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Young scientist

Smithsonian Libraries
Subtitle varies.

Florida scientist

Smithsonian Libraries

Scientist Mary Hagedorn

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
Mary Hagedorn, cryobiologist, speaks about conserving coral. [Catalog No. - CFV10251; Copyright - 2010 Smithsonian Institution]

Writer Turned Scientist

Smithsonian Magazine

You didn't just write about the palimpsest, you actually got to work on the project. How did that come about?

I was working on a Web cast documentary about the project. I spent two days hanging out and trying to figure out how to do it, and then I was there all day for the Web cast. After that, I was done, but the researchers said, "Well you can come back if you want! There's a job you can do." Some of them needed a break, because they were working 12-hour shifts for two weeks straight (they were rushed because they didn't want the palimpsest to be out of the Walters Museum's controlled environment for very long). They figured I understood enough about what was going on to help out. So I jumped on it, and I got to be the shift supervisor. Somebody needs to be there in case the beam goes down or something happens, so this was an opportunity for one of the other team members to take a break. In the picture I'm wearing a silly hat—it's the "hat of power," which designated the shift supervisor. I'm sitting at a computer and behind me is the computer monitor with the palimpsest on the screen.

Was that exciting?

Yeah! I was just completely fascinated. I was surrounded by this huge, loud machinery, and it was very different than my scientific background, which is in marine biology. So using that kind of equipment and being around that much raw power is something different. I would have kept doing it if I hadn't had a regular job.

Does participating in science help you explain it to readers?

Laypeople know that scientists make important discoveries and that they help society, but they may not know how the scientists do it. Being involved in the process and actually hanging out in labs and watching what scientists do helps me give my readers a sense of the scientific process, and often that means going out in the field, looking over the shoulders of scientists and having them show me what they do.

Why did you want to share this story?

What's most exciting to me is when real scientific discovery unfolds before my eyes, and that's what this story was. I was there in the lab, sharing the excitement of this team of people who are just completely devoted to this, and as I watched, new information about Archimedes was revealed—slowly, but in real time.

Is the synchrotron X-ray technique brand new?

Scientists have used X-ray fluorescence to read manuscripts, but synchrotron radiation is a new way to do it. The palimpsest would have been totally unrecoverable—without this new technique there would have been no way to do this. That juxtaposition of the most modern tools of physics and a very ancient document about physics felt kind of like time travel.

Many people don't know anything about Archimedes besides that he supposedly said "Eureka." Were you familiar with him beforehand?

Actually, geometry was one of my favorite subjects in high school—I was pretty nerdy that way—so I knew about his logic and proofs and basic mathematics. But what I didn't know was how important and relevant he was to combining the abstract proofs and theorems that mathematicians do with real world applications. From the palimpsest, I've learned a lot about how relevant he is to scientists today.

What did you think when you learned how the palimpsest was created?

It sounded awful. Scraping off an original book and writing over the top of it seemed just awful to me. But then I thought, that was a time when it was really important to these monks that they preserve their prayers. And if they hadn't done it, this book would surely have been completely lost.

Do you see it as a conflict between science and religion?

You could use the palimpsest as a very simple metaphor about how science and religion can coexist—as here they coexist in this document—or how they're in a battle with each other, one against the other. But neither idea seems right, so I didn't want to use that metaphor.

What does the palimpsest say about the transmission of knowledge through time?

I think sometimes knowledge is undervalued—often just knowing things about the world doesn't seem to be important to people. It also made me think a lot about science and democracy, because Greece was the birthplace of both. They work best when they work together. It's about not being afraid of the answer to a question and not controlling it, letting knowledge be known. We've gone though times where knowledge has been suppressed and then come back out again, and the Middle Ages were a period in which knowledge was controlled. Now knowledge is more available.

The Scientist Is In

Smithsonian Magazine

The Kansas City scientist

Smithsonian Libraries

Dr Linus Pauling, Scientist

National Museum of American History

The West-American scientist

Smithsonian Libraries
Caption title.

Description based on: no. 3 (Feb. 1885).

Become a Mad Scientist

Smithsonian Magazine

If you ever meet Theo Gray, you’ll realize that the name “mad scientist” is probably a good description. He has serious credentials (he co-founded the company that produces the ever-useful Mathematica computer program), but his Wooden Periodic Table Table (for which he won an Ig Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2002) and “Gray Matter” columns in Popular Science show his true nature. In his new book, Mad Science: Experiments You Can Do at Home—But Probably Shouldn’t, he compiles and expands 55 Gray columns to provide an interesting take on chemistry experimentation.

I’ve always thought chemistry was much like cooking, and Gray has taken that familiar approach in his presentation. Each experiment is described with an ingredient list and a few easy-to-understand steps, both in words and full-color photographs.

There is little chance, though, that you will try most of these experiments. For some, the equipment required puts them out of reach (unless you’re, say, a welder). For others, Gray has kindly labeled them with a little skull to indicate the potential for great harm, if not death. (“Chlorine gas kills,” he notes, “and you hurt the whole time you’re dying. Mix phosphorus and chlorates wrong and they blow up while you’re mixing them.”) And, one experiment, "How to Make a Match," is nigh impossible unless you’re willing to break the law. (“Private possession of red phosphorus is a federal crime.”)

However, there are several that have potential, such as making steel burn, tinting titanium and cooking up a batch of carbon dioxide ice cream. The parts lists and instructions are within easy reach. I might even try some of them myself, if I find the time and appropriate location (that is, not my tiny, enclosed apartment).

Gray agrees that you’d have to be nuts to try some of these experiments, though he has done them all. “I do only things I know I can do safely,” he writes and cautions that you try only those experiments you know you can do safely. But even if you never try one, the book—from the warnings in the introduction to the last experiment, creating a self-heating hot tub—makes for a fascinating read.

Leading Kepler Scientist: "I Didn't Plan on Being a Scientist"

National Air and Space Museum
This year, Time magazine named Kepler project scientist Natalie Batalha to the Time 100, its annual list of the 100 most influential people on Earth. Batalha is an astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center and the project scientist for NASA's Kepler Mission. Hear about what she’s working on and how she got to where she is today. (Scroll to 19:32 to hear her talk about how she got her start in science). More:

The golden state scientist

Smithsonian Libraries
Title from cover.

"A monthly journal devoted to zoology, geology, archaeology, botany, numismatics and philately."

"Edited and published by E.M. Haight."

"Subscription price 50 cents per year in advance."

Only issue published: Vol. 1, no. 1 (Oct. 1886).

Advertisements on inside and back of wrappers.

Also available online.

SCNHRB copy (39088012980520) in original yellow printed paper wrappers; cardboard covers with reproduction of cover title on front.


How to Be a Scientist

Smithsonian Education
Which is more important for a career as a scientist, good grades in math or a strong sense of adventure? Hear what geologist Liz Cottrell has to say as she recounts her own school years and the steps that led to a career she can't imagine ever giving up. Learn more: Find more Smithsonian scientists:

Spectroscopy Interview with Research Scientist

Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute

Remembering Claudia Alexander—Space Scientist

National Air and Space Museum

Claudia Alexander—Space Scientist (1959-2015) Claudia Alexander was perhaps not well-known to the general public, but within the space and science community she was a valued colleague and friend whose contribution to the field of space exploration was significant and lasting. Charles Elachi, the director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she worked said she, “had a   ...Continue Reading

The post Remembering Claudia Alexander—Space Scientist appeared first on AirSpace.

Young Visitors Inspire Old Scientist

National Air and Space Museum

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Scientist

National Museum of American History

Resist Persist Scientist Resist (Again)

National Museum of American History

39c Franklin as Scientist single

National Postal Museum

Meet the Scientist: Carlos Jaramillo

Smithsonian Channel
For Carlos Jaramillo, a paleobotanist with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the excitement of finding a fossil never seems to get old.

Meet the Scientist: Jon Bloch

Smithsonian Channel
Fascinated by the history of our world, paleontologist Jonathan Bloch studies the fossils of animals that existed during the paleocene era after the dinosaurs went extinct.

SERC Scientist Tuck Hines and Senator Mathias

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
Featured in "Torch," August 1989

On a tour of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center's (SERC) new Charles McC. Mathias Laboratory, SERC scientist Tuck Hines shows Senator Mathias a tank for Chesapeake blue crabs. The opening of the new laboratory at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD, was celebrated on June 1, 1989. The laboratory was named for Sen. "Mac" Mathias, former U.S. Senator from Maryland (1968-1986), who championed legislation to protect the Chesapeake Bay from over-development and pollution.

Smithsonian Scientist Discovers the Moon is Shrinking

Smithsonian Insider

Smithsonian scientist Tom Watters explores the universe. His most recent discovery the moon is shrinking. Watch the video to learn more about his research.

The post Smithsonian Scientist Discovers the Moon is Shrinking appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

LEGO Reveals a Female Scientist Minifigure

Smithsonian Magazine

Image: LEGO

It is the summer of lady scientist toys, it seems. Just a few weeks ago Barbie released their “Mars Explorer” doll. And today LEGO unleashed their female scientist block figurine.

Maia Weinstock was there for the release of the toy. She writes, at Scientific American’s Guest Blog:

Today is release day for Minifigure Series 11, and I am here for the Scientist.

Finding her will take a bit of doing, but I’ve done my homework. Each of the Kelly green pouches looks the same, so most customers will simply grope the bags and try to guess which fig lurks inside. Thanks to advanced scouting from fellow adult fans of LEGO, however, I know precisely what to feel for—two tiny Erlenmeyer flasks—as well as what hidden code to look for on the backs of the packages.

Weinstock hits gold on her first bag, unveiling the tiny block lady holding two little flasks and boasting a sly grin. This isn’t the first time LEGO has made a scientist, but often they’re steeped in “nerdy male mad scientist” imagery. There is actually a “Crazy Scientist” with the wild hair. The Computer Programmer dude actually has broken glasses. Very few of them have been women. Weinstock writes:

One collectible minifig is a surgeon, complete with mask, syringe, and X-ray slide. If you consider wild animal care a branch of science, then you can include the Zookeeper among LEGO’s STEM professionals. Several generic female “scientists” were also released as part of the FIRST LEGO League, but they and their male partners were scientists in name only; their clothes had no markings, nor did they carry any scientific instruments.

Lego describes the Scientist this way:

I wonder what will happen if I put THIS together with THAT…”

The brilliant Scientist’s specialty is finding new and interesting ways to combine things together. She’ll spend all night in her lab analyzing how to connect bricks of different sizes and shapes (she won the coveted Nobrick Prize for her discovery of the theoretical System/DUPLO® Interface!), or how to mix two colors in one element.

Thanks to the Scientist’s tireless research, Minifigures that have misplaced their legs can now attach new pieces to let them swim like fish, slither like snakes, and stomp around like robots. Her studies of a certain outer dimension have even perfected a method for swapping body parts at will!

Weinstock hopes there will be more women figurines with more specific specialties, but so far Lego is doing better than Mattel, which sent Mars Explorer Barbie to space in a pink space suit without gloves.

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Ancient Avian Adventurer: Smithsonian Scientist Helen James

Smithsonian Institution
Meet Smithsonian Scientist Helen James, whose job it is to dive into dormant Hawaiian volcanoes to find bird fossils. Her work to identify these species (some new species, some extinct) helps us learn about the past--specifically, how humans might have caused the extinction of these species. To meet more Smithsonian Scientists:
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