Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ahmed Mohamad And America’s Post 9/11 Education Scene

Is America’s post 9/11 education scene way different than what has come before when a 14-year-old Arab-American high school freshman gets arrested for being an electronics enthusiast?

By: Ringo Bones 

During a typical Monday morning back in September 14, 2014, a 14-year-old Arab American high school freshman of MacArthur High in Irving, Texas named Ahmed Mohamad was arrested by the local police after his teacher mistakes the clock that he had worked over the weekend and bought to his class’ show-and-tell for a bomb. Later investigation showed that the uproar over the young electronic enthusiast was primarily racially motivated via the post 9/11 paranoia that is still gripping white Anglo Saxon conservative America, Ahmed Mohamad was later invited by President Barack Obama to the White House and given a commendation. Given the “politics” surrounding the incident, is the post-9/11 paranoia harbored by white Anglo Saxon Protestant America hurting, rather than helping, science education in America?   

The political blowback of the incident made Ahmed Mohamad to decide that he won’t be going back to MacArthur High anymore after being singled-out due to his ethnicity. After all, there are white Anglo Saxon Protestant high school students his age that were carrying loaded assault rifles publicly in the name of the “Open Carry Law” elsewhere in Texas and nobody dared to call them as “Christian Terrorists”?  

Is post the white Anglo Saxon Protestant Post 9/11 Paranoia destroying the social fabric of diversity in America? Ahmed Mohamad could be a case-in-point of this and it is also ruining the inclusiveness of science education in America where kids of high school freshmen are seeing science education as “uncool” thanks to former US President George “Dubya” Bush. Ahmed Mohamad’s exceptional abilities in digital electronics should have been nurtured given that when I was his age back in the 1980s, was still learning the rudiments of digital electronics –i.e. still learning about logic gates and J-K flip-flops. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Graphene: The Wonder Material Awaiting Commercial Applications?

Even though its two discoverers already share a Nobel Physics Prize, is graphene that wonder material that’s desperately seeking commercial applications? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Even though the properties of this so-called wonder material is already familiar to materials researchers as far back as 1947, it wasn’t until the 1970s that two Manchester University physicists, Prof. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov developed a method to consistently synthesize the one-atom-thick-carbon wonder material now known as graphene, which eventually allowed them to share the 2010 Nobel Physics Prize. Given that it is 207 times stronger than steel and is a very good conductor of heat and electricity, the wonder material grapheme has defied commercial exploitation because of a lack of an economically viable way to synthesize and manufacture it, until now. 

Known as the “first lady of graphene”, Catharine Paukner, CEO and founder of Cambridge Nanosystems had recently developed an economically viable method to produce graphene on a mass scale. Using methane extracted from communal landfills and cow flatulence, Paukner has managed to convert this potent greenhouse gas (one molecule methane has 25 times the greenhouse warming effect of a single molecule of carbon dioxide) into something useful – the famed wonder material graphene. 

Already in the planning stage, Catharine Paukner’s large-scale methane to graphene plant, based on the workings of a domestic kitchen microwave oven, will be able to produce 5-metric tons of graphene a year. As a wonder material with hundreds of potential very lucrative commercial uses since it was extensively studied in the past 25 years, graphene still elude practical everyday applications due to the difficulty of producing it in quantity at a cost-effective manner. Ultra-light carbon composites more than 200 times stronger than steel for electric powered aircraft applications and replacement body parts are just some of the commercial applications that could make graphene production a potential multi-billion dollar a year industry.