Category Archives: Scientific Pondering

Cool as a cave

Mammoth caves - Historic entrance
Mammoth caves – Historic entrance

It was hotter than hot–over 90 degrees with a thick southern humidity that hits you like a bus when you step outside.  As I pulled on my long sleeve shirt, I chuckled at the thought of wearing it on the surface, 250 feet above my current location.  It was 55 degrees where I stood and boy was it fabulous.

With 405 miles of mapped cavities and some unknown distance of unmapped offshoots, Mammoth caves in Kentucky is the longest cave system in the world.  I experienced a mere few miles of this wonder, with at least a couple of those miles intertwining and overlapping each other like spaghetti in a bowl.  However little distance walked, crawled, & climbed, it was undoubtedly one of the coolest adventures of my life–both figuratively and literally. Continue reading Cool as a cave

Growing up in the dark
Fruit fly (Drosophila) via

No, I’m not talking about unearthing some hidden family secret (you can exhale a sigh of relief, mom).  Here I refer to fruit flies growing up in the dark as participants in a 62-year long experiment at Kyoto University in Japan.  More than 1,500 generations of flies have been reared in total darkness ever since Syuiti Mori shut the blinds on his flies in 1954 starting one of the longest laboratory experiment on evolution.   Continue reading Growing up in the dark

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!

Honey, I shrunk the grad students

microI finally got around to reading Michael Crichton’s posthumous novel Micro, finished after Crichton’s death by another popular sci-fi author Richard Preston.  Since I first tore through Jurassic Park in 7th grade (more 20 years ago…yikes!), I have been a huge fan of Crichton’s imaginative worlds of science fiction.  Not to mention  that I was so inspired by Preston’s The Hot Zone that I entered the fields of infectious diseases and immunology for my career.  So imagine my disappointment to discover that Micro is little more than a science-themed knock-off of the wacky Rick Moranis comedy Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Continue reading Honey, I shrunk the grad students

Your brain is messing with your mind, or is it the other way around?

dress-color-illusionSo, we’ve all seen this stupid dress.  It’s beaten us over the head with the white & gold or blue & black debate that I won’t belabor anymore now, we’re over it.  But the truth is, this was a great optical illusion, probably the best I’ve ever encountered.  Unlike all of the colored circles and squares, lines and zig zags that make up most of the illusions out there, this is a dress.  It’s something that someone could wear out on the town.  How often have you turned to a girlfriend and remarked, “wow, I really love that white & gold dress,” just to be rebuffed, “thanks, but it’s black & blue”? Could we really interpret colors differently out in the real world?



Continue reading Your brain is messing with your mind, or is it the other way around?

1st week with my iPhone’s new best friend

Apple Watch - 38mm silver aluminum case with white sports band
Apple Watch – 38mm silver aluminum case with white sport band

It’s been a week since my iPhone met its new best friend.  This bff sits on my wrist, taps me every once in a while, has a new set of animated emoji faces, and even tells me to get off my butt and stand up throughout the day.  My phone’s new bestie is the newest tech trend–the Apple Watch.

After placing the order on pre-order day and being told that my watch would arrive in June, I was obviously bummed.  Last week, a shipping notice arrived in my inbox, my watch would be arriving on April 24–the release day!  I’ve had the watch for a week now and thought that enough of my friends might enjoy a little review.  So here it is–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Continue reading 1st week with my iPhone’s new best friend

Defending Science in Wastebook 2014

While I agree with Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) that there is an irresponsible lack of accountability amongst the leadership of the U.S. and that government spending requires much more oversight, Coburn goes way too far to single out and discredit scientific studies in his 5th annual Wastebook.

Screen Shot 2015-01-02 at 2.52.14 PM
Courtesy of Wastebook 2014

Continue reading Defending Science in Wastebook 2014

Building little engineers this holiday season

With the holidays fast approaching and Black Friday upon us today, here are some of the best engineering toys for kids.  Each of these toys develops spatial learning and problem solving skills that can grow and build with your child.  Empowering kids with the creation of real-world structures and electronics, children and adults alike can join in the fun.  And, especially, we need to make more of an effort to inspire young girls to engage in STEM subjects and I can tell you that I would have loved to have these toys when I was a kid!

Continue reading Building little engineers this holiday season

Many more than 2 “T’s” in The Big Bang Theory

The CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory is a nerdtastic comedy about a group of highly intelligent but often clueless physics guys and their wannabe actress gal pal. The later development of a pair of female characters as biologist girlfriends has mitigated some early complaints of too much sausage (though, to be fair, not very much testosterone), but it also added a much needed range of geekery to the ensemble.


One of the greatest unspoken aspects of The Big Bang Theory has been the assorted attire of the group. From Raj’s Cosby sweaters to Howard’s retro belt clips, every element of these characters’ clothing is meticulously chosen and meaningful to their personalities. My favorite clothing choice has been the various tee shirts worn by Sheldon and Leonard. Like the physicist characters that adorn them, many of these tee shirts have a scientific element (albeit mostly carbon).  Here are a few of my faves:

Continue reading Many more than 2 “T’s” in The Big Bang Theory