If you ask almost any kid today how the dinosaurs died, they’ll tell you an asteroid killed them, but this didn’t used to be the leading theory. When you look at key papers about the asteroid impact the kids are referring to, you’ll learn that it defined the transition from the Cretaceous to the Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary ~66 million years ago. Before the discovery of the asteroid, there wasn’t a single agreed upon theory on what caused the 5th global mass extinction…
Biases of the fossil record
As scientists, we strive to reduce error and bias as much as possible. But as a paleontologist, I need to be aware of the biases I can’t reduce. The fossil record is inherently biased. Not everything that dies becomes a fossil. Not every fossil has been found. Not every fossil stays intact well enough to study. These biases in the fossil record come in many forms and are studied under the branch of paleontology known as taphonomy…
The grocery store sells many kinds of salt, but are they actually different?
I walk down the spice aisle of my local grocery store. It smells like pepper and cinnamon, but all I need is salt. Scanning the shelves of alphabetically arranged spices, it isn’t there. It has a display all its own, just to the left. And there’s not just one type. There are many. Mediterranean sea salt, iodized salt, black truffle salt, kosher salt, smoked salt, the list goes on. But what’s the difference? According to Samin Nosrat, in her bestselling book, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”, salt is the “most important element of good cooking,” so you have to have it. But what kind should you get? Well, it depends on what qualities matter to you. Is it the geology? The chemistry? The size of the crystal grains? Or maybe the flavor…
The art of dissemination part 2: Consumer report
This is the second part of a series on the dissemination of science. Read part 1 here! Many of the products and services we consume are the result of rigorous science. This may be more noticeable in the health field – a new treatment, a new drug – but you may not realize that science… Read more »
Perks of the job
This post is from ScIU’s archives. It was originally published in October 2016, and has been lightly edited to reflect current events. What does summer vacation look like for a scientist? For some, summer break is much-needed time to catch up on research projects and writing, but for many of us, summer centers around one… Read more »
GPS: Not just for finding the closest pizza place
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,… Read more »
Can we reduce the impact of landslides caused by earthquakes?
Have you ever experienced an earthquake? This probably isn’t something you think about often, especially if you live in southern Indiana, where earthquakes large enough to be felt (or cause any damage) are quite rare. Talk to anyone living in Japan, Chile, or even California, and the odds are that they have experienced one or… Read more »