Alan Alda’s Quest to Put Story to Science

It’s been a busy week, so unfortunately I’m stuck with reposting one of my articles from elsewhere. Last week I was lucky enough to have a post published on the Scientific American Guest Blog, which you can find at the link below. Alan Alda’s Quest to Put Story to Science http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2014/04/05/alan-aldas-quest-to-put-story-to-science/ Hope you like it! Cover photo courtesy of Prabhu B Doss, Flickr Creative Commons

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King of Poisons, Poison of Kings

There’s a reason why we don’t add arsenic to milkshakes. Apart from the fact that the two have absolutely nothing to do with each other, it just so happens that arsenic is poisonous to humans. Arsenic was first documented as a poison in the first century by a physician in the court of Emperor Nero. It gained popularity among royalty and nobility for its lack of color, odor, or taste as well as its widespread occurrence in nature. While today,…

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Dungeons and Deltas

I spent much of the past week in New Orleans and Nashville, indulging in live music and warm weather. Obviously, the best part of travelling is geology, and although my only exposure to ‘rocks’ involved an afternoon on the beach, the Mississippi River delta on which New Orleans is built is quite a story in and of itself. At 5,970 km (3,710 miles), the Mississippi-Missouri River is the fourth-longest river in the world, following the Nile, the Amazon,…

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Dude, Where’s My Boulder?

What’s the deal with this boulder? Big Rock (Okotoks Erratic), Alberta Canada How about this one? Indian Rock, New York And this one. Yeager Rock, Washington The rocks in these three photographs don’t look like they have much in common. I mean, they are all big. Really big. And they do all look like they were dropped onto unsuspecting landscapes by geologically-minded aliens. In reality, there’s more to these boulders than meets the eye. In a…

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Chemistry for the Soul

I never used to like chemistry. It always seemed like this vast forest that a student could wander into one sunny morning and emerge from four years later speaking a language that nobody else could understand. (Actually, I’m pretty sure that describes every university degree, but that’s beside the point.) Lately though, I’ve started to see its elegance. From its rules, patterns, and chemical interactions emerge many of the processes that govern not only humans…

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Terminus

“The terminus of the glacier is an instructive place. Ceaselessly changing, and yet always the same, like the seashore. Ice streams becoming rivers, mountains wearing down into valleys. The transition zone between two worlds.”  Thomas Wharton, Icefields At the terminus or toe of a glacier, ice crumbles. This zone marks the end of the life cycle for ice within any glacier, regardless of the glacier’s overall health. Death by natural causes, if you will. From…

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Flaring Is (Not) Caring

I’ve written about natural gas flaring before – the spectacular case of Turkmenistan’s Door to Hell. Flaring is the process through which natural gas that cannot be captured is burned, converting it into carbon dioxide. On a practical level, the practice seems completely counterintuitive. Why would we burn 140 to 150 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year globally when demand clearly exists? Flaring worldwide emits 270 to 290 million tons of carbon dioxide…

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AAAS Annual Meeting 2014 – Friday

After a stressful Thursday morning watching the snow blow past my window and scanning La Guardia airport’s list of flight cancellations, I was lucky enough to catch a window of rain and hop on one of the only New York – Chicago flights running that day. Never having been to Chicago before, I’m very excited to have the weekend to explore. First impression – wow. I am here on a mission, and that mission is…

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The Lost Squadron

In 1942, at the height of the Second World War, treacherous weather and low fuel forced six US fighter jets and two bombers to make an emergency landing on a Greenland glacier. Within days, a rescue operation was staged, and all 25 members of the party were successfully evacuated. The planes, however, remained in place and were largely forgotten until 50 years later, when a salvage team set out to recover them. The history is fascinating,…

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Who is John Snow?

Regrettably, I must inform you that the subject of today’s post is not Jon Snow, the sensitive warrior who has won the hearts of Game of Thrones fans the world over. If that is why you are here, I apologize and offer you this photo as a token of good faith. Aww, he even likes puppies!  Who is John Snow? More accurately, who was John Snow, and why does he warrant so much attention? A…

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