STEAM Saturday – Pig Heart Spacetime

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
Pig Heart Spacetime
January 22, 2022

This time, STEAM Saturday looks at animal-to-human organ transplants, the curvature of spacetime, and a potential turning point in the battle against multiple sclerosis.

STEAMHeadlines

New York Times – In a First, Man Receives a Heart From a Genetically Altered Pig (Jan 10, 2022)
The breakthrough may lead one day to new supplies of animal organs for transplant into human patients.

Scientific American – In a First, an ‘Atomic Fountain’ Has Measured the Curvature of Spacetime [via Space.com] (Jan 17, 2022)
The atom interferometry technique uses the effects of time dilation to reveal subtle changes in gravity’s strength

Scientific American – Epstein-Barr Virus Found to Trigger Multiple Sclerosis (Jan 13, 2022)
The research could mark a turning point in the fight against MS


STEAMSci

It’s Okay to Be Smart – A PBS Digital Studios science show hosted by Dr. Joe Hanson (Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology). 

Today I Found Out – Today I Found Out is a place to learn something new and interesting every day, brought to the internet by a host of various scientific contributors.


STEAMTech

WIRED – Wired is a monthly American magazine, published in print and online editions, that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy, and politics.

Cheddar – Cheddar News feeds curiosity about what’s next with the latest in business news, culture, media, technology and innovation shaping our world tomorrow.


STEAMEng

Practical Engineering – Grady Hillhouse is a civil engineer in San Antonio, Texas. His channel aims to increase exposure and interest in the field of engineering by highlighting the connection between the world around us and the energy, passion, and thought that goes into making it a nicer place to live.

Megaprojects – Megaprojects is a YouTube channel which goes into detail on the history about all of humanities greatest achievements and structures.


STEAMArt

Insider – Insider is a global news publication that tells the stories you want to know.

Nick Zammeti – A woodturner and artist based in the United Kingdom, Nick Zammeti thrives in funky and creative projects fueled by a healthy love of pop culture, especially Back to the Future.

DIY Montreal – Marie is a DIY enthusiast and a self-taught amatuer woodworker who works out of her small garage shop in Montreal, Canada.


STEAMMath

Smarter Every Day – Mechanical engineer and aerospace engineer Destin Sandlin explores the world using science in this series. He was one of three YouTube personalities chosen to conduct a one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama after his final State of the Union address. His secondary channel provides additional details and interviews to supplement his primary channel’s videos.


STEAMMulti

I Like To Make Stuff – Bob Clagett likes to make stuff, whether it be home renovations, fixing up a vintage car, or building an astromech droid.

Wendover Productions – Wendover Productions, run by filmmaker Sam Denby, is all about explaining how our world works. From travel, to economics, to geography, to marketing, and more, every video will leave you with a little better understanding of our world.


If you have any suggestions for STEAM Saturday, please leave them below in the comments. Thanks for stopping by. I hope that something inspired you to get out there and explore the universe.

 

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STEAM Saturday is a celebration of curiosity and imagination through science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, the very building blocks of the universe around us.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

STEAM Saturday – Solar Probes and Turbine Blades

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
Solar Probes and Turbine Blades
January 8, 2022

STEAM Saturday debuts! This time, with solar probes, turbine blades, and composting humans.

STEAMHeadlines

NASA – NASA Enters the Solar Atmosphere for the First Time, Bringing New Discoveries (Dec 14, 2021)
NASA’s Parker Solar Probe entered the Sun’s atmosphere and sampled particles and magnetic fields.

Business Insider – How one company keeps wind turbine blades out of landfills (Dec 10, 2021)
Wind turbine blades are notoriously difficult to recycle. One company has a solution, but is it the right one?

BBC News – Scotland to ban most single-use plastic from June 2022 (Nov 11, 2021/Jan 4, 2022)
The legislation will ban the use of plastic cutlery, drink stirrers and food containers made from expanded polystyrene. An exemption will be in place for people who need plastic straws for medical reasons or to ensure they can continue to live independently. Scotland is the first UK nation to pursue the ban.

TED-Ed – Blood, concrete, and dynamite: Building the Hoover Dam (Dec 23, 2021)
The engineering of the Hoover Dam, a concrete arch-gravity dam on the Colorado River in the southwestern United States, in five minutes.

 


STEAMSci

It’s Okay to Be Smart – A PBS Digital Studios science show hosted by Dr. Joe Hanson (Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology). 

Physics Girl – Hosted by Dianna Cowern, a science communicator and physics alumna from MIT, this show was part of PBS Digital Studios until 2020. She uses her platform to explore complex physics, astronomy, and science-related topics in simple terms.

Ask a Mortician – Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, author, blogger, and YouTube personality known for advocating death acceptance and the reform of Western funeral industry practices. You got death questions, she’s got death answers. Ask a Mortician was suggested by Sue Kisenwether. [S]


STEAMTech

NASA – James Webb Telescope
The James Webb Telescope has launched and you can keep track of its progress courtest of the Goddard Space Flight Center. Named after James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA from 1961 to 1968 who played an integral role in the Apollo program, the telescope is intended to succeed the Hubble Space Telescope as NASA’s flagship mission in astrophysics.


STEAMEng

Practical Engineering – Grady Hillhouse is a civil engineer in San Antonio, Texas. His channel aims to increase exposure and interest in the field of engineering by highlighting the connection between the world around us and the energy, passion, and thought that goes into making it a nicer place to live.

Mark Rober – An engineer and inventor, Mark Rober presents popular science concepts and do-it-yourself gadgets in easy-to-understand terms. He was previously a NASA engineer (where he worked on the Curiosity rover) and a product designer at Apple’s Special Projects Group (where he authored patents involving virtual reality in self-driving cars). One of his best known series involves the development of a glitter bomb to combat porch pirates and internet scammers.


STEAMArt

Nick Zammeti – A woodturner and artist based in the United Kingdom, Nick Zammeti thrives in funky and creative projects fueled by a healthy love of pop culture, especially Back to the Future. [A]

The Smugglers Room – Building something out of nothing with a Star Wars flair is the order of the day in the Smugglers Room.

Moonpie Creations – Ken is a woodworker and creator who likes to have fun. A combat veteran, he uses his tools as a way to relax and deal with everyday stress. He loves to try new things, think outside the box, and stay cool.

JackJack – YouTuber JackJack is based in the United Kingdom and does phenomenal work with models and resin.

PF Woodturning – Peggy Farrington is a woodturner from Maine who allows the wood to speak for itself as she crafts it into works of art.

 


STEAMMath

Veritasium – A combination of the Latin for truth, veritas, and the suffix common to many elements, -ium, this show is literally an element of truth. It is hosted by Australian-Canadian science communicator, filmmaker, and inventor Derek Muller (Ph.D., Physics Education Research). [S]


STEAMMulti

Emmymade – Whether it’s trying to figure out if it’s really worth it to wait a hundred hours for a batch of brownies, finding out what Ranch gummies or giant centipedes taste like, making mayonnaise from a vintage gadget, or tasting desserts and dishes from around the world, Emmy wants to learn about our world through food.

Smarter Every Day – Mechanical engineer and aerospace engineer Destin Sandlin explores the world using science in this series. He was one of three YouTube personalities chosen to conduct a one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama after his final State of the Union address. His secondary channel provides additional details and interviews to supplement his primary channel’s videos.

Frank Howarth – A Portland, Oregon based architect and woodworker, Frank Howarth uses stop-motion animation to demonstrate his design and building process for a variety of projects and art pieces.

I Like To Make Stuff – Bob Clagett likes to make stuff, whether it be home renovations, fixing up a vintage car, or building an astromech droid.

Sam the Cooking Guy – Sam Zien is a Canadian-born television cook, restaurateur, and cookbook author Based in San Diego, California, his often-irreverent cooking channel on YouTube focuses on the simple fact that everyone can cook. He makes it easy and fun.

 


If you have any suggestions for STEAM Saturday, please leave them below in the comments. Thanks for stopping by. I hope that something inspired you to get out there and explore the universe.

 

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STEAM Saturday is a periodic celebration of curiosity and imagination through science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, the very building blocks of the universe around us.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Your DNA is Everywhere

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Your DNA is Everywhere

November 12, 2021

This week, I have Veritasium on my mind again. I’m fascinated by DNA testing and forensic applications. This video, years in the making, was catnip to me.

If one of your third cousins runs a DNA test, your DNA is essentially on file. No consent required.

The implications are both fascinating and frightening.

Happy Friday. See you again soon.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – The Physics of Bowling Balls

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Physics of Bowling Balls

October 1, 2021

This week, I have Veritasium on my mind. I love to go bowling even though I’m not particularly good at it. Bowling is fun and (before the pandemic) gives me a great opportunity to chat with friends in the time between throws.

I have seen a lot of these ball movements over the years, but I didn’t have enough information to understand why the physics worked like they did.

Veritasium did the work.

Happy Friday. See you again soon.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Smarter Every Day Dives Deep into Nuclear Submarines

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Smarter Every Day Dives Deep into Nuclear Submarines
August 6, 2021

This week, the educational side of YouTube is on my mind. Specifically, I’m looking at Smarter Every Day.

The channel is run by Destin Sandlin, a mechanical and aerospace engineer from Alabama. His channel focuses on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics, and each video provides him and his audience a chance to learn something new about the world around them. Smarter Every Day is a must-watch subscription on my YouTube feed.

Destin started a series of videos in June of last year focused on nuclear submarines. He was invited to participate in ICEX 2020, a biennial Navy exercise that explores operational readiness in the Arctic. The video series was particularly intriguing since I was a nuclear submarine officer, and I was very excited to see how the engineering and lifestyle complexities would be seen and interpreted by civilian eyes.

I wasn’t disappointed.

This series of videos was quite well done and offers an easy to digest perspective on the submarine force. My wife watched the series with me and finally understood some what my former job entailed. I want to thank Destin for that and for taking the time to teach the world about the basics of the Silent Service.

There are nine episodes in the series, filmed during a brief underway on the USS Toledo and released over a year. If you enjoy them as much as I did, consider chipping in to continue his mission through Audible, KiwiCo, or any of Destin’s other sponsors.

The first episode was published in June of 2020 and focused on ICEX. Specifically, Destin covered the science of arctic ice and how that data feeds into the Navy’s mission. After that, he boarded the Toledo and submerged beneath the ice cap.

The second episode debuted in July of 2020 and continued the story with a basic overview of his adventure and submarines overall.

The third episode took us into a torpedo tube and explored how a submarine’s teeth work. One trivia item that my wife found interesting as we discussed the video was how visitors are able to autograph the tube with grease pencil. My signature was one of the tube doors of the USS Greeneville, though I’m absolutely sure it has since been washed away by pressurized seawater over the ensuing two decades. 

The fourth episode premiered in October and focused on two of the most dangerous casualties that a submarine can face: Fire and flooding. Since Destin is an engineer, he was also able to explore the principles behind how the sailors fight these casualties.

The fifth entry was about how submariners eat. Since submarines are designed to make their own water, air, and electricity, food is truly the limiting factor for how long a boat can stay on station. The methods and creativity involved in feeding over a hundred sailors are unique in the submarine force.

The sixth episode came at the end of 2020 and explored how submarines listen underwater. It was quite fun to see just how far the discussion could go before hitting classified information. This video will give you the basics of the sonar science and how one can see underwater without light and windows.

In February, Destin discussed how submarines make and maintain breathable environments while underway. The counterintuitive science of lighting a fire to produce oxygen was a fun topic to watch him explore.

In May, sanitation was the topic du jour. Toilets and showers seem simple enough, but they’re a bit different on the boat. Water conservation is vitally important and one wrong move could mean getting a face full of feces. Not the most dangerous thing you might do on a submarine, but…

The series came to a close on July 30th with the complex evolution of surfacing the ship under the polar ice cap. Surfacing a submarine is already a complex and dangerous evolution, but the added wrinkle of precision piloting is a whole new level. It’s not something that I ever did, but I still studied the basic principles at one point.

 


Once again, if you’re interested in STEM topics, Smarter Every Day is a great place to land for quality education and production values. Thanks to Destin for sharing his perspectives and experiences with the world.

You can find Smarter Every Day on YouTube.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The Glory of Being a Nerd

Last week, podcaster and Chicago radio producer Jimmy Mac covered the topic of being called a nerd on The ForceCast. His position was that the term nerd is derogatory and shouldn’t be used to describe fans of Star Wars. I couldn’t disagree more.

The crowd at Wikipedia have defined “nerd” as “a term that refers to a social perception of a person who avidly pursues intellectual activities, technical or scientific endeavors, esoteric knowledge, or other obscure interests, rather than engaging in more social or conventional activities.” That got me thinking. Based on that, why shouldn’t we embrace the term nerd?

Read More »

Religion in Science-Fiction

Tiffany Vogt at Airlock Alpha recently asked, “Is Religion Killing Good Sci-Fi Shows?”  In her article, she uses three recent series – Lost, Caprica, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot – to prove her point. Now, before I go too much further, I have to admit that I haven’t watched Lost beyond the first season, although I do have the complete series set waiting on me to dive in. I also haven’t had the chance to watch Caprica beyond the pilot, although I do hear mixed reviews from friends.

But, from my experiences with Battlestar Galactica, from the 1979 and recent versions, along with entertainment like Quantum Leap, the Stargate franchise, Star Wars, and Star Trek, I have to argue no. The first thing we have to do is eliminate the “us vs. them” concept of religion and science-fiction. The important part isn’t the gadgets or technology, it’s the story. That’s what religion is based on, isn’t it? Read any holy text and you’ll find it chock full of parables with a lesson attached, much like Aesop’s Fables. Even the trope of preachers delivering the typical fire and brimstone sermon focuses on telling a tale and learning a lesson from it.

So what is science-fiction? It’s the same thing: A story with an embedded lesson or speculation on a topic with a setting different than ours. Star Wars has a mythic story arc based around the Hero’s Journey with a focus on the mystical Force, which may or may not be religious in nature. Did the element of the Force ruin Star Wars? No, it didn’t, and most detractors argue that the series wasn’t harmed until 1999 when George Lucas tried to put a scientific spin on it.

Here comes the counter-argument: Star Wars didn’t tell a story without the Force and then tack it on at the end as a convenient way out of the plot. Fine. What about Quantum Leap?

Quantum Leap tackled this overall concept by changing the setting every episode for five years, while skirting the core issue of whether it was God, Fate, Time, or a botched science experiment that was responsible for bouncing Sam back and forth within his lifetime. The only real matter was that Sam was putting right what once went wrong, and the concept of potential religious ties came second. It only really came to a head in the finale when Sam came face-to-face with what may or may not have been God, who told him the truth about his Leaping. What that a cop-out? I don’t think so at all. First, it was supposed to be a turning point for the series, leading to a sixth season with harder trials for Sam without a guide. Second, as a finale, it works because Sam finally confronts what’s been happening over the last five years and grows from the experience. He gained the confidence to take on the extra challenge that lay ahead of him, whether we saw it on screen or not.

Battlestar Galactica in its original form made no claims to be anything but a show based on religion. Every episode made reference to gods and faith; entire episodes were based around the Colonials battling an incarnation of the Devil and interacting with Beings of Light with god-like powers. The quest for Earth was based on divine prophecies and guided by the Lords of Kobol. The reboot may have been rooted deeper in scientific storytelling, but it did not refute the genesis of the story. Characters on both sides of the conflict prayed to deities and talked about faith. Roslin had drug-induced hallucinations that showed the Colonials and Cylons the path to Earth, and even if the quest was undertaken as a hollow pursuit, it became a voyage of exploration for the psyches of each character. Some characters gave up along the way, some tried to use failures and setbacks as tools for personal gain, and some, like Admiral Adama, discovered potentials that they did not know existed. Even the concept of “what has happened before will happen again” is based in mythological roots of destiny and fate that reach back beyond the religions of Ancient Greece.

Star Trek, which has always shunned religion, even took a stab at religion in a seven-year arc with Deep Space Nine, which I argue is the best of the franchise. I can’t forget the religious threads of Babylon 5, either, but having only seen the series once, I can’t comfortably explore that territory.

I think that most modern views on science fiction are built around the staples of Trek and Stargate, which have inflicted considerable and irrefutable damage with numerous stories of persons with godlike powers who are evil or corrupted, and I believe that to be one of the longest tentpoles in the “us vs them” philosophy.

Religion is, at its base, a mythology. Faith is man-made creation, built around believing in that mythology and adapting it to everyday life. Science-fiction, part of the larger genre of speculative fiction, is a mythology, whether it tells of trips through a portal that takes you to a different planet or a quest based on faith. I can’t speak for Lost, but Galactica has always been an exploration of the human condition through the strength of faith, and I don’t believe that following that exploration to Ronald Moore’s conclusion ruined the journey.

We’re not talking about proving the existence of God here, but rather the basis of sci-fi which was exploring new fantastic frontiers with the power of human ingenuity. I, for one, want to see more science-fiction that goes back to the human condition, which includes faith and religion. Removing faith and religion only serves to strip an aspect from humanity that feeds into everyday decisions, and an exploration of that result ignores crucial motivations. Faith and religion need to be a core element in explorations of human nature because they are a core element in each man, woman, and child, even if they don’t believe in a higher power.

We can’t ignore the science in science-fiction, that’s true, but not every human being is motivated purely by science, and I refuse to believe that the answers to the speculation will all immediately come from science. The religious belief that Earth was the center of the universe motivated scientists to prove it otherwise. The same stands true in part for scientists seeking life on other planets or exploring the mysteries of evolution. Religion and faith are powerful motivators and cannot be ignored or cast aside.

Books like Contact, a well-regarded science-fiction story written by a scientist, have made me realize that neither brute force method of science or religion have all the answers to the questions about humanity. I believe that an exploration based in logical reasoning with an open mind and a faith that not all the mysteries have readily observable answers will reveal more than either approach would by itself. After all, theological exploration by the main character in Carl Sagan’s only fictional work didn’t destroy the story. It made the story complete.

Awesome Atmosphere and Ocean Infographics

Phil Plait posted on his Bad Astronomy blog about an infographic, which led me to look a little deeper.  The site has to scale infographics detailing the atmosphere and the oceans.  Teachers, please find a way to print and display these.  You would have had to pry me off these with a spatula when I was a kid.

Earth’s Atmosphere Top to Bottom
Tallest Mountain to Deepest Ocean Trench

Such great work.