The ISC Blog

How Candles Work

How Candles Work

“I PURPOSE, in return for the honor you do us by coming to see what are our proceedings here, to bring before you, in the course of these lectures, the Chemical History of a Candle.” In 1860, these words began a series of six lectures by one of the world’s most preeminent physicists, Michael Faraday,… Continue Reading

Running On Your Knees

Running On Your Knees

Let’s say you’re 5’8”, 150lbs, and you run a 10-minute mile. Over the course of a 3-mile run, your knees will experience a compressive load of nearly 3 million pounds. Wait….what? Let’s calculate this. For every pound of body weight, a knee experiences about 4 pounds of pressure when a foot hits the ground.[i] So,… Continue Reading

LSD and the Elephant

LSD and the Elephant

  Humans are wonderful research subjects.  They can think pretty well, and they can speak, too.  Our ability to speak is probably our most prized asset in research, as it is the only way researchers can find out directly how their research subjects are feeling.  For all the good that humans provide in research, however, researchers can… Continue Reading

Decoding Your Genetic History

Decoding Your Genetic History

By Dana Simmons If man with a diabetic grandfather and a woman with a family history of cancer decide that they want to have a child, but they are unsure of whether their families’ health problems may reappear in their children, where can they turn to get answers?  A genetic counselor. Genetic counselors provide expertise… Continue Reading

The Shape of Square Roots

The Shape of Square Roots

By Sean Howe       Today is 4/4/16, and do you know what that means? It’s Square Root Day! Now, since the last Square Root Day was 3/3/09, and the next one won’t be until 5/5/25, you might not have heard of Square Root Day before. So, let me fill you in! A day… Continue Reading

How do Thunderstorms Form?

How do Thunderstorms Form?

By Andy Mayka     We have our next Ask a Scientist question, brought to us by Susan F., a 1st-grade teacher who wanted to know more about how our weather forms.  To answer Susan’s intriguing question, we caught up with Andy Mayka, a mechanical engineer who uses principles of meteorology in his daily work.  … Continue Reading

Can the Brain Ever be “Full”?

Can the Brain Ever be “Full”?

We have answered another great science question posed to us from Ask a Scientist! Roksha, a first-grader, learned about working with a growth mindset at school.  In class, she has discussed how having a growth mindset means focusing on school work and putting forth your best effort.  Roksha’s class talked about how your brain is a… Continue Reading

The Search for Pi: 3.14 and Beyond

The Search for Pi: 3.14 and Beyond

By Katie Elyce Jones     Started 28 years ago at San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum (1), March 14, or Pi Day, has become a classroom tradition. But what is pi? Why do we celebrate it by slicing up circular junk food? And why are mathematicians still calculating digits of pi into the trillions of decimal… Continue Reading

Music: A Therapeutic Tool for Children with Rare Diseases

Music: A Therapeutic Tool for Children with Rare Diseases

Kerry Morgan Hughes is the founder and president of Harmony 4 Hope, a non-profit organization that brings music to hospitalized children with rare diseases.  As the president of Harmony 4 Hope, Kerry’s mission is to mobilize the community to become aware of what it’s like to live with a rare disease, and to support funding… Continue Reading

The Science of Leap Years

The Science of Leap Years

By Ben Marcus 2016 is a leap year.  Don’t forget!  This year, we will have 366 days instead of our usual 365, giving us the enigmatic February 29th.  We add a leap day to the calendar every four years (except for a few exceptions), and its all because of an eternal conflict between the true astronomical… Continue Reading

LIGO Researchers detect Gravitational Waves from Black Hole Collision

LIGO Researchers detect Gravitational Waves from Black Hole Collision

By Avery Thompson In 1915, Albert Einstein proposed one of his most revolutionary ideas, the Theory of General Relativity. According to this theory, massive objects like stars and planets can bend spacetime, warping the very fabric of reality. A year later, he predicted that very large disturbances, like black holes and supernovas, can produce waves… Continue Reading

Familial Dysautonomia Research

Familial Dysautonomia Research

Familial Dysautonomia (FD) is a rare, life-threatening, genetic, neurologic disease that attacks the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls the body functions that you do not have think about, but FD makes these automatic, essential  functions work erratically. FD NOW is a non-proft organization that seeks to advance FD research. Ann Slaw, a… Continue Reading

Why Does Popcorn Pop?

Why Does Popcorn Pop?

Popcorn.  Classic movie snack.  Perfect combination of salty and light, fluffy crunch.  From air popped kernels to caramel corn, and white cheddar kernels to butter lovers, popcorn is the magic snack that explodes out of its shell.  But what makes popcorn pop?  How does this tasty treat, which starts as a hard, little kernel, burst… Continue Reading

Glass: Solid or Liquid?

Glass: Solid or Liquid?

Glass is a solid, right?  Obviously.  You touch it, your finger doesn’t go through.  You stand it upright, it doesn’t collapse.  You whack a baseball through it, and it shatters into a million pieces.  You live your whole life based on knowing glass is a solid.  You install it in your walls to let the… Continue Reading

Randall Munroe, Author of “Thing Explainer,” Comes to 1871 to Talk in Simple Terms

Randall Munroe, Author of “Thing Explainer,” Comes to 1871 to Talk in Simple Terms

Last week, the ISC and our partner, 1871, welcomed NASA engineer-turned #1 best-selling author Randall Munroe to 1871’s Merchandise Mart office to discuss his latest book, Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words.  Munroe, the creator of the wildly popular webcomic XKCD, also signed books for over 200 adoring fans. Munroe, a celebrity among scientists and… Continue Reading

Finding Art in Human Anatomy

Finding Art in Human Anatomy

Science and art share a storied history.  For centuries, practitioners of these two disciplines have borrowed skills, techniques, and knowledge from each other in an effort to enrich their own work.  Scientists have explored art as a means to show the world their discoveries, while artists have examined the universe through a scientific lens to… Continue Reading

Do Caterpillars Have Tongues?

Do Caterpillars Have Tongues?

We have answered the first question posed to us at Ask a Scientist!   Do caterpillars taste? Do they have tongues? Can you taste things without a tongue? -Annika F.   These are great questions, and it’s not just me that thinks so.  Perhaps to your surprise (unless you study bugs for a living), the… Continue Reading

Improving the Soybean, One Gene at a Time

Improving the Soybean, One Gene at a Time

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency of the U.S. government. Illinois is the United States’ top soybean-producing state. In 2014, Illinois farmers produced about 550,000 bushels of soybeans over almost 10 million acres –… Continue Reading

ISC Cocktail Party 2015 Science Demos I : Brainwaves Battle and the Mirror Drawing Task

Thank you to to everyone who came to the Illinois Science Council’s Science Cocktail party!  As you may have noticed, because we thought the food, drinks, music, raffle, and photo booth wouldn’t be enough, we provided you with a healthy dose of science as well.  What would a science cocktail party be without it?  In… Continue Reading

Fiat Physica on the Anniversary of Science and ISC’s Chicago Science Fest

Fiat Physica picked up on ISC’s celebration of the 2,600th anniversary of Science and posted an in-depth article on the May 28th science anniversary date and the man behind it all, Thales of Miletus, credited with being the “father of science.”  Thanks, Fiat Physica, for the shout out to our Chicago Science Fest celebration.  To read more about… Continue Reading

Popular Science Mentions ISC’s Chicago Science Fest

Sarah Fecht, an assistant editor and science journalist for Popular Science, picked up on ISC’s Chicago Science Fest being inspired by the 2,600th anniversary of the birth of science.  She dug up some interesting info about Thales of Miletus, and why he was dubbed the “father of science.”  We can’t say there will be ‘thousands taking to… Continue Reading

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