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Science Saturday

Arra, Lakewood Library

February is African American History Month.  In celebration of this event here are a few amazing African American scientists:

George Washington Carver- From cosmetics to gasoline, Carver found more uses for the peanut than you might imagine.  Carver moved around quite a bit as a youth and often did a variety of odd jobs.  With this well-rounded education, both practical and from formal colleges like Simpson and the Agricultural College in Ames Iowa, he used his knowledge of chemistry and agriculture to try to improve the situation for poor southern farmers.

Percy Lavon Julian - Julian discovered a method to extract hormones and steroids from plants.  This discovery brought the cost of medicine down significantly and helped relieve everything from glaucoma to helping with fertility.  He also invented a fire fighting foam that was used in World War II.

Annie J. Easly - Best known for her work on the NASA Centaur rocket project, Easly joined NASA at the beginning of the space age. She wrote computer code that evaluated substitute power technologies, helped launch Centaur, identified wind, solar and other energy projects for NACA (now called NASA). She also helped invent other systems to solve energy problems.

Want to know more?  Check out our online database Science in Context.


Arra, Lakewood Library

It may be a mouthful to say but it is also one of the most beautiful natural phenomenon on this planet.  A librarian at Lakewood just got back from Greenland where she spent 4 days (or nights in her case) watching the northern lights. 

What creates these amazing light shows in the sky?  When electrically charged particles from solar flares enter the earth's atmosphere they collide with oxygen, nitrogen and other gasses to turn into light.  Think of it like a giant neon lamp in the sky.  These auroras are typically seen at the poles because the magnetic field of the earth generally repels these particles.  South auroras are called Aurora Australis.  These light shows take place at 60 to 200 miles above the earth and may sometimes go even higher. The color is generally green but may appear in other shades as well.

Want to know more?  Check out Science in Context to read more or watch videos.

Arra, Lakewood Library

Did you know there is an annual event in which robots play soccer?  RoboCup is a group of robot enthusiasts who come together to play soccer with their computers and electronic components rather than their feet.  This last year the group met in June in Mexico City and next year they are on for the Netherlands.  

It is surprisingly difficult to make a robot walk.  These types of robots are called biped robots.  Walking is something our brains do for us without any conscious thought but for a robot this task is much more difficult.  Honda's ASIMO robot uses a Zero Moment Point algorithm.  This means the robot is constantly adjusting for the force of gravity, the action of movement and the force of the floor pushing back against the robot's foot.  We have our inner ear to help us adjust for movement and balance but in a robot this all must be programmed.  At this time robots are only able to walk across smooth surfaces.   

The hope for the future is that a robot can be invented that can walk over uneven surfaces, climb stairs and maybe even take out the trash and do our dishes. 

Check out Science InContext for everything you ever wanted to know about robots and more.


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