That eclipse is making me hungry

That eclipse is making me hungry

The food science eclipse-viewing deck party was a big hit.  The eclipse was perfectly visible, and there was lots of great food.  In fact, at first, the partial eclipse had a banana look, and as I was standing next to Dr. Hallen-Adams, our department’s fungi expert, it also looked like a Fusarium mold spore.  The total eclipse may have even reminded you of an Oreo or a Moon Pie.  Any other food look-alike suggestions?

Wild Kingdom

Wild Kingdom

If you live on planet earth, you probably know that there will be a total eclipse of the sun on Monday, with all of Nebraska along the path.  Many of us will put on the goofy sunglasses and observe this rare natural event.  If all goes according to plan, sometime around 1:00 pm, CDT, darkness will envelop UNL (insert joke of your choice here).

Of course, most of us more-or-less understand why the eclipse occurs (something about the moon getting in between the earth and the sun).  Thus, there should not be too many people surprised when things go dark in the middle of the day.

But what about animals?  Whether domesticated or wild, animals rely on natural cues, especially daylight or darkness, to know when it’s time for eating, sleeping, and other forms of activity.  Some animals are nocturnal, meaning they are only active at night and sleep during the day.

Some biologists predict that animals will revert to their night time routine.  This may mean that wild birds and animals return to their nesting spots.  Domesticated animals, including pets and livestock, may decide it’s time to eat or sleep and head back to their bedding area or barn. I know my pet beagle won’t have to go far – she sleeps in my bed, day and night.

For sure, there will be plenty to observe on Monday, but watching the birds, bees, and other non-human organisms will be another part of this unique experience.

Top Ten reasons why you should study food science at UNL

Top Ten reasons why you should study food science at UNL

10. Brand new, state-of-the-art building with modern labs, high-tech classrooms, and student lounges.
9. We speak Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Nepalese, Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Tamil, and English.
8. We know the secret formula for Coca Cola, the 11 secret herbs and spices in KFC, and why Twinkies last forever.
7. We know which bacteria are in the food we eat, AND we also know which bacteria come out the other end.
6. Your parents will be happy to know that 100% of our students get food science jobs that pay real money.
5. Guys – 3:1 female to male student ratio.  Ladies – did I mention the good jobs?
4. Teachers that excel at research and researchers that excel at teaching
3. We know how to spell Streptococcus thermophilus, lipoxygenase, and carrageenan.
2. We’re on a first name basis with Famous Amos, Cracker Jack, and Slim Jim.
1. Your classmates will be as smart as you.

Understanding food science

Understanding food science

As noted in class, ensuring that students, from K-12 to college, are science-literate is now recognized as one of the more important missions of our schools and universities.  Given all the issues we’ve discussed this semester, a list that includes organic foods, GMOs, food safety, obesity, and allergens, one can argue that food science literacy is particularly important.

Indeed, so important is this topic that the prestigious U.S. National Academy of Sciences convened a workshop in Fall 2015 to address Food Literacy.  The proceedings (down-loadable for free) were then published earlier this year.

There were plenty of opinions on how to promote food literacy, from childhood education to training physicians.  Perhaps one of the main challenges was stated by one author as “how to deliver knowledge to people whose lives are too busy for them to take on any more chores”.

Credible food-in-the-news stories are published every day on-line and in print newspapers and magazines.  Yet the number of people who actually read those articles is probably a small percent of those that read or “hear about” what the Food Babe has to say.  This is the challenge in a nutshell.