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Arizona SciTech Blog

This blog is courtesy of the Arizona SciTech Festival.

When you hear the very first seconds of The Beatles' "Let It Be" or Debussy's "Clair de Lune," you'll know what songs they are by their famous first chords. But what makes those chords, or groups of notes played together, sound so wonderful? Why do some chords sound not as pleasant as others? The answer lies in math. Centuries ago, the Greeks found out that the ratio of string lengths to each other determine "good" and "bad" sound: "If the lengths of the strings were in ratios of small whole numbers, such as 2:1 (an octave), 3:2 (fifths), or 5:4 (a third)" then that is when chords made by strings will sound "pleasant." What's interesting to see is that if you look at a guitar, you'll notice that the string's overall length, thickness, and even tension are different from eachother. These differences, along with the proper string setup of course, are all related to math, and are what help to make instruments such as the guitar make such beautiful music! What a wonder math is! 

*Source: "Ask Dr. Math: The Math Forum @Drexel University." http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/52320.html

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

Great STEM minds were not all born in the 20th century. Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier was born in 1768 and orphaned at age 9. Educated by the Benedictines, and surviving the French revolution and Reign of Terror he found himself with returning from Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition in 1801 with an ink pressed copy of the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs by using the Greek and Coptic letters also on the stone. READ MORE.

Fourier was both a mathematician and a physicist. He began by experimenting with the transmission of heat. His innovations include mathematics applied to the physics of heat conduction. The two most important were the use of partial differential equations and dimensional analysis. Determining that a planet the size of the Earth could not be warmed by just the incoming solar radiation, he believed that the atmosphere must be an insulator. This was the first proposal of what we now call the greenhouse effect. His mechanism if heat convection is used today.

He is most famous for the theorem that bears his name, the Fourier Theorem. The theorem states that an infinite series of periodic waves such as Sine waves or Cosine waves can be added together to form any shape whether regular like a triangular wave or irregular like a random squiggle. Circles can also be used. The resulting Fourier Transform is used over a wide range of current applications: voice recognition, optics, radio, animation, music, quantum physics and medical body scans to name a few.

The huge benefit of the Fourier transformation is that it can compress the huge number of data points needed, for instance, to present a digital color photograph into a much smaller data set. The most common picture data set is a JPEG file that comes out of your camera as a photo.jpg. I was attending my wife’s high school class reunion a couple of decades ago and I got to talking with a husband of one of her classmates. It turned out that he had worked for the air force space program when we started sending up spy satellites in the late 1950’s. We needed to send digital photos back to Earth immediately, but did not have the bandwidth capacity in the early days of space flight. His team was responsible for the “crash” effort to create the Fourier techniques to compress the digital images. Their work resulted in JPEG that we all use. The follow on audio/video technology became known as MPEG that produces the MP3’s we enjoy.

Not a bad set of accomplishments for a poor orphan from the city of Auxerre, France.

Check out:

http://tinyurl.com/FourierAndHomer For a demo of how JPEG works.

http://tinyurl.com/blogMathTrick-for-JPEG-MPEG For a more complete description of Fourier techniques.

STEM Matters Coordinator: Marisa Ostos 

Fish are fascinating creatures, from the giant whale shark to the tiny neon tetra, and will often have some neat hidden talents. Did you know that fish carry small pits on different parts of their bodies, called chemoreceptors, which help them to both smell and taste? Did you also know that some fish use their swim bladder, which they use for buoyancy, to hear?

Source: Samantha Henrickson, Curator, Rainforest Cafe

Autora invitada: Carmen Cornejo, Coordinadora de Audiencias Hispanas, AZ SciTech Fest & Dueña de Criticalmassc.com

Nosotros que apoyamos la ciencia, la tecnología, la ingeniería y las matemáticas (STEM por sus siglas en inglés) estamos conscientes de la importancia de STEM en la educación y los beneficios que estas aéreas traen a la economía de Arizona, la deEstados Unidos de América y su futuro. Nosotros nos esforzamos para invitar estudiantes a sumergirse en estas aéreasque traerán conocimientos nuevos y oportunidades mejores de trabajo en sus futuros. Nuestras comunidades están llevando a cabo grandes esfuerzos en este aspecto, pero para poder ser inclusivos y aprovechar toda la creatividad disponible, debemos poner esfuerzos para incluir comunidades que frecuentemente tienen baja representación en áreas de STEM.

Las mujeres, las personas con discapacidades, los afroamericanos, los hispanos, y los nativo-americanos no tienen los números necesarios de individuos involucrados en campos de STEM, donde necesitamos sus visiones del futuro y sus contribuciones. Nosotros entendemos que un campo de conocimiento es exitoso si incluye oportunidades para todos.Esto es especialmente crítico para Arizona, que se convertirá pronto en un estado de mayoría minoritaria, donde la composición de la población joven, nuestro mercado laboral del futuro, es diferente a la de las generaciones pasadas.

Cómo podemos ayudar a incorporar a todos en los campos de STEM? Teniendo maravillosos programas a nivel estatal como el Festival SciTech de Arizona (AZSciTechFest), el cual inspira a individuos de todas las edades y niveles a considerar a entrar aáreas de STEM, es uno de los componentes de éxito a la par del trabajo de nuestras instituciones educativas, desde kínder hasta el 12º grado y siguiendo hasta la universidad, proveyendo el rigor académico necesario para el éxito. Investigadores de educación en STEM han señalado la importancia de establecerprogramas específicos que trabajen con poblaciones de bajarepresentación. Aquí en Arizona tenemos grandes organizaciones e individuos que dedican sus esfuerzos en hacer que la buena nueva de STEM llegue a todos.

Esos esfuerzos son reportados en las noticias y nos hacen sentirnos orgullosos. Demuestran que cada estudiante, no importa de donde venga puede enfocarse en alcanzar metas altas y puede lograrlo todo…con un poco de ayuda de la comunidad.

Guest Author: Carmen Cornejo, Hispanic Market Liaison, AZ SciTech Fest & Principle, Criticalmassc.com

We STEM supporters are aware of the importance of STEM education and the benefits it brings to Arizona’s economy and that of America and its future. We strive to invite students to dive into the areas that will bring incredible knowledge and stronger job opportunities for their future. Great efforts and programs have being initiated in our communities but in order to be inclusive and tap all the creativeness and ingenuity available to us, we must allocate efforts to include often unrepresented communities in STEM education.

Women, people with disabilities, African American, Hispanics, and Native Americans do not have the numbers of individuals involved in many STEM fields where we need their visions for the future and contributions. We understand a successful field is one that is inclusive with opportunities for all.

This is especially critical for Arizona, which is set to become a minority majority state soon where the make-up of the young population, our future labor force, is different than previous generations.

How can we help to incorporate everybody into STEM fields? Having wonderful statewide programs like the Arizona SciTech Festival, which inspires individuals at all ages and levels to consider and enter STEM fields, is one of the components for success along with the work of our educational institutions, from K-12 all the way to college, providing the instruction and academic rigor needed to succeed. Researchers of STEM education point out the importance of setting specific outreach programs that target specific underrepresented populations. Here in Arizona we have great organizations and individuals who dedicate their efforts to share the gospel of STEM to all.

These efforts make the news s and make us all proud. They demonstrate that every student, no matter where she or he is or where he/she comes from can set their minds to achieving higher goals and expectations and can accomplish anything… with a little help from the community.

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

The news this month includes the passing of 96 year old Maxine Greene, a leading educational theorist at Columbia Teachers College. She was a progressive thinker that believed the most effective path to learning was “creative thinking and vivid imaging.” The core of her belief was that “the color, glimmer and sound” of the arts were an essential part of learning. She wanted her students to engage the world both as it is and what it could be.

Her use of the Thoreauvian “wide-awakeness,” hampered our struggle to avoid our electronic inputs so we can focus. We all try to avoid wasting hours on YouTube or turn off our devices for a day but to no avail. Two thirds of our work force cannot focus on one specific job. The answer may be found in our young children.

They are learning and doing at a prodigious rate. What’s their method?


  1. Secure place so they can be absorbed in one thing without outside distractions or demands;
  2. Narrow focus on the current obsession;
  3. Not being self-consciousness, they ignore the little narratives found in our older heads and experience life directly.


The shelf of books between “wide-awakeness” and “art of focus” has many other titles. But the most important take away for STEM students and practitioners is three fold:


  • Put the creativity driver of STEAM into STEM;
  • Create a steam age environment of quiet, expect when your obsession sounds the whistle;
  • Immerse yourself into your self-made center of the universe and let creativity fly.




Bruce Weber, “Maxine Greene, 96, Dies: Education Theorist Saw Arts as Essential,” The New York Times, June 3, 2014
David Brooks, “The Art of Focus,” The New York Times, June 3, 2014

Editor: Marisa Ostos 

We've often heard that our thoughts can influence our behavior, but can our behavior influence our thoughts? Science certainly points in a "yes" direction. The "Facial Feedback Hypothesis" states that our facial expressions can influence how we feel. In a study called the "Pen study," people were told to hold a pen in their mouths so that their lips didn't touch the pen. Without knowing it, the participants' mouth-shape reflected a smile. Then, while still holding the pen between their teeth, the participants were told to rate a funny cartoon that they were shown. Low and behold, the participants whose expression reflected a smile found the cartoon to be much funnier than the ones who weren't made to hold the pen in this manner. In a similar study called the "Headset study," participants were told to listen to a speech while they either moved their head up and down (unaware that they were actually nodding) or kept their heads still. The ones who "nodded" tended to agree more with the speech that they listened to! Isn't that something? It's a wonder to think about just how much our actions can influence our thought-processes and feelings. Perhaps on those off-days, or even the on-days, try a smile. It may help to brighten your mood!

[*Source: Mae, Lynda. "Lecture 8: The Cognitive Approach." Arizona State University. 24 Jun 2014. Online Presentation.]

Guest Author: John Drury, president/creative director, Ideality, Inc.

I love the movies. They are the perfect blend of technology and art, storytelling and science. French inventor Louis Lumiere is credited with the creation of the motion picture camera in 1885. Thomas Edison brought us the Kinetoscope and subsequently the Vitascope projector which really began movie viewing by the masses in America. Motion picture film is the ideal method to promote STEM / STEAM education because of its seamless connection of art & science. I viewed the documentary movie, “Particle Fever” recently. It’s about the history and creation of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and the experiments in search of the “God particle.” A movie about physics that is totally engaging, entertaining and inspiring!

What do you think is the drive behind man’s innate urge to understand the world around you? (PF)

“As Savas says at the end of the film, the pursuit of these things, (Science & Art) not really necessary for survival, are what make us human. There is a continuous line, beginning with the first symbolic representation of our “environment” with the cave paintings at Chauvet, to the sophisticated equations of physics that we think describe the deepest, inner workings of the universe. Fabiola quotes Dante as well about this: “There is something fundamental about this that distinguishes us from animals. Man has always tried to make sense of the world around him and to understand his place in a vast universe.”

(Excerpt from article on Particle Fever)

https://www.facebook.com/ParticleFever; http://particlefever.com/; http://home.web.cern.ch/ 


Editor:  Marisa Ostos

When you think of whirlpools, you may imagine a swirling maelstrom (the largest whirlpools) faced by Odysseus in "The Odyssey" or Captain Nemo in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." But what is the science behind these fascinating works of wonder? Whirlpools can be seen in the ocean as a swirl of rotating water around a certain point and can be caused by a number of reasons: the "meeting of opposite currents" that swirl around eachother, winds that cause the current on the surface to switch direction, and even physical characteristics of the water such as differences in temperature and salinity. Some of the largest whirlpools, called malestroms, are famous because of their size and longevity, including the Moskstraumen off the Norway coast or the Naruto Whirlpool near Japan. Of course, most whirlpools are quite small and can be hardly visible, but regardless, they can be quite fascinating to watch (from a safe distance of course)! 

[*Source: "What is a Whirlpool?"]

Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.

It seems like there is a procedure for everything. For creativity we work and work on a problem or idea and then take a break or sleep on it. BINGO…the solution appears from nowhere. In the 1960s my group of engineers even tried auto-hypnosis with mixed results. The breakthrough idea does not come from quantitative world of mathematics. Logic can find and describe the problem and be used to implement the solution. But unique solutions seem to come from creative intuition, the mainstay of the arts. It may come from far outside the domain of the current problem.

In the late 1950s my engineering capstone course had a design problem of putting the Physics Department at MIT (massive building with stone columns) into orbit and safely returning it to earth. The professors wanted us to ignore orders of magnitude while we wrestled with our slide-rules and got creative. Putting it into orbit was straight forward and stone makes a pretty good heat shield for reentry. But how would I bring it in for a safe landing? Then I remembered that during a summer job at Goodyear Aircraft an Inflatoplane was flying around the plant. Goodyear engineers had taken their inflatable airship and carpet making technology and invented inflatable wings that would be collapsed in a canvas carry bag. Voila! My rock based physics department would sprout inflated wings and glide to a landing. I then capped the capstone by using my boyhood skills to build a model of the reentry configuration.

Academics of math, science, technology and engineering with their drill and practice are crucial as a foundation for creativity. But this knowledge is only a foundation. True success comes when you are able to use this foundation to implement you creative ideas. Creativity is hard to teach but proliferates outside a classroom setting. Do not miss opportunities to practice your creative side.

I wanted to be an artist but mom, with her infinite wisdom, set me on an engineering pathway, bless her soul. I prospered. About twenty years later I was between high tech enterprises and decided to take an art class at Mesa Community College. I recaptured my earlier skills and turn out some decent still-life paintings. Then our professor tacked strips of cloth and ties on a board and told us to paint that. I loosened up and started painting from instinct. The class ended shortly and left the unfinished painting, and forgot about it. Six months later my teacher called me and said, “Come by pick up your painting. I won best of show over 300 others!”

The most rewarding life is to roam back and forth between academics and creativity. Let your calling be your guide. Being at an age where I am post-gainful employment I no longer have the enterprise world of creativity driven innovation. In its place I have turned to my boyhood passion of control line model aircraft. I study the hobby/sport for new ideas to support my designs, building and flying. What fun!