Below is my third annual index for Common Science on  I’d like to thank my readers for their support and for all of the interesting questions I have received from you at  Just follow the hyperlinks below to read any of this year’s stories. And if there is a topic you would like me to cover in 2014, send me an email.

Happy Holidays from Common Science!

1.     A Follow-Up Question for Mr. Skvarla                                                    1/6/13

An evaluation of the North Carolina Secretary of the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources’ view that global warming is still an open question.

2.     Hemp, George Washington Grew It                                                         1/13/13

A review of the remarkable properties of the hemp plant and the history of why we stopped growing it.

3.     In Which I Reveal Myself to Be a Luddite, at Least Partly              1/20/13

A personal confession regarding my affection for hand tools.

4.     Perils of a Hyper Hygienic Existence                                                        1/27/13

Some of the health challenges presented by trying to keep all bacteria out of our lives.

5.     Bananas Will Never Grow in Barrow                                                        2/3/13

An explanation of why plants will not be able to migrate fast enough to keep pace with global warming and the implications of this for the world’s food supply.

6.     Dear God What is That Smell?                                                                     2/10/13

The science behind women’s superior sense of smell.

7.     Food Part I: Three Book Recommendations                                          2/17/13

Book reviews on three recent books about our food supply.

8.     Food Part II: The Science of the Stomach                                                           2/24/13

How the digestive system deconstructs our food and conveys needed nutrients to the rest of our body.

9.     Food Part IIIA: Wonder Bread is not Wonderful                                 3/3/13

A review of the aspects of the U.S. industrial food system which are making our diets less and less healthy.

10. Food Part IIIB: An Apple a Day Really Did Used to Keep the Doctor Away        3/10/13

The conclusion of Part III.

11. Common Science Column 100                                                                          3/17/13

A thank you column to my readers to mark my 100th column.

12. Food Part IV: The Chicken and the Egg                                                        3/24/13

The shortcomings of factory chicken farms in providing us with healthy and nutritious food.

13. Food Part V: Conclusion and  Some Politics                                               3/31/13

The conclusion of my series on food with advice for the individual, our local region, and our nation on how to improve our food system and live healthier lives.

14. National Helium Shortage                                                                                  4/15/13

Reasons why elements do not obey the law of supply and demand, and the politics behind our helium shortage.

15. Want to Grow the Local Economy? Hire More Engineers.                  4/22/13

An argument that the foundation of value creation is the transformation of raw materials into finished goods, and that more engineers are needed to boost this process.

16. Advice for Opponents of the Keystone Pipeline                                       4/29/13

An argument that the focus on pollution of water supplies by pipeline leaks is the wrong focus for those trying to stop the pipeline project.

17. Depleted Uranium                                                                                                 5/6/13

An explanation of what depleted uranium is, what it is used for, the health problems it creates, and the challenges of cleaning it up in Iraq.

18.Cougars in Chapel Hill in 2035                                                                        5/13/13

Using the data for the expansion of the range of the cougar from the Rockies to the Mississippi in conjunction with Fick’s Law of Diffusion, I predict that Cougars will return to Chapel Hill, NC in 2035.

19. Ten Things You Should Know About CO2 Topping 400 PPM         5/20/13

An explanation of the significance of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaching the 400 ppm milestone and the implications for the future.

20. Mentors                                                                                                                    5/27/13

The story of three important mentors in my life and the lessons they gave me.

21. Hurricanes Part I: Hurricane Barry                                                            6/3/13

The science behind hurricanes.

22. Hurricanes Part II: Storm Surge                                                                  6/10/13

An explanation of why most of the damage and loss of life from Hurricanes is the result of storm surge.

23. Hurricanes Part III: Frequency and Global Warming                        6/17/13

An explanation of why warmer oceans may result in stronger hurricanes but not more frequent storms.

24. Voyager I: Off to Interstellar Space                                                             6/23/13

After decades of travel, the first man-made object will be leaving our solar system and sending back data from interstellar space.

25. Empire of the Ants                                                                                              7/1/13

The invasion of the Southeastern United States by the Tawny Crazy Ant.

26. No Where Else for the Rain to Go                                                                 7/8/13

An explanation of how outdated storm water systems contributed to the Great Chapel Hill Flood of 2013.

27. The Power of Backpacking                                                                               7/15/13

After returning from a recent hike on the Appalachian Trail, I calculate the power consumption required to lug a 30 pound backpack up hills over uneven ground.

28.Monkey Pox . . . Seriously?                                                                               7/22/13

Now that we have stopped giving the smallpox vaccine, monkey pox is on the rise.

29.Something is Rotten in the Province of Alberta                                       8/5/13

The details behind a “spill” from a tar sands well in Alberta and an explanation of why this type of event will continue to occur.

30.The Caterpillar Effect                                                                                          8/12/13

We all plant flowers to attract butterflies, but what we are not doing is giving their caterpillars anything to eat.

31. Could Caesar Eat Peanuts                                                                                 8/19/13

The surprising correlation between Caesarian birth and food allergies.

32. The Rise and Fall of U.S. Infrastructure Part I: The Rise                 8/25/13

The history of the great investments in U.S. infrastructure from the 1800s through the 1970s.

33. The Rise and Fall of U.S. Infrastructure Part II: The Fall                 9/1/13

The rapid deterioration of U.S. infrastructure which occurred since 1980, after investment as a function of gross domestic product significantly declined.

34.The Rise and Fall of U.S. Infrastructure Part III: Conclusion          9/8/13

A plan for building the infrastructure we need to succeed in the 21st Century.

35. The Butterfly Effect                                                                                               9/15/13

An explanation of the difference between the Butterfly Effect and Chaos Theory.

36.A World Without Fossil Fuels                                                                           9/22/13

My vision of the state of the world today if the earth did not have fossil fuels.

37.Bacteria and Obesity, A Surprising Link                                                      9/29/13

Use of antibiotics in young mammals limits the diversity of gastrointestinal tract bacteria for life, a key factor in the obesity epidemic.

38.Your Sister the Mushroom                                                                                10/6/13

An exploration of the commonality between humans and mushrooms due to their relationship on the tree of evolution.

39.Fungi of the Future                                                                                                10/13/13

Some predictions on the key role that fungi will play in our lives during the 21st century.

40.How Engineers Spend Their Spare Time                                                   10/20/13

My project to install a solar water heating system in my green house to grow tomatoes all year.

41. The Uncommon Core of the New Math                                                       10/27/13

My critique of the new Common Core math curriculum.

42.The Physics of Your Fireplace                                                                          11/3/13

The surprising scientific sophistication of the gas fireplace.

43.Sudden Cardiac Arrest Part I: The Heart                                                    11/10/13

The beginning of a series on the science of sudden cardiac arrest and the story of my father’s remarkable survival of one.

44.Sudden Cardiac Arrest Part III: Heart Attack or Cardiac Arrest      11/17/13

The differences between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest and their symptoms.

45.Sudden Cardiac Arrest Part IV: First Aid                                                     11/24/13

First aid for sudden cardiac arrest.

46.It’s the Extraction, Not the Emissions, That Matters                             12/1/13

Stories about carbon dioxide emissions from individual countries are inherently misleading.  What truly matters in terms of global warming is global extraction of below-ground carbon atoms.

47.Sudden Cardiac Arrest Part IV: The Frozen Man                                  12/8/13

Conclusion of the Sudden Cardiac Arrest series, including the story of how and why therapeutic hypothermia saved my father’s life.

48.Smog, The Desolation of Shanghai                                                             12/15/13

The science behind the devastating smog in Shanghai, China.