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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Key to the Future

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Creativity is one of those traits everyone wants a little more of and you can never have enough of. It is a characteristic pursued in both the art and the business world. According to the Americans for the Arts, “… creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders…the arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.”

Innovation becomes more important as we experience current challenges and attempt to predict problems of subsequent years. It is important to examine creativity as an entity in our lives and the role it plays in shaping our future.

To look at how we can encourage it in our children, inspire it in our daily lives, enhance it in our workplace, and take the steps necessary to grow creativity in our communities.

Resources to expand knowledge on the nature of creativity are abundant. Local creatives and artists, books, magazines, and especially the Internet, – information on creativity is everywhere. A great place to search for them online is our AIR (Arts Incubator of the Rockies) website. The Knowledge Center is full of videos, articles, and more on creative topics.

Bugs on the Wall

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Jennifer Angus’s exhibition “Memory Game” depicts an interconnected world of insects and humans. Angus’s work incorporates various patterns and beautifully organized arrangements of bugs that are displayed on the wall. The installation was partially inspired by the Ray and Charles Eames Memory Game the artist experiences in her childhood.

A wall full of bugs might not sound the most appealing to some, but Jennifer Angus redefines the nature and conception of insects in a precise and wonderful manner. Seeing this installation will not only surprise viewers, but also get them thinking about bugs and art in a new way.

In addition to the regular exhibition, CSU Professor of Entomology, Dr. Whitney Cranshaw, is presenting a gallery talk this Thursday, October 18th, at 6:30 p.m. on “Colorado’s Big Bugs.” This exhibition is currently featured in the Lincoln Center and will run through November 3rd.  For more information, please visit this website.

Written by admin

October 17th, 2012 at 10:00 am

Best-selling science writer Dava Sobel will be speaking in Fort Collins

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Best-selling science writer Dava Sobel will be speaking in Fort Collins at 7 p.m., October 16, at the Hilton Fort Collins, 425 W. Prospect. The event is free and open to the public – no tickets are required. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and seating will be on a first come, first served basis (maximum capacity of 500 people). A book signing and sales will follow the program.

Sobel, author of Longitude and Galleo’s Daughter, will be talking about her latest book, A More Perfect Heaven (to be released October 2011), in which she realizes her long-standing dream to write a play about Nicolaus Copernicus.

“And the Sun Stood Still,” the centerpiece of my new book, dramatizes the events that convinced Copernicus to publish his “crazy” ideas concerning the Earth’s motion. The nonfiction narrative surrounding the play tells the facts of his life story and traces the impact of his seminal book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, to the present day.

For more information about the author and her books, visit:

This is part of a series of free author evenings presented by sponsored by Friends of the CSU Libraries the Poudre River Friends of the Library, and sponsored by KUNC Radio and the Hilton Fort Collins.

For more information about the event, contact Jane Barber at (970) 491-5712 or

Written by Beet Street

October 14th, 2011 at 8:56 am

The Flavor of Water

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Run down to the local store and you’ll find bubbly, bottled water in a variety of flavors, but the stuff running from your faucet is just, well, water flavored, right?

Dr. Pinar Omur-Ozbek takes a sniff. (Courtesy photo)

Not necessarily, according to Dr. Pinar Omur-Ozbek.

This week’s Science Cafe, presented by the CSU professor, promises to be a refreshing program explaining the science behind, in, and around your average glass of water here in Northern Colorado.

Dr. Omur-Ozbek is originally from Ankara, Turkey where she received her B.S. in environmental engineering. After working with a construction company there, and learning more about the infrastructure behind the distribution of water, she continued her studies and eventually her Ph.D., here in the states at Virginia Tech.

Through her research, Pilar became more intrigued with the growing environmental concerns of drinking water, and even our perception of it based on taste and smell. She went on to develop an international standard for flavor and odor analysis.

When a dual academic situation became available, the professor and her husband relocated to this area to teach at CSU two and a half years ago. They fell in love with the area, the sunshine, and undoubtedly the water.

I’m not much of a connoisseur of drinking water myself, but my refrigerator was stocked with bottled water when I lived in Southern California years ago. Although perfectly safe, the tap water in my town there was horrible. It was a pleasant surprise – and cheaper – to discover Northern Colorado’s supply to be refreshing and tasty straight from the faucet.

It’s probably something most of us take for granted, but Pinar explains – with enthusiasm and in terms easy to understand – the many factors going into that life sustaining fluid. Metals, algae, treatment or disinfection, age, and even the materials used in the pipes can all contribute to not just the quality, but the flavor of our drinking water.

The second half of her discussion will address the human perceptions of that glass of water. If it’s cloudy or green, we’re going to assume it tastes horrible, right? Also, a fun test by the good professor will demonstrate the differences between smell and taste.

Whether you take that tall drink of water with nary a thought, or you’re part of the growing faction interested in the ecologic and environmental impact on our drinking supply, Dr. Omur-Ozbek’s presentation is sure to quench your thirst.


The free Science Cafe starts at 5:30, Wednesday, June 8, at Avogodro’s Number in Ft. Collins, where you can test the flavors of their food and drinks as well.

What about you? Do you also love our Rocky Mountain tap water or swear by bottled and filtered only? And why doesn’t it taste more like Chardonnay? Eight glasses a day would be more fun, right? Inquiring minds…

Written by Susan Richards

June 8th, 2011 at 6:20 am

Understanding Climate Change: It’s Simpler than You Think!

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One earth - well done - coming right up!

“When you add heat to things, they warm up.”

Dr. Scott Denning’s recipe for global warming may sound over-simplified, but he adds the extra ingredients of humor, enthusiasm and dance (dance!?) and shakes things up for this month’s Science Cafe.

“I want to reach people at their common sense level,” he explains with his own unique, accessible brand of science.

Upon reading his biography, I was admittedly intimidated by the many, many syllables in Dr. Denning’s area of research, but the CSU professor handily dispelled my fears of words such as biogeochemical. In fact, his specialty is talking global science to non-science audiences, including those of you in attendance at this week’s presentation at Avogadro’s Number.

He agrees that while global warming has become a hot-button topic, it’s simple to explain. The hard part is what can be done about it. That’s when the climate takes on a serious, sometimes scary, political nature.

Dr. Denning first studied geology before receiving his PhD in Atmospheric Science. He’s lived in Ft. Collins for the better part of three decades and joined the Atmospheric Science faculty at CSU in 1998. It’s there he formed a research group whose interests focus on energy, water, carbon dioxide and many more of those multi-syllabic terms that cause my head to hurt. So, imagine my amusement when the good professor himself proclaimed the research talk “boring” and scientists as often “arrogant.”

“My avocation is to bring the science of climate change to the people,” he said with humility and hilarity. He’s been busy spreading the word in a people-friendly manner to kids, museums, the web and more. Dr. Denning recently visited Mesa State College with CSU colleague John Calderazzo, another passionate educator and past Science Cafe speaker on the subject of climate.

Dr. Scott Denning

The professor promises an entertaining, engaging and fun evening with pictures, PowerPoint and possibly a jig. He is, after all, the star of the “Molecule Dance,” a visual example of his educational style. Check your dry expectations at the door this Wednesday, April 13, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. As always, Avo’s provides the venue and a menu for the Beet Street Science Cafe. Dr. Denning will provide the educational entertainment.

What about you – did you have a teacher who made learning fun?

Written by Susan Richards

April 12th, 2011 at 9:43 am

Can’t we all just get along?

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I admit I was a little intimidated by this month’s Science Cafe subject. There are a lot of big words in the synopsis and I had to take more than one breath just to say the title of Wednesday night’s program: Conservation Development Global Challenges Research Team. *whew*

Dr. Liba Pejchar

Fortunately, a conversation with Dr. Liba Pejchar, assistant professor at CSU, cleared the fog that threatened to ground all flights in and out of my right brain. I learned that the crux of her studies and teachings centers around conserving the environment, maintaining economical livelihood, and keeping all the neighbors happy.

Piece of cake, right?

If you have even a passing awareness of environmental news – nationally or globally – you’ll know this is a colossal challenge. One that Dr. Pejchar has been passionate about for the past five years. After receiving her PhD in environmental studies at the University of California Santa Cruz she completed a fellowship at Stanford University. She’s also participated in several field studies around the world, but it was in Hawaii where she began to work with ranchers as well as the native wildlife, seeking a win-win solution for all involved.

Biodiversity (one of those big words I tripped over) essentially refers to all life on earth: plants, animals, people. It can also concern a specific region, such as Northern Colorado. When there was an opening at CSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, it was a good fit for Pejchar’s research and she signed on two-and-a-half years ago.

The challenge of conservation development is to address the obvious environmental problems facing our region, while acknowledging the fiscal needs of private landowners.

It’s about “recognizing progress, while finding ways to harness it,” explained Dr. Pejchar. There’s also a social component. “Is this (development) good for creating communities and neighborhoods?”

In a perfect world, these seemingly opposing factors are equally respected and everyone is happy. It’s a challenge that transcends the politics of “green” — as in ecology and economy. Head on down to Avo’s this Wednesday at 5:30 where Dr. Pejchar will share her knowledge on this significant and timely topic, employing words of all sizes as well as photographs and maps.

What do you think – can we protect the planet and the pocketbook?

Written by Susan Richards

March 8th, 2011 at 2:47 am

Climate and Culture: More correlations than you would think

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This month’s Science Café, Climate Change, Art and Literature, is timely indeed, as we emerge from a week of record-breaking, sub-zero temperatures here in Colorado. The Al Gore jokes were flying around my office like bitter, errant snowflakes. So what do a couple of English professors from CSU – each with several published books and countless articles between them – have to say about global warming and the arts?

Believe it or not, plenty.

SueEllen Campbell

John Calderazzo

Professor John Calderazzo and Dr. SueEllen Campbell – colleagues in education and marriage – have taught English in Northern Colorado for more than twenty years, bringing not only their literary credentials but also a life-long passion for nature, ecology and the world we were gifted.

“We were always interested in the way nature and culture interact,” said Calderazzo of his and Campbell’s career evolution. Campbell’s course studies include nature and environmental literature, while her husband’s focus is non-fiction creative writing. “Climate change came to our attention and it wasn’t that large of a leap,” he went on to explain.

The couple has written articles for such magazines and periodicals as Audubon and Orion, and both have authored books in their field of interest, including Rising Fire: Volcanoes and our Inner Lives by Calderazzo and Even Mountains Vanish: Searching for Solace in an Age of Extinction by Campbell.

Then three years ago, the couple decided to reach out to all the departments at CSU that were involved in the research of climate change. This hotbed subject was and is a source of interest to many disciplines – science, politics, sociology and yes, English.

“The core of the word ‘university’ is universe,” said Calderazzo. A lively series of talks followed the creation of Changing Climates at CSU, and continues today with the professors co-directing.

Global warming: It's not a pretty picture.

This Wednesday’s Science Café promises to be as interesting as the weather in Colorado. The colleagues are popular at the university and enthusiastic about their subject. Rather than a dry dissertation on the perils of melting polar caps, the pair will take a literary and visual look at the effects of changing climates on writing and the arts. They’ll present artwork by children, speculative photography of our changing world and even poetry.

So, get to Avo’s this Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 5:30, order a cold drink and warm up to a thought-provoking topic from a refreshing angle. What about you creative types? Do you find yourself inspired by a change in the weather?

A New Discovery Coming to Fort Collins

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 I grew up in the middle of cornfields – only 60 miles from Chicago, but it was rare for me to be in the big city. In grade school, I remember a particular field trip to the Museum of Science & Industry right before the holidays. The exhibit that captured my attention isn’t exactly what you’d expect at that museum – Christmas trees from around the world. I remember standing in front of a tree representing Greece decorated in blue and white and imagining a faraway place.

 Fast forward 20 years and 11 years living in that big city – trees from around the world is still one of my favorite memories. It sparked my imagination and dared me to dream big…I went back many times over the years to get lost in my thoughts and in the trees. I’ve actually been fortunate to visit Greece twice in my life…and many other places I dreamed about as a kid standing in front of those trees.

Museum Illustration

I was reminded of this experience Monday night at an event at Odells updating the progress of the new Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, which is set to break ground soon at Cherry and College. What struck me about the museum is yes, it has really cool, unique exhibits, but the spirit of it seems different than other museums I’ve visited. One of the presenters described it as a “hybrid approach of culture and science” – the theme being how historical events and scientific advancements connect to each of our lives.

Digital Dome Illustration

Digital Dome Illustration

Now I’ve always been a dreamer, but there are those places that make you feel introspective and beg you to think about your role in the world. I feel most museums achieve this here and there, but what excites me about the new Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center, is the whole museum is built around this concept.

Here are some of the interesting things I learned about the new museum…  

  • Interact: During the presentation, someone in the audience asked “what’s coolest thing about the new museum?” One of the presenters mentioned the interactive elements. “The idea is, you not only see what something is like, you feel it,” said the presenter. From what I understand, the litmus test for the exhibits and programming will be whether they inspire this connection.
  • Energy:  The building, designed by OZ Architecture and Hensel-Phelps Construction will run on 50 percent of the energy required by similar buildings. The building was also specially designed so you can see some of the machines at work. As one of the presenters put it, visitors will “Get the sense of how pieces interact – see how systems work and are integrated.”
  • Giving back: You’ll be able to see the systems and much more from the free zone, also known as the Observation Deck.  Because the museum has been in the community for century, it wants to give back and make some things free. The Observation deck will offer unobstructed views of scenery including Long’s Peak.
  • Take flight: The exhibit that elicited the most excitement from the panel was the Digital Dome. One of the presenters described it as a hybrid planetarium and Omnimax experience. They emphasized it isn’t just about astronomy – although expect to spend some time exploring Saturn’s rings.  I was excited about the prospect of not just seeing the Grand Canyon, but the experience of flying through it.
  •  Contribute: As a visitor, you won’t just be a viewer, expect to become part of the exhibits. A focus of the museum staff is finding ways to incorporate visitor contributed content. The staff is currently running in-house experiments to come up with ways to elicit response and get people to participate in the exhibits. Have ideas? Share them here and with the museum staff.

 These are just a few of the things you can expect at the new museum. Find more details about the plans on the museum Web site. What museums and exhibits have stuck with you over the years? What would you like to see in the new museum?

 In the homestretch

The museum already has raised $19 million of the $24 million it expects to need for the entire project. There is still a big fundraising push for the digital dome in particular. Contributions of $1,000 or more may qualify for the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit, which permits a 25 percent tax credit.   

I just have to mention, I met two of the planners from Gyroscope Inc., a company that helps museums build exhibits and solicit all of the necessary components. They also help capture the unique personality of the museum and community in which it operates. In my opinion, these guys have a pretty cool job. Thank you to Annette Geiselman, Executive Director and Cheryl Donaldson, Director of the Fort Collins Museum who answered a lot of my questions and who have obviously poured their hearts into this project. Here is a link to information about all of the designers involved in the project:

Outdoor space plan for the museum

Outdoor space plan for the museum

Written by TanyaFlynn

July 21st, 2010 at 9:03 am

Science and Art- an Inseparable Marriage of Equals

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In Nature, in 1887, University of Pennsylvania Professor T.H. Huxely stated  “I imagine that it is the business of the artist and of the man of letters to reproduce and fix forms of imagination to which the mind will afterwards recur with pleasure; so, based upon the same great principle by the same instinct, if I may so call it, it is the business of the man of science to symbolize, and fix, and represent to our mind in some easily recallable shape, the order, and the symmetry, and the beauty that prevail throughout Nature.”

It is an interesting concept to think about – the artist as a scientist and the scientist as an artist.  Since the time when both fields of study were formally identified, they have been closely linked to one another, yet when viewed in modern society, it is so easy for us to separate the two. Sure, we can see how science and art intersect when discussing chemical compositions of oil based paints (lead poisoning anyone?) and light refraction on photographic lenses, but what about the more high concept of the reciprocal nature of science and art? Is one the muse of the other, and if so, which came first?  It might be easy to argue that ‘of course science came first- science is all around, and it is the beauty of nature and discovery that brings forth artistic inspiration, but what if it is the artistic influence of our surroundings that inspire the quest for exploration and discovery?

Philosophical quandries such as these are not meant to be solved with a simple Beet Street blog, but it is interesting to think about it from different perspectives.  Todd Siler, a prominent contemporary artist who’s work in based in the art/science realm has this opinion on the matter:

“The messages of this art are basic.  The universe imparts its creative processes to us.  We, in turn, impart our creative processes to the things we create. Our creations reveal the nature of our minds directly and so the universe indirectly.  This is the great current of influences that changes our lives.  The playful, purposeful work of neurocosmology is to venture into this ocean current with at least one premise:  in decoding the brain, we decode the universe—and vice versa. In many ways, the brain is what the brain creates.  Its workings reflect the workings of all its creations.”

With a doctoral degree from MIT and his art displayed at both the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Todd Siler is certainly a qualified source for opinions on the origination of art in relation to how the brain processes our interpretation of color and shape.  Much similar to T.H. Huxely’s opinion in 1887, Siler sees it as the artists job to create pieces that challenge the brain’s interpretation of visual stimuli just as much as he is challenged artistically by the complexity of the brain,  most of the time – literally. 

Currently Siler’s work can be seen at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art in his exhibition entitled, The Mind and All It Creates. Installed in the museum’s Main Gallery, Silers work explores how the brain works by looking comparatively at the creative outcomes of the brain’s complex processes. Works from a variety of periods in Siler’s career are included in The Mind and All It Creates.  Siler’s Mind Icons, dating from the early 1990’s, are visual meditations on the life of the intellect and spirit set into shapes that resemble the human brain.  Also included will be selections from Siler’s totemic photo-metaphorms that visually compress ideas and images printed on the upwardly twisting metal sculptures.  In paintings such as The ArtScience of Grasping Synapses, 2000-2004, Siler offers an artistic, imaginative rendition of a brain synapse that expresses the explosive, energetic activity that takes place constantly in the brain.


Science and art – it  is such a joint relationship, divorcing one side from the other just isn’t possible. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, it can’t be argued that without a muse, neither would exist as we know it today.


More information on Todd Siler can be found on the web at:

Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art
201 S. College Ave. Fort Collins, CO

FCMOCA hours:
10-5 Tuesday through Friday;
12 to 5 on Saturday;
Closed Sunday and Monday.

Admission fees:
$5.00 adults,
$2.00 seniors over 65.
Free to museum members, students and children under 18.

Todd Siler will also be joining Beet Street for a very special edition of Science Café on March 10th.  Location and details coming soon.

A New Way of Looking at Climate Change

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It seems that our lives are full of information on climate change these days. Commercials tell us what cars have the smallest carbon footprint, and there are reusable bags for sale at every store from Whole Foods to Old Navy. We listen to our nation’s leaders on the news, on the radio, on Oprah, as we are given the latest information on how the world is being changed by global warming.

And it is great to be informed. I remember as a kid being told to plant a tree or recycle my soda cans on Earth Day, and the discussion was over. Americans today seemed more in tune to the latest advancements than ever before. At the same time, though, how much do we really understand about climate change? Just think about the images we see and the words we hear: polar ice caps, solar and wind technology, clean coal. Some scientists talk about the climate change process in terms of decades rather than years. Unless you are an environmental engineer, you may wonder (as I do) how exactly individual lives, right now, are being affected by all this. We have heard the big words and topical arguments in the media, but how much do we really know about what climate change is doing to the lives of others?

The movie Climate Refugees looks at the issue of global warming in a whole new way. Utilizing experts and politicians as well as real people around the globe, this film shows how people are living with climate change. As I did a little research on this documentary, I was amazed to find that many people today are losing their homes, as their land becomes completely unlivable in a changing climate.

“We are putting a human face to climate change,” said director Michael Nash. “We traveled around the world, from the islands of the South Pacific to the coast of Alaska interviewing refugees on the run. Our interviews with refugees, scholars, and politicians describe the collision of overpopulation, lack of resources and our changing climate that is creating what is quickly becoming humankind’s greatest challenge.”

According to the makers of the film, the U.N. has now reported that more people have been displaced due to environmental disasters than from war. With no current action in place to offer aid to refugees, millions are left looking for new homes.

Luckily, word is spreading is about this problem. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change commissioned Nash and others to create a film that represents the individuals who have experienced the worst of the climate change crisis. Climate Refugees will be shown at the Convention later this year in Copenhagen, but an exclusive university screening of this film will be held at Colorado State University this week.

The viewing of this film will be held at Lory Student Center Theatre on the CSU campus this Sunday, November 15, at 6pm. Tickets are free and open to the public, and can only be picked up at the CSU Box Office, located in the Lory Student Center.

This will be a test screening of the film before it is shown in Copenhagen. “The film is designed to spur discussion and debate about the effects of climate change on our planet,” said Patrick McConathy, the executive producer of Climate Refugees. “Colorado State is the perfect place to debut the film.”

The personal challenges faced by individuals today in the face of climate change is something that we all should be aware of. Knowing that this is happening now, not decades in the future, shows us in a new light the significance of the issue. The fact that CSU, a national leader in environmental studies, has been chosen to present this film is something to be proud of, and we should take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn more.

For another opportunity to learn about climate change this week, check out our Science Cafe tomorrow night with Dr. Diana H. Wall, director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at CSU.  She will be discussing  ‘The Dry Valleys of Antarctica: Soils and Climate Change’ on Wednesday, 11/11 at 6:00pm (arrive at 5:30), at Dempsey’s on 160 W. Oak St.  This is a free event where you can grab a drink, have a snack and get smarter.  All in about an hour.