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 body of an instrument - made of wood in the case of a guitar or clarinet - also vibrates when a person plays the instrument. The vibration of the instrument body helps determine how loud the sound is and plays a role in giving each type of instrument its unique sound quality. Since wood comes from living trees made up of cells, it has a special structure that is not duplicated in plastic. If you looked at wood under a strong microscope, you would see that it has many tiny holes in it. These holes cause vibrations in wood to behave differently than vibrations in plastic.
You can hear this difference for yourself if you can find a wooden box and a plastic box (or even a plastic food container). Knock on each box with your hand. The boxes "sound" different because the two materials respond differently to the vibrations caused by your knocking. In the same way, a guitar or clarinet made out of plastic would not sound the same as one made from wood.
There are actually some musical instruments in which traditional materials have been replaced by modern materials. For example, harp and guitar strings used to be made from sheep intestines but are now usually made from nylon. Similarly, drumheads were historically made from animal skins but are now often made from plastics such as mylar. In the future, scientists may discover new materials that can effectively replace wood in musical instruments like guitars, clarinets, violins, and pianos!
- How is calcium measured in bone? (without using blood, as this applies to a forensic anthropological question). And, what is the procedure or method of doing so? Is there any special tools, or devices needed?
- How do you make a rock into a metal or a crystal?
- How can you tell if a diamond is real or fake?
- How can you tell if a ruby is real or fake? Is there a test I can do?
- Recycled metal looks like the same color as non-recycled metal. When soda cans are recycled, what happened to the paint or dye that was on top of the aluminum?
- What is spontaneous combustion? Is it a myth? What causes it?
- If the electrons are attracted to the protons, why don't they come crashing into the nucleus?
- Why is it generally colder at higher elevations?
- What would happen if a tornado started in the southern hemisphere and progressed into the northern hemisphere? Would it change directions?
- The laws of thermodynamics teach that things in nature go from order to disorder but the theory of evolution teaches that well ordered creatures evolved from disordered ones. How can both be true?