All posts by Saheli Sadanand

What’s your favorite science learning moment?

When I was a kid, my father came home one day with a tank of liquid nitrogen. Strange? Not really – this is how my family rolls (full disclosure – my dad is a physics professor)! My little sister and I were told to investigate the properties of this mysterious liquid that was completely obscured by the spooky looking fog rising above it. We ended up tossing an innocent rubber lizard (lower on the toy priority scale than our Barbie dolls, stuffed animals or, of course, my toy dinosaurs) into the abyss and heard a loud SNAP! After eagerly reporting this finding back to my dad, he drained the liquid nitrogen to reveal the sad, cracked remains of our not-so-important lizard friend. It turns out that liquid nitrogen is extremely cold, a fact I’m reminded of every time I open my lab’s liquid nitrogen freezers and try not to lose feeling in my fingers.

Over the past few months, I’ve been taking a class in science pedagogy and it has reminded me of the moments in my life where I was doing science, often without realizing it. At its heart, loving science is just about being inquisitive and exploring – innate qualities we all possess. What is a favorite and/or memorable science learning experience that you’ve had? It can involve breaking something, creating something, hearing a great lecture or just staring out into space and having an epiphany. Tell us about it in the comments section or share with us via e-mail or Twitter and remember, it doesn’t have to be from a science class!

The Park is Open – Again!

A water dwelling compatriot of the dinosaurs, the Mosasaurus, joins the fun in Jurassic World (Universal Studios)
A water dwelling compatriot of the dinosaurs, the Mosasaurus, joins the fun in Jurassic World (Universal Studios)

When I first learned that Jurassic Park 4 aka Jurassic World had been greenlit, I was cautiously excited. Just kidding – I was mostly really excited. I’ve been a dinosaur enthusiast for, quite literally, forever and it’s been over a decade since the last sub-par Jurassic Park sequel, Jurassic Park 3 (whose highlight was a spinosaurus vs. T.Rex battle that I feel obligated to share with everyone). Obviously, we were overdue for an ill-advised return to the dinosaur-filled islands of the Caribbean. Continue reading The Park is Open – Again!

“Vaccines – Calling the Shots” is a powerful defense of vaccination

How the immune system works
Our immune cells see a dangerous pathogen and move to destroy it! Image Credit:NOVA

When I was one month old, my parents took me on my first trip to India to visit my grandparents and extended family. I was a healthy baby, but a vulnerable one as I had not received most of my vaccinations yet. Thanks to herd immunity – a result of most people around me on the flights, in the airports and in my extended family being vaccinated – I was safe. The recent outbreaks of easily preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough have frightened me because I think of all the people who cannot be vaccinated, including babies or people with compromised immune systems or allergies. They rely on the rest of us getting vaccinated to stay safe. Unfortunately, even when armed with facts, it can be frustrating to argue one’s case with members of the anti-vaccine movement. But sometimes a (moving) picture really does speak a thousand words.

This past summer, I served as a preliminary judge for the Biomedical Sciences category at the 2014 Jackson Hole Science Media Awards. When I saw that one of the finalists was entitled “Jabbed – Love, Fear and Vaccines,” I panicked, assuming that this documentary was going to promote the spurious link between autism and vaccines. I was pleasantly surprised to find that “Jabbed,” produced by the Australia-based Genepool Productions, excellently illustrates the science behind vaccines while also addressing fears about vaccination. The documentary went on to win the best Biomedical Sciences program at the Jackson Hole Science Media Awards (note: while the original “Jabbed” documentary is unavailable for viewing outside of Australia, you can view a trailer for the program here). Genepool Productions also collaborated with NOVA to produce an American version of this program, entitled “Vaccines – Calling the Shots,” which utilized some of the same footage in “Jabbed” and can be viewed in its entirety here (it originally aired in September). While I found the latter to be jumpier in its editing, it is also better tailored to an American audience. Both “Jabbed” and “Vaccines”  pack a lot of punch, interspersing interviews with prominent researchers, anecdotes from several different families from around the world and graphics to illustrate how the immune system works (if you have only two minutes to spare, watch this short video because it’s both adorable and accurate). While this could have ended up being an information overload, the stories are balanced to provide insights into not only the spread of infections, but also the spread of misinformation and fear.

Continue reading “Vaccines – Calling the Shots” is a powerful defense of vaccination

Do you have any idea what the going price is for a fresh body these days?

There are three things that hit you fast when you watch The Knick, a new Cinemax miniseries directed by Steven Soderbergh. First, Clive Owen has an era-appropriate but annoying mustache. Second, the electronic, intermittently pulsing music is anachronistic – and yet it works (and is arguably the most memorable TV soundtrack since Game of Thrones). And finally, surgeries without gloves are really gross to watch even when fictional. While it would have been dangerous to be a patient at the Knickerbocker (more familiarly known as the Knick in the show), it’s entertaining and informative to watch the shenanigans of early 20th century medicine.

Not even the goriest scene thus far, but ewwwwwwww   Credit:

Continue reading Do you have any idea what the going price is for a fresh body these days?