Distances to stars are huge. That should not surprise us. Space is big. Unbelievably big. How do we know the distances between our sun (a star) and those other stars in the night sky?Continue reading “How Far is ‘Far’ When it Comes to Stars”
It’s Monday morning and your about to head out to catch your bus for work. You’re in a bit of a rush because, when you were getting dressed, you couldn’t find a two matching socks and you had to dig through the clean laundry still sitting in your dryer to find a matching pair. As you approach the door, you reflexively pat your pockets, checking for everything you need to bring with you. Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Cell phone? Your phone is not there. Continue reading “How Your Brain Finds your Phone When You Hear it Ringing “
Last spring, my wife and I took a trip to Bali for our honeymoon. While the trip was an absolutely incredible, once-in-a-lifetime adventure, the journey to our destination, as I described previously, was not a walk in the park. After 24 hours in transit through 13 time zones, where daytime accelerated and nighttime shrouded the plane in darkness for the majority of the trip, paired with my inability to sleep on planes, I was starting to regret ever getting a passport in the first place. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Speeds: How Planes Stay in the Air”
Today, you can find hydrogenated butter with canola oil right next to trans fat-free margarine. Partially-hydrogenated soybean oil a few aisles down from Omega-3 fatty acids. Your friends tell you that you can eat fat as long as you avoid sugar, while doctors tell you to avoid some fats because they’ll clog your arteries and cause heart disease. Yes, the world of fats is as complex as it is diverse. Continue reading “Say Goodbye to Trans Fats”
Halfway across the Earth, nestled deep within the Indonesian archipelago, lie two small, tropical islands unlike any others on the planet. From the United States, it takes at least three planes, a boat, and a couple of days to get there. By the time you dock at the main pier on one of these islands, you realize that you’ve stepped foot into an entirely different world. There is no technology – no cell service, no internet, no cars; not even paved roads. It’s just you, a guide, and the wilderness around you. Continue reading “On a Small Island in Indonesia: The Last Dragons on Earth”
About 100 trillion neutrinos just passed through your body a second ago. Did you feel them? Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe, but they’re also the most elusive. They can pass through just about anything, including your body, without being noticed. Now, imagine if we could harness this power. Imagine the possibilities if you could control a particle that can pass through anything undetected.
While an intriguing idea, it’s this exact characteristic that kept neutrinos from being detected for nearly half a century after physicist James Chadwick first theorized their existence back in 1914. Continue reading “The Hunt for the Elusive Neutrino”
If you ever decide your smartphone camera isn’t cutting it and you want to buy a standalone DSLR camera, you’ll find that you have a lot more control over how your photographs come out. DSLRs come loaded with lots of features and settings that contribute to the overall look of your photographs, all of which are either controlled automatically by your phone or not available at all. Use these features the right way, and you can capture images your phone never could. Continue reading “How to Take Great Photos: The Three Pillars of Photography”
Oh, how I love riding my bicycle! It has gotten me all over Chicago, all along the lakefront from the far south side to the north suburbs, through the college neighborhoods and the ethnic neighborhoods, residential ones and industrial ones, and through downtown. My bicycle has enabled me to explore parts of the city I never pass through or only stop in for specific reasons, with direct exposure to the sights, sounds, and smells of each local community. Continue reading “The Bicycle: A Marvel of Physics and Engineering”
“CBD.” Perhaps you’ve seen these letters shining bright, in green neon, on a store window in a seedy part of the city, fronting a shop with glass vials and trinkets lining the shelves and creepy men behind the counter. Or, maybe you took a stroll downtown on a sunny day and walked into CVS or Walgreens, only to see these same letters on small boxes lining the shelves next to the vitamins. You might be wondering what’s going on – how could the same compound be proudly sold in shady hemp shops and mainstream convenience stores at the same time? What is this confounded chemical? Continue reading “The Truth about Cannabidiol (As Far as We Know)”
Everyone has a digital camera on their phone these days, but you, the aspiring photographer, might be thinking it’s time to summon the courage and upgrade to a higher-end camera. But if you browse the cameras on Amazon, you might notice that with higher quality comes more and more specs – odd strings of letters and numbers that make no sense to you. “What in all heck do ISO, megapixels, and f-stop mean?” you ask. Then, you head to a store to try one out. You gravitate towards one that’s within your price range, you pick it up, and you snap a picture. But as you press down on the shutter button, you hear a series of clicks and whirs. “I thought this thing was digital! What are all of those sounds?” you continue wondering. Then, you suddenly realize you know a lot less about how cameras work than you thought. Continue reading “How Cameras Work: From Lens to Sensor”
Last year, the genetic testing company 23andMe announced they will start testing for mutations in the BRCA genes, the ones that predict whether a woman will develop breast cancer, with surprising accuracy. A year prior, the FDA approved 23andMe genetic tests for other complex conditions such as Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Celiac disease. Continue reading “What Your 23andMe Results Mean for Your Health”
Stephen Crohn, an artist from New York, lost a lot to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. For more than a decade, he watched his boyfriend, Jerry Green, as well as nearly all of his friends slowly grow sicker and perish from this mysterious illness. His passion for his art dried up, and survivors’ guilt consumed him.
But the one thing he didn’t lose during this scourge was his own life. The reason he survived was not luck, however. Rather, he made it through because he carried a rare genetic mutation that made him virtually immune to HIV. Continue reading “How Genetic Mutations Cause — And Prevent — Disease”
One weekend in early May, I endured one of the most confusing experiences in my life: a two-legged, 24-hour flight across 13 time zones. I took off from Chicago on Saturday evening, and 24 hours later, I arrived in Bali on Monday morning. In that 24 hour period, I ate two dinners and two breakfasts, while lunchtime didn’t exist. I couldn’t tell when I was supposed to be hungry or go to sleep, so I ate when food was placed in front of me and I tried to sleep when I got tired. Continue reading “Why Jet Lag Sucks: Your Body Clock and You”
Editor’s Note: This is Part II of Ben Marcus’ series on the science of sugar. For Part I, click here.
When was the last time you saw a processed food in the grocery store with real sugar in it? Odds are, its’ been a while. Over the past few decades, most food manufacturers have decided to forgo sugar for artificial sweeteners to save costs. Continue reading “What is Corn Syrup, Anyways?”
Don’t be fooled – the calendar says the Spring equinox is on the March 20th, but in Chicago, we come closest to equal amounts of daylight and darkness on the 17th. I thought this oddity would have an easy explanation, but after a few hours or research, l learned there’s a lot to it. Continue reading “Chicago Gets a Head Start on the Vernal Equinox!”
Sugar is everywhere. Kids crave it, pastry chefs live by it, and dieters avoid it like the plague. It comes naturally in our fruits, it’s added to our drinks, and it’s found in some form in virtually every packaged item at the grocery store. Some of us live by it, and for many of us, it does not love us back. But no matter what you say about it, sugar and its relatives are important for our health and well-being. Continue reading “The Reason Sugar Tastes So Darn Good”
Since the 1960s, the United States government has been shooting lasers at the moon. No, this is not a covert government conspiracy or a relic of the Cold War. It is NASA’s attempt to prove Einstein’s theories right.
Let me explain.
On December 3rd, 1942, under the stands at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, scientists produced a breakthrough that would change the course of history. There, on that day, physicist Enrico Fermi and his team from the university initiated the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction, bringing forth the dawn of the nuclear age. Continue reading “How a Pile of Uranium Changed the World”
“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.” Continue reading “How Candles Work”
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 scientists can find out directly how their research subjects are feeling. For all the good that humans provide in research, however, researchers can only do so much with their brethren. It would be unreasonably risky or unethical to perform certain experiments on their fellow humans. This is where animals come in. Continue reading “LSD and the Elephant”