Friday, July 21, 2017

This Blog's History: Solar Eclipse Misconception

There's a solar eclipse coming to the United States next month, so for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a misconception regarding this solar eclipse I found.

Solar Eclipse Misconception

Thursday, July 20, 2017

No Dumb Questions Podcast

Looking to add another podcast to your list?  I recently found the No Dumb Questions podcast.  This podcast is produced by Destin Sandlin and Matt Whitmann.  You may know Destin Sandlin from the Smarter Every Day Youtube channel.

No Dumb Questions Podcast

Destin and Matt produce a new episode about once every 2-3 weeks and the topics range from science topics to political topics to other random topics of their choosing.  It's a good podcast so I encourage you to check it out.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mobile App Tools to Help you Observe the Skies

Going back just a decade, it was much harder to find tools or obtain the information needed to do quality observing of the night skies.  It was harder to find objects in the sky.  It was harder to determine when viewing conditions were best.  It was harder to determine which locations were best for observing.  It was also harder to know when specific astronomical events were occurring.  Now it is much easier as all of this information is contained in a device that nearly all of us now own.  That device is your smartphone.

There are so many mobile apps that you can download for free or for low cost to assist you in observing that now anyone can do it with very little prior knowledge.  These mobile apps make it very easy for young kids to observe the night sky as well, so if you're uncomfortable using these apps or aren't sure how to use them, hand your phone over to your kid and let him/her teach you!

What are some of these apps?  There's the Clear Sky app which does an excellent job showing you the sky conditions at a given location.  It will provide details on cloud cover and future predicted cloud cover at your location.  I have this app on my phone and use it quite a bit.  There's also Sky Map which uses your phone's GPS to map out the sky for you.  Just point your phone at the sky and this app will show you a map of what you are currently viewing.  There's the Astronomy Tools Night Sky app that provides information on light pollution, sky conditions, and sends alerts of upcoming astronomical events.

There are many more as well and a few, including those above, are described in this article.

Turn Your Smartphone into an Astronomy Toolbox with Mobile Apps

Check out this article, download a few apps, and get started.  Turn that phone over to your kids or have them download these apps on their phone and get out there and observe!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Extreme Exoplanets

Astronomy is so cool!  There's no other way to describe it.  It is simply awesome!  I've written about exoplanets several times on this blog.  Every week or so it seems there is new exciting news regarding the discovery of new exoplanets or new information on previously discovered exoplanets.  An exoplanet is a planet outside of our Solar System orbiting another star.  The first exoplanet was discovered in the 1990s and as of this writing there are now 3,610 officially confirmed exoplanets discovered.  There are billions and billions of exoplanets in the Milk Way Galaxy, but just a few thousand that are officially known.  Those numbers have exploded in recent years and will continue to grow.  In addition to finding these exoplanets, astronomers are learning more and more about specific exoplanets.  One of the more recent discoveries is an exoplanet that is hotter than most stars!

Extreme exoplanet: Astronomers discover alien world hotter than most stars

This planet has a surface temperature of 4,600 Kelvin.  Wow!  The Sun's surface temperature is about 5,800 K.  This planet is cooler than the Sun, but the Sun is larger and hotter than most stars, so this planet is actually hotter than most stars.  Again, wow!  This planet is a few times the size of Jupiter and orbits a very hot star, which partly explains why the surface temperature is so hot.  The planet is also tidally locked to the star, meaning one side of the planet is always facing the star.  This contributes to the higher temperature.

What will astronomy discover next week?  Who knows, but it could be anything and that's what makes astronomy so exciting!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Evolution Misconception #5: Evolution Takes Place Over Long Time Periods Only

In this ongoing series on evolution misconceptions I bring you the misconception that evolution only takes place over long periods of time.  While it is true that much of evolution does take place over long periods of time, there is evolution that takes place in very short periods of time.  Remember, evolution is a process in which changes in genetic material are passed on from one generation to the next.  For species with long lifetimes, evolution will naturally be a slower process, but for shorter lived species, it can happen much quicker.  Here's a great article from Discover Magazine on male guppies evolving over just a few generations.

Rapid Evolution Changes Species in Real Time

Although I don't have enough information to know if it is an evolutionary process, scientists are finding that some coral are adapting to warmer ocean temperatures much better than others.  Coral reefs are experiencing great levels of bleaching, but some areas are found to have coral surviving at higher rates.  It's a big area of study right now.  If it is an evolutionary process, it is happening on short time periods as it is only relatively recently in the last couple of decades that ocean temperatures have risen as dramatically as they have.

This misconception is probably used much less by creationists to debunk evolution than the previous misconceptions I've discussed, but I have seen it used.  The truth, however, is that evolution takes place over both long and short time periods.  Short time periods changes in a species is not a check mark against evolution.

Friday, July 14, 2017

This Blog's History: Gift to a Soccer Coach

In case you missed it, for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you to a post I wrote on the joys of coaching youth soccer.  You never know what six and seven year old soccer players will tell you or give you!

Best Gift to a Soccer Coach

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Karate Kid III

As a family we've been working through the Karate Kid movies.  Most recently we watched Karate Kid III.  Just like Karate Kid II, Karate Kid III begins immediately after the previous movie.  And I mean immediately!  Karate Kid III starts with Daniel and Mr. Miyagi stepping off the plane on their return trip from Japan to the U.S.

Karate Kid III tries to bring back the magic of the original.  Through a series of events Daniel finds himself back in the tournament he won the previous year, in an attempt to defend his title.  The villains in the movie are classic 1980s villains.  In other words, they are WAY over the top in their villain ways!  Why do I say that?  Listen to the laugh of the main villain.  It is a way over the top, crazy, insane laugh that only a 1980s villain could pull off.  :-)  My 6 year old thought this was funny.

Both kids enjoyed the movie.  I vaguely remember a few parts of this movie, but I'm not sure I ever watched this movie from start to finish.  I simply did not remember much of it if I did.  Next up to watch is The Next Karate Kid which stars Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi and a young Hillary Swank.  Karate Kid III was the last with Ralph Macchio.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #12: Tim Horton's

On our drive home from West Virginia I spotted a sign for Tim Horton's and it was lunch time.  I radioed ahead to my colleague driving the other vehicle and we stopped.  Here was my lunch:

Grilled cheese and a doughnut.  Yummy!  That's really all I have to share today.  If you see a Tim Horton's while driving, make sure to stop and have a doughnut.  Good stuff.  :-)

This post concludes this series on the high school trip I chaperoned to West Virginia.  We had a fantastic time and learned much about the history of coal mining in West Virginia.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #11: Out for a Hike

On our last full day in West Virginia we went on a couple of hikes in Chief Logan State Park, totaling about 7 miles.  It started raining lightly near the end, but that kept the temperature down so it was actually a positive.

Along the way we saw this guy.

I'm told this was a copperhead so we kept our distance!  In the end it was a good day in West Virginia.  Later, after leaving from the restaurant we ate at, I ended up doing one of those 20 point turn arounds in the parking lot in the big SUV we were driving.  Big SUV plus narrow parking lot equals me creating quite the scene turning around.  :-)

Monday, July 10, 2017

West Virginia Trip Post #10: The New River Gorge Bridge

Our last stop before heading home on a day in which we also visited Coalwood, WV and Bluefield, WV, was the New  River Gorge Bridge in Victor, WV.  This added a couple of hours to our drive on this day, but WOW was it worth it!  The bridge was built in 1974 and sits 876 feet above the river below.  Here are a few of the pictures I took.

Very cool!  This is a National Historic Park site so if you have a National Historic Park book, you can get it stamped here.  From the parking lot of the park there's a short, but somewhat step (very well maintained staircase) to walk down and get a closer look at the bridge.  An engineering marvel!  Definitely worth a visit even if it means extra driving time.