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”
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 never pass through or only stop in for specific reasons, with direct exposure to the sights, sounds, and smells of each local community. Continue reading “The Bicycle: A Marvel of Physics and Engineering”
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”
Ironically, despite the horrors of war, armed conflict has a way of advancing medicine. Gruesome injuries sustained on the battlefield provide opportunities for surgeons to experiment and test new approaches for treatment. During World War II for example, blood poisoning, bronchitis, and other infectious diseases contracted by soldiers created a demand for broad spectrum antibiotics, which encouraged British scientists to find new ways to produce penicillin on a mass scale.
Sometimes, weapons of war themselves have applications other than mass destruction. Consider hydrazine (N2H4), a chemical compound that received renewed recognition by the military-industrial complex in 1937 Germany. Continue reading “The Strange History of Antidepressants”
Hydrogen-powered cars are a promising technology. They are clean, could potentially be powered by renewable energy, and plus, they just sound like the future, right?
Hydrogen-powered cars, also known as fuel cell vehicles, are a type of electric vehicle: they use electricity to run a motor that turns the wheels. The car contains pressurized tanks of hydrogen and it passes the gas through a fuel cell to generate the electricity to run the motor. You can think of a fuel cell as a kind of electric generator, but instead of running on gasoline, it uses hydrogen as fuel. Continue reading “How Soon Will We All Have Hydrogen-Powered Cars?”
Imagine a computer that doesn’t use electrical devices to process information but instead uses individual atoms. These computers, called quantum computers, have the potential to solve all kinds of complex problems, from cancer to street traffic, which regular computers struggle to do. While these computers are still in development, and have been for a couple of decades, the first rudimentary versions have recently started to take form. Continue reading “A DIY Guide to Building a Quantum Computer”
It’s estimated that companies and governments will spend over $124 billion dollars this year on security measures to protect your data. But with a disguise, the right piece of specialized equipment (which is basically a USB stick on steroids that I could purchase for $49.99 during a Christmas sale), and about 10 minutes, I, a 20-year old college student, can make all that security worthless.
The problem with only investing in network security measures is this: While most data today is stored in a cloud, the cloud isn’t a real place, and your data has to be stored somewhere. If I can physically touch the computer where your data is stored, I win. Continue reading “I Can Steal Your Data in Less Than 10 Minutes (With a Privacy-Back Guarantee)”
If you reach into your back pocket or bag, a small device likely hides in the depths. Perhaps you’re holding it right now, using its screen to read these words. Of course, I’m referring to the cell phone which 92% of Americans now possess. This tiny device has utterly revolutionized our concept of communication and catapulted us into a new digital age in only a few decades—but also into an era of digital insecurity as millions per year are hacked through smartphone apps or other security compromises. As a result, industries and researchers have begun to explore the possibility of using fundamental laws of physics to create an impenetrable communication system. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Quantum—A Revolution in Communication”
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”
From diamond rings to sapphire earrings to garnet necklaces, people have gotten into the habit of wearing and cherishing gemstones. Maybe it’s their rich colors, their sharp facets, or the way the light glimmers when it hits them; natural crystals are definitely some of Earth’s most extraordinary materials. Somehow, along with all its craggy rocks and chalky surfaces, nature finds ways to arrange atoms into (nearly) perfect patterns, and the result is the smooth, clear crystals we love to wear. But gems aren’t special just because of their aesthetic appeal. Because of their purity and the way they shine, scientists covet them for use in the laboratory too! Continue reading “Surprising Uses for Gemstones”
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”
This Fourth of July, many families will be wrapping up their festivities by going to see a blazing, brilliant firework show. No matter if it’s your local community or Navy Pier in Chicago, people of all ages marvel at the stunning displays of color and sound. Firework displays have become very sophisticated, and every year you many notice some shapes that you have not seen the previous year. Have you ever wondered how those shapes and colors are made? Well, you have science to thank, particularly chemistry. Continue reading “The Science of Fireworks”
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”
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”
What does this… Continue reading “Making Cheese Taste Gouda”
On December 3rd, 1942, under the stands at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, scientists produced a breakthrough that would change the course of history. There, on that day, physicist Enrico Fermi and his team from the university initiated the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction, bringing forth the dawn of the nuclear age. Continue reading “How a Pile of Uranium Changed the World”
Today is 4/4/16, and do you know what that means? It’s Square Root Day! Continue reading “The Shape of Square Roots”
Started in 1988 at San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum, March 14, or Pi Day, has become a classroom tradition. But what is pi? Why do we celebrate it by slicing up circular junk food? And why are mathematicians still calculating digits of pi into the trillions of decimal places?
Continue reading “The Search for Pi: 3.14 and Beyond”
2020 is a leap year. Don’t forget! In 2020, we will have 366 days instead of our usual 365, giving us the enigmatic February 29th. Didn’t we just have a leap year in 2016? Why do we have leap years at all? Continue reading “Why Do We Have Leap Years?”