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Episode 16 – Sun & Surf

For our first episode of the summer on LASER: Let’s Agree Science & Engineering are Rad, we discuss our own Chris’ recently-accepted paper about inorganic ZnS window layers on organic solar cells.  These increase the efficiency, and help protect the cell from environmental damage.   We then talk about the NRL Press release describing long-chain hydrocarbon fuel (jet fuel) they have made by extracting CO2 and Hydrogen from seawater!

4:00 We’re all back from traveling for work and conferences, finals are done, and Chris just finished his qualifying exams, so we’re back to podcasting, even if we are a little rusty.

6:00 Our first paper is somewhing Chris just got accepted into Journal of Applied Physics, and it is titled “Efficient ZnS cathode layers for orgnaic photovoltaic applications via n-type doping.”

They are using an inorganic material, ZnS to replace the very sensitive organic cathode (top) layer in organic photovoltaics.  Since the organic components are very sensitive to temperature and air, an inorganic cathode can protect the bottom layers.

At the time we’re putting this episode out, the paper isn’t available online yet, but it will eventually be available at

32:30 We discuss the recent press release from NRL (  describing fuel made from CO2 and Hydrogen that was extracted from seawater.  There are a number of press articles about this: Discovery ( Business Insider ( and Inhabitat ( are a few.

38:00 Removing Co2 from ocean water *might* have a small local effect reducing ocean acidification, but because the end result is burning a hydrocarbon fuel, it will end up just going back into the atmosphere and back into the oceans.



Links to the music used in this week’s episode:
Intro:  Luv Rulez (Original version of ES)Crying (Return to Olde World)
bumper music: Vacation – Crying
Outro:  Dreams are Maps – The Wild (Dreams are Maps)

Posted in Chase, Chris, podcast, Sivan.

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LASER Pulse! #3 – The Heartbleed

This week’s LASER Pulse! is about the Heartbleed computer vulnerability.   We cover the basics of the heartbleed bug, why its important, and mention that you really need to CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS.  Because this is a Pulse episode, there are little to no edits (just the intro and outro really), and the whole show is only about 20 minutes.


No real show notes, just a list of a bunch of links if you want to know more.

Here are links to Sam’s Blog and her Twitter.

  • Our Guest, Samantha, wrote about “Heartbleed for people who don’t know computers good (and want to learn to do other stuff good too)”
  • XKCD Has a great basic explanation in comic-form
  • This Video is the most high-level description of the bug I could find. It is really neat.
  • Here is a link to the first program that allowed millions (maybe more) of people to to gather as much secure data as possible.  It probably won’t work anymore since most servers should be patched by now, but if you have your own server you can install the old version of OpenSSL to test it out.
  • Most importantly, THIS LIST is the list of major passwords that you need to change RIGHT NOW.  It doesn’t include small websites, and if you used the same password on any two sites, they are now both compromised!
  • Don’t think hackers aren’t smart enough to write programs to try the same password, username, and email addresses on even websites that weren’t affected by this! Even if you use small variations of your password, it makes it much easier to crack if someone has part of it.

Be safe online!



Posted in podcast, Pulse!.

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Episode 15 – Airships for the Future

airship image

Image from Paper.

The cast of the Technically Speaking Podcast join us to talk with  about the future of super rad airships for scientific use similar to satellites! We also talk about a company planning a new method for extracting Lithium from geothermal vents, to meet the needs of the Tesla Giga-Factory.


3:00 Our guests today are Jacob and Joe from the Technically Speaking podcast! Check out their show if you like technology, engineering, or other rad stuff.

4:15 Our first story is about AIRSHIPS! The Keck Institute for Space Studies has released a report titled “Airships: A New Horizon for Science” a FREE paper published on the arXiv   where they explain the scientific merit of using rigid airships for scientific applications, and potentially to replace satellites.   There are also articles about this on motherboard.vice and in the MIT Technology Review.

5:50 what is an airship?

8:00 The Hydrogen vs Helium debate

14:10 the ISIS project (canceled) had neat “suction cup” tethers to keep the airship down on the ground.

16:00 the scientific applications the Keck Institute found as useful were Earth sciences such as atmospheric and environmental monitoring, and for planetary/astronomical sciences a telescope could be mounted with “Hubble comparable imaging”.

21:00 Jacob brings up how well airships would work for something similar to Google’s Project Loon

24:33  CORRECTION: Scott Kelly is going to be on the ISS for a year, NOT Mark Kelly.

30:00 we start on the engineering problems for building airships. Including the Hydrogen vs helium debate!

32:50 Joe points out that even though hydrogen is a dangerous gas, jet fuel is pretty dangerous too!

36:50 basically everyone would love to take an airship cruise

48:15 chase leaves early to go to dinner, but Joe and Jacob aren’t scared to talk about something outside their areas of expertise! (especially if it’s related to Elon Musk haha)

50:15 We start in on a story about a company, Simbol, that is trying to produce much more Lithium for batteries , specifically to meet the needs of the planned Tesla “Giga-battery factory”

55:15 the Tesla giga-factory’s object is to combine as much manufacturing as possible under one factory, but its the opposite with a lot of political things (like defense contracting) where things are built in a ridiculous number of factories.

61:05 How we produce lithium today (harvested from brine in salt flat areas)

63:00 The earth should run entirely out of Lithium around the year 2100!!!

64:00 it is VERY important to recycle your lithium batteries, because we are very close to running out completely!!!

65:00 THIS website says that lithium is 100% recyclable, but recycling it is just not economically feasible right now.   Someone should start a company storing all the lithium batteries for about 20 years until it becomes economically feasible to recycle.  Then you can donate an idea fee to our podcasts!.

76:20 Thanks to our guests today! If you need another link to Jacob and Joe’s Technically Speaking podcast, its available at

79:00 You can find them on twitter at @techspeakpod


We’ve changed our intro music to be something a little less obtrusive, you can buy the song or the album at the link below.  Thanks to Crying for letting us use their song.

Links to purchase the music used in this week’s episode:
Intro:  Luv Rulez (Original version of ES)Crying (Return to Olde World)
Goodbye Enemy Airship – Do Make Say Think
Outro:  Dreams are Maps – The Wild (Dreams are Maps)

As always, the LASER Podcast is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license.

The cast of the Technically Speaking Podcast

Posted in Chase, Engineering, podcast.

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Episode 14 – Filters and Photodetectors

Image from Paper

Image from Paper

On Episode 14 of LASER we discuss using tree branches as water filters, a new type of super-thin room temperature infrared light detector that uses graphene, and the $1 Origami Microscope.

4:05 The article in Popular Mechanics titled “A simple tree branch can become a backyard water filter”  and the FREE paper in PLOS One “Water Filtration Using Plant Xylem”

5:50  The idea is to help the developing world by testing a cheap water filter that only requires a tree branch and a tube

9:00 its really great when high school students get involved with university research projects and end up publishing papers! If you’re in high school you should talk to a university professor about helping out with a research project a couple of days after class.  Even if you don’t plan to study science! (why would you not plan to study science?!)

12:00 Alex joins the group for the discussion!  Unfortunately he hasn’t read any of the papers…

23:15 from we are talking about “infrared imaging may be coming to contact lens near you”   and the article “Graphene photodetectors with ultra-broadband and high responsivity at room temperature”

24:30 the article is fine, but I don’t like the headline, and I think that the author of the paper  somewhat misrepresented their results to the press.

25:45 a typical infrared detector is this Superconducting Edge Detector (or Transition Edge Bolometer)

27:00 Alex asks a good question about the superconducting principle behind how a transition edge sensor works.

35:40 Alex thinks his eyes are bizarre

38:42  the story is found in the MIT Technology Review and is “The $1 Origami Microscope”

41:00 there was a TEDx talk about this a few years ago, when it was a $0.50 cent microscope! Since that time, it costs more because they have developed methods for brightfield and darkfield imaging, and that required a few additional parts.

45:40 We talk about roll-to-roll processing and calendaring of green ceramics.  These are manufacturing techniques for many materials.

48:05 Cameron said you can’t re-crystallize Al2O3 from amorphous to crystalline forms, but that is WRONG!

Links to purchase the music used in this week’s episode:
Intro:  Open – Crying (Get Olde)
Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay – The World Is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid to Die
Amoeba – The Adolescents
Outro:  Dreams are Maps – The Wild (Dreams are Maps)

Posted in Alex, Emily, podcast.

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