Archive for June 19th, 2007

Pavlovian aspects of the addiction to blogs!

June 19, 2007

Jonah Lehrer at the Frontal Cortex tells about the Pavlovian aspects of blogging:

Pavlov was there first. He realized that there was something especially alluring about random reinforcements. When the reward was unpredictable, it was extra rewarding. Blogs take advantage of this mental principle.

Beating the gecko at its game with carbon nanotubes

June 19, 2007

Mimicking the agile gecko, with its uncanny ability to run up walls and across ceilings, has long been a goal of materials scientists. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Akron have taken one sticky step in the right direction, creating synthetic “gecko tape” with four times the sticking power of the real thing.

From this Science Blog article; here is the link to the original article in PNAS:

We have developed a synthetic gecko tape by transferring micropatterned carbon nanotube arrays onto flexible polymer tape based on the hierarchical structure found on the foot of a gecko lizard. The gecko tape can support a shear stress (36 N/cm^{2}) nearly four times higher than the gecko foot and sticks to a variety of surfaces, including Teflon. Both the micrometer-size setae (replicated by nanotube bundles) and nanometer-size spatulas (individual nanotubes) are necessary to achieve macroscopic shear adhesion and to translate the weak van der Waals interactions into high shear forces. We have demonstrated for the first time a macroscopic flexible patch that can be used repeatedly with peeling and adhesive properties better than the natural gecko foot. The carbon nanotube-based tape offers an excellent synthetic option as a dry conductive reversible adhesive in microelectronics, robotics, and space applications.

(An aside: With so many carbon nanotubes around, can Ajayan be far behind? Yes, Prof. P M Ajayan is one of the authors who designed the research work!)

Have fun!

Knighthood to Rushdie–a provoking thought!

June 19, 2007

Here is a thought from a piece in the Hindu by Priyamvada Gopal:

Vociferously supporting the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq on “humane” grounds, condemning criticism of the war on terror as “petulant anti-Americanism” and above all, aligning tyranny and violence solely with Islam, Mr. Rushdie has abdicated his own understanding of the novelist’s task as “giving the lie to official facts.” Now he recalls his own creation Baal, the talented poet who becomes a giggling hack corralled into attacking his ruler’s enemies. Denuded of texture and complexity, it is no accident that this fiction since the early 1990s has disappeared into a critical wasteland. The mutation of this relevant and stentorian writer into a pallid chorister is a tragic allegory of our benighted times, of the kind he once narrated so vividly.

Similar sentiments were expressed by some others too (via):

“It does set the mind speculating what went through his mind when he accepted [the knighthood],” said Prof Sutherland. “He is a nomad. He has a supra-national, post-colonial style, so that it is very hard to say who owns him. And now he has pledged himself in the personal service of the monarch! For the writer of The Satanic Verses, which was extremely rude about England, it’s certainly unusual.”