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.
  • Of Minerals And Men

    September 28, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    I recently read a report from the journal Nature noting that the concentration of mercury dissolved in the oceans has more than tripled since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. A number of questions immediately came to mind, such as, “How did this happen?” and “How concerned should we be?” And thus a Common Science® […]

  • Chikungunya Part III: The Epidemic Continues

    September 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Since I published Part I and Part II of this series in July, the ongoing chikungunya epidemic in the Americas has mostly fallen out of the headlines. I suspect that the 400,000+ people who have been infected with Chikungunya since then would still find the epidemic to be newsworthy. So Common Science® is here to […]

  • All About Electricity

    September 14, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    The fatal flaw in solar roads is that they generate direct current (DC) power which is difficult to transmit over long distances without significant loss of power. Alternating current (AC) power can be transmitted over long distances with only a small loss of power. This difference in transmission losses explains why electricity transmission around the globe uses AC rather than DC.

  • How to Teach an Engineer to Play Guitar

    September 7, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    I am on the road again this week. So as I cruise at 34,000 feet over Knoxville, Tennessee, let me share with you the long, circuitous history of my learning to play guitar. It’s a story which has lessons about mathematics as well as the importance of matching teaching styles to students. A prominent feature […]

  • Why Solar Roads are a Bad Idea

    August 31, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    If you paid attention to the news last spring, you may remember that solar roads were experiencing their 15 minutes of fame. There were newspaper articles, TV reports, viral Facebook messages, and at least one Kickstarter campaign to fund this ambitious project. The concept was to start covering our roads with small, modular solar panels […]

  • Methane in the Water Part II: Fires and Explosions

    August 24, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Since methane, the primary component of natural gas, is quite flammable, the question I will address this week is what level of methane contamination in drinking water wells represents a fire or explosion hazard.

  • Methane in the Water Part I: Toxicity

    August 17, 2014 at 11:44 pm

    In recent weeks, there have been many reports in both the local and national media regarding a study published by Duke University showing elevated methane levels in drinking water wells located near fracking operations in New York and Pennsylvania. In my opinion, these reports do not provide sufficient information for the reader/viewer/listener to evaluate the […]

  • Soil Part II: An Optimistic Global Warming Column

    August 10, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    I was inspired to write this two-part series on soil by reading Kristin Ohlson’s recent book, The Soil Will Save Us. Part I focused on the management of minerals in the soil and suggested that increased use of seaweed-based fertilizers could improve our agricultural productivity as well as the quality of our diets. In Part II, […]

  • Meanwhile In The Arctic

    August 3, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you will have read quite a few columns on global warming and climate change with the view that significant problems will be visited upon us sooner than is commonly predicted, leaving me open to criticism to being alarmist. It is with my potentially alarmist lenses that I have been following a series of events and trends in the Arctic that I find to be both troubling and consistent with my concerns.

  • Image provided by the UNC Institute for the Environment

    UNC Program Promotes Energy Awareness Among Local HS Students

    July 28, 2014 at 7:14 am

    This week the Institute is hosting 28 local high school students who will spend a week on the campus of UNC exploring topics related to current energy use, climate change, alternative energy and sustainability as part of the Climate Leadership and Energy Awareness Program (Climate LEAP).