What if there were a two-for-one sale on kilowatts? Your power bill would be cut in half — not a bad result for your monthly budget.
Energy drives everything we produce and consume, and global energy consumption continues to grow year after year. The two-for-one image came to mind as I talked with Professor Jeanne McHale of Washington State University. McHale is a chemist who researches an alternative approach to making solar cells that produce electricity.
“There’s no question we have a lot of solar energy that strikes the planet each day,” McHale told me. “It’s an often-quoted statistic that just one hour of sunlight … » More …
Like millions of Americans, my day starts by plugging in the coffeepot. In my case, it’s an old fashion percolator. It clears its throat and brews my coffee while I rub sleep out of my eyes and brush my teeth.
My habit of starting my day with coffee — and following that initial cup with doses of java in the mid-morning, the late morning and the early-afternoon — may be at least partially grounded in my genes.
Researchers have long believed that genetics influences a person’s daily coffee consumption. Early this fall, a new study fleshed out just how many variations in genes may be … » More …
When I take my elderly mother to the emergency room, the nurse asks how much pain she is in, on a scale of 1 to 10. There is a chart with pictures of little smiley faces, neutral faces, and grimacing faces to help a person — perhaps a child — determine a number. Pain management is an important part of human medicine.
Despite what the 17th century philosopher and naturalist René Descartes said about animals being merely organic machines, it’s clear to me they feel pain in a manner similar to us. But we can’t ask Fido or Felix to tell us what they are … » More …
Do you have a good gut feeling about apples? Your body may — and that could be important to your overall health.
Some of the components of apples survive their trip through the upper part of the human digestive tract. Non-digestible compounds, including fiber and substances called polyphenols, stand up to chewing and the effects of enzymes in spit. They even remain intact after a bath in stomach acid. These compounds move all the way to the colon, where they undergo a transformation that can be quite beneficial to you.
The non-digestible compounds are fermented in the colon. That’s right, you could say you have … » More …
His teeth had no cavities, but they were heavily worn. He was about my height — some 5 feet, 7 inches tall. He wasn’t petite, likely weighing around 160 pounds. Well before his death, he broke six of his ribs. Five of them never healed, but he kept going nevertheless.
A recent article in “The Smithsonian Magazine” details all this and more about Kennewick Man, an ancient skeleton found on the banks of the Columbia River in south-central Washington State in 1996. The occasion for the article is the publication of a 680-page book on Kennewick Man being released this fall by Texas A&M University … » More …
Earlier this year I went to a fundraiser where I bought a bag of Glee flour. Glee is a variety of hard red spring wheat that was developed at Washington State University. I used the flour in my favorite bread recipe, one I have modified a bit from a Mennonite cookbook I treasure.
There’s a bit of soy flour and powered milk in my bread, which ups the protein content. The recipe calls for 50 percent white flour, 40 percent whole wheat, and 10 percent rye. I used the Glee flour as the white flour. When I set the dough in a slightly warm oven, … » More …
“Eat right and exercise.”
It’s good advice. But millions of us Americans struggle every day to live up to our hopes regarding diet and activity. Some of us are pretty good at one thing (for me, it’s exercise) but not good at the other (starch and sweets make up too much of my diet). It just ain’t easy to both eat right and exercise, and do so every day.
But maybe we have been making some progress on our personal goals regarding diet and activity. It looks like our collective efforts to address obesity — and associated diseases like diabetes — may be starting to … » More …
Years ago I purchased a headlamp — a small flashlight that straps around your head to light your way. It’s really useful because it leaves both your hands free as you work or walk. I used my headlamp during the dark half of the year to exercise my dog in dark pastures and an undeveloped No Man’s Land on a steep hill near my house.
My headlamp used an old fashioned light bulb and a fairly heavy battery to run it. I used it for years but it finally stopped working, so I recently purchased a new headlamp. Technology has changed, and for the better … » More …
By Dr. E. Kirsten Peters
From time to time I give public talks on climate change — those large scale changes geologists have been studying since the 1830s. At those talks I’m often asked a basic question about climate that, until now, has stumped scientists. Here’s the background.
In the 1830s a Swiss naturalist named Louis Agassiz started promoting the idea that Europe had once been enveloped in a cold time in which large areas had been covered in glacial ice. He called that interval “the Ice Age.”
Working in this country in later decades, geologists studying glacial debris and soil layers came up … » More …
I’m a geologist with broad interests across the sciences. I’d welcome questions or ideas from you about any aspects of what I’ve covered already and what should be done next.
The Rock Doc essays concern a variety of topics, including research work underway here at Washington State University, the scientific dimension of events in the national news, technical work that has economic significance, or some other aspect of science of particular interest to the public.
The Rock Doc columns are published as columns in newspapers. They must be brief and designed to appeal to the general public. The columns are a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences of Washington State University. Ideas about future coverage or complaints about what’s already been done can be addressed to me:
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters
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College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences
211A Hulbert Hall
Washington State University
Pullman WA 99164-6240
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Recent Radio Recordings
Eggs from Near and Far
The Longevity of Dogs
Mirror Image of Japans Woes
Visiting Darwin’s Grave Ere I Die
The Downside of Good Fortune
The Great Crack in the Atlantic
Our Daily Bread in 2050
Victory over the Angel of Death
What a Drag
Fetching for a Living
Talking with Fido
Designing Better Asphalt
A Brisk Walking Pace is Better
Proposed Changes to Nutrition Labels
Keeping Warm with Gold Fever