Talking Music and Science with Yo-Yo Ma

It’s not every day that an amateur guitar picker gets to play a duet with an internationally renowned classical cellist. But that was my thrill this week as I joined Yo-Yo Ma in a creative interpretation of the traditional song, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” Our short jam session capped off Mr. Ma’s appearance as this year’s J. Edward Rall Cultural Lecture.

The event, which counts The Dalai Lama, Maya Angelou, and Atul Gawande among its distinguished alumni, this year took the form of a conversation on the intersection of music and science—and earned a standing ovation from a packed house of researchers, patients, and staff here on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, MD.

Continue reading

Too Old For Building Blocks? Not These.

Cover of Science magazine, displaying a set of colorful building blocks.

Cover of Science, November 30, 2012.

This looks like the type of Lego kit I would get my grandkids for Christmas, or a new version of Tetris. It is, in fact, much cooler. These are ‘DNA bricks’—short strands of DNA that plug into each other like a peg in a hole. I’m excited to tell you that the scientists at the Wyss Institute in Boston, MA, who developed this technology were recipients of the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award, which encourages out of the box thinking specifically for young researchers. So what can you do with these bricks? Build microscopic 3-D structures. In some cases, if the recipe of DNA bricks is just right the set of bricks can self-assemble. In fact the scientists have already created 100 different self-assembling structures (like the ones pictured above on the cover of the November 30th issue of Science). These structures could be used for designing intricate labyrinths for everything from biomedicine to nanotechnology. Very, very exciting stuff.

Check out these quick flicks to see the range of structures up close; the second one looks like a collection of rainbow worms attacking each other.

Building 3D Structures with DNA Bricks

DNA Bricks – Molecular Animation