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Washington State University
College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Universe

Dr. Universe: Why do people like listening to music?

Dr. Universe: a cat in a lab coatThink of your favorite song. Maybe it brings you happiness or joy. Maybe it makes you want to start dancing. Or maybe it’s a sad, melancholy song, but you still really like it.

From the radio to concerts to our mobile devices, music is all around us. To find out exactly why people like listening to music, I talked to my friend Sophia Tegart. » More …

Dr. Universe: Why do we find bones in rock?

Dr. Universe.When humans want to look into the past, they often dig into the ground. Under the soil, archeologists can find all kinds of things that help us learn about life long ago.

That’s what I found out from my friend Rachel Horowitz, an archaeologist at Washington State University who is very curious about the lives of our human ancestors. » More …

Dr. Universe: Why do leaves fall in the fall?

Dr. Universe using a microscopeEach year during the fall, we often see a lot of trees dropping their leaves. To find out exactly what happens when leaves fall, I talked to my friend Henry Adams, a researcher at Washington State University.

Adams is very curious about the lives of trees and how they can survive harsh conditions. He reminded me that all year long trees make their own chemicals that help control how they grow. » More …

Dr. Universe: Why can’t we breathe in space?

Dr. UniverseOn Earth, humans have oxygen to breathe. But there’s very little oxygen to breathe in space.

Space is actually a kind of vacuum, which means there isn’t a whole lot of matter, or stuff, out there between the planets and the stars.

For Earthlings like you and me, oxygen is an essential part of life. While 21% of Earth’s atmosphere is oxygen, my friend Yimo Liu reminded me it wasn’t always that way. » More …

Ask Dr. Universe: How do mountains form?

Dr. Universe. A cartoon cat in a lab coatWhen you walk around on land, you are walking on top of Earth’s rocky crust. Below the crust is another thick layer of rock. These layers form Earth’s tectonic plates and when those plates collide with each other, they often form mountains.

To find out about how mountains form, I visited my friend Julie Menard, a professor at Washington State University who is very curious about geology. » More …

Dr. Universe: How do trees give us air to breathe?

Dr. UniverseOur planet is home to all kinds of different plants, and they help make a lot of the oxygen we breathe. To find out how plants make oxygen, I asked my friend Balasaheb Sonawane, a scientist at WSU who researches photosynthesis, or the ways plants use energy from the sun and make oxygen. He said that in a way, plants breathe, too. » More …

Dr. Universe: How do you figure out how much a whole planet weighs?

Dr. Universe.About 300 years ago during another pandemic, there was a person named Sir Isaac Newton who spent a lot of time at home thinking about the universe.

He was thinking about how objects fall and started to wonder if the same force that made objects fall also kept the moon in its orbit. He called this force gravity. » More …

Dr. Universe: If snakes smell with their tongues, what do they do with their noses?

Dr. Universe: a cat in a lab coatSnakes have an amazing sense of smell. They can use their tongues to pick up on all kinds of scents in the air.

Whenever we smell something in the air, we are actually sniffing tiny building blocks called molecules. These molecules are what make up the scents of everything around us—things like baked bread, fresh-cut grass, and warm cookies. » More …

Dr. Universe: How do birds know where to migrate?

Dr. UniverseThere are all kinds of different birds on our planet, and they migrate to different places.

My friend Heather Watts, a researcher at Washington State University, is really curious about bird migration and told me more about how birds know where to go.

She said there are some birds that make a round-trip flight when they migrate. For instance, the bar-tailed godwit will make long flights between Alaska and New Zealand, traveling more than » More …