The Sound of Science

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 - "Fruits and Frugivores"

Nov 23, 2018

Kate: This is the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach. I’m joined in the studio by Sam Watt. Sam, I want to share some cutting-edge research I just read about.

Sam: Oh, is it about machine learning or gene editing?

Kate: No Sam, it’s about fruit.

Sam: How is fruit cutting-edge? We’ve been studying it since forever. What could possibly be new about fruit?

Kate: Well, you heard about how flowers attract pollinators with beautiful petals, right?

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 - "Windy Days"

Aug 24, 2018

Kate: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ, I’m Kate Powers from NIU STEM Outreach and I have a question for Jeremy Benson. Jeremy, with cooler weather on its way I think Ellie’s question is very pertinent right now. Ellie wants to know why wind blows.

The Sound of Science - "Frizzy Hair"

Aug 17, 2018

Welcome to the Sound of Science. I’m Kate Powers – And I’m Mackenzie Thompson.

M: Kate, this week we have a burning question that comes to mind during the hot summer months. What is it about humidity that makes your hair so frizzy and curly?

K: As a curly hair girl, Pati, this question is close to my heart. And the basic answer to the question is simply: chemistry.

M: Chemistry? Are there chemical reactions between humid air and your hair?

The Sound of Science - "Coffee"

Aug 10, 2018

Kate: Welcome to the Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Kate Powers, and today’s question comes from Alex who wants to know why coffee tastes so weird. With me is STEM Outreach’s resident coffee enthusiast Sam Watt. Sam loves his coffee so much, he even went out of his way to pick and roast his own coffee in a coffee grove in Cambodia!

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?

The Sound of Science - "Wavy View"

Jul 13, 2018

Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

(K) We’re answering listener questions this month and today we have another summer question. Andy asks, “Why do things look wavy when looking at them across the roadway in the summer?”

(P) Great question, Andy. There’s a lot of science in the answer. First, you likely know from experience that the air you are looking through when things look wavy is hotter than the air around it. That’s usually from heat radiating off a dark surface like the road or the hood of your car. Let’s talk about what that does to light speed.

The Sound of Science - "The Color of the Sea"

Jul 6, 2018

Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

We’re answering listener questions this month and today we have another question on color. Neeha’s question is, “Why does the sea look blue?"

Well, Neeha, the short answer would be because water is blue. 

Wait a minute, my bottle of water is clear, not blue. What’s going on?

Water is a very faint blue so it appears clear in your bottle. The deeper the water, the deeper the blue.

But not all lakes and oceans are the same color. Why not?

We're pretty comfortable with vision and glasses. We have our eyes checked regularly, and when our sight becomes blurry we put on glasses to bring the view back into focus. But do we get our ears checked regularly? And if our hearing becomes “blurry” do we put on hearing devices to help us hear? Why can't hearing aids “fix” hearing loss as simply as glasses can “fix” vision? 

You're listening to The Sound of Science on WNIJ.

If you ever listen to music, chances are you can hear right away if an instrument isn’t quite in tune with the rest of the group.  But very few people could accurately tune an instrument just by ear.  There are people who possess what musicians call “perfect pitch,” but most players today rely on digital tuners.  But how did musicians tune their instruments before there were electronic tuners?

Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ. Our program is not always about the physics of acoustics in music. Sound has a vast effect on science and society alike.  

Have you ever seen a commercial for a restaurant where they have close-ups of juicy steaming delectable foods and your mouth starts to water?  Or you think, I can have a burger for an early dinner? Commercials and ads employ a psychological tactic called classical conditioning.

The Sound of Science - "Hemholtz Resonators"

Jun 22, 2018

With me today I have a Hemholtz resonator. This is an incredibly complex instrument, so I’ll do my best to describe it. It’s a glass bottle with a long neck, and I got 6 for about 10 bucks. Okay, it’s a beer bottle, but it is in fact a Hemholtz resonator.”

The Sound of Science - "Resonance"

Jun 22, 2018

What do kids on a swing, musical instruments, and microwave ovens have in common? They all use an underlying scientific concept called resonance as well as being common parts of our daily lives.

With me are two tuning forks, each tuned to 256 Hz. I’m going to strike one and only one tuning fork. After a second or two I’ll put my hand on that tuning fork to stop it. I’m not going to touch the second fork at all. Listen closely.

The Science Of Cicada Songs

Jun 15, 2018

It’s that time of year again: when cicada songs flood our warm summer nights, announcing their presence as they attract mates. As a kid I was told they only came out every 7 years. I was confused because I heard them every year. It turns out whomever told me they emerge every 7 years was wrong on two counts: some species of cicadas emerge every year, and some emerge every 13 or 17 years.

The Science of Gut Rumbles

Jun 8, 2018

Whoo, that was embarrassing. I accidentally let my borborygmi go. Of course, borborygmi is involuntary, I can’t help it. Borborygmi, the rumbling sound of your gut, doesn’t come from your stomach, nor is it solely because you’re hungry.

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