Shooting the Red Planet

Mars as seen through the Hubble Space Telescope.

If the old expression “shooting the moon” means taking on a risky challenge, just imagine what “shooting Mars” might imply.

Perhaps even more than that heavenly body illuminating our nightly strolls and tugging on ocean tides, Mars looms large in our collective imagination. Pictures of the red planet liven up the walls of almost every grade school science classroom in the country. There’s no dearth of movies, . . . → Read More: Shooting the Red Planet

Going Algae-Green


Even the word sounds slightly slimy. “Al-gae” — especially when articulated slowly, is a sort of squishy, guttural utterance. A lot of folks dislike the idea of the green stuff murking up their decorative Kio ponds, lining their local swimming holes, or even staring up at them from the label of their daily vitamins bottle.

. . . → Read More: Going Algae-Green

A Ladder to the Protein Moon

by Monica Slinkard

Since the announced completion of the human genome project in April 2003, the scientific community has been working to decipher the meaning of the approximately 24,000 genes in the human genome. In case you don’t remember from high school biology (or chemistry), genes are specific sets of DNA unique to every single organism, and the code contained in a person’s DNA is part of what makes them who they are, for better or for worse.

But when it comes to understanding the exact ways in which DNA differences define unique characteristics . . . → Read More: A Ladder to the Protein Moon

Logic, Time, and the Divine

Ask anyone in ASA—becoming a scientist while remaining a Christian requires a lot of questioning.

Most Christians in science have to find a way to reconcile what the Bible literally says with what science tells us about God’s creation, but Bob Geddes has faced the opposite challenge. He became a minister after working for fifteen years as a geologist, and upon entering seminary, he had to wonder whether his logical, scientific method-based approach to answering questions and solving problems would be compatible with the more mysterious, subjective role of a spiritual guide and counselor.

. . . → Read More: Logic, Time, and the Divine

Calculating Mystery

Doug Lauffenburger looks like the kind of guy who might love a good mystery.

Or be in one.

His bone white hair falls just short of thick round glasses as he folds his hands and ponders the best way to answer a question. In his office, light from slatted windowpanes stairsteps across the large L-shaped desk behind him, where neatly organized stacks of paper await Doug’s attention.

The question he’s currently turning over in his mind: What inspired you to combine your lifelong training as a chemical engineer with your love of biology? After a few moments, Doug responds, “In . . . → Read More: Calculating Mystery

Letting Her Light Do More Than Shine

Capturing sunlight at the KSU Solar House

by Alison Kitto

“And God said, ‘Let there be light; and there was light.’” Ruth Douglas Miller, associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Kansas State University, writes this verse from Genesis on the board as she explains Maxwell’s equations and Coulomb’s Law. She wants her students to recognize that electromagnetic theory relies on an assumption that the world’s physical properties never change. For Ruth, these universal constants are the . . . → Read More: Letting Her Light Do More Than Shine

How Coconuts Can Combat Poverty

Walter Bradley with Indonesian coconut farmers

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, a premier professional organization, has a motto of  “Advancing science, serving society.”  Walter Bradley, a Baylor University professor and ASA fellow, has realized this goal in a striking way—with coconuts.

Until recently, coconut husks have been discarded as agricultural waste, but Walter’s research team discovered their unique value.  The husk fibers (called coir) exhibit physical properties suitable for numerous industrial applications.  According to Walter, “They . . . → Read More: How Coconuts Can Combat Poverty

Solving the Two-Body Problem

Married couples pursuing two careers face many obstacles.  When both partners work in academia, the situation can look downright bleak.  Due to their limited geographical mobility, some academic couples endure “commuter marriages,” living apart for years in different cities.  Results are varied: some have a stroke of luck and land appointments near each other, sometimes even in the same department.  For other couples, one person leaves academia to take a more flexible . . . → Read More: Solving the Two-Body Problem

Think It’s Cold Outside? How Do Insects Survive the Winter?

Julie's research subjects, southern ground crickets (Allonemobius socius)

For most of her life, Julie Reynolds has been fascinated by insects, and when she went off to college, she thought they would make a great subject of study.  Julie majored in biological sciences at the University of Alabama-Huntsville and focused on ecology.  Her undergraduate research examined the effects of microgravity stressors on crustaceans, and through these studies she became fascinated with the ability of animals to adapt . . . → Read More: Think It’s Cold Outside? How Do Insects Survive the Winter?

What Do We Know About the Origin of Life?

photo credit: NASA / Jenny Mottar

Famous scientists love to speculate about the ultimate questions of life in our universe.  According to quantum physicist Steven Weinberg, “The final laws of nature, the book of rules that govern all natural phenomena are utterly impersonal and quite without any special role for life.”  The renowned paleontologist Steven Jay Gould claimed that “any replay would lead evolution down a pathway radically different from the road actually taken.”  Other . . . → Read More: What Do We Know About the Origin of Life?

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