Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm
Today's Hours: 
CLOSED
Today's Hours: 
CLOSED
Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm
Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm
Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm
Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm

COSI is now closed

From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

"The Human Radio"

Written by Paul Sutter on Tuesday, 30 August 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

Humans emit radio waves. It's true! And you can prove it.

You know that old rusting unused satellite dish sitting on top of your roof? Just take it down and hook it up to some cheap electronics. Voila, you have a telescope! I, uh, might be skipping some details here. Anyway, you can point it at anything warm and it will start bleeping and blooping. The sun, trees, and even people.

It's called the "itty bitty telescope", and is a great demo to introduce people to the wild and wonderful world of radio astronomy. People emit mostly infrared radiation - this is how night vision goggles work so well - but they also emit a little bit of radio waves. And the satellite dish on your roof is sensitive to those same radio wavelengths.

All sorts of of other stuff in the universe emts radio waves too: stars blowing up, stars being born, gas falling into black holes, auroras on Saturn, the works. And radio is super-useful because it lets us see through any clouds of gas and dust that might be in the way.

If you're curious for more (and I know you are), just wait. I was awarded a small grant to produce a short planetarium film on this subject, and we recently finished filming some interviews with tons of help from Ty Owen. Stay tuned...

"Camp COSI"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 22 August 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

One of the things I had lacking in my early educational development was direct interaction with science experts. Sure, we had firefighters and DARE cops, and those visit were great, but not a lot of scientists swung by, and they certainly didn't do activities with us.

That probably contributed to the fact that I didn't realize that "being a scientist" was an actual career path until my early 20's. I know, I know, I'm a slow learner.

So it's a good thing that I was able to work with Kevin, Becca, and the rest of the Camp COSI team to bring in as many OSU experts this summer as possible.

We had virology postdocs showing how to filter river water to make it safe to drink. We had professors running LEGO car crash+safety competitions. We had grad students showing kids how to do make-your-own 3D drawings. Camp kids got to play with owl wings, fossils, UV lights, the works.

Combined with the already-excellent Camp programming, I'm sure the kids had a fun time and learned something useful along the way. And hopefully they realized that "being a scientist" can be an actual job...

"Salt"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 15 August 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

Last week Kelly Berger, the Store Director for COSI, stopped me in the hallway. Apparently they had been getting some comments. There's a towering display in the gift shop full of Himalayan Salt Lamps, which promised that the lamps would "emit negative ions" to "remove impurities from the air". I'm sure the comments went somewhere along the lines of "uh...are you....are you sure?"

Salt is made of two elements stuck together: sodium and chlorine. This connection is pretty strong, and they only tend to separate in things like water. Making...you guessed it...salt water. If you heat up a block of salt enough to vaporize it, the negative ions of chlorine* and positive ions of sodium** just find the nearest water molecule floating in the air and hitch a ride.

So assuming the lamp is hot enough to even do anything interesting to the salt (and it probably isn't, because it's just a light bulb), the only thing it would make is slightly salty air.

I'm glad Kelly came to me. If you search online almost all the links are to horrible sources, so it's hard to tell what's really going on. And I don't object to selling the lamps as lamps. They look nice and fit in with the other gem and mineral doodads we sell.

However, this concept of magical healing/cleaning properties from Himalayan*** Salt Lamps isn't grounded in much actual science. I'm sure that turning on a cozy light and chilling out has health benefits, but it ain't the salt that's doing it.

*Fun fact: If this device actually emitted pure negative ions from salt, it's spitting out chlorine gas, which is a deadly deadly poison.

**Bonus fun fact: Sodium by itself is highly reactive, which is a fancy way of saying "explosive". So remove all the chlorine from salt and...boom.

***Extra credit fun fact: Despite the name, they're usually from Poland.

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