Common Science Grab BagOctober 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 CalculusOctober 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 LakesOctober 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 RisingOctober 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 MenSeptember 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 ContinuesSeptember 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 ElectricitySeptember 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 GuitarSeptember 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 IdeaAugust 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 ExplosionsAugust 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.