On a muggy day in June of 2018, after two and a half weeks at sea, the Research Vessel Endeavor’s crew, the science team, and I pulled into our last study site off the coast of Virginia. The weather was warm and overcast; the sea was calm. Dr. Miksis-Olds had just given the word to “pop the lander,” which meant to release the equipment anchored on the ocean floor. All us scanned the immediate vicinity, looking for the orange floats attached to the underwater microphones and other equipment. The equipment’s 20-minute journey to the surface was a waiting game we had performed successfully six other times: finding and retrieving the equipment, downloading the data it collected, and plunging the equipment back to the ocean floor to continue collecting data.Continue reading “The Art and Science of Sound in The Sea”
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?”
Machine learning impacts our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not. It determines what we see while scrolling through Facebook, what we see when we visit a company’s website, and how we interact with brands on the internet. You see ads based on your personal research, the key words used in your searches, and your individual preferences.
What most people may not realize though is that machine learning impacts parts of your life you may not have even considered, such as your finances, your healthcare, and even the ways in which we communicate with one another.Continue reading “Machine Learning & How It Affects Our Daily Lives”
As I stood, gazing intently down near my feet, I felt the water flow past my knees. Even with my waders on, I could feel its cool relief in the summer sun. As I looked into the water, I caught a glimpse of a dark, circular shape under the muddy stream bed. I reached down to grab it, and as I pulled, I realized that it was not going to budge. What I thought was a lone bike tire was actually still attached to an entire bike, buried under the muck. I called my teammate, undergraduate researcher Sam Fredrickson, over and we traced the pattern of the metal crossbars and found a place to grip. With our combined effort, we pulled the frame free from under the layers of mud that had accumulated over it.Continue reading “A Day in the Life of a Garbage Scientist”
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 “
Ah, a day at the beach. You find the perfect spot near the water’s edge, spread out your towel, slather on some sunscreen, and settle in with a cool drink. You spot a sparkling white boat bobbing in the distance, full of relaxed passengers tanning in the sun.
While this scene is full of idyllic summer imagery, is it also full of lurking danger? I’m not talking about sharks, but rather something much smaller: both the sunscreen you put on and the paint on the boat contain nanoparticles that provide important benefits but can harm both you and the environment around you.Continue reading “Na-No Thank You? Exploring the Dangers of Commercial Nanoparticles”
Medical technology is rapidly advancing, with new technologies emerging faster than we can appreciate. Technologies such as liquid biopsies, 3D fluorescence imaging, and heart-in-a-box are just a sampling of the very cool advances we’ve seen in medicine in the past decade. Liquid biopsies can detect cancer in a patient’s blood, giving clinicians a reliable, non-invasive, and informative clinical tool to use to monitor cancer growth over time. Three dimensional imaging makes it easier to see what’s going on in your tissues. And heart-in-a-box allows donor hearts to live longer before transplanting them, giving time for hearts to travel far distances to patients in need. But, a tool that’s not so new yet is still particularly fascinating in its potential medical applications is the 3D printer.Continue reading “Artificial Organs? How We Can Get There with 3D Printing”
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”
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”
Everyone keeps telling you to get a flu shot. There’s a good reason for it.Continue reading “Do I Need A Flu Shot?”
You’re in the midst of a headache, temples throbbing, and you rush to the drug store for medication only to have your headache intensify because you can’t decide whether you should get Tylenol or its generic form. Does that sound familiar? Ever dreaded having to pick up an expensive prescription and then been shocked to receive a generic version of it at a lower or no co-pay? (What a nice surprise!) Or, are you wondering why sometimes there is no generic alternative of your medicine available? Read on and hopefully, by the end of this article, you have all these questions answered.Continue reading “Brand-Name Drugs vs. Generics: What’s the Difference?”
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”
All of us have gone through the torment of high school—the growing pains and the mood swings and the cliques. It turns out that during development the cells of your body also go through something similar to high school. Once a new cell is created in the developing embryo, the cell undergoes a process called cellular differentiation, where it responds to varying cues to choose what kind of cell it’s going to be, or rather how it should respond to the incessant “what do you want to be when you grow up” question. The process of cellular differentiation in embryonic development is very similar to school—the cell enters the process naïve and innocent about the world, and leaves with an idea of who and what it wants to be.
Aluminum might seem like an odd choice for a fuel. When you think of aluminum, you probably think of aluminum cans and foil. But this dependable metal has a few tricks up its sleeve. Continue reading “Aluminum as Fuel? It’s Not Science Fiction”
Picture a fighter pilot commanding a plane as they engage in aerial combat. When you think of the greatest threats to the pilot’s safety, you probably think of attacks from other aircraft or the risk of crashing the plane as they swiftly maneuver it between various obstacles. But what about the potential for harm coming from inside the pilot’s own body? For example, the stress the pilot is feeling might give him or her a heart attack. Similarly, their severe dehydration could lead to heat stroke. Both of these conditions would spell disaster for the pilot. While often overshadowed by the inherent hazards of weapons and machinery, these ailments pose a very serious threat to the safety of military personnel. But how can we know if someone is dehydrated or enduring dangerous levels of stress while they’re thousands of feet in the air? Continue reading “Blood, Sweat, and… Saliva: How Our Bodily Fluids Can Save Us”
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”
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?”
As director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Seth Magle, Ph.D., looks out for the wildlife that lives in our cities. Continue reading “Studying Urban Wildlife in Chicago”
It seems like every year there’s a new miracle food. First it was kale, then it was açai bowls, and now kombucha (pronounced come-BOOCH-uh) is the new health craze. You may have heard friends or colleagues touting its benefits: “It prevents cancer!” “It fights off colds!” “It’s the fountain of youth!” Maybe you’ve recently hopped on the kombucha train, or have been drinking it for years, or, if you’re honest, maybe you have absolutely no idea what it is. (It’s a fermented tea drink, in case you were wondering).
Well, you’re in the right place! Let’s learn more about the science behind kombucha. We’ll explore how it is made and how it interacts with our bodies. And spoiler alert: while it’s probably not the fountain of youth, evidence suggests it could be really, really good for us.
You may have heard that some little birds, the Piping Plovers, are making big waves at Montrose Beach this summer in Chicago, as well as other beaches around the country. Piping Plovers are federally endangered in the Great Lakes region, with only about 80 nesting pairs. A Jersey Shore concert series was canceled this year to protect a nest that was found in the area, and just the other day, they cancelled the summer music fest Mamby, which was scheduled to happen at Montrose Beach in late August. Why all the fuss over one species of shorebird? Continue reading “Piping Plovers: Conservation in Action”