Winter Olympics Special: The Slippery Science of Ice Skating

Skating_On_Ice_clip_art_hightBy Michael Q. Bullerdick

Learning how to ice skate is a tricky bit of business that requires athleticism, a healthy sense of balance, and a high pain threshold. Of course, you also need a decent pair of skates and a pond-sized patch of slippery ice. Those last two items are easier to summon than the rest and they have been for a period going on 3,000 years now. But it might be surprising to note—especially during the Winter Olympics—that until just a few years ago, physicists didn’t fully understand how skating worked. More precisely, they lacked a fundamental knowledge of what exactly makes ice slippery. Continue reading


Can Death Row Last Meals Reveal Guilt or Innocence?


By Michael Q. Bullerdick

Although it’s true death row guards once routinely wagered on what a condemned man might select for his last meal, the morbid game was abandoned long ago, less out of empathy than boredom. That’s because, for the better part of a half-century or so, the penultimate menu has been fairly predictable: fried chicken, a cheeseburger or steak cooked medium rare and served with some kind of potato (almost always French fries), followed by pie á la mode (apple or pecan) or a bowl of ice cream. The real gamble, it seems, is not what an execution-bound inmate will eat—but if they’ll eat. And that decision, Cornell University researcher Kevin Kniffin recently revealed, can be a reliable “tell” of whether an inmate knows or has convinced himself that he’s innocent. Continue reading