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.
Fruit ripens by producing enzymes, or catalysts that breakdown the sugar polymers and also neutralize the acids. They know it is time to ripen because they produce an odorless colorless gas, ethylene, that triggers the production of enzymes. A number of years ago, scientists discovered this process and now use it to control the ripening of fruit by carefully controlling the storage atmosphere. So now we can enjoy fruit almost year round, rather than just around harvest. And because the ripening process can be controlled and halted, we can also enjoy fruit from around the world shipped by boats and trains to our neighborhood supermarket.
- Why are computer chips written on silicon?
- If plastic is made to be biodegradable, then won't the plastic forks and spoons we use dissolve in our mouth?
- How are simple machines used in doorknobs?
- Why can squirrels touch the telephone wires and not get electricuted?
- What about the atomic structure of a substance determines its color and/or luster?
- Why is plasma classified as a phase? What is its chemical make-up? How was it discovered?
- What is color? I know that objects absorb some colors and reflect others. But why do objects absorb or reflect certain colors? What do you add to something to make it reflect a color?
- How do minerals and nutrients form? Why do some foods have metals in them?
- What is the lowest recorded manmade vacuum? What is the lowest recorded natural vacuum? With known physical restraints of the universe, what is the lowest vacuum pressure in theory? Is is possible for low pressures to break...chemical, atomic, particle bonds/interactions? If so, can you give examples at each level?
- How do magnets work?