Water softeners

Not long after I first moved into a house from an apartment, I woke in the night to the sound of rushing water from the basement. Groggily, I investigated, visions of finding all my boxes of junk afloat dancing in my sleep-fogged brain, only to discover that all that noise came from a cabinet-sized device …

Continue reading

Space tomatoes

In 1984 NASA put into orbit a schoolbus-sized vehicle called the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), which exposed various materials to space for six years. NASA should have asked Heinz to sponsor it, because not only were there 57 kinds of materials on board, one of those materials was 12.5 million tomato seeds. Those seeds …

Continue reading

Television

There’s probably no object in your house that is a better example of the impact of science and technology than your television set — and probably no object less understood. Strictly speaking, television really is just “radio with pictures.” Like radio, it’s based on the fact that an electrical current flowing in one wire emits …

Continue reading

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence

This may shock some people, but the concept of life on other planets predates Steven Spielberg’s movie E.T. It also predates Kenneth Arnold’s coining of the term “flying saucer” in 1947 and even H. G. Wells’s late-19th-century novel War of the Worlds. Percival Lowell, in the mid-19th century, claimed to see canals on Mars. Immanuel …

Continue reading

Skydiving

  “Go!” yelled the instructor. Over strenuous objections from brain and body, I let go of the airplane’s strut and stepped sideways into 3,500 feet of air. I fell: two simple words that don’t do the experience justice. I’d been training all day. I was supposed to arch and count to five. I didn’t. Every …

Continue reading

Space stations

  Having recently written about the Human Genome Initiative and the Superconducting Super Collider, it behooves me to write about the third “big science” project now in the works, Space Station Freedom. There was some question last year whether Space Station Freedom would ever be built–the U.S. Congress was considering dropping it from the budget. …

Continue reading

The Saskatchewan Science Centre

Our world is largely shaped by science and technology. (Consider television!) The pace of such science-driven change is astonishing–and accelerating. Today’s young people will face a world we can barely imagine, and to do so successfully, they must be comfortable with and knowledgeable about science and technology. But are they? Comfortable, maybe, but knowledgeable? Hardly. …

Continue reading

Golf

‘Tis the season to chase little white balls over big green spaces, and to contemplate, while combing through waist-high grass, the history and science behind your endeavours. The Romans played a game called “paganica,” chasing a feather-stuffed ball around the countryside with a bent stick, but the Scots usually get the credit (or blame) for …

Continue reading

Superconductivity

  You’ve probably heard of “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.” Well, now there’s something else that’s coming in from the cold: superconductivity. Superconductivity is not something that orchestra directors aspire to; it refers to a discovery made 80 years ago at the University of Leiden (Holland) by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, who was …

Continue reading

Exercise

I hate exercise. It’s uncomfortable, sweaty, and cuts into quality TV time. Unfortunately, it’s good for you. Exercise is physical exertion for the purpose of improving physical fitness. (If it’s for any other purpose, we call it “hard work.”) Modern fitness programs got their start in Prussia in the 1800s (which should tell you something). …

Continue reading

Auroras and meteors

If you’re in the habit of looking up at the night sky, there’s a good chance you’ve seen two very interesting sights: northern lights and falling stars. The proper name for the northern lights is “aurora borealis.” Aurora was the Roman goddess of the dawn, their version of the Greek goddess Eos; borealis basically means …

Continue reading

The Human Genome Project

I’ve written before about the genetic code and how it writes a description of each of us using an alphabet of only four letters: the four bases that are contained in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). Every organism has different proportions of these four bases. Two strands of …

Continue reading

Easy AdSense Pro by Unreal