Friday, March 16, 2018

This Blog's History: The Egg Drop Experiment

For This Friday in This Blog's History I'm taking you way back to 2012 to the first post egg drop experiment post I wrote.  The egg drop experiment is a common project in high school physics courses and one I've done each year when I teach physics.  It's a lot of fun to watch and students tend to have a lot of fun getting out of the classroom and applying the physics they've learned in a real-world example.  The post itself is the top viewed post on my blog with over 22,000 views!  So add a few more views to that total and check out the original post from 2012 below.

The Egg Drop Experiment

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Astronaut Wendy Lawrence

Last month we had the great opportunity to see retired astronaut Wendy Lawrence speak live, and she did not let us down.  She spent about an hour discussing the different aspects of traveling to and working in space, as well as spending time discussing how she came to be an astronaut.  She pointed out several times how people around her, as she was training to be an astronaut, did not look like her.  What she meant by this is that everyone around her was a man.  There were very, very few women in her math, science, and engineering courses.  There were very few women in her naval academy class.  Her class was just the second class to allow women.  And in the astronaut training program she was one of just a very few women. 

Retired astronaut Wendy Lawrence

She offered great advice to those seeking to be an astronaut and those seeking to get involved in science.  The steps that it takes to reach your destination are often difficult and filled with obstacles.  To get through these obstacles you need to continue to work hard, but also talk to others and seek out friends you can confide in.  No one can do it alone.  She shared the story of her first calculus test at MIT and how she failed it and failed it badly.  It was a wake-up call for her and she sought out help from her professor.  This resonated with me as I failed my first classical mechanics test in graduate school.  I clearly remember the score of a 6/30 which was not even close to passing.  It was a wake-up call to me that if I wanted to succeed in grad school, much greater effort was needed on my part, in addition to seeking help from others.  In case your wondering, I did put in greater effort, scored a 26/30 on the second test and earned my Ph.D. in Astrophysics.  But it wasn't smooth sailing.  

I was so glad my wife and I had the opportunity to take our kids to hear Wendy Lawrence speak.  It was great to hear about her experiences in space, but even better to hear from her that everyone struggles.  No one is perfect and no one can do it alone.  Great advice!  She also took questions for another hour after her talk and not once seemed annoyed nor did she hurry any of the questions.  Many of the questions were from young children who struggled formulating their thoughts in front of a microphone.  She remained very patient and answered all questions fully.  A great public speaker!!!  

NASA astronauts speak all over the country.  You probably don't have to look far to find one speaking near you.  If you have the opportunity to attend, do so!  It will be a great experience for you and your kids!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Science Fair Season Recap

Science fair season is now over and my 10 year old had a great time.  For her project she chose to test glucose levels in various food items as a way of determining which foods have more sugar.  She used tap water as a control for low glucose levels and a glucose tablet as a control for high glucose levels.  She ran through three trials and in the end gained a much better understanding of which foods are higher in sugar.  In addition, through her background research she gained an understanding of why it is important to know how much sugar is in food.

My daughter's science fair poster.
She had a lot of fun with this project, and put in a lot of work.  Her efforts paid off when she earned first place in 5th grade at the school level, thus advancing her to the regional level.  At the regional level she earned third place.  The ribbons are great, but the important part of a science fair project is having fun with an investigation.  She had a lot of questions going in, answered some of them, and came up with new questions to test in the future.  That's what science is all about and science fairs are a great way to encourage kids to investigate a scientific problem and work toward a conclusion. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Let Your Kids Make Slime!!!

I heard the craziest thing the other day.  It was so crazy, in fact, that I was sure I wasn't hearing it right.  Apparently there are some parents out there who don't let their kids make slime!  WHAT?!?!?!  Supposedly making slime is too messy and therefore some kids are told to not make it or stop making it because they are making too much of a mess.  BALDERDASH!  LOL!  I've been waiting to use that word! 

Book of slime.
I'm the Cool Science Dad and I'm telling you that you need to let your kids make slime!  Get them a book about making slime.  Buy them materials to make slime.  Encourage their slime making habits!  My two daughters love making slime and they specifically love trying out new types of slime.  Making slime is one big experiment that uses and hones those critical thinking skills.  Sure, it can make a mess, but a wet rag can quickly clean up that mess.  Don't let a mess stop your kids from experimenting.  Let them make slime!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

I just finished reading Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  This is the second book in the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy.  I wrote a review on the first book that you can find below.

Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman

I really love this series and the universe of fantasy characters Weis and Hickman have created.  It's truly a masterpiece of imagination, and books such as these help me escape the everyday worries of real life.  Nothing beats taking a few minutes each day to immerse myself in a world of dragons, elves, dwarves, and magic! 

Dragons of Winter Night
If fantasy is your reading genre, please check out Weis & Hickman.  I think you'll like what you read.

Friday, March 9, 2018

This Blog's History: Misconceptions that Kill #9: Natural Supplements are Better

In case you missed it last month, for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you to the ninth post in a series I'm writing on misconceptions that can kill you.  This one focuses on the misconception of natural supplements.  Natural does not mean better.  In fact, natural could be deadly.  Click the link below to read more.

Misconceptions that Kill #9: Natural Supplements are Better

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Tallest Mountain in the World

Here's a good trivia question for your kids, or possibly one your kids may ask you.  What is the tallest mountain in the world.  Easy, right?  Obviously it's Mt. Everest in the Himalayan mountains which stands at just a few feet above 29,000 feet.  Nothing is taller than Mt. Everest, or is there?  Turns out there is!

Mt. Everest
The tallest mountain on Earth is Mauna Kea in Hawaii.  The difference is in how you define mountain.  If the definition of mountain is above sea level, then yes, Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain on Earth.  It is the highest point above sea level anywhere on Earth.  If you measure from the summit of the mountain, however, Mauna Kea blows Mt. Everest away.  Mauna Kea has a height of 13,800 feet above sea level, but it's summit is below sea level.  Measuring from the summit, Mauna Kea is just over 33,000 feet tall!  That's 4,000 feet taller than Mt. Everest!  That's not a small distance.

So let's not discriminate against those mountains that start below sea level.  Measure from the summit and Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world.

Mauna Kea

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Peter Rabbit

We usually hit one movie per month in the theaters as a family and last month's movie was Peter Rabbit.  Peter Rabbit is the story of a rabbit who wears a blue coat and no pants and lives with his three sisters and cousin.  His parents are no longer alive and this plays a role in the story.  Peter Rabbit is a fun, feel good movie that has humor at both the level of kids and adults.

Peter Rabbit

I really enjoyed this movie.  And so did our kids.  It's a great family movie I highly recommend.  And if you like poo jokes, there are a couple of them in the movie.  LOL!  By now it might be out of the theaters, but check Redbox or Netflix in the future.  The voice of Peter Rabbit is James Corden and he does a great job in this role.  Perfect voice!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

New Planets Outside Our Galaxy

Finding new planets outside our solar system is nothing new these days.  There are now 3,588 known exoplanets, as of February 1, 2018.  Very recently, astronomers discovered for the first time ever exoplanets outside our galaxy!  Obviously there are billions and billions of exoplanets in our galaxy and many more outside of our galaxy, but technological limits prevents us from seeing exoplanets outside our galaxy, until now.

Astrophysicists discover planets in extragalactic galaxies using microlensing

Wow!  Odds are low that any of these planets, including this one outside of our galaxy, harbors life, let alone intelligent life, but one of these days, one of the planets we discover will harbor life.  When that happens, I argue it will be the greatest discovery of all time.  Astronomy never ceases to amaze me!!!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Upcoming Trip to Iceland

This year my wife and I are taking our kids to Iceland for our family summer vacation.  My wife and I visited Iceland in 2014 without the kids and absolutely loved it!  Since that trip we've always had the goal of taking the kids to Iceland, but finally decided to do it this year.  Initially we weren't thinking about Iceland in 2018, but last year we found plane tickets for an extremely cheap price for an international flight and jumped at the opportunity!  I just looked the other day and the cheapest tickets are more than twice what we spent so I feel pretty good! 

Map of Iceland

In 2014 we stayed in Reykjavik and toured the south-west and southern part of Iceland.  We plan to spend part of our trip in this area this year.  In particular I want to take the kids to the glacier we visited in 2014.  Glaciers are disappearing all over the world due to climate change, and I want my kids to experience a glacier first hand.  This year may be the only opportunity in their life to do so.  

This year we are also heading up north which has me excited.  There's the possibility of crossing into the Arctic Circle, but this requires a boat trip of several hours and I'm not sure we'll do that.  It would be cool to say I've been to the Arctic Circle, but is it worth it to spend a full day of our vacation doing so?  I'm not sure.  

I'll be sure to post all the cool things we did and saw while in Iceland, but I'll leave you with this.  VISIT ICELAND!  It is an absolutely amazing place. Great people!  Delicious seafood!  Amazing scenery!  A great vacation destination and kid friendly!