Tagged: @chrislisinski

Science Tuesday: Explore the Universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson

By Chris Lisinski, Staff Writer

Neil deGrasse Tyson wants you to join him on an adventure through time and space. Strange as that may sound, you should accept.

He is not an astronaut himself, nor is he extending a creepy, Wonka-esque invitation; no, Tyson wants to show you all about the world around you in the form of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

You absolutely, positively should accept his invitation, because the show will instill you with the kind of wonder many of us have not felt since fifth-grade field trips to the planetarium.

Curiosity and intrigue are key characteristics of our status as human beings, and they have brought us every major accomplishment from irrigation to penicillin to leaving footprints on the moon.

It is through this desire to learn more that we expand and refine ourselves as a civilization.

At a time when science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs are so crucial (and perhaps even more available than other fields), “Cosmos” plays the important role of making us care about science in our everyday lives. It validates wondering about the universe as a valid use of free time, not just something for nerds with extra-thick glasses.

The show matters, and it is a bit surprising to see it air first on FOX’s main channel itself rather than exclusively on National Geographic. Hopefully, none of the scientific content will be watered down (and hopefully evolution will not be skipped over), but given the decline of the Discovery Channel, we must be extremely thankful.

Students may have missed the first two episodes while on vacation, but fret not! You can watch it online for free and legally! FOX has taken the extra step of making it available for the next month-and-a-half or so on the show’s website.

And it’s an absolutely beautiful show. The original with Carl Sagan will always hold a dear place in my heart, but “Cosmos” is one of the few pieces of media that may be better as an HD reboot full of zany CGI. You will feel that you are genuinely transported across the universe thanks to the amazing visual effects.

It may have some shortcomings, especially when it occasionally skips over the key details of scientific theories, but regardless, there is one conclusion: you should watch “Cosmos.”

Check out the trailer below:


Science Tuesday: Bat Crazy for The Batarang

By Chris Lisinski, Staff Writer

Question: Who is the best superhero?

You’re wrong. It’s Batman.

I know, I’ve heard all the arguments about how he doesn’t have superpowers, but doesn’t that make him more interesting? Watching Superman punch baddies over and over again without any threat gets boring. Batman is vulnerable and from this world, and that makes him easy to connect with.

Speaking of his human side, he’s also a role model for those of us with comic book inclinations, and expert boomerang-maker Victor Poulin has taken one step closer to becoming Batman: he successfully created a Batarang that actually circles back around when you throw it.

Poulin has already made some pretty fascinating products, including a tomahawk-looking boomerang and one that is almost as tall as he is, but he unveiled his recent bat-related throwing device in this Jan. 24 video on his YouTube account:

In the video, Poulin is standing alone in a snowy field. I like to imagine that field as high in the Himalayas near the secret hideout of the League of Shadows (unfortunately, Liam Neeson is nowhere to be found).

The batarang in the video is quite large, measuring a full 25.25 inches from the left edge to the right edge. It is made of 10-ply Finnish birch, and Poulin put in the effort to paint it black like the eternal night in which Batman resides.

He demonstrates the batarang, then hurls it out into the wilderness. You’ll have to use your imagination and pretend that the batarang smacks Mr. Freeze in the head during its flight. 

It disappears for a bit, and then BANG! It’s right back in his hand, albeit not from the flight pattern he quite expected.

It’s quite a fascinating process all made possible by science. Most returning boomerangs fly in a circular process away and back to the thrower, and they are essentially wings with the same design properties as you would find on plane wings.

Two of the edges of the boomerang are rounded off and the other two are flat, which is known as an airfoil. The curvature of the wing causes the streamlines of the air to curve, and this lowers the pressure on the top of the wing.

If you remember anything from high school science — air flows from high pressure to low pressure (just as heat moves from high temperature to low temperature), so when the air flows from the high-pressure area below the wing to the low-pressure area above the wing, it causes lift and allows flight.

But why does the boomerang turn around and come back? It wouldn’t be so prudent a weapon if Batman had to restock every time he used a batarang, even if he is filthy rich.

When you throw a boomerang properly, the “top” wing, or top half, actually flies through the air at a higher rate of speed because it is spinning forward in addition to flying forward, according to a HowStuffWorks article on the subject. This creates a “constant force” on the top of the boomerang, and, long story short, when there is a constant force on top, it is actually felt 90 degrees to the side, which forces the boomerang to turn constantly.

In case you were wondering/looking for a birthday gift for me, Poulin sells a smaller 7-inch batarang on his website. It will only set you back about $55, which, let’s be honest, is the most worthwhile expenditure you will make in your entire college career.

Science Tuesday: 3D Printing for Chocolate Because, Chocolate, Right?

Chris Lisinski, Staff Writer

Soon your chocolate will be more scientific than you/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Dan4th Nicholas

Soon your chocolate will be more scientific than you/ PHOTO VIA Flickr user Dan4th Nicholas

When 3D printing technology first grabbed headlines, most consumers were wondering what the future held. Now, finally, the day of salvation is near: We will soon be able to print chocolate.

Legendary chocolatiers at The Hershey Company have teamed up with 3D Systems to develop the candy-printing system, according to a Thursday press release. The technology will be used to bring the confectionery business to a state reflecting our wildest sci-fi sweet-tooth dreams.

“Whether it’s creating a whole new form of candy or developing a new way to produce it, we embrace new technologies such as 3D printing as a way to keep moving our timeless confectionery treats into the future,” said Hershey Vice President William Papa in the release.

But despite all of the futuristic hubbub, 3D printing technology has actually existed since the 1980s — it has however only recently become accessible and commercially feasible.

The basic principle is that 3D printing is an “additive” process based on a digital model. Rather than use tools to chip away at a block of marble or to cut wood and glue it together, 3D printers creates its product by laying down layer after layer of material according to the computer design. The computer programming allows for significant customization.

3D Systems unveiled the ChefJet, what it calls “the world’s first and only professional-certified, kitchen-ready 3D food printer,” earlier this month in Las Vegas, the Huffington Post reported on Jan. 10. Now, Hershey’s candy printer falls under the same line of product design.

If we are lucky, when the candy bars of tomorrow arrive, five of them are wrapped with golden tickets so we can take a tour and learn how they are made (sans nightmare-inducing psychedelic trip on a boat, please).

We can only hope the next step is for Hershey to hire an eclectic, bipolar hermit with a penchant for purple top hats and glass elevators.