Sunday, February 9, 2014

Camera, Camera on the wall, who's the hottest of them all?

If you have ever stood next to another human being, then you probably felt some body heat radiating from her. What you might not realize is that everything emits radiation: you, your dog, your chair. Everything! (see this article: http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jun/life-is-rad).

Explainers play in the infrared camera with ice and hot water. Photo courtesy of Sylvia Algire*

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Unnecessary Superpowers: Seeing Polarized Light

“Once you see it, you can’t unsee it”*

Earlier this fall, I conversed with my coworker, Julie, about what superpower we would choose. She mentioned that she and another coworker, Rob, were interested in learning how to see different types of light. I immediately grew excited because this seemed like an attainable superpower. I decided to focus on seeing polarized light.

During my search, I even found a website that listed seeing polarized light as a useless superpower. My search ended with Haidinger’s Brush, the manifestation of how humans see polarized light.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Science Theories in Practice:

As the evolution/creationism debate continues in the US, one argument that creationists repeatedly use is that evolution is just a theory, not something that is actually proven (Creationist arguments: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-misconceptions.html).

Unfortunately, people who make this argument don’t understand evolution (topic for another post) or scientific theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory#Scientific_theories).

First, what is a scientific theory?

A theory is a set of statements that explains a group of observations; usually the statements have been widely tested and accepted. (In physics, either the theory or observations can come first.)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Best in Show!

Scientists often discuss (or bicker) about the order of authorship on papers. “I got a first-author paper published!” or “I was only second author on the paper.”

What do such phrases mean?

The first author on a paper is supposed to be the person who worked the most on the paper. Usually, the researcher who did the research of the paper, not necessarily the person who did the most writing. (See Lead Author, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_author). Often, this is the graduate student who worked on the project.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Three C’s in Science: Correlation, Confound, and Causation

If you want to irritate a scientist, start a loud conversation about how two things are connected and therefore, you know that one causes the other. 

Two ice cream friends!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fight Night: Tenure vs. Adjunct Professors

Normal Job: you are offered a contract with a salary and benefits. Usually, you can get fired at almost any time, but you have some legal protections to prevent you being treated terribly.

In academia, things are not so normal. The two extremes are tenure and adjunct. This post is a short explanation of the two types along with links.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First place-Physics!

For the average high school student, the science requirements consist of one of the following sequences:

9th grade- Biology; 10th grade- Chemistry; 11th grade-Physics
9th grade-Earth Science; 10th grade- Biology; 11th grade- Chemistry; 12th grade- Physics

The original order was developed because educators thought it was the easiest way to teach science. Each course requires successively more difficult mathematics. Students could learn Biology more easily than Chemistry or Physics.