Distillations Blog

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

Jennifer Doudna gives the 2018 Ullyot lecture.
What We’re Talking About
November 30, 2018

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

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.

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.

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.

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 Covert Success Story
June 22, 2017

In the 1950s, a devious oil company created a television show to flatter industrialists and win their business.

Things Fall Apart: An Interview with Exhibition Curator Elisabeth Berry Drago
June 09, 2017

Exploring the science behind decay through the Institute’s new exhibition and Old City walking tour.

A Tear Gas Tale
May 26, 2017

How tear gas made the transition from wartime weapon to domestic police tool.

Learning to Move with Move to Learn
April 21, 2017

University of Delaware researchers are using inexpensive, low-tech solutions to help infants with movement disorders.

Grindhouse Wetware’s Northstar device in 2015.
Hacking Humans
March 08, 2017

Dissatisfied with the limitations of the human body, some people are modifying themselves with electronic compasses and magnetic implants. But are they adding anything that the average smartphone can’t already do?

Mephistopheles and Faust play chess
How to Tie with AI
August 22, 2016

Artificially intelligent programs are playing board games better than humans ever could. Is it possible to design a board game that can stump even the smartest computer?