Science Caturday: Laser Cats from Ceres


This week, the NASA spacecraft Dawn captured a stunning image of Ceres, a dwarf planet between Mars and Jupiter.

Earlier pictures from Dawn had shown a bright spot on the surface, and as the spacecraft got closer, another was revealed. Experts are speculating on the cause of the mysterious lights, but we’re pretty sure that one of the kitties on Ceres accidentally left his high beams on.  Set to stun, Fluffy. We come in peace.

Pi Day 2015

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Photo Credit: Leo Reynolds (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

If we make the very traditionally assumption that the year is a circle (technically it is an ellipse) with a circumference of 365 days (366 on a leap year):



*14 March as Pi Day is superficial fluff that teaches us nothing about π. Tau Day is also silly, especially since τ unnecessarily complicates the calculation of the area of a circle.

Science for the People: Superstorm

sftpThis week, Science for the People is exploring the evolving frontier of extreme weather, and how it’s influenced by our warming planet. Desiree Schell talks about the largest Atlantic storm system ever recorded with Kathryn Miles, author of Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy. She will also talk about the relationship between climate change and hurricane strength and frequency with Christopher Landsea, Ph.D, Science and Operations Officer at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

*Josh provides research & social media help to Science for the People and is, therefore, completely biased.

Art of Science: Sonja Hinrichsen’s Snow Drawings


Snow Drawing, Briancon, France, 2014. Photo by Sonja Hinrichsen

Artists whose work engages with the environment often gather materials from nature – branches, dirt, soil or leaves. Sonja Hinrichsen’s art supplies simply drop from the sky. Hinrichsen creates beautiful, ephemeral artworks using snow.

Her Snow Drawings are a series of designs that are “walked into” pristine snow surfaces with snowshoes. Hinrichsen creates the design and a group of volunteers strap on snowshoes and make it. The artist then documents the work in photographs and video.

Hinrichsen says her Snow Drawings, which she has been making since 2009 in the US and Europe, “correspond with and accentuate the landscape, and I hope that they help arouse appreciation and consciousness for the natural world.”  She says she prefers to create immersive but ephemeral experiences rather than objects.

The drawing shown above was created in February 2014 in Briancon, in the Valley of Serre Chevalier, a skiing area in the French Alps. The piece was created over two days with the help of approximately 70 participants from the surrounding communities.

You can read more about these and other projects by Sonja Hinrichsen at her website.

Maud Menten, #ScienceWoman

Which science woman inspires you? That was the question that It’s Okay To Be Smart and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls are currently asking people to answer in video format.

I couldn’t really pick one, because I know way too many inspiring science women, so I went with Maud Menten: one of the scientists who laid a lot of the groundwork for the field I studied. Only, I didn’t realise she was a woman until years after I first heard about her work!

I used my Lego set again, but this time I also put myself on screen.

It’s kind of embarrassing that I just blindly assumed that all the people in my textbooks were men. Half of the students in my undergrad chemistry department were women, and later half of the PhD students in my grad school biochemistry department were women as well. But at the top level, there were only a handful of female professors. I never really needed female role models to be able to choose science, and I thought I didn’t really care or notice what gender my professors were, but I wonder if I might not have blindly assumed that everyone in textbooks was a man if I had been around more female professors.

Or would I still have assumed that all scientists of the past – the ones mentioned in our books – were men? It’s hard to say, but having more women in top science positions now will change the demographics of the people mentioned in textbooks of the future.