Thursday, December 27, 2012

Snow Blindness

Looking out upon the white snowy landscape resulting from winter storm Euclid, I got to thinking about snow blindness. Can the average person get snow blindness? What is it? Is it permanent? 

Snow blindness, or sunburn of the eye's surface, happens at high altitudes where incoming ultraviolet rays reflect off snow to burn the corneas of unprotected eyes. Like sunburn, the problem isn't noticed until hours later when eyes are teary or bloodshot. With severe exposures, eyes feel gritty and may swell shut. Fortunately, corneas usually heal in 12 - 48 hours and painful snow blindness rarely causes permanent eye damage. 

Bottom line = wear winter eye protection (especially in high altitudes) and enjoy the snow! It's my favorite time of the year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pupillometry - The Eyes Have It

Since I spend a lot more time in the dark looking at holiday displays in December than other months, it got me thinking about the way our pupils open and close.

This is called pupillometry and it isn't just limited to adjustments to light. Pupils also dilate when a person is anxious, excited, and working on math problems! 

In fact, the pupil serves as a sensitive indicator of cognitive, emotional, and sensory responses in psychological research. The eyes really do serve as windows to the soul or at least the brain. For more details on pupillometry, check it out.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Twinkling Lights

In many countries, December is a time of twinkling lights, holiday decorations, and good cheer. Some city displays seem to challenge the night sky.

I have to admit, I love holiday lights especially the white ones. Even knowing about wavelengths, the way light travels, and all the rest of the science doesn't dim the magical feeling that a light display offers after dark.

Ever wonder how those lights would look on a large scale? A NASA-NOAA satellite gives us a much broader view of the Earth at night. Check it out.  

Earth at night

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Red Tide Blooms or HABS

It seems odd to be thinking of beaches and swimming as people in the northern hemisphere get ready for freezing temperatures and snow. But, if your holiday vacation plans extend to the sunny beaches off Australia, you might want to check out the region's red tide updates. Last week several blood red blooms were spotted off southern beaches causing beach closings to the dismay of locals and visitors alike.

But what causes red tides? Algae. Lots of microscopic plants (thousands/millions of cells per milliliter) that bloom at the same time. Scientists refer to them as "harmful algal blooms" or HABS. Red tides can last a few days to months depending on nutrients, sunlight, water temp., wind, etc. Some algal species produce powerful toxins that can kill fish, shellfish, mammals, and are unhealthy to humans. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and other organizations track these algal blooms. 

So, if hot southern destinations are on your schedule in December/January 
(lucky you!), see if they are susceptible to red tides. You might want to enjoy the swimming pools instead.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What Has Curiosity Discovered?

Just when you thought November was just about turkey, stuffing and leftovers, the NASA Curiosity rover's SAM (sample analysis at Mars) on-board chemistry lab sends back data that gets lead scientist, John Grozinger, Ph.D., to sit up and take notice. John was so excited about the martian soil data that he made an announcement...sort of. "This is going to be one for the history books; it looks really good," Grozinger said.
However, like all good science, "it" needs to be checked and re-checked before a formal scientific announcement is made. What is it? NASA won't say just yet, but SAM detects organic compounds, so most speculation is leaning toward some sort of organic matter that indicates past life on the Red Planet.

Keep tuned! In the mean time, what do you think the discovery is all about? 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Science of Beauty

It's true that what humans view as beautiful is subjective and changes between cultures and over time. TV, movies, and commercials also show the latest in beauty products and beautiful people. A lot depends on what our families looked like too. 

But, how about the science behind the creams, shampoos, chapsticks, lip sticks, sunscreens, age spot faders, wrinkle reducers, mascaras, and hundreds of other age defying, beauty improving products? 

Most beauty products depend on surfactants, dyes, and oils to add moisture to the skin. Herbal ingredients are added to make the process more organic. The overall industry is broad and deep, but if you want to investigate the science of beauty further, check out

A NY Times article in February 2012, described how make-up affects attraction. Surprisingly, women who wore more cosmetics, were viewed as more trustworthy and successful than those with little or no make-up. Those who slathered it on or chose odd/wrong cosmetic shades were viewed as untrustworthy. Check it out. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Physics of Surfing

Have you ever thought about the physics of ocean movement? Lots of variables play into a wave's size and speed. Imagine studying physics at the University of Hawaii and doing homework on a surfboard. Some people have all the fun! 

Watch this video where Assaf Azouri, a graduate student in physical oceanography at the Univ. of Hawaii Manoa teaches Jorge Cham, PhD, physicist and creator of PhD Comics, about the physics of surfing.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In The Pilot's Seat - Space Shuttle Discovery

360 degree pan
The retired U.S. Space Shuttle fleet is being sent to museums around the country, but you can still have the feeling of sitting in the flight deck from home. In fact, you can pan 360 degrees in Discovery's flight deck for a bird's eye view of what astronauts had to check and re-check prior to and upon landing the space shuttle. Think you can handle it? Try zooming in and panning in every direction. Awesome! 
For more information about NASA Space Shuttles' final destinations go to the NASA website

Friday, October 26, 2012

Open Access Science

There has been a lot of talk about open access to the scientific literature for students and the public. Free vs. steep journal access fees also come into it. I recently saw a fairly simple explanation of the reasons for open access to scientific information by physicist/cartoonist, Jorge Cham and PhD Comics. Check it out.

Monday, October 15, 2012

X-rays - 1940 - How Little We Knew

I recently found this old black and white video of a scientist explaining x-rays to a non-science audience. It's interesting and a bit scary to realize how little people knew about the positive and negative effects of radiation at that time. It makes me realize that we must be cautious when using seemingly fantastic new technologies. I love trying new science tools, methods, and materials more than most, but this video is a reminder that hazards and side effects can be unknown until additional research is done.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cool Science Factoids

1. There are 62,000 miles of blood vessels in the human body (end to end they would circle the earth 2.5 times)

2. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on Earth (>2000 km long) 

3. The risk of a person being struck by a falling meteorite is one chance every 9,300 years

4. A thimbleful of a neutron star would weigh over 100 million tons

5. A typical hurricane produces the energy of 8,000 one megaton bombs

6. Blood sucking hookworms inhabit 700 million people worldwide.  Yuck!

7. The highest speed ever achieved on a bicycle is 166.94 mph, by Fred Rompelberg

8. We can produce laser light a million times brighter than sunshine

9. 65% of those with autism are left handed

10. The combined length of the roots of a Finnish pine tree is over 30 miles

Want more little know science facts to dazzle and annoy your friends? Go to Listverse for the rest of the list.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In The Greater Scheme of Things

Mission mgr Jennifer Trosper with Curiosity model
I recently read an interview with the NASA engineer, Adam Steltzer, who helped design the Mars lander, Curiosity. This rock band artist turned astronomer talked about what the entire mission means to regular folks. Rather than trying to sum up his eloquent response to the question, "Why does Curiosity Matter?" you can check out the article and YouTube video at

Monday, September 17, 2012

For Middle School Science Teachers

Density tower
Teaching seems to be getting more difficult. Here is something to help.

The National Science Teachers Assoc. (NSTA) and the American Chemical Society invite middle school teachers nationwide to connect to a free webinar on middle school chemistry. Offered on October 4, 2012 by the NSTA Learning Center, this third training in a series will cover basic chemistry concepts on density. Student activities and molecular animations will be usable in the classroom. Spread the word to all the middle school science teachers you know! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bats LIVE!

Think bats are cool? Do they amaze you with their flying skills or remind you of the latest vampire movie?

Either way, you are in luck! On September 18, 2012, the U.S. Forest Service is co-sponsoring a live webcast from Bracken Cave near San Antonio, Texas, home of the world’s largest bat colony. 
The 20 million inhabitants of Bracken Cave consume some 250,000 pounds of insects each night. 

As part of BatsLIVE! a free education program that provides bat information and research, children will get a chance to understand bats better. A teacher webinar on caves and karst is set for Oct. 11, 2012. The programs are free and teachers can register at

The BatsLive! webinar will help students see millions of the Mexican free-tailed bats take flight from the cave. The webcast also will offer information on these and other bat species, predators that wait for the nightly emergence of the bats, and other threats to bats, including the deadly white-nose syndrome.

Dennis Krusac, a biologist with the Forest Service’s Threatened and Endangered Species program explains, “Bats are primary predators of night-flying insects, consuming enormous quantities of agricultural and forest pests and reducing the need for chemical pesticides.”

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Mars as Art

Curiosity has landed on Mars and we are getting images back from the landing site. 
Martian soil on Curiosity's wheels Looks like the tires have plenty of tread so now the interplanetary field trip can begin. What do you want to do first? Take more pictures? Buy postcards? I spotted these Mars as Art images taken by other vehicles (and from space) and thought you might like them too.  This infrared image taken from the NASA Mars Odessey orbiter shows a large deposit of the mineral olivine/peridot (Magnesium iron silicate) in colored in magenta. One of olivine's properties is its ability to withstand high temperatures. Sounds perfect for Mars! 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Citizen Science

Ever wonder if you have the right stuff to become a scientist? You may be able to find out with these cool citizen science projects. For space lovers, SETI@home harnesses the computing power of millions participants to search for extraterrestrial life. Galaxy Zoo: Hubble enlists volunteer astronomers as classifiers of heavenly objects.
For budding naturalists, The Great Sunflower Project is for you. Citizen scientists take 15-minute counts of the number and types of bees visiting sunflowers and other plants in yards, gardens, schoolyards, and parks. The information submitted helps shed light on the health and numbers of ailing honey bee populations.

Are you a puzzle solver? Try Foldit. You may end up helping research teams at the University of Washington and Harvard University in developing pathogen capture proteins to seek out and remove circulating invaders such as Salmonella and Staphylococcus.

For even more space, climate, nature, and humanities citizen science projects check out Zooniverse. I'm headed there now!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Symphony of Science

Have you seen the Symphony of Science website? It is awesome! Science and music combine to offer scientific knowledge in a novel way via music clips and re-mixed scientists.

My favorite so far is We Are Star Dust. The tune is catchy. I'm humming it now. It's also a great tool for teachers to jazz up chemistry, biology and physics lessons.

In addition, the Symphony of Science project offers presentations on dinosaurs, Mars, space, reality, ancient/native peoples, and the environment among others.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Pinterest for Science

If you're like me, adding another social media program to an already full plate is daunting. But, I'm a visually oriented science geek and Pinterest feeds my need for the latest science images/links and allows me to SAVE them. So I justify the hours I spend on Pinterest as getting organized!

It's fun and something I've come to look forward to. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'm way ahead of the curve in keeping up with science, photography, writing, humor, cooking, etc. Plus, I get to exchange favorite wow moments with the ease of a "pin". Here is a link to my science and nature board.

Send me your favorites. I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time Faster on Earth than in Space?

Bill Nye The Science Guy
You know you have a strong science bent when you get excited about Bill Nye the Science Guy making new Consider the Following videos. Well I am and he did. Check out Bill's simple explanation on how fast time passes on Earth compared to outer space. You might be surprise at the answer!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Touchdown! 7 Minutes of Triumph!

How appropriate that during the 2012 Olympics NASA has landed the heaviest and most complex science vehicle ever built on Mars. After a 3 year trip, Curiosity landed safely and has already sent back low resolution pictures of its local neighborhood. High resolution shots will follow next week after a mast is deployed.

Congratulations to the NASA engineering team and all the men and women of NASA who worked on the mission so far. You've won gold! 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

7 Minutes of Terror

Remember, the Mars rover Curiosity is scheduled to land in the wee hours tonight/tomorrow morning after a 36 week journey from Earth. You can join millions of other science fans holding their breath during the 7 minutes of terror when the landing process takes place. Will all the steps happen as planned? Tune in!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Mars Triangle

If you enjoy spying cosmic coolness in the night sky, you won't want to miss the alignment in the west/southwest sky tomorrow evening at twilight of Mars, Saturn, and the star Spica. Here is a link for a sneak peek to what you will see. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Salty Habit

Okay. I admit it, I'm a salt lover. Pretzels, pickles, and cured meats all call my name. If given a choice, I choose salty snacks over sweet treats every time. But if you have been reading the health news the past few years, you know that too much salt is a big problem. It upsets the biochemical balance of our bodies, makes our ankles and fingers swell (retain water) and a bunch of other more serious ailments.

Today, I ran across a New York Academy of Sciences podcast in their Science and the City A Thought About Food series. It summaries all the good and bad news about salt in a simple, easy to swallow way. Check it out.
A Thought About Food: Rock Steady. 

If you are a sugar lover, never fear, they have a podcast for you too. 
A Thought About Food: Sugar in the Morning...

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pluto: 5 Moons & Counting

Did you hear that another moon of Pluto has been discovered? Yes! In grade school we learned our solar system has 9 planets circling the sun. Pluto was #9. Then a few years ago, Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet (i.e. a bigger than average icy rock). Shocking to Pluto lovers everywhere, I know, but we've adjusted.

Then just when we relaxed enough to admit to 8 planets circling the sun, last week a new moon of Pluto is discovered. Now it has 5, but still can't regain planetary status. NASA update on Pluto.  

What gives? First, I thought only planets could have moons, so I checked. A moon is a solid object caught in the gravity of and circling a more massive object that is itself circling something bigger like a star. Sounds like Pluto, but it still can't be a planet again.

Apparently, Pluto and its moons are just a few of the thousands of ice balls and cosmic rocks found beyond the planets in the Kuiper Belt. The region is littered with objects left over from the Big Bang or resulting from collisions with larger objects. So the bottom line is that Pluto is still not a true planet even with its own moons. It is just part of the floating rock pile beyond our 8 planet solar system. Sigh... 

Monday, July 9, 2012

I Want a Hubless Bicycle

Just when you thought bicycles were all the same, along comes one that is a whole new level of cool techno. Plus the engineering that went into it is simple and awesome at the same time. Called a Hubless bicycle, Lunartic uses a hubless wheel to create a bicycle that hides away the working parts and reduces the wheel base without sacrificing familiar riding geometry. Check it out!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Got the Right Stuff?

You too can fly in space!! Well, your experiments can. The ArduSat opens space adventure to everyone. You design an experiment, sensor, or whatever and voila! science in action and bragging rights to boot! Take That Big Bang Theory! Also, Discover magazine is sponsoring the Discover Space Challenge. The winning submission will fly aboard ArduSat and win $1500. The deadline for submitting your idea to the contest is July 6, 2012. So enter already!

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Plea for Bees

Acting state apiarist for Pennsylvania's Dept. of Agriculture, Dennis van Engelsdorp, studying colony collapse disorder, provides an update on bees and beekeeping in America. I love honey and use it in my tea (never the fake stuff). If you are a honey lover as well, check out this talk. Dennis van Engelsdorp - A plea for bees

Perceived Temperature vs. Actual Temperature

I grew up in Nevada. Summers were hot and dry. Sweat dried almost instantly.  It is forecast to be 102 degrees Fahrenheit in Little Rock today. Toasty!
Well, I was out at lunch and it didn't seem all that hot. How is that possible? Did the weather person miss the mark or is the temperature still climbing?
Hmm... Apparently, we perceive thermal comfort versus actual temperature on a variety of factors. Check out Wolfgang Kessling's video. His company is designing the outdoor air conditioning for the Football World Cup in Qatar scheduled for 2022. He describes an interesting use of science and technology.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pinterest - more ways to share science

It seems like every time you turn around there are new online media sites popping up. When my daughter told me about Pinterest, I was less than enthusiastic. However, I've changed my tune. Pinterest is an easy place to save cool images and links that you run across while looking for something else. So, I created boards to save everything from Science & Nature to Robots to Steampunk to Architecture and more. For someone who is pretty visual, it works a lot better than a ton of computer bookmarks. Check it out!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mushrooms, Mushrooms, Everywhere!

Did you know that there are over 10,000 different types of mushrooms? The good, bad, and the definitely ugly!  Although I didn't appreciate mushrooms when I was young and thought they tasted "like dirt," I cook with them all the time now. In fact, I've discovered that various species of these fleshy and edible fungi add different flavors to food. Some common species found at the grocery store, include white button, cremini, bella, portobello, oyster, enokitake, and shitake. For more on these healthy quirks of the food chain, check out -

Wild mushrooms like porcini and chanterelle are also edible, but you should NEVER pick mushrooms in the wild and eat them unless you are a mushroom expert (known as a mycologist) or with an expert. Poisonous mushrooms like death cap, destroying angel, and Jack O' Lantern have very toxic personalities.

Promising health benefits being investigated include cardiovascular, anticancer, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties. Wow!  So be adventurous, try oyster mushrooms in a stir-fry or chowder and let me know what you think. Recipes here.  Or send your favorite mushroom recipes!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ideas Worth Spreading

I have been following (stands for technology, entertainment, and design) for several years now. TED offers hundreds of videotaped talks on every topic imaginable. Click on the science category and you'll find experts and entrepreneurs explaining everything from mathematics to monkey behavior to music. New talks appear weekly. Check it out. It's awesome!! 

Here are a couple I found interesting.
Aortic engineering-

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Women in Science

I always find it interesting to hear how folks got interested in science. As more women than ever are entering the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields, I thought you might be interested in this geologist turned science educator.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The PhD Movie

Have you seen the movie from Jorge Cham? It is completely hilarious and so true to the lot of college graduate students. Check it out! You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nanotechnology Demystified

Looking for Nanotechnology Demystified? Order it Barnes & Noble locally or here. Or get it on your Nook. Check out what life is like at the atomic scale!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nanotechnology: Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny

Want to learn a lot about things that are really. really small? Join me tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the Museum of Discovery - Donald W. Reynolds Science Center, 500 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock, AR for Nanotechnology: Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Weeny. There will be wine, nanoscience/technology exhibits, and I will be signing my Nanotechnology Demystified book. See you there! Go science!

Saturday, April 14, 2012


I just discovered the U.S. Geological Survey Kids Site. It has everything from coloring and connect-the-dot pages to mazes and crossword puzzles for elementary age children. Check it out
For older children and teachers, this link has teaching points, activities and science lesson plans for elementary, secondary, and undergraduate students

Lots of things to intrigue and spark curiosity.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Hunting the Elements

Did you catch the NOVA Science program Hunting the Elements last week? I learned that calcium is really a silver-colored metal. Who knew? It combines with phosphate in bone and carbonate in sea shells to get that familiar white color. If you want to see metallic calcium as well as calcium in different compounds, check out this University of Nottingham video on calcium.
And for more little known facts on elements, check out the Hunting the Elements PBS link.
There is also a "Name That Element" game to test your chemistry knowledge. A different question is posted every day. Try it!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Awesome Sunglasses!

Summer's coming! More than ever, you need clarity and high resolution when summer sunlight glints off water and windshields. Recently, I was excited to see Giro and Zeiss have collaborated on some truly awesome sunglasses for professional athletes and the rest of us too. Check out the science that goes into creating truly superior optics for sunglasses. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Check Out the Kavli Science Video Contest

Enter the Kavli Science Video contest! Students (Grades 6-12) compete to win $2000 (first prize) and a travel award to Washington DC to attend the 2nd Annual USA Science & Engineering Festival. Winners will be honored in an awards ceremony, hosted by Bill Nye, at the festival.
The contest theme is "Save the World through Science and Engineering."  Students create a very short video (30-90 seconds) showing how science/inventions improve lives and change the world, now or in the future. Enter by Mar. 21, 2012.

Go Science!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Recycling Game

Want to recycle more? You can practice with “Recycle THIS!” on NASA’s Climate Kids website, Recyclables are thrown out a window at the top, and, using an “airburst” tool, you can deflect an object’s path into the correct recycling bin. Glass? Metal? Paper? Plastic? Or trash to decompose in a landfill? Sound (on/off) adds to the fun. Be the best recycler in your family or group of friend. The Earth will thank you! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

NASA Spinoffs 2011

It's that time again. NASA has published it's spinoff book for 2011. Read all about the latest technologies/applications to spring from NASA's science and engineering.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To Quote A Physicist

"An experiment is a question which science poses to Nature and a measurement is the recording of Nature's answer." Max Planck

Planck discovered quantum physics and earned the Nobel prize. One of his sons was executed for his part in the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Interesting family!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Over 950 science websites for educators

I recently got a heads up from Julie O'Brien about her Everyday Science blog. She has gathered over 950 science websites and cataloged them for easy access. Check them out here. It's always great to find like minded science folks