Urban Air: What’s in There?

The “mystery” of urban air is stripped away in this lively video. With clarity and delight, chemistry professor Thomas Holme looks at each of the components of air — nitrogen, oxygen, water, argon, and “other” — and demonstrates how, and under what conditions, they combine with volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) to form pollution.

Life’s Matrix: A Biology of Water Chemistry

From the nucleus of an atom to the sub-surface of Mars, this engrossing video takes a journey into water, a commonplace substance, but also “extremely profound,” says chemistry professor Michael Reddy. He starts this journey with “foreign language” lessons in the vocabulary of chemistry. Initially he works with the basic components of an atom, the proceeds to the structure of hydrogen, of oxygen, and of their combined state as a water molecule.

Ancient Arrowheads, Roman Baseball Cards, and Optical Fibers: The Many Uses of Glass

“Don’t try this at home,” warns Robert Ponton as he chews up his drinking glasss to emphasize his point that glass is completely recyclable. He then goes on to share the secret of “glass” used in the movies (sugar and Karo syrup) as well as to survey the history of real glass, from the ancient use of obsidian for tools and weapons up to the fiber optics that “make our computers talk to each other.”

The Prevailing Westerlies, The Horse Latitudes, and Doldrums: Global Air Circulation

The understanding of complex things… from simple to basic ideas is the goal Professor Greenler sets forth at the onset of this “glimpse into a process of science.” The stated subject is big-scale air circulation patterns around the earth, the hows and whys of the bands of alternating winds circling the globe, as well as a sense of their geographical and human impact, from the location of rainforests and deserts to Columbus’ discovery of the New World. But the main focus is on four ideas concerning the effects of temperature and of the earth’s rotation on air masses, and then on how these principles combine to yield further understanding.

The Mirage, The Discovery of Greenland, and The Green Flash

Fun-house mirrors (ice) castles in the air, the Biblical parting of the Red Sea, a desert Oasis and a Jules Verne novel all work together to explore the mystery of mirages, and quite likely send viewers in search of one. In “The Mirage, the Discovery of Greenland, and the Green Flash,” physicist Robert Greenler uses a lively and entertaining mixture of diagrams, pictures, and demonstrations to explain the how and why of a natural phenomenon that has intrigued and influenced humans throughout time.

Sunlight and Ice Crystals in the Skies of Antarctica

What does the well-dressed scientist wear in Antarctica? (Many layers.) How does that researcher live in an environment where ice and air are the only naturally occurring building materials? (With much logistical support.) Why conduct research at the end of the world? (Best sky effects in the world, and a fascinating place.) In answering these and many more questions, physicist Robert Greenler draws on two research seasons in Antarctica, in 1977 and, 21 years later, in 1997-98.

Red Sunsets, Black Clouds and The Blue Moon: Light Scattering in the Atmosphere

Robert Greenler — Light waves and particles in the atmosphere produce blue skies, red sunsets, white and black clouds, and the rare blue moon. An understanding of the physical origins of such processes, claims physicist Robert Greenler, enhances a person’s sense of awe and appreciation, giving fresh eyes with which to see and enjoy the familiar. With this goal in mind, he combines a delightful mix — of poetry, lasers, diagrams, photographs, shades of white/ gray, and ingenious but simple demonstrations — to explain and show how light waves are scattered in the atmosphere.

Erratic Rocks & Cream City Bricks: Building Milwaukee From the Ground Down

The geological history of a city, starting at the surface with modern buildings constructed from local materials and going down six football field lengths to bedrock, and back six hundred million years in time, comes alive in this illustrated video. Geologist Norman Lasca also demonstrates the tools and methods by which a geologist gathers data and identifies the layers of deposits in an area, and how this information is used to produce 2- and 3-dimensional models of the geological make-up of the area.

Folding, Flooding and Faulting: How the Earth Is Shaped

Picture a bathtub with the drain open and the faucet going, geologist Norman Lasca suggests, to better understand how the watertable and soil conditions interact under conditions of potential flooding. Later in “Folding, Flooding and Faulting: How the Earth is Shaped” he compares the rumpled effect of pushing the sheet of a bed to the folding of the earth’s materials under heat and pressure, into hills and villages. Throughout his presentation Dr. Lasca takes the complex processes involved in flooding and in mountain-building and breaks them down into their individual components.

Alien Invaders: Exotic Species in the Food Web of the Great Lakes

Biologist Arthur Brooks in this lecture highlights the interplay of human activity and its impact on the Great Lakes ecosystem over a 200-year period. Utilizing diagrams and high-speed photography, Professor Brooks also discusses the food web of the Great Lakes and gives numerous examples of how exotic species alter the balance within an ecosystem.

From Rock to Sand to Muck: All The Dirt On Soils

Soil, the loose unconsolidated material which we take for granted at the surface of the earth, will never again seem ordinary after “From Rock To Sand To Muck: All The Dirt On Soils.” Geologist Norman Lasca literally gets his hands into his subject as he works with what he calls “one of the most important resources we have on the planet.”

From Rock to Sand: The Life History of a Sand Grain

Primal forces are at work in geologist Norm Lasca‘s re-creation of the dramatic story of the history of a grain of sand, most common of substances. He starts with pictures of beaches worldwide and then moves to a large diagram of the rock cycle, a reference point throughout as he examines each of the stages involved.

Water, Water Everywhere, And Sometimes Ice & Steam

Arthur Brooks engages the audience in a skillful and fast-paced mix of discussion and demonstration. He begins with a detailed examination of the chemistry of water, using charts, diagrams, and styrofoam models. His demonstrations include a miniature recreation of the Hindenburg explosion, how salt acts on roads in the winter, and many more.

On the Trail of the Thick-Skulled Dinosaur

How do we know what dinosaurs really looked like? How do we know where to find dinosaur fossils? Or, as geologist Emily Giffin asks in “On the Trail of the Thick-Skulled Dinosaur,” how do you find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for? In answering these questions, she brings fresh focus to a well-known subject and also demonstrates the process of scientific inquiry in a spirited, informative and accessible manner.

Chaos and Fractal Forms: Irregularity in Nature

Anastatsios Tsonis — New expanding ways of looking at the nature of things abound in this lively discussion of the order/disorder that governs out world. “Chaos and Fractal Forms: Irregularity in Nature” looks at a specialized and growing field of computer-based research whose applications touch all aspects of life.

Sleuthing the Arctic for a Missing Glacier

Norman Lasca — How science works is as much the focus of this video as is a scientific detective story, one possible only now that the former Soviet Arctic is open to exploration. This search for a "lost" glacier, first hypothesized in the 19th century by famed naturalist Louis Agassiv, re-creates a 4,000-mile journey via nuclear-powered icebreaker across the Arctic from Kola Peninsula to the Bering Straits as two modern-day geologists track "clues" to support a theory that runs counter to "received wisdom."

Digestion: A Tough, Dirty Job, It Takes a Lot of Guts

Zoologist Donna Van Wynseberghe conducts a journey through the unseen workings of a system we utilize day after day and from the first moments of “Digestion: A Tough Dirty Job, It Takes a Lot of Guts,” she makes the familiar both fascinating and informative. A viewer will come away with a clearer idea of the digestive process and of nutrition, material that Van Wynsberghe dispenses with wit and lightness.