6 under-the-radar science stories we should cover?

Energy, physics and brain chemistry.

These are the science topics most requested for coverage on The Daily Circuit by scientists and engineers in our Public Insight Network.

We’ve got physicist Brian Cox lined up for February 24. I’ll let you know when we line up a conversation about neuroscience or the possibilities of hydrogen fuel.

Meanwhile, here are 6 lesser-known stories nominated for further examination by PIN members:

1. The use of rare earth elements in electronics. Kent Cavender-Bares of Saint Paul asked, “Will we run out? Will China corner the market?”

2. “Xcel’s experimental installation of a sodium-sulfur battery in southwestern Minnesota — if it works — is a game changer,” wrote Daniel Burbank. “It could potentially eliminate the need to back-up wind generation capacity with, for example, a gas turbine peaking plant.”

turbine.jpg MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

3. “Diatom analysis. You are familiar with scientists coring down through glaciers to examine eons of ice layers and the gas bubbles trapped in them?” asked Steve Woods of Shoreview. “This is the equivalent but takes place in the sediments of lakes. Scientists are (usually) able to pull up a core of lake sediments and analyze the algae species present to estimate the species and abundance of micro-plant life present over the decades. It is a retro-estimate of what the historical water quality REALLY was.”

4. Biomimicry “for finding solutions to engineering and product development problems” captures the imagination of Stephen Thompson of Lakeville.

5. Todd Burlet of Maple Grove said, “I’m fascinated by the “sunshine to petrol” project underway at Sandia National Laboratory . The project uses solar energy to convert CO2 into liquid fuel. How cool is that?”

6. Alex Egan of Minneapolis studies coastal rock pools. “It is a relatively unknown system that has the potential to indicate abiotic changes in the environment based on how ecological communities are impacted,” he wrote.

tidal pool.JPG Photo by drothamel via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License

Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • A. Kizilos

    Physics, physics and more physics. There are many related videos on the subjects you are considering(Charlie Rose had a series on the brain, which would be hard to top. UCLA Berkeley has a great course on quantum mechanics that you can see, etc etc). You ought to go deeper, closer to the real mysteries of reality, closer to the interface of matter and time and a transcendent reality. I tried with my suggestions, but it seems that either no one else cares about the topics, or you have no interest, or you don’t dare to discuss anything that cannot be measured. I hope you reconsider. In any case, you are fishing in a very small pond, if these are the topics you choose.

  • Terry D Welander

    The big picture, even though rarely used, is nearly everything. In real life you can not have economy without political. Or political economy is not separable; even though at least thousands have tried, and all tried separations have been distractions. In the big picture, physics does not exist without chemistry. Anyone who does not think so is creating distractions; to be avoided as much as possible.

    Or, anyone who has actually learned physics and/or chemistry knows that if you are chasing anything that can not be measured, you are probably wasting your time and most likely other people’s time because there is little or no productive output with non measurables. Productivity is what our capitalistic system rewards; even though our governments at all levels have become nearly clueless. Mailaise, mailaise, mailaise. We already have tons of it; we do not need any more with more non measurables. The beauty of the measurables pond is it just keeps getting bigger and bigger exponentially according Dr. Moore and Moore’s Law. Anybody with the intellect and tenacity who has learned the basic realities of the universe as shown through physics and chemistry is welcome in the pool of measurables. No excuses or distractions needed.