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River Creek Blog: Dialogues of Discovery

Assistant professor of Bioengineering at Stanford, Dr. Manu Prakash gave an eye opening lecture at Janelia Research Campus last week, in keeping with novelist Marcel Proust who said, “the real voyage of discovery is not stretching our landscapes but in having new eyes.” Prakash’s philosophy involves ‘Frugal Science’ and “How to inspire around the world.” He cited a number of examples, learning that scotch tape does X-rays; another one involving string and a paper disc to develop a centrifuge that can separate plasma from blood. “The issue he says is to find objects that can be used in the hinterlands.” He showed several examples of areas in Africa where he has been, where access is difficult and medical and scientific instruments and devices are scarce. Perhaps his crowning achievement is something called a Foldscope, a microscope produced by inserting a lens into a sheet of paper that can be made for one dollar. He says, “it costs more to ship it.” These have been distributed worldwide.
An Usher at Nationals Stadium

Paul Smith spent 40 years in the community newspaper business, including executive editor at the Times Mirror, 2006-2009. Following his retirement from the newspaper business he decided to become an usher at Nationals Stadium. He has “three part time jobs with the Washington Nationals—game day usher, stadium tour guide and greeter at various corporate events.”

This being his eighth year as an usher, he says, “What I like most about being an usher at Nationals Park is the interaction with the fans. It’s a customer oriented job.” He says he pays particular attention to the “first time visitor.”

Paul naturally has gotten to know the regular season ticket holders. One gave him a Washington Senators tie from the 1960's. He says, “it really humbled me to know that what sort of relationships you can foster with the fans.” The tie had belonged to the ticket holder’s husband who had passed away during the winter.

“And as far as well-known baseball fans, I once took Spike Lee to his seat when the Yankees were in town. He gave me a $5 tip.”

Now that the playoff season has started what does he predict for the Nationals? “The Nats have the makings of the best team ever. If they likely beat the Dodgers in the playoffs, they’ll be primed to win it all.”

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