Friday, September 20, 2013

This Week's Sci-light

I love writing this blog--I get to search the internet for interesting and breaking news and then pass it on to an eager audience.  What could get better than that! 

Perhaps I've found an answer in an article on ScienceNews for Kids by Sid Perkins called Cool Jobs:  Repellent Chemistry.  As part of a STEM initiative funded by the Northrop Grumman Foundation, this article explores first nature's use of repellent surfaces through chemistry and physical structure and then highlights three scientists who are researching applications of nature's strategies. 
Photo credit:  iStockphoto
The lotus leaf is a perfect example of both chemistry and structure to accomplish the task of repelling water because of it's waxy leaves (that's chemistry) and the very tiny bumps on the leaf's surface (that's structure).  But reading on, I'm amazed at the potential applications and discoveries being made.  Whether you're a student of science or a teacher of science, this fascinating article will make you want to know more.  And knowing more is what Sci-curious is all about!

Friday, September 13, 2013

This Week's Sci-light

On June 28, 2013 I wrote a Sci-light on the Voyager I--a spacecraft launched in 1977 the same year Star Wars was released.  This amazing spacecraft seems to share a common ancestor with the Energizer bunny. 
Image obtained from NASA 2002 shows one of twin Voyager spacecrafts, launched in 1977.
It's still going!  Where do you end up when you just keep going?  Apparently, "where no machine has gone before!"  Ok...I'm done.

But truly, Voyager has now gone where no machine has gone before.  In a news conference on Thursday, NASA scientists announced that on August 25, 2012 the month NASA's rover, Curiosity, landed on Mars, Voyager slipped out of the Sun's empire, the heliosphere, and passed into interstellar space.

While the New York Times article, "In a Breathtaking First, NASA's Voyager 1 Exits the Solar System" by Brooks Barnes introduces you to the Voyager 1, the NASA team, and what's next for the spacecraft, the stark comparison between the past and the present caught my attention.  In this story, a spacecraft with 8 track tapes, transmitters with the power of a refrigerator light bulb, and computers with a fraction of the memory in a low-end iPhone took us to where we have only imagined, and Lawrence J. Zottarelli, a 77 year old retired NASA engineer, wrote precise and expert computer coding to increase the amount of data we received at the boundary.

Sometimes it's easy in the search for the new and better technology to forget the steps taken before and disregard them as outdated.  But just as we would not be without our ancestors, so the technology of today would not exist with out the innovations from before. 

So my hat's off to the "imagineers" of yesterday who remind us of the ever circling spiral of time that brings the past to the present and into the future!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TED talk UCSD Style

Just a quick post for today. 

Check out this talk "The Real Scientists of San Diego: Kathryn Furby at TECxUCSD," who highlights what it is to be a scientist and how scientists can communicate who they are and what they do more to increase effectiveness. 

Would love your comments on this one!

Friday, September 6, 2013

This Week's Sci-light

A New Twist on Place-based Education...

 I was surfing the internet for organizations that support students interested in STEM when I came across an article by Judy Lin entitled, "UCLA Engineers work to keep Watts Towers from cracking."  For those of you not from LA, the Watts Towers are an iconic monument in south LA, created by an Italian immigrant, Simon Rodia, between 1921 and 1954.  For more history about the artist and the tower, visit the Watts Tower website.  (Even reading the history of this website will be interesting.)
From UCLA Today, August 21,2013
The tallest tower rises to the height of 99.5 feet and all are an intricate lattice work of concrete and steel ornamented with broken glass, sea shells, and tiles.  But there are problems.  This is where art meets science.  The towers are cracking and some of the ornamentation is falling away.  Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), that preserves the towers, has been working on a solution.  But repairs have not held.  A grant from the National Science Foundation brought in a team of UCLA engineers, Robert Nigbor and Ertugrul Taciroglu along with undergraduate and graduate students, to collect data and analyze the reasons for the problems. 

The referenced article from UCLA Today outlines the instruments used and documented tremors detected in the structure as well as recorded changes in even the properties of the tower that occur simply from sunrise to sunset. 

Beyond the fascination with history and the science of conservation, this article reminds me that the application of science is not just for far away places like the Great Barrier Reef or Yellowstone National Park.  It is right in our backyards and neighborhoods, available for brilliant minds who like the coal miner and construction worker by day and artist by night, Simon Rodia, can see potential in the 'found items' of our environments.

Use your knowledge of science, engineering, technology or mathematics to advance and protect your place in the world!