Down the halls of the University of South Australia, the bombastic and booming AC/DC track “Thunderstruck” emanates from Nicolas H. Voelcker’s lab. Now, loud music isn’t uncommon to find playing in a research lab, but using it for a critical production step in making a chemotherapeutic agent is.
So what inspired Voelcker’s research group to rock out? The scientists were working on formulating biodegradable porous silicon microparticles loaded with a chemotherapeutic drug, but the microparticles kept dissolving too quickly for sustained release applications, Voelcker says. One night at a conference dinner, after a bit of beer and wine, Voelcker and his colleagues came up with a solution.
“We have a plasma reactor which can apply hydrophobic coatings around microparticles to enhance their stability, but they only coat the side that is exposed,” Voelcker says, “That is why we thought of using a loudspeaker, so that the microparticles could bounce and all sides would be exposed and homogenously coated.” Like fans at a concert, the harder the rock, the more the particles would bounce, Voelcker explains. “Hence it was not far-fetched to use AC/DC tracks in conjunction with this technology.”
Voelcker’s team found that the hydrophobic coating improved the stability and release kinetics of the drug in vitro using a human neuroblastoma cell model in comparison to noncoated microparticles (ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2016, DOI: 10.1021/acsami.5b12433).
Voelcker tells the Newscripts gang that the procedure could be adapted to other musical stylings. “Other genres worked as well,” he says, “but since the student and postdoc who did all the work are hard rock fans, they tended to stick to that. ‘Thunderstruck’ possesses the adequate low-frequency beat to sufficiently bounce the porous silicon microparticles without throwing them off the plasma reactor.”
Famous scientists equipped with superpowers and duking it out is the latest two-dimensional game to capture the attention of nerds and gamers on the internet. The game “Science Kombat” offers players the chance to play as several scientific superstars, including Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Pythagoras, Nikola Tesla, and Alan Turing.
The gameplay is similar to other classic arcade-style fighting games such as “Street Fighter” and “Mortal Kombat.” Players can punch, jump, duck, and use a special attack that ties in with the scientist’s discoveries and inventions. Marie Curie’s special attack is Radium, which fires a radioactive ball that paralyzes the other player; Stephen Hawking’s special attack is Black Hole, which creates a little black hole that attacks the other player before disappearing.
Currently, the game has two modes of play: single fight and tournament play. In tournament play, users battle their way through eight of history’s best scientists until they reach the mysterious final boss, Divinity, who has his own special moves.
The game has two unfortunate drawbacks. It cannot be played in a multiplayer mode, and it contains only one playable female scientist and no minority scientists. “Science Kombat” is still in a trial phase, so gamers can hope that the finished product will include an expanded and diverse character roster of scientists.