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.

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”

Navigating the Space between Art and Science

As a high school student, I had a love of technical subjects, such as physics, math and computer programming. I also spent a great deal of time in art classes. I was blessed with a generous and dedicated art teacher (thank you, Leona Mackey).

Those interests overlapped for me in photography, which I dove into deeply. While shooting, I immersed myself in my senses. When composing, I leveraged intuition and critical thinking. And in the darkroom, I practiced my analytical thinking skills as I developed and printed my photographs. Continue reading “Navigating the Space between Art and Science”

Dr. Alice Hamilton: a Hoosier Woman Who Established an Entirely New Field of Life-Saving Science in Early 1900s America

Here in the 21st century, we take for granted some pretty amazing achievements in public health that make our lives safer and better.  These modern miracles of science, technology, and public health include vaccines, car safety, food safety, the strides we’ve made in decreasing infant and maternal mortality, infectious disease control, cavity prevention using fluoride, and more.    Continue reading “Dr. Alice Hamilton: a Hoosier Woman Who Established an Entirely New Field of Life-Saving Science in Early 1900s America”

Earth Day Special: Solving Global Problems with Local Solutions – Matone de Chiwit

The world suffers from a plethora of natural and man-made disasters. From destructive floods to violent conflicts, society is faced with complex global challenges that can only be solved through collaboration. Politicians and the media often focus on short-term collaboration for discreet goals, such as electing a specific politician or encouraging donations to a specific relief effort. But I believe we must consider the long-term implications of our actions, not only within the context of our immediate environment, but also for the larger global community.

In my home country of Kenya, 17 million (43%) people do not have access to clean drinking water. 70% of this population lives within a rural context. It takes a child an average of 3 hours to fetch one liter of water, which is filled with pathogens and other disease-spreading microorganisms. Continue reading “Earth Day Special: Solving Global Problems with Local Solutions – Matone de Chiwit”

Earth Day Special: Gray-Space Recycling in the Laboratory

Have you ever wondered about those items that can’t be recycled in a traditional recycling stream? Like chip bags or used pens? What about items in the workplace? Every year, 6 million pounds of non-durable plastics are discarded and end up in landfills or as litter on the streets (67% of street litter in the San Francisco Bay Area is made up of food and beverage packaging), or worse off, end up in the Pacific trash vortex a pool of trash that is leaching chemicals and now even has described its own ecosystem called the Plastisphere. Continue reading “Earth Day Special: Gray-Space Recycling in the Laboratory”

The Citizen Scientist

Ah, the scientist. Wearer of the lab coat, gatherer of the data, publisher of findings both predictable and extraordinary.

It can be said that the scientist is the person who asks why and where, and analyzes data to come to a conclusion about a natural phenomenon on planet Earth or beyond. What scientists study ranges from biology (someone has to count those pesky invasive Asian carp in the Chicago river!) to physics (which explains why crazy uncle Gerald runs out to New Mexico with his telescope every year!). They are everywhere in our collective minds and media, ranging from Bill Nye to any number of frequent talking heads on a Discovery Channel special.  

Do these individuals need to express an unrivaled passion for a science to participate in the discipline?? Absolutely yes. But does one need a degree in the sciences to help out? Absolutely not. Continue reading “The Citizen Scientist”

How to Read Like a Scientist

It may come as some surprise, but scientists don’t spend all day mixing chemicals, measuring reactions, and hunching over open flames. To ask the right questions and design cutting-edge experiments to answer them, they have to do a lot of reading. Scientists may read about many different topics, including techniques for executing an experiment, the latest findings in their specific field, or communications from outside fields to broaden their horizons. Most of what they’re reading, scientific literature, is filled with numerical data, jargon, and what, quite frankly, looks like gibberish to non-scientists. So when people have to rely on mainstream news for their science, how can anyone expect them to figure out which scientific advancements are on the verge of completion versus those that are just bunk? Let’s take a look.
Continue reading “How to Read Like a Scientist”

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”

Improving the Soybean, One Gene at a Time

Illinois is the United States’ top soybean-producing state. In 2014, Illinois farmers produced about 550,000 bushels of soybeans over almost 10 million acres – a swath of land almost the size of Switzerland!  But, with a global health crisis, a growing population, and a changing climate threatening our land, our state’s soybean crops are under threat.  Fortunately, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in partnership with several universities, is trying to find ways to increase the strength, nutritional value, and viability of our most valuable crops, including soybeans, so that they continue to prosper well into the future. Continue reading “Improving the Soybean, One Gene at a Time”