265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 csf@cambridgesciencefestival.org

The (Science) Monster Mash!

By Paola Salazar       Want to do more than just trick or treat this year? How about making some gooey, weird, possibly tasty experiments that will give you some goodies to show off during Halloween weekend?   If you’re interested, look no further! We scoured the world for some of the best creepy crawlies, smushy witches (that’s right), and a few more activities that you and your family can do to have fun this weekend while still learning the science behind them.   1. Glow in the Dark Drinks & Ice:  If your family is hosting a Halloween party, did they buy a blacklight? Do you just have a blacklight at home because you’re cool like that? Well get ready to be cooler–with glow in the dark drinks.    If you use it for the punch bowl, you can even add other accessories to the bowl for extra… Read More

The Blood Moon Super Moon!

                  Flickr/ NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center By Paola Salazar Families and friends across the globe were watching the stars and sky Sunday night, whether cozily on porches and balconies, in the streets, at museums or at observatories, for a view they won’t get for quite a while–the blood moon super moon! We dare you to say that five times fast. But among our curios explorers at the Cambridge Science Festival, some may have been wondering–what exactly causes a blood moon, what makes this one a super moon or just generally, what is this big red thing in the sky where our “normal” moon should be?! Fear not, for we are going to break it down for these curious minds right here, right now. If we pretend this is an equation, the layout is like this: Super Moon + Total Lunar Eclipse =… Read More

Homo naledi: A new Homo Species Shrouded in Mysteries

By Paola Salazar     Picture this: a woman covered head to toe in dirt and debris, her hair in a ponytail under a helmet, loose long clothing enveloping her lanky body, her hand reaching up to her cheek to wipe away sweat. She’s wearing a helmet with a big bright flashlight attached to the front, and as she approaches a crack in the ground ahead of her, she switches the flashlight on. The fissure is about 7.5 inches wide, and is the entryway to a cave system that’s about 30 meters deep. Robert Clark/National Geographic: Lee Berger’s daughter, part of the excavation team (left). Paola Salazar/Facebook/American Association of Physical Anthropologists: The FB announcement from Lee Berger (right). This is one of the “underground astronauts” who flew to South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind when in 2013, paleoanthropologist Lee Berger announced the need for researchers who could fit into the cave entrance of… Read More

Catching a Sea Perch

    by Eric Bender The underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) run by offshore industry or the Navy or scientists are usually big brawny fellows, designed to grab a valve on an oil platform at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico or scan remote areas of the Pacific sea floor or pluck cargo from the Titanic. But you can build a model ROV that fits inside a milk crate and zooms through water in basically the same ways. That’s exactly the role of MIT’s Sea Perch project, which builds these small educational wet wanderers, and exactly what teams of middle and high schoolers accomplished Wednesday at the MIT Museum. At the start, about half the kids said they were enthusiasts for science and engineering, and the other half cheerfully said they had been forced to come by their parents. Ably led by Kathryn Shroyer, mechanical engineer and Sea Grant… Read More

Safety first

by Mary Alexandra Agner The Volpe Center’s railroad simulator and its control room. Anxious about air travel? Apprehensive about automobile recalls or the reliability of the next bus you board? Concerned your cruise ship may stall in the Gulf? The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center is working to make your transit options as safe as possible. For the Volpe Center’s first appearance in the Cambridge Science Festival on Tuesday, four staff members presented “transportation ideas worth sharing” about passenger safety during plane, bus, car, and ship travel. The event culminated in a tour—with hands-on participation—of the Center’s plane, car, and rail engine simulators. After director Robert Johns gave an overview focused on the history and mandate of the Center—”advancing transportation for the public good”—two speakers addressed aspects of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Kathryn Bernazzani discussed aircraft wake turbulence, explaining the concept of a wake… Read More

Personalized Medicine: Our Human Genome

Our genome is the “code of our bodies.” Every cell in our system contains a complete set of DNA that contains “recipes” which influence every aspect of an individual. These genes work together to create each piece of who we are, this includes everything from eye color, hair color and hand size to which diseases a person will get or is susceptible to. The first gene sequences were completed in the late 70’s and since then genome sequencing has been revolutionized. Recently, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital have been able to curate a person’s entire genome sequence for personalized treatment. This personalization of medicine gathers ones genetic information and family’s genetic history to better diagnose and treat diseases. Personalized medicine can help diagnose many different types of cancers, some forms of Alzheimer’s disease, HIV/AIDS and many other diseases. This range to cure seems to be limitless. Over the past… Read More

One More Cup of Coffee

by Katie Oleksak Coffee, one of life’s finest staples. It controls me, annoys me, and causes me to be late to obligations and short of cash but I love it. Living in Dunkin’ Donuts nation and socially acceptable coffee shop culture, I wonder whether the 6 o’clock news stories of coffee’s antioxidant and anti-aging affects are simply appeasing us so that we do not feel bad about our bean-wielding lives? Possibly. But in any case, on Sunday I received much more than I bargained for in “One More Cup of Coffee,” a two-hour interactive session at the Cambridge Science Festival, rich with science, samples and coffee freaks like myself. I arrived at the MIT Museum just in time to hear Harvard researcher Daniel Chasman describe some exciting science behind the physiology of coffee on the brain. A crowd of all ages had gathered and was plenty attentive although it was… Read More

Dissecting the dead and alive—virtually!—at MGH

  by Judith Lavelle At the Paul S. Russell Museum of Medical History and Innovation, you can see demonstrations of a state-of-the-art virtual dissection table at 11AM and 4PM every weekday during the Cambridge Science Festival. A high-tech alternative to traditional cadaver dissections, the Anatomageis finding its way into medical schools as a teaching device. But its capabilities don’t end there. At Massachusetts General Hospital, doctors use the technology to view three-dimensional images of their patients’ bodies—whether these patients have been recently admitted to MGH or showed up a century earlier. I learned about the latter case from Russell Museum docent Jodie Grossman, who led a group of festival-attendees on a tour through the Ether Dome—the national historical landmark where the first public anesthetized surgery took place in 1846. There, she introduced us to MGH’s spokesmummy, Padihershef. We don’t know much about Padihershef’s life and afterlife before he was gifted… Read More

Sound practice for songwriting

by Eric Bender We might picture songwriters at work sitting at a piano or holding a guitar, but more and more artists who work with musical technology are inspired by sounds, says Michael Bierlyo, Chair of Electronic Production and Design at Berklee College of Music. “You can think of someone like Björk, who is fascinated by sounds and uses that as a gateway to create songs,” he says. You also might think of Nona Hendryx, an internationally famous singer whose career began with the Bluebelles, who had a hit with “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” in 1962. Hendryx’s extraordinary career as songwriter and performer is still going strong, and she is still experimenting with the latest music technologies. “Nona is totally hooked up with technology, with writing music with computers,” says Bierylo. “She is the technology diva.” Hendryx coaches and collaborates with Berklee students, and she will join… Read More

Einstein’s Theory of General Relevancy

by Eric Bender   Your cell phone knows about the theory of general relativity that Albert Einstein proposed a century ago. Its built-in GPS navigation system wouldn’t work without the realization that the clocks in the GPS satellites 13,000 miles above us run slightly faster than clocks on the surface of the earth, due to gravitational effects that general relativity predicts. That’s just one example of why Einstein’s astonishing relativity theories remain crucial today, both embedded in objects in our daily lives and acting as a platform for our rapidly evolving understanding of the universe. And both aspects will be in view in the Celebrating Einstein series, which officially launches one month from today. “The 100-year anniversary is a great occasion in itself, but we wanted to find the best ways to demonstrate not just that Einstein was a genius but what makes him relevant to the world today,” says… Read More