Posts byDavid Litt

Greenhouse Gases versus Glass Greenhouses

The way things are named in science can be confusing. In physics and physical chemistry, we have penguin diagrams and Proton-Enhanced Nuclear Induction Spectroscopy (PENIS)—names that were intended to be funny but are not particularly descriptive. We also have naming conventions that reflected the best thinking at the time they were developed, but now remain
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Global Warming Games to Shrink Mountains

Can Mountains 'Grow' and 'Shrink' at the Same Time?

In elementary school, we learn that jagged mountains like the Himalayas are young and growing, while smoother mountains like the Appalachians are older, eroding, and shrinking. And most of the time this is true. But we are entering a very special part period of geologic history. If we play the correct semantic games, we may
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Are Universities for Learning or Creating?

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too”. –English proverb of dubious clarity, ca. 16th century. Undergraduates are filing onto campus, which means that for high school seniors, college application season is fast approaching. The age old question starts to haunt them—how do they know which schools they should apply to? Do they even
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All Natural

Title image courtesy of joeymanley, CCASA2.0 License People, especially in Berkeley and in some other enclaves of California, are really into the whole “natural” thing, whether it be food ingredients or medicine, and are wary of “synthetic” chemicals. So today, I decided to highlight some of my favorite natural chemicals. I hope you enjoy them
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If you want people to get vaccines–then listen

It’s pretty clear that most Americans actually believe in vaccines. A Pew research poll from January 29 of this year found that 68% of American adults think that childhood vaccines should be mandatory, so it’s safe to assume that most everyone thinks they are efficacious at preventing disease (which they are). But there are a
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Expressing Science Through Art

Cover image credit: Kate Nichols. Through the Looking Glass 1. Silver nanoparticles on glass. 24 x 45 inches, 2011. Photo credit: Donald Felton.​ When I look back to the past, it always seems to be a simpler time. Luminaries such as Leonardo Da Vinci were scientists, scholars, artists, and everything in between (wikipedia has a list of
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Alternative science career: Become an organoleptic taste tester

One bored lunch, I was lazily reading through the chemical properties of benzyl ether and diphenyl ether on Sigma Aldrich’s website, and for the first time I noticed a line called “organoleptic: almond; chocolate; spicy; fruity; sweet” and “organoleptic: geranium; green” for the two chemicals. After consulting Google, the most revered of reference resources, I
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Grey Goo: Not an end for Me or You

Misconceptions are common. Everyone has preconceived notions of what people are like; words like “jock”, “nerd”, “cheerleader” will bring certain stereotypes to mind. The same goes for professions— “doctor” and “politician” probably call up different images. Buzzwords, like “Genetically modified organisms”, “fracking”, and “NSA” also come with their own baggage. When people learn that I
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Bacteria in your frosted (snow) flakes!

If you’re from the Northeast or the Midwest (like I am) then you probably know that children enjoy playing in the snow. Snowball fights, snow angels, snow forts, and catching snowflakes on their tongues, children revel in the soft, downy, cold crystals. As scientists, our idea of fun has changed—following a loss of innocence, there
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