News Article | April 20, 2016
Know how sometimes you take multiple bong rips and feel excellent, and then sometimes you take one hit of particularly potent dope and feel like you might die? Weed advocates and policy makers are trying to fix that. At the Cannabis Science and Policy Summit at the NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management over the weekend, policy makers, academics and public health advocates discussed the challenges associated with portioning out proper dosages of THC to both recreational and medicinal users, prompting a discussion about whether a "unit" of weed should be identified, similar to one "standard” drink of alcohol. In the US, one “standard” drink has been codified by the NIH and refers to approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol, which can be found in one 12-ounce beer at 5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), one 5 ounce glass of wine at 12 percent, or one shot—a single ounce serving—of hard alcohol at 40 percent ABV. “Understanding your dose is essential,” said George McBride, a former lawyer and current policy officer at the Beckley Foundation, a drug policy think tank based out of the UK. “Recommended units in alcohol is rife with problems, but at least it gives you a means to compare a shot of tequila with a pint of ale. Cannabis users have no way to compare a dab with a joint.” The most important factor in determining the potency or psychoactivity of any given quantity of weed is its mass of THC, measured in milligrams. Generally 10 milligrams is considered one dose in both recreational and medicinaluses—however the manner in which it is ingested, say via edible, smoke or vape, can alter the effects, McBride said. Complicating matters, weed strains can range in potency from today’s average of around 20 percent THC, to over 30 percent. This represents a stark contrast to the weed of the 1980s, which averaged around 4 percent THC concentration. So basically taking “one hit” today is a pretty opaque unit of measurement. Though ingesting via smoking creates a gray area, regulating THC quantities in edibles is more doable; regulations went into effect in Colorado on February 1, 2015, that specified that edibles must be individually wrapped in servings of 10 milligrams of THC or fewer, and a single edible can’t contain more than 100mg of THC. This followed the death of a college student who jumped from a Denver balcony after eating a pot cookie, and a spate of incidents in which children accidentally ingested marijuana-infused food items. However, the accurate labeling of edibles relies upon accurate measurements of THC concentration by weed sellers, which has proven elusive. In a damning report published in 2014 in the Denver Posts’ marijuana news website The Cannabist, a study of several marijuana-infused edibles showed that companies across the board misrepresent, most-likely unintentionally, the concentration of THC in their products. The test was conducted by Steep Hill Labs, an independent marijuana research company based out of Berkely, and showed that nearly all of the products examined were significantly off in their THC levels. This is due to the fact that accurate proportionment of THC levels is difficult, and many argue that the regulatory framework is not in place to sufficiently hold companies accountable for misrepresenting their products. Better regulations are being welcomed by consumers and weed sellers alike as a positive for consumers and for the industry as a whole. “In clearly marking what the dose is, hopefully that will lead to more responsible use and public education,” said John Lord via interview with The Cannabist. Lord is the owner of LivWell, a company that has nine pot shops in Colorado. “It keeps us safe, and it provides uniformity for the product itself,” he said. Many point to the absence of federal regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, which introduced guidelines for regulating alcohol such as ABV requirements, as leading to confusion, as each state scrapes together laws that would keep them safe from litigation, but are ultimately ineffective as informing consumers. “Every single example of education in our society [has come] through the USDA, FDA, EPA,” said Rev. Dr. Kymron deCesare, Chief Research Officer at Steep Hill. “Suddenly when states are doing something different than normal, yeah it’s gonna confuse society.” DeCesare, who researches the integration of marijuana into society as well as plant chemistry, said of the hodgepodge nature of current regulatory rules imposed by legal-weed states, “A lot of the ideas they come up with are interesting they work, a lot of them work miserably.” The debate around the weed industry’s regulatory scaffolding is going to heat up as four additional states could see recreational weed legalization measures pass this year, in addition to the four and the District of Columbia that already have legalized. As the legal weed industry grows nationwide, groups like the Steep Hill Labs, Inc., based out of Berkely, CA, are figuring as important thought leaders in establishing effective weed policy, emphasizing the integration of marijuana use into society via clear information for consumers and effective regulatory environments. That said, consumers should not be relying upon the federal government to inform them on how to ingest weed anytime soon. “Every patient has to be their own best advocate first,” said deCesare.
A team of chemists has developed a method to yield highly detailed, 3D images of the insides of batteries. The technique, based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), offers an enhanced approach to monitor the condition of these power sources in real time. "One particular challenge we wanted to solve was to make the measurements 3D and sufficiently fast, so that they could be done during the battery-charging cycle," explains New York University Chemistry Professor Alexej Jerschow. "This was made possible by using intrinsic amplification processes, which allow one to measure small features within the cell to diagnose common battery failure mechanisms. We believe these methods could become important techniques for the development of better batteries." The work focuses on rechargeable Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which are used in cell phones, electric cars, laptops, and many other electronics. Many see lithium metal as a promising, highly efficient electrode material, which could boost performance and reduce battery weight. However, during battery recharging it builds up deposits—or dendrites— that can cause performance loss and safety concerns, including fires and explosions. Therefore, monitoring the growth of dendrites is crucial to producing high-performance batteries with this material. Current methods for doing so, developed previously by the same team, have used MRI technology to look at lithium dendrites directly. However, such procedures have resulted in lower sensitivity and limited resolution, making it difficult to see dendrites in 3D and to precisely understand the conditions under which they accumulate. With this in mind, the researchers sought to enhance this process by focusing on the lithium's surrounding electrolytes—substances used to move charges between the electrodes. Specifically, they found that MRI images of the electrolyte became strongly distorted in the vicinity of dendrites, providing a highly sensitive measure of when and where they grow. Moreover, by visually capturing these distortions, the scientists were able to construct a 3D image of the dendrites from fast MRI experiments. Alternative methods usually do not work on charging cells and require the batteries to be opened up, thus destroying the dendrite structure and altering the chemistry of the cell. "The method examines the space and materials around dendrites, rather than the dendrites themselves," explains Jerschow. "As a result, the method is more universal. Moreover, we can examine structures formed by other metals, such as, for example, sodium or magnesium--materials that are currently considered as alternatives to lithium. The 3D images give us particular insights into the morphology and extent of the dendrites that can grow under different battery operating conditions." Collaborators include: Mohaddese Mohammadi, an NYU graduate student; Hee Jung Chang, a doctoral student at Stony Brook University at the time of the research and now a research associate at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and Clare Grey, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation (CHE 1412064), the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (DE-SC0001294, DE-SC0012583) and its Office of FreedomCAR and Vehicle Technologies (DE-AC02-05CH11231), and the NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage. Image caption —3D image of the inside of a lithium cell after charging and showing dendrite growth—deposits than can reduce performance and compromise safety—between the two electrodes that short-circuited the cell.
News Article | September 13, 2016
In early 2016, NYU Professor of Applied Physics Stephen Arnold earned a patent for his system for finding the size of one or more individual particles (such as nanoparticles) in real time using a microsphere’s whispering gallery modes. Arnold and his team at Tandon’s MicroParticle PhotoPhysics Laboratory for BioPhotonics (MP3L) had generated excitement throughout the scientific community in 2012, when they created an ultra-sensitive biosensor capable of identifying the smallest single virus particles in solution. Their technique was a major advance in a series of experiments to devise a diagnostic method sensitive enough to detect and a single virus particle in a doctor’s office or field clinic, without the need for special assay preparations or conditions. Normally, such assessment required the virus to be measured in the vacuum environment of an electron microscope, which added time, complexity and considerable cost. Instead, the researchers were able to detect the smallest RNA virus particle MS2, with a mass of only 6 attograms, by amplifying the sensitivity of a biosensor. Within it, light from a tunable laser was guided down a fiber optic cable, where its intensity was measured by a detector on the far end. A small glass sphere was brought into contact with the fiber, diverting the light's path and causing it to orbit within the sphere. This change was recorded as a resonant dip in the transmission through the fiber. When a viral particle made contact with the sphere, it changed the sphere’s properties, resulting in a detectable shift in resonance frequency. The smaller the particle, the harder it had been to record changes in the frequency. Fairly large viruses such as influenza had been successfully detected with similar sensors in the past. But many smaller viruses, such as polio, and antibody proteins required increased sensitivity. Arnold and his co-researchers achieved this by attaching gold nano-receptors to the resonant microsphere. These receptors were plasmonic and thus enhanced the electric field nearby, making small disturbances easier to detect. Each gold “hot spot” was treated with specific molecules, which attract and bind to proteins or viruses. Arnold explained that the inspiration for this breakthrough technique came to him during a concert by violinist Itzhak Perlman. He found himself wondering what would happen if a particle of dust landed on one of the strings. The frequency would change slightly, but the shift would be imperceptible. Then he began pondering what would result if the string held something sticky that would only respond to certain kinds of dust. The sensor, called a Whispering Gallery-Mode Biosensor, was unique to Arnold’s work. Its name derived from the famous Whispering Gallery in the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Much the way its unique acoustics allow a whisper to be heard anywhere within the circular gallery, light traveling within the glass sphere of the biosensor orbits many times, ensuring nothing on the surface is missed. Just months after setting that record, Arnold and his team announced a new breakthrough: They used a nano-enhanced version of their patented microcavity biosensor to detect a single cancer marker protein, which is one-sixth the size of the smallest virus, and even smaller molecules below the mass of all known markers. This achievement shattered the previous record, setting a new benchmark for the most sensitive limit of detection. Unlike previous technology, which attached a fluorescent molecule, or label, to the antigen to allow it to be seen, Arnold’s new process detected the antigen without an interfering label. Among other advances, Arnold and his colleagues note that the ability to follow a signal in real time — to actually witness the detection of a single disease marker protein and track its movement — is yielding new understanding of how proteins attach to antibodies. After those discoveries, Arnold participated in a 2014 seminar at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light, part of Germany’s premier research institution for basic science. Devoted to biosensing at the very smallest extremes, the event drew members of the global scientific community who use the patented Whispering Gallery Mode Resonators for molecular diagnostics, single-molecule analysis, nanoparticle detection, and manipulation, as well as other forms of bio-sensing and various commercial and scientific applications. There was palpable excitement there at the possibility, raised by Arnold, of detecting nano-scale antibodies — produced by the body in reaction to invading viruses — well before existing medical tests could detect the virus itself. Among Arnold’s recent journal papers are “Taking Microcavity Label-Free Single Molecule Detection Deep into the Protein Realm: Cancer Marker Detection at the Ultimate Sensitivity” (2015) and “Real-Time Size/Mass Spectrometry in Solution Using Whispering Gallery Micro-Global Positioning.” In the latter paper, also from 2015, Arnold detailed his proof that real-time nanoparticle size/mass spectrometry by a microcavity in solution, which had been illusive for lack of binding position metrology, was not, in fact, subject to that limitation any longer.
News Article | August 14, 2016
The Full Moon Fest will bring a new level of excitement to New York City's music scene on August 20th and 21st at Governors Island. With artists like Santigold and Black Coffee set to perform, people all over the world are hyped to attend one of the most energetic and spirited festivals this summer season. I recently got the chance to talk to JIL who will be playing the show on Saturday. While I could not see the three men's faces, they did open up about their recording process and why they are excited to make their festival debut this year. Tickets to the festival can be purchased by visiting http://fullmoonfest.com. You guys are very mysterious. Can you give us all some information about yourselves? To say we are intrigued is an understatement. All Your Words has been our baby throughout this process. We'd spend countless nights recording new layers and taking layers away. Once we found that verse melody though...Really had to dig deep for those lyrics. As with most of our music, we worked on the song in a lot of locations - NYU and Columbia dorm rooms, our home studio, our parents' houses, and a few friends' places. Mom says that I've "been singing since before I could speak" to gospel records in the car. My parents met in our church choir. Some might say I was born to sing. Everything and every kind of person you could imagine is here. Almost the entire scope of humanity is packed into several square miles. And we all hustlin'. We are influenced by a lot of different styles and eras in music, from romantic era classical to hip-hop. A few of our all time favorites are Debussy, Marvin Gaye, Radiohead and J Dilla. In terms of who we are influenced by that is around now - Flying Lotus, Tame Impala, Floating Points and Mike Dean to name a few. Collaborating with any of those guys would be an honor. And Kanye. Yeezy. That would be awesome. But most of all, Frank Ocean. We'd like to think of it as a modern space odyssey into the soul. Musically it is an elaboration on and exploration of the colors, energies, and ideas we've brought you in our music so far. We all come from playing many styles of music, jazz is just one of them. We'd all been messing around with computer oriented music for a long time so it was a pretty natural transition. Improvising was a huge part of our process, especially as we were first forming. That said, having the chance and ability to perform our music live (instead of taking turns recording and editing parts) is a freeing and somewhat cathartic experience after spending so much time perfecting its recorded form. It would be unreal to hear our music in an aesthetically moving, movie about space. Think high detail CGI of spaceships carrying the first people to live in a different part of our galaxy blasting through hubble telescope type stuff...It would also be amazing to have our music score a film set in NYC. We're thinking the main difference is going to be that we'll be playing to an almost entirely new audience. We are a little nervous. This will be different. But we hope to inspire at least a couple people!
News Article | September 1, 2016
Many of today's automobiles leave the factory with secret passengers: prototype software features that are disabled but that can be unlocked by clever drivers. In what is believed to be the first comprehensive security analysis of its kind, Damon McCoy, an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, and a group of students at George Mason University found vulnerabilities in MirrorLink, a system of rules that allows vehicles to communicate with smartphones. MirrorLink, created by the Connected Car Consortium, which represents 80 percent of the world's automakers, is the first and leading industry standard for connecting smartphones to in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. However, some automakers disable it because they chose a different smartphone-to-IVI standard, or because the version of MirrorLink in their vehicles is a prototype that can be activated later. McCoy and his colleagues found that MirrorLink is relatively easy to enable, and when unlocked can allow hackers to use a linked smartphone as a stepping stone to control safety-critical components such as the vehicle's anti-lock braking system. McCoy explained that "tuners" - people or companies who customize automobiles - might unwittingly enable hackers by unlocking insecure features. "Tuners will root around for these kinds of prototypes, and if these systems are easy to unlock they will do it," he said. "And there are publically available instructions describing how to unlock MirrorLink. Just one of several instructional videos on YouTube has gotten over 60,000 views." The researchers used such publically available instructions to unlock MirrorLink on the in-vehicle infotainment system in a 2015 vehicle they purchased from eBay for their experiments. The automaker and supplier declined to release a security patch - reflecting the fact that they never enabled MirrorLink. McCoy pointed out that this could leave drivers who enable MirrorLink out on a limb. The authors hope their research, presented at the 10th USENIX Workshop on Offensive Technologies (WOOT '16) in Austin, Texas, will raise the issue of drivers unlocking potentially insecure features before IVI protocols such as MirrorLink are even more widely deployed.