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Showing posts from March, 2015

Interview with Dr. Katie Ferris of UC Berkeley

by Angel Zhou, Branson School

Monkey flowers and mice - two radically different things. Yet, biologists, like Dr. Katie Ferris, are studying how native monkey flowers and mice have adapted to drastically different environments. 
Dr. Ferris currently works with Dr. Michael Nachman at UC Berkeley, using genetic sequencing and samples of monkey flowers and mice to show how organisms are often adapted to their local environment and that these adaptations are genetically based. 
To learn more about Dr. Ferris and her work with Monkey flowers and mice, read the following interview:
1) How did you decide to enter your field of work? I decided to become a biologist pretty early on in life. When I was little I loved being outside and interacting with the natural world, especially with plants. Because of my attraction to plants I often got in trouble for picking flowers in my mother's garden. When I was three years old I picked off every single bright green new hosta lily shoot that popped out o…

Why Matter Matters for the Large Hadron Collider

by Talya Klinger, Homeschooler

After the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), near Geneva, Switzerland, shut down for upgrades so that it would be able to accommodate even higher-energy collisions.
Dr. Lauren Tompkins, a physicist and assistant professor at Stanford University who worked on the ATLAS experiment at the LHC, conducts research on subatomic particles and what they can tell us about matter in general. She spoke to Marin Science Seminar on March 25, 2015 about her work.  What's next for the LHC when it comes back online in spring, 2015?
In Dr. Tompkins's words: 
First things first: what made you decide to become a physicist?
I became a physicist for several reasons, but the earliest motivation for me was the fact that in all of my science classes, I kept asking the annoying question: “But, why?”  If you keep asking why in biology (“why do the cells organize that way?”), then you end up with chemistry, and if you do the same with chemist…

The Magic of a New Large Hadron Collier

by Angel Zhou, Branson School
This week, the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, will restart after a two-year hiatus. The pause was intentional, giving technicians and engineers time to ramp up the collision energy intended to push the laws of physics to their limits. 
The LHC, completed in 2008 by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) at a cost of around $10 billion, is the world's largest particle accelerator: an extremely long underground tunnel that allows physicists to conduct some pretty intense experiments. In essence, these experiment involve shooting beams of particles around the ring, using enormous magnets to speed them up to 99.9999 percent of the speed of light, then crashing them together. Sophisticated sensors capture all sorts of data on the particles that result from these collisions. In particle collisions, the higher the energy, the bigger the payoff, as the energy of the colliding particles gets translated into the masses of the debris, following the …

Interview with Steve Croft, Ph. D. on Black Holes

By Angel Zhou, Branson School

Black holes. Don’t let the name fool you: a black hole is anything but empty space. Rather, it is a great amount of matter packed into a very small area. Scientists can't directly observe black holes with telescopes that detect x-rays, light, or other forms of electromagnetic radiation. They can, however, infer the presence of black holes and study them by detecting their effect on other matter nearby.
Steve Croft, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley, uses a new radio telescope, the Allen Telescope Array to study. He grew up in England, where he received a PhD in astrophysics from Oxford University in 2002, before moving to California to work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Read the following interview to learn more about Dr. Croft’s life and work as an astronomer.  

1) How did you decide to enter your field of work? I've always been fascinated to understand how things work. We're all …

Expanding Horizon: How Black Holes Grow

By Talya Klinger, Homeschooler
Contrary to popular opinion, black holes do not exist solely to swallow up your socks, keys, and the last scoop of Rocky Road you were saving for a late night snack. Rather, a black hole is an object with such a large mass in such a small volume that nothing, not even light, can escape its gravitational pull. The black hole’s gravitational pull absorbs whatever is in its reach.
The outer limit of a black hole is an imaginary surface called its event horizon, where the black hole's gravitational pull is just strong enough that not a single photon can escape, creating a large dark space. According to Einstein's theory of general relativity, even light rays that pass by the event horizon are bent and distorted by the black hole's gravity in a process called gravitational lensing. 
This simulation of a spinning supermassive black hole from the movie Interstellar is approximately what a black hole would look like, according to general relativity.

As b…