Friday, January 19, 2018

This Blog's History: The Meaning of Midnight

In case you missed it earlier this month, today I point you back to the rant I wrote on the common misconception many have regarding the meaning of 'midnight'.  Check out my rant by clicking the link below to read my original post on the topic.

The Meaning of Midnight.


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Do More Births Take Place at Full Moon?

I first heard this in a podcast a couple of weeks ago, but apparently there is this idea that a full moon helps induce birth in humans.  Um...okay?  Why?  Supposedly a full moon creates a larger gravitational force, causing a fetus in the last month of term to drop, thus inducing labor and resulting in a greater chance of birth.  What the....???  What does science say?

A full moon does NOT induce labor.
To start, the gravitational force between the Earth and the moon remains the same regardless of the moon's phase.  The gravitational force depends on the mass of the Earth, the mass of the moon, and the distance between the two.  You may not see the full circular disk of the moon when it isn't full, but it's still there.  Therefore the mass of the moon does not change with phase.  This means the phase of the moon can in no way affect the gravitational force.  

The distance between the Earth and the moon does, however, change.  The moon's orbit is slightly elliptical so sometimes the moon is a bit closer than other times.  A closer distance does increase the gravitational force.  Again, however, we need to look at the numbers.  This change in gravitational force is so small, that even if it could somehow induce labor, it wouldn't.  

So there you go.  The full moon does not induce labor.  More babies are NOT born during a full moon.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Round Earth Evidence

The Earth is NOT flat.  Let's make that very clear.  The Earth is clearly round and every bit of evidence shows this as fact.  To state the Earth is flat is to knowingly lie about your knowledge, knowingly mislead the public for personal gain, or to accept even the tiniest conspiracy presented to you.  However, if you need some evidence Earth is round, here's a great piece of evidence tweeted out by Neil deGrasse Tyson back in November 2017.

A "flat Earth" lunar eclipse.

This is what a "flat Earth" lunar eclipse would look like.  Unfortunately to all of the flat-Earthers out there, this has never been observed.  The shadow Earth casts on the moon during a lunar eclipse is curved.

A real lunar eclipse.

Once again Neil deGrasse Tyson destroys the conspiracy theorists in less than 140 characters and a single image. 


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Misconceptions That Kill #8: Drinking From a Cactus

I ran across this misconception last week and it fits in great with my Misconceptions That Kill series, so I've now added it as the 8th in an ongoing series of misconceptions that kill.  The misconception states that if you find yourself in a desert in desperate need of water, find a cactus, cut it open (hopefully you have a knife), and drink the water contained within.  Saved to live another day, right?  Nope.

A cactus won't save your life.
Turns out that a cactus doesn't contain drinkable water.  Inside a cactus is a liquid pulp containing toxic alkaloids.  Although the alkaloids may not directly kill you, they can cause you to get extremely sick and induce vomiting which only dehydrates your body further.  Thus in your attempt to quench your thirst, you've actually removed more water from your body and death is likely to come sooner.  

Moral of this story?  Don't get lost in a desert.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Discover Magazines Top 100 Science Stories of 2017

Each year Discover magazine publishes (Jan/Feb issue) their choices for the top 100 science stories of the previous year.  I recently finished reading this year's issue.  Many, many cool science events in 2017.  A total of 100 to be exact.  :-)

Discover Magazine - Top 100 Science Stories of 2017

The number one science story of 2017?  The total solar eclipse.  I can buy that.  Not a discovery by any means, but a highly anticipated event viewed by upwards of 200 million people in the U.S.  I was one of those people and those two minutes were worth the drive and the intense traffic jam on the way home.  More than worth the drive!  I can't wait for the next total solar eclipse to hit the U.S., in 2024.  

I was vaguely familiar with most of the 100 stories.  As a science teacher I try to pay attention with current events throughout the year.  I didn't know the details of many of the stories but remember the basics of most of the stories.  The number four story of the year was very sad and it amazes me we even have to talk about this.  The number four story was the current administration's attempt to silence science throughout the year.  Sigh.  Despite that though, pick up a copy of the January/February 2018 issue and catch up on all the science you missed in 2017.

Friday, January 12, 2018

This Blog's History: Does Thanksgiving Turkey Make You Sleepy?

In case you missed it last time, today, for This Friday in This Blog's History, I point you back to the post I wrote on the misconception that Thanksgiving turkey makes one sleepy.  It doesn't.  There are many other causes to sleepiness on Thanksgiving, none of which are turkey.  For the details, click the link to the original post below.

Did That Thanksgiving Turkey Make You Sleepy?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Star Wars Books

I love Star Wars (Episodes 1 & 2 wipe from memory, of course) and recently took a look at the collection of Star Wars books out there.  I've read a couple in years past but I was astonished when I saw the full, and growing list, of Star Wars books written by various authors.  Wow!  Here's a site that has organized them in chronological order.

Star Wars Books - Chronological Order

The few I've read I'd rate as okay to good, but not great.  Then again, I've only read a couple.  I plan to read some others in the future, but as I've said many times, my to-read list is ever growing and far exceeds the lifetime of the oldest human alive.  I guess it's good that I like to read but also sad I'll never finish my to-read list.  Oh well.

Valentine's Day is coming up so if you have a Star Wars lover in your family, a Star Wars book might be a good gift choice!  Works for birthdays too.  Books are never a bad idea!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Last Jedi

As a family we went to the movie theater to see the latest Star Wars Movie, The Last Jedi.  Of course we weren't going to miss it and went on opening weekend.  Thankfully the theater in our town is newly re-modeled with fancy reclining seats and plenty of leg room, as well as the ability to reserve specific seats early to avoid waiting in line on the day of. 

Star Wars Episode #8:  The Last Jedi

Excellent movie!  We loved it!  I don't know what all the Star Wars haters are talking about as this was a great movie in the series.  In case you haven't seen it yet I won't reveal any spoilers, but wait, I will!  Here are spoilers!!!

Han Solo is not dead.  Kylo Ren turns out to be Luke and Princess Leia's sister.  Jar Jar Binks returns to lead the Ewoks in their fight against the dark side.  Darth Vader is not dead and returns as a storm trooper.  And Bruce Willis makes an appearance to stop an asteroid from destroying a planet.  So many twists and turns in this movie.  :-)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Will Earth Lose The Moon?

As you know, the Earth has a moon and sometimes this moon gives us breathtaking views.  A full moon rising just above the horizon is always a sight to see as Earth's atmosphere gives the moon a very brilliant orange/red color for an hour or so before the moon reaches a higher altitude in the sky.  Then there are lunar and solar eclipses that give us even more breathtaking views.  The moon, however, is slowly moving away from Earth at an average of a few centimeters per year.  This may seem like a lot, but eventually there will be no more solar eclipses.  As the moon moves away, it appears smaller in the sky and will no longer appear large enough to block the Sun and give us an eclipse.  In addition, the gravitational force between the Earth and moon decreases with increasing distance.  Does a weaker gravitational force mean we'll lose our moon?

The answer is no and it's explained wonderfully in this very cool video from SciShow.

Will the Moon Ever Leave the Earth's Orbit?

Tidal forces between Earth and the moon cause the moon to move away and cause Earth's rotation to slow down.  In other words, days on Earth are getting longer, but only by tiny fractions of a second each year.  It's only noticeable when we consider time scales of thousands to millions of years.  Eventually the moon's distance will increase to the point where only one half of Earth will face the moon.  The same side of Earth will always face the moon, just as the same side of the moon is always facing the Earth.  However, something else happens WELL before this and that's the end of our Sun.  In about 4.5 billion years, the Sun will expand into a Red Giant and that will quite possibly be the end of Earth as a planet.  Therefore losing the moon or only having one side of Earth able to see the moon is not anything to worry about since the Sun will end its life well before that time!  If you love our moon, no worries, it will always be there while you are alive.  And your kids.  And grand kids.  And grand-grand kids.  And...well, you get the point.  :-)

Check out the video for more details.  It's a great video and SciShow has produced hundreds of wonderful science videos!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Misconceptions That Kill #7: Do Tornadoes Cross Rivers?

It's time to write about another common misconception that can literally kill you.  There are many myths regarding tornadoes and many of these myths can lead to needless deaths.  Today I want to specifically focus on the misconception that tornadoes cannot cross rivers.  Often this misconception is modified to state that a river's shape or bend can prevent tornadoes from crossing.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  A thousand times wrong.  A tornado doesn't give a crap about a river.  In fact, tornadoes can form over a body of water!

Tornado on a lake.
There's this common myth where I live that the local river stops tornadoes and therefore we rarely (and never according to some people) get a tornado.  Well, guess what?  Earlier this year we had a tornado touch down and sweep through a residential area.  Fortunately it was a weaker tornado and no one was killed, but ignoring or misunderstanding the threat of tornadoes can be deadly.  Can tornadoes cross rivers?  Absolutely yes and to argue otherwise could result in someone's unnecessary death.