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Science

Im not a scientist and I don’t play one on TV. Nonetheless, I think science is undervalued in America. I believe the typical American takes science for granted, thinks science owes them something and figures they’ll never understand what scientists are saying.

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

For starters, science isn’t just about trying to create the best iPhone, the highest quality and thinnest televisions, or medicines that act like magic bullets, destroying evil in our cells or our DNA without damaging the healthy ones.

Science often starts with a question. Why or how does something work? And, perhaps, if we change something about the way it works, does it get better or worse? The conclusions scientists draw when they solve one puzzle leads to the next set of questions.

It’s as if a child asks his parent if he can go west and the parent says, “No, don’t go west, but here are the keys to the car.”

The answer may seem like a non sequitur, but it’s also a way to navigate somewhere new, even if, for whatever reason, the car isn’t supposed to go west. Maybe, by learning more about the car and where it can go, the child also learns what’s so forbidding about going west, too.

We want science to succeed and we’re annoyed when science doesn’t solve our problems. We can’t get something to work or we can’t get ourselves to work and we blame scientists. After all, if we can send a man to the moon, why can’t we conquer the morning rush hour or the common cold?

Then again, how does the study of dark matter — neutrinos or sphingolipids — affect our morning commute? We may not understand these areas, but that doesn’t mean basic knowledge can’t or won’t lead to advances we can’t anticipate.

Knowledge, as we know, is power. If we know, for example, that an enemy is planning an attack and we know where and how that attack will occur, we can defend ourselves, even if that enemy exists at a subcellular level.

Learning the playbook of the enemy takes time, which technological innovation, dedicated researchers and people battling against a disease often don’t have.

Worst of all, though, science is somehow too hard to understand. That is a defeatist conclusion. Yes, scientists use technical terms as shorthand and, yes, they may not be selling ideas or themselves in the kind of carefully crafted tones often reserved for CEOs or politicians.

That, however, doesn’t mean they are planting a keep-out sign in front of them or their ideas. While scientists reduce a question to an attainable goal, they also often keep a larger goal in mind.

A few years ago, my daughter had to draw a picture of what she thought a scientist looked like. Rather than imagine a person in a white lab coat with one pocket full of pens and the other holding a radiation badge, she drew a baby.

Science may be frustrating because scientists often come across as uncertain. For example, they might say, “We believe that the shadow in our telescope may be caused by an exoplanet orbiting a star that’s outside the solar system, and which is the same distance from its nearest star as Earth is from the sun.”

Scientists can be wrong, just as anyone can be wrong in their job, in their opinions or in their conclusions. That, however, doesn’t make science wrong. Scientists are often most excited when a discovery they make defies their expectations or bucks conventional wisdom.

Just because conventional scientific wisdom changes doesn’t mean every part of it is wrong.

Science doesn’t have all the answers and it never will. The most likely person to tell you that, though, should be a scientist, not a journalist.

Hundreds of residents gather at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center to learn about Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

More than 100 years after his great-grandfather designed and oversaw the construction of Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe laboratory in Shoreham, Sebastian White, a renowned physicist and St. James native, filled a local lecture hall to discuss all things surrounding the Serbian-American inventor.

White, whose famous ancestor Stanford White’s architectural achievements include Washington Square Arch, the original Madison Square Garden and what is now the Tesla Science Center, took time out of his busy schedule as a particle physicist for CERN — the European Organization for Nuclear Research — to engage a roomful of science lovers Aug. 27.

The presentation was in conjunction with the center’s summer-long Tesla exhibit in Stony Brook and ended with a screening of clips from “Tower to the People,” a documentary made by a local filmmaker about the laboratory.

The physicist, and chairman of the Tesla Science Center’s Science Advisory Board, examined the litany of Tesla influences in modern-day technology and the late-19th century culture that helped shape his genius.

Dr. Sebastian White, the great-grandson of Nikola Tesla’s architect Stanford White, discuss the importance of inventor Nikola Tesla and his work. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Today it’s very clear that Tesla is trending in much of the science that’s showing up, such as wireless transmission of energy, which is a new field, and the Tesla car, but I think we shouldn’t only remember him for what he did, but also the incredible time in America he became part of,” White told the 130 residents packed into the lecture hall on the top floor at The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center. “I think the story of Tesla, who many of my colleagues don’t even know, is an important one as it tells us how we got to where we are.”

White explained how Tesla’s grand vision for wireless transmission of energy, which eventually culminated in a torn-down tower on the Shoreham site in 1917, remains a much-pursued concept.

“There’s a very lively industry happening today, mostly because people keep forgetting to charge their iPhones and they want to find a way to do it without needing cords,” he said.

Through a process called energy harvesting, industry scientists are actively working on ways to charge cellphones while they sit inside pockets by capturing energy just from the environment.

“It’s an enormous field now — new companies are very interested in it and a lot is happening,” White said, pointing out other examples of wireless power transmissions over the years. “In 1964, on the Walter Cronkite TV show, a guy named William C. Brown demonstrated a model of an electric helicopter powered by a microwave. The United States, Canada and Japan have experimented with airplanes powered by radio waves. I would say, probably, if Tesla were around today, he’d be more happy about all the things people are inventing with new techniques rather than always quoting him and saying, ‘Well, Tesla said this.’”

White said Tesla’s emergence as one of the most influential scientific minds of all time coincided with what he referred to as “an incredibly important time” in the late 1800s, a period referred to as the American Renaissance.

Among the prolific figures with whom Tesla interacted were writer Mark Twain, physicist Ernest Rutherford, American businessman John Jacob Astor IV, and, of course, Stanford White. The physicist said a huge year for Tesla was 1892, when he lectured and demonstrated his experiments at the Institution for Electrical Engineers at the Royal Institution in London.

Residents eagerly listen and learn about the life of invetntor Nikola Tesla during a lecture. Photo by Kevin Redding

Speaking on his great-grandfather and Tesla’s friendship, which proved itself through many projects prior to Wardenclyffe, White referred to one particular exchange.

“Stanford White [once] invited Tesla to join him for an outing with William Astor Chanler, an explorer,” he recounted. “Tesla said, ‘I’m busy in the lab.’ White kept pushing him and then wrote to him, ‘I’m so delighted that you decided to tear yourself away from your laboratory. I would sooner have you on board than the Emperor of Germany or the Queen of England.’”

David Madigan, a Tesla Science Center board member, said after the lecture that having White’s perspective on this near-and-dear subject was integral.

“It’s important having Dr. White give the talk, who’s a physicist himself and whose grandfather was Stanford White, who was intimately involved in Tesla’s advancement of his many ideas both as an investor and also as an architect,” Madigan said. “It’s a good triangulation of today’s event, the Tesla exhibit, and Dr. White bringing in the scientific and family history.”

White said he has always felt a strong connection with his great-grandfather, who had a home in Smithtown, since he was  young.

“He was part of our life for sure,” he said. “We all felt very close to him. My son is an architect, my aunt and uncle were architects, my grandfather was an architect, and even continued in the same firm.”

East Setauket resident Michael Lubinsky said he was drawn to the lecture through a lifelong interest in Tesla.

“I always felt that Tesla was not appreciated that much in his time,” Lubinsky said, laughing that much of the lecture went over his head with its scientific terms.

Paul Scala, a software engineer living in Centereach, said he too gravitated to the event to explore more of Tesla’s story.

“I think [Dr. White] did a very nice job,” he said. “It’s very cool seeing that in the tech world they’re still trying to harness wireless energy.”

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is located at 5 Randall Road in Shoreham. File photo by Wenhao Ma

Shoreham’s Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is hosting the Electric Dream Expo Saturday, July 8 — a community event honoring science innovator Nikola Tesla’s 161st birthday, as well as the 100th anniversary of the dismantling of Tesla’s famous wireless transmitting tower. The Electric Dream Expo is comprised of an afternoon Science & Innovation Expo from 2 to 6 p.m. on the site of Tesla’s last existing laboratory in Shoreham, with exhibits, demonstrations, food and entertainment.

There will also be an evening of Tesla entertainment, called Summer Electrified!, from 8 to 10 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School, 250A Route 25A, Shoreham, featuring Tesla-inspired performances.

Technological innovation of the past, present and future is the expo’s theme, and attendees at the daytime Science & Innovation Expo will experience Tesla-themed exhibits and activities for all ages, including a HAM radio presentation, displays by The Museum of Interesting Things and Long Island Radio & TV Historical Society, Tesla coil exhibit, 3-D printer and robotics demos, interactive exhibits of Tesla inventions and a Tesla car display.

Tours and a special presentation of innovation will feature the history of Tesla’s 187-foot wireless transmitter tower, built on the Shoreham site in 1907 and dismantled 100 years ago. The tower’s base remains as a focal point, along with Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Laboratory, built from 1901 to 1905 by renowned architect Stanford White, and now being renovated into an immersive science and education center.

The Summer Electrified! an evening of Tesla entertainment, features ArcAttack!, a musical light show using Tesla coil technology, as well as a unique lineup of performances and readings focused on Tesla’s life and legacies.

Admission to the Science & Innovation Expo is $15 for ages 13 and over, $5 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. Tickets for the Summer Electrified! performances are $25 per person 13 and over, $12 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. Admission to both events is $35 for 13 and over, $15 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. A special price of $25 per car covers admission to the daytime Science Innovation Expo for all passengers, and is limited to the first 50 car tickets purchased. Tickets can be purchased at www.teslasciencecenter.org.

On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, members of the community young and old had the chance to get outside and exercise their imagination at the third Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire. The popular event, hosted by the Port Jefferson Maritime Explorium June 10, saw demonstrations using robots, interactive activities, exhibits and performances from various “makers” at the Village Center and outside at Harborfront Park.

The Port Jeff maker faire is a scaled down version of the larger Maker Faire brand, which hosts worldwide events similar to the one in Port Jeff. According to the Maritime Explorium’s website, more than 100 makers and 2,000 participants attended the 2016 Mini Maker Faire, and even more were projected to show up this year, although final totals were not readily available.

Some of the makers on display included Funtown Studios, which brought an interactive fireball sculpture; robotics teams from the Sachem and Smithtown school districts; electricity and magnetism demonstrations by representatives from the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham; an underwater robotic demonstration by SeaPerch; representatives from Stony Brook iCREATE, an innovation facility designed to encourage “innovation and entrepreneurial nature” of the Stony Brook University campus community; and many more.

Before the 2016 faire, Stephanie Buffa, a volunteer board member at the Explorium, explained the importance of the message of the event and the museum as a whole.

“Everything is at our fingertips,” she said in a phone interview. “If you’re sitting at the dinner table and somebody asks a question, you ‘Google’ it. It’s so easy to get answers that way…it’s so easy to get caught up in all of these pre-packaged things that we forget to sort of, do it yourself. You can be creative in so many ways. You don’t have to be a good artist and be able to draw beautiful pictures to be creative and to make things.”

Lauren Hubbard, founding president and former executive director of The Maritime Explorium, who is listed as a producer of the faire, said the day was a success, though attendance numbers are not available as of yet. She said in a phone interview the goal of the event is to show local people of all ages they have the creativity to be makers.

“It’s really about highlighting the entrepreneurial spirit,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for young people to see how that process happens, how to create something completely new.”

Chris Zenyuh.
Chris Zenyuh.

I have had the privilege of teaching high school science (biology, chemistry and physics) for the last thirty years. For the last ten years, I’ve had the additional privilege and responsibility of developing and teaching an elective we simply call “Food Science.” It’s not your usual health class dietary guidelines, nor does it rehash the familiar mantras of counting calories and exercising to balance intake. Instead, we study the cultural, historical, scientific, political and economic contexts of our food system and how that system impacts our environments, both external and internal. This in turn enables students to make much more informed decisions about what they want to put in their bodies.

When it comes to sugars, confusion is the name of the game. There are dozens of ingredients that mark the presence of sugars in our food: maltodextrin, dextrose, invert sugar, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup and starch, to name a few. Regardless of what the food industry calls them, your body sees basically three end products of their digestion: glucose, fructose and galactose. Which ones you eat, and how much, will dictate both their value and their danger to you.

You may have heard of three additional sugars — lactose, sucrose and maltose. Lactose is a combination of one glucose and one galactose. Also known as “milk sugar,” lactose is the nemesis of lactose-intolerant individuals who lack sufficient quantities of the enzyme that can digest it. Instead, bacteria that reside in their intestines get to process it, making painful amounts of gas as a by-product. Galactose can be converted to glucose in your body, but most individuals do not consume enough dairy to make this a source of concern.

Maltose is another type of sugar. It is a pairing of two glucose units and is the namesake for maltodextrin, etc. Consuming foods with maltose adds glucose to your diet — worth keeping track of as part of your total glucose consumption.

However, the most likely source of sugars in your diet is either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup. Sucrose, known also as table sugar, can be derived from sugar cane (cane sugar) or sugar beets (sugar.) Like lactose and maltose, sucrose is a paired structure, made of one glucose subunit and one fructose subunit. That is what your body absorbs regardless of the source (even organic.)

Sparing you the science behind its production, high fructose corn syrup is approximately half glucose, and half fructose too. Regardless of the marketing efforts by the Sugar Association and the Corn Refiners Association to make you believe one is better for you than the other, they end up, metabolically, in a virtual tie. Debating which to consume is a distraction from the consequences of consuming too much of either, or both.

Stock photo.

The consumption of sugar (the term is legally owned by the Sugar Association as the sole name for sucrose) used to be limited by the relative expense and difficulty in obtaining it from its tropical source. Now the record levels of corn production in America have made it relatively cheap to produce and distribute sugar’s nearly identical-tasting competitor, high fructose corn syrup. You can find it in soda for sure, but also in pickles, peanut butter, ketchup and pretty much anywhere sugar might be used for additional appeal to consumers.

This has paved the way for the combined consumption of these sweeteners to reach more than 150 pounds per year per person in America. This far surpasses the 60 pounds per year considered by some experts to be the maximum amount that can be metabolized without ill consequences including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver, cataracts, personality and cognitive dysfunction, some cancers and (by the way) obesity.

Tying glucose and fructose consumption to the metabolic consequences noted above requires further discussion. And now, you are properly prepared for those lessons. As we say in Food Science class, “Chow!”

Chris Zenyuh is a science teacher  at Harborfields High School and has been teaching for 30 years.

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Egypt has long been considered a land of mystery and magic. Above, the Magical Circle of Anubis is discussed in ‘The Golden Bough.’

By Elof Axel Carlson

In 1890 Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941) wrote “The Golden Bough.” Frazer was Scottish, educated in Glasgow and then in Cambridge studying classical literature (Greek and Roman). He studied mythology, comparative religion and anthropology. His book argues that magic gave rise to religion and religion to science.

Magic assumes there are supernatural powers that some people can invoke or possess as innate gifts. With magic, what seems impossible can be made possible, at least to the observers of magical acts. Most professional magicians deny that they possess such gifts, and Houdini spent considerable time duplicating the tricks and illusions other magicians (and charlatans) used to deceive the public.

Frazer surmises the earliest humans believed in magical acts and associated them into rituals and myths with a belief in gods, often family ancestors, mythic heroes who were founders of a tribe, clan or larger population and sky gods. He believed the idea of resurrection came from the seasonal observation that plants die, scatter seeds and in the spring a resurrection occurs. He calls this “the dying corn god.”

Religion largely replaced magic as the basis for interpreting how the world arose, how society should function and how we relate to our gods. Religion in turn led to science with mathematics replacing numerology, astronomy coming out from astrology and chemistry from alchemy. The pursuit of knowledge from pseudoscience led to a weeding out of the failed experiments and predictions and a respect for more empirical and reason-based studies of the material, living and psychological universe in which we live.

Contemporary historians and philosophers differ with Frazer and among themselves on the origins of science. Some use a Marxist interpretation that farmers and workers laid the groundwork for science by their practical approaches to cultivate nature. Some argue that science is actually a cultural consensus or construction that shifts to new consensus and constructions in response to political and cultural changes.

Most scientists reject these social views of science and favor a material universe that can be explored, interpreted and manipulated with tools, experimentation, reason and data replacing myth, ideology or the supernatural. At issue in these debates are the ways scientists see the universe and their efforts to understand it. Science sometimes overthrows prevailing beliefs seen as truths. More often, it modifies its findings and its implications, incorporating the old as a portion of the new.

Newton’s laws of motion and gravity were not negated by Einstein’s theories of relativity or space-time. They became a more limited application useful for studying Earth and its solar system. Science is limited in what it can predict. We do not know if there are few, many or an unending number of scientific laws that may emerge in the centuries and millennia to come.

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

Max Rutter gets the lightbulb lit inside the new science classroom at Andrew Muller Primary School. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

By Rebecca Anzel

Second-graders in Andrew Muller Primary School’s new science room were beaming with excitement Monday as teachers distributed materials for an experiment — a magnet, paperclip, battery, copper wire, rubber band and lightbulb.

The class was learning about interactions. Debbie Trelfa helped her students name each of the items in front of them and asked them to figure out how to make them interact. One table discovered the magnet attracted the paperclip, and Trelfa told her students there was another interaction they could make.

Andrew Muller Primary School second-grade teacher Debbie Trelfa teaches a new science lesson to her class. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
Andrew Muller Primary School second-grade teacher Debbie Trelfa teaches a new science lesson to her class. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

Students told one another to “persevere,” and a few minutes later another table discovered they could get the lightbulb to light up by placing it on the battery.

Miller Place school district’s two elementary schools, Andrew Muller and Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School, adapted an available classroom each to be used as science learning and inquiry labs. Students study topics like weather and plants in an interactive way, as opposed to using textbooks.

“Having been a classroom teacher, I loved teaching science, but it’s very difficult to do in a classroom,” Andrew Muller Primary School Principal Laura Gewurz said. “Experimentation can be time consuming and complicated to set up and break down. Having a room designed for student experimentation and collaboration makes science exciting and accessible, and saves instructional time.”

These two spaces were instituted to prepare for new state science and engineering curriculum changes, which shift the focus of lessons from memorizing information presented by teachers to understanding concepts by investigating them. The updated standards are called Next Generation Science Standards, which use “three-dimensional learning.”

Instead of a teacher asking students a question with one correct answer, for example, students would instead consider an open-ended one by using evidence presented by a teacher or reading. Or, instead of students reading a textbook chapter and answering questions on a worksheet, they would read multiple sources and write reports and posters about the ideas.

“You’re seeing a lot more hands-on experiences, hearing a lot more student talk and witnessing more student collaboration.”

—Laura Gewurz

“New York State is really changing the curriculum for science, which I think is fantastic,” Gewurz said. “It has not been changed since 1996, and not only are our concepts about teaching different, the science is different.”

According to a NYS Education Department document, the proposed science learning standards will be presented to the Board of Regents this winter. It is the last step in a process that began in January 2015, when the board counseled the Education Department to begin drafting new standards. Since then, the draft was updated with results from a public survey and discussed in June 2016.

“As teachers, schools, and educational systems systemically transition to the new science standards and changes to local curriculum and instructional practice, a call for coherent professional development opportunities is vital,” the NYS Education Department said in a statement. “To this end, the Department will continue to collaborate with science education stakeholders across the state and nation to assist in building the awareness and the capacity of teachers and leaders of science.”

Miller Place is “way ahead of the game,” Assistant Superintendent Susan Hodun said, in beginning to implement science curriculum changes before the new state standards are finalized and implemented.

With cooperative learning tables for students to work with and learn from each other, separate storage areas for each grade level and science learning resources displayed, the new science labs further encourage modern teaching methods.

Anna Paesano and Kayla Martins  perform the day’s experiment. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
Anna Paesano and Kayla Martins perform the day’s experiment. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

“I think it really works with the new science learning standards that New York State has developed in the sense that students have more access to authentic learning,” Gewurz said. “You’re seeing a lot more hands-on experiences, hearing a lot more student talk and witnessing more student collaboration. I think with the changes to science, it’s all coming together, which is great.”

The science room is also financially smart, she added, because instead of purchasing duplicates of materials for each classroom, the school can instead buy a wider range of materials to create a “much richer room.”

Students spend about an hour per week doing experiments that supplement the time they spend in the classroom learning about science concepts. The teachers and principal at Andrew Muller hope that hands-on experience will help their students as they get older.

“If you’re looking at college and career readiness, how would kids even know if they want to be an engineer unless they’ve had the opportunity to experiment,” Gewurz asked. “I think it’s certainly motivational and I think you will see more boys and girls interested in engineering in this country if you start to do things like this.”

For young Northport students, creativity was in the air recently at the Invention Convention.

Gifted and Talented Parents Association, a parent group in the district, hosted the 16th annual Invention Convention at the William J. Brosnan administration building on Feb. 25, where students displayed their innovative projects.

The convention was open to kindergarten through sixth grade students in the district. About 25 projects were on display for community members, school administrators and school board members in attendance.

“The Invention Convention is focused on inspiring, encouraging and celebrating the creativity and ingenuity of our children,” a press release from the GTPA said. “Their natural curiosity and imagination are a perfect combination to create something new.”

One of the projects on display was “The Rotating House,” created by Fifth Avenue Elementary School second grader Andrew Mead, which turns a house at its foundation to allow sunlight into whichever room a homeowner desires at a given time.

“I think it would be very useful for everyone,” Mead said about his invention. “Some people may just want to take a nap or something but they can’t because the sun is shining right on them, and they might not want to wait so long for the sun to move around by itself.”

Logan Hecht, a first grader from Dickinson Elementary School, invented “Fork-A-Seal” for containers with snacks that come without plastic ware.

“I got this idea because one day I was going to have fruit salad for breakfast, but we were out of forks so I thought that this plastic piece right here could be a fork, so you’d always have a fork ready,” Hecht said. “You waste a piece of plastic that could be used for something good.”

Some other inventions included second grader Mitchell Cartwright’s “Second Life,” which turns used lunch trays into planters; first grader Jeffery Raynor’s “The Automatic Duster 5000,” which automatically cleans shelves; third grader Philip Bechtold’s “Adjustable Dish Drying Rack;” and first grade twins Liam and Jack Healy’s “Storm Glow RCI,” which are colorful lanterns for when the power goes out.

A murder mystery thousands of years old and a continent away is coming to Long Island, where middle school and high school students can look at a rare face from human history.

During the ice age, an arrow went through a man’s shoulder blade, nicked an artery that leaves the aorta and caused him to bleed to death. Some time after he died, weather conditions effectively freeze dried him, preserving him in a remarkably pristine state until German hikers found his five-foot, five-inch body protruding from a melting glacier in 1991. He was found in the Ötztal Alps (on the border between Austria and Italy) — hence the name Ötzi.

David Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center, stands next to the only authorized replica of Ötzi outside of the South Tyrol Museum in Italy. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
Dave Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center, stands next to the only authorized replica of Ötzi outside of the South Tyrol Museum in Italy. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

While Ötzi, as he is now called, remains preserved carefully in a special facility in Italy, a master craftsman and artist has created a painstaking replica of a 45-year-old man killed at over 10,000 feet that is now on display at the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Kids are fascinated by it,” said Dave Micklos, the executive director of the DNA Learning Center, who has shared the newest mummified celebrity with students for several weeks in advance of the official exhibit opening in the middle of February. “The story is quite fascinating: it’s an ancient murder mystery. We take it from the forensic slant: what is the biological evidence we can see on Ötzi’s body that tells us who he was and how he died.”

Ötzi, or the Iceman as he is also known, has become the subject of extensive investigation by scientists around the world, who have explored everything from the over 60 tattoos on his body, to the copper axe found next to him, to the contents of his stomach and intestines, which have helped tell the story about the last day of Ötzi’s life.

“It’s a story that’s been assembled, bit by bit,” Micklos said. “Each scientific investigation adds new twists to the story.”

The Learning Center came up with the idea to create a replica and proposed it to the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy. Eventually, the museum granted the center the rights to use the CT scans, which provide detailed anatomical features. Ultimately, artist and paleo-sculptor Gary Staab used the images and studied the Iceman himself.

Staab, who has recreated copies of extinct animals for museums around the world, used a three-dimensional printer and sculpting and painting techniques to create an exact replica of a man who probably didn’t know he was in immediate danger when he was hit, because he seemed to be taking a break, Micklos said. Staab built one layer at a time of a resin-based prototype, then worked on the skin through sculpting, molding and painting.

A close-up of Ötzi the Iceman mummy’s replica at the DNA Learning Center. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
A close-up of Ötzi the Iceman mummy’s replica at the DNA Learning Center. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

Nova produced a television feature called “Nova’s Iceman Reborn” on PBS that captures the process of combining art and science to make a replica of the rare and highly valued fossil, which viewers can stream online through the link http://www.pbs.org/nova.

Long Islanders can see the replica at the Learning Center, where they can ask a host of questions about a man born during the copper age — hence the copper axe — and about 2,500 years before Rome was founded. Visitors interested in seeing Ötzi need to purchase tickets, which cost $10, ahead of time through the Learning Center’s website at www.dnalc.org.

Ötzi’s entire genetic sequence is available online. The Learning Center is the first science center worldwide to focus on DNA and genetics.

The center is especially interested in helping students understand what DNA says about human evolution. In one experiment, students can compare their own DNA to Ötzi, a Neanderthal and another ancient hominid group, called the Denisovans. Students can see how similar modern DNA is to Ötzi and how different it is from the Neanderthals and Denisovans. The 5,200 year differences with Ötzi is “no time in DNA time,” Micklos said.

Ötzi’s genes reveal that he had atherosclerosis and the deposition of plaques on the inner walls of the arteries. Ötzi was a healthy, active, relatively long-lived man in the Paleolithic era, who ate a diet of natural, unprocessed foods, and yet he had heart disease. His heart condition came as a surprise to scientists.

A 3-D resin model of Ötzi’s head before being painted. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
A 3-D resin model of Ötzi’s head before being painted. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

In addition to his genes, Ötzi’s body left clues about his life, where he’d spent his last day and what he’d eaten. Scientists have explored the contents of each part of his digestive tract, which, remarkably, remained well preserved during those thousands of years.

Ötzi had eaten different kinds of ibex meat, which is a goat found in the mountains. The pollen that was in his system, which came from the air he inhaled and from the food he ate, were pieces of a puzzle that showed where he’d been. The pollen near the top of his digestive track came from coniferous trees, including relatives of spruces and pines, which came from higher altitudes. Stored deeper in his system was pollen from deciduous trees, like birch and hazel, which grew lower in the valleys.

In addition to the Ötzi replica, the Learning Center also has reproductions of the clothes he was wearing and the artifacts he was carrying, which included a couple of containers of birch bark sewn together with fibers.

The Learning Center is developing a program to help students from the age of 10 to 18 explore Ötzi, so students can ask what the artifacts tell them about neolithic time.

Micklos said students have shown a strong interest in this old replica.

“It’s a little bit morbid, but not too much, and it’s a little gruesome, but not too much,” he said. “Everybody loves a mummy,” he continued, citing the popularity of the mummy exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Rainbow over NSLS-II: Brookhaven National Laboratory’s National Synchrotron Light Source II is a state-of-the-art 3-GeV electron storage ring. Photo from BNL

Budget season brought good news for the Brookhaven National Laboratory, which may receive $291.5 million from the government to help sustain and improve two of its facilities as part of President Barack Obama’s budget request for the 2017 fiscal year.

The president requested $179.7 million of that money to go toward BNL’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility and the remainder to the National Synchrotron Light Source II facility. The proposed amount is $9.5 million more than what the lab received last year for the two facilities combined.

According to Brookhaven Lab spokesperson Peter Genzer, the money won’t only help the Lab’s RHIC and NSLS-II facilities run, but also help fund new experimental stations at NSLS-II. The president’s financial inquiry also includes $1.8 million for the Core Facility Revitalization project.

The project will provide the infrastructure and facilities to store data to support the lab’s growing needs, the press release said.

U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have worked to maintain America’s science presence — and securing more federal funds for the lab helps maintain it. Schumer said he was pleased with the president’s request to increase funding for the lab, saying that an increase in funding will help keep BNL and our nation at the forefront of innovation and boost Long Island’s economy.

“We appreciate the President’s continued support for science and, in particular, Brookhaven Lab’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and National Synchrotron Light Source II,” BNL Director Doon Gibbs said. “ We are also extremely grateful for the ongoing efforts of Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand — and the entire N.Y. Congressional delegation — on behalf of the Lab and its research mission.”

According to RHIC’s website, scientists study earth in its infancy and other areas that will help people better understand how the world works. The approximate 16-year-old ion collider is also the first machine in the world that can support colliding heavy ions.

The NSLS-II allows scientists to examine high-energy light waves in a variety of spectrums, including x-ray, ultraviolet and infrared. The RHIC and NSLS-II are BNL’s two largest facilities Genzer said.

He added that the “president’s budget request is the first step in the budget process for the fiscal year 2017.” The process begins on Oct. 1. In the best-case scenario, the government will agree on and vote to approve the final budget before the end of the end of September.

The senators will continue their fight to get increased funding for BNL as the lab “is a major economic engine for Long Island,” Gillibrand said.

Gillibrand said she was also pleased with the administration’s request for increased funds. Construction of NSLS-II began in 2009 and cost around $912 million. BNL expected construction to end last year.

Other members of BNL were unavailable for comment prior to publication.

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