NIU STEM Outreach

The Sound of Science - "The Chemistry Of Baking"

Aug 2, 2019

J: I'm Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach and I'm in the studio with Kate Powers. This is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Hi Jeremy, I hear you have a delicious question for me today.

J: That's right! This question is about the chemistry of baking. Lynn wants to know why many recipes call for both baking soda and baking powder. And what's the difference between the two?

K: Lynn's right. Many cookie or cake recipes call for both types of chemical raising agents.

J: Chemical raising agent? Are there other types of raising agents?

The Sound of Science - "Rainbows"

Jul 5, 2019

Sam: I’m Sam Watt from NIU STEM Outreach and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I have a question from Madison today and Jeremy Benson is going to help me answer. Jeremy, Madison wants to understand more about rainbows. Why do we see them and why do they appear in the sky just after a rainstorm?

Jeremy: Let’s start with the basics. Sam, have you ever looked at a straw in a glass of water? What do you notice?

Sam: Well, the straw looks bent at the top of the water.

The Sound of Science - "New Moons"

Apr 5, 2019

J: This is Jeremy Benson.

K: And Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach.

J: And this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Today’s question comes from my friend Danielle, who asks, “Why can we sometimes see the full moon during the day?”

J: Great question, Danielle!  We’ve had good moon questions lately - I guess you could say we’re going through a phase!

K: Oh brother…  I think what Jeremy means is that to answer Danielle’s question, we’re going to have to look at the different phases of the moon.

The Sound of Science - "Cell Phones"

Mar 22, 2019

J: I'm Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach and I'm in the studio with Kate Powers. This is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Hey Jeremy, I have a question from Steven for you today about our cell phones, and to be quite honest it is a question that I have as well!

J: There is a lot of cool technology in our hands these days - I'll see what I can do to answer.

K: Steven, and I, want to know why our cell phones can pick up phone calls without interference from other cell phones? And even without interference from radios, WIFI and all sorts of other devices.

The Sound of Science - "Potholes"

Mar 8, 2019

K: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I'm Kate Powers.

J: And I'm Jeremy Benson.

K: Spencer asked why we have so many new pot holes each spring. Jeremy, what's going on with the roads in the spring?

J: It all starts long before spring, Kate. Water is great at getting into every crack or crevice in anything, right?

K: Yes…

The Sound of Science - "Gold"

Feb 22, 2019

K: I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach here in the studio with Sam Watt and this is the Sound of Science.

S: Kate, I have a question from Colton today. He is wondering why you have to polish silver but not gold?

K: Yeah gold is pretty amazing. Colton is right, gold doesn’t tarnish like other metals. Before we talk about gold, though, we should talk about what is happening when a metal tarnishes. 

S: Well, I know silver turns black when it tarnishes. What other metals tarnish?

The Sound of Science - "Why Does E=mc2?"

Feb 8, 2019

Jeremy:  Greetings, I’m Jeremy from NIU STEAM.

Sam: And I’m Sam, and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

Jeremy:  Today’s question was asked by Hunang from Orland Park.

Hunang: I'm Hunang, I am from Orland Park and I would like to know, why does E=mc2? 

Sam:  That’s a great question, and one we should be able to answer relatively easily. Get it, relativity?

The Sound of Science - "Extinct Humans"

Feb 1, 2019

Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEAM.

Jeremy: And I’m Jeremy! Today we have a question from Maddy.

Maddy: I'm Maddie from Fox River Grove, and I would like to know what would happen if all of humanity went extinct? 

Jeremy: Great question Maddy! Sam, what are your thoughts on the extinction of our species? What would happen?

The Sound of Science - "Becoming a Scientist"

Jan 25, 2019

Jeremy: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Jeremy.

Kate: And I’m Kate. We’re here from NIU STEAM to answer your questions about anything to do with science, technology, engineering, and math.

K: Today’s question comes from Judy from Chicago. 

[How does someone become a scientist?]

J: Kate, before you joined NIU STEAM, weren’t you a researcher in a chemical lab? How did you become a scientist?

The Sound of Science - "Fruitcake"

Jan 18, 2019

J: I’m Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach and I’m in the studio with Kate Powers. This is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Jeremy, I hear you have a question from Lizzy today. 

J: Yes, Lizzy is concerned that her mom is still eating fruitcake from Christmas. She wants to know if that fruitcake is too old to eat, but I’ve heard stories about really old fruitcakes before. I just figured fruitcakes last a long time because nobody likes them.

The Sound of Science - "Hoar Frost"

Jan 11, 2019

J: I’m Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach and I’m in the studio with Kate Powers, this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

K: Jeremy, I hear you have a question today from Maria about a spectacular weather phenomenon. 

J: That’s right, Maria wants to know why sometimes on a cold morning you wake to find everything outside covered in glittery frost and sometimes you don’t.

K: That is a great question and one that I used to wonder as well. The glittery frost that Maria is talking about is called a hoar frost.

J: What kind of frost?

The Sound of Science - "Instant Pots"

Jan 4, 2019

Sam: This is the Sound of Science from WNIJ. I’m Sam Watt from NIU STEM Outreach and I’m here with Jeremy Benson to discuss my favorite kitchen gadget.

Jeremy: Today we are talking food. Janell asked how an instant pot work to cook food so quickly? 

Sam: But an instant pot is just a pressure cooker, right? You get the same benefits as the old-fashioned stove-top pressure cookers?

The Sound of Science - "Purring Cats"

Dec 21, 2018

Sam: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam Watt. 

Jeremy: and I’m Jeremy Benson. We’re here from NIU STEAM to answer your questions about anything to do with science, technology, engineering, and math.

S: Jeremy, we have a cuddly question from Kim today. Kim wants to know how and why cats purr?

J: That’s a question that I have wondered myself. Our co-worker Kate has two cats at home, Betsy and Irma, and they purr so differently and at different times. Betsy purrs when you just glance in her direction and Irma really makes you work for a purr.

The Sound of Science - "Floating Magnets"

Dec 14, 2018

Jeremy: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Jeremy from NIU STEAM. 

Sam: And I’m Sam. Today’s question comes from Abus from Rockford.

Abus: I would like to know: why does magnetism make an object float? 

Jeremy: That’s an excellent question, Abus. I think most of us know that magnets can attract or repel each other depending on which way they’re facing. You might’ve even seen objects that seem to float in mid-air by using this magnetic force to oppose the force of gravity.

The Sound of Science - "Cool Mints and Hot Peppers"

Dec 7, 2018

Kate: Hi there, this is Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach, and it’s time for another installment of The Sound of Science on WNIJ. Today I’m joined by Sam Watt, who has another great question from a listener. 

Sam: That’s right, Kate. Today’s question comes from Richard, who asks, “Why do spicy foods make my mouth feel hot, but minty foods make it feel cool?”

The Sound of Science - "Can Sound Move in Space?"

Nov 30, 2018

Kate:  Hi!  I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach, joined by my good friend Sam Watt.  Today we have a question from Annie who wants to know more about how scientists study stars from so far away. Well Annie, scientists listen to the stars, of course.

Sam:  Um, that’s a confusing answer Kate. First, do stars…talk to us? Second, I thought space was a vacuum, and sound doesn’t travel through a vacuum.

The Sound of Science - "Self-Driving Cars"

Nov 16, 2018

Kate: Hi, I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach, and this is the Sound of Science. Joining me today is Sam Watt who has a question from one of our loyal listeners.

Sam: That’s right, Kate. Today’s question is from Marcus, who asks, “How do self-driving cars work?”

Kate: Great question, Sam. We hear a lot these days about self-driving cars and if they’re safe, but how do they actually work with no one at the wheel?

The Sound of Science - "Fall Leaves"

Nov 9, 2018

M: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I'm Mackenzie Thompson from NIU STEM Outreach, and today I'm joined by my good friend, Sam Watt. Sam, today we have a question from Rhea, who asks, "Why do the leaves change colors in the fall?"

S: Good question - and a timely one. I was raking all those pretty colored leaves out of my yard last week.

M: Yeah, they certainly are everywhere this time of year, but they sure look nice while still on their branches.

The Sound of Science - "Genes from our Parents"

Nov 2, 2018

Kate: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach. Today we have a question from Marcella. She wants to know what percentage of our genes come from our parents. Marcella, it depends on who bought the denim pants and how many pairs you already have.

Sam: That’s not what she had in mind. She wants to know about DNA, not dungarees. Obviously we get 50 percent of our genes from our biological mothers and 50 percent from our biological fathers.

Kate: And 8 percent from viruses.

Sam: Viruses?

The Sound of Science - "Why Does Salt Melt Ice?"

Oct 26, 2018

Sam: I’m Sam Watt from NIU STEM Outreach and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I have a question from Andy today and Kate Powers, our resident chemist, will help me answer. Kate, Andy wants to know why we put salt on our sidewalks and roads to melt ice in the winter?

Kate: That’s a great question Andy. It does seem kind of magical that a solid, salt, turns another solid, ice, into a liquid. Sam, to start answering Andy’s question I have a question for you: what happens when you put table salt into water?

S: Um, I suppose it disappears right? It dissolves?

The Sound of Science - "Starlings in Flight"

Oct 19, 2018

Sam: Hi I’m Sam Watt from NIU STEM Outreach and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m joined in the studio by Kate Powers who’ll help answer a question submitted to us by Elisa.

Kate: Hi Sam. Yeah, Elisa has a question about a spectacular natural phenomenon that occurs right in our own backyard.

S: Elisa asks, “Why do starling birds join up in those large groups and swoop around the sky?”

The Sound of Science - "What's in the Water?"

Oct 12, 2018

Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam Watt from NIU STEM Outreach

Sam: Samantha wants to know what water is made of. Luckily, I have Chemist and known water drinker Kate Powers here. Well Kate? What’s water made of?

Kate: Water molecules consist of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. They–

Sam: There we have it! This has been the Sound of Science on WNIJ where you learn–

The Sound of Science - "Apples to Apples"

Oct 5, 2018

Kate: I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m joined by Sam Watt who has a question for me.

Sam: Hi Kate – this is a great autumn question from Lily. Lily wants to know why there are so many different types of apples in the grocery store compared to other types of fruit.

K: There does seem to be lots of different types! But did you know we have very few apple varieties today compared to two centuries ago?  

The Sound of Science - "3D Printed Hearts"

Sep 21, 2018

Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach.

Jeremy: Today’s question comes from Ryan. He asks “How do you make a 3D printed heart that actually works?” To help me answer this, I’ve brought in recent NIU graduate and 3D printing expert Mackenzie Thompson. So, Mackenzie, let me start by asking if it’s even possible to print with things other than plastic.

The Sound of Science - "Marshmallow Explosion"

Sep 14, 2018

J: Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach, and I’m in the studio with Kate Powers. Kate, today we have a question from Lydia that is making me laugh just thinking about it. Lydia wants to know why Peeps marshmallows expand so much when you microwave them.

K: I love this question Jeremy! Not only is it fun to blow up a marshmallow by nuking it, but it is a great example of one of the basic laws of chemistry.

J: Microwaving a marshmallow demonstrates a basic law of chemistry? That seems…strange.

The Sound of Science - "Don't Drink the Salt Water"

Sep 7, 2018

K: I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach, with Jeremy Benson and this is the Sound of Science on WNIJ.

J: Kate, I have a question from Ariana, it sounds like she may have been reading Swiss Family Robinson or watching Cast Away. Ariana wants to know why you can’t drink sea water as a source of hydration?

The Sound of Science - "Why So Many Geese?"

Aug 31, 2018

J: Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Jeremy Benson from NIU STEM Outreach, and I’m joined by Kate Powers.

K: Jeremy, I hear you have a question from Sara today -- one that is close to the hearts of all the staff, faculty and students at NIU.

J: Yeah, Sara wants to know: Why are there so many Canada Geese everywhere? They seem to rule campus and can be quite aggressive, chasing poor innocent pedestrians around the lagoon.

The Sound of Science - "Allergies"

Aug 3, 2018

Kate: Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

Sam: Kate, today we have a have a question that I am particularly interested in knowing the answer to. The question comes from Jackson: Why do some people have allergies and some people do not?

Kate: I know why you are interested, Sam. Don’t you have a severe allergy to some types of seeds?

Sam: Yeah, I have a terrible allergy to sunflower seeds and it can be a real pain in the neck. Why does that type of reaction happen to me but not to everyone?

The Sound of Science - "Pee in the Pool"

Jul 27, 2018

Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

(K) Today we’re going to tackle a question that we all try not to think about, but one that surely crosses everyone’s mind during the summer. Is there pee in the pool?

(P) Not what I want to talk about, but what about that chemical in pool water that changes color if someone pees in it?

(K) That is one persistent urban myth! There is no color changing chemical that indicates that someone peed in the pool.

(P) So, if that isn’t a real indicator, how do we know?

The Sound of Science - "Fireflies"

Jul 20, 2018

Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

(P) We’re answering listener questions this month and today we have a great summer question. “How do fireflies light up?” Living in the Midwest, one of my favorite signs of summertime is seeing fireflies winking across the fields. How can fireflies light themselves up on command?

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