science

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.  

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.  

Sugar And SPICE In Science Education

Mar 30, 2016
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. 

Getting A Handle On Science

Feb 15, 2016
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.  

Yes, It Actually IS Rocket Science

Feb 12, 2016
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. 

Victory In The Dark? MST3K Revival Looms

Dec 7, 2015
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. 

When Scientists Can't Repeat Their Results

Sep 2, 2015
Christian LInder/Wikimedia

Maybe you've noticed this: you hear a news story about some scientific study making a dramatic finding. 

A few weeks later, you hear of another study that makes the opposite finding. 

Well, it's confounding to scientists, too.  A recent article in SCIENCE found that scientists performing psychology studies could replicate the experiments, but got different results more than half the time. 

The authors of the article are many, and they include Southern Oregon University Assistant Professor Cody Christopherson. 

U of O Prof Gets Patent For Fractal Use

Aug 11, 2015
University of Oregon

Fractals, those mathematical patterns, are fun to look at. 

And they may also help people with the ABILITY to look. 

University of Oregon physicist Richard Taylor was just awarded a patent for a fractal-based implant designed to help blind people see. 

UO Prof Explains Why Antimatter Matters

Jul 14, 2015

If period novels or murder mysteries are not challenging enough for summer reading, maybe physics or cosmology are more up your alley.

University of Oregon physics professor Jim Brau is ready for you. 

Dr. Brau will give a public talk at the Eugene library this week (July 15) on "Why Antimatter Matters."

Here's our chance to find out more about this... er, substance?  that we heard so much about in Star Trek and other science fiction vehicles. 

Better Baking Through Math (Or The Obverse)

Jul 13, 2015
Basic Books

Despite what it may sound like on the radio, How to Bake Pi is NOT a cookbook.  Or is it?

True, there are recipes in the book, but Eugenia Cheng's version of lasagna teaches us more about the number five than cooking technique. 

Exploring "The Island Of Knowledge"

Aug 14, 2014
Basic Books

Remember that set of thoughts on knowledge? 

You know: there are things we know we don't know, "known unknowns." 

And then there are the "unknown unknowns"… things we do NOT know that we lack in knowledge. 

Over time, we learn more, and expand what theoretical physicist Marcelo Gleiser calls The Island of Knowledge. 

A Mind For Numbers -- Yes, YOU

Jul 22, 2014
Tarcher/Penguin

Okay, non-math students, stop making those gagging sounds and listen up.  Your case is not hopeless. 

Barbara Oakley is now an engineering professor, but she's one of those people who flunked math in high school. 

Yet she turned things around as an adult, and points the way for other people to do the same. 

Rewarding A Drive For Science

Jul 18, 2014
Youtube

Do you love science?  Or at least like it a lot? 

We keep working as a society to engender interest in the STEM fields--science, technology, engineering and math. 

And an Oregon student, Rachel Lertora from Astoria, is a finalist in a national science competition climaxing on 4-H National Youth Science Day. 

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