Fire is one of the most destructive forces that can wreak havoc on our communities. Forest fires and house fires threaten tenants, destroy sentimental belongings, and ruin everything in their wake. Although we typically view large fires as unruly and harmful beasts, there is one case in which fire actually rejuvenates the environment: prairie burning. Continue reading “The Science of Prairie Burning”
Why is your cat so judgmental? Sure, you’ve been lounging on the couch stuffing your face and binging on Netflix for like seven hours. But still. A animal who uses their tongue to shower doesn’t get to judge us, right? Nevertheless, our cats seem to direct a thick layer of skepticism and condescension toward us, even though we prepare their meals, clean their litter boxes, and buy them toys filled with catnip. Continue reading “Does Sprinkles McFluffington have Resting Cat Face?”
Summer in Illinois can feel unbearably hot, but how hot is that exactly? At 80ºF, Illinoisans can be found enjoying the sunshine and the reprieve from our winters. At 100ºF, Chicagoans complain incessantly as cautionary heat warnings show up on billboards. But what about, 200ºF? Or 1000ºF? These are the real extreme temperatures, and they are so hot that they literally melt rocks. Believe it or not, parts of our very own planet heat up to these temperatures. Continue reading “Liquid Rocks and Where to Find Them”
Have you ever wanted to build a suit that gives you superhuman capabilities? What would you do if you could store energy in the fabric of your clothes or had gloves with extra sticky fingertips that could help you climb buildings? What if you had special silverware that told you the ingredients in a suspicious looking meal, or nail polish that changed color based on the presence of an air contaminant? Continue reading “Be a Superhero with Biomimicry”
Last year, my friends and I went hiking in the awe-inspiring mountains in Denver, Colorado. The five of us are all active people, but certainly not elite athletes. As we left the car and glanced out at the beginning of the trail, I thought, “That’s barely a mild incline; this will be easy.” We grabbed our water bottles and set out for the first peak. But scarcely halfway to the first resting point, I began to gasp for air. I willed my quadriceps to keep pushing up the trail, but each step left me weary and feeling weak. “How could I possible be this out of shape?” I wondered. After training as a ballet dancer for 20+ years, I had considered myself reasonably physically fit, but this mountain was showing me otherwise. Continue reading “Gasping for Air in the Colorado Rockies”
You’re out protesting for a cause that’s near-and-dear to your heart. You’re used to getting jostled around in the crowd, but this time things are getting out of hand. What began as an afternoon of impassioned speeches interspersed with emphatic chants has devolved into yelling, chaos, and panic. Suddenly, you’re drooling and your muscles are gripped tighter than ever before, paralyzing you. Everything goes out of focus as your pupils constrict. Trying desperately to breathe, you tumble to the ground and succumb to seizures. You’re terrified. Is this the end? Continue reading “Chemical Warfare: an Assault on your Nervous System”
Today, the truffle is one of the world’s most expensive and extravagant foods, reserved for foodies’ special occasions. They present a musky, earthy, pungent aroma, and are often added as a flavor agent or garnish. They’re a delicacy on the dish because they’re notoriously difficult to grow and have baffled farmers for decades. Other crops, such as corn or soy beans, have been monitored, adjusted, and genetically modified extensively to benefit consumers. You can drive all over the Midwest and see rolling fields of corn and soy beans in excess. However, truffles are difficult to monitor during their formation since they grow entirely underground near tree roots, and only in very specific soil conditions.Continue reading “Truffles, Dogs, Pigs, and Us”
This week, Dr. Caroline Szczepanski sat down with the #ISCblog editors to share her exciting research on creating new materials that mimic the superadhesive or super-water resistant properties of natural surfaces. Continue reading “Mimicking Biology with Polymers in the Lab”
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”
Flashes of fiery light. Infinite sparkles. The hardest rock on the scale. A traditional symbol of both love and status.
Diamonds have fascinated people through the ages. Their flashy optic properties captivate the viewer and make us wonder, “What is it about a diamond that makes the light bounce around and sparkle?” Continue reading “Maximizing the Sparkle of a Diamond”
How do you study light from the beginning of the universe? What happened right after the Big Bang? Continue reading “Spotted from Antarctica: the Oldest Light in the Universe”
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. What is genetic counseling, you ask?
Continue reading “Decoding Your Genetic History”
Dogs and their human family members have always shared a special bond. It’s no mystery to a dog owner where the phrase “man’s best friend” came from. While it’s tough to know exactly what your pet is thinking, it is possible to train them and communicate with them to foster a loving relationship. Lynn Meador is an expert dog trainer who works for Constant Companion Dog Training. Lynn’s goal is to work with dogs and their human family members to teach the two species how to communicate with each other and cohabitate in a supportive, loving manner. Continue reading “Training your Dog with Science”
Kerry Morgan Hughes is the founder and president of Harmony 4 Hope, a non-profit organization that brings music therapy to hospitalized children with rare diseases. Continue reading “Music Therapy for Children with Rare Diseases”
Familial Dysautonomia (FD) is a rare, life-threatening, genetic, neurologic disease that attacks the autonomic nervous system. Continue reading “Familial Dysautonomia: A Search for A Cure”
Popcorn. Classic movie snack. Perfect combination of salty and light, fluffy crunch.Continue reading “Why Does Popcorn Pop?”