STEM Beats - This Day in STEM

Happy Birthday, Sally!

May 26, 2015

Today’s Google Doodle holds a special place in our heart -- it’s in remembrance of Sally Ride and her incredible achievements. Today, she would have been 64 years old. She was especially important to CTEq, as a founding CTEq board member in 2010. Sally’s dedication to STEM was indescribable -- breaking barriers and trailblazing a path her entire life, whether it was her work as the first female American to travel into space, or her role as an educator and reaching millions of children through her company, Sally Ride Science.

Like so many others, we were saddened by Sally’s passing, but cherish her legacy and the incredible example she set for millions of young people. Sally was an astronaut, author, educator, and friend -- simply put, she was a phenomenal woman. She was constantly searching for ways to better our environment and positively impact people’s lives. Tam O’Shaughnessy, Sally’s life partner and co-founder & CEO of Sally Ride Science, talked more about Sally’s life and the Google Doodle in her blog post here. Tam notes, in the post, “I know she would be honored by today’s Google Doodle. With whimsy, it expresses Sally’s sense of fun and adventure, and her ability to inspire young people. And who knows -- maybe her Doodle will motivate some girl or boy somewhere in the world to become a scientist and adventurer just like Sally.”  

Sally was a champion for STEM education -- especially for Change the Equation -- and she continues to inspire young people to defy obstacles and reach for the stars. 

See also our past tribute to Sally Ride.

Tags: women & girls, This Day in STEM

This Day in STEM: The Chemistry of Fall Leaves

September 23, 2014

It's here!  The first day of autumn has arrived, bringing an end to the heat of summer and big changes to the climate and environment around us.  

Have you ever wondered what's happening inside leaves as they start changing colors?  Check out this awesome infographic from Compound Interest that shows how chemicals work at the molecular level to bring fall colors to the trees:

Click here to view the larger PDF version

As you can see, there's a lot of activity happening inside leaves as the temperature and sunlight change, including the production of carotenoids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins that cause the beautiful oranges, yellows, and reds of fall leaves!  

What's your favorite part about transitioning from summer to fall?  For us, it's this Google Doodle:

Tags: This Day in STEM, science, infographic

This Week in STEM: Shark Week, of course!

August 13, 2014

This week, all eyes are on the Discovery Channel for perennial favorite, Shark Week.  Naturally STEMbeats had to jump on the bandwagon and look at this fascinating species from a STEM perspective.  There's a lot  to learn about sharks -- and not just the stuff of movie legends.  Everybody knows the great white, but there are more than 400 species of sharks found in the world's waters.  The largest type of shark, the whale shark is a "filter feeder," which means it feels on algae, krill, and other small species in the water.  This gentle giant is known to be docile toward divers, and provide an incredible (and maybe shocking) up-close experience!

Our fascination with sharks may have begun with Jaws, but it's continued thanks to Shark Week and what we are learning about them.  Did you know that, in some cases, shark populations are actually decreasing?  This piece from Smithsonian magazine discusses some reasons why:

Demand for shark fins, often served in Asia as shark fin soup for wedding banquets, New Year’s festivities and government functions, skyrocketed for decades, leading to estimates of 100 million sharks being killed every year.  This translated to a loss of about 6 to 8 percent of all sharks annually, a rate that cannot be sustained by populations that typically only increase by about 5 percent a year.

But the news isn't all bad for our finned friends.  Conservation efforts and tourism have actually helped boost shark populations and preserve their habitats.  The article also notes:

In places where tourism is critical to the local economy, the realization that sharks are much more valuable alive than dead has also prompted legal protection. More than 30 percent of the Maldives’ economy is based on shark eco-tourism, and in Palau it was estimated that a shark that brings in $108 dead is worth $1.9 million alive over its lifetime. As a recent headline in the New York Times noted in a story about shark tourism on Cape Cod (not far from where most of Jaws was filmed): “They’re Going to Need a Bigger Gift Shop.”

Sharks mean business!  And despite what the movies may have told us, it is safe to go in the water -- and maybe learn a thing or two.  What are you most looking forward to about Shark Week?


Tags: This Day in STEM, video

This Day in STEM -- August 4

August 4, 2014

Today marks the 180th birthday of John Venn, creator of one of our favorite ways to represent data: the Venn diagram!  From statistics to logic to computer science, John Venn developed a tool to organize information and examine relationships that we use in and out of STEM fields.

Google marked the occasion with one of its interactive Google Doodles.

In our modern infographic-loving world, it seems that John Venn's creation is still as popular as ever, even outside of academia.  In fact, here are some, er, non-traditional examples to help you celebrate Venn diagrams and their namesake today!

Tags: This Day in STEM, infographic

This Day in STEM, Moon Landing Edition - July 20th

July 18, 2014

In a moment that captured the attention of the world and changed the course of humanity, the first man stepped on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969. This Sunday, we here at CTEq will celebrate the 45th anniversary of that STEM milestone by reliving the Apollo XI mission that brought three astronauts to the moon and returned them safely to Earth as pioneers of manned space exploration.

There are lots of STEMtastic events planned for this weekend to mark the anniversary of the moonwalk. Here are just a few ways to join in on the celebration!

  • Today on NASA TV, join Morgan Freeman as he talks with Reid Wiseman, a NASA astronaut currently working on (and tweeting from) the International Space Station, about the future of space exploration.

  • Read about Apollo XI astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s dream to put bring manned space exploration to the surface of Mars.

  • Follow the #Apollo45 hashtag on Twitter as people across the world share their memories of that fateful day.

  • This Sunday, at 10:39 p.m. EST, tune in as NASA replays the Apollo XI mission footage of the historic first moonwalk.

The launch of Apollo XI didn’t just bring mankind to the moon; it brought dreams and curiosities into the hearts of a new generation of STEMthusiasts ready to continue the mission of furthering space exploration and study. So take a moment this weekend to look up at the moon and relive the moment when you first watched as man made that famous "giant leap for mankind!"

Tags: This Day in STEM, video