Thanks to the hurly-burly of modern life, we seem to spend every moment of every day under constant pressure. School, jobs, relationships, the constant threat of velociraptor attack, the list seems endless. Among this litany of pressures, however, is one that we cannot do without. I'm talking about air pressure. This week I want to show you a neat demo you can try at home that takes advantage of a quirk of air pressure. So sit back, relax, and make sure to keep your velociraptor spray handy.Read More
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I was staring resolutely into the middle distance, practicing my world-weary, erudite look, when a few feral thoughts scampered nimbly through the wastes of my wide-open mind: What exactly is an explosion? Shorn of all the fire, debris, shockwaves, and cool protagonists walking away without looking back, what is the essence of an explosion, the thread that binds all explosions together? Is there a singular definition that encompasses them all? Give yourselves a second to think about that. I'll wait........(Warning. Some gross images ahead)Read More
Happy Tuesday, people who read this blog. It's time for another Constant Science, this one about a study I've been reading about a lot in the online news sources claiming to show a link between diet soda intake and increased belly fat. It's got some striking limitations and weaknesses that aren't being covered by almost anyone who writes about the study, and that's the real topic of this video. Thinking like a scientist is an important skill and a big part of that is being familiar with study design and methodology: good, bad, and everything in between. Click on through for the video!Read More
In the woolly wilds of Oregon, Spring has sprung! The sun is shining, bees are buzzing, and if your covered wagon turns over while fording the river, you might not die of hypothermia. (That was an Oregon Trail joke.) What better way to usher in the season and enjoy the outdoors than building your own stomp-bottle rocket launcher? Safe and easy, you can welcome back the songbirds with a barrage of air-propelled science! (Explosions Inc. does not condone firing rockets at living creatures. Not even birds. Not even if they totally pooped on you and your fancy new pants completely on purpose while you were minding your own business. Stupid birds.)Read More
Isaac Newton is, quite justifiably, one of the most famous scientists in history. He was a scientist before scientists were even scientists, back when they were called “natural philosophers” and you pretty much had to be a rich white male to even think about joining their ranks. Back before regular experimental protocols had been developed. The Enlightenment was a turbulent time for our understanding of the universe, and Newton was one of the people sitting right in the center of it.
And Isaac Newton was really kind of weird.
But let’s start with the science.Read More
The final episode of my epic Chemical Reaction Trilogy! Perhaps it's not quite Peter Jacksonesque in scope (maybe more Terry Gilliamesque) but it's a good primer. This time I discuss where the energy that is released in a chemical reaction ends up and this video is in no way yet another excuse for me to set myself on fire. Nope, not at all. Not one little bit. Nuh-uh...Really.Read More
An ode to element number 8. Without it my job would be so much more difficult. Come to think of it, my entire life, and yours as well would be devoid of, well, pretty much everything, including life. Good thing it's the third most abundant element in this little universe we like to call home. So come along as I sing the praises of your friend and mine, the shining star of the chalcogen familyRead More
reaction when Don conveniently pointed out we had done just that, a long time ago. So strap yourself into your way-back machine and let's take a trip down memory lane to the Big Bang of Explosions Inc.Read More
We got a new camera! An honest-to-goodness, shooting stuff, all the bells and whistles, type camera......And I'm completely terrified of it. Like a suspicious peasant who won't go near the creepy old castle without muttering and making cryptic signs to ward off the evil eye. But I put on my big boy pants, burned some sage to discourage the negative humors, sacrificed a fatted calf to any deities who may be around (okay, so it was a slim jim) and I made a brief video to check it out. And it worked! Kinda.Read More
In the annals of scientific research there are many sober, conscientious minds, meticulously following protocol to slowly, inexorably advance the state of human knowledge towards the goal of being just a little bit less wrong about the universe. There's also a lot of silly whack-a-doodles who can't be trusted not to run with scissors. Guess which group I'm going to write about today.........Read More
This post won't mean a whole lot to too many of you, I imagine, but Aaron and I felt like it was something we kind of had to do. See, we just learned that Cheddar Chad, the hot dog vendor in downtown Spokane, died of complications from the flu earlier this week.
Aaron and I frequented his hot dog cart. His Dollar Dogs were the best tubular meat you could get for a buck, his Jumbo Dogs were just as delicious except, you know, jumbo, and he had a cornucopia of fresh and bottled toppings to whet your wiener whistle.
We didn't really go for the dogs, though. They were tasty and reasonably priced. We went for the guy selling them. No matter the weather, no matter the general crappiness of the day, he
had a face-splitting, genuine smile for everyone who bought one of his hot dogs. In a world where the trash bins at fast food restaurants are sometimes more polite than the staff, Cheddar Chad stood as a god among men (and women) who serve delicious, not-so-healthy food. He was a great guy and you could tell that he got a lot of happiness out of his job. On days when work at our little science center wasn't so great, a quick trip down the block could act as a pick-me-up and remind us that yes, there are genuinely nice and happy people out there.
Reading that article I linked above I learned so much about the guy that I hadn't known before. He was going to be a bus driver. He gave hot dogs to the homeless (of which there are a whole lot in Spokane). He DJed in his spare time. He had just acquired a degree in anthropology.
Well, until today Aaron and I only knew him as the guy who took genuine pride and joy in selling people hot dogs 365 days a year. I'm going to guess that's how lots of people knew him, and by the look of his memorial, they miss him, too. As I told Aaron, it sucks more that I can easily put into words that he died.
Rest In Peace, Happy Hot Dog Man.
A few weeks back Don wrote an article on the spectrum of scientific inquiry where he talked about the loss of respect some of the "softer" sciences suffer due to the lack of hard evidence, explosions, and the stereotypical trappings of the scientific endeavor. In that subtle love poem written to his wayward mistress of Anthropology I saw myself mirrored and this week I'd like to make reparations and start by apologizing personally to Biology, Biologists, and a girlfriend I had long ago at whom I sarcastically rolled my eyes when she made the same points.Read More
Quick, how many planets are in our solar system? No googling. I’ll accept eight or nine as answers. If you want to be in line with current teaching standards, we have eight. If you refuse to bow to the whimsical tyranny of the IAU (viva la revolucion!) there’s nine. Or is there…….Read More
After the huge success of last week's post about my top 5 science moments of 2014, I figured while any shlub can look backwards, it takes a man of vision, a man of courage, indeed, a man of SCIENCE to look forward into the murky mists of the near-future and bring you the Top 5 Science Thingies of 2015.
5. Unexpected Discoveries for New Horizons: Just beyond the orbit of our long-lost ninth planet, New Horizons will discover a curious gravitational anomaly. On the say-so of famous physicist, Stephen Hawking, it will be declared a wormhole and immediately Matthew McConaughey will be sent through it. While no real science will be achieved, everyone involved will agree it creates a nice visual spectacle.
4. Vaccines Cause Everything: Medical science will be turned upon it's head as it is discovered that vaccines are responsible for fatally weakened immune systems, autism, asthma, male-pattern baldness, communism, the polar vortex, and the cancelling of Firefly. Unfortunately this information will be heeded too late and the majority of the world's vaccinated population will be wiped out by a virulent strain of gonnosyphilerpemeningococcalaids. The survivors will gather in somber yet smug celebration only to be decimated by tetanus infection caused by bad quinoa.
3. Stephen Hawking is a Fraud: After the wormhole debacle beyond Pluto, it will be revealed that esteemed physicist Stephen Hawking is actually comedian Andy Kaufman, who successfully faked his death in 1984 for the sole purpose of perpetuating the most obtuse and long-running joke in history. Furthermore, the physics world will be rocked again as it is revealed the entire concept of a "black hole" is just an obscure butt joke.
2. The Vantablack Affair: Shortly after the New Year, the miraculous new material "Vantablack" (mentioned in Dazzling Don's last video) will indeed be used to make clothing. It will be a huge hit among the nation's disaffected youth subcultures. However, not realizing the dangers of absorbing nearly 100% of all available light energy, the first sunny day of Spring will cause massive spontaneous combustion events. Not a Hot Topic will be left standing.
1. HOVERBOARDS: Yup, hoverboards. It's finally time. Hover. F-ing. Boards. The revolution started in 2014 with the magnetic model, and the invisible hand of the market just took over from there. Who cares about a post-vaccine wasteland full of burning goth kids when we finally have the hoverboard the prophecies foresaw back in the dark ages of 1989? Nobody, that's who. And no one even minds we all have to dress like this.....
As the arrow of time rockets us inexorably towards the goyish New Year* it is once again appropriate to whittle down by arbitrary rules the amazing complexity of events of the past year into what amounts to the lowest hanging dingleberry on the literature bush: The Listicle. So without further ado (or much ado at all) I present:
Aaron's Top 5 Sciencey Thingies of 2014Read More
Music and science, yo. That’s my jam. Sure I have other hobbies like breathing and occasionally eating food, but the lion’s share of each and every day is spent engaged with science, music, or some combination of the two. I particularly love it when they are combined and today I want to talk about a couple of my favorite intersections of music and scientific technology.Read More
Today, Aaron gets physical!…And Chemical!…With Chemistry!
And for a limited time only a special play-along-at-home experiment for no extra charge! Satisfaction guaranteed or double your money back! Click now. Operators are standing by.Read More
Last week I went to see Interstellar, Christopher Nolan's new space sci-fi movie. I thought it was pretty sweet but there were definitely a few bones to pick with the sci part of the sci-fi. In this week's video I focus in on one specific part of the film involving Einstein's general theory of relativity and talk about how they got it wrong and what would have happened if they had gotten it right. This should go without saying, but SPOILER ALERT! Click through for the video and, as always, please leave suggestions for future videos in the comments!
Amid the detritus of the sparsely attended mid-term election, many folks in Oregon are still all riled up. Measure 92, which proposed labeling for GMO foodstuffs was defeated although the PR war promises to continue through the next election cycle and into perpetuity. Not surprisingly I see more and more articles popping up in social media on both sides of the issue and, even though I’m not quite ready to open up that particular can of worms (unless we get requests……..), I’d like to use the debate to highlight some issues with how we parse the huge amounts of information provided to us through the many interconnecting tubes of the internet.Read More
Monday’s post by the delightful Don Riefler has me thinking a lot about the various current space missions being conducted by NASA and other space agencies. In particular I was thinking about the New Horizons mission to Pluto and, with a shock, I realized I had no idea what was going to happen to that brave little craft after it had reached our most distant former planet.Read More