Thursday, September 21, 2017

Science Central - Fort Wayne, IN

I recently had the opportunity to visit Science Central in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  We went as a family, along with my 10 year old's Girl Scouts troop.  My youngest daughter visited here in the spring with her first grade class and my wife attended as a chaperone.  This was the first visit for my 10 year old and me.

Science Central is a very cool science museum.  It's not particularly large, but it doesn't need to be.  There are two floors of exhibits and most exhibits are setup to be hands on, which is great for science!  They allow kids (and adults) to mess around with different science concepts.  I was like a kid in a candy shop, running around with my kids, and putting my hands on every hands-on demo!  I even slid down the two story slide, just like all the other kids there!  Don't believe me?  Here's my leg warmers they made me wear for protection.

Yeah!  Looking good!  LOL!  There was also an excellent demo show put on by one of the employees on the topic of electricity.  My kids loved the demos in the show!   Overall a great museum with reasonable admission prices.  Plan on spending approximately 2 hours when you visit.  

One last thing.  There's a tipped/angled house on the lower floor that you can go into and walk around.  I'm not sure the angle.  Maybe 30 degrees or so?  I thought this looked really cool and ran right in behind my kids.  Um...not the best move on my part.  More on this in Monday's post.  I'm creating a level of suspense here.  :-)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Scotland - Urquhart Castle

The day after visiting Fort George, Dhu Dallas Distillery, and Elign Cathedral, we checked out of our rental house and began the third, and final leg, of our journey in Scotland.  We set out from Beauly, Scotland and headed toward Dunoon, Scotland.  On the way we stopped at Urquhart Castle.

Urquhart Castle is a castle in ruins, as you can see from the images above.  The tower has been restored and you can climb to the top for some breathtaking views of Loch Ness.  Although this castle is in ruins, it is just as impressive and interesting as more intact castles such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.  All over the ruins there are signs with historical information describing what each area of the ruins is thought to be.  There's also a large gift shop and historical information area.  Its location on Loch Ness makes it a very popular tourist stop.  Many tour buses stopped here during our visit.

Urquhart Castle is one of the castles on the Historic Scotland list, so buy that Explorer's Pass and save money!

Loch Ness.  More on this in the next post.  If you are a reader of this blog, you can easily guess my feelings on a large sea creature that nobody ever sees living in the waters of the loch.  :-)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Upcoming Solar Eclipses

It's been almost a full month since the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017.  I saw this total eclipse in person!  Jealous?  You should be!  LOL!  Solar eclipses take place every couple of years, but you have to be in a very specific place on Earth to see totality.  So when and where are upcoming solar eclipses?  The image below shows future (and a few past) eclipses for the next two decades.

The next total solar eclipse is in about two years, in 2019.  Much of the path of totality cuts across oceans, but there is a stretch through southern South America.  The next total solar eclipse to cut across the U.S. is April 8, 2024.  I'm excited about this one as totality will last nearly 4 minutes and I currently live in the path of totality.  No traveling required for this one!  Unfortunately April is not a great month for clear skies for much of the U.S.  There's a much greater chance of cloudy skies in April than in August (this past eclipse).  There are, of course, sunny days in April, so fingers crossed.

Looking at the U.S. further into the future, we see the following map of eclipses.

The blue paths are total eclipses while the yellow paths are annular eclipses.  An annular eclipses takes place when the Moon moves in front of the Sun, but at a time when the Moon is a bit farther from the Earth.  Thus the Moon may move across the middle of the Sun, it isn't big enough to block the full disk of the sun.  

For total eclipses, there's another good eclipse coming in 2045 that will sweep from the west coast to the east coast.  It's also a bit wider with an even longer total eclipse length.  So there are still opportunities out there for you to view a total solar eclipse if you happened to miss the one in August 2017.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cool Black Hole Video by Kurzgesagt

A couple of weeks ago I watched a very cool black hole video produced by Kurzgesagt and posted on YouTube.  I previously wrote about this science YouTube channel here.  It's an excellent channel that produces a new, animated science video every couple of weeks.  The particular video I'm referring to is on the topic of black holes.

Why Black Holes Could Delete The Universe – The Information Paradox

At a very basic level, a black hole is a massive object packed into a tiny space.  Because this mass is packed into a very small space, the gravitational force is extremely large.  It is so large, in fact, that the mass is squeezed to an infinitesimally small space.  There's a distance away from this infinitesimally small space in which nothing, not even light, can escape.  This distance is referred to as the Schwarzschild radius or event horizon.

The cool thing about this video is that it goes well beyond this basic definition and explains the weird role that black holes can potentially play in the universe.  Give it a watch because it is very interesting!  The animation nature of this (and all videos on this channel) adds to the coolness!

Friday, September 15, 2017

The End of Cassini

Four spacecraft have flown by or orbited Saturn.  The first was Pioneer 11 in 1979.  The Voyager 1 spacecraft flew by a year later and the Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by a year after that, in 1981.  It was over two decades before another spacecraft visited Saturn.  In 1997, the Cassini spacecraft launched from Earth and reached Saturn in 2004.  Cassini was the first spacecraft placed in orbit about Saturn, giving astronomers their best chance yet to study Saturn and its moons in great detail.  At the time Cassini had a four year mission lifetime, but was extended twice.  Cassini was a VERY successful mission, but it comes to an end today when Cassini plummets into the atmosphere of Saturn.

Awesome image of Saturn's rings taken by Cassini.

Why must the Cassini mission come to an end?  Given Cassini's location, there is no way to re-fuel or fix any mechanical problems with the spacecraft.  NASA has made the decision to destroy the spacecraft in a controlled way while they still have the ability to do so.  The concern of doing nothing is the possibility of the spacecraft contaminating the pristine conditions (including water) on several of Saturn's moons.  Thus NASA has chosen to destroy the spacecraft in such a way to eliminate the possibility of contaminating the moons.

Cassini provided amazing views of Saturn and provided a great deal of information on Saturn's rings, storms, atmosphere, and moons.  Without Cassini we'd lack this very valuable information that tells us more about the planet and its moons as well as the Solar System as a whole.  Today this mission ends.  Farewell, Cassini!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

This Blog's History: We Saw a Total Solar Eclipse!!!

In case you missed it last time, WE SAW A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE!  It was AMAZING!  For my full description of our experience, take the link below to the original post.

We Saw a Total Solar Eclipse!!!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Scotland - Elgin Cathedral

After visiting Fort George and the Dallas Dhu Distillery, we found ourselves with just enough time to visit the Elgin Cathedral before it closed for the day.  This cathedral is another historic site on the Explorer's Pass list of sites to visit.  Again, this pass is a great opportunity to save money!

I'm am not a religious person by any means, so the thought of visiting a cathedral is usually not at the top of my list.  However, we had time and were close to this historic cathedral and I must admit it was quite interesting to view.  This is not an intact cathedral as you can see in our images below.  It has a very historic, castle type of appearance.  The two towers have been maintained and you can walk to the top of one and get an amazing view of the town!

After the cathedral doors closed, we took the opportunity to find a couple of geocaches in the area.  Anytime we travel to a new state or new country we've never visited before, we make sure to find a geocache or two to knock if off the to-do list.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Got Science Podcast

The Got Science podcast is another excellent science themed podcast to add to your podcast list.  This podcast is produced by the wonderful people at the Union of Concerned Scientists, of which I'm a member.  This is a great organization that encourages strong science in politics and fights members of Congress who choose partisan politics over strong science.

This is a relatively new podcast, having just released their 12th episode at the time of this writing.  Thus far they've had episodes on the topic of rising sea levels, rocket forensics, and renewable energy.  It's a great new podcast that I enjoy, and one that I think you'll enjoy as well.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Emoji Movie

A few weeks ago I took the kids to see the Emoji movie despite having heard the reviews were horrible.  The movie has a whopping score of 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.  LOL!  I'm not sure the movie is really that bad.  It has it's moments and has a bit of good humor, but it's certainly not the greatest movie in the world.

My kids enjoyed it, I'll give it that!  My 7 year old loved the scenes with the poop emoji.  LOL! If I were you, I'd save this one until it comes out on Netflix or on Redbox.  If the movie still in the theater, go on a Sunday morning or a matinee when prices are cheaper.  It's not worth evening prices to go see.  

Friday, September 8, 2017

This Blog's History: Arthur's Seat

In case you missed it the first time, let me point you back to the post I wrote describing our experiences climbing Arthur's Seat in Scotland.  If you enjoy hiking, this is a great place to visit and the hike includes some breath-taking views of Edinburgh and the surrounding area.

Scotland - Arthur's Seat