Tag Archives: paper

Image of scientific citations.

A prolific French academic, author of hundreds of papers, doesn’t exist. She’s a form of protest

One of France’s most prolific scientific authors, turns out, is actually a form of protest.

Image of scientific citations.
Image via Wikipedia.

Camille Noûs is one very busy bee. His or her scientific writings span subjects from molecular biology to geography and socio-economics. Needless to say, such an impressive body of work earned them stellar metrics in international rankings, and quite a bit of clout. Which makes the fact that Camille Noûs isn’t a real person just a tad embarrassing.

Fake for a cause

Noûs (which means ‘us’ or ‘we’ in French) is the product of RogueESR, a group of French academics that “work in higher education and research” and “strongly reject the education and research policy pursued by the current government”. The fictitious author was meant to show how easily current research ranking systems can be exploited.

“The dazzling scores of Camille Noûs in the international rankings will quickly illustrate the absurdity of the indicators used to evaluate the research output,” the group explained for Liberation.

Camille has been publishing for around one year now, having co-authored an impressive amount of studies already. It is a “symbolic character” aiming to show that research is a collaborative process, not one where individual ‘stars’ advance fields and ideas on their own.

The existence of Camille is meant to poke holes in the French government’s emphasis on meritocracy (or ‘Darwinism’ in the words of the president of the French National Center for Scientific Research, CNRS) that, the group feels, completely denies this collective process.

“I saw it as an act of protest, a good way to demonstrate the fact that the way in which scientific publishing and scientific evaluation work is [done is] not in line with academic values,” explains Stéphane André, professor at the University of Lorraine and one of the first to put the name of Camille Noûs as co-author of one of his articles.

“The advent of rankings based on the list of published articles pushes researchers to no longer want to advance knowledge but their own number of publications. ”

An independent administrative authority has been set up by the French government — the High Council for the Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (HCERES). In essence, this body is tasked with deciding who is excellent and who is not, and a key metric they use to determine this is (ultimately) how many papers each researcher has published.

For most of us, this isn’t the most consequential piece of news. But in the grand scheme of things, how research is done has a massive impact on our quality of life — it creates the medical devices and techniques we use to stay healthy, produces new and better goods, improves productivity, and so on.

Camille Noûs may be fictional, but the issues that made them necessary are very real. Science is not a perk only some are allowed, it should not be a trapping of the elites. It’s something that affects all of us, and it’s something everybody should get to further and enjoy. It also shows that many researchers are tired with the current academic setting, the monopoly of entities such as journals or councils that decide their fate based on skewed or arbitrary metrics.

Recycling paper might not be as good for the world’s climate as we think

While it’s usually seen as a good practice, recycling paper is actually meaningful to the climate only when it’s powered by renewable energy, according to a modeling study. Greenhouse gas emissions would increase by 2050 if we recycle more paper, as current recycling methods rely on fossil fuels, researchers found.

Credit Flickr PressReleaseFinder

A circular economy is expected to achieve sustainability goals through efficient use and reuse of materials. Waste recycling is an important part of a circular economy. However, for some materials, the potential environmental benefits of recycling are unclear or contested, say researchers from University College London.

Senior author Professor Paul Ekins said: “The recycling of some materials, for instance, metals, can lead to a very large reduction in emissions. But we need to be careful about assumptions that recycling, or a circular economy in general, will always have a positive effect on climate change.”

Lead author Dr. Stijn van Ewijk and his team modeled several scenarios for increasing recycling of wastepaper by 2050 and the impact this would have on greenhouse emissions. They found that if all wastepaper was recycled, emissions could increase by 10%, as recycling paper relies more on fossil fuels than making new paper.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t have to be the case. The researchers found that emissions would be radically reduced if paper production and disposal were carried out using renewable energy sources rather than fossil fuels. Renewables have never been cheaper, with solar expected to take over as the main energy source soon.

Making new paper from trees uses more energy than recycling it. But the energy for this process is generated from black liquor, the low-carbon by-product of the wood pulping process. In contrast, paper recycling relies on fuels and electricity from the grid. That’s the main concern of researchers, leading to emissions.

The team found that modernizing landfill practices can have a positive effect, such as capturing methane emissions and using them for energy. Nevertheless, the effect isn’t as significant as moving to renewables, they argued. For van Ewijk, recycling isn’t helpful unless it’s powered by clean energy sources.

“We looked at global averages, but trends may vary considerably in different parts of the world. Our message isn’t to stop recycling, but to point out the risk of investing in recycling at the expense of decarbonizing the energy supply and seeing very little change to emissions as a result,” he said

Paper accounted for 1.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2012. About a third of these emissions came from the disposal of paper in landfills. The researchers argued that the use of paper will rise in the coming years, especially as the world moves away from plastics and instead uses paper packaging.

The researchers looked at how different levels of recycling, renewable energy use, and more environmentally friendly landfill practices affect our ability to reduce emissions. Counties agreed in the Paris Agreement to avoid global warming of more than 2ºC degrees compared to pre-industrial levels.

If past trends continue, emissions would slightly increase from the 2012 level (721 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in a year) to 736 metric tons in 2050, the findings showed. A recycling program, with landfill and energy uses remaining on the same path, would increase this still further by 10% (to 808 metric tonnes).

On the other hand, the researchers argue, improving landfill practices would reduce emissions to 591 metric tons. Meanwhile, moving to renewable energy, with recycling and landfill practices remaining on the standard path, would reduce emissions by 96% to 28 tons, the study showed.

While paper recycling can save trees and protect forest carbon stocks, the extent of this effect is unknown, the researchers said. This is because of a lack of understanding of the global forest carbon stock and the interrelated causes of deforestation. The study, therefore, assumes that recycling neither harms nor benefits forests.

The study was published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

Paper reconstruction.

Paper strips recovered from Blackbeard’s ship reveals pirates liked voyage stories — at least, stuffed in their guns

The infamous pirate Blackbeard may have passed the hours between raids with some light reading, a new discovery suggests.

Paper reconstruction.

Image credits North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

North Carolina archeological conservators working on the wreckage of the Queen Anne’s Revenge (QAR), the ship captained by Blackbeard during the 18th-century, have found 16 paper fragments “in a mess of wet sludge” hidden in the chamber of a cannon. In the end, they managed to identify the original works from these slivers of paper — a 1712 book penned by Captain Edward Cooke, A Voyage to the South Sea, and Round the World, Perform’d in the Years 1708, 1709, 1710 and 1711.

Y’aaaarrr me maties, ’tis a fine book!

It took months of efforts to ensure the fragments are properly conserved, and months still after that step for the team to identify the book from the few words still (barely) visible on the fragments — the largest of which was about the size of a US quarter.

The conservators, the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’s QAR lab, said that paper is a very rare find on shipwreck sites.

“This unique find from the wreckage of Queen Anne’s Revenge provides archaeological evidence for books carried on ships in the early 18th century, and adds to our knowledge of the history of Blackbeard’s flagship and those who sailed her,” the department wrote in a statement.

“The historical record has several references to books aboard vessels in Blackbeard’s fleet, but provides no specific titles; this find is the first archaeological evidence for their presence on QAR.”

Edward Teach, who took up the name Blackbeard for his pirate adventures, ran the QAR aground off the coast of North Carolina in 1718. The wreck was discovered in 1996, and ever since conservators had been hard at work digging out and preserving the artifacts aboard.

Blackbeard pirate flag.

The pirate flag Blackbeard sailed under.
Image credits Angus Konstam, Blackbeard the Pirate, via Wikimedia.

The book describes Cooke’s voyages and adventures around the coast of South America, so it would probably have been quite a good lecture for a pirate — both educational and entertaining! The book was also quite influential during its time. Among other tales, it recounts the story of Alexander Selkirk’s rescue from an island in the South Pacific on which he had been marooned for four years. The story would eventually inspire Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe in 1719.

Paper, like most organic material, very rarely survives in shipwrecks — so finding the pieces is a special occurrence indeed. One of the pirates‘ less honorable practices, that of stuffing cannons with paper (among other things) to keep the powder charge in place, might have helped preserve it.

Kind of wasteful if you ask me, but then again, I’ve never had to load a gun.

“Although books such as these voyage narratives would have been relatively common on ships of the early 18th century, archaeological evidence for them is exceedingly rare, and this find represents a glimpse into the reading habits of a pirate crew,” the conservators add.

The team is also planning a display of the find to mark Blackbeard’s 300th anniversary this year.

The Force.

Blogger submits glaringly fake ‘Midichlorian’ paper to nine journals, three publish it for free, fourth asks for cash

A bogus scientific paper on Star Wars’ ‘midi-chlorians’ ended up being published by three scientific journals.

The Force.

Image credits Julio Marquez / Flickr.

Not all scientific journals hold themselves to a high standard of quality — some, in fact, don’t even bother reading the paper if they can smell some cash incoming. Which is unfortunate, counterproductive, and as neuroscientist and blogger Neuroskeptic found, kinda funny at times. Betting on the low/non-existent quality requirements of predatory journals, Neuroskeptic submitted a glaringly fake paper to nine journals. Four of them accepted it, and three even went as far as publishing it.

The force (of greed)

Predatory journals are publications whose business models boils down to exploiting researchers into paying fees to get their papers published. Greenhorns desperate to get their work published often fall for predatory journals, and shell out quite a bit of cash just to get a foot in the door.

But getting published in such a journal doesn’t really help. For starters, they generally have zero peer-review and will publish anything. Anything. Case in point, Neuroskeptic’s paper: It was a comprehensive body of work on midi-chlorians — you know, those fictional beings from the Star Wars universe that generate the Force — which he submitted it to nine scientific journals to check how closely they read the papers.

He even made it easy for them. Neuroskeptic himself explains that even a layman could tell the paper was a fake (and chock-full of Star Wars references, for that matter) in five minutes or less because:

It’s authored by Dr. Lucas McGeorge and Dr. Annette Kin. At first glance it looks science-y enough, but only because Neuroskeptic copy-pasted stuff off the Wikipedia page on mitochondrion, which is a real thing, and reworded it to midi-chlorian/midichlorian, which is bogus. And just in case peer-reviewers (and I use the term in the loosest way possible) didn’t catch on by now, there are a few Star Wars passages subtly placed throughout the paper:

“Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside in all living cells – without the midi-chlorians, life couldn‘t exist, and we‘d have no knowledge of the force,” the paper reads.

“Midichlorial disorders often erupt as brain diseases, such as autism. They continually speak to us, telling us the will o‘ the force. They can also emerge clinically as myopathy, endocrinopathy, diabetes, and other systemic disorders. When you learn to quiet your mind, you will hear ’em speaking to you.”

Even if these hints/glaring red flags went unnoticed, Neuroskeptic outright admitted in the paper that the “majority of the text in the current paper” was copied from Wikipedia. Surely that would put the journals on guard, right?

Nope! Three of the journals just went ahead and published the paper for free. Another, the American Journal of Medical and Biological Research, accepted the paper but demanded a $360 fee before publishing it. Some other journals which didn’t accept it did pick up on the references, but weirdly enough asked Neuroskeptic to revise the paper and resubmit it. They even suggested reverting the spelling of “midichlorians” back to “mitochondria”.

In a galaxy far far away

I won’t lie, I had a chuckle with the whole thing. But it does point out to how dysfunctional the peer review process can become, and raises questions regarding even well-established publications — after all, they’re in the business for profits, not science. Sure, they live and die by the trustworthiness and quality of the material they publish, but at the same time, they have a vested interest in publishing (and then cashing in ridiculously well) from as many papers as possible. A way of doing business which has lately put them at odds ends with a lot of researchers.

It also exposes the first kind of publishers — the predatory journals — for what they are: scams trying to tick off real researchers and their work.

“It’s just a reminder that at some ‘peer reviewed’ journals, there really is no meaningful peer review at all,” Neuroskeptic explains.

“This matters because scientific publishers are companies selling a product, and the product is peer review.”

Not the first time

It’s not the first time predatory journals have been exposed in a hilarious way. In 2013, a science paper citing Michael Jackson and Borat was easily published into such a journal. Quoting the results published by Disney character Goofy in the scientific magazine “Mikijev Zabavnik” (comic for children), and noted researcher A.S. Hole., the paper was basically a senseless, jargon-riddled story that doesn’t really say anything. Just one year later, in 2014, a study by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel (two fictional characters from The Simpsons) was accepted by two scientific journals. Titled “Fuzzy Homogeneous Configurations,” the article makes absolutely no sense and was actually just a random string of works generated by a computer program – yet both the Journal of Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems, and the Aperito Journal of NanoScience Technology agreed to publish it. While this is quite hilarious, it also highlights a massive underlying problem: while many journals hold scientists to a ridiculously rigorous process, some take advantage of this and basically rip people off. In recent times, this process has been especially prevalent in countries like China, but the full extent of this problem is not yet understood.

The bogus paper “Mitochondria: Structure, Function and Clinical Relevance” has been published in the International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access, the Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (these two journals have since taken down the paper), and the American Research Journal of Biosciences.

Cotton swabs.

Johnson&Johnson to remove plastic from swabs, switch to paper

Multinational Johnson & Johnson is ditching plastic in favor of paper for its cotton swab handles, the company announced. They hope this move will reduce the quantity of plastic dumped into the ocean.

Cotton swabs.

Image credits Rakesh Naidu / Pexels.

There’s a lot of plastic in our oceans. Roughly 300 million tonnes of the stuff are produced yearly, with an estimated 10% finding its way in the ocean. If nothing changes, the World Economic Forum warns that in 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the oceans than fish.

Everyday items make up a lot of this quantity. In 2013, Scottish environmentalist charity group Fidra pointed to the plastic handles of cotton swabs as a prime offender. Last year, they were the most often seen sewage-related plastic waste during the Marine Conservation Society’s Great British Beach Clean. Now, Johnson & Johnson hope that they can help limit this pollution by taking plastic swabs off the market.

Earmarked for an upgrade

The company will switch production to full paper handles on Monday, with the new products expected to hit shops in Britain sometime in the next few weeks.

“We recognise that our products have an environmental footprint, and that’s why we’re working hard to continually improve and champion best practice in sustainability, in line with our company’s founding principles,” said Niamh Finan, Group Marketing Manager.

The Marine Conservation Society has been reporting increasing amounts of cotton swab sticks recovered from UK beaches each year. The average number of swabs has more than doubled from 11 swabs/100 meters of beach in 2012 to 24/100 meters in last year’s Clean — they found a staggering 13,500 swabs on a single beach run in Scotland. J&J said the new products will prevent thousands of tons of waste from reaching the sea.

[MUST READ] Why you shouldn’t put cotton swabs inside your ear

“We commend Johnson & Johnson for leading this change in product material, it is an important part of the solution to the growing problem of plastic pollution in our seas,” said Fidra Research Officer Dr Clare Cavers.

Fidra has also launched the Cotton Swab Project, a project which aims to convince other manufacturers to switch from plastic to paper in their swabs. Still, the group warns that greener production methods should come hand in hand with greater consumer awareness if we hope to keep the ocean clean/

“A step change in consumer behaviour is needed to ensure people dispose of waste responsibly and only flush toilet paper. However, we urge everyone to remember a very simple message – only the 3Ps – pee, poo and paper should go down the toilet, everything else should go in the bin.”

UV-printed text allows sheets to be reset and re-used 80 different times

A new technology could change how we think about paper and printing — forever. Based on UV-sensitive paint, the method allows paper to be re-used, making it much cheaper and more sustainable than traditional printing.

A sample of the paper with text.
Image credits Wang et al, (2017) American Chemical Society.

So we’ve seen our fair share of creative ink recipes throughout time — some to grow, some to raise awareness, others made from pee. They’re all awesome. But once ink hits the paper, it’s there for good. If you want to print something else, you need a fresh sheet of paper.

Or do you? A joint US-Chinese team has developed a novel nanoparticle coating which can make traditional inks oh-so-last-year. This blue substance can easily be applied to paper — either by spraying or soaking — and changes color when exposed to concentrated ultraviolet (UV) light. If you need to print something else, just heat the sheet to 120 degrees Celsius (248 Fahrenheit) and voila — the ink ‘resets’. As each sheet of paper allows for more than 80 re-writes, the ink could reduce paper usage in the long run, saving a lot of money and a lot of trees in the process.

I’m blue

Treated paper “has the same feel and appearance as conventional paper, but can be printed and erased repeatedly without the need for additional ink” said teammember Yadong Yin from the University of California, Riverside, for Phys.org.

“Our work is believed to have enormous economic and environmental merits to modern society.”

The team combined two kinds of nanoparticles for the ink. The color is created using Prussian blue particles, a pigment which becomes colorless when it gains electrons. The other ingredient is titanium dioxide (TiO2) particles, which catalyze the photochemical reaction between UV rays and the ink — they release the electrons needed for the reaction.

Image credits Wang et al., (2017) American Chemical Society.

What you get is a beautiful blue color that turns colorless under UV rays. So unlike traditional printing methods, this ink prints the blank spaces of the page instead of the words themselves. Alternatively, you can print the letters only and the text will come out white on a blue backdrop.

The print remains stable for at least five days before the page slowly starts fading back to blue, as pigment particles shed the extra electrons. Or you can just heat it up to reset it as fast as you like.

Applying the coat is a quick and cheap process, and the researchers hope this will promote wide-scale use. As each sheet can be used for 80 or more different prints without further costs, it’s easy to see the commercial appeal of the technology.

Add to that the fact that it also reduces paper use and waste, and you get a real winner. In the US, estimates place up to 40% of waste as discarded paper. All this waste translates to added costs for transport, recycling, or disposal. It also fuels the country’s ever-growing need for paper, an industry which consumes around 68 million trees every year and is one of the dirtiest in the country.

Following the paper trail

Yin first unveiled the prototype ink in December 2014. Its first iteration could only sustain 20 printing cycles, and was trickier to apply onto paper than the current material. The team says they improved the stability, ease of application, and lowered production costs over their previous product.

Now, they’re hard at work taking their technology to a printer near you.

“Our immediate next step is to construct a laser printer to work with this rewritable paper to enable fast printing,” Yin told Phys.org.

“We will also look into effective methods for realizing full-colour printing.”

But my question is — can we make tattoos with this ink?

The full paper “Photocatalytic Color Switching of Transition Metal Hexacyanometalate Nanoparticles for High-Performance Light-Printable Rewritable Paper” has been published in the journal Nano Letters.

Guy tries to fold paper seven times and succeeds… sort of

They say you can’t fold a paper seven times, because its resistance gets too strong. The Hydraulic Press Youtube Channel set up to see if that myth really is true – with a hydraulic press, of course. The result was quite surprising (more info after the video):

The first folds went pretty easily by hand, but the folding got much harder fast. This happens for two reason: first of all, the number of layers doubles with each every fold. If you fold it once, you have 2 layers, if you fold it twice you have four layers and so on. If you fold it 7 times, you have 2 to the power of 7 layers, so 128 layers – quite a lot. Secondly, the relative size of the remaining paper is so small compared to the folds that it becomes much harder to bend. Add in the distortion caused by the wrinkles, and the paper simply doesn’t have enough flexibility to be bent again. I think this is what happens in this video, and this is why we see the mini-explosion. There may also be some air trapped within, pressurized and unable to go out.

But – you might say – why not go for a bigger sheet of paper? Wouldn’t it be easier to bend a bigger sheet of paper? Well yes, it would. The Mythbusters attempted the feat in 2009 with a giant sheet of paper and managed to bend it over 7 times with ease:

Some people have managed to fold paper even more times, and there’s even some math analyzing how many times you can actually fold it in total – but that math was proven wrong by a high school student.

The current record for the most times a standard A4 has been folded in half is twelve, and was set by Britney Gallivan more than 10 years ago when she was only a high school student. What’s interesting is that mathematicians at the time thought it was impossible to fold it more than seven times using input human input energy, i.e. your hands. Britney wasn’t unusually strong — just  very clever about it.

eraser gif

How does an eraser work?

What happens when you write?

Although we call the black stuff in pencils “lead,” it’s not the real metal known as lead. It’s actually a mineral called “graphite,” which is made up of carbon. When you write with a pencil, graphite particles from the pencil rub off and stick to the fibers of the paper you’re writing on.

What do erasers do?

When you rub an eraser across a pencil mark, the abrasives in the eraser gently scratch the surface fibers of the paper to loosen the graphite particles. The softeners in the eraser help to prevent the paper from tearing. The sticky rubber in the eraser grabs and holds on to the graphite particles.

The physics

Erasers work because of friction.

As the abrasives in your eraser are rubbed against paper, friction produces heat, which helps the rubber become sticky enough to hold onto the graphite particles. As the rubber grabs the graphite particles, small pieces of combined rubber and graphite get left behind. That’s the “stuff” you brush off of your paper when you’re finished erasing.



The folding limiting equation Britney found: L is the minimum possible length of the material, t is material thickness, and n is the number of folds possible in one direction.

If you fold an A4 sheet of paper 103 times its thickness will roughly be the size of the Universe


Whaaaat? It’s just a matter of math, really. Fold an A4 once and it will be twice as thick, fold it again and it will be four times as thick as it initially was. Turns out, according to Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, if you do this 103 times the sheet’s thickness will be larger than the observable Universe: 93 billion light-years.  To do this, however, involves an exponential increase of the necessary energy to fold the paper, which wasn’t computed.

The current record for the most times a standard A4 has been folded in half is twelve, and was set by Britney Gallivan more than 10 years ago when she was only a high school student. What’s interesting is that mathematicians at the time thought it was impossible to fold it more than seven times using input human input energy, i.e. your hands. Britney wasn’t unusually strong, however, but she was very clever about it.

The first thing she did was to recognize the challenge’s limitations. She then derived the folding limit equation for any given dimension and found single direction folding requires less paper. One interesting discovery was to fold paper an additional time about 4 times as much paper is needed, contrary to the intuition of many that only twice as much paper would be needed because it is twice as thick. In one day Britney was the first person to set the record for folding paper in half 9, 10, 11 or 12 times.

The folding  limiting equation Britney found: L is the minimum possible length of the material, t is material thickness, and n is the number of folds possible in one direction.

The folding limiting equation Britney found: L is the minimum possible length of the material, t is material thickness, and n is the number of folds possible in one direction.

With each fold, more and more energy needs to be inputted.  A paper folded in half 10 times will result in thickness roughly the width of your hand, but if it’s folded 20 times will be 10 km high, which makes it higher than Mount Everest. Let’s fold it a bit more; 42 times will get you on the moon and, as Dr. Kruszelnicki demonstrated on ABC Science, 103 times will render a thickness the size of the known Universe!

It’s a very simple calculation, but it shows just how powerful math can be.

Mexican Researchers Turn Old Plastic Bottles Into Waterproof Paper

A team of Mexican researchers found a way to save 20 trees and 56,000 liters of water for every ton of paper produced – just make them from old plastic bottles.

Plastic is one of the main pollutants in the world – the ocean is basically a cemetery for used plastic, with at least 5 trillion pieces floating around in the global waters. Finding a way to recycle plastic, while also saving water and money is always interesting – and that’s exactly what a company called Cronology did. They developed a technique which is 15 percent cheaper than conventional paper making, while also environmentally friendly. The paper is also stronger, higher quality, and resistant to water. They also don’t use chlorine, like the paper industry currently does.

“We manufacture ecological paper created with recycled plastic bottles, calcium carbonate and stone. We don’t use water or chemicals, such as chlorine. The mineral paper is stronger than the standard, you can not break it with your hands, is waterproof, has the quality of being photodegradable and only absorbs the necessary amount of ink when printing,” said Ever Adrian Nava, cofounder of the “Cronology” company, located in Ecatepec, a municipality in Mexico State, just north from Mexico City. “By not cutting trees, nor using water we reduce costs and help the planet,” Ever Adrian Nava, co-founder of Cronology, explained in a press release.

Mineral paper, also called stone paper or rock paper meets the quality standards for books, general stationary and also boxes. It’s also better for printing, because it requires a smaller quantity of ink.

“The mineral paper is stronger than the standard, you can not break it with your hands, is waterproof, has the quality of being photodegradable and only absorbs the necessary amount of ink when printing,” Nava added.

It’s not the first time plastic has been turned into paper, but this is the first time that the process is cost competitive. Companies in Spain and Taiwan for example are also doing this, but for the Mexican company, the cost is 4 times lower.

The process itself breaks down plastic into small pellets and mixes it with calcium and stone. The resulting mixture is then heated to more than 100 degrees Celsius and rolled into large sheets of paper, using a machine somewhat similar to tortilla manufacturing. From 235 kilograms of PET bottles, you get 907 kilograms of mineral paper, while also ensuring that the plastic isn’t dumped some place – it’s a win-win story.

My only question is – if this process is cheaper, produces higher quality paper, and is very environmentally friendly… then why aren’t we using it more?

Image and story source: Investigación y Desarrollo.

Paper + Microscope = amazing art


Handmade paper from Gampi and Daffodils, in 3D vision

Paper is just paper, right ? Nothing fancy, nothing special, just plain old paper that we see and probably use every single day. Well, for Charles Kazilek at ASU, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth; incredible colours, from orange and purple to vibrant green, amazing textures, all of these were obtained from plain pieces of paper.

Paper made by wasps; they've been doing this for more than 50 million years


There are many hidden surprises in these amazing pictures, which contain dazzling patterns. Charles Kazilek uses a laser scanning confocal microscope to examine and photograph the paper. The lasers highlights any fluorescence that biological material has.

Japanese handmade paper

Charles explains the paper project:

“My colleague and collaborator on the Paper Project, Gene Valentine, came to me with a question about paper made from silk rather than plant material. You likely know that almost all paper is made from plant material (cellulose). What you might not know is that a large part of paper strength is the hydrogen bonding that occurs from fiber-to-fiber. More on this is found in the “Cookbook for Papermaking at Home and in the Classroom”.

Paper made from silk tissues

He adds:”Gene had been making paper from silk, which is protein-based and not cellulose-based,” continued Charles. “He wanted to know if silk paper was working the same way as plant material paper at the microscopic level. Papermakers are pretty strict about what they call paper. So the question was if paper made from silk was the same as that of plant made paper?”

Handmade paper from eucalyptus

According to Dard Hunter, one of the most knowledgeable people on paper:

“To be classed as true paper the thin sheets must be made from fibre that has been macerated until each individual filament is a separate unit; the fibres intermixed with water, and by the use of a sieve-like screen, the fibres lifted from the water in the form of a thin stratum, the water draining through the small openings of the screen, leaving a sheet of matted fibre upon the screen’s surface. This thin layer of intertwined fibre is paper.”

Asked what should be learned from the paper project, Charles explains:

“The most important thing is to realize that this material that is so ubiquitous that it is almost invisible from our daily lives is really important and at the microscopic level amazingly beautiful. The images we show are roughly the size of a period at the end of a sentence. If you take a standard piece of paper you are likely to find a hundred or more beautiful pieces of art in each sheet. If you think about how much paper you come into contact with each day, there are literally thousands of tiny pieces of art passing through our hands.” Truly inspiring !

“The other important part of the Paper Project is to realize that this material is arguably one of the first great inventions of humans,” Charles went on to say. “It has been keeping our history and secrets safe for thousands of years. Today what media can you say will be as good at archiving our history and our thoughts? There is nothing out there.”

“Finally, there is a lot that can be learned with the Paper Project. We did not set out be an educational tool, but you can see from the website there are sections on human vision (how we see 3D), chemistry (how paper is held together), plant anatomy, microscopy, and history (from the history of paper timeline).”

The paper project site has some other incredible pictures, and you can also check them out in 3D – astonishing !


Via Paper Project