Blog Archives

A Quick Look at the Biochemistry and History of Modern Frozen Food

Most of us know that freezing food prevents it from spoiling, but the fact that quick freezing is better than slow freezing is a more subtle point that not everyone may know. As always, Henry Reich delivers a to the point video that addresses this issue and illustrates the science behind modern frozen food. As usual in such videos, some details need to be skipped, but there are enough scientific nuggets here (if you pause it) for further exploration. Even if you don’t take the time to learn about the Arrhenius equation, you will be much more appreciative of modern refrigeration.

Instructables: A Place To Learn Do-It-Yourself Engineering

instructables

An oft-repeated maxim is that learning by doing is the best type of learning. As easy as it is to believe, it seems that humanity, at least the part living in the developed world, is quickly moving in the direction of complete dependance on complicated gadgets designed by high tech companies that recruit brilliant scientists. Even if one wanted to build something, how can it be possible to compete with the world of highly advanced industry? As it turns out, the point is not to compete but to learn how to hack — hacking, not in the sense of breaking into computer systems, but in the sense of making things. That is the idea behind, Instructables, a site devoted to collecting community-generated do-it-yourself projects. Whether you want to make complex origami sculptures or your own boat, there are numerous visual guides and detailed instructions to help you out. Each project, is effectively a hands-on lesson and can be a starting point for further exploration of physics, math, and engineering principles.

One Hour With Richard Feynman: Imagining How Nature Works

Once in a rare while, a genius unlocks a secret of nature, moves humanity forward, and secures a prominent place in the annals of science. Sometimes, more rarely, that same person, also conveys the excitement of discovery and the most complex phenomena in the simplest most beautiful language. Richard Feynman, one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century, is that extremely rare person. In this one hour documentary he talks about the wondrous ways of nature with the air of someone who is both the keeper of its secrets and who is at the same time as fascinated by it as a child. Feynman talks about the jiggling of atoms to explain heat, surface tension of water, and how fire work. He discusses magnetism and reveals why any “why” question can lead to an infinite rabbit hole of explanations. This video should be mandatory viewing for anyone studying science and should be a powerful reminder about the power of imagination, not just the power of theory.

For the Love of Physics: Science as a Performance Art

Inspiring future scientists takes great teachers who are often talented performers. The beauty of physics as an academic subject is that it lends itself well to awe-inspiring demonstrations and performances. Walter Lewin, an MIT physics professor and legendary lecturer, is one of those talented teachers and performers who squeezes out of physics every drop of excitement that can be conveyed to a lay audience. In this lecture, filled with some of his most famous demonstrations, he puts his life on the line to illustrate the principles of classical mechanics, explains why the sky is blue while clouds are white, and leaves the lecture hall on a rocket. The lecture does not require mathematical sophistication, which makes it accessible to middle school students, but it will inspire anyone to pursue physics.

Zeno’s Paradox: Is Movement Possible?

Sometimes when you think really hard about something, you can reach a conclusion so contradictory to everyday experience, that it forces you to reexamine fundamental scientific and mathematical truths. That is exactly the predicament that Zeno of Elea, a Greek philosopher, reached almost two and a half thousand years ago. His famous Dichotomy paradox proposes that getting from point A to point B is impossible because it involves an infinite number of steps, which must take an infinite amount of time. As it turns out, the modern mathematics of calculus and infinite series is required to rigorously resolve this dilemma, but an intuitive explanation that captures the essence of the solution is possible. In his excellent animation, Colm Kelleher illustrates both the paradox and its resolution, and you don’t even need to know any calculus to understand the solution. This video is a good place to start when introducing the topic of infinite series and is also one more way to make a discussion of infinity more concrete.

Why Does Earth Have Deserts and Related Questions Answered

Some facts are so ingrained in our consciousness that we can’t avoid taking them for granted. We accept the existence of deserts, but unfortunately we rarely wonder why they exist where they do and what causes their creation. Once again, Henry Reich brings the subject to life with a brief but beautifully simple animation that attempts to answer these questions. Because the video is fast-paced, you might need to pause it once or twice to make sure you didn’t miss anything, but it is an extremely satisfying feeling to learning something completely new after spending just 2 minutes. Of course in order to be concise, the video glosses over several important details including an explanation for why cold air doesn’t hold moisture as well as warm air (here is an explanation and two instruction activities to go with it), but this leaves room for further exploration.

A Short Animated Foray into the Physics of Parallel Universes

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of math and physics it helps to get fired up about the subject. Thanks to Henry Reich of MinutePhysics you can get a quick curiosity-arousing peek at the latest thinking on the possible existence of multiple universes. None of the presented theories can be experimentally tested currently, but these flights of fancy will spark anyone’s imagination. After all, imagination, not simply the dry application of scientific principles leads to scientific progress.