Category Archives: Science

The Bill Nye vs Ken Ham Debate

If you are in Kentucky and have an extra 30 bucks lying around (mainly because you wouldn’t want to donate that money to scientific cancer research or anything like that) then you can go visit the Creation Museum!

Quit frankly it seems like a really fun place, especially for kids. If it wasn’t pushed as the ultimate truth, and it were left as a fun children’s playground, I might not be so opposed. The issue is that the founders of the Creation Museum seem to think that scientific theories are just something that you sit around and make up based on what you believe. There seems to be a huge disconnect between understanding the scientific process and how it leads to scientific theory. The museum doesn’t end at creationism. You can also catch shows at the planetarium such as “The Christmas Star,” where you can learn about “possible” explanations for the “star” that led the wise men to Christ.

This brings us to the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, the head of the creation museum. Bill Nye has been a fierce advocate for science, and Ken Ham has been a strong preacher of creationism. Before the debate, there was a fair amount of criticism regarding Bill Nye actually debating a creationist. I am personally am all for it. You absolutely need to talk with people who have opposing views to share your ideas, and not turn your nose up at them.

For an overview of the debate, you can click here. I’m posting  the full debate below:

“So it sounds to me, just listening to you over the last two minutes, that there are certain parts of this document, the bible, that you embrace literally, and other parts that you consider poetry. So it sounds to me in those last two minutes like you’re going to take what you like, interpret literally, and other passages you’re going to interpret as poetic descriptions of human events.”

-Bill Nye

The NASA MAVEN mission to study Mars

A NASA image of Mars from the Hubble Space Telescope

The NASA mission to mars, MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Volatile     EvolutionN), will be launching in a little over a week on November 18. This very exciting mission is going to investigate what happened to Mars’s atmosphere. It is thought that at one time the atmosphere was dense enough to support water on the surface of Mars. The mission will give clues about whether Mars could have supported life at one time. MAVEN will take 10 months to reach the planet of Mars.

You can keep tabs on the mission here.


The dangers of acetaminophen

Recently, This American Life did an episode on how easy it is to overdose on acetaminophen (also called paracetamol in countries outside of the US). You can listen to the entire episode in the link below:

505: Use Only as Directed

What I find interesting is why this drug is so dangerous.

In the liver, there are a group of enzymes that oxidize many of the drugs and organic substances that enter your body. In fact, there are genes for 57 various types of these enzymes. These are called Cytochrome P450s.

Whenever you see warning labels like “don’t eat grapefruit with this drug,” it is usually because of the way the liver cytochromes are processing these compounds.

So, what happens when you take acetaminophen? Most of it is processed to a non-harmful compound. However, 5% of this drug is processed by a liver cytochrome known as CYP2E1. This 5% becomes a toxic compound (NAPQI). Generally, the liver can take care of this substance through a reaction with a compound known as glutathione. However, in cases of overdose, there is not enough glutathione to convert the bad NAPQI, and it hangs out in the liver and reacts with cellular membranes. Essentially, your liver cells are slowly killed.

The marsupial frog

Apparently, even frogs can be marsupials. How cool is that?





The Discovery of Greenland’s Massive Canyon

NASA scientists have recently discovered a canyon underneath Greenland’s ice sheet by using radar data. The canyon is 400 miles long and half a mile deep (for comparison, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and a little over a mile deep). This canyon was believed to have been formed before the glacier over Greenland formed.

Radar uses electromagnetic waves to penetrate through the ice. In much the same way that shining a flashlight through a window to a wall will case light to reflect off of the wall back to the person holding the flashlight outside, the longer radio waves used with radar reflect off of the earth’s surface.

It is definitely interesting to learn about this canyon, but the importance of the discovery is beyond being a neat fact. Water flowing beneath the glaciers actually contributes to a complex relationship with glacial movement and melting, and the transport of glacial melt water from inland portions of the glacier to the ocean is pertinent to this topic.

Check out the new I F#!&ing Love Science YouTube show

In case you are not cool (or geeky) enough to be one of the over 6 million followers of IFLS on facebook, you may want to check out the new show to catch up on fun and interesting tidbits about science.

LIDAR for Detecting Air Turbulence

IMG_0122 copy

Turbulence can be pretty annoying on a flight. Not only does it cause drinks to spill and the fasten seatbelt sign to remain on (usually for far longer than it needs to be), turbulence can also be difficult to fly through.

A new project from DLR (the German Aerospace Center), will be utilizing lidar systems to detect clear air turbulence. Traditionally radars cannot detect this type of turbulence as their signals generally need cloud particles reflect off of. However, the shorter wavelength of lasers allows for reasonable signals to bounce off of small air molecules.