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