Common Science: The Year In Review
Year two of Common Science has come to a close. Thanks for your support, you interesting questions and comments and your Facebook “Likes.” The year began with a four-part series called Chapelboro 2050 and finished with the history of nylons. In between, we talked about fracking, the Keystone pipeline, the Bronze Age, West Nile virus, gravity, the God Particle, nuclear power, global warming, methane hydrate, the flu, dust explosions, phosphorus, sweat, deep sea vents and whole host of other topics. I even worked in a little marriage advice.
If you missed any or want to re-read some favorites, here is a hyperlinked table of contents for Common Science® 2012. See you next year.
First in a multipart series on how resource scarcity is likely to affect life in the Chapelboro area in 2050. Part I suggests that bicycle commuting will grow and calls for significant increases in investment in bike lanes.
Second in a multipart series on how resource scarcity is likely to affect life in the Chapelboro area in 2050. Part II predicts reduction in the area of landscape devoted to grass.
Yes, We Have No Bananas 1/22/12
A review of Dan Koeppel’s fascinating book “Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World” explain the unique vulnerability of banana to disease due to extreme lack of genetic diversity.
Third in a multipart series on how resource scarcity is likely to affect life in the Chapelboro area in 2050. Part III predicts that the strict segregation of homes and businesses in our zoning laws will be removed by 2050.
Final installment in a multipart series on how resource scarcity is likely to affect life in the Chapelboro area in 2050, calling for increase priority on protection and enrichment of the top soil.
2012 A Year Without a Winter 2/13/12
A review of how the climate goals set in the UN’s 2009 conference in Copenhagen would require leaving half of all known fossil fuel deposits in the ground.
Keystone Controversy 2/19/12
A discussion of the Keystone XL pipeline project suggesting that if the Alberta Tar sands are fully exploited that the UN’s goals for limiting carbon dioxide emissions will not met.
What A Fracking Mess 2/26/12
A review of the draft EPA report on fracking-related water contamination in Pavillion, WY demonstrating that, although fracking can be performed in a way that protects drinking water, things can also go terribly wrong.
An illustration of how the history of natural and synthetic rubber tells the story of the petroleum age.
The story of an essay question I had in 1984 as I tried to get into the honors program at the University of Delaware where I wrote about the remarkable properties of water.
A review of the tragic explosion of aluminum dust during the polishing of iPads in China and the dangers of dusts in general.
An explanation of the harm caused by salt water when consumed by humans or plants.
An explanation of commercial desalination technologies and their inherent limitations.
A summary of underwater aquifers and the drawbacks of drawing them down too fast with particular emphasis on the Ogallala Aquifer in the American Great Plains.
A commentary on whether all drilling operations through aquifers have water pollution risk.
A discussion of the parallels in resource limits for both water and oil in the modern era.
An explanation of the calculation and significance of sun protection factors for sunscreens.
A review of the critical nature of phosphorous in all life on earth a suggestion that it may be the ultimate limiting factor for human population.
Fracking, What NPR Left Out 5/20/12
A critique of and NPR report on fracking which did not discuss the differences on carbon dioxide emissions when using natural gas instead of coal for electricity production.
Gravity, Still A Mystery 5/27/12
A discussion of what we know and still do not know about one of the universe’s fundamental forces.
The Transit of Venus 6/3/12
The fascinating science and history of the transit of Venus.
An illustration of how the scientific sophistication of the Bronze Age reminds us that our ancestors where just as smart as we are, they just had less accumulated knowledge to work with.
A review of the theory that Minoan sailors may have reached the Great Lakes during the Bronze Age to mine for copper.
An investigation of the impact of HFCS on the rise in obesity in the United States.
Don’t Know Much Biology 7/1/12
A recommendation that high school students take chemistry and physics as prerequisites to biology to allow for a more fulfilling and in-depth biology class.
The God Particle 7/8/12
An explanation of the Higgs boson and the significance of its discovery.
Don’t Sweat It 7/15/12
A discussion of sweat and how it removes heat from the body.
When the Lights Go Out 8/5/12
A discussion of the massive power outage in India and why the U.S. should move quickly to upgrade to smart grid technology for electricity production.
Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite 8/12/12
A review of the reasons behind the return of bed bugs to the United States and the likelihood that the spread will continue.
In recognition of my 20th wedding anniversary, a column on the low divorce rates for chemical engineers.
A column on the science of AM and FM radio waves to celebrate the launch of simulcast for WCHL on 97.9 FM.
West Nile Virus 9/2/12
A report on the significance of the introduction of a new endemic disease to the U.S. and why the rate of incidence of West Nile Virus is being under reported.
A discussion of why the conversion of many electric power plants in the U.S. from coal to natural gas is not resulting in a global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
An explanation of the basic science involved in splitting atoms to make electricity.
A review of why nuclear waste poses a danger to human health and a review of our, thus far, unsuccessful attempts at finding a way to store it.
A discussion of nuclear plant safety incidents and a recommendation that nuclear power be phased out in coming decades.
Since the viral strains circulating this winter represent a change from the last two year, I predicted a challenging flu season.
Life at deep sea vents depends on an entirely unique and independent food chain compared to the rest of the biosphere. Observations at the vents suggest that life in the universe may be more common than we think.
Political Non-Science: Part I 10/21/12
First part of a discussion of science topics which are being either misrepresented or under-represented in the current presidential election campaign.
Second part of a discussion of science topics which are being either misrepresented or under-represented in the current presidential election campaign. Suggests that we hear more from our National Science Advisor, Dr. John Holdren.
A review of the science and current state-of-the art for nanotechnology.
Why Ohio Is Not Close 11/6/12
An indictment of the abysmal discussion of polling statistics in the national media. In particular, an explanation of why an Obama lead of 52% to 47% with a 3.1% margin of error is not “close.”
Risky Business 11/11/12
A discussion of how poorly humans assess risk both individually and as a society.
Methane Hydrate Part I: The Science 11/18/12
A discussion of the science of methane hydrate and the technologies being developed to recover it.
Increasing the CO2 concentration to over 450 ppm in the atmosphere will cause significant climate disruption. We are already on track to surpass this limit without methane hydrates. If we chose to exploit them we may bring about our own demise.
As I had predicted in early October, Flu season is North Carolina is on pace to be the worst in years.
A suggestion that the invention of an artificial photosynthesis technology could avert the coming climate crisis.
An Ode to President Carter 12/9/12
If we had heeded President Carter’s advice from the 1970s we might be mostly complete in converting our electricity production to solar power.
The Lesson of Nylons 12/16/12
A suggestion that our current quest to create manufacturing jobs could find guidance from the invention of nylon 77 years ago.
You can follow Jeff on Twitter @CommonScience.