Science

The Internet of Things

We carry our smartphones everywhere, and they connect us to everything. We feel comfortable talking to them and having them talk back. We call them phones, but they’re pocket computers, as powerful as the supercomputers of a decade ago. We use them as calculators, cameras, memory aids, executive assistants, voice…

Transhumanism

It was my first interview with an artificial intelligence — a talking head without a body. The conversation was awkward, but considering that Bina48 is an android, it went better than I expec-​ted. Bina48 is a synthetic replica of a real woman named Bina Rothblatt. We met at a Juniata College conference…

Building STEM Solutions

Our region is facing a potentially crippling workforce shortage, with too few young, skilled workers to replace an older generation poised for retirement. According to research by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the gap could be yawning — as many as 144,000, with the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields especially…

The awe of night

For nearly three centuries, a scientific debate lingered about the brilliant rings rotating around Saturn: Were they solid discs or made of some other matter?

The STEM dilemma

When Elizabeth Roeske was growing up in the small New Jersey town of Salem, she seemed a natural for a career in science. Several members of her family are scientists, and she was planning to study chemistry and environmental science in college. But she found little peer support — “No one from…
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

Mind over matter

“Let me eat chocolate.” That was quadriplegic Jan Scheuermann’s simple request when she committed to a trailblazing UPMC and Pitt School of Medicine study that would let her control a robotic arm with her mind.

Can Venture Capital Help Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?

In 1988, Jeffrey L. Morby left American Express to join the management team tapped to rescue the nearly bankrupt Mellon Bank. After helping turn Mellon around, he retired at 59, but Morby has hardly been wiling away the time.

Ancient Dig

Twelve thousand years ago, a Native American hunter left a flint spear point at a campsite beneath an overhanging rock along Cross Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River some 29 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The three-​inch by one-​inch point was a re-​sharpened remnant of a larger spear or arrow…
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

Pasteur’s Quadrant

Among scientific researchers, you’re in the zone if you can create something that falls into what is known as Pasteur’s Quadrant. Back when the National Academy of Science was getting organized, its president, Vannevar Bush, developed a methodology for allocating federal funding by classifying research as either basic or applied.
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

Dr. D.A. Henderson

There are a lot of reasons why people believe Dr. D.A. Henderson was the best person to lead the successful effort to eradicate smallpox from the planet in the 1960s and 1970s.Usually they revolve around his intellect (unquestionably world class), his training (schooled in “shoe leather epidemiology” by his mentor)…
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

We, robot

A decade ago, the Wall Street Journal gave Pittsburgh the moniker “Roboburgh” when compiling its list of the nation’s 13 hottest high-​tech regions. The Steel City is living up to its 21st-​century nickname, making new its rich history of engineering complex things.
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

Planetary Hollywood

First the lights dim. In the darkness, you feel the intense drumbeat and techno-​pop rhythms of the synthesizer pounding deep in your gut. Next a fiery, red globe materializes above you like a cosmic disco ball of galactic proportions. Look left and a futuristic spacecraft emerges from the solar system…
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

It’s pay dirt

Graham Hatfull, Ph.D., is clearly pleased when presented with a film canister brimming with soil dug from a Penn Hills back yard. Common, every day dirt.
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

Head honchos

For five years, Chet Mathis, fellow University of Pittsburgh scientist Dr. Bill Klunk and a team of chemists designed hundreds of chemical compounds looking for one that would open the door to the discovery of a drug capable of taming Alzheimer’s disease.
Pittsburgh Quarterly Exclusive

The interview

The recent celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the University of Pittsburgh’s polio vaccine recalled one of the great moments in Pittsburgh history. Led by Dr. Jonas Salk, the scientists were armed with expertise, belief and will. I got to know Salk just 11 years ago and wrote a three-​part…
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