Science

Courtesy Photo

With women earning less than 20 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in physics, engineering and computer science, some might consider Becca Volk an anomaly, but among her teammates on Pittsburgh’s all-female Girls of Steel competitive robotics team, Volk fits right in. The 16 yr. old junior at Avonworth High School knows she wants to be an engineer someday.

On March 28, Girls of Steel won the Chairman’s Award at the Buckeye Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in Cleveland, which qualifies the team to compete in the FRC Championship April 22-25 in St. Louis.

Carnegie Science Center Talks STEM on Capitol Hill

Mar 19, 2015

With the number of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, jobs increasing at three times the rate of other industries, the Carnegie Science Center is encouraging schools and Pennsylvania lawmakers to focus on improving the way students learn about STEM fields.

During a Wednesday congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., science center representatives and educators outlined the Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway, an initiative that launched in October to help schools evaluate and expand the way they teach math and science.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting our favorite science and sci-fi guests.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

Just as it would be difficult for TV viewers to imagine Saturdays without Saturday Night Live, it would be equally challenging for public radio listeners to contemplate Fridays without Science Friday. The weekly call-in program engages listeners and scientists in lively conversations about all things science, and you can hear it here on 90.5 WESA on Fridays from 2 to 4 pm.

The host of Science Friday is Ira Flatow, an award winning NPR host and science correspondent who spent six years writing the well remembered Emmy-Award-winning Newton’s Apple on PBS as well as reporting on science for CBS. Ira started Science Friday as a radio show back in 1991, so it has been nearly a quarter of a century that the program has been on the air. Ira joined us back in June and talked about the interesting ways Science Friday has evolved in that time.

“We’re all about lifelong learning. And that’s why I think listeners are very interested in Science Friday -- because we’re teaching them something new every day, every week.”

Best of 2014: George Takei Talks Sci-Fi and Social Justice

Dec 29, 2014
Ryan Loew / WESA

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting our favorite science and sci-fi guests. 

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

In November, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra explored strange new worlds with the PNC Pops’ Sci-Fi Spectacular. The concert featured music from classic sci-fi TV programs and films, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “Star Trek,” among others. Actor and activist George Takei was one of the stars of the first Star Trek TV series and originated the role of helmsman Sulu.

Beyond Star Trek, there were many aspects of this man’s life and career to explore, including his role in the award-winning musical “Allegiance,” which is coming to Broadway in 2015. George sat down in studio with me in November. Among other things, we asked him about working in Pittsburgh on the show “Supa Ninjas” and his activism for Japanese Americans and the LGBT community.

“The imprisonment of innocent American citizens who happened to be of Japanese ancestry is parallel to the story of what the LGBT community has gone through and still will have to go through in order to be totally full American citizens.”

Astrobotic / www.astrobotic.com

So, your life's dream has always been to send something to the moon? You may soon have your chance. A Pittsburgh company called Astrobotic is introducing a new service called MoonMail that will allow individuals to send their keepsakes to the surface of the moon. 

But with whose permission, and for what purpose? Astrobotic CEO John Thornton joins us to talk about the future of space freight.

Thornton describes Astrobotic as a “lunar logistics company” -- something like FedEx or UPS but with service to the moon. There’s been a great amount of interest in lunar freight, explains Thornton, including a plan to put a tiny house on the moon’s surface.

Isabella Rossellini Performs "Green Porno" in Pittsburgh

Nov 20, 2014
Warhol Museum

Iconic actress, performer and model Isabella Rossellini comes to Pittsburgh Friday for a special presentation of her one-woman show, "Green Porno."

Adapted from the Sundance Channel series of the same name, Rossellini has created a unique performance-lecture focusing on the mating rituals of a variety of species.

She joins us to discuss her interest in animals and biodiversity and how it led to this show at Carnegie Music Hall, presented in conjunction with The Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art & Natural History.

Rossellini says that her interest in animals began when she was just a girl, and later in life -- after many years as a model and actress -- she went back to school to study animal behavior.

When she started writing “Green Porno,” Rossellini explains that she worked hard to take dry scientific information and inject humor, create bold costumes and stage visually compelling scenarios to get accurate scientific information across in an entertaining way.

Ryan Loew / WESA

George Takei, who originated the character of Hikaru Sulu on “Star Trek,” joins us in studio. This weekend, Takei will host the PNC Pops "Sci-Fi Spectacular” at Heinz Hall. Takei talks about that event, his acting career, his history of activism and the upcoming Broadway musical "Allegiance," in which he has a starring role.

If you’re the type of person to leave a bowl of candy on your porch and head out to party on Halloween, you may want to consider the Carnegie Science Center’s special adults-only event this Friday evening.

The center hosts 21+ events on the last Friday of each month, and this month’s Halloween theme is “Spirits and Spirits,” presented in collaboration with Wigle Whiskey, Maggie’s Farm Rum and Independent Brewing Company.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

A recent story about the disparity in Boy and Girl Scouts course offerings at the Carnegie Science Center caught fire online. The outrage was made all the more contentious because the seemingly single course offered for Girl Scouts centered on creating beauty products.

How to Encourage Women in Bio Sciences?

Sep 16, 2014
Women in Bio--Pittsburgh

Next week Pittsburgh’s Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs Rally (P.O.W.E.R.) will host a conference promoting leadership for women in life sciences. Susan Catalano, chapter chair of Women in Bio Pittsburgh, and Rebecca Harris, director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship at Chatham University, talk about the economic breakthroughs that are being made by women in these fields.

The View from Inside the Allegheny Observatory

Aug 28, 2014
Marcus Charleston / WESA

Some of the nicest views of Pittsburgh and the night sky can be found at the Allegheny Observatory. Electronic technician and administrator Lou Coban takes guest host Andy Conte on a behind the scenes tour of the building from the rooftop to the telescopes to something you might not expect to find in the basement.

Coban reveals the Allegheny Observatory as one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gems.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Just as it would be difficult for TV viewers to imagine Saturdays without Saturday Night Live, it would be equally challenging for public radio listeners to contemplate Fridays without Science Friday.

The weekly public radio show has engaged listeners and scientists in all things science, every Friday for the past 25 years and can be heard weekly on 90.5WESA from 2-4 PM.

Founder and host, Ira Flatow is an award winning NPR host and science correspondent who spent six years writing for the Emmy-award-winning program Newton’s Apple on PBS as well as reporting on science for CBS.

Flickr user Mark Teasdale

Can you use math to calm traffic and prescribe fish dinners to help patients with multiple sclerosis?

Those are just a couple of the questions being asked by some of the brightest high school students in the world at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles this week.

Approximately 1,700 young scientists and engineers from nearly 70 countries are showcasing their science and engineering projects and vying for more than $4 million in awards and scholarships.

State Awards Grant to Assess Atom Smasher Site

Dec 24, 2013

The site of the world’s first industrial atom smasher will be environmentally assessed and remediated for future development.

An $88,000 grant given to Forest Hills Borough from the state will help pay for the study of the Westinghouse Atom Smasher, the light bulb-shaped building situated near Chalfant Borough.

State Sen. Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) said there is a lot of work to be done before remediation can take place.

Look Up! Comet ISON Starts Its Pass Around the Sun

Nov 22, 2013

It might not live up to its hype as the “Comet of the Century,” but Comet ISON could still light up the night sky this December.

Comet ISON — named after the Russian-based organization that discovered it in 2012 — was originally predicted by the astronomy community to possibly be as bright as the moon, giving it the title “Comet of the Century.” According to Dan Malerbo, program coordinator of the Buhl Planetarium, the three-mile wide comet has not brightened at its expected rate and now might not even survive it’s trip around the sun.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

A team of international scientists announced Wednesday the discovery of the oldest-known fossil primate skeleton, Archicebus achilles, uncovered in an ancient lake bed near the modern Yangtze River in China’s Hubei province.

Christopher Beard, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, said the fossil’s discovery has profound implications for understanding eras of human evolution that remain shrouded in mystery.

Two very different Pittsburgh icons are finding common ground in an insect.

The Carnegie Science Center and Phipps Conservatory are teaming up to host Butterfly Weekend, a two-day event that will give the public a chance to learn about the butterfly’s life cycle and natural habitat.

Susan Zimecki, director of marketing and community affairs at the Carnegie Science Center, points to a film as the inspiration behind the event.