Dr. David DeMarini, one of our cafe regulars (and fantastic question-asker of other scientists), is a genetic toxicologist with the EPA. On Thursday, June 2, he will be our featured presenter. Please join us for:

June's Carolina Science Cafe presenter

Chlorinated Chromosomes:  Swimming and Your Genes

You know your hair or skin can be affected by a dip in the pool–and you usually smell like chlorine after that refreshing swim.  But have you ever wondered what happens to your genes while you’re paddling around in the swimming pool?  Want to know what’s really in that water, and what chlorine may be doing to your chromosomes?  Maybe not, but if you’d like to find out, check out the Science Cafe at the the Back Bar at Top the Hill in downtown Chapel Hill at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

Dr. David DeMarini, a genetic toxicologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in RTP, and an AdjunctProfessor in the Dept. of Environmental Science & Engineering at UNC, will discuss the latest studies he and his colleagues have done on the mutagenicity and carcinogenicity of swimming pool water and drinking water.  Dr. DeMarini has been studying the ability of chlorinated water to induce mutations for 30 years, and he will share this pool of knowledge with you while you drink something other than chlorinated water.  Take the plunge, and join us at the next Science Cafe in Chapel Hill!

Thanks, David, for the puns. Stay tuned for more info about David in our next blog.

Jonathan

Jonathan Frederick is Morehead's science program manager. He has recently pledged to run at least 15 miles per week and his muscles hurt thinking about it.

to attend this month’s Carolina Science Cafe. But you can chat with one!

The Star of May's Carolina Science Cafe

On Thursday, May 12, at 7 p.m., Dr. Matt Ewend, head of neurosurgery at UNC, will be at the Back Bar in Downtown Chapel Hill, talking about his world. A world that includes awake surgeries, removing tumors, using the CyberKnife, and more. We’re really looking forward to this one!

As usual, our friends at Sigma Xi will be sponsoring some appetizers and special thanks to Dr. Charles Weiss for making this event possible.

To get to know Matt a little more, check out his answers to our questions:

Where did you grow up? Saginaw Michigan, son of an insurance agent and an advertising person.  No medical folks in the family

What did you want to be when you were a kid? My grandfather was a lawyer, and that’s what I wanted to do.  I thought I could be a trial attorney.   I also thought I would like to be a sports announcer.

How did you get interested in science? I got interested in science and medicine during high school, but no real epiphany moment. I was a math major in college and came at science through the math physics pathway.    I like the clean answers that math and physics often provided better than the fuzzy answers of some other sciences.

In one sentence, describe your job: Everyday I meet people facing difficult illnesses involving the brain; my job is to help them through these times compassionately.

What’s a special talent/trick/skill/hobby that you have that your colleagues don’t know about? I got my privates pilot’s license a year ago and I am working on my instrument rating.  As a kid, I was almost as fast as Holden Thorp with Rubik’s cube.

If someone wrote you a blank check to explore any aspect of your field’s research, what would you want to do and why? I started out in medicine with an interest in cancer and this has never changed.  Given our mythical blank check, I would build a team to look at brain tumors on an individual level (think personalized medicine) to find newer targeted treatments.

Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to answer our questions.

We hope to see everyone on Thursday, 5/12, 7 p.m. at the Back Bar!

Cheers,

Jonathan


Jonathan Frederick is the director of the North Carolina Science Festival. He is currently reading East of Eden.

Come explore human health and wellness at Morehead’s Family Science Day program this Saturday (April 2, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.).

How do the foods you eat affect your health? Family Science Day shares some ideas.

You can taste test healthy snacks. Take a mini-class in yoga or tai chi with your kids. Test your heart rate before and after competing in a mini-Olympics event. Learn how thoughts can affect health.

There’ll be guest speakers, exhibits, hands-on activities, story time and even a Science LIVE! Human Body Test. You can meet and talk with scientists who are researching ways to keep us all healthy through every stage of life.

All of the Family Science Day activities are free, and everything is planned so that there’s something for almost every age level — even yours! See you Saturday.

My officemate is eating an apple right now.

11 Mar 2011
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We made a (very) short video with some of the folks that showed up at the most recent alumni event at Morehead. Check it out:

Shot and edited by one of our fantastic student interns, Margaret Cheatham Williams.

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

If you’ve ever checked out Morehead’s YouTube channel, you’ve probably seen the Science 360 series about 2012. Even if you haven’t seen the series, you probably know the mythology: ancient Maya astronomers predicted the end of the world, comets, planetary alignments, other bad things.

Well, tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010) Morehead is offering you a unique opportunity to hear the newest research from Anthony Aveni, who is a founder of archeaoastronomy and one of the world’s leading experts on Maya astronomy. (He’s also a Colgate University professor who was once named one of America’s Top Ten College Professors by “Rolling Stone” magazine.) Dr. Aveni’s publishing his newest book in December, so you’ll get to hear the current thinking about 2012 mythology two months before he hits the talk show circuit.

Dr. Aveni’s presentation begins at 7 p.m. in the Banquet Hall (east end of Morehead), and it’s free.

Thanks to our friends at Lenovo for their support of this presentation.

14 Sep 2010
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I met a scientist today. And tomorrow I get to meet another one. So can you.

This week and next week, Morehead is hosting “Out To Lunch” programs for five of its most popular Science 360 topics. It’s a great way to spend your lunch break — bring a sandwich, if you want. You’ll see a presentation about current research, PLUS you’ll meet one of the scientists who are making that research happen.

Ask questions, share your own theories, learn a little more about our world. And it’s free!

Today’s OTL program was “Predicting Severe Weather.” Jonathan Blaes, a meteorologist with the NOAA National Weather Service, gave us a behind-the-scenes look into how airplanes provide key data for everything from daily forecasts to hurricane predictions.

The cross-section of people in the room was interesting, too. There were several home-school families, a group of meteorologists, students and staff members from UNC, some retirees and others who didn’t clearly fit into any of those categories. They asked GREAT questions. And a few of them were interviewed by a newspaper reporter who also attended.

So you missed the first one — but there are four more in the days ahead! So be sure to catch some of these:

  • Learn “Why Antimatter Matters” with physicist Reyco Henning on Wednesday, Sept. 15
  • Take a “Mission to Mars” on Thursday, Sept. 16, with NASA trainee Zena Cardman
  • Explore “Solar Cells” with chemist Wei You on Tuesday, Sept. 21
  • And examine “The Truth Behind 2012” (you know, all those rumors about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world) on Thursday, Sept. 23, with a panel of experts that includes astronomer Dan Reichart, linguist David Mora-Marin and geologist Kevin Stewart

How cool is that? You need to be there. Your friends will be totally impressed with your new FB status update: “having lunch with an eminent researcher.”

It all happens in the Science Stage, which is the small auditorium adjacent to the Morehead Rotunda. Enter through the UNC Visitors Center entrance (facing McCorkle Place), and it’s easy to find. Come meet a scientist! (Sandwich optional.)

“Out To Lunch with Science 360″ is an official North Carolina Science Festival event.

Along with their approach to astronomy, the Mayans also made headlines with a truly revolutionary hot chocolate recipe.

Festival coordinator, Julie Rhodes, sharing exciting news with the rest of the planning team.

As you can imagine, things are pretty hectic around here as we count down to the start of the NC Science Festival.   It’s LESS THAN ONE MONTH AWAY!  And, while it’s hectic, it’s also so much fun.  I’ve done things (have tea with a Nobel Laureate; call Adam & Jamie to invite them to NC) and said things (“Can you park your NASCAR car here?” and “Do you mind if we chunk pumpkins through the center of campus?”) that I NEVER would have had the opportunity to say and do without the Festival.  So, thanks to everyone for enriching my life over these last few months.

And, that’s the whole point of the Festival – to enrich YOUR life by getting you involved in science, technology, math and engineering.  We are putting finishing touches on many things – including schedules and maps – so you’ll know when and where to show up for some awesome science action!  Take a look at the Festival schedule to see what I mean.  There are over 300 events taking place across the state between Sept. 11-26.

We want to invite you to attend as many events as possible during the Festival.  And we would love to see you in Chapel Hill on Sat., Sept. 25 for the UNC Science Expo.  There are literally hundreds of cool things taking place this day – demos, lab tours, talks, performances.  You name it – we’ve probably got it!

I look forward to hearing about your science adventures in September!

Denise

Denise Young is Morehead’s director of education and planning and co-founder of the NC Science Festival. She proposes skipping the rest of August so we can get on with the Festival!

Oil Spill

Oil is clearly visible on the water surface in this satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico (from NASA). But how much oil might be collecting below the water surface?

It’s a familiar refrain for many children learning math in school: “Why do we need to know this stuff?” Dr. Richard McLaughlin, a mathematics professor at UNC Chapel Hill, answered that question at the July Current Science Forum. Speaking to a sizeable crowd, Dr. McLaughlin showed how a team of researchers at UNC are using math to tackle important questions related to a topic which has captured international attention since April: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

One of those questions centers on the issue of underwater plumes: we can see the oil slick on the water surface, but is it possible that there is an even greater amount of oil underwater? Dr. McLaughlin and Dr. Roberto Camassa, also at UNC, are using the science of fluid dynamics to shed some light on this. The Gulf of Mexico, like most large bodies of water, does not have a uniform density, Dr. McLaughlin explained. The oil shooting out from the damaged pipe is hot, and coming out at high pressure. Using a water tank, Dr. McLaughlin demonstrated how such conditions may create a cloud of oil trapped beneath the surface of the gulf.

Next Dr. McLaughlin showed how his team is taking a simple mathematical idea – the parabolic formula – and using it to estimate how many barrels of oil are escaping from the leak each day. The team is using the BP Spill Cameras to fit a parabolic curve onto the leak, then applying mathematical formulas to obtain a flow rate. Using this method, they estimated the flow rate to be around 70-80,000 barrels per day – a number that is far higher than BP’s initial estimates and similar to the latest government-released figures.

If you missed the forum, you can still watch the water tank demonstration and an interview that Dr. McLaughlin and Dr. Camassa gave on a KBZK newscast - both are available on YouTube. Stay tuned to the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center homepage for information about upcoming Current Science Forum events.

Casey Rawson is the Science Content Developer for Science 360.

15 Jun 2010
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If you read this blog regularly, you know that Denise Young announced the North Carolina Science Festival here. In the weeks since her announcement, it seems like a million things have happened! Here are the biggest things:

There’s a NC Science Festival website

  • … that lists dozens of NC Science Festival events …
  • … all over the state, from Asheville to the Outer Banks …
  • … and you can search the list by date, location, target age group or other characteristics.

And there’s a Facebook page where you can …

  • … meet other people who like the NC Science Festival (and science in general!) …
  • … and get updates on the newest additions to the events list …
  • … and discuss the events you attend (tag photos, too!).

But that’s not all! You can also …

  • … follow the NC Science Festival on Twitter
  • … and check out the NC Science Festival blog
  • … and keep checking for a super-big announcement in early July! (It’ll rock your science world.)

Let’s face it, if you don’t keep an eye on the NC Science Festival news, you’re going to miss all the fun Sept. 11-26, 2010. So stay connected!

You gotta check out the event list -- everything from winery tours (yes, that's science -- chemistry and horticulture!) to "Snaketacular."

This all began with Jesse Richuso and Joe Meno.

Jesse was a UNC student in 2004. He worked at Morehead, and he won a student fellowship to create a program he called “LEGO Lab.” Do you remember it? LEGO Lab was based in the room where the “Zoom In: Science at the Extremes” exhibit is now. On Saturdays that year, Morehead visitors were able to experience the LEGO Lab and create some amazing projects.

Joe heard about LEGO Lab, and that caught his interest. Joe was active with a group called NC LUG — that stands for “LEGO Users Group.” Joe and his friends were adults who had maintained, even expanded, their childhood fascination with LEGOs. Joe called us and asked if there was any way he and his friends could exhibit some of their larger projects at Morehead, as part of the LEGO Lab.

There really wasn’t room to exhibit LEGO models alongside the LEGO Lab activities. But we knew that the LEGO Lab had been really popular with Morehead visitors, and it was hard to resist Joe’s boundless enthusiasm for all things LEGO, so we agreed that we would set up some tables in the Morehead Banquet Hall for the NC LEGO Users Group to exhibit some of their favorite models. We also worked with Joe to plan a LEGO model building contest, using basic LEGO bricks that Joe provided.

We set a date — the first Saturday in February 2005 — and named our event “LEGO-palooza.” The LUG members brought dozens and dozens of models. Joe brought a huge plastic tub filled with LEGO bricks for the contest, and we spread them on a sheet on the floor, with a single table nearby where children could place their entries in the contest. We didn’t really know how many people to expect, but we thought maybe 150 people might stop by during the day. Boy, were we wrong.

A News & Observer reporter mentioned the event in an article about the “Magic Tree House Space Mission” planetarium show. It was just one sentence. Yet on Saturday morning there were so many people in the LEGO-palooza entrance lobby, waiting to enter the Banquet Hall, that they nearly trampled UNC student worker Davida Vinson as she opened the doors.

They filled the aisles. They surrounded every exhibit table. And they kept coming.

The LEGO Users Group members were so busy answering questions and keeping watch over their exhibits that they never had time to take a lunch break. The first table filled with contest entries, so we set up another table. And another. And another. We ran out of LEGO bricks soon after 2 p.m. — the children had built 500 models to enter in the contest, all within about three hours.

By the time we closed the doors, we were exhausted — and excited. Clearly, we had a winner. In fact, I think that LEGO-palooza was responsible for the first blog entry ever posted by anyone about any Morehead activity (Paul Jones blogged about his visit with his son Tucker).

Fast forward to 2010. A lot has changed since that first year. LEGO-palooza is now a two-day event that routinely draws 1,200 or more visitors. We’ve added new activities (BrickFilms!) and dropped others (“farvel” — Danish for “goodbye” — to the contest and the LEGO play space). We’ve experimented with LEGO “classes” for families, with timed tickets and with age-group-specific activities. Lesson learned: Keep it simple, and focus on the exhibits.


And so we have. If you’ve been to LEGO-palooza, you’ve seen an amazing array of LEGO models over the years: Sabrina and Signe Gravett’s “Star Wars” collection, Mike Walsh’s trains, Joe Evangelista’s spaceport, Carin and Jane Proctor’s neighborhoods, Cyndi Bradham’s castle, Jennifer Poole’s “Hogwarts” collection, Taylor Poole’s “Batman” collection, Joe Meno’s robotics demonstrations and many more. (My personal favorite remains a kinetic LEGO machine that Rafe Donohue exhibited several years ago.)

Some of the LUG members have joined forces (and their impressive supplies of LEGO bricks and other goodies) to create huge original environments, ranging from space stations to amusement parks to western frontier forts. The NC LUG membership has added new members with its high visibility at LEGO-palooza, and LUG friends based in other states have traveled to Chapel Hill to exhibit their models, too.

That brings us to LEGO-palooza 6 — mark your calendars now! It’ll be Saturday, March 13 (11 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Sunday, March 14 (1-4 p.m.). It’s free, as always, and it’s a great adventure for children ages 4 and older, accompanied by parents or caregivers. No tickets, no reservations — just be here.

And as for the guys who instigated this phenomenon? Jesse’s now in grad school in Georgia. Although his LEGO Lab is gone, the LEGO camps that came from it are still popular on Morehead’s Summer Science Camps schedule. And Joe has turned his love for LEGOs into a career as editor of BrickJournal magazine. He passed the coordinator’s torch to Carin Proctor for a few years, and now Joe Evangelista is taking a turn as torchbearer.

If you’ve never seen LEGO-palooza before now, make this the year. And if you’ve been here before — well, if you love LEGOs, there really isn’t any other place you want to be on March 13-14.

It's not just a toy, it's an addiction.


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