science

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." 

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. 

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.

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." 

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

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. 

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. 

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. 

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). 

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.  

Get Electricity: Go Fly A Kite

Apr 29, 2016

  Maybe you've seen those small wind turbines mounted close to the ground in rural areas.  

  And maybe you've noticed that they don't seem to turn terribly fast, even in windy conditions.  That's true, because the faster winds are higher up. So go fly a kite: tethered kites might provide more, and more consistent, electricity.  

University of Oregon

"SPICE girls" is NOT the name of a singing group, at least at the University of Oregon. 

SPICE stands for Science Program to Inspire Creativity and Excellence; it's a program to get middle- and high school girls excited about science and learning more about it. 

Program coordinator Brandy Todd even teaches how to win a science fair. 

Basic Books

  Don't you wish you had a buck for every politician who says "I'm not a scientist"?  

You don't have to be a scientist to appreciate its wonders.  But it might take more than a scientist to gather the full importance of what science is capable of... and not.  Tim Lewens writes about the philosophy of science in his book "The Meaning of Science," in essence helping us see the forest as well as the trees.  

Penguin Books

  If you like those pictures the Curiosity rover sent back from Mars, you're thinking good thoughts about the work of Adam Steltzner. 

He should be a household name--on two planets. 

He led one of the critical teams that got the rover set up on Mars, a team that had to plow through many obstacles to achieve its mission. 

It IS rocket science, but a whole lot more, a story Steltzner tells in his book The Right Kind of Crazy

Basic Books

Take a piece of the whole and examine it, and you can understand the whole.  That's the basic principle behind reductionism. 

And economist/social scientist John H. Miller is having none of it. 

Miller chucks the idea of micro-analysis in favor of a macro view, in A Crude Look at the Whole

And he says studying systems all at once can lead to understanding some keys to life on earth, including climate change, ecosystems, and financial collapses. 

weareindiehorror.com

Who knew deliberately watching bad films could make for a successful TV series?  But it worked for Mystery Science Theater 3000 for years, and the show is still remembered fondly. 

Fondly enough to create new episodes, potentially.  Creator Joel Hodgson is crowdfunding a potential return of MST3K, robots and all. 

Basic Books

We all get one, but do we fully appreciate it?  Body, we mean. 

Gavin Francis is well-acquainted with the human body from his work as a surgeon. 

And he appreciates the complexity and simplicity, the mechanics and the poetry, of what our bodies can do. 

He shares the fascination with us in the book Adventures in Human Being

It's billed as a grand tour of the body from top to bottom. 

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