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.
  • The Physics of Your Fireplace

    November 3, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    If you have a gas fireplace in your house, I have something surprising to tell you about it. The switch on the wall which turns on the flame is not connected to the electricity in your house.  Understanding how this switch works requires an explanation of both the thermoelectric and piezoelectric effects.  Who knew you […]

  • The Uncommon Core of the New Math

    October 27, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    In the early 1990s I was working at ARCO Chemical Company in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Times were good at ARCO, although that would change. We were making money, dress was formal, and we devoted time and resources to supporting the local community. As part of that effort, I was asked to host a group […]

  • How Engineers Spend their Spare Time

    October 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Since I started writing Common Science in April of 2011, I have averaged 50 columns a year.  Most weeks I have my topic selected by Monday, a first draft done by Wednesday and am ready to submit to my editor (she’s not hard to find) by Friday.  This routine keeps me on track to publish […]

  • Common Science: Fungi of the Future

    October 13, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Last week in Part I of this series, I discussed some of the unique properties of fungi – yeasts, molds, and mushrooms. This week, I’ll explain why you will be hearing more and more about fungi in the future, particularly in the areas of agriculture and environmental remediation. Fungi play several critical roles in food […]

  • Your Sister the Mushroom

    October 6, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I previously published a column called “Your Mother the Plant” in which I discussed the nearly identical structures of chlorophyll, which absorbs carbon dioxide for plants, and hemoglobin, which absorbs oxygen for animals like humans.  This striking similarity is an echo of the time long, long ago before the evolutionary divergence of plants and animals.  […]

  • Bacteria and Obesity, A Surprising Link

    September 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    As a chemical engineer, I am naturally drawn to write columns about energy and manufacturing.  However, if you have been reading my columns for a while you will have noticed that I keep coming back to topics concerning the vital importance of maintaining a healthy population of beneficial bacteria within us, particularly within our gastrointestinal […]

  • A World Without Fossil Fuels

    September 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Our world is dominated by fossil fuels. They make our electricity, heat our homes, power our cars, and are changing our climate. As a student of both science and history, I sometimes wonder what the world would be like today if there were no fossil fuels; no coal, no petroleum, and no natural gas. One […]

  • The Butterfly Effect

    September 16, 2013 at 5:51 am

    For a system to exhibit “chaos” as defined by physicists, four elements must be present.

  • The Rise and Fall of US Infrastructure Part III: Conclusion

    September 8, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    In Parts I and II of this series I covered the history and impact of the construction of infrastructure in the United States, as well as the dynamics behind its slide into its current state of decay.  In the near future we will need to get serious about making repairs and improvements, but before we […]

  • The Rise and Fall of U.S. Infrastructure Part II: The Fall

    September 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    In Part I of this series I reviewed the rise of infrastructure in the United States. This week we will explore the fall and how it came to be that the ASCE.