A Robot in Human Skin

A Robot in Human Skin

When asked to think of a humanoid robot, it’s very likely that you are imagining the robots featured in the TV show Westworld or the movie Ex Machina: robots that are human-like but not actually human. These images mostly stem from sci-fi, but the real world isn’t too far from producing robots of this kind.

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Capturing Light

Capturing Light

If you are 18 years of age, you have never known a world without a camera phone.  Today, the quality of digital phone cameras is crucial to social media platforms, to businesses seeking visibility, and to people documenting as much of their lives and environments as possible. In this article, we will explore the functions of camera mechanics that created one of the most essential remote sensing devices in human history.

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Putting the Spotlight on Artists Who Glow

Putting the Spotlight on Artists Who Glow

Jellyfish and fireflies – what is something these two animals have in common? They both glow! This emission of light by these organisms is called bioluminescence, a term combining the Greek word “bio” meaning “life” and the Latin word “lumen” for “light.” Bioluminescence is produced through a chemical reaction that occurs within cells. Over the years, scientists have gained an appreciation for bioluminescence and have adapted it not only for research and medical purposes, but also as a platform for their passion for art. This artwork, as captivating as the living organisms that it originates from, has become a beautiful way of introducing people to the wonders of biology.

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Constellations: A Play of Multiple Universes and Infinite Possibilities

Constellations: A Play of Multiple Universes and Infinite Possibilities

Imagine you met a girl at a barbeque who asked you to lick your elbow. Would you try it? Would you make an excuse to get away? What if you did both at precisely the same time?

Using ideas from quantum physics and cosmology, the play Constellations addresses the universal question, what if? What would our lives be like if we had made a different choice? If we said the same words slightly differently? This is the story of a cosmologist named Marianne (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Roland, a bee keeper (Allen Leech) and every decision they ever and never made.

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Parasitism in the Alien Movies

Parasitism in the Alien Movies

What makes the Alien franchise so impactful is how utterly terrifying the titular Aliens are.  These creatures are so grotesque and foreign to audiences, particularly in their reproductive strategy, that fans are simultaneously horrified and fascinated by what is on screen.  Perhaps unknown to many viewers, the lifecycle of Xenomorph XX121 from the films is not so unlike that of many common parasites found on our planet. The rest of this essay will compare the biology of the Xenomorphs to parasitoid wasps and nematomorph worms from Earth to illustrate how close to reality the biology of these aliens is and to discuss this exceptional instance of science inspiring artists.

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Why Communicating Science Matters: How the Scirens are Shaping Perspectives

In 2014, Taryn O’Neill, Tamara Krinsky, and Gia Mora formed the Scirens, the screen sirens for science. Their mission is to inspire science literacy in the general public through entertainment fueled by science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) storylines and featuring, as they put it, “diverse, multi-dimensional female characters." The Signal to Noise Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with the Scirens and discuss their mission to encourage science literacy and create science-infused entertainment.

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Microbial Art Brings Microscopic Life into View

Microbial Art Brings Microscopic Life into View

Earlier this year, the American Society for Microbiology hosted its second annual Agar Art competition. In this competition, individuals created art using Petri dishes filled with bacterial growth agar, a gelatinous substance containing nutrients needed for bacterial growth. Microbes are etched onto the agar surface, invisible at first, but then after a period of growth, the microbes reveal themselves creating designs on the agar plates. Each piece is accompanied by a caption describing the imagery and the science used in the making of the agar art. After the submission process, the public votes for their favorite piece(s) on social media.

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Tales of Trailblazing Women in Science

Tales of Trailblazing Women in Science

Women have made essential contributions to how we understand the world around us, from discovering new elements and sub-atomic particles to advancing modern psychology. However, they are often left out of history books and popular discourse while their male colleagues are celebrated. In her new book Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky spotlights fifty women who have made, and are currently making, invaluable breakthroughs in science. Illustrated in bold, beautiful colors on a dark background, each woman is depicted doing the work she loves next to a brief biography and fun facts about her life. Signal to Noise had the chance to talk with Ignotofsky about her book and the inspiration behind it.

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enTANGLEment: A Collision of Art and Science

enTANGLEment: A Collision of Art and Science

Where do nanoscience, spray paint, geology, wood blocks, astronomy, and biology come together? An art gallery. The enTANGLEment exhibition, curated by Bob Nidever and displayed at TRUNK Gallery in Venice, California, had its grand opening September 10 and is an examination of how art and science interact and influence each other

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Scientists and Sci-Fi: A Spotlight on Two Dragon Con Science Experts

Scientists and Sci-Fi:  A Spotlight on Two Dragon Con Science Experts

Pop culture events like Dragon Con are full of activities aimed at satisfying our inner (and sometimes outer) nerd. What sets Dragon Con apart, though, is its elaborate Science Track, which dedicates over 40 hours of programming geared towards – you guessed it – science. But it's about much more than that. The Science Track aims to discuss science and science fiction in a fun, engaging manner, creating an environment where scientists and science enthusiasts can geek out together. We had the opportunity to chat with two scientists who are actively involved in the Dragon Con Science Track and in the field of science communication (SciComm): Dr. Raychelle Burks and Dr. Eric Spana. Both are sitting on a number of panels this weekend at Dragon Con.

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Exploring the Real Science of Sci-Fi at Dragon Con with Stephen Granade

Exploring the Real Science of Sci-Fi at Dragon Con with Stephen Granade

The day you’ve been waiting all year for is finally here. The doors open and you get the best seat in the house, front and center. You’ve prepared a question or two, hoping you get the opportunity to ask one of the speakers. Finally the lights dim and the panel begins. What’s the topic? Star Wars, naturally. Question one – could the Ewoks sustain themselves by eating Storm Troopers? I bet you didn’t see that coming. The special guests today are scientists, prepared to talk Star Wars science. They're speaking on just one of dozens of science-related panels at Dragon Con.

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The Making of Manhattan: Melding Science and Storytelling on the Road to Trinity

The Making of Manhattan: Melding Science and Storytelling on the Road to Trinity

Media is an important tool for communicating science. Popular media (film, television, etc.) plays a central role, providing not only a framework for our understanding of scientific concepts, but also a sociocultural context in which science and scientists are portrayed. Working side-by-side with talented writers, scientists have become increasingly involved in this process by serving as scientific consultants. Take, for example, the critically-acclaimed scientific drama Manhattan, which recently ran two seasons on WGN America. More than a fictional retelling about a famous scientific event, Manhattan is a story about the lives of the scientists responsible for building the world's first nuclear weapon in Los Alamos, New Mexico during WWII. We recently sat down with Sam Shaw (creator/executive producer/writer of Manhattan) and Dr. David Saltzberg (particle physicist at UCLA and science consultant for Manhattan and The Big Bang Theory) to learn more about what it's like to produce a television show which portrays both science and scientists.

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The Power of a Paradox: A Lesson About Time Travel from SyFy's 12 Monkeys (Part II)

The Power of a Paradox: A Lesson About Time Travel from SyFy's 12 Monkeys (Part II)

Science fiction is just that: fiction. The question of how much actual science is needed to support a great science fiction story is a subjective one. This is a challenging task for any writer, especially those responsible for bringing to life some of our favorite science fiction stories, including the time travel classic 12 Monkeys and its latest incarnation, the TV show 12 Monkeys currently airing on the SyFy channel. At its heart, 12 Monkeys is a story about predestination versus free will. It challenges us to think about space, time, and the natural laws which serve as the framework upon which our entire universe is built.

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The Power of a Paradox: A Lesson About Time Travel from SyFy's 12 Monkeys (Part I)

The Power of a Paradox: A Lesson About Time Travel from SyFy's 12 Monkeys (Part I)

A mysterious cult-like group releases a devastating super virus. The resulting plague decimates the population, ending the world as we know it. It’s a story you’ve heard before and are likely to hear again and again, at least in science fiction. How to fix it? Go back in time and stop it from ever happening, of course. We recently had the opportunity to chat with showrunner Terry Matalas about how time and time travel work in the 12 Monkeys, a show that's not as far removed from science as you might think. Without further ado, “Initiate splinter sequence…”

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History or Herstory? The Women of the Manhattan Project

History or Herstory? The Women of the Manhattan Project

Set in the 1940s, in the middle of World War II, Manhattan tells the story of scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, and gives insight into the lives of the families along for the ride. US scientists were in a race with German scientists to develop an atomic bomb that could bring an end to the war. One of the most interesting features of Manhattan is that it highlights the experiences of female scientists who were part of the project, as well as the wives and mothers of the male scientists.

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Of Spies and Space-Time: The Science Behind Marvel’s Agent Carter

Of Spies and Space-Time: The Science Behind Marvel’s Agent Carter

From travel between universes to matter with other-worldly properties, the latest season of Marvel’s Agent Carter brings science into the spotlight by infusing the world of comic book heroes with real-life physics and scientists who subvert stereotypes. I sat down with the science adviser for season two of Agent Carter, Dr. Clifford Johnson, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southern California, to talk about the show's scientific concepts and the characters who explore them.

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