03 Aug 2010

There’s a popular vampire drama on cable TV that’s built around the concept of synthetic blood. Interesting concept … if you’re a TV vampire. But there’s no such thing in real life, right?

Wrong. Researchers are developing synthetic blood as part of a new wave of nanotechnology-based strategies against disease.

Dr. Joseph DeSImoneHow are these new technologies going to affect the way we treat cancer and other diseases?

Come learn some of the possibilities when Dr. Joseph DeSimone speaks at Morehead’s Current Science Forum on Thursday, Aug. 5, at 7 p.m. It’s a free program.

If you search for "synthetic blood," Google currently lists 62,900 results.

The fifth video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the supposedly hidden Planet Niburu. Some people think a rogue planet called Niburu that has an extremely long orbit will swing around and collide with the Earth. Guess what? This 2012-doomsday scenario also has a lot of scientific evidence against it. Check out the video and find out why it’s just as likely that the DeathStar is going to destroy the Earth.

The Truth Behind 2012: The Planet Niburu!

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

The fourth video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the galactic center alignment. Some people think that the Earth, our Solar System and the center of the Milky Way Galaxy will align and the resulting gravitational forces from the black hole in the center of the galaxy will destroy the Earth. Once again, this 2012-doomsday scenario has a lot of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why it won’t happen and even if it did, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

The Truth Behind 2012: Galactic Center Alignment

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

15 Jul 2010

We’ve been recruiting museums, parks and other sites all around North Carolina to host activities during the first-ever North Carolina Science Festival, scheduled Sept. 11-26.

So far, the schedule is pretty impressive. We’re aiming for 100 unique activities and events, and we’re getting close.

But we may have just scored the biggest event possible for this year. Adam and Jamie, the hosts of the Discovery Channel’s popular MythBusters TV show, are coming to do a special program at UNC. And people are thrilled.

From the moment we posted the news on our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed, the excitement became building. It’s going to be a big event, so big that it’ll be in the Smith Center (aka basketball heaven, most years) on UNC’s campus.

Tickets are limited. In fact, since the stage set-up is in the middle of the floor, rather than at the end, we’ll only have access to fewer than one-half of the seats. We don’t know if it will sell out, but as a safeguard in case it does, we’ve set up a way for Morehead members to buy tickets early through a special presale opportunity.

If you’re already a Morehead member, you’ll get information about the presale through e-mail (be sure the membership office has your e-mail address!). If you aren’t a member yet, this could be a really good time to join. And you’ll get to enjoy all of the other membership benefits (free admission to fulldome planetarium shows, gift shop discounts and more) throughout the year.

So join. Come see Adam and Jamie. And check out all of the other cool activities during the NC Science Festival. It just keeps getting more amazing!

What myths have you busted lately? (Keep it family-friendly, please!)

The third video in our Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series focuses on the planetary alignment. Some people think that the planets of our Solar System will align and the resulting gravitational forces will damage our Sun. Once again, this 2012-doomsday scenario has a lot of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why the planets won’t be aligning and, even if they did, it wouldn’t cause a disaster.

The Truth Behind 2012: Planetary Alignment

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager.

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.

Here’s our next video in the Science 360: The Truth Behind 2012 series. In this one, we’re focusing on the “end of the Maya calendar.” Does the Mayan “Long Count” calendar mark the end of a 5,126-year era and herald an apocalypse? As with the other 2012-doomsday scenarios, the Mayan calendar claim has a good deal of scientific evidence against it. Check it out and find out why the real Maya will probably not be hiding in caves, but throwing a party.

The Truth Behind 2012: Mayan Calendar

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager. He will be partying like it's 5126. Yes, Prince will be there.

30 Jun 2010

We’ve been doing Current Science Forums at Morehead for nearly three years now. The mission is simple: Encourage discussion about current science events and research in the news, led by a scientist or comparable expert in the field.

But I don’t think we’ve ever had a more timely topic than we have for July: “Oil Rigged: Quantifying the BP Oil Spill.”

You’ve seen the images from below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico, and you’ve seen the news coverage — scary stuff. And it can be hard to decipher what’s fact and what’s fiction.

Luckily, we’ve got a lot of experts at UNC who can help us understand the issues more clearly. One of those experts, Dr. Richard McLaughlin, will lead our Current Science Forum on Thursday, July 1, at 7 p.m. He’ll help us understand why some oil rises to the surface and other oil remains trapped underwater, challenging attempts to measure the impact of oil spills.

If you’re interested in learning more, we hope you’ll join us. Like each monthly Current Science Forum, the July 1 presentation is free. It’ll be in Morehead’s Banquet Hall (second floor, east end of buiding), and it’s informal.

Believe it or not, killer whales are among the animals that live in the Gulf of Mexico. They are found only in deeper water (600 feet or more in depth).

We’ve taken our popular Science 360 presentation, “The Truth Behind 2012″ and made it into eight short videos that we’ll be releasing once a week for the next two months. If you’ve been paying attention to pop culture at all in the past year or so, you’ve probably heard some rumors about 2012, whether it’s from the movie that came out earlier in the year or other sources. We’re going to take all of the disaster theories and debunk them one by one.  Look forward to seeing ones on the Mayan calendar, the pole reversal, the rogue planet Nibiru, solar eruptions and more. Just subscribe to our Youtube channel and you won’t miss an episode. Our first is about the theory that a giant asteroid is set to strike the Earth.

The Truth Behind 2012: Asteroid Strike!

For more information about The Truth Behind 2012, check out our other previous blog posts about the subject:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Jay Heinz is Morehead's Digital Production Manager. He fears no asteroids.

Higgs Boson

Scientists created this simulated image to show how the Higgs Boson would likely appear on visual detectors at the LHC. But one scientist thinks that listening to the data is a better method to detect the Higgs particle.

If you are familiar with the Large Hadron Collider or “LHC,” a huge physics experiment underway in Europe, you may be aware that one of the project’s aims is to find the elusive Higgs Boson, also known as the “God Particle.” The Higgs Boson is thought to be the reason that everything else has mass, but no one has ever actually observed the elusive particle. The LHC hopes to do just that by colliding protons in a giant underground racetrack and observing the particles that are created as a result of the collisions.

One issue that has come up with the LHC’s strategy is how to recognize a particle that has never been seen before and about which very little is known. Scientists are currently evaluating the collision data by looking at images of particle tracks on computer screens. But one scientist, Dr. Lily Asquith, believes there is a better way to identify the short-lived particles – by listening to them.

Dr. Asquith has developed a way to convert the data produced at the LHC into sound. Based on what scientists theorize about the Higgs, she has simulated the sounds that would be produced by a Higgs particle if one were created. The idea is that human ears are better at distinguishing sounds than the eyes are at distinguishing visual patterns. The sounds that Dr. Asquith has created using LHC data sound almost like bizarre, slightly-scary musical numbers – appropriate, perhaps, for a horror film. You can hear them here or download them here.

On a related note (pardon the pun), there is someone else trying to make sweet science music: one Higgs Boson (the person, not the particle), an English composer who writes “music inspired by the edges of science.”

To find out much more about the LHC and particle physics, come to Morehead Planetarium and Science Center to see the free Science 360 show “Why Antimatter Matters,” now showing Tuesday – Sunday on the Science Stage (formerly the NASA Digital Theater).

Casey Rawson is the Science Content Developer for Science 360.

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