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.
  • 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 […]

  • Entropy and the Local Economy

    October 16, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    Entropy is a word that is used far more often than it is understood. But if you want to understand how manufacturing activities drive economic growth differently than service functions, you need to understand entropy. So to get us started, here is a really, really short Common Science lesson on thermodynamics, which govern pretty much everything in […]

  • The Flu: Epilogue

    October 9, 2011 at 11:29 pm

    I intended to move away from the flu after 3 weeks, but decided I left some things unsaid. Long, long ago, when I was applying for college, I wanted to study either history or chemical engineering. That may sound like and odd mix, but if you have been reading this blog you will have seen that the […]

  • Flu Season Primer Part III: The Flu

    October 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    This week’s entry brings us to the conclusion of my three part series on the flu. If you want to start at the beginning here are the links for Part I and Part II. The flu, with its predictable yearly visits, has become so familiar to us that we tend to forget that it is a truly […]

  • Flu Season Primer Part II: The Immune System

    September 25, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    When we left off last week in “Flu Season Primer Part I: The Virus” your immune system was about to mount a spirited defense to a viral infection. Your immune system protects you from all sorts of threats and invasions, including parasites, bacteria, allergens, insect bites, viruses and more. In this blog I will only address […]

  • Flu Season Primer Part I: The Virus

    September 19, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Flu season is upon us and the movie Contagion about a global epidemic is out in the theaters. So clearly it is time for a three-part Common Science series on viruses, the immune system, and influenza.    Viruses are frightening, but they are also fascinating. At the top of the page are illustrations of the HIV (top […]

  • Everything Comes from Oil, Everything

    September 11, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    It’s been awhile since I posted my most recent entry in my series on petroleum. If you want to start at the beginning, follow the links below.   1.     Nothing Matters More than Oil, Nothing 2.     Photosynthesis Part I: Oxygen Gets all the Press 3.     Photosynthesis Part II: Glucose Should Get a Better Agent 4.     Petroleum: 300 […]

  • It's a Theory That's Out There

    September 5, 2011 at 2:41 am

    I mentioned in an earlier post (A Science Question for Michele Bachmann) that science is often the first casualty of presidential politics. Here is an example. When Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry was recently asked about his views on evolution he responded by saying “It’s a theory that’s out there.”   Science-denying candidates like Mr. Perry […]