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Stories by Christina Agapakis

Data Streams and Energy Flows

Over the holidays, my love for competition overtook my dislike of being constantly monitored, so I got a fitbit. The small device tracks the number of steps I've taken and the number of floors I've climbed, syncing to a server that ranks me against friends and family...

January 14, 2013 — Christina Agapakis

Medieval Tines: A Brief History of the Fork

You may have seen the recent news of a sensor-filled smartfork that vibrates to warn you if you're eating too quickly. I'm going to reserve judgement on the merits of the smartfork, invented by the French company Slow Control and marketed by HAPILABS, but I think it's interesting to look at this cutlery innovation in the context of fork history, from its origins in Ancient Egypt to the two-in-one spork and beyond...

January 10, 2013 — Christina Agapakis

Cheese Cultures

Cheese is carefully rotted milk, an ancient domestication of microbial activities for human consumption. Humans work in concert with communities of bacteria and fungi to produce the hundreds of different kinds of cheeses, flavored by the metabolic excretions of microbes eating the sugars, proteins, and fats in the milk...

December 19, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Seeing Bacteria

I got a really fun early Christmas gift yesterday, Moyasimon 1: Tales of Agriculture , a manga series about a boy who can see microbes. His skills lead to some exciting fermentation-related adventures at his agriculture college...

December 14, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Scientific Aesthetics

I have a piece with Sissel Tolaas in the new issue of Current Opinion in Chemical Biology on aesthetics in science. The issue, edited by the artist and designer Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, includes reviews by scientists, philosophers, and artists discussing the role of aesthetic and senory judgements in the everyday practice of science, the theory and representation of scientific facts, and in the design of living technologies.Many scientists and philosophers have discussed the role of beauty in science, in particular when judging competing theories in physics...

December 12, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Smellspace and Olfactory White

White is a mixture, made by a combination of signals at equal intensity across a perceptual space. White light can be split up into all the colors of the visible spectrum, and white noise covers a range of frequencies within the audible range.Our other senses don't have as clearly defined ranges of perception...

November 27, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Smell-O-Vision

Before there was sound in movies there was smell. In 1906, a Pennsylvania movie theater soaked a wad of cotton wool in rose oil and placed it in front of a fan.

November 12, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Design Evolution

Using the words evolution and design in the same paragraph, let alone together in the title of a blog post, can make biologists very uncomfortable. Design is something that humans do on purpose, and natural selection doesn't "do" anything on purpose...

October 25, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Our Smell Universe

Smell is notoriously subjective and hard to define. Odors can be perceived differently by different people depending on genetics, culture, past experience, the environment, and whether they've had a really bad sinus infection or not...

October 21, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

The Urine Wheel

I recently saw an image that perfectly encapsulates many of my current interests, including odor and flavor mapping, the senses in scientific analysis, medieval ideas about health and disease, body fluids, and metabolic profiling...

October 18, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Communicating with Aliens through DNA

DNA encodes the information for all the proteins inside the cell, their amino acid sequence, when and where to turn them on, and a whole lot of other things that we probably don't fully understand yet...

August 18, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

The Medieval Diet

I've been really enjoying listening to some of the Situating Science Podcasts, usually long and fascinating lectures on science in human contexts. I particularly enjoyed a lecture from Steven Shapin, a history of science professor at Harvard, called "The Long History of Dietetics: Thinking About Food, Expertise, and the Self." It's a fascinating look at the history of what and how we should eat to be healthy, in particular the medieval rules for eating associated with the four humors and creating balance in your body based on your temperament...

August 16, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Impostors Among Us

Nervously waiting for the shuttle to scifoo this weekend, I (mostly-jokingly) tweeted:My nervousness that tweeting about impostor syndrome would make everyone realize that I was actually an unqualified fraud and rescind my invitation to scifoo was quickly relieved as friends urged me to suggest the panel (thanks Debbie, Sara, Andrew, and Bora!)...

August 9, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Dance of the Water Bear

Water bears are insanely amazing creatures, able to survive freezing, boiling, desiccation, extremely high doses of radiation, and the vacuum of space.

July 30, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

BioPlaytime

The afternoon after the synthetic biology lecture at NanoLab was BioPlaytime, where we engineered E. coli with genes that produce multicolor pigments, painted with living cells, and designed our own mini-iGEM projects.We engineered bacterial cells with a mixture of DNA coding for multicolor pigments, including fluorescent proteins and the E...

July 24, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Ways of Seeing/Ways of Making

Art and science have us look at the world in different ways, to see the invisible and imagine the impossible. Yesterday's NanoLab workshops and lab visits brought us through many orders of magnitude and many scales of construction, from single atoms in a graphene sheet observed by home-made microscopes at the pico characterization lab to the precise etching of silicon wafers in the clean lab to building our own microscopes out of $3 webcams...

July 18, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Introduction to NanoLab

Today was the first day of the UCLA Art|Science NanoLab, a two-week program for high school students at the intersection of art and science. The students are required to blog every day about something that inspires them, so I'm going to try my best to keep up with them...

July 17, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

Happy Anniversary

Today is the one year anniversary of the Scientific American blog network! Exactly one year ago I was in Liechtenstein on my honeymoon, and this year I'm continuing the European trend by writing this short post while in Greece with my family...

July 5, 2012 — Christina Agapakis

PlantBricks

The iGEM team that I helped advise a couple years ago recently published a short paper about their project in the Journal of Biological Engineering (open access!).

June 27, 2012 — Christina Agapakis
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