By Jeff Danner Jeff has worked in both the chemical and biotech industries and is the veteran of thousands of science debates at cocktail parties and holiday dinners across the nation. In his Common Science blog, Jeff aims to make technological and scientific concepts accessible to all.
  • The Birthday Problem

    March 31, 2014 at 6:00 am

    You may have heard that if you are in a room with 23 people, there is a greater than 50% chance that two people in the room have the same birthday. This is commonly known as the “Birthday Problem.” Most people presented with this information are, at least initially, quite skeptical. Typically what throws people off is that they approach the problem with an incorrect perspective.

  • 3D Printing Part I: The Technology

    March 23, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    For the past several years, 3D printing technology has been garnering quite a few headlines. Unfortunately, as is common for the main-stream media, many of the interesting science elements are left out of these stories. So I figured it was time for a Common Science treatment of this fascinating technology. This week I will discuss […]

  • China, The Canary in the Coal Mine

    March 16, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    When I started writing Common Science in 2011, I did not envision devoting so many columns to resource constraint issues. However, every time I listen to the news or read the paper I am assaulted with warning signs of rapidly approaching resource scarcity issues. Many of these stories are set in China. Let me give […]

  • Checking In On Peak Oil

    March 3, 2014 at 9:23 am

    In last week’s column, The Case of the Missing Propane, I explained how the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of shale oil deposits since 2008 has led to a 30% increase in the production of crude petroleum in the United States. While that statistic makes for snappy headlines, it is not particularly meaningful to […]

  • The Case of the Missing Propane

    February 23, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Over the past few weeks, I have seen many stories about propane shortages in the United States. As a result of these shortages, prices for propane have nearly doubled from around $2.20 per gallon at the end of last year to over $4.00 per gallon this week. This situation struck me as quite odd. We […]

  • A Tale of Two Spills

    February 16, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    On February 2, 2014, a storm water drain at a retired coal-fired power plant near the North Carolina-Virginia border ruptured, which allowed more than 80,000 tons of coal ash to spill into the Dan River. The Dan River is the drinking water source for many communities and is a primary feeder to Kerr Lake Reservoir. […]

  • Keystone Pipeline Update

    February 10, 2014 at 9:27 am

    With the recent release of the State Department’s report on the Keystone XL pipeline, I thought would review some of the key issues for this topic. The Keystone XL pipeline is intended to transport diluted bitumen, a low-grade, impure form of crude petroleum, from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries in Oklahoma and […]

  • My First PC Weighed 25 Pounds

    February 2, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    My children like to make comparisons between the technology I had growing up and what they have today. In the course of a recent conversation on this topic, it occurred to me that, having been born in 1966, I have lived through the entire evolution of the personal computer and the internet. The internet got […]

  • West Virginia Chemical Spill

    January 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    On January the 9th, 2014, 7,500 gallons of a chemical called 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM) leaked from a Freedom Industries storage tank into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia, polluting the drinking water supply for over 300,000 people. The tank had not been inspected by regulators since the early 1990s. The other day a friend […]

  • We Can Afford More Math Textbooks

    January 19, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    As an engineer, I have had a lot of math education in my life, everything from multiplication tables to systems of partial differential equations.  I was quite successful in these classes due in part to the good fortune of innate ability, but also, I firmly believe, because for every class I had a textbook of […]

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