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

How to Watch a Laser Show

This Saturday, the Cambridge Science Festival opens with a lunchtime laser show. This is the final post in a series of posts designed to familiarize you with lasers. What: Cambridge Science Festival Laser Show When: Saturday, April 24, Noon Where: Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway. Free shuttles run from the Harvard Square Red Line T stop. Enjoy the festival, everyone!

Interview with an Artist

Joseph Choma is a student in Design and Computation at the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. He will present a special exhibit, “Design for the Ideal Polling Booth,” at the second floor of the MIT Museum from Saturday, 4/24 to Sunday, 5/2. He will personally be available for discussion by his exhibit on the second floor of the MIT Museum on Sunday, April 25th, from 1PM to 3PM. I recently got the chance to have an e-mail interview with Joseph, and here’s some of what we talked about.   Christine: Tell me about your project. Joseph: The project is called, Design for an Ideal Polling Booth. Its intent is to provoke thought and awareness on how easy it is for us to take seemingly little things like a “polling booth” for granted. The act of voting was once a fiercely aggressive act, which did not always take place within… Read More

STOP THROWING AWAY ELECTRICITY!

The Truth about Phantom Loads It’s possible that you might be paying for extra electricity without knowing it. You may have already cut back on your energy consumption in the typical ways, replacing light bulbs and purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Test your knowledge of home energy efficiency at the Energy Efficiency Game Show from 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm on Saturday April 24th at Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, as part of the Science Carnival at the Cambridge Science Festival. So is it possible that you might still be paying more for electricity than you actually use? Imagine this scenario: settling down on the sofa during a calm winter evening, you turn on your energy efficient floor lamp to begin peacefully reading, Green Your Home All-In-One: For Dummies. Just as you get to an exciting section on combination compost/recycling units, an intrusively loud noise erupts from the neighbor’s open window ripping… Read More

Physics Demos @ MIT

Image Credits: TSG@MIT Physics Homepage TechTV

What’s in a laser?

Eleven days from today, the Cambridge Science Festival opens with a lunchtime laser show. This is the third in a series of posts designed to familiarize you with lasers — before the showtime lights dim. What: Cambridge Science Festival Laser Show When: Saturday, April 24, Noon Where: Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway. Free shuttles run from the Harvard Square Red Line T stop. Next week: what to look for at the CSF laser show.

Lunch With a Laureate: Dr. Jack Szostak

Nobel Prizes are sometimes awarded years after the research leading to them was conducted. Often the awarded scientist has moved on to other areas of research. Such is the case with Dr. Jack Szostak, a genetics professor at Harvard Medical School and at Massachusetts General Hospital, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009 for research that he conducted in the 1980s. He won the Prize for his discovery of telomerase, an enzyme which is critical to the replication of DNA. It turns out that DNA cannot be copied all the way to the end of the strand. So if we had nothing to protect the ends of our chromosomes, they would become smaller and smaller each time they replicate. Thankfully, shrinking chromosomes are avoided by a wonderful protective mechanism called a telomere. A telomere is a non-coding stretch of DNA at the end of a chromosome… Read More

Big telescopes; Bigger Questions; and Really Big Mistakes

Imagine its 1930, and you’re a veteran Harvard astronomer, talking to ordinary folk about your work.It’s the most exciting time in your field since Isaac Newton, but its surely sort of embarrassing too.Those folk might reasonably say to you: “Hey, just ten years ago, most of you people thought our Milky Way galaxy was the whole universe – and now this Hubble fellow tells us there are billions of galaxies just like ours out there.”Or – referring to Cecilia Payne – they could say: “What’s more, you people all thought the stars were made of IRON, like my CAR, until just last year, when a LADY – someone’s assistant! – proved they’re made of hydrogen gas, which couldn’t be more different! Have you got ANYTHING right?”Now – in 2010, after a decade of equally stunning new discoveries – Harvard’s astronomers face a remarkably similar time of excitement and embarrassment.Embarrassment, because… Read More

We are who we friend

Want to be happy? It might be as easy as surrounding yourself with happy people.   Nicholas Christakis, Professor of Medical Sociology and of Medicine at Harvard University, examined thousands of social connections and found that happy people tend to associate with happy people, while lonely people tend to associate with lonely people.   The effects our friends have on us extend further than that. Smokers and obese people are more likely to group together, affecting each other through their mutual decisions.   In colorful, branched diagrams, Christakis maps out social networks and uses them to examine how we group together. Below for instance is what could be called a web of happiness, showing happy people in yellow, intermediate people in green, and unhappy people in blue, with the other colors indicating different types of social relationships. The different types of people tend to cluster together, as can be seen… Read More

Of Lightbulbs and Lasers

On April 24, the Cambridge Science Festival will open with a laser show. You’ll be sitting in the dark, waiting for the show to start — and then you’ll think, “WAIT! How does that work?” Let’s start with a thought experiment… Lasers and lightbulbs continue below the cut! What: Cambridge Science Festival Laser Show When: Saturday, April 24, Noon Where: Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway. Free shuttles run from the Harvard Square Red Line T stop. Next week: how do we get from stimulated emission to a laser pointer?

Hello Holography

Are you tired of your boring old two-dimensional photographs? Ever gone through your old family photo albums and wished that you could relive some moments? Don’t despair; holograms are here! Holograms are commonly described as “3D photographs,” though the processes involved in making the two different types of photographs are quite different. Both conventional photographs and holograms are made on a flat piece of photographic film that reacts to different intensities of light, but holograms render information about the depth of the object: the object appears to literally pop out of the page. How do holograms manage to do that? When you take a conventional photograph, your camera opens the shutter to let light through to hit the film. The light that enters your camera has already hit and reflected off the object that you’re capturing. The object reflects light with different intensities (brightness) depending on the physical characteristics of… Read More