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Science of Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Just to add a little science to your holidays: why do we get sleepy after eating turkey? Well, it turns out that we can’t blame turkey for our post-Thanksgiving dinner food comas. Check out this clip of the Mythbusters episode where they tested this myth. From the Mythbusters Myth Results page: Enjoy your Thanksgiving nonetheless!

Editing the Genome: An Event Retrospective

Museum of Science. Genome Editing: Now We Can, Should We? It was a complex question that greeted attendees of the Museum of Science on Tuesday evening: Now that we can edit the genome, should we? The evening started with thought provoking presentations given by Kevin Esvelt (MIT Media Lab) and Sam Lipson (Cambridge Public Health Dept). They introduced the CRISPR/ Cas9 genome editing technology, which was developed in 2013 by several groups including scientists in Cambridge, MA. The technology enables genome editing of any organism by a cut and paste mechanism that replaces the original DNA sequence with an engineered sequence designed by scientists. Changes to the genome can be limited to specific target cells or can be propagated across an entire species via a process called ‘gene drive’. The presenters also discussed the current environment of legislation around genome editing and the secretive nature of science, performed effectively behind… Read More

Chaos, Science, and the Thrill of Research: Tom Stoppard’s ARCADIA at Central Square Theater

Reviewed by E. Rosser   Science and history.  Scholars butting heads.   A house whose story spans generations.  Meet the agents of Arcadia, Tom Stoppard’s classic play currently in production through the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT, a resident program at Central Square Theater.  For the past decade, CC@MIT has brought science to the public limelight by producing at least one play about science per season, with special emphasis on marginalized scientists whose stories are frequently neglected.  Past shows in this vein include: A Disappearing Number, about the life of genius Indian mathematician, Ramanujan; Breaking the Code, featuring the tragic end of computer pioneer, Alan Turing; and Photograph 51, focusing on Rosalind Franklin and her DNA discoveries that were scooped by male colleagues.  Arcadia doesn’t slot quite so easily into one single theme: it’s quite layered, touching on sexism in academia, the thrill of research, intellectual rigor, plenty of sex and interpersonal conflict,… Read More

Reflection on Street Astronomy (Friday 4/15/2016)

Passion. I thought for a day about one word that summarized my thoughts about volunteering with the Street Astronomy team (http://www.bostonastronomy.net/), and decided that passion bested simplicity. The premise of the event was simple: get together in the middle of Harvard Square with some telescopes and look at cool things in the sky. And it was effective. Friday night is prime time in the Square for families, friends, and dates, so there were plenty of folks looking to make the night a little more special. In the two hours that the team of astronomers kindly donated to the festival, we had two to three hundred curious minds expand through the four telescopes and a pair of binoculars. However, it was not just the big boxes, expensive equipment, and experience that the astronomers brought out that night. I felt what made the night successful was their passion for the cosmos and… Read More

Science + Theater + Diversity Conference with the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT

By E Rosser This Sunday, I sat down with a quantum physicist-slash-director on my right, and a playwright who works with telescopes on my right.  A slew of other participants, ranging from theater interns, to history students, to neuroscientists, to engineers circled their chairs around the room.  Together, we represented a broad range of interests and backgrounds, but today we were there to tackle our favorites: theater, science, and diverse representation.  After introductions, ample coffee, and some question brainstorming, we dug right into group dialogue, wondering how theater might effectively capture the scientific process, and how science, in turn, might be progressed by featuring in theater.  That dialogue was the central component of Sunday’s Science + Theater + Diversity Conference, hosted by the Catalyst Collaborative at MIT and the companies in residence at the Central Square Theater. Photo courtesy of Allison Schneider The CC@MIT is the only long-term collaboration venture… Read More

Spider Superheroes

Hello CSF fans, followers, and supporters! As the festival approaches, I was thinking about some of the awesome events we have going on just around the corner! Since this week’s theme is Earth and Nature, I was thinking about the Spider Superheroes event – an awesome, totally free event for Grades 1 to 4 at Harvard’s Museum of Natural History – all about spiders and the amazing things they can do. Spiders are a special type of animal called an Arachnid that has eight jointed legs and lives mostly on land. They have inhabited Earth, as far as we know, for about 130 million years — hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs. They are carnivores, and detect their prey with the small hairs on their legs and body. Their sense of touch is exquisite, and probably the inspiration for Spiderman’s “Spidey Sense”. Most spiders catch their prey by spinning… Read More

Artists, Scientists, and Both: Creative Thinking on BOTH Sides of the Brain

By E. Rosser “The greatest scientists are artists as well.”  –Albert Einstein, 1923 Science is often thought of as a purely left-brain venture…but who says the creative thinking that leads to great discoveries can’t also produce some great art?  The Cambridge Science Festival aims to show off the “A” part of “STEAM” by urging Festival-goers let their inner DaVinci out at our various art events–from crafting kinetic sculptures to learning about baby birds through drawing.  It turns out that innovation and passion are important ingredients for art as well as science, technology, math, and engineering.   Some of the greatest minds that science has seen have also been known to stretch their artistic muscles.  Here are some famous scientists who have put down the lab notebook and picked up the sketchpad over the years–and artists who have taken up science! Drawing and Illustrating: Leonardo Da Vinci – Inventor and Illustrator… Read More

TENacious Engineering at the MIT Museum: Collaboration, Learning, and Innovation in Chain Reactions

by Marybeth Martello, Ph.D. This post is one in a series of posts about the Cambridge Science Festival’s TENacious Engineering Project (see blog entry from February 17, 2016).  To celebrate the Festival’s TENth Anniversary, TEN teams across the state are building TEN chain reaction machines.  These machines are reminiscent of the contraption that kicked off the very first Festival.  On the evening of April 15, at the Big Ideas for Busy People Event, Governor Charlie Baker will open the Festival with a short film that links all of these machines together.   Why chain reactions, you might ask?  With so many worldly problems begging for our attention, why spend precious time and brain power figuring out ways to make objects (often discarded and unwieldy items) perform tasks for which they were not designed?  The talented team of artists, scientists, and students, who recently constructed a TENacious Engineering chain reaction in the… Read More

Choose YOUR Pi Ice Cream on Pi Day!

Loading… “Where will we see this festival ice cream anyway?” Come to Big Ideas for Busy People or the Science Carnival & Robot Zoo to check out this new flavor in person! See you at the Festival! April 15 – 24, 2016cambridgesciencefestival.org

Red Dwarfs: A Planet’s Favorite Host

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ From the NASA Art Gallery “Planets Under a Red Sun” depicts 3 planets orbiting around a red dwarf star. By Paola Salazar For about as long as civilizations have existed, mankind has wondered one question: are we alone? Is there something out there in the stars that’s like us? While we can’t really speak on the existence of any alien civilizations or lack thereof, we can now, at the very least, safely say that planet formation around stars in and of itself is not uncommon. In fact, there are now over 2,000 confirmed planets, and around 5,000 candidate planets. Prof. Andrew West/bu.edu Boston University’s Andrew West, an associate professor in the Department of Astronomy who focuses his research on the stars that most commonly form these planets. These stars are known as red dwarfs or M-dwarf stars. Prof. West teaches a course on these exoplanets, called “Alien Worlds,” and… Read More