Category Archives: Hot Science – Cool Talks

Periodic Table of Hot Science Selfies

Dr. David Laude's Chemistry Cool Talk at UT Austin

Dr. David Laude’s Chemistry Cool Talk at UT Austin

My friends and I enjoy taking selfies. I enjoy science, and I thought what better way to bring the two together (like an exothermic chemical reaction!) at last month’s Hot Science event about chemistry at UT Austin.

The first Hot Science – Cool Talk of the Fall 2014 semester, How I Learned to Love Chemistry, by Dr. David Laude was packed! There was a huge rainstorm before the event, but that didn’t discourage young and old chemistry enthusiasts from attending in force (F=ma).

I think this is the most people that have ever been to a Hot Science event. If anything, the rain made people more determined to learn, especially with the pre-lecture activities. Everyone came out, including friends that I haven’t seen in years. The entire Welch Hall main auditorium was full with standing room only. What density (D=m/v)!

Many people, including myself, a friend from school, and our chemistry teacher watched the event from the overflow auditorium. (I even arrived early!) Even with the time delay in the video simulcast, Dr. Laude’s talk was enlightening (c=2.9×10^8 m/s).

And now for the chemistry selfies!

Dr. Jay Banner, Director, UT Environmental Science Institute (ESI), is the best!

Dr. Jay Banner, Director, UT Environmental Science Institute (ESI), is the best!

Dr. David Laude, UT Chemistry professor, gave a lively and interactive talk about chemistry. Loves to blow things up!

Dr. David Laude, UT Chemistry professor, gave a lively and interactive talk about chemistry. Loves to blow things up!

Ms. Melinda Chow, coordinates fun events and activities for the UT Environmental Science Institute.

Ms. Melinda Chow, coordinates fun events and activities for the UT Environmental Science Institute.


Mr. Patrick Goertz, my great chemistry teacher!

Mr. Patrick Goertz, my great chemistry teacher!

More chemistry selfies

I am in an electron shell of knowledge with Theodore Gray's The Elements book

I am in an electron shell of knowledge with Theodore Gray’s The Elements book

Theodore Gray’s The Elements book in print and on the iPad is an excellent and fun way to learn about the elements in the periodic table. I’ve used his book to learn more about the elements in my high school chemistry class.

While I’ve enjoyed looking through the printed book, the app is more interactive and offers animations. To help dyslexic readers, I hope that the creators of the app, TouchPress, will publish an update that allows you to highlight portions of the text and use the iOS text-to-speech accessibility feature to have my iPad read the content out loud.

Bismuth, a cicada, and a live oak tree join me for a chemistry and biology mashup selfie

Bismuth, a cicada, and a live oak tree join me for a chemistry and biology mashup selfie

Bismuth (one of the most beautiful element structures), a cicada (at least its exoskeleton), and a live oak tree (Yea, biology!) wanted in on the selfies too.

Extreme weather at SXSW Eco

The next Hot Science presentation whirls in next Monday, October 6, 2014, with a special event at SXSW Eco.  Dr. Kevin Klosel will talk about Extreme Weather and Uncertainty in Forecasting.

During this year’s SXSW Eco event, you’ll learn about the science behind extreme weather, like tornadoes and superstorms, and how meteorologists factor in uncertainty.

Sounds like another super Hot Science is on it’s way, and the forecast for selfies with Dr. Klosel are favorable!

Update: Remember that this special event is free and is at the Austin Convention Center (and not at UT Austin.) The National Weather Service is bringing a tornado machine, and you’ll also be able to create lighting with a Van de Graaff machine and erupt snow to create an avalanche. Sounds like lots of fun!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Chemistry, David Laude, Dr. Kerry Emanuel, Environmental Science Institute, ESI, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Jay Banner, Melinda Chow, SXSW Eco, The Elements, Theodore Gray

Hot Science and Modern Chemistry in High School

Hooray for Modern Chemistry (and yes, I have a Periodic Table shower curtain)

Hooray for Modern Chemistry (and yes, I have a Periodic Table shower curtain)

I recently started my sophomore year in high school, and my classes have been a lot of fun. As many of you know, I have a great love of biology (and in learning about and battling invasive plant species!), but recently, I found a similar love for chemistry. (I’ll just admit right now that I love science.)

In the first few weeks of my chemistry class, it’s been fascinating learning about the basics of chemistry, including measurements and states of matter.

Volcanoes in Austin, Texas

For our first lab, we mixed acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate and measured the temperature of the mixture. We found that it created an endothermic reaction, which means that the temperature drops as the reaction progresses.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Acetic acid is vinegar, and sodium bicarbonate is baking soda, and this is a common mixture for volcano science fair projects. You just need to add detergent so you can make soap bubbles from the escaping gasses. With a little red food coloring, it looks like lava bubbling!

We’re using a very interesting piece of equipment, the Vernier LabQuest 2. This device is amazing since you can hook up different probes to measure temperature, light, sound, pressure, and even radiation! You can get information on almost everything. It’s a great tool, and one I wish I had at home too.

Modern Chemistry textbook, audiobook, and iBook

Modern Chemistry iBook available from iTunes

Modern Chemistry iBook available from iTunes

We’re using the Modern Chemistry book from Holt, Rinehart and Winston in my class. With my dyslexia, it’s not easy for me to learn from just the printed word. Finding the audio book and iBook for my biology textbook helped me out during my high school freshman year.

I was also able to find the audio version of my current Modern Chemistry book from Learning Ally and a newer version of the Modern Chemistry iBook from iTunes. With Learning Ally, a human reader reads the entire page, including figures. With my iBook version, I can select portions of the text for my Apple MacBook’s or iPad’s electronic voice to read. The iBook version also contains videos, quizzes, and other nice interactive features.

Hot science – Cool Talks – Chemistry

 Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, Dr. Chris Kirk, and Dr. Rebecca Lewis at the 2014 UT ESI Education and Outreach Dinner

Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, Dr. Chris Kirk, and Dr. Rebecca Lewis at the 2014 UT ESI Education and Outreach Dinner

I’ve always loved Hot Science – Cool Talks from the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute (ESI).

Hot Science – Cool Talks are a series of presentations where you can enjoy fun prelecture activities and learn a lot about science during presentations given by distinguished scientists. They’ve become very popular over the years, and I’ve been going to them since I’ve been a little scientist guy.

Thanks to Dr. Jay Banner, UT ESI director, I’ve had the great fortune to interview many of the previous presenting scientists. (Here are some of my video interviews with Dr. Chris Kirk for his Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation, “Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye”.)

With myself and many other Austin-area sophomores learning about chemistry in science this year, what great fortune that the first Hot Science presentation is on chemistry!

Dr. David Laude will give a presentation on How I Learned to Love Chemistry on Friday, September 12, 2014. The fun prelecture activities start at 5:45 p.m., and Dr. Laude’s presentation starts at 7:00 p.m.

I’m counting on his promise that Dr. Laude will blow stuff up! He’ll make liquid nitrogen ice cream for everyone at the end. See! Science can be fascinating and delicious at the same time.

Fall 2014: Hot Science – Cool Talks presentations

Now you know why it's called Hot Science! (Photo credit: UT ESI)

Now you know why it’s called Hot Science! (Photo credit: UT ESI)

I look forward to seeing you at Hot Science this Friday!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Chemistry, David Laude, Dr. Chris Kirk, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Modern Chemistry

Stop Monkeying Around: Primate Social Behavior

Amazonian Primate (Photo credit: UT Austin - Environmental Science Institute.)

Amazonian Primate (Photo credit: UT Austin – Environmental Science Institute.)

Science is my favorite subject, and this spring in my high school freshman biology class, I’ve been learning about plants, the diversity of animals, evolution, and more.

We learned about the common characteristics that all primates share: fingers and toes with nails, not claws; arms that rotate around a shoulder joint; binocular vision; and a well-developed cerebrum, which is helpful for complex thinking.

We’re now studying the different systems of the human body, including the nervous and skeletal systems. (We have 206 bones in our adult human skeleton!)

Primate evolution and the evolution of senses

When I was a young naturalist (younger than I am now), I had the chance to interview Dr. Chris Kirk before his “Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye” presentation. Dr. Kirk is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, and his talk was part of the Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute.

Primate social behavior

There are more awesome anthropological presentations in store with Hot Science – Cool Talks! You can learn more about primate social behavior with Dr. Anthony Di Fiore during his presentation this Friday, April 4, 2014. A Professor of Biological Anthropology and the Chair of the UT Austin Department of Anthropology, Dr. Di Fiore will talk about the monkeys that he’s studying in the Amazonian Ecuador and how their native ecosystem helps to shape their behavior and society.

His presentation starts at 7:00 pm in Welch Hall on the UT Austin campus, but be sure to arrive early, because the pre-lecture fair, full of fun kids activities and learning, starts at 5:45 pm.

It’s the last Hot Science event of the spring 2014 semester, so don’t monkey around and miss out on this Cool Talk!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Anthony Di Fiore, Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Chris Kirk, Environmental Science Institute, ESI, Hot Science - Cool Talks, My Eye Your Eye and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, Primate social behavior

Dr. John Grotzinger Explores Mars Curiosity Rover’s Discoveries

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

With Hot Science – Cool Talks in full swing this fall, there is a great presentation scheduled for this Friday, October 18 at 7pm. Dr. John Grotizinger, lead scientist for the Mars Curiosity Rover, is coming back to UT Austin to talk all about what the Mars Rover has discovered since landing on the Red Planet. This is going to be a fascinating talk.

And don’t forget there will be lots of great pre-lecture activities starting at 5:45 pm. There will be all sorts of interactive displays and engaging activities. They’re especially geared to kids ages K-12, but the whole family will enjoy them.

In addition to Dr. Grotzinger’s Mars lecture, don’t miss November’s Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation too:

Hot Science – Cool Talks events take place at UT Austin in Welch Hall (Room 2.224). You can get discounted parking in the San Jacinto Garage.

For more information about Hot Science – Cool Talks check out the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute website and watch the many video interviews I had with past presenters, including this one with Dr. Andrew Howell:

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Curiosity Rover, Dr. John Grotzinger, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Mars, Mars Rover, NASA, University of Texas, UT Austin

Learn about Cellular Engineering and Low Cost Medical Devices with Dr Andrew Ellington

Commander Ben and Dr. Andrew Ellington talk about cellular biology and more fun stuff at UT Austin.

Commander Ben and Dr. Andrew Ellington talk about cellular biology and more fun stuff at Dr. Ellington’s UT Austin lab office.

I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Andrew Ellington to talk about his Diagnosing Ourselves: Take Two Assays and Don’t Call me in the Morning lecture. His presentation is part of the great Hot Science – Cool Talks lecture series that’s hosted by the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Ellington is a Professor of Biochemistry with the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology at UT Austin, and his talk focused on his work in developing low-cost, personalized diagnostics and the creation of virtual clinical trials through social networks to improve healthcare on a global scale. His presentation completed the great series of lectures for the Spring 2013 semester, and it was a great one!

Video interview series

I interviewed Dr. Ellington in his office at his laboratory on the UT Austin campus.  His lab was amazing.  It was huge with lots of activity.  When Dr. Ellington and I sat down to talk, he turned the tables on me!  😉 He started asking me the questions!!  I was so nervous, but I did my best to recall my science facts.

It was actually a lot of fun talking with him and Dr. Ellington is an amazing teacher!  But Dr. Ellington likes to think of himself as more of a mentor than a teacher, since he believes that it is the students who, in a way, teach themselves to absorb the information that they are exposed to by a mentor–which is so true.

I hope you’ll enjoy my series of video interviews with Dr. Ellington.  He shares lots of great information about evolutionary techniques to engineer biopolymers and cells.  It is quite an education…like having the privilege of being in one of his classes at UT!

(1) Evolutionary techniques in cellular engineering

Is it as simple as DNA makes RNA makes protein? Dr. Ellington describes cellular and molecular biology, including how the process of evolution helps make beneficial mutations more dominant.

Unfortunately, mistakes can and do occur during cellular replication. Dr. Ellington addresses other bad mutations that can also occur through environmental concerns, such as ionizing radiation, and mutagens, such as cigarettes.

Dr. Ellington also discusses sequenced versus non-sequenced polymers and the possibility of life originating from matrixes, a theory advanced by the Seven Clues to the Origin of Life book.

(2) Letting cellular mutations duke it out

Ever wonder how to use evolutionary techniques to engineer biopolymers? Is it okay to let cellular mutations duke it out? Are 99% of all mutations bad?

Dr. Andrew Ellington talks about how there are more bad mutations than good, but many mutations are neutral, allowing bacteria to drift along until they find a good place, which may help them over time get to be the most awesomeness bacteria ever.

(3) Future of low cost medical diagnostic tests

Dr. Andrew Ellington talks about the types of low cost diagnostic tests that are available now and those that might be available in the future, including new blood sugar monitors with needles so small that users can’t even feel them.

His goal is to make more tests available at lower cost to help them become more widely used and to create fun tests that can help people learn more about themselves.

(4) Is it possible to create a Star Trek Tricorder?

Dr. McCoy had a lot of cool diagnostic devices. Dr. Andrew Ellington explains some of the obstacles to creating a Star Trek-like medical Tricoder with our current technology, and he gives a glimpse of how sensors the size of molecules could be used in the future. You’ll also learn about Dr. Ellington’s favorite computer games.

Event day highlights

How invasive species can spread disease poster session

How invasive species can spread disease poster session

For the prelecture fair, I prepared a poster board explaining how invasive species can spread disease.

Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, and Dr. Andrew Ellington at Hot Science - Cool Talks

Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, and Dr. Andrew Ellington at Hot Science – Cool Talks

Thanks Dr. Jay Banner, Director, and Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Outreach Coordinator, for the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas for the great lectures and chance to talk with great and leading scientists.

Dr. Ellington’s lecture was the last one for the Hot Science – Cool Talks Spring 2013 lecture series, but I know they’ll be back this fall for another great set of science talks and presentations that you’ll won’t want to miss! 🙂

Additional resources

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Andrew Ellington, Biochemistry, Cellular biology, cellular engineering, Cellular evolution, Diagnosing Ourselves, DNA, Environmental Science Institute, Healthcare, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Molecular biology, Mutagen, Mutation, Proteins, RNA, Take Two Assays and Don't Call me in the Morning, University of Texas, UT Austin