Distillations Blog

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

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.

Going Viral
May 12, 2017

How do virologists stop something that is ubiquitous and deadly?

The Message of the March for Science
April 28, 2017

Photos from the March for Science in Philadelphia, in which protesters sent a clear message to the Trump adminstration.

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.

No Real Distinction
April 07, 2017

Reflecting on the inherent scientific nature of Miroslav Holub’s poetry, in honor of National Poetry Month.

The Foul Stench of Smelling Good
March 24, 2017

Catch another whiff of our March podcast, as we ask people why they started using deodorant.

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?

Waging War on Immigration and Science
February 23, 2017

Remembering a Holocaust survivor, immigrant, and inventor. Will changes to U.S. immigration policy make such a story a thing of the past?

Figues de Solliès by Mon Œil
The Joy of Cooking
February 06, 2017

An early dietitian set out to prove that vegetarian cooking was good for the body. Others who followed tried to show it could be tasty and even good for the soul.

The Alchemist in His Study with a Woman Making Lace
The Art Detective
January 09, 2017

How do art historians know who painted a work of art and when it was painted? For the Institute’s Elisabeth Berry Drago, the answer is hidden in the details.

Smog in Tiananmen Square
Is the Smog Out?
December 21, 2016

The Institute’s Christy Schneider reflects on air pollution, health, and science.

A Google self-driving car on the streets of Mountain View, California, 2016.
Creative Computers
December 09, 2016

Computers can give you the weather forecast and call you a cab home. But can they tell you a story?

Lee Berry with Ambler interviewee Victor Romano.
Tips for Recording Your Family History
November 28, 2016

Has someone in your family led an interesting life? You can help them tell their story. Lee Sullivan Berry, the Institute’s curator of oral histories, explains how.

A 16th-century engraving of an alchemist adding a scorpion to a mixture. (Wellcome Library)
The Language of Alchemy
November 14, 2016

Alchemists once wrote of chaos, dragons, and spirits, but did they know more about chemistry than we give them credit for?

Still Life
October 31, 2016

Behind the scenes of Philadelphia’s taxidermy scene.

A totally inaccurate depiction of Andrew Mangravite’s affliction. (Wellcome Library)
“What’s In the Box?”
October 17, 2016

Andrew Mangravite learns that archival work can be surprisingly dangerous.

A female weta specimen from the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
A Close Encounter of the Third Kind
October 03, 2016

Sometimes archivists, as Andrew Mangravite found, get more than they bargain for.

A cover for the 1980 Atari 2600 game Space Invaders.
Where Is Everybody?
September 19, 2016

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been going on for decades, but so far no one has found anything. As the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi once asked, where is everybody?

a French shampoo ad from 1907
Beauty Marks
September 05, 2016

Who’s responsible for regulating beauty products that lead to less-than-beautiful results?