Distillations Blog

The Distillations Blog is the place for regular updates from the intersections of science, culture, and history.

Lee Berry with Ambler interviewee Victor Romano.
Tips for Recording Your Family History
November 28, 2016

Has someone in your family led an interesting life? You can help them tell their story. Lee Sullivan Berry, CHF’s curator of oral histories, explains how.

A 16th-century engraving of an alchemist adding a scorpion to a mixture. (Wellcome Library)
The Language of Alchemy
November 14, 2016

Alchemists once wrote of chaos, dragons, and spirits, but did they know more about chemistry than we give them credit for?

Still Life
October 31, 2016

Behind the scenes of Philadelphia’s taxidermy scene.

A totally inaccurate depiction of Andrew Mangravite's affliction. (Wellcome Library)
“What’s In the Box?”
October 17, 2016

CHF’s Andrew Mangravite learns that archival work can be surprisingly dangerous.

A female weta specimen from the Auckland War Memorial Museum.
A Close Encounter of the Third Kind
October 03, 2016

Sometimes archivists, as CHF’s Andrew Mangravite found, get more than they bargain for.

A cover for the 1980 Atari 2600 game Space Invaders.
Where Is Everybody?
September 19, 2016

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been going on for decades, but so far no one has found anything. As the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi once asked, where is everybody?

a French shampoo ad from 1907
Beauty Marks
September 05, 2016

Who’s responsible for regulating beauty products that lead to less-than-beautiful results?

Mephistopheles and Faust play chess
How to Tie with AI
August 22, 2016

Artificially intelligent programs are playing board games better than humans ever could. Is it possible to design a board game that can stump even the smartest computer?

A leaf illuminated by sunlight.
The Oxygen Holocaust
August 08, 2016

Around 2.5 billion years ago, cyanobacteria spewed an element into the atmosphere that was toxic to many of Earth’s early life-forms: oxygen.

Science adviser Donna J. Nelson poses with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.
Hollywood Chemistry
July 25, 2016

Breaking Bad showcased the chemistry of everything from making methamphetamine to building thermite explosives, but who made sure the science on the show was accurate?