Thursday, April 26, 2018

How to Say 'Uranus'?

Every teacher's favorite planet is Uranus, for the simple fact it elicits unstoppable laughter.  You know what I mean.  What person can't help but laugh at a planet often pronounced YOUR-ANUS??!!!??  LOL!  I admit, whenever we cover Uranus in my upper level high school classes, it brings a chuckle to me as well.  I can't help but break a smile when the first student smiles start to crack.  LOL!  At some level we are all children who think butt jokes are funny.

So how do you pronounce Uranus?  Fraser Cain over at Universe Today states the proper pronunciation is ur-unus.  That's how I say it in class, but that's not going to stop those YOUR-ANUS jokes!  LOL!  Regardless of how you pronounce it, no one can argue Uranus has a very cool blue color to it.

Notice the rings...Uranus is tipped on its side.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Super Earth with Mercury Similarities

Finding new planets are a dime a dozen these days, but every new planet found adds more to our understanding of exo-planets, or planets outside of our solar system orbiting other stars.  Most of these are gas giants, but more and more are Earth-like.  Astronomers have recently discovered K2-229b, which has a radius slightly large than Earth's, but a mass much larger, meaning it has a much greater density, more similar to Mercury's density in our own Solar System.

Astronomers Find Super-Earth with Mercury-Like Composition: K2-229b

Mercury has a much larger core than is expected for a planet of its size.  The best explanation is that Mercury was impacted by another planet sized object early in its formation, stripping the outer layers from Mercury, leaving the denser core intact.  Thus Mercury has a larger density.  Did the same thing happen in this Solar System to K2-229b?  Possibly. 

This planet is highly unlikely to contain any life given that it is very close to its star, with an orbital period of just 14 hours.  This means one side of the planet always faces the star and temperatures can reach a few thousand degrees!  Yikes!!!  This planet may not be habitable, but it sure is interesting!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

James Webb Space Telescope Delayed Again

Last October I wrote about the James Webb Space Telescope and its launch being delayed from 2018 to 2019.  Well guess what?  That 2019 launch has now been delayed to 2020.  Sigh.  Will the JWST ever launch?  These constant delays make you wonder.  Most projects end up delayed by some amount, but it seems the JWST delays keep coming and coming and coming.

The James Webb Space Telescope.
To put it simply, astronomers and engineers have encountered several problems that require more testing, resulting in the multi-year delay.  A delay is better than a cancellation or a failed telescope in space.  Hopefully everything can be tested and found to be in working order before the 2020 launch date.  The JWST will be an amazing telescope and help answer many astronomical questions.  But it needs to be launched first.  At the moment, the earliest possible launch date is May 2020, with further delays possible.  Keep your fingers crossed!  

I know we were all looking forward to that launch day later this year, but we must wait two more years.  What's that saying?  Patience is a virtue?  Sure...but I'd rather have a working JWST now!!!

Monday, April 23, 2018

More Fun in Atlanta

My two non-conference activities in Atlanta last month were a visit to the National Center for Civil and Human rights museum and a tour of the CNN facility.  There's much more to do downtown, however, if you're ever in town for a visit.  Here are a few things I found just walking around.

Georgia Aquarium - One of the best in the country I'm told.

World of Coca-Cola - Learn more about Coca-Cola!

Skyview - A giant Ferris wheel!

Skyview in Atlanta

Centennial Park - All of the above are located in this park and it's a great area to walk around and have a picnic.

There are many other things to do in Atlanta and plenty of great restaurants.  If you're looking for a city vacation, I highly recommend Atlanta if you've never visited.  

Friday, April 20, 2018

This Blog's History: Do Apples Prevent Doctor's Visits?

In case you missed it last month, for This Friday in This Blog's History, I point you back to a post I wrote on the saying that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  It's okay to eat those apples, but just understand you still need to visit the doctor for you annual checkups!

Misconceptions that Kill #11: An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Thursday, April 19, 2018

National Center for Civil and Human Rights

On the day of my arrival to Atlanta last month and the day before the start of the NSTA conference, I took a visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum.  Let me just say that this museum is a MUST see.  Regardless of your plans in Atlanta, plan ahead and devote 2-3 hours to this museum.  It's an amazing museum that shares with you the horrible history of human and civil rights in this country and in this world.  I had chills throughout my entire visit and it's very possible you may find yourself shedding tears.

National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Much of the museum is devoted to the civil rights movement in the U.S.  Although I knew much of the basics of this movement, I was stunned at many of the awful things that took place I was unaware.  There's a lunch counter exhibit that you must participate in.  Even if there's a line, spend time in the line to take part in this exhibit.  You sit at a lunch counter, put on headphones, and are taken back in time to the slurs and physical violence black men and women experienced on a daily basis.  I walked away with chills and goosebumps.

Mural on the first floor of the museum.

There's an excellent section devoted to Martin Luther King Jr. and upstairs is a section devoted to human rights across the world.  I am so glad I made time to visit this museum and if I'm ever in Atlanta again with my kids, I will make sure to take them.  This is an experience EVERYONE needs to partake in to help develop an understanding of what it was like to be black during the civil rights movement (and today). 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

CNN Tours

While attending the NSTA conference last month in Atlanta I took a break and went on a tour of the CNN facilities.  The CNN building is located right across the street from the convention center, so it was an easy walk that didn't interrupt my conference schedule.  Since it was just me, I splurged on the VIP tour for $33.  The standard tour is about $15 per person. 

Headed up the escalator to the CNN VIP tour.
The tour lasted 50 minutes and showed us around some of the facilities where production takes place.  We had a chance to walk in the studio where HLN is recorded and that was pretty cool.  I'm not sure I'd spend $33/person for a family of four to do the VIP tour, but since I was buying just one ticket, I was satisfied.  If you have a family, I'd stick to the regular tour unless you have money to burn.

Overall I found the tour informative, interesting, and worth the cost.  If you find yourself in the Atlanta area and have an interest in how TV news is made, the CNN tour is a great option to see this in action. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Visit to Atlanta

Last month I had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta, Georgia and attend the 2018 National Science Teachers Association national conference.  I last attended this conference in 2007 when it was in St. Louis.  A great conference!  An amazing conference!  The best part of large conferences such as this one is you are surrounded by thousands of other science teachers teaching across the country and facing some of the same struggles I face.  The sessions were great and provided motivation to continue to improve my teaching and provided several activities I can take back to my classroom. 

National Science Teachers Association

The exhibit hall was great too, packed with a ton of vendors showing off their science wares.  There were several book publishers there as well, selling books.  One publisher had a deal that every book was $5, regardless of publishing date and hard/soft cover.  I stocked up on some books, which concerned me a bit when I got back to my apartment and had some struggles getting my suitcase to close!  LOL!  But how could I resist $5 science books?!?!?! 

If you are a science teacher and you've never attended a NSTA conference, I highly encourage you to do so!  I'm hoping to attend next year (back in St. Louis), but it will probably come down to funding.  Traveling to national conferences is not cheap and school funding has decreased relative to inflation over the years, making it tough to attend unless one pays entirely out of pocket.  Thus the reason there is an 11 year gap in me attending a NSTA conference.  For more information on NSTA, go to the link below.

Atlanta was also a great city to tour.  I did a bit of sight seeing on my trip and I'll describe these experiences in future posts. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Extreme Science Kit

A couple of weekends ago my 11 year old opened up the box of an "Extreme Science Kit" she received for her birthday.

Extreme Science Kit
The kit includes a few plastic test tubes and basic materials that allows one to complete 11 different science experiments.  My daughter's first experiment was the one shown in the video below.

Very cool!  My daughter is old enough now to do many of these on her own.  In fact, that's how this weekend's experiments started.  She woke up, opened the box, and set out to do some science!  The moral of this story is the same as most stories I write up on this blog.  Expose your kids to science.  Encourage them to explore.  Let them make a mess.  Let them have fun.  Do all of this and you have a young scientist in the making!  Maybe they won't have a career in science but they'll have a greater appreciation of science for the rest of their life!

Friday, April 13, 2018

This Blog's History: Drinking Too Much Water Kills

For This Friday in This Blog's History, I point you back to a post I wrote on drinking too much water.  Yes, it's deadly and it's not the same as drowning.

Misconceptions that Kill #10: Drinking Too Much Water