Distillations Blog

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

Image of microscope from Robert Hooke's "Micrographia : or, Some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses," 1665.
Through the Lens of Disability
November 08, 2018

What possibilities might we be ignoring when we unquestioningly privilege sight as the primary pathway to knowledge about the natural world?

Panamanian postage stamp commemorating Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prize
What We’re Talking About
October 26, 2018

Science History Institute staff recommends articles and blog posts from around the web to add to your binge lists.

Roger Eadley-Pryor takes a guided kayak tour of the Schuylkill River led by Drexel chemistry professor Pete DeCarlo and University of Pennsylvania environmental humanities professor Bethany Wiggin.
Imagining a Way Forward
October 12, 2018

In a time of social, political, and environmental uncertainty, how do we imagine the future?

Isaac Newton stamp
Book Club: Catching Criminals with Isaac Newton
September 28, 2018

Isaac Newton invented calculus, deciphered gravity, and authored two immortal scientific treatises. Did he also fight crime?

Plate No. 20 Poisonous Reptiles and Insects
What We’re Talking About
August 30, 2018

Science History Institute staff recommends articles and blog posts from around the web to add to your binge lists.

Helitrim trimming potentiometers on the moon
The Folly of the Martian Back-Up Plan
August 17, 2018

Why resources spent building a colony on the red planet would be a waste of money.

Book Club: Simultaneous Discovery and Darwin’s Ghosts
August 06, 2018

Does Darwin deserve the credit for the theory of evolution, knowing what we know now about his predecessors?

What We’re Talking About
July 20, 2018

Science History Institute staff recommends articles, videos, and blog posts from around the web to add to your summer binge lists.

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.

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