Science in your Laundry Detergent

When I was a kid, if I got a grass stain or a blood stain on my clothes it was probably not coming out no matter how much presoaking and hand scrubbing was involved. Nowadays, if I get food on my clothes, I admonish myself for being clumsy then throw it in the wash with some liquid detergent and hope that it magically comes out looking new. It still amazes me that it usually does. How have laundry detergents improved their cleaning efficacy so much in just the last few decades?

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Hey Doc, U up?

Ever since the new iPhones were announced, millions of people have been pondering one of life’s most important questions: to upgrade or not to upgrade? For me, the newly improved camera could take my Instagram game to a whole new level. For others, retinal scanning could help secure important business emails. Whether you use your phone to post pictures of your vacation, respond to important emails, or stalk an ex-boyfriend, there’s no denying that phones have become integral parts of our lives. For people without access to healthcare, cell phones can help save their lives. Even in Africa, 93% of people have access to cell phone service. This has spurred scientists to find ways to make diagnosing, treating, or tracking diseases as easy as using an app on your phone.

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The Structure of Color

When I was young I learned that the colors I saw in the world were due to materials absorbing certain wavelengths of light and reflecting others. Leaves appear green because the chlorophyll in plant cells absorbs blue and red light and reflects green. While this holds true for most natural materials, it turns out that nature has more than one way of making color. Many of the most striking colors found in nature often occur through the development of structural coloration. For instance, the absurdly bright colors of butterfly wings, beetle scales, day gecko skin, bird feathers and even certain berries all come from structural color.

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I Shall Call Him Squishy: The Rise of Soft Robotics

In popular culture, biologically-inspired robots play a sinister role. Movies like Blade Runner and The Terminator depict scenes of a humanoid faces split open to reveal violently grinning machines underneath. Such stories often portray machines in a dire “us vs. them” scenario. However, real life robots can have a much softer side. Taking inspiration from creatures such as jellyfish, rays, and octopuses, scientists are developing soft robots that can respond to different environments and can augment human capabilities.

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