Did you know Uranium in the Rocky Mountains gives Denver a 50% higher level of radioactivity than most other U.S. cities? This is the equivalent to getting three chest x-rays per year. Ironically, the cancer rate is lower in Denver than in the rest of the country. Want to know more? Check out the book The Instant Physicist: An Illustrated Guide. Amaze your new teachers with your knowledge of science this school year!
Who knew one of the most deadly animals in the world would be a shrimp? With amazing vision that can see in both the ultraviolet and infrared spectrum not much gets past this feisty little creature. The two appendages on the front of its body can hit with the same force as a 22 caliber bullet! Check out the blog The Oatmeal for a fantastic introduction to the mantis shrimp.
Death Valley is the lowest, hotest and driest place in North America. With an average rain fall total of less than two inches and temperatures over 100 degrees between April and October this is undisputable. The highest recorded ground temperature was 201 degrees Fahrenheit with an air temperature of 128 degrees in July of 1972. Temperatures regularly exceed 120 degrees in the summer months. There are four mountain ranges that block the mositure from the ocean from reaching Death Valley. Despite being so dry and hot it is home to 51 species of mammals, 307 bird species, 36 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians and five species of fish. When I start to complain about the heat this summer I will just have to remind myself, "At least I'm not in Death Valley!"
This weekend is the grand opening of the light rail West Rail Line. There are lots of festivities going on to celebrate. Here is some of the science behind the commuter train. The train is a "bi-directional, six-axle, high-floor single articulated light rail vehicle constructed of low alloy high tensile (LAHT) steel," according to the RDT website. What does this really mean? The trains are made out of a type of steel that is strongerand more resistant to corrosion. The carbon content is required to be between .05% and .25% and the steel may contain other elements such as: manganese, copper, niobium, nitrogen, nickel, vanadium, chromium, titanium, calcium and titanium. The trains run off an AC-IGBT system. This is a motor with a controlled amount of voltage from the DC electricity of the tracks to the AC current needed for running the four motors in each car of the train.
Maybe RTD can model the next phase of train development off the Eco-Ride train in Japan. Like a rollercoaster this train runs by turning potential energy into kinetic energy. Hang onto your lunch! Read more about the Eco-Train in the online database Science Reference Center.
What happens when you try to wring out a washcloth in space? Personally, I had never thought about it. Luckily for me, someone else did and now we have this cool video of an astronaut from the Canadian Space Agency testing exactly that:
Follow the Canadian Space Agency on YouTube for more awesome space experiments.
James D. Watson is most famous for his work with Francis Crick to discover the structure of DNA. Watson was born today, April 6, 1928. He was declared a genius at an early age and he graduated from the University of Chicago at age nineteen. He and Crick began to investigate the molecular structure of DNA in 1952, eventually coming up with the structure known today as the "Double Helix." Watson won a Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine in 1962, and in 1991 he became the first director of the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project was an effort to map the genetic sequence of the entire genome, a project which was completed in 2006, and has huge implications for research as well as ethics. It's hard to imagine where we would be today without Watson's work and the work of countless other scientists after him. For one thing, it's possible some of my favorite science fiction books might never have been published!
The library has lots of books about thse scientists and their work, or you can check out the Science in Context database on our new Homework Help page for more information.
Richard Feynman is a rare person who had both a sense of humor and also was an amazing scientist. He was instrumental in such events as inventing the atom bomb and also discovering the cause of the Challenger spaceship explosion. Feynman was a key scientist in the study of quantum physics, which explains the behavior of miniscule particles. While at Cornell University Feynman worked on an explanation for how particles interact with each other. He calculated all the possible ways a particle could move between two points, this is the path integral. He then created a graph that would calculate a particles path integral in both space and time showing how the particle moves. This graphic is appropriately called a Feynman Diagram.
Some interesting personal information about Feynman: He was rejected from the World War II draft for mental reasons. Apparently, he was too literal in the interview. He performed in the student production of South Pacific at Caltech. He was an expert safe cracker.
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.
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.