Archives of Ask A Scientist!
About "Ask A Scientist!"
On September 17th, 1998 the Ithaca Journal ran its first "Ask A Scientist!" article in which Professor Neil Ashcroft , who was then the director of CCMR, answered the question "What is Jupiter made of?" Since then, we have received over 1,000 questions from students and adults from all over the world. Select questions are answered weekly and published in the Ithaca Journal and on our web site. "Ask A Scientist!" reaches more than 21,000 Central New York residents through the Ithaca Journal and countless others around the world throught the "Ask a Scientist!" web site.
Across disciplines and across the state, from Nobel Prize winning scientist David Lee to notable science education advocate Bill Nye, researchers and scientists have been called on to respond to these questions. For more than seven years, kids - and a few adults - have been submitting their queries to find out the answer to life's everyday questions.
The rapid growth in inexpensive wireless access points to broadband networks is giving us non-stop high-speed access to the Internet, which includes the growing network of datacenters, the "information warehouses" that digitize, store, and analyze the world's information. Our cell phones will be transformed into intelligent personal assistants, powerful parallel computers with artificial intelligence and constant access to this worldwide network of information.
These devices will interact with us in a natural and intuitive way and will be dedicated to helping us wade through the hurdles we face in our everyday lives, and to avoid missed opportunities. They will learn about our habits and interests, the challenges we face, and our social and business networks. They will gather important information, reason about our environment, make connections for us, help in decision-making, and anticipate needs. They will help us handle "information overload" by filtering data for us, giving us precisely the subset that we need, exactly when we need it.
Trying to recall the last time and place you met that friend or relative and what you did with them? Curious why that person looks vaguely familiar? Need to find your way safely through a strange city to the places you'd be most interested in visiting that you never even knew about? Ever regret finding out something after the fact that would have been very useful at that time and place? Our assistants will work with contextual information and the worldwide network of datacenters, and information gathered by other assistants, to avoid such situations. They will also seamlessly interact with invisible computing devices that are naturally embedded into our homes, to help us review and organize information, and to proactively monitor our health for signs of illness.
Most of this technology already exists. Eventually, the infrastructure will be in place and the cost will come down to make this affordable for consumers. However, important issues still need to be resolved. Here are three of the ones that are of most concern. How do we guarantee the privacy of personal information stored on various computers and traveling throughout the Internet? How do we use this technology to enrich human social relationships? How can this vision advance the overall greater good of our global society in an environmentally conscious manner? The scientific community must satisfactorily address such issues before this technology becomes part of our everyday lives.
- What happens if you go into space with a regular plane? Do you explode?
- Where are the crystals in the crystal radio?
- Is it possible to determine the resonance frequency of an object that has a diameter in nanometers in size (such as a cell)?
- Can a cellular phone work in space? How far into space can you go without losing communication?
- Is the human eye like a fingerprint? Can it be used for positive identification purposes?
- At what magnification on a microscope can you actually see animal cells and plant cells?
- I have heard of ways to get energy through the braking of a car. How does this work?
- What is fiber optic cable and what advantages does it have over other technologies?
- How are carbon nanotubes formed? Can they be positioned easily? How?
- I am currently studying electronics and how they work together to perform work. But I seem to get confused when the term "ground" is used. I understand that it is a "zero" reference point, and that it is a common return path for electrons to earth ground. I get stumped though when I see a schematic that has a ground attached to the negative end of a battery terminal in a dc circuit. Why don't the electrons just flow straight to ground? Then in an AC circuit schematic, I see a ground connection again connected to the negative side of a circuit. Can I assume that the ground is positively polarized which attracts the electrons?