Does Sprinkles McFluffington have Resting Cat Face?

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?”

Liquid Rocks and Where to Find Them

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”

Be a Superhero with Biomimicry

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”

Gasping for Air in the Colorado Rockies

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”

Chemical Warfare: an Assault on your Nervous System

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”

Truffles, Dogs, Pigs, and Us

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”

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”

Training your Dog with Science

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”