Imagine a poppy seed sitting at the center of Fenway Park. If the baseball stadium were the size of an atom, then the poppy seed would be the relative size of its nucleus, nearly 100,000 times smaller.
This is an example of one of the tools that Alan Lightman, internationally renowned writer and physicist, discussed in his talk on “Science Writing” earlier this week: the use of metaphor to express large numbers and complex ideas. Lightman is a visiting professor in Brown’s Nonfiction Writing Program, and he holds joint appointment at MIT in the English and physics departments as one of only a few professors to straddle the sciences and humanities. He is best known for his bestselling novel Einstein’s Dreams, and has published numerous other books and essays in addition to, you know, doing theoretical astrophysics research. Thanks for the feelings of inadequacy. Check out a few more of his tips on science writing after the jump: Continue Reading
Providence isn’t generally regarded as a hub of space travel (for now), but the engineers and astrophysicists of College Hill are nonetheless set to leave their mark on the stratosphere with NASA’s recent announcement of its CubeSat Mission candidates. The mission — an initiative to launch a class of nano-satellites aboard rockets scheduled for 2015, 2016, and 2017 — will use satellites designed and constructed by fifteen educational and research institutions, including Brown. Read the details here.
If there’s one thing the film Gravity taught the world, it’s that poorly constructed satellites are a big no-no. With the sturdy designs of Brown’s astrophysicists up in orbit, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock will hopefully run into fewer difficulties while at work.
Upon learning that the Lecture Board Speaker Poll was officially open, one of our writers sprung into action to proclaim that she planned to vote for Mindy Kaling. World War III erupted as both BlogDH staffers and readers alike disagreed with this preference. As such, several members of our team were inspired to action and decided to write pieces advocating for their first-choice speakers. Expect fleshed-out plugs for each candidate from now until the poll closes. It’s like All That‘s ‘Know Your Stars’… except not fake.
First of all, I have to say Lecture Board did a PHENOMENAL job with this year’s candidates. Sure, Mindy Kaling is pretty cool; Arianna Huffington created one of the most popular news sites of our age, which is okay; Guy Fieri is ignorant about his ‘90s boy-band frosted tips, which is completely amusing; and Sir Ian McKellen was knighted, which I guess is kind of a big deal. But guys… BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY.
Seriously, this guy.
Find the reasons why you should vote for Bill Nye the Science Guy after the jump. Seriously, go vote. Right now. Continue Reading
This week, The Herald is running a four-part series examining students’ experiences in introductory science courses at Brown.
This topic is particularly relevant now — nearly 60 percent of the class of students that Brown admitted this year expressed the intent to concentrate in the sciences. The Committee on Educational Innovation, one of the strategic planning committees formed under Christina Paxson this fall, identified science, technology, engineering, and math fields as a key area of focus in the strategic planning process.
Improving undergraduate science education has also been an area of recent national concern, with a growing amount of press devoted to high attrition rates in certain STEM fields. In 2011, the Association of American Universities announced it would undertake a five-year initiative to improve STEM education at its member institutions, including Brown.
Introductory courses enroll significant percentages of the student body each semester. In spring 2011, for example, nearly one-fifth of the freshman class enrolled in BIOL 0200: “The Foundation of Living Systems.” Continue Reading
If you possess an internet connection, it’s more than likely you’ve been reading up on the next big tech trend predicted to sweep the globe: augmented reality, centering around the much-hyped visual interactivity of Google Glass.
Recently, researchers in the BrainGate program here at Brown University announced a breakthrough that has the potential to add an entirely new dimension to augmented reality: an implantable, wireless, rechargeable brain interface. The implantable Brown-computer implant has been tested on animals before, but humans have only undergone tests with a tethered BCI rather than a wireless one. An incredible video of a May 2012 test (below) shows a paralyzed woman using a tethered BCI to manipulate a bottle with a robotic arm.
According to a recent article in ExtremeTech, scientists here at Brown have implanted the wireless BCIs in animals; after 13 months of testing, the researchers are planning to move to human subjects for testing in the future.
A bit over a month ago, I attended a GZA show in Boston and thought to myself “Gosh, I wish I could take a class with this guy. I mean, he’s a f*cking GENIUS.” Yesterday, RISD’s STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art Math) initiative made this dream come true by bringing The Genius (born Gary Grice) himself to the RISD Auditorium. The talk that transpired was ostensibly a discussion of GZA’s career and Dark Matter, his upcoming science-inspired album that has been years or, according to the rapper, decades in the making. Yet after GZA’s talk I emerged not with a newfound interest in physics, but rather a greater appreciation for curiosity, artistry and how the two, for artists of GZA’s stock, are ultimately one in the same. Continue Reading
IGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machines) is an international competition for undergraduates from the United States, South America, Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa, who spend approximately one year creating biological systems with a set of standardized parts.
This past weekend, the combined Brown-Stanford IGEM team completely owned the annual competition, placing in the top 16 out of the 190 teams competing. It gets better—they were the only US team out of the four competing to place in the top 16, beating out schools like MIT, Berkeley, Yale, and Harvard. We had the chance to chat with Julia Borden ’14, a member of the IGEM team, and ask her a few questions. Continue Reading
Need an extra reason to stop studying? A Brown Med School professor posted Monday about a recent metastudy of over 12,000 6-18 year-olds that found “a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance.” Although specific GPA increases numbers weren’t included, the researchers point to “increased oxygen flow” and endorphins as possible factors for this correlation (among manyotherthings that also release endorphins).
At the same time, Brown researchers at Butler Hospital have discovered that adults who had high levels of anxiety during childhood have genetically-modified stress responses. Although their DNA isn’t changed, the way their genes are expressed is (epigenetics FTW), and as a result, they have “greater stress sensitivity and fear in stressful situations,” according to Audrey Tryka MD, PhD.
All this to say that no matter how much work you can get done sitting in the Ratty for four hours straight, “you should probably get off your butt and go get some fresh air.” [Thanks for the quote, Mom.] So, snow football tomorrow anyone?
According to an article on Gawker, “Scientists have discovered a “liberal gene” that, combined with an active adolescent social life, appears to correlate with liberal political views.” Liberal gene + social = later liberal political views? Hmm, sounds like a gene that might be prevalent on our campus.
Looking to exercise that big organ inside of your head (even though we know you might be tired from studying for that all-too-brainy midterm)? Stop by the Science Center Trivia Showdown tonight at 7:00 in (*suspense*) the Science Center (3rd floor of the SciLi)! A message from Trivia Showdown Coordinator Jackie Giovanniello:
The prizes are even better than last year, with gift certificates to Kabob and Curry, Ben & Jerry’s and Brown Bookstore merchandise, etc. The event consists of two rounds of science-related trivia in which teams will compete to move on to the finale round. Professor John Stein with be he MC and there will be a number of Deans, Professors and Advisors present to network and meet different people in the science departments. There will be food too, so even if trivia is not you’re thing you should still come and watch!
All undergraduate, graduate, and medical students are welcome. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with your four-person team and a team name. If you’re competing, be sure to show up by 6:45!
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