Yawning self-portrait Joseph Ducreux

Yawning is a great example of a behaviour that we all engage in involuntarily. While its specific usefulness is unclear, it is common to us all. Its social implications are interesting. When one person starts to yawn, others tend to mimic the behaviour. That makes us think that it is more tied to psychological and…

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What Did Einstein Do?

Recently, a student asked me, “What did Albert Einstein really do?” Well, here’s a Science Shorts version of what should actually be a long answer. Einstein’s most famous equation is E= mc2. This equation tells us that we can change mass into energy. The formula provides the basis of nuclear energy. The letter ‘E’ indicates…

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Andreas Vesalius

Andreas Vesalius lived in a time of monumental historical changes: of intellectual growth and stimulation, of political and religious restructuring, of wars and plagues. Vesalius was born into a Flemish family of physicians who served in the imperial court. He grew up in an enriched intellectual environment, received a quality education, and like his father…

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Where Does All that Dust Come From?

One of the frustrating things about house cleaning is that no matter how clean you try to keep things, household dust still accumulates. That grey dust, it turns out, is largely human skin. The tiny flakes of skin that we lose on a daily basis create over seventy percent of the dust in our home.…

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Johannes Kepler

Johannes Kepler was the born into a poor German family. His father worked as a taverner and later became a mercenary soldier, apparently dying in battle when Johannes was a boy. Kepler himself was a sickly child and fell victim to small pox. His sight was severely affected as a result. His family were Lutherans…

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A Big Prize from a Little Known Man

In spite of the publicity surrounding the yearly announcement of the Nobel prizes, many know little about Alfred Nobel, the man who endowed them. Nobel was a successful Swedish industrialist and inventor, best known for the invention of dynamite.  The standard explosive of the day in the construction business was nitroglycerine.  However, it had the…

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Our Sensitive Touch

Most of us take the three thousand square inches of skin that sheaths our body for granted. Throughout this sensitive wrapping, there are hundreds of thousands of sensory nerves.  Huge numbers of them are clustered at the base of every hair, so that the slightest breath stirs some of them, while others signal whether the…

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Ivan Pavlov

Ivan Pavlov was a Russian scientist whose work bridged the disciplines of physiology and psychology. Although he was by training a doctor, his most significant contribution lay in the field of behavioral psychology. After working as an experimental researcher, Pavlov became head of the department of physiology at Russia’s Institute of Experimental Medicine. Pavlov received…

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Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1901. He graduated from Oregon State College in 1922 and obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry in 1925 from the California Institute of Technology. After a period of study in Europe, he became a professor at the California Institute of Technology in 1927. He remained there for the…

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