Distillations Blog

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

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.

Science and Disability
August 18, 2017

Scientists with disabilities have frequently faced intolerance and prejudice in their careers. A new project at the Institute’s Center for Oral History seeks to tell their stories.

The Appeal of Hot Air
August 04, 2017

In trying to separate fact from fiction, writer Natalie Jacewicz gets caught up in a century-old, pseudoscientific web of lies and false hope.

Science Fiction or Fictional Science?
July 21, 2017

How science fiction has influenced the lives and work of many STEM professionals.

How Drinking Beer Is in Our DNA: An Interview with Jessica Zinskie
June 30, 2017

An interest in the pharmacological nature of food led Jessica Zinskie, a postdoctoral researcher at Rowan University, to study the genetics of yeast and the evolution of beer.

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.