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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.
  • Why Are The Norwegians Burning Trash?

    November 16, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Several weeks ago, my daughter came home and said “Dad, why does Norway have to import trash to keep its power plants running?  You should write a column on that.” And so I have. First, in the interest of full disclosure, I love Norway. I have been there both for business and pleasure and in […]

  • Is The Toilet The Greatest Public Health Invention Ever?

    November 9, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Last week’s column, Spinal Cord Miracle?, was an inspiring story about how scientific progress enabled a man whose spinal cord had been severed to walk again. This remarkable achievement came as a result of the expenditure of millions of dollars and decades of research. While writing that column, I was struck by the starkly contrasting […]

  • Spinal Cord Miracle?

    November 2, 2014 at 7:48 am

      In 2010, 40 year old Bulgarian firefighter Darek Fidyka had his spinal cord severed at mid-chest level during a brutal knife attack. He was completely paralyzed below the wound and, despite intensive physical therapy, showed zero improvement in the two years following the attack. Then, as you will see, something miraculous happened. This story […]

  • Common Science Grab Bag

    October 26, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Generally speaking, I stick to one topic per week, but at the moment there are a number of items which are laying claim to my attention, none of which seem to call for stand alone treatment. So please enjoy my first-ever Common Science grab bag column: Ebola I have been intentionally and steadfastly avoiding writing […]

  • How Chemical Engineering Is Like Calculus

    October 20, 2014 at 7:31 am

    If you are not familiar with chemical engineering, you may have the impression that it is a narrowly-focused degree intended to train you to design and operate equipment that you might find in chemical plants such as pumps, reactors, and distillation towers. While chemical engineers are certainly taught these things, the foundation of the degree is a much broader study of the application of chemistry and physics to real world phenomena. Thus it can be and is used by graduates in many non-chemical industry jobs. There is also a strong emphasis on data analysis and problem solving. As a result, chemical engineers tend to have quite varied careers.

  • The Case of the Disappearing Lakes

    October 12, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Elementary school was a challenging time for me. I was terribly unorganized and a bit of a mess. Once, in the third grade, my teacher was so frustrated by the slovenly state of my desk that she dumped it out on the floor in the middle of class. My handwriting was also really, really bad. […]

  • Mercury Rising

    October 5, 2014 at 11:37 am

    As I noted last week in Of Minerals and Men, the journal Nature recently reported that the concentration of mercury in the upper zone of the world’s oceans has more than tripled since the start of the Industrial Revolution. I found this to be a rather troubling statistic, and decided to delve into it a […]

  • 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.