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Archive for the ‘science’ tag

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