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Today's Hours: 
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Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm
Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm
Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm
Today's Hours: 
10am - 5pm

COSI is now closed

From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

"STEAM Powered"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 17 October 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

Haven't you heard? STEM is old hat, and there's a new game in town. That new game recognizes that science, technology, engineering, and math don't quite encompass the entirety of human endeavors, so it includes an "A" for arts.

STEMA doesn't sound very cool, so fortunately the arts were wisely wedged in between engineering and math, giving us STEAM. Of course, those in the artistic community correctly pointed out that there's more to "art" than just Art, so STEAM isn't really considered an acronym anymore. Just a word that we're going to type in all caps, okay?

Anyway, a few years ago some energetic faculty at OSU created the STEAM Factory. The group is dedicated to facilitating cross-discplinary research and outreach. They even have a space right around the corner from COSI over at 400 W Rich.

I had the privilege of joining the STEAM Factory last year, and that group is my go-to source for any potential partnerships with COSI. Mechanical engineers, visual artists, pathologists, lighting designers, economists. You name it, they've got it. If you're ever curious what we're about, you'll usually find us testing outreach ideas during Franklinton Fridays, so come on over.

"Be Afraid"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 10 October 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

Recently we screened the classic horror movie "Halloween" in the Giant Screen Theater as a part of a Sloan Foundation Science on Screen grant. Given my physics background, I had absolutely nothing useful or interesting to say about the movie, but plenty of my colleagues at OSU did. So I invited over a film professor (who's actually teaching a course on horror this semester), a geneticist, a clinical psychologist, and an economist for a panel Q&A after the movie.

The audience was very active and engaged, hitting the panel with thoughtful and insightful questions. It was interesting to hear the conversations sparked between, say, the film professor and the economist about what influences were shaping John Carpenter when he made that movie in the late 70's, or the geneticist and psychology describing the role that fear plays in our lives.

What happens in our brains and bodies when we get scared? What are we really afraid of in society? How does music or mood or lighting set the stage for a great horror movie? The panelists fielded these questions and more, and there was at least one person in the audience who learned a lot from the evening: me.

"Making your genes CRISPR"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 03 October 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

To give audiences a link between the new planetarium show "Cell, Cell, Cell" and COSI's Life Exhibit, I worked with Dave Buker and the Tech Studio team to produce a short video on CRISPR.

That's right: CRISPR.

I'm not in charge of naming things in science, unfortunately. It's short for "Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats", which isn't very helpful either, but check this out. When viruses attack a bacteria, that virus inserts itself into the DNA of the host. Usually that means Game Over, but some varieties of bacteria have evolved a clever defense mechanism. They send a special complex molecule scanning down the path of their DNA, looking for the virus-laden spot. Once there, another molecule comes in and snip-snips the virus out. The DNA stitches itself together, and there you go: healthy bacteria.

Sounds nifty, but what's the big deal? The big deal is that we've been able to replicate and control this process in the lab. Which means we can go in and selectively edit out parts of a genome. And with another trick we can insert new DNA in those snipped-out parts.

CRISPR is cheekily known as a "word processor for DNA", and while folks are excitedly hyping up the potentially unlimited possibilities, in the short term the technology will be used for almost entirely therapeutic reasons, like for treating cancer and gene-related diseases. Even if that's all we got from the technique, that's a huge advance.

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