Jan. 29, 2013

Flatow File: Spider Webs, Tractor Beams, and Beer

by Ira Flatow

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This week, I'm focusing on some really geeky—I should say Benjie*—research that caught my eye. Be ready for some gorgeous graphics and hi-tech talk. 
  • How the Spider Catches the Fly - Spider silk is among the strongest materials found in nature—pound for pound stronger than steel. Now, for the first time, scientists at Arizona State University have been able to probe and understand all the important properties and interactions of an intact spider web. 
  • Scientists Turn Light Into Tractor Beam - For you Star Trek fans who have been dying to build your own tractor beam (to lock on to wayward star ships) you'll be pleased to know that scientists are making progress in that field, if only on the microscopic level. Gizmag has the details of the research published in Nature Photonics. Live long and prosper.   
  • Could Beer Hops Help Cure Cancer? - Home Alone was a popular movie. But a humalone is a substance in beer that helps give its bitter taste. In a paper by researchers including Dr. Werner Kaminsky at the University of Washington, the authors point out that while humalones have "documented health benefits," until the "handedness" (which concerns molecular strucure) of the compound was understood, its real medicinal benefits could not be explored. Now it is...and now they can. If you're considering testing the healthful claims of beer, the authors point out, "Excessive beer consumption cannot be recommended to propagate good health."  
*Benjie - A term to replace "geek." Named after Benjamin Franklin, it denotes a more holistic view of technology encompassing not just the appreciation of the technical concept but its intrinsic beauty and place in nature. 
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