Earth Day Special: Solving Global Problems with Local Solutions – Matone de Chiwit

The world suffers from a plethora of natural and man-made disasters. From destructive floods to violent conflicts, society is faced with complex global challenges that can only be solved through collaboration. Politicians and the media often focus on short-term collaboration for discreet goals, such as electing a specific politician or encouraging donations to a specific relief effort. But I believe we must consider the long-term implications of our actions, not only within the context of our immediate environment, but also for the larger global community.

In my home country of Kenya, 17 million (43%) people do not have access to clean drinking water. 70% of this population lives within a rural context. It takes a child an average of 3 hours to fetch one liter of water, which is filled with pathogens and other disease-spreading microorganisms. Continue reading “Earth Day Special: Solving Global Problems with Local Solutions – Matone de Chiwit”

Earth Day Special: Gray-Space Recycling in the Laboratory

Have you ever wondered about those items that can’t be recycled in a traditional recycling stream? Like chip bags or used pens? What about items in the workplace? Every year, 6 million pounds of non-durable plastics are discarded and end up in landfills or as litter on the streets (67% of street litter in the San Francisco Bay Area is made up of food and beverage packaging), or worse off, end up in the Pacific trash vortex a pool of trash that is leaching chemicals and now even has described its own ecosystem called the Plastisphere. Continue reading “Earth Day Special: Gray-Space Recycling in the Laboratory”

The Citizen Scientist

Ah, the scientist. Wearer of the lab coat, gatherer of the data, publisher of findings both predictable and extraordinary.

It can be said that the scientist is the person who asks why and where, and analyzes data to come to a conclusion about a natural phenomenon on planet Earth or beyond. What scientists study ranges from biology (someone has to count those pesky invasive Asian carp in the Chicago river!) to physics (which explains why crazy uncle Gerald runs out to New Mexico with his telescope every year!). They are everywhere in our collective minds and media, ranging from Bill Nye to any number of frequent talking heads on a Discovery Channel special.  

Do these individuals need to express an unrivaled passion for a science to participate in the discipline?? Absolutely yes. But does one need a degree in the sciences to help out? Absolutely not. Continue reading “The Citizen Scientist”

Science as Art: Open Call for SciArt!

This year, the Chicago Science Festival, hosted by the Illinois Science Council, will feature an event called Science as Art.  We invite you to submit artistic and scientific images from your work for consideration.  Images ranging from the tiniest nanoparticles and neurons to the largest galactic images, including all types of microscopy and other scientific photography, are welcome.  Submissions will be accepted from now until April 22, 2018. Continue reading “Science as Art: Open Call for SciArt!”

How to Read Like a Scientist

It may come as some surprise, but scientists don’t spend all day mixing chemicals, measuring reactions, and hunching over open flames. To ask the right questions and design cutting-edge experiments to answer them, they have to do a lot of reading. Scientists may read about many different topics, including techniques for executing an experiment, the latest findings in their specific field, or communications from outside fields to broaden their horizons. Most of what they’re reading, scientific literature, is filled with numerical data, jargon, and what, quite frankly, looks like gibberish to non-scientists. So when people have to rely on mainstream news for their science, how can anyone expect them to figure out which scientific advancements are on the verge of completion versus those that are just bunk? Let’s take a look.
Continue reading “How to Read Like a Scientist”

ISC Pi Day Run 2018: Another Great One for the Books!

Illinois Science Council’s 6th annual Pi Day run was an all-around success!  Over 300 science-loving and science-curious Chicagoans, young and old, participated in the 3.14 mile run/walk at one of three sponsoring Fleet Feet locations—Oak Park, and the Old Town and Lincoln Square neighborhoods in Chicago.  Many runners could be seen sporting their official Pi Day run t-shirts. Continue reading “ISC Pi Day Run 2018: Another Great One for the Books!”

The Science of Lucid Dreaming

When I was about 12, I had a dream that children I didn’t know were chasing me and my friends around the YMCA’s playground. Normally, this dream would have been commonplace, except for a strange moment. I had just run up the jungle gym and was about to slide down, away from my pursuer, when I turned back to him and asked, “Why are you even chasing me?” He stopped, stared back into my eyes, and answered “I dunno – this is your dream after all!” In that moment, I had a short-lived realization that none of this scenario was real. Continue reading “The Science of Lucid Dreaming”

The Mystery of the DeYoung Diamond

A mystery red gemstone is in front of you on a table.  Is it a ruby?  Is it a garnet?  Is it a red diamond? 

The DeYoung Red Diamond, held in the Smithsonian’s National Gem Collection in Washington D.C., presents a perplexing case.  Observers originally thought the deep red 5.03-carat gem was a garnet. The large stone was set in a pin and purchased by a Boston jeweler at a flea market.  The jeweler, S. Sydney DeYoung, noticed that stone held up better over time than a garnet should. After some testing, he realized that his stone was actually a rare red diamond. He extracted it from the pin and willed it to the Smithsonian, where it is now on display. Continue reading “The Mystery of the DeYoung Diamond”

It’s 2018. How is Cancer Still a Thing?

Cancer is such a scary word. It comes in many different types, and chances are, it has touched your life in some way, whether through you or a loved one. The lifetime odds that you’ll end up with cancer are about four in ten, and the odds that it takes your life are about one in five. It feels like cancer is everywhere these days, not only in personal stories, but in the fundraisers, celebrity spokespeople, and political speeches on our televisions. In a general sense, this disease can seem daunting to tackle. But on a personal level, one thing is sure – we’ve all seen the toll cancer has on our families and loved ones, and we all aim to prevent it in our own lives. Continue reading “It’s 2018. How is Cancer Still a Thing?”

Are We Prepared for a Large Asteroid Impact?

asteroid near earth object
The astroid (light green orbit) passed very close to Earth (blue orbit). Click to enlarge.

On December 16, 2017 at about 5:00 PM CST, the asteroid 3200 Phaethon passed within 64 million miles of Earth. That’s about 27 times the distance to our Moon. While this may sound like a long distance (indeed, it would take on the order of one million hours to drive that distance in a car!), this particular approach will be our closest encounter with the asteroid for another 75 years. Continue reading “Are We Prepared for a Large Asteroid Impact?”