science

Ujjwal Kumar, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7406916

There's a level of curiosity about dangerous things, especially for kids. 

Like "what would happen if you went outside a spaceship without a suit?" 

Those are the very kinds of questions Cody Cassidy and Paul Doherty answer in their book And Then You're Dead.

It's not as macabre as it may sound, and there's no danger in reading the book itself.  We think. 

Wikimedia

Quick, what do you think is the greatest invention ever?  Wait... before you answer, we offer an alternative question: what is the WORST invention ever?  That might be a little harder, but it turns out there's stiff competition for that list. 

Think of some of science's stumbles, like frontal lobotomies, chemical warfare, and margarine.  Margarine?  Not good for the heart. 

Pediatrician/author Paul Offit narrows the list in his book Pandora's Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong

ESO, http://www.eso.org/public/images/ann13075a

We grew up thinking about people living on other planets, thanks to the likes of Superman and Star Wars. 

But planets outside of our solar system (and outside science fiction) were really just a theory until the 1990s.  That's when telescopes and other detectors improved enough to find the first true "exoplanets." 

Now we know of thousands of them, and an overview is provided in Exoplanets: Diamond Worlds, Super Earths, Pulsar Planets, and the New Search for Life beyond Our Solar System

Serving Up A Look At Cannibalism

Feb 24, 2017
Gerald Schmitt/Wikimedia

Certain words in the English language come with an "ick factor" attached.  One of those is: cannibalism. 

It's just not something we like to think about, at least for our species: eating others of our own kind (except in zombie movies). 

But cannibalism is not unusual in nature, and may actually serve a purpose. 

Zoologist Bill Schutt explains in his book Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History.  He gives us the whole picture, from smaller organisms up to the Donner party. 

The Ethics Of Making A New Universe In A Lab

Feb 17, 2017

We know a few things about the birth of the universe.  Do we know enough to recreate the process? 

The question alone provokes thought.  But scientists have been pondering it for a while now, convinced that they could create small universes in laboratories. 

A Big Bang in a Little Room by Zeeya Merali considers both physical and ethical obstacles to lab-created "baby universes." 

Best of 2016: Face Mites (urp)

Dec 27, 2016
USDA

It's not just that our region is full of interesting people. 

There are plenty of non-human living things to make the place unique and exciting. 

Some of them are too small to see, like face mites.  Yes, the name indicates where they live. 

Could A Worm Show Humans How To Regenerate?

Dec 13, 2016
University of Washington

Compared to some other animals, humans have it rough. 

When we lose a body part, it does not grow back.  We've dreamed of regeneration for as long as we could dream. 

There IS a glimmer of hope, and it comes from a worm.  See, the worm that has most in common with people CAN grow back severed parts. 

Our Creature Feature takes up the topic with Dr. Billie Swalla at the University of Washington. 

The answer to the question "where did that come from?" is easy for some situations.

It's infinitely harder to answer when it is directed to the universe.  The WHOLE universe. 

Lawrence Krauss does not shrink from the task.  He is a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, pondering the major questions of our existence.  But he also compares real-universe physics with the kind we see in Star Trek movies. 

And he is a visitor to Southern Oregon University, part of the campus theme of "Shapes of Curiosity." 

Nature's Way, Warts And All

Nov 2, 2016
Penguin Random House

Living things will go to amazing lengths to find meals, mates, and places to sleep.  And that's not just humans in college. 

Matt Simon, a science writer at WIRED, collects some fascinating and often gruesome tales of how creatures in the natural world go about getting the things they need. 

Simon's book is The Wasp That Brainwashed The Caterpillar.  Yeah, that one's pretty gross. 

Welcome, Solar Eclipse!

Oct 27, 2016
Public Domain/Wikimedia

We don't think of solar eclipses as punishment from angry deities anymore. 

Good thing, too: the United States will see its first total eclipse in decades next year, in August.  Parts of Oregon will see the moon completely block the sun.

Tyler Nordgren is more than ready, with a new book called Sun Moon Earth.  Nordgren, an astronomer, artist, and "night sky ambassador," is enthusiastic about this and all solar eclipses.

cUriOus: Things That Go Bump

Oct 9, 2016
University of Oregon

Stephanie Majewski likes it when things bump into each other. 

Which is a huge OVER-simplification of her work in the field of physics at the University of Oregon. 

But it IS true that she learns a lot from atoms crashing into each other, especially at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. 

Dr. Majewski's work is the topic of this month's installment of "cUriOus: Research Meets Radio." 

Being Proud But Not Too Loud

Sep 12, 2016
Fotokannan/Wikimedia

It's important to us, when people say "I'm proud of you." 

Pride in ourselves can be another matter entirely.  Pride is supposedly the deadliest of sins, the one that gets us all caught up in ourselves. 

What does science say about pride?  British Columbia psychologist Jessica Tracy says it can be channeled to good use.  She makes the case in her recent book Take Pride: Why The Deadliest Sin Holds The Secret To Human Success

Science Committed By Talented Amateurs

Aug 19, 2016
OSU Press

If the concept of "citizen journalism" makes you a little uneasy, how might you feel about "citizen science?"  In either case, there's more going on in the world than just the professionals can handle in their normal workload. 

Citizen scientist Sharman Apt Russell took her fascination with Western red bellied tiger beetles to the beetles' lair, to find out things about their life cycle previously unknown to science. 

Her often humorous take on the process and the findings is contained in her book Diary Of A Citizen Scientist, from Oregon State University Press. 

Ashland Company Boosts "Cancer Moonshot"

Aug 17, 2016
NASA/Public Domain

President Kennedy talked about putting humans on the moon by the end of the 1960s.  The job got done, but it took a lot of people, money, and work. 

Now President Obama wants the same kind of effort in finding a cure for cancer.  The head of an Ashland-based company is excited.  Michael Stadnisky is the CEO of FlowJo, which works with human cells. 

One aim: helping the body's immune system fight cancer. 

Bradenfox/Wikimedia

Easter Island is a fascinating place, and not just because of the the moai, the statues with the big heads. 

If you look beyond the statues in photographs, you see a grassy landscape.  As far as scientists can tell, the island was a place with lots of trees when humans arrived. 

There's still some debate about what happened there, and Dr. Candace Gossen of Blackcoyote Archaeology is one of the scientists trying to find answers. 

You Got Something On Your Face

Jul 25, 2016
USDA

The same people who pointed out how many critters live in our houses are now doing the same thing for our faces.  Yes, faces. 

We learned in a previous interview how many arthropods live in our houses with us; now they're back to tell us about face mites.  Yes, face mites. 

Call them demodex if it makes you feel better, but they live in our pores. 

Michelle Trautwein from the California Academy of Sciences is the messenger with the weird news. 

Learning And Using Math

May 12, 2016
U.S. Marines/Public Domain

Maybe you were one of those people who struggled through higher math in school, wondering how it would ever help you in life. 

Keith Devlin will be happy to tell you.  Devlin is the co-founder and Executive Director of Stanford University's Human Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute (just call it H-STAR). 

He also appears on NPR as "The Math Guy," exploring the usefulness of math in the world. 

He visits Southern Oregon University for a couple of lectures this week. 

Alena Kravchenko/Wikimedia

We respect, if not revere, scientists and their work in our society.  We also do not entirely trust them.  How's that again?  Case in point: climate change... scientists demonstrate it, but some people reject it.

Oregon Humanities explores that situation and others in one of its Conversation Project programs, "In Science We Trust? The Role of Science in a Democracy." 

Gail Wells is the program leader, bringing it to Selma later this week (May 13th). 

Matter That Matters: What We're Made Of

May 4, 2016

Nobody currently alive was around at the time of the Big Bang, so far as we know.  So we go to science with the scientists we have. 

Fortunately, those include Caltech cosmologist and theoretical physicist Sean Carroll... he's got the science chops PLUS the Ted-talk friendly manner to communicate what he's learned. 

Which he puts on paper in a new book called The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself

Inside OHSU's Vollum Institute

Apr 29, 2016

  Science is working hard to understand the causes of mental illness, but we're not far removed--if at all--from dismissals like "he's just acting crazy."  

 The language is elevated a bit above that at the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland.  Researchers there work to decode the way the brain works, in physical as well as mental health.  

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