Physical Science

Distant Cousins: Kepler-186f

Big Eyed Beans from Venus – Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band! Cool. Literally Comparable to Mars in effective temperature, bit larger than Earth, probably slightly more massive than Earth (mean density could be lower), atmosphere unknown. Might well have extensive surface regions with persistent liquid water.

As I’ve mentioned here before, I do a lot of work these days in my local Starbucks. This is slightly ironic, as I don’t like coffee– instead, I order tea, which I put in an insulated travel mug. I tend to get the tea, carry the mug back to the table, and let it steep…

One of the most important realizations of climate change research is exemplified in this graphic from Weather Uderground: The point is this. The PETM (Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, millions of years ago) was a period of high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere which caused significant warming. It is an example of both relatively rapid and…

How the Sun *really* shines (Synopsis)

“Mr. Burns: Smithers, hand me that ice-cream scoop. Smithers: Ice-cream scoop? Mr. Burns: Damn it, Smithers! This isn’t rocket science, it’s brain surgery!”  -The Simpsons I bet you’re one of those people who hears a term like “nuclear physics” and thinks that’s hard stuff, way over your head. But in many ways, it’s the easiest of all…

A Treatment for Chemophobia

Guest Blog By Festival X-STEM Speaker and Expo Performer  Dr. Joe Schwarcz “Hey, aren’t you somebody?” the teenager queried as I got into the elevator. While I was pondering an appropriate answer to this deeply philosophical question, his crony spilled the beans: “Yeah, he’s that guy who talks about chemistry on TV.” This was just…

The Christ Child Cometh.

… and by that I mean the El Niño phase of the El Niño Souther Oscillation climate pattern. We have been in an ENSO neutral phase for a while. Climate scientists have a hard time predicting El Niño, which arrives in Summer, Fall, or Winter, this early in the year, but nonetheless most prediction sources,…

Uncertain Dots, Episode 12

The last couple of days have been ridiculously hectic, but Rhett and I did manage to record another episode of Uncertain Dots, our twelfth: This time out, we talk about labs, undergrad research, kids doing chores, weather, student course evaluations, and I didn’t really rant about superheroes. Relevant to the weather thing, I offer the…

The Astro Alphabet (Synopsis)

“When I was having that alphabet soup, I never thought that it would pay off.” -Vanna White A couple of years ago, I had the idea to make a special entry showcasing 26 different astronomical phenomena, one for each letter of the alphabet. Today, that idea’s been built upon and improved, and I’m happy to…

Northrop Grumman Foundation Gives a Unique Look at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

True to its mission of helping to advance STEM education in dynamic ways, the Northrop Grumman Foundation, a major sponsor of the USA Science & Engineering Festival, will take visitors up close and personal this April with one of the most ambitious projects today in space science: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. At Festival Expo 2014, get…

Superheros are Anti-Science

I’m not really a comic-book guy, but I’ve watched a bunch of comic-book movies recently. Kate was really fired up for the new Captain America movie, so I finally got around to watching the first one as background for that, then when I was sleep-deprived last week I watched the second Thor movie via on-demand…