• Question: in your opinion what would be the best invention to help you in your types of science????:)

    Asked by dillonlancaster to Cesar, Emily, Jamie, Kate, Philippa on 19 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by em210198.
    • Photo: Jamie Gallagher

      Jamie Gallagher answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      As a chemist we like to see everything “insitu” that basically means that we want to see what is happening inside a reaction as it happens in its natural environment.
      I would love to have a little camera and microscope that could sit inside my oven furnace at really hot temperatures while I do reactions. I would want it so powerful that I could see the little metal atoms boiling off from the surface and watch them grow into crystals.

      Right now I only get to put my reactions in the oven then take them out when they are cold again 3 days later

    • Photo: Kate Clancy

      Kate Clancy answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      There are two things that would really help me do my research. First I would want a less invasive way to scan the uterus to take pictures. Right now abdominal ultrasound is really only good for pregnant women, once the uterus is big and starting to push against the front of the belly. Otherwise you need to do more invasive ultrasounds, with a probe. And as you can imagine, not everyone wants to be in a study with that!!!

      So first, an ultrasound sensitive enough to take nice pictures of the uterus and ovaries that can just be used on the belly.

      Second I would want an easier way to do my assays to measure hormones in pee and spit. Right now it is a 3-4 hour process to get hormones from about 40 samples, and things sometimes go wrong and you have to do it all over again. This is better than it used to be, which was three hours on one day and another three the next day. But I would love something where I could measure every hormone at once, and have it read instantly. There are multiplex counters that are *almost* there, but are too expensive for me to afford them!

      So, second, a multiplex counter that is fast and not too expensive!

    • Photo: Emily Robinson

      Emily Robinson answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      I agree with Kate about the multiplex counters as I look and measure immune chemicals in blood and tissue which are called cytokines and this takes age or can be very expensive!!

      I also would love that one day we were so advanced with computer technology that we could anticipate any process in the body from a human simulation so that animal research isn’t needed. Unfortunately I don’t think this can ever be done, so that is why it is so important to do animal research as otherwise we don’t know what would happen before putting a drug in humans (and that is very dangerous and illegal).

    • Photo: Cesar Lopez-Monsalvo

      Cesar Lopez-Monsalvo answered on 18 Jun 2011:

      I think Calculus has been the best invention (if that count as one), not only for physics but for most natural sciences.

    • Photo: Philippa Demonte

      Philippa Demonte answered on 19 Jun 2011:

      @dillonlancaster @em210198 Wow! This is a really tough question in terms of volcanology! If we could have any invention, of course it would be some kind of gadget to physically see inside a volcano so that we would know when it was about to erupt and safely evacuate people, but it’d be pretty impossible to invent.

      The best invention at the moment is the microscope. Not just any microscope, but specifically petrological microscopes and scanning electron microscopes. By looking at volcanic rocks at the very, very small scale, not only can we tell what type of magma each volcano was made of, but how long the magma was underground for before erupting and if it mixed with either other batches of magma or water such as heavy rainfall before erupting. This helps us to understand the plumbing system of a volcano.

      The most useful invention for volcanology would be a computer system with unlimited processing power and storage. Volcanology isn’t just one science – it’s a combination – so whilst some scientists may spend their time outdoors, there are as many volcanologists who spend their time indoors monitoring seismicity (quakes) or looking at satellite imagery to study volcanic gas plumes, or doing what’s known as modelling where they use maths and computer programmes to run different scenarios for a volcano by changing one possible eruption trigger at a time and seeing potentially what could happen. The problem is that there are so many potential triggers and the more you try to combine that in a model, the more computer processing power you need.

      Apart from that, there’s actually a new invention being tested out here at Montserrat Volcano Observatory at the moment. A new radar system has been developed by several universities working together (I think it’s St Andrews, Reading and Lancaster, but don’t quote me on this!) to ‘see’ the lava dome at Soufriere Hills Volcano, because it’s always covered over by clouds and volcanic gases.