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.
  • "A Year From Now You Will Wish You Had Started Today"

    December 27, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    When I started this blog in the spring I had several goals. I wanted to provide the scientific background to local, national, and world events in an engaging way. I wanted to promote discussion of science and technology issues in the community. I also felt the need to sound an alarm, because everything is about to change. The next […]

  • Biofuels Part III: Ethanol, It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore

    December 18, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    Last week in “The Secret Life of Vegetable Oil” I reviewed biodiesel both from a technical and a food-versus-fuel perspective.   This week I tackle the other major biofuel, ethanol.    Ethanol production is quite simple. Find some sugar, feed it to some yeast, and they make the ethanol. The most straightforward way to make ethanol from crops […]

  • Biofuels Part II: The Secret Life of Vegetable Oil

    December 12, 2011 at 1:12 am

    In last week’s blog, Biodiesel Basics, I covered the following key items:   Essentially all plants and animals store energy by making a class of molecules called     triglycerides, more commonly known as fats and oils. Vegetable oils can be burned as fuel in diesel engines but they get too thick to use in cold weather. […]

  • Biofuels Part I: Biodiesel Basics

    December 5, 2011 at 2:56 am

    Some of my readers may be aware that in addition to writing Common Science for, I have occasionally been filling in for D.G. Martin on Who’s Talking. If you are not familiar with Who’s Talking, it’s on AM 1360 WCHL every Tuesday through Friday evening at 6:15 PM with a rebroadcast at 10:00 pm. You can […]

  • Advice to My Nephew on Whether to Study Science or Engineering

    November 28, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    I am posting from St. Louis, Missouri this where we are visiting family for Thanksgiving. My nephew here is in his senior year in high school and is trying to decide where to go for college. He’s a good student and is trying to decide if he wants to study science or engineering. I’m often asked about […]

  • Carbon Monoxide – The Silent Killer

    November 21, 2011 at 3:47 am

    In my very first Common Science blog on I told you that had perhaps the best high school chemistry teacher ever, Mrs. Ciolkosz. In this week’s blog I am going to share with you something she taught me. But, first this quick review.   Last week in “Your Mother the Plant” I discussed the process […]

  • Your Mother the Plant

    November 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    When I told people that I was going to start writing a weekly science blog for, the reactions I got ranged from rampant enthusiasm to overwhelming skepticism. When I told the skeptics that I was planning to lead off with a two-part series on photosynthesis, their concerns, to say the least, were not assuaged. But if […]

  • It's Getting Crowded in Here

    November 7, 2011 at 4:37 am

    Last week’s announcement that the world’s seven billionth person was born has prompted a barrage of news coverage, most of it lacking in any cogent analysis. In today’s blog you will get the Common Science view on this landmark starting with a story from a Petri dish.   If you took Biology in high school or […]

  • iPads, Priuses and Neodymium

    October 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    A common frame for discussing differences in culture between the United States and China is short-term versus long-term thinking. The theory is that we worry primarily about the next quarter or next year while the Chinese are planning for the next decade and the next century. I am generally skeptical about these sorts of generalizations, but this […]

  • The Saudi Arabia of Denial

    October 20, 2011 at 2:00 am

    “The United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal.” This claim has become routine for presidential candidates, including Rudy Giuliani, Rick Perry, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama. There is some truth to this statement. The United States has estimated coal reserves of 260 billion tons which, at current usage rates, would last about 200 years. If that were […]