Our blog would be nothing without our writers. Unfortunately they can’t stay here forever; they must go on to their next great adventures in life. So, we wanted to take a moment to recognize a few of our authors who have recently left or are preparing to leave soon. We wish you all the very best in your careers!
As you may have noticed, ScIU took a period of hiatus over the summer. It was a tough decision since, without missing a single week, ScIU has published a weekly blog post about science and the humans involved in scientific endeavors since the blog’s formation in 2016. At this point, ScIU has published more than 300 posts by IU graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and undergraduate students from all different fields, from geology to physics, from psychology to chemistry, from ecology to linguistics. In its lifetime, ScIU has received more than 300,000 unique pageviews from tens of thousands of users. The site has received at least one visitor from almost every country in the world. Many of our alumni have gone on to successful careers in science communication, industry, and academia. (more…)
To celebrate International Astronomy Day (May 7), we are highlighting this post from ScIU’s archives! It was originally published by Jennifer Sieben in April 2020 and has been lightly edited to reflect current events.
April 24th, 2020 was the 30th anniversary of the launch of perhaps the most famous telescope: the Hubble Space Telescope. Orbiting the earth, this telescope has changed the way astronomers and the public alike view the universe. With over 1.4 million observations, providing data for more than 16,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers, Hubble has exceeded expectations.
If you have ever seen an image of a spiral galaxy as a desktop background, textbook cover, or in the background of an inspirational quote, the chances are high that it was taken by Hubble. Images like these highlight the spectacular beauty of our universe and are often a great tool to encourage interest in science. Hubble images demonstrate that science can be more than a mixture of numbers and buggy code; it can also be spiral galaxies that show where new stars are being formed and remind us that the mystery of galaxy formation is still unsolved. New data received from Hubble constantly challenges our preconceived notions about the universe.
Recently, a trail camera in northern Minnesota caught video of a pack of all-black wolves. The video has been viewed more than 950,000 times since it was uploaded in late December 2021. A greyish-brown wolf crosses the meadow in the shot, followed by three all-black wolves. People are fascinated. So, what affects animal coloration? And why are these wolves black?
First, although these wolves are black, they are still Canis lupus (commonly called the grey wolf). Naturally, wolves are red, brown, white, grey, black, and shades in between. These are the same colors we see available in nature in human hairs: black, brown, blonde, red, and grey/white. Other body coverings, such as scales and feathers, can be different colors due to the pigments available. Animals use color for camouflage, thermoregulation, and mating selection.
To celebrate National DNA Day (April 25), we are highlighting this post from ScIU’s archives! It was originally published by Brittany Hood in January 2019.
Trigger warning: This post contains details of specific crimes that are related to sexual assault and murder.
In 1992, an 84-year-old grandmother was brutally assaulted and killed in California. For 25 years, the mystery of her death went unsolved — and her killer unapprehended — due to the lack of physical evidence to tie him to the crime. Twenty-five years later, police paid a visit to a pizza party, where they found sufficient evidence to arrest her murderer.
At first glance, the murder and the pizza party seem unrelated. However, there is a link: familial DNA. Familial DNA testing has traditionally been used for a multitude of reasons, such as to identify potential genetic predispositions and to structure family trees. However, with advancements in technology, law enforcement agencies are now utilizing familial DNA testing to identify serial killers. San Diego police found a familial DNA connection, suggesting that a biological brother was responsible for the 1992 rape and murder of 84-year-old Angela Kleinsorge. In order to confirm that the DNA belonged to the suspect, police went undercover to a birthday party and collected Lonnie Franklin’s leftover pizza crust and utensils. The DNA was a match, and Franklin was arrested a mere two hours later. He was eventually tied to ten murders and has since been suspected of more. He is now known as the “Grim Sleeper.” (more…)
Every academic discipline has its own special words and phrases. However, it is hard to match geography in terms of words that are just curious. Did you know that “space” and “place” mean very different things? That the “Annals” is the hallmark of a geographer’s career? And the “First Law of Geography” is extremely important, but does not always hold true? To decipher the meanings of these words and phrases, we first must come to terms with the most ambiguous word of them all: “geographer.”
Many people assume that a geographer is either: a) someone who makes maps, or b) someone who studies the Earth. However, someone who makes maps is a cartographer, and someone who studies the Earth is a geologist. In reality, a geographer can study pretty much anything. The best definition of a geographer I have heard was from my Introduction to Geography professor: “A geographer is what a geographer does, and a geographer does what they want.” Geographers are typically classified into two branches of study, “human” and “physical,” although there can also be fascinating overlap between these branches.
To celebrate World Quantum Day (April 14), we are highlighting this post from ScIU’s archives! It was originally published by AJ Rasmusson in July 2019.
Tech companies are going big in a microscopic way, pouring millions of dollars into a new form of computing: quantum computing. Quantum computers will revolutionize drug research, material discovery, and artificial intelligence by solving complex problems in a new way. To understand this, let’s review how normal computers solve problems and compare this to how a quantum computer would do it.
Today’s computers use billions upon billions of 0’s and 1’s, called bits, to represent information like numbers, words, images, etc. To watch a movie or simulate life-saving chemical reactions in medicine, a processor in the computer takes a group of bits and modifies them according to programmed instructions. For example, to watch Avengers: Infinity War, your computer processes more than 16 billion bits. By repeating this process very quickly, your computer can turn a file of 0’s and 1’s into moving images on your display or store answers to complex math equations in a new file.
Quantum computers take a different approach to information processing. Instead of solving a problem one outcome at a time, a quantum computer computes every possible outcome simultaneously. To understand the power of that statement (and what it even means), let’s consider an example. (more…)
This post was written by ScIU Undergraduate Intern Rose Schnabel.
Step outside in Southern Indiana and you’ll be greeted by a symphony of chirps, calls, and songs from a myriad of local birds. Home to over 400 species, Indiana is a birder’s paradise. Warblers, eagles, and owls alike call Bloomington home and are frequently spotted on the campus of IU Bloomington. Birds are a vibrant part of Bloomington culture, so it’s worth getting to know a few: (more…)
Researchers use rats to provide evidence that biases in the extension of helping behavior is a product of experience—not genetically ingrained.
Imagine that you wake up in a small room with no doors. You quickly realize that there is no way out. Oh, shoot. Further, you see that there is another individual trapped in a small cylindrical Plexiglas container in the middle of this arena, with barely any room to move. You are not sure what the consequences could be if you go investigate—something could hurt you. Someone may grab you and trap you in a claustrophobia-inducing container as well. The first thought that comes to mind may be the Saw movie series, so you would likely be reluctant.
The question is: would you attempt to free this individual in the face of these risks? Under what circumstances do you think you would lend a helping hand? If it were a friend? How about if it were a stranger?
To celebrate World Water Day (March 22), we are highlighting this post from ScIU’s archives! It was originally published by Dan Myers in December 2019.
When people ask me what I research as a Ph.D. student in the Indiana University Department of Geography, I respond “I model.” This is typically followed by a head-to-toe, confused glance at my worn running shoes, wrinkly shorts, and faded yellow-and-brown collared shirt. “No,” I say, “I’m not a fashion model. I make computer models. I am working on some really cool research involving the effects of climate change on rivers of the Great Lakes Basin, just north of us.” Now, you may be thinking, “climate change, that’s scary, huh?” Why, yes it is! That’s why it is so important that we learn as much as we can about climate change so that we can prepare our ecosystems and communities for its impacts.