On Sunday, January 28, 2018, there was a significant explosion in a chemistry laboratory. Fortunately, no one was injured due to the laboratory being vacant at the moment of the explosion, but the fume hood where it occurred was severely damaged. The safety sash, which consists of four safety glass panels at the front of the fume hood, was found destroyed when a student returned to the laboratory – three of the panels were completely displaced and found lying on the floor. The transite panels that line the back of the fume hood were cracked into several pieces as well. (more…)
2017 was a good year for ScIU. We exceeded our goal of publishing one post per week, and published a total of 56 blog posts! Traffic to our website has increased by 53% per post since fall of 2016, and our list of subscribers continues to grow!
A few posts in particular received a lot of attention from our readers – here are our Top Hits of 2017! (more…)
When you do an image search for dating or relationships, the results almost entirely focus on two people, usually in an implied heterosexual relationship. Most popular TV shows and movies focus on the same types of couples as well. However, it’s important to recognize that other types of relationships exist too. Consensual non-monogamy is one type of relationship that is often overlooked in both popular culture and scientific research. New studies from IU are trying to fill that gap and shed light on a surprisingly common type of relationship.
Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute has always been at the forefront of research into gender, sexuality, relationships, and well-being. Now, new findings from Kinsey show that over 20% of people surveyed have had open sexual relationships in their lifetimes; that is, relationships with an agreed-upon, sexually non-exclusive component . (more…)
This Friday will be the 132nd official Groundhog Day in the United States. Celebrated in Canada, Germany, and the U.S., the holiday derives from a long-standing German-Dutch tradition, which we’ve been officially recording since 1886. The basic idea: if a groundhog emerges from his hole and sees his shadow, winter will last for six more weeks, but if he sees no shadow, an early spring is on the way.
Why are we discussing this arguably adorable tradition on a science blog, you ask? Although there’s much we can learn about the tradition (and lots of lore!), Groundhog Day is our post topic this week because it’s a great way to explore the basic concepts of probability. Scientists use probability theory every day in their research, most notably, to make sure that the phenomena we are studying are not due to random chance. Probabilities can be complex, but even in their simplest form — as is the case with Groundhog Day — the questions we can answer using probability theory are often quite interesting. (more…)
Have you ever wondered why or how researchers categorize people into different groups? Of course, there are specific types of groups you might first think of, such as differentiating people by race, gender, income level, marital status, and education. However, there are a variety of other types of groups that researchers might find interesting that you may not be aware of. For instance, some researchers are interested in studying people based on patterns of their activities over a span of time. An example of this would be if a researcher was interested in studying the differences between types of offenders. For example, each time they were: 1) expelled or suspended from school, 2) arrested, 3) convicted, and 4) incarcerated. There are other variables a researcher might also find to be important: periods of 1) homelessness, 2) unemployment, 3) graduation from high school and 4) marriage.
This might seem like a very daunting task: to categorize people based on all the possible sequences of events that happened in their lives. And it is. However, researchers have tried to find more efficient methods of categorizing people into groups. One relatively newer method of determining groups uses a computer program to examine how many different sequences of events across time exist in a sample of subjects. This method is called sequence analysis. Sequence analysis for social science research had its origins in the study of evolutionary patterns and modes of descent of DNA molecules, initially (and still) carried out by biologists. However, social scientists have co-opted this method for social sequence analysis, in which they study patterns of events. The use of this term in this blog post, therefore, refers specifically to identifying patterns of events based on their classification into different categories and the specific ordering of the events.  (more…)
How exactly does your “Maps” app know exactly where you are, any time of day? The “little blue dot” on your phone tells you where you are as the result of billions of dollars invested in the Global Positioning System (GPS), a network of 27 satellites currently orbiting the Earth. Each satellite sends microwaves constantly, containing information about their location and the time the wave is sent. Your phone detects these waves with a tiny antenna, and its GPS chip calculates the amount of time it took for the waves to reach it; knowing that the waves travel at nearly the speed of light, it calculates how far away your phone is from the satellite. By doing this using four or more satellites, it displays the “little blue dot” on your screen that moves as you do, a fairly accurate estimate of your phone’s location. Pretty amazing, right? (1) (more…)
In a world that looks more and more like a science fiction novel, it can be tempting to assume that a computer program or code can do all your tedious work for you. Algorithms suggest videos you might like to to watch on YouTube, plan your road trips to visit friends, and can even frost a cake you ordered for your sister’s birthday with a picture of her face in the center. It doesn’t seem like a leap of faith to assume they can help make astronomical research easier as well.
It should be simple for an algorithm to sort images of blurry dots. But when those dots are galaxies larger than our own, some of which are previously undetected because of how far away they are, it can be hard to train a computer program. Instead, my collaborators and I must visually inspect hundreds of dots and blobs in our images, trying to see if any of them are worth examining in more detail. (more…)
Chemistry labs typically contain a number of potential hazards ranging from chemicals to lasers and beyond. Pyrophoric materials are among the most dangerous, as they spontaneously and violently ignite when exposed to mere water, or even air! Dealing with pyrophoric materials safely requires significantly more protection than that offered by traditional safety attire like eye protection and lab coats. As a chemistry doctoral student at Indiana University, I work with pyrophoric materials all the time and I have not once created a catastrophically destructive fireball.
To better understand how can we can prevent pyrophoric disasters, we first need to understand what causes them. Pyrophoric materials ignite spontaneously when exposed to water or air. The probability of this reaction increases exponentially with the amount of exposed surface area, which makes pyrophoric materials in the form of small filings or fine powder particularly risky. Their dramatic reactivity can be traced back to the material’s desire to be oxidized or lose electrons. Many pyrophoric elements are alkali metals, which lie in group one of the periodic table. These metals have one more electron than their preceding, very stable, noble gas which has a stable electron configuration. For example, sodium (Na), an alkali metal, has one more electron than neon (Ne), a noble gas. This lone, unpaired electron is what makes sodium very reactive. (more…)
If you’ve ever taken a basic science class, you‘ve probably heard of the scientific method. Maybe you’ve even designed, conducted, and reflected upon your own experiment–inside or outside of the classroom. One thing you may be unfamiliar with, however, is how the millions of experiments done by scientists, students, and citizens get added together into a coherent body of knowledge on a topic. In other words, how does science actually progress? (more…)
As recently as Thursday of last week, two different versions of a tax reform bill were working their way through a reconciliation committee comprised of House Representatives and Senators. The House version of the tax reform bill had called for changes to the tax code that would have dramatically affected the personal finances of graduate students in the United States. On Friday, Congress released their reconciled version, which removed this change and will likely be voted on today. This cycle of sequential bill releases by both branches of Congress, their subsequent votes, reconciliation, and final vote before passage is a common political process on Capitol Hill. But, how does this political process relate to graduate education and the scientific process more broadly? (more…)