The Current: The Franklin Institute Blog

Visor Bands at Made at Home

Maker Methods to Provide Aid to Healthcare Workers 

The shortage of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) is putting healthcare workers at increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. People worldwide have come together to produce creative solutions to combat this shortage. If you consider yourself a maker, problem-solver, or simply want to get your hands involved to help healthcare workers, this guide is for you. If you do not have the capabilities to produce the items listed below, please share with someone who might.  

before/after image of the New Delhi War Memorial

COVID, Climate, and Resilience

A now famous before/after image of the New Delhi War Memorial showing air quality improvements. Left: October 17, 2019. Right: April 18, 2020. (Anushree Fadnavis and Adnan Abidi/Reuters)

“The air is clear, the skies are blue. I see the evening stars with clarity....” Smita Tharoor told The Guardian newspaper last week as she marvelled at New Delhi’s new skyviews. Like millions of others, Smita is revelling in the rapid improvements of air quality seen the world over.

Rainbow prismatic image of 3D printer

Additive Manufacturing In A Time of Necessity

The growing pandemic caused by COVID-19 has created an unprecedented, rapid convergence between open source technology and healthcare.  Makers and technologists around the world are stepping up and galvanizing forces to develop and deploy materials and equipment to meet the demands being placed on world governments to protect the general public, as well as addressing the needs of health professionals working around the clock to put a stop to the disease.  But how is something like this even possible given the magnitude of the situation at hand?

Flowering Trees at Sunset

#FranklinOutside Scavenger Hunt

You’re not alone—alongside the uncertainty and worry of the past few weeks, the stress of confinement can feel overwhelming. Spending our days inside distanced from friends and loved ones can take a heavy toll on our personal well-being.

It’s during uncertain times like these that I look to nature for a relaxing escape. While the natural environment certainly can’t solve all of our ailments, plenty of scientific evidence documents the positive effect spending time in nature has on both our mental and physical health.

International Space Station

Seeing the International Space Station!

Updated April 27, 2020

Looking for something unique to do with your spare time? Become an ISS spotting expert! All you need is your phone and a place to view from – your backyard, your front step, a nearby intersection – but no telescope. This is almost exclusively a ‘naked eye’ experience to be done only when the sky is clear. Share this information with your family across the region, then do it together as a group!

Here’s when to look.  Timing is specific to the Philadelphia region.

Washing Hands

Coronavirus Update: Prepare, Don’t Panic

Update 8.5.20: In light of newer evidence demonstrating that infected people can spread the virus even before showing symptoms, it's important for everyone to wear face masks to protect each other. Social distancing measures, implemented in Philadelphia in mid-March, have been essential for slowing the spread of the virus and saving lives while new vaccines and treatments are developed.

seasonal tilt diagram

Astronomy with a Flashlight

Want to know the astronomy behind why it’s cold at this time of year?  Logically, it must be because Earth is farther from the sun, right? Nope! Actually we’re now closer to the sun in our orbit now than at any other time of year. So why is it cold? Grab your flashlight and let’s find out!

Let’s talk about the northern hemisphere first.

The first day of winter

Winter Solstice

Most of us dread the first day of winter. We think of it as the shortest day, the cold day, the dark day. But the first day of winter (aka the winter solstice) actually is the gateway to Spring and has an astronomical connection. In fact, it’s all about the astronomy! Here’s how.

Diagram of the human brain showing locations of the thalamus and amygdala

Fear and Your Brain

It’s a dark and stormy night. Boom! You hear a loud crash. You see a flash of movement. The fear sets in. Your brain has jumped into alert mode.

Fear is an essential function of the brain. Throughout human evolutionary history, fear has kept us alive. How does it work? A cascade of reactions in your brain and body helps you prepare for danger. Sensory information—like what you see and hear around you—first zips straight to a part of your brain called your thalamus. The data then branches off into two different routes.

Historical photo Nikola Tesla and photo of actor in a play about Tesla

Tesla's Dream: An Interview

Last year, for the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, you wrote, produced, and starred in The William Penn Story, an original musical about Philadelphia’s founding father.  Audiences loved it and the show received several glowing reviews.  This year you have once again co-created and are presenting a brand new play about an innovative, pioneering, humanitarian, Nikola Tesla. That seems like a lot of work! How do you do it?

Science Interpreter playing guitar with Sci-Chella logo

Sci-Chella: Music + Art + Science

When most people hear ‘Music Festival’ the first thing that comes to mind is probably not SCIENCE.  You might think crowds, gross bathrooms, a bunch of music acts they have never heard about, warm drinks, and people in flower crowns.  And while frequent festival-goers will likely confirm that the aforementioned list is very typical, the greater experience is that it's a giant experimental playground.  In recent years many scientists and educational organizations are injecting themselves into the music festival equation.  They recognize that the festival audienc

Sustainability Teacher Training Group

What Does Sustainability Mean to You?

Last week forty Philadelphia-area teachers gathered to explore this question in depth at The Franklin Institute’s second annual sustainability and climate change teacher training. Led by TFI’s Curriculum Developer Rachel Castro-Diephouse and Environmental Scientist Dr. Rachel Valletta, this three-day event examined how teaching for sustainability can be a solution to one of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change.

astronaut on moon with American Flag

The Future of Space Exploration

What an exciting time it was. Fifty years ago, in July 1969, three American astronauts accomplished what the entire world would experience as the most daring expedition ever attempted by humans, a round trip journey to the moon. As a 14-year old with a deep interest in anything related to space exploration, for me every step of the newly emerging space program brought a rising level of excitement and anticipation. New giant rockets, the most complex machines ever designed, were being built to lift astronauts to the moon.