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Today's Hours: 
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Today's Hours: 
CLOSED
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

"Planet X"

Written by Paul Sutter on Tuesday, 06 September 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

COSI team member Michael Humphrey asked me via email: is there any truth to the so-called "Planet X"?

Answer for the impatient: No.

Answer for those who don't even know what I'm talking about:

Every once in awhile rumors start swirling, bouncing from ear to ear and facebook feed to facebook feed, about a giant planet in the outer reaches of the solar system, careening sunward with one goal on its gaseous mind: death to Earth.

I mean, of course it's not true, because, you know, astronomers might've told you. But what's more interesting than a nonsensical rumor is its origins.

It's true that we don't know much about the outer solar system. It's large and it's dark, and like that one corner of your basement you never get around to sorting through, we're pretty sure it's just full of junk. We're constantly learning new things - for example, there are indeed some slight hints of a brand new giant planet waaay out there, but if it is out there it's staying out there.

There have also been some studies that tried to find a regular pattern in the extinction record on Earth, and posited that a giant outer planet would disturb a new batch of comets every few million years. Turns out there aren't regular patterns in the extinction record, but hey we tried.

The point is that while there are still spacey mysteries in our own back 40, it doesn't meant they have to be bad things.

"The Human Radio"

Written by Paul Sutter on Tuesday, 30 August 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

Humans emit radio waves. It's true! And you can prove it.

You know that old rusting unused satellite dish sitting on top of your roof? Just take it down and hook it up to some cheap electronics. Voila, you have a telescope! I, uh, might be skipping some details here. Anyway, you can point it at anything warm and it will start bleeping and blooping. The sun, trees, and even people.

It's called the "itty bitty telescope", and is a great demo to introduce people to the wild and wonderful world of radio astronomy. People emit mostly infrared radiation - this is how night vision goggles work so well - but they also emit a little bit of radio waves. And the satellite dish on your roof is sensitive to those same radio wavelengths.

All sorts of of other stuff in the universe emts radio waves too: stars blowing up, stars being born, gas falling into black holes, auroras on Saturn, the works. And radio is super-useful because it lets us see through any clouds of gas and dust that might be in the way.

If you're curious for more (and I know you are), just wait. I was awarded a small grant to produce a short planetarium film on this subject, and we recently finished filming some interviews with tons of help from Ty Owen. Stay tuned...

"Camp COSI"

Written by Paul Sutter on Monday, 22 August 2016. Posted in From The Desk of...The Chief Scientist

One of the things I had lacking in my early educational development was direct interaction with science experts. Sure, we had firefighters and DARE cops, and those visit were great, but not a lot of scientists swung by, and they certainly didn't do activities with us.

That probably contributed to the fact that I didn't realize that "being a scientist" was an actual career path until my early 20's. I know, I know, I'm a slow learner.

So it's a good thing that I was able to work with Kevin, Becca, and the rest of the Camp COSI team to bring in as many OSU experts this summer as possible.

We had virology postdocs showing how to filter river water to make it safe to drink. We had professors running LEGO car crash+safety competitions. We had grad students showing kids how to do make-your-own 3D drawings. Camp kids got to play with owl wings, fossils, UV lights, the works.

Combined with the already-excellent Camp programming, I'm sure the kids had a fun time and learned something useful along the way. And hopefully they realized that "being a scientist" can be an actual job...

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