Is the Electoral College Racist?

The upcoming election got me thinking about the mathematics of the electoral college. Five times in American history, including twice in our still young 21st century, the person who received the most votes didn’t win the most electoral college votes or go on to become president of the United States. That fact was enough for me to understand that the electoral college vote doesn’t always reflect the will of the people. But then I kept thinking: if the electoral college doesn’t represent our popular vote, how else is it misrepresenting the American people?

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Discover COVID Treatments with Your Own Computer

The World Community Grid is an effort to create the world’s largest public computing grid to tackle scientific research projects that benefit humanity. Juan Hindo leads IBM’s World Community Grid team, and she sat down with us to talk about this incredible project. Join us for Ms. Hindo’s talk on October 21st and read our interview with her below:

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Here’s Why Everyone’s Afraid of GMOs

This year has served as a new inflection point in the challenge of gaining broad public acceptance of science. We’re seeing Americans resist guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious disease. But the truth is, this kind of apprehension did not start with COVID-19. Well before anyone had heard of the virus, there was already a growing fear and distrust surrounding the guidance of scientific experts. According to a 2019 poll of 2,000 American adults, for example, 45% reported that they doubt vaccine safety, despite the lack of scientific evidence to support that feeling.

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Why We Shouldn’t Rush Science for COVID-19

COVID-19 is ravaging the world and upending our economy. While politicians scramble to find solutions and everyday people fear for their lives, everyone, whether they know it or not, is looking to one group for answers: the scientific community.

We’re seeing an unprecedented effort among scientists to solve this crisis. They’re working as fast as they can to produce more accurate tests, effective treatments, and a reliable vaccine. But as their accelerated pace has led to some incredible progress, it has also exposed the public to additional risk. 

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The History of the Internet: From ARPANET to 5G

In 1957, after the Soviets’ launched Sputnik 1, the US Congress responded by creating the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA; now DARPA), whose mission it was to build satellites and develop other advanced technologies that would show up the Russians. NASA took over the space projects a year later, and ARPA used their resources on a new project: creating the first computer network.

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Chemotherapy is Poison. No, Literally.

In 2018, an estimated 1.7 million Americans were diagnosed with cancer, and most of these patients, at some point, will likely receive chemotherapy as part of their treatment plan. This anti-cancer therapy is not one drug, but a category of drugs: All of them work by entering cells and stopping them from dividing into new cells, with the hope that they will stop tumors from growing until they fall apart and go away. Chemotherapy drugs cause considerable damage to any cells that are actively dividing in the body, leading to severe side effects including nausea, hair loss, and immunosuppression.

For that reason, we often call these drugs poisons. But there’s more truth to this designation than you might think: the oldest class of chemotherapy drugs actually derived from mustard gas, a poison the Germans used as a chemical weapon during World War I.

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If You’re on Medication, Beware of the Grapefruit Effect

What do the drugs Percocet, Lipitor, and Wellbutrin have in common? It’s not what they do for you – one’s a pain med, another treats heart disease, and the third helps with depression. They’re not made by the same drug company, nor are they regulated the same way by the government. These drugs couldn’t be more different in the way they work, why they work, and how they’ve impacted our healthcare system. So what is it that they all have in common?

They, like many other drugs, can turn on you and cause you harm if you take them with grapefruit juice.

This is called the grapefruit effect.

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How Your Brain Finds your Phone When You Hear it Ringing 

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 “

A Tale of Two Speeds: How Planes Stay in the Air

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.

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Say Goodbye to Trans Fats

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”

On a Small Island in Indonesia: The Last Dragons on Earth

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”

The Hunt for the Elusive Neutrino

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.

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How to Take Great Photos: The Three Pillars of Photography

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”

The Bicycle: A Marvel of Physics and Engineering

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 don’t normally pass through or only stop in for specific reasons, with direct exposure to the sights, sounds, and smells of each local community.

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The Truth about Cannabidiol (As Far as We Know)

“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)”

How Cameras Work: From Lens to Sensor

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”