Monday, December 12, 2016
Hello, My name is Jason and I’m a Paleontologist
Jason Downs, Jason Poole, and Jason Schein, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Take a journey through time, exploring the Devonian, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. This month’s Science on Tap will feature three paleontologists all bearing the same moniker – Jason. Each speaker will share cool research findings, funny anecdotes, and adventures from the field.
Monday, November 14, 2016
The Man Who Forged Benjamin Franklin: A Tale of Ingenuity and Ink
Lynne Friedmann, Chemical Heritage Foundation
Joseph Cosey, an Irish-American from the Depression Era, has the dubious distinction of being the most successful and prolific forger in U.S. history. While most perpetrators struggle to duplicate the signatures of one or two individuals, Cosey mastered the handwriting styles of virtually all the nation’s founders, a score of latter-day statesmen, and a number of prominent writers—both male and female. A “printer’s devil” apprentice in his youth, Cosey success stemmed from his understanding of the delicate relationship of paper and ink. Cosey’s criminal career began…and ironically ended…with forgeries of Benjamin Franklin.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Plague, Famine, and Death: The Terrifying History of Comets
Darin Hayton, Haverford College
For millennia, comets were unusual and unpredictable events. They appeared in the sky but were not part of the celestial realm of constellations and planets. Instead, they were thought to occur at the upper edge of the atmosphere. Comets were, consequently, a sort of terrestrial phenomena that demanded both investigation and interpretation. The history of efforts to explain the causes and effects of comets offers a fascinating glimpse at how people observed and understood the natural world. After an overview of that history, Hayton will focus on a couple examples that reveal the various deadly effects of comets.
Monday, September 12, 2016
The Destruction of the Bison
Andrew C. Isenberg, Temple University
In 1800, there were perhaps 30 million bison in the North American Great Plains. Within a century, their number had fallen to fewer than 1,000. The decline was so steep and rapid that the old interpretation of it—the wastefulness of American hunters—cannot fully explain it. A host of factors contributed to the decline: drought, competition for rangelands by domestic livestock, wolf predation, exotic bovine disease; the degradation of river valley habitats by Euro-American emigrants, and the pressure of both Euro-American and Native American hunters. These anthropogenic and environmental causes of bison mortality were inextricably connected. Like most factors that contributed to the near-extinction of the bison, they resulted from the complex interaction of human society with the dynamic environment of the western Great Plains.
Those interactions began in the mid-eighteenth century, when some American Indian societies on the fringes of the grasslands adopted the use of the horse to hunt the bison of the western Great Plains. Horses not only facilitated an increased harvest of the bison, but they competed with the bison for scarce forage. The interconnections continued in the mid-nineteenth century, when increased numbers of cattle and sheep in the Canadian and American Great Plains led to the degradation of the bison’s range and the transmission of exotic bovine disease to local populations of bison. In the 1870s, the United States government permitted–indeed, encouraged—Euro-American hunters to destroy the bison to deny the resource to Indians of the western plains and open the grassland to Euro-American settlement. In the early twentieth century, preservationists in league with ranchers in the American and Canadian West saved the bison from extinction but contributed to the domestication of the species by confining them to managed preserves.
Monday, July 11, 2016
For Science! Four Tales of Body-snatching, Organ Collecting, and Fraud in 19th Century Philadelphia
Evi Numen, Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
How did physicians, resurrectionists and collectors evade the law in 19th century Philadelphia? And why? Philadelphia was a buzzing medical center in the late 19th century. With the flood of the weary, injured, and disabled veterans of the American Civil War, the need for hospitals and well-educated physicians increased tenfold. Medical schools sprouted, admissions rose, and with them the demand for bodies; cadavers for dissection and specimens for the classroom and research. Since lawful supply didn’t meet the high demand, anatomists, students and collectors had to resort to some rather questionable means to resolve that deficit. A one-eyed horse thief becomes the epicenter of a national scandal post-mortem, a “petrified body” is donated to a local museum, a fetal specimen is obtained from a dying woman, and a jar of anonymous epileptic brains raise questions about the how these specimens were collected and the scientific studies they were collected for.
Monday, June 13, 2016
Eat Well With This One Trick: The Enzyme Craze of the 19th Century
Lisa Haushofer, Chemical Heritage Foundation
People in the past had radically different ideas about eating, and about what happened to food inside their bodies. Science contributed to shaping those ideas, and commercial health foods were a vehicle through which ordinary people literally consumed changing scientific ideas about the body. Follow historian of medicine and food Lisa Haushofer on a fascinating journey to explore arguably the most popular food fad of the nineteenth century – so-called artificially digested or enzyme-enriched foods. These foods, and the concepts of disease and the body they encapsulated, offer a glimpse of what it might have been like to eat and digest as a Victorian. How different or similar were nineteenth century ideas about eating and digesting to our own, and what might that tell us about ourselves? Come and explore the world of food fads before Atkins and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Monday, May 9, 2016
How to Mount a Dinosaur… In a Synchrotron
Jennifer Anné, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Paleontology has been revitalized with the onslaught of new technological applications of physics, chemistry and computer engineering. Old bones are brought back to new light as even the scrappiest fossil can unleash a suite of hidden information only available in the 21st century. Dr. Jennifer Anné will be highlighting some of her exciting work in utilizing one of the most powerful (and sci-fi like) machines, the synchrotron, to do everything from diagnosing dinosaur diseases, to what makes a manatee big boned.
Monday, April 11, 2016
Microworlds: Art and Science Through the Microscope
Featuring James Hayden, Wistar Institute
The world around us can be smaller than you think. Take a journey down through the microscope and explore the living (and not-so-living) world found at the cellular level. Imaging is an integral part of most scientific exploration and Dr. Hayden will guide you through some of the ways that microscopes are used to collect scientific data, or record simple observations. From stereomicroscopes to 2-Photon confocal systems, see the ways imaging helps to answer unique questions in biological research. As an added bonus, he will also use his instrumentation to take a closer look at the contents in your bar glasses!
Monday, March 14, 2016
Epigenetics and the creation of brain sex differences
Featuring Bridget Nugent, University of Pennsylvania
Sex differences in brain structure and function control sex differences in behavior, physiology, and disease risk across animal taxa and in humans. How are male and female brains different and how are these differences established during development? Bridget Nugent from the University of Pennsylvania will describe her work illustrating how hormones and epigenetic processes team up to program sex differences in the developing brain to create life-long brain feminization and masculinization.
Monday, February 8, 2016
Hot Lights, Sharp Steel, Cold Flesh
Featuring Marianne Hamel, Jersey Shore Forensics
Depictions of forensic pathologists and medical examiners in popular media tend to focus on convoluted cases, serial killers, and medical examiners that interrogate living suspects. The reality is something quite different and, actually, much more compelling. “Hot Lights, Sharp Steel, Cold Flesh” examines the realities, limitations, and implications of the forensic autopsy.
Monday, January 11, 2016
Gas on Tap: Loony Gas and the History and Science of Gasoline
Featuring Raechel Lutz, Rutgers University
During the 1920s, gasoline emerged as new fuel of the future, one that could power automobiles and help create modern life, but this type of gasoline required making a devil’s bargain with a substance known to be toxic: lead. A lead additive, tetraethyl-lead, reduced the knock in engines and increased the amount of power available gasoline. The oil industry was quick to produce the additive and begin selling “Ethyl Gasoline” at pump stations in the early 1920s. In 1924, however, several workers died and others went insane from exposure to the additive at two production plants in New Jersey. Called “loony gas,” the additive sparked controversy and concern for public health, yet lead was continually used in gasoline in the United States until the 1970s. Why was lead added to gasoline instead of another compound? What advantages and disadvantages were weighed in deciding to use the product? At this talk, we’ll explore the story of “loony gas” and these questions within the complex science and history of gasoline.