Distillations Blog

The Distillations Blog is the place for regular updates from the intersections of science, culture, and history.

WikiSpeaks: What It Means to Be a Wikipedian in Residence
July 06, 2018

Mary Mark Ockerbloom, the Science History Institute’s expert on all things Wikipedia, discusses the ways in which the site has changed and improved.

It’s Nothing New: Sexism in the Lab
June 22, 2018

Why the recent findings of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine are enlightening, even if they aren't surprising.

RHex marches up a dune in Pismo Beach, California, carrying a mechanical sensor that scrapes the dune’s surface to detect how much force is needed for the wind to pick up grains of sand.
Thinking on Your Feet—or with Them
June 08, 2018

Would you be able to walk, think, or react without a nervous system? University of Pennsylvania engineering student Sonia Roberts explores this question while building robots inspired by real animals.

Book Club: Frankenstein in the 21st Century
May 18, 2018

Frankenstein was unleashed on the literary world 200 years ago, but its message still has relevance to everything from gene editing to Facebook.

Age of Alchemy: Curator Elisabeth Berry Drago Discusses Exhibition Highlights and Myth Busting in Alchemy’s Golden Age
May 04, 2018

In the Science History Institute’s new exhibition Age of Alchemy, paintings, scientific instruments, and more showcase the alchemical quest to transform the human body and the natural world.

The Mystery of Yellow Rain
April 13, 2018

After the Vietnam War a mysterious yellow substance rained down from the skies of Southeast Asia. Was it a chemical weapon or something stranger?

Cat Craze
March 23, 2018

Do cats mess with your brain?

Carleen Hutchins: Rogue Luthier
March 09, 2018

Eschewing tradition, some instrument makers are redefining what a violin, viola, or cello is.

Putting the Communication Back in Science Communication: An Interview with the Field Museum’s Emily Graslie
February 16, 2018

What it means to be the chief curiosity correspondent at the Field Museum in Chicago.

What’s in a Logo?
February 02, 2018

How John Dalton’s early atomic theory led to the Science History Institute’s new logo. 

Braving the Elements: Why Mendeleev Left Russian Soil for American Oil
January 19, 2018

The story behind a rare work in our collection by the father of the periodic table.

Chemistry in Your Coffee Mug
January 05, 2018

Too much coffee actually can kill you, but that’s not the most important thing about the chemistry of coffee.

The Elements of Fiction
December 15, 2017

How fiction helps science intersect with culture.

Fit as a Fiddle: The Remarkable Lives of Cremonese Violins
December 01, 2017

About half of the 1,100 instruments hand-crafted by the famous Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari were lost or destroyed over the last 300 years. Should the instruments that remain be played or preserved?

The Art of Memory
November 17, 2017

A memento reveals how the demand for cheap copies of famous paintings helped democratize art ownership in the 19th century.

From STEM to STEAM: An Interview with Marion Leary
November 03, 2017

Philadelphia’s 2017 Geek of the Year on using virtual reality in resuscitation science research.

Data from Disaster
October 20, 2017

Many tragic accidents have provided unexpectedly valuable information for scientists.

Labor of Lovelace: A Children’s Introduction to a Programming Giant
October 06, 2017

Author Laurie Wallmark on Ada Lovelace.

A Legacy of Listening
September 21, 2017

Using oral history to write a historical narrative in an audio tour.

Conserving the Stories They Tell
September 08, 2017

How conservators at the 9/11 Memorial Museum care for the artifacts of trauma.