Cell biologist and inventor Gary Greenberg’s career took a turn about 10 years ago when his brother sent him a canister of beach sand. Greenberg placed a pinch under a light microscope. Magnified hundreds of times, the colorful, intricate sand grains resembled beads from a necklace.
“I was just blown away. I couldn’t believe that was what sand looked like,” he says. “I got hooked on the idea that there was this entire world people didn’t know existed.”
He started photographing the magnified sand, as well as flowers, fruit, wine, clothes, paper — whatever he could stick und... (p. 32)
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Joseph Orkin has found an unusual way to study highly endangered — and highly elusive — primates in southwestern China. Orkin hikes into isolated mountaintop forests accompanied by a four-legged assistant who avidly sniffs out scat left by black-crested gibbons and Phayre’s leaf monkeys.
Orkin’s fuzzy-faced helper answers to the name Pinkerton (like the detective agency). A Belgian Malinois with that dog breed’s characteristic high-energy smarts, Pinkerton has been trained to recognize the odor of poop from the two threatened primate species. Orkin follows P... (p. 32)
“I am so awesome.” [Smug grin.]
So goes the final frame in a humorous comic called “Birds are Gross,” in which artist and field naturalist Rosemary Mosco highlights the virtues of the turkey vulture. The bird, speaking throughout (“I am a turkey vulture. Yes indeed.”), reaches this conclusion after announcing its proclivities for things like projectile vomiting and poop-mediated temperature control.
“I like showing people animals that aren’t especially appealing, and then highlighting what’s really neat about them,” says Mosco, 31, of her “Bird and Moon” comic strip ... (p. 32)
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When Tim Samaras and his crew show up in a small town, their cars bristling with anemometers and other weather instruments, the welcome isn’t always warm. “There are locals who think we are bringing the weather,” says Samaras, 54. “One or two have even asked us to leave.”
True, it seems like wherever Samaras ventures each spring, tornadoes follow. But that’s just a sign of the storm chaser’s knack for staying a step ahead of his prey. “We cannot go to Google and order up a tornado,” he says. “We have to go find it ourselves.”
This year during peak t... (p. 32)
As a senior staff scientist at the Exploratorium museum in San Francisco, Paul Doherty has taught kids, high school teachers and the audience of the Late Show with David Letterman about physics. But when he visited India last year, he had a different set of students: monks and nuns.
Doherty is part of Science for Monks, a program run by the Sager Family Foundation in Boston and the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives in Dharamsala, India. The two groups partnered after the Dalai Lama asked them to bring science education to exiled Tibetan monastic communities. In December, Doherty taught ... (p. 32)
Nature lovers have long tracked the timing of certain events — when plants bloom or when fish swim upstream to spawn — to answer practical questions: When are the best times to hunt and fish? When should crops be planted and harvested? These days, such homespun investigators have come to be known as citizen scientists.
Increasingly, researchers are tapping into the wealth of observations being made by citizen scientists nationwide, a data trove impossible for scientists to gather on their own (or even with a small army of graduate students). One of the largest repositories of such data i... (p. 32)
It’s only natural that for her Ph.D. research, Ulyana Horodyskyj found herself rappelling down a Himalayan cliff. After all, she got bitten by the mountaineering bug at age 6, when she witnessed her first avalanche in the Swiss Alps.
Trained first in astrophysics, Horodyskyj is now a graduate student at the University of Colorado Boulder, a school where rock climbing and glaciology go hand in hand. For a month last summer she crawled over and up the ice and rock of the mighty Ngozumpa glacier in Nepal, almost within spitting distance of Mount Everest.
Her goal: to capture the mercurial b... (p. 32)
In 1844 Samuel Morse sent a telegram from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore using pulses of electrons to encode “What hath God wrought.” Now that message has gotten a reply, courtesy of physicist Kevin McFarland and a team of his colleagues.
“Neutrino” was the team’s tongue-in-cheek response, broadcast in the first-ever message carried by these ghostly particles. It was supposed to be “neutrinos,” but someone goofed and cut off the “s.”
This offbeat project started with Daniel Stancil, an electrical engineer at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He’s been think... (p. 32)
Julius von Bismarck wants to feel like he’s the center of the universe. He likes the idea of living on a spinning platform for days, maybe weeks — long enough, he hopes, to trick his mind into believing that he’s standing still while the world revolves around him.
The project isn’t an exercise in egotism. It’s his way of coming to grips with how people used to view their place in the cosmos.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that humans once thought the Earth was the center of the galaxy,” says von Bismarck.
This playful approach to science earned the 28-year-old ... (p. 32)
Mayim Bialik is a neuroscientist, and she plays one on TV. Bialik is neurobiologist Amy Farrah Fowler on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory, a sitcom centered on the lives of four scientists at Caltech.
Bialik was an actor long before she became a scientist. As a teenager, she starred in the television show Blossom and the movie Beaches. On the set of Blossom, Bialik’s love of science was kindled by one of her tutors, a predental student. Bialik went on to college at UCLA and finished her Ph.D. in neuroscience there in 2007.
After her first son was born, Bialik and her husband realized that ... (p. 36)