Friday, November 30, 2012

Junie B. Jones Books

My 5 year old is very much into the Junie B. Jones books.  Normally I'm not bothered by her reading choices, but the Junie B. Jones books bug me.  There's nothing wrong with the content message the books send to kids.  My problem has to do with grammar.  The book is written from the point of view of a kinder-gardener, and because of this, the grammar is intentionally incorrect.  You can immediately see this in the picture I took of a random page in the book.

I marked a few grammar errors on this single page in a Junie B. Jones book.  

I have 2 problems with this intentionally incorrect grammar.

1.  It's very difficult for me to read with good flow.  My eyes cross words that shouldn't be there or shouldn't be in that form and I have to stop myself and think through the proper grammar.  Granted, this is a split second thought process, but it interrupts the flow of the story when I read it out loud to my daughter.

2.  Should we really introduce incorrect grammar to children who are just learning to read?  Is this reinforcing the incorrect grammar?  Will kids who read this or have it read to them think that the incorrect grammar is really correct?

I still read these books to my daughter, but when I read it out loud, I correct the grammar.  

P.S.  I note that my grammar is not the best, but I never intentionally introduce incorrect grammar in my blog.   If you spot incorrect grammar, I assure you that it's a mistake (or ignorance!) on my part.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Powerball Odds

As my daughters get older, I hope to impart upon them a bit of wisdom regarding simple statistics.  If you live in the United States you are probably well aware that the largest Powerball lottery drawing in history took place last night.

Before the drawing, the lottery reached almost $580 million.  This morning I was checking out various news sources to see if anybody had won.  It turns out there were 2 winning lottery tickets sold.  The odds of winning the biggest prize are 1 in 175 million, so not very good.  Your odds of getting struck by lightning are better than this.  The same article goes on to state, however, that your odds of winning something in the Powerball lottery are "pretty good".  I put "pretty good" in quotes, because those are the exact words the article used.  So the question is, what is "pretty good"?  The odds of winning anything in the Powerball lottery are 1 in 32.  Pretty good?  Hardly.  Granted, 1 in 32 is much better than 1 in 175 million, but let's not kid ourselves.  A 1 in 32 chance is not "pretty good".  Switching over to percentages, a 1 in 32 chance means you have a 3.1% chance of winning something.  

Let me put this in a different perspective.  Let's say you go to the doctor and the doctor tells you that you have a potentially deadly disease (i.e. cancer).  Let's also say the doctor goes on to tell you that you have a 3.1% chance of surviving this disease.  Are you going to be happy with that chance?  I doubt it.  A very optimistic person will say that there's a chance they can survive which is better than no chance, but the average person is going to look at that and realize they are likely to die.  If I'm in that position, I'm going to remain hopeful, but at the same time I'll be getting my affairs in order to make sure my family is prepared in the statistical likelihood that I won't make it. 

To conclude, odds of 1 in 32 are NOT "pretty good".

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Asteroid Belt Misconception

According to science fiction movies (i.e Star Wars) one should never enter an asteroid belt.  Doing so is certain death, unless of course you are the hero of the movie and you miraculous escape by traveling through an asteroid belt.  Movies with these scenes show the hero zig zagging the ship back and forth barely missing asteroid after asteroid.

Unfortunately this is a huge misconception regarding asteroids.  First of all, what is the asteroid belt?  The asteroid belt is one location of asteroids in our Solar System.  Notice I said "one location".  There are other locations of asteroids in the Solar System, most notably in Jupiter's orbit.  The asteroid belt itself is a region of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter that orbit the Sun.  If you look at pictures in textbooks you'll see something like the following.

The Asteroid Belt is marked by the red arrow.

Looking at the picture, it seems as if the entire region between Mars and Jupiter is filled with asteroids.  In fact, the opposite is true.  The distance between two asteroids in the asteroid belt is on average a few million miles.  That's a huge distance!  In fact, you can randomly travel through the asteroid belt for years and your chances of hitting an asteroid are slim to none!

The problem with textbook pictures like this is that the size of a single pixel in the image is many times bigger than the actual asteroid scaled.  If you were to scale the asteroid down to the scale of this image, even the largest asteroid would be invisible!  But invisible pixels don't illustrate the location of asteroids very well, so "tiny" dots are placed on the image.  

To conclude, the asteroid belt, although containing more asteroids than other regions of the Solar System, is still extremely empty.  So have no fear the next time you find yourself traveling to Jupiter!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Daughter's Doughnut Shop Business

The other day we were all in the car on the way home from Grandma's house when my 5 year old daughter starts talking about the doughnut shop she's apparently going to run when she's older.  Nothing wrong with that, but it appears she needs a few lessons in mathematics and economics.


She started out by telling us that she was going to sell 5 doughnuts for $3.  Not a bad deal!  That's 60 cents a doughnut, a better deal than most bakeries!  Then she proceeded to tell us that she was selling 6 doughnuts for $7.  Uh?  Excuse me?  5 doughnuts for $3, but 6 doughnuts for $7?  That's not a very good deal!  That 6th doughnut cost $4 by itself!!!  Then she finished up by saying that she was selling 7 doughnuts for $10.  So the 7th doughnut was $3.  Considering that the 6th doughnut was $4, getting the 7th for only $3 is a steal!!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Next Lunar Eclipse

The other week I posted about a total solar eclipse taking place near Australia.  Today I was thinking to myself, "I wonder when the next lunar eclipse observable in the United States is?"  It turns out that the next one is soon, but there's a catch to it.  The next lunar eclipse observable in the United States takes place on November 28, 2012.  Unfortunately this is not a total eclipse.  It's a penumbral eclipse, meaning that Earth's full shadow is not cast onto the Moon.

To better understand what I mean by this, go into a lit room and hold your hand a foot or so above the table.   You should see darker shadows and lighter shadows from your hand cast onto the table.  A penumbral eclipse occurs when the lighter shadow from the Earth strikes the Moon.  Unless you are paying very close attention to the Moon, you probably will not notice any changes.

A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth casts a shadow onto the Moon.

Since this doesn't sound like a very exciting lunar eclipse, when is the next full eclipse?  There's another penumbral eclipse on May 25, 2013 visible in the U.S and another penumbral eclipse on October 18, 2013.  But those won't be very exciting either.  The next full eclipse visible in the U.S. takes place on April 15, 2014.  Total lunar eclipses visible at your location are much more common that total solar eclipses, but it can still be a couple of years between events.

I don't discourage you from taking your kids out to observe the penumbral eclipses.  It's quite possible you'll see something to share with them.  But definitely make plans for the April 15, 2014 eclipse!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Does Toast Always Fall Butter Side Down?

Everyone, and especially those with kids, has probably pondered the following question:  Does toast always fall butter side down?  We've all likely experienced this at some point in our life, and if you have kids, it's quite possible that you experience this every day.  It doesn't have to be buttered toast.  It could be a slice of pizza falling cheese side down, a container of yogurt falling open side down, or even a plate of spaghetti falling spaghetti side down.  It never seems to fail that the wrong side of the "whatever" hits the ground first.

I had my own ideas involving center of mass and rotation and it turns out I was correct, but I did some web research to verify my hypothesis.  It all depends on how the toast drops.  If you're holding the toast horizontal in both hands with the butter side up and release both hands at the same time, the toast will fall butter side up, thus making it still edible (3 second rule...which is not true, but fun to use anyway!).   Toast, however, usually isn't dropped in this way.

Most of the time a piece of toast is dropped one one edge. Think about a piece of toast slipping off the counter/table top.  When the first half of the toast goes over the edge it starts to fall due to the force of gravity.  Since one half of the toast starts to fall before the other, the toast begins to rotate through the air about the toast's center of mass.  Unfortunately for the toast eater, the toast strikes the ground less than 1/2 a second later.  Therefore, the toast doesn't have time to make one complete rotation and land butter side up.  It's still in the first half of its rotation, so it usually lands butter side down.  

One way to avoid your toast landing butter side down is to always face the butter side of the toast downward on your plate.  Thus when it falls off, the butter side is facing up when it hits the ground!  :-)

In the end, you're not full of bad luck.  There's a perfectly reasonable scientific explanation as to why toast always seems to land butter side down.  

Friday, November 23, 2012

Toothpick Bridges

A great activity that you can do with kids of all ages is the toothpick bridge building and breaking.  This is a required project in my high school physics classes, but it's something that you can do with kids of any age.  For a summer camp a couple of years ago I had 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades build toothpick bridges.  If you have younger children you can replace the toothpicks with popsicle sticks.  The goal is to build a bridge that is strong, sturdy, and can hold a great amount of weight.  My high school students have the following restrictions:

1.  You may only use toothpicks and glue (wood glue is fine).

2.  The bridge must span a gap of at least 25 cm.

3.  The bridge must have a mass of no more than 50 grams (in other words, an unlimited number of toothpicks is not allowed).

After the bridges were constructed, students brought them to lab and we tested how much weight each bridge could hold.  A 5 gallon bucket was place on the bridge and the bucket was slowly filled with water until the bridge broke.  Below are a few designs students came up with in my class.

The last picture shows the bucket being supported by the bridge.  This year I was very impressed with my students' bridges.  Last year the best bridge held 40 - 45 pounds of water.  This year one bridge held 50 pounds which was fantastic, but it was outdone by another bridge that held 73 pounds, which is doubly fantastic!!!  I had a great video of the 73 pound bridge break, but unfortunately the file size is much to large to upload here.  You'll just have to use your imagination.  

The bridge break is a great activity that gets students to think outside the box.  It can be done with any age group.  You can stick with the restrictions I used, or make up your own.  The younger the student, the more help they will need, but this is a great way for you to bond with your child.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Frustrating Physics of Christmas Lights

This past weekend I put up the Christmas lights on the outside of my  house.  My girls love seeing the lights on at night and wouldn't let me get by without making sure they were put up.  It might seem a bit early, but I'd rather be on the roof putting up Christmas lights in 50+ degree weather versus 15 degree weather!  The first step in putting up Christmas lights is to test the strings before heading up on the roof.  It takes 6 strings of lights to finish my roof.  I tested all 6 strings from last year and only 5 worked.  A couple didn't light at all, and the others were half lit.  See below.

As you can see exactly one half of the string is lit and the other isn't.  This is the problem with most strings of Christmas lights.  They are constructed on a single (or in this case two) series circuit.  This means that every bulb is attached to the same circuit, and if any bulb goes bad, the entire circuit goes out.  Since I didn't want to deal with these strings I went to the store and bought new ones.  An hour later, the lights were on the house.  

Later in the evening I decided that it would be silly to throw away the bad strings without first seeing if I could fix them.  There are really only two ways to fix these strings.  The first, and easiest method is to check the fuses.  Each string has two fuses, so I replaced the fuses with fuses that I know work.  Unfortunately, this fixed none of the stands, meaning the fuses were all good.  

The second method is to individually test each bulb.  So I took each potential bad bulb and place it in the working strand to see if the working strand still worked.  In 2 of the 5 "broken" stands, I found a bad bulb, replaced it, and the stands worked.  The the other 3 strands, the bulbs all worked, meaning that something else is wrong with the circuit.  Two of these strands are 50% operational, so I can still use them by bunching up the "broken" side.  The 0% operational strand is now serving as a bulb replacement strand.  Since the bulbs work, I can use them to replace bad bulbs in the future.  

I'm glad the lights are up on the house, but checking each bulb was a frustratingly tedious process.  Sometimes physics is annoying!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hand and Foot Painting

If you're looking for an indoor activity to keep you and your kids busy, try hand and/or foot painting.  I credit my wife with this activity since she thought of it and started the activity with our daughters.  Hand painting is a great way for kids to be creative.  Just be careful that their paint coated hands stay away from furniture and other things you wish paint to stay away from.  Here was our kitchen 30 minute later.  Still pretty clean if you ask me!

Hand/foot painting is also a great way to add to a memory or scrap book.  Again, kudos to my wife for thinking of this.  We each made a hand print in a memory/scrap book.  When the kids are much older we'll be able to look back in this book and reminisce about their craziness when they were younger.  :-)

Monday, November 19, 2012

What Direction Does the Sun Rise and Set?

As children, we are all taught that the Sun rising in the East and sets in the West.  Although this is partly true, it's also a misconception.  It's true the the Sun rises SOMEWHERE in the East and sets SOMEWHERE in the West.  Where exactly in the east the Sun rises and in the west the Sun sets depends on the day of the year.  Assuming you are not living above the Arctic Circle or below the Antarctic Circle, there are only two days a year that the Sun rises directly East and sets directly West.  These are the first day of Spring, around March 20/21 and the first day of Fall, around September 20/21.  On every other day of the year, the Sun does NOT rise directly East, and it does NOT set directly West.

Why not?  This is due to Earth's 23.5 degree axis tilt and Earth's revolution about the Sun.  As Earth revolves around the Sun, the position of the Sun at rise and set time changes.  As the days proceed from the first day of Spring to the first day of Summer, the Sun's rise position slowly shifts to the North East.  Note the diagram (for someone standing in Earth's northern hemisphere) below showing Sun rise and set positions at different times of the year.

After June 20/21 (first day of summer) until December 20/21 (first day of winter) the Sun's rise position changes from northeast to east to southeast.  Then the position reverses back from southeast to north east as we go from winter to summer.  The same is true in the West when the Sun sets.

This is a hard misconception to remove from the brains of high school students.  Everyone thinks that the Sun rises in the East, but the key is that it rises SOMEWHERE in the East.  Take a look at the rise position of the Sun at different times of the year.  You've all done this before without realizing it.  Every Spring and Fall we complain about the Sun being in our eyes when we drive to work and/or home from work.  How many of you have been driving to work in the morning near the first day of Spring or Fall and come to a stop at a stoplight but can't see when the light changes because the Sun is right there, blasting into your eyes?  Happens to me every equinox.  But a couple of week's later it's not a problem because the rise position of the Sun has changed.  Show this to your kids sometime, but be careful and explain to them that they shouldn't stare directly at the Sun.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mr. Potato Head Time!

My two year old has become very interested in her and her big sister's Mr. Potato Head collection.  She doesn't call it Mr. Potato Head though.  She calls it playing with the potato!  So yesterday she's playing with "the potato" and finishes making a "potato".  It's at this point that my vision of her growing up to be a doctor, teacher, dentist, brain surgeon, etc., was destroyed?  Why is that, you ask?  See the picture below of her "potato".

Nope, she's going to grow up to be a horror show director/producer, writer, designer, etc.!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Awesome Soap Pattern

Many of the small science experiments I've done with my daughters have involved density differences.  These include the Floating EggLava in a CupFireworks in a Jar, and the Homemade Lava Lamp experiment.  The other day we noticed, without officially doing an experiment, another example of density differences in the kitchen.  We recently filled the hand held soap dispenser next to the kitchen sink, but we filled it with a different type of soap.  A few days after filling the dispenser, we noticed the following.

The leftover soap at the bottom slowly, and by slowly I mean over several days, began to rise in snaky paths toward the top.  It's been about a week since I took this picture, and the snaky paths have continued to rise and are now about halfway to the top of the dispenser.  Very cool to look at!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tribute to Elementary School Teachers

I want to take a moment to thank all elementary school teachers that work tirelessly every day to teach our future doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, scientists, teachers, etc.  As a physics and astronomy teacher of junior and senior high school students I often get asked how I do it?  Teaching isn't for everyone and I'm not sure how I do it.  I just do.  It seems natural to me and I love it!  But I have the same question for elementary school teachers.  How do you do it day in and day out?

Every semester, at least once, I teach a Saturday youth program that centers around astronomy and physics.  This past month I taught a program two Saturdays in a row that focused on spaceflight and rocket building.  The age group was 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.  The first Saturday I had a smaller group of 8 students.  The second Saturday I had a much larger group of 20, 18 of which were boys!  It was 3 hours of craziness!  Trying to keep 20 students (18 boys) on task was a challenge to say the least.  Most elementary school classrooms have more than 20 students.  My 5 year old daughter has 24 students in her kindergarten class.

To conclude, I enjoy working with younger kids once in a while (as in once or twice a semester), but there's no way I could handle it 5 days a week.  So here's a big shout out to all elementary school teachers in this country.  You're doing a great job, a job that I'm not capable of doing!  Thank you!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leonids Meteor Shower Coming Up

Meteor showers are a great way to introduce kids to astronomy and introduce them to the joys of looking up at the night sky.  A meteor is a tiny piece of debris/dust that travels into Earth's atmosphere.  During this trip it burns up, producing a brief trail of light.  Meteor showers usually occur when Earth passes through an old comet's tail.  Many pieces of debris/dust pass into Earth's atmosphere, producing more meteors than normal.  These can range from 10 - 1000s of meteors seen per hour.  It's very rare to see a meteor shower with more than 100 meteors per hour, but it does happen.

This coming weekend, on the night of November 16, 2012 and the morning of November 17, 2012, are the Leonids.  The Leonids are the result of Earth passing through the tail of comet Tempel Tuttle.  To find the meteors from the Leonids you want to look toward the constellation of Leo.

The Leonids are usually not very impressive, averaging only 10 - 15 meteors per hour, but this is more than a typical night without a shower.  The good thing this weekend is that the Moon will be below the horizon.  Light from the Moon can flood the sky, limiting the number of visible meteors.  The lack of Moon will give a darker sky and a greater opportunity to observe meteors.  

Have fun!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Solar Eclipse on November 13, 2012

To my southern hemisphere friends and readers (if there are any!):  There's a solar eclipse headed your way on November 13, 2012.  For full details, check out NASA's Solar Eclipse page.  A solar eclipse occurs whenever the Moon is positioned directly in front of the Sun.  The Moon blocks light from reaching Earth's surface and casts a shadow on a thin sliver of the Earth.  If you're in the right location at the right time, you might be in the path of totality.  Even if you're nearby the path of totality, you'll still see a partial eclipse.

A solar eclipse in progress.

The path of totality crosses through the northern part of Australia and into the Pacific ocean.  Since it's unlikely that you live on a boat in the right part of the Pacific Ocean, the best bet is to make your way to Northern Australia.  If you're real lucky and live in Northern Australia, don't pass up this rare opportunity.  On average, a total solar eclipse will occur at your location on Earth once every 400 years.  And even then it might be cloudy.  So total solar eclipses really are once in a lifetime opportunities.  Don't pass it up!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Toilet Seat Hat

Critical thinking skills are skills that we gain through practice and experience.  In my high school physics and astronomy classes I design activities and tasks that requires the use of critical thinking skills.  At the age of 5, my oldest daughter has quite a bit of experience to gain in this area based on something that happened between her and her 2 year old sister last night.  Our 2 year old is beginning the process of potty training.  She's not very close yet, but if she's anything like her big sister, she'll make the final decision on when she's ready to use the big girl potty.  In the meantime we're working on the process with her.  Just like her big sister she isn't interested in the training potty that sits on the floor.  She wants to use the "big" potty.  The problem with the big potty is that the toilet seat opening is too big for her and she risks falling in.  We pulled out big sister's Elmo/Sesame Street potty ring and use that.

It works pretty when it's used for its intended purpose.  Last night however, the 2 year old decided to use the potty seat for something other than its intended purpose.  She proceeded to put the potty seat over her big sister's head!!!  Big sister was not a fan of this and came running to Mommy and Daddy to tell.  Once we realized what happened, it was one of those "try your best not to laugh out loud moments"!!!  Here are a couple of questions I wanted to ask my oldest.

1.  She's smaller than you, why did you let her put the seat on your head?

2.  You're faster than she is, why did you let her put the seat on your head?

3.  You're stronger than she is, why did you let her put the seat on your head?

4.  Finally, why again did you let her put the seat on your head?

It's moments like these that I wish I could be in the heads of my kids to know exactly what they were thinking!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Science of Daylight Savings

Hopefully everyone reading this turned back their clocks 1 hour this past Sunday morning at 2 AM (except those in Arizona and Hawaii).  If not, you made it to work an hour early.  Congratulations, now you can catch up on all the work you didn't get done last Friday!  :-)  While waiting for the bus with my daughter this past Monday morning, it was a great opportunity to talk to her about daylight savings.  I asked her, "What looks different this morning?"  She noticed immediately that it wasn't so dark outside.  You could see the other houses and trees across the street.  At that point I explained that in November we turn our clocks back 1 hour, and in March we'll turn them ahead one hour.  As a result, in November, it's lighter out in the morning and in the evening it gets darker earlier.

The official dates are the first Sunday in November and the first Sunday in March (2 AM Sunday for both).  Until 2005/2006 the date was earlier in the Fall and later in the Spring.  There are two states that do not follow daylight savings time:  Arizona and Hawaii.  Until 2005, Indiana was part of that group too.  So the big question is this:  Why do we celebrate daylight savings?  

The historical reason is that it saves on energy costs.  A 1970 study by the U.S. Department of Transportation concluded that energy costs are cut by 1% by shifting our clocks an hour twice a year.  One percent may not seem like a lot, but it adds up over millions of people.  Recent studies, however, conclude that it is a wash.  Energy may be saved in the winter, but air conditioners run longer in the summer.  Today I'm not sure that there's a strong argument that daylights savings is necessary.  Personally I could care less whether it's continued or discontinued.  But it did offer a good daddy/daughter science moment.  

Friday, November 9, 2012

Identifying Coins

Part of my 5 year old's kindergarten homework lately has been to identify common U.S. coins and determine how much they are worth.  This started with a picture of the front (heads side) of a coin, but has now moved to the back (tails side) of a coin.  My wife was helping our daughter last night when they came to the coin question.  I hear my wife ask me, "what coin is this?"  At first I said, "what do you mean, what coin is it?  Don't you know your coins?"  So I took a look at it and surprised myself when I wasn't 100% sure.  Here's the coin presented on the homework.

Back of a nickel.

Of course, on the homework assignment, the "five cents" was removed so as no to give it away.  My gut reaction was that this is a nickel, but then I started second guessing myself.  I kept thinking that a penny has a similar shaped building on the back...maybe it's a penny.  Finally I had to run to the bedroom to grab a nickel and penny and compare them.  Sure enough, my first reaction was correct.

I'd be surprised if most U.S. citizens can identify coins without knowing the size, color, and the words written on the back/front.  I'm guessing part of this is due to the fact that we use physical money less and less every day as society continues to shift to electronic money.  For me, I rarely use coins.  Whenever I receive change, I usually dump it in my daughters' piggy banks.  It's a rare day if I'm carrying coinage in my pocket and even a rarer day when I use coins to pay for something.  

My daughter's homework assignment was a wake up call that even I, The Cool Science Dad, don't know everything!!!  :-)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Why is there Frost on the Ground?

This past Monday morning offered a great science teaching moment for my daughter.  While waiting with her for the school bus to arrive she asked "Why is the ground all white?  Did it snow last night?"  No, that's not snow, it's frost on the ground and we see frost on the ground whenever it's cold outside.  There was also frost on all of the nearby trees.  So the real question isn't why is the ground white.  The real question here is why does frost appear on the ground/trees?

Not our yard, but a random picture of frost on the grass/trees

Each night the grass or trees radiate infrared energy outward.  This is similar to your body radiating infrared energy (what we call body heat).  If the grass loses enough energy, water vapor from the air can condense into ice on the grass blades.  This is frost.  Two things need to occur for frost to appear.

1.  The temperature must be below freezing (32 degrees F).  If the temperature is above freezing, dew (water) droplets can form.  You'll see this many times during the spring/summer/fall.  

2.  There must be enough water vapor (moisture) in the air.  If the air is extremely dry, there will be little moisture to condense as ice on the grass.  In this case, frost will not form.  

It's funny how science introduces itself to you.  I didn't wake up this morning thinking I would be explaining frost to my daughter, but I did.  Science is amazing!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Witch is a Tough Word to Say

Classify these two items under "crazy things kids say".  This past Saturday my daughters had their weekly swim lesson.  My 2 year old is too young to be in a lesson without a parent, so usually I get in the water with her for parent/child swim lessons.  She does a great job and has no problems jumping in the pool.  She really enjoys the water, which makes parent/child swim lessons bearable.  It's not fun when your child clings to you like Velcro.  My 5 year old did this when she was in parent/child lessons a couple of years ago.  It wasn't much fun.

Anyway, before getting into the pool I was joking with my 2 year old about my shirt.  I hadn't taken my shirt off yet and I kept teasing her that I was going to keep it on in the pool.  She didn't like this.  She kept saying "Shirt off!  Shirt off Daddy!"  Finally I relented and took off my shirt.  The 2 year old proceeded to yell out, with a big smile on her face I might add, "Daddy naked!!!!  Daddy naked!!!"  Everyone in the pool heard, but what could I do?  I should just be happy that she's excited about swim lessons.

The next day my 2 year old gave us another of those "crazy things kids say" moment.  While reading a Halloween kids book about witches my wife pointed out a witch and ask our 2 year old to say the word "witch".  Big mistake.  Apparently 'w' is a tough sound for her to make.  Instead of saying "witch" she said "bi---".  Then of course she kept repeating it, thinking she was successful in saying "witch".  Then, of course, my 5 year old picks up on this and says "she's not saying witch, she's saying bi---".  Sigh.

It took everything for my wife and I to keep a straight face during this!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


At the end of last week I took my 5 year old daughter to her (and my) first college women's volleyball game.  We've been to several college women's basketball games, but this was our first opportunity to check out a volleyball game, so we took advantage of it.  We had a blast!

It was a great opportunity to teach her about a new sport.  She's familiar with the basic rules of basketball since she's seen games before and is familiar with the basic rules of soccer from playing it, but volleyball was new to her.  I was able to explain some of the basic rules, such as out of bounds, only hitting it 3 times, serving, etc.  However, I realized there were many things I didn't know about volleyball.  Here are a few that came up at the game:

1.  Why does one player on each team wear a different color uniform?

2.  Why were 7 starters announced for each team, but only 6 can be on the court at once?

3.  How does one identify a double hit?  I know what a double hit is, but I swear that whenever one was called, the hit looked good to me.  

4.  Why do all the reserve players stand instead of sitting on chairs as they do during basketball games?

I'm sure there are other things I'm clueless on, but those were the main questions that popped into my head during the game.  This was the last game of the season, so I have a whole off-season to research the game of volleyball before the next game.  

Despite my confusion on a few things it was a great daddy/daughter date night!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Post Halloween Wrap Up

My family had an excellent Halloween last week.  I was worried it was going to be cold and rainy.  It was cold, but the rain stopped a couple of hours before trick or treating began.  As instructed by my daughter, I dressed up in my cow costume.  Yes, that's right, I own a cow costume, complete with utters and all!  As a grad student I found this costume very cheap several years ago and I keep it in a box in the garage.  It makes a short appearance every year on Halloween.  The worst part about it is that my kids think the udders are cool and want to touch them.  Awkward!!!  It takes a good 30 minutes to convince them to stop playing with the udders!

We had a great time and both kids ended up with buckets full of candy that Mommy and Daddy had to double check for poison.  At least that's how my 5 year old worded it.  She must have had a discussion at school about how parents should check your candy before eating it.

A partial pile of candy!

I remember my parents checking all of our candy for possible tampering.  I always thought it was amazing that my parents knew that the candy was okay to eat.  As a kid, I had no way of knowing.  Then I grew up into an adult, had kids of my own, and now realize that my parents had no clue what they were doing.  Why do I say that?  Because I have no idea what I'm doing when I check for tampered candy!  Obviously if something is open it's no good, but beyond that, checking for tampered candy is an almost impossible task.  It's a horrible thing to think, but if someone really wanted to poison Halloween candy, they can do it and parents would be none the wiser.

But enough negative talk.  We had a great time and I look forward to wearing my cow costume again next year!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Water Bottle Rocket Weekend

Yesterday I had the pleasure of teaching a spaceflight class for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders.  The major activity of the session was to build water bottle rockets.  I've discussed this in an earlier post from this summer, but today we tested something new.  First, let's see an official launch.  Below is the video I took of one student launching his rocket.  

As you can hear, the kids were quite excited when it launched.  A couple of pieces flew off this rocket as well.  The biggest story of the day, however, was the first launch, which is not shown in the video.  As the student was pumping air into the rocket, the rocket started to tip over.  Normally the base is very steady, so I'm not quite sure what happened, but suddenly it started to tip my direction!  I start to tell the student pumping air, but just as I start to say something, the rocket launches...right at me!!!  I did a quick duck and it missed me.  Instant replay would probably have shown that the rocket cleared me by 2-3 feet, but it was a little too close for comfort!  

After that scare we had a blast.  One student asked if we could launch them with just air, no water inside.  So I said sure, why not?  We tried a couple of them.  They don't launch nearly as high, but the rockets are filled with "fog" after the launch.  Why the fog?  Due to the increased air pressure, a fog forms, which is cool to observe.  

In the end we had a blast launching several rockets.  As I've mentioned before, this is a cool activity for kids of all ages.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fun Times with Legos

A great activity to participate in with your kids is Lego construction.  Every child should have a set of Legos, and every parent should spend time with their kids playing with Legos.  I admit that I need to do more of this.  At times I see Legos as something they can do on their own while Mommy and Daddy work on cooking dinner or cleaning.  This past weekend my 2 year old reminded me that Legos are for Mommies and Daddies too.  She looked at me and said "Daddy, build tower!"  "Daddy, build tower!"  And then even louder, "Daddy, build tower!!!"

Apparently I didn't have much of a choice, so I sat down with both daughters and we built a couple of towers together.  This was a good exercise in teaching them how to build a tower that's solid and not prone to collapse.  Below is the tower my 2 year old built, complete with a couple of dolls hanging out inside.

Our cool tower!

Sometimes as parents we tend to forget the little things in life, like playing Legos with our kids.  I'm glad my 2 year old gave me a reminder!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Floating Egg and Refraction

This past weekend my daughters and I did the Floating Egg Experiment.  It worked out great and we let it sit on the counter for several days to see if it would sink.  After 5 days the egg had yet to sink or rise any further in the fresh water/salt water mixture.  One thing we did notice was that the egg looked different inside the container.  It didn't look the same shape as an egg pulled directly out of the fridge.  At first glance it may seem like the salt water caused the egg to change shape over time, but this wasn't the case at all.  The egg only appeared different due to refraction.  Watch our video below.

As you can see, once the egg is removed from the water, it looks like a normal egg.  So what is refraction?  Refraction is the bending of light as it passes from one medium to another.  In this case the light has passed from the water, through the container plastic, to the air in the room.  The bending of this light makes the egg appear to be misshaped.  You've likely seen this before.  If you look at fish in a fish tank and then shift position from looking through the side of the tank to the top of the tank, you'll notice that the fish appear to change size.  They are, of course, not changing size, but the bending of light gives this odd effect.  

Seeing refraction in action was a bonus to the floating egg experiment!