation.  Above this zone, the carbon dioxide would spontaneously fall out of the liquid phase in create bubbles without any stimulus. Below this zone, nothing occurs as there is not enough carbon dioxide to exhibit any reaction.

Phase Diagram for Crystallization -
[CHE 597 Notes - Purdue University]
So basically the system is unstable and needs some sort of catalyst to create bubbles and allow the carbon dioxide to escape.  Enter the Mentos.  The extremely rough surface of a Mentos creates millions of secondary nucleation sites for the carbon dioxide to react, causing a mass reaction and the explosion of Diet Coke we are accustomed to seeing.

In pharmaceuticals (and most other industrial processes), nucleation refers to the process of creating the initial solid crystals from the liquid phase.  We utilize this process for purification and specific crystal growth patterns, called habits.  Unfortunately, this can be very detrimental if we are trying to keep a drug in the liquid phase, such as the case with any dosage form meant for the blood (~90% of all drugs).  Thus understanding this process is crucial to formulation of medicine.  But, understanding this mechanism is much more difficult than first thought to be.

There are essentially three types of nucleation. The chart below is visual representation and for the sake of time I give a short statement about each.

Nucleation Types - [CHE 597 Notes; Purdue University]
Primary homogeneous nucleation - The most simple type, occurs between only the crystal species in a pure supersaturated solution.  Although the most pure form of nucleation, it is also the least utilized because the energy barrier to produce a new nuclei is the highest.

Primary heterogeneous nucleation - Again, occurs in a supersaturation solution but involves catalytic species that have "preferential sites" for forming a new nuclei.  The Mentos surface is an example of a preferential site for carbon dioxide in Diet Coke.  These sites lower the energy barrier to overcome for nucleation to occur.

Secondary nucleation - Occurs when nuclei or seed crystals of the selected species are introduced to a supersaturated solution, causing nucleation of new new crystals to form on the surface of the seeds.  Again, this lowers the energy barrier to overcome.

So why is this important?  Well, if you remember back to the amorphous post, new novel drugs which are poorly water soluble are forced to obtain higher solubilities because of the meta-stability of the amorphous forms.  This causes supersaturations, which can lead to nucleation (and in the body, heterogeneous nucleation and secondary nucleation dominate making these processes more likely than pure supersaturations).  So, if we can understand how nucleation occurs and can prevent it in the stomach long enough to allow absorption into the blood stream...we have done our job.  If only it were that easy...

Previously, the Classical Nucleation Theory (CNT) dominated the general idea about nucleation.  But over the past 10 years or so, a new two-step theory has begun to emerge, which includes two barriers to overcome (see picture to the right).  There is evidence to support both theories and now the field is at a crossroads as to how to interpret the data and formulate a theory to include all cases.  Obviously it is more complex than we originally thought but there is some truth to the CNT and we cannot discredit all the work that has gone into that theory.

To sum up, understanding nucleation mechanics and kinetics is crucial to the development of novel formulations for new drugs.  Although the science of liquids and solids is well understood, transitions are always tricky and nucleation is no exception.  Hopefully a correlation between all the data and the proposed theories (both classical and two-step) can be determine in the near future.  All and all, part of my graduate work in the future will be dealing with nucleation mechanisms!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Fragments (7/8/11)

Even though it was a short week because of the holiday it feels like it took forever.  I have managed to get quite a bit done in the lab this week and we have an Ice Cream social sponsored by our AAPS chapter (American Association for Pharmaceutical Scientists) this afternoon.  But, I will take the next few minutes to post some cool links to help get us to the weekend!

-Don't we all hate it when we take a picture and it comes out blurry?  Well no more, I found two different articles on new camera technology that allows you to refocus your picture after you take the picture.  It basically collects all the light data instead of the just the focused data we are used to.  Check out the links...
Lytro Camera - Click here for a demo of the feature
40,000 Lenses - Popscience guide to a similar technology.

-Barcode Art?!  Cool and useless all at the same time!

-The 4th of July might be the king of all BBQ holidays, thus I give you the coolest grill ever!

-New medicine tech; Blue light to cure diabetes. Researchers claim that they have combined flourescense with the ability to combat diabetes.  Also, for my friends who love statistics, new models that have previously been used for stock market fluctuations are being used to help find a cure for HIV.

-If you are really bored, check out this list of scenarios for the future!

-Phase change memory for computers...another great application of amorphous solids!

-Lastly, companies can now run social media background checks.  That means anything you have on the internet (for me that includes this blog, fun fun) but I recommend reading this quick article and checking out the sample report which came back negatively for one writer.  Interesting stuff!

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Rest of My Life

I strive to keep a science tone to this blog because that's what my main interests are in.  However, I also believe in trying to be as well-rounded of a person as possible.  So, I have a few short "perspectives" on other aspects of my life for your reading enjoyment, if you so choose.

First up, softball.  For the second summer in a row, I am playing in the Res Life summer league for McCutcheon Hall and we start the tournament tonight.  Now personally, I am hitting better than last year (roughly .950 compared to .500 last year) and I have been playing shortstop instead of pitching which is awesome for me.  As a team, we are just starting to come together and play well as a team, but the tourney starts NOW.  Anyway, I have been asked to come check out the Men's softball league of Lafayette because a couple guys think I would be a good addition to a team there.  Basically, I am being recruited to play softball.  All I have to say is, "Show me the money!"  Just kidding, but seriously.

UPDATE:  Last summer I wrote about my intramural softball team and our chances of coming back next year to win it all.  Well, I had other commitments that made me unavailable to play with them. And they did win it all, called it!  Congrats guys!

My new car...2011 Toyota Corolla LE
Now, onto a much bigger life event...purchasing my first car.  Over the 4th of July, I purchased my first car.  Brand NEW Car!  It had 9 miles on it when I drove it off the lot.  It's a 2011 Silver Toyota Corolla LE.  Well, I'm leasing a new car but it's all the same, kinda.  Originally the thought of buying a new car never even crossed my mind.  And I know a lot of you people that I am blessed enough to call friends told me never buy a new car.  However, I believe I may be in a situation worth hearing out.  So after spending weeks searching for a used car and after a few hours looking and test driving used cars throughout the area on the 4th, I made my way to the Toyota dealership in Avon honestly ready to call it a day.  After browsing a few new Toyotas, the salesman came up and asked if he could help me.  I explained that I was looking for a used car in a certain price range for a certain amount per month.

Now, the salesman who I will refer to as Jay, could have sold me a used Toyota without even suggesting a new car and probably gotten rid of some P.O.S. they haven;t been able to get off the lot in months.  But he then explained to me the idea of leasing a brand new car.  After three years of making payments I will have the option to buy out the car, re-finance, or give the car back.  I will be paying the same (actually less) per month as a used car and I have all the perks of a brand new, safe car.  The reason this makes sense to me is because Toyota Corollas (and Camrys) hold their value very well.  To make a long story short, Jay took the time to understand my situation and suggested a car that made since for me.  Not to mention, I have had my fair share of car troubles and it will be so comforting not to have to worry about my car breaking down.  So thank you Jay, and if you are considering purchasing a new car and want to ask me more questions about my car and lease, feel free to give me a buzz/drop me an email.

New house!
Lastly, I am moving for 6th time in 6 years.  Even though I lived in the dorms for multiple years, I always had to move my stuff home in between years.  So now I am moving into a two story house west of Purdue with a couple friends and I can honestly say I hate packing.  I don't think it would be as frustrating if I was moving towns but moving in the same time over and over again gets really redundant.  But when it's all said and done I am pretty excited about the new place.  Fenced in backyard, three care garage, and lots of space.  I'll put up some pictures soon once I get all moved in!

So there you go folks.  There is a little extra incite into the life and times of me!