Monday, September 30, 2013

What Does NASA Stand For?

Most people are familiar with NASA and understand that part of NASA's job is to send people into space.  However, ask the random person what the acronym NASA stands for and you'll get a variety of answers.  Most people get the 'N' right by saying 'National' and most people get the 'S' right by saying 'Space'.  It's the two 'A's' that stump most people.

Here are a few common responses to the "what does NASA stand for" question.

National Astronomy & Space Association
National Astronomy & Space Agency
National Astronomy & Space of America
National American Space Agency
National American Space Association
National American Space Administration
National Aeronautical Space Agency
National Aeronautical Space Administration
National Aeronautical Space of Association
National Astronauts in Space Association

All, of course, are wrong.  It makes sense that people would associate the first 'A' with astronomy since space is associated with astronomy and astronauts go into space.  Some people do say aeronautical for the first 'A', which is very close, but not quite there.  The first 'A' stands for 'aeronautics''. 

The second 'A' in NASA is more commonly stated correctly, but the words 'Association', 'Agency', and 'America' are more commonly stated than the correct term 'Administration'.

Officially, NASA stands for National Aeronautics & Space Administration.  Now you are informed and can correctly answer this question when your kids ask.  :-)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Girl Scouts Nuts & Chocolates

Everyone is aware of Girl Scouts cookie sales that take place at the beginning of the year in January/February.  Not everyone is aware of the Girl Scouts nuts and chocolates sale in the fall.  As a parent of a Girl Scout (my 6 year old), I'm well aware what this time of the year means.  It means that my wife and I are taking the order form to our work places and that I'm walking the neighborhood with my daughter to sell door to door.

Last year I was super excited for my daughter's first sales campaign since I'd never done this before with my kids.  It was a great time.  This year, well, much of that excitement has worn off for me.  :-)  My daughter is still excited, but me, not so much.  Still, it's important to her, so I'll be sucking it up and walking the neighborhood with her selling just as hard as we sold last year.  That's the job of a parent.

If you're the dad of a daughter in Girl Scouts, make sure that you're out there on the street with her.  It's a great bonding experience between dads and daughters and one that you should definitely not let slip away.  Before you know it, she'll be done with Girl Scouts and if you don't take advantage of this opportunity now, you'll miss out forever.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Must See Video for Dads

This is a must see video for all dads out there, especially if you are a Batman fan!

I definitely need to a get a Batman mask and start doing this.  My favorite part is when the dad does this to his teenage daughter who is obviously annoyed by it.  LOL!  It is the job of all dads to annoy their teenage daughters from time to time.  Teenage daughters come with too much snark to not annoy on occasion (or so I've heard since my oldest is only 6)!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sound in Space?

We see large, loud space explosions all the time in movies and TV shows.  Is this real or an astronomy misconception?  As you can predict, most of the great action scenes in movies are fake and do not accurately follow correct science.  Take loud explosions in space.  As cool as it appears in the movies, there is no sound in space.  Sound needs a medium for sound waves to propagate (move) from point A to point B.  The medium on Earth is Earth's atmosphere.  It's the air around you that allows someone you're talking to able to hear you.  Consider the image below.

The image shows a tuning fork producing a sound wave.  The tuning fork vibrates at some frequency.  The fork pushes air molecules away which them push other air molecules away and so forth.  Without air molecules, nothing is pushed, and nothing happens.  No sound is produced.  

Thus if you are in space and yell to someone (not through a radio, that's different), they can see you yelling, but can't hear you.  This means that big explosions in space produce no sound.  Makes for a more boring movie, but a more scientifically correct movie.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Checking my Daughter's Chosen Library Books

My wife keeps telling me that I need to check which books my two daughters pick out at the library before actually checking them out.  It's not as if I have no oversight over which books they pick.  All of their books are from the children's section of the library.  However, there are a few odd books that make it home at times.  For example, once my 6 year old picked out a children's book on how to adapt to living with divorced parents.  Uh...since my wife and I are not divorced, this led to an interesting conversation with our 6 year old.

It wasn't a bad conversation.  It was actually a good opportunity to explain to her that some kids have divorced parents, including friends that she may have at school.  

This past weekend my daughters picked out two books written completely in Spanish!  Not that there's anything wrong with this, but none of us speak Spanish!  Plus one of the books was a book about potty Spanish!  My 3 year old got a kick out of it, but it's not as if any of us could read the words.  LOL!  Maybe my wife is right.  I should probably review their chosen books before checking them out.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coaching Sports

I've been coaching my 3 year old's soccer team for 3 weeks now and helped out with my 6 year old's soccer team.  This has been a very rewarding experience and I highly recommend considering coaching your child's sports team if the option is available to you.  It's a great way to bond with your child and allow your child to see you in a different light.  Not very good at playing said sport?  Who cares, you can still coach.  I've never played organized soccer in my life and I rarely watched it on TV.  My first real experience with soccer was when my 6 year old first started playing when she was 4.  I suck at soccer, but I know enough of the basics that I can teach a team of 3 and 4 year olds.  Plus I learn more each week.   It's been an amazing experience and I encourage all of you again to consider doing it yourself on your son or daughter's team.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Did Galileo Invent the Telescope?

In any introductory astronomy course students are introduced to Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642).  Galileo was one of the key players in the history of astronomy.  It was his work that put the final nail in the coffin of the Earth centered solar system model.  Today we know that the Sun is the center of the solar system, but go back 400-500 years ago it was still widely accepted that the Earth was the center of the Solar System. Galileo's observations of the sky using his telescope provided the data needed to confirm that the Sun is indeed the center and not the Earth.

Galileo was the first person to use the telescope for astronomical purposes and as a result he's often credited with inventing the telescope.  This is not true.  The telescope was invented in 1608 by a German optician.  Galileo heard about the telescope and built his own in 1609 and used it to look at the sky.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My Daughter's Science "Experiment" Plan

The other morning my 6 year old finishes eating her cereal for breakfast and proceeds to put the bowl in the sink.  As she's doing this she stops, looks in the sink for a few moments, and then looks at me.  She tells me she has a science experiment we should try.  Okay, I thought, let's hear it.  Here's the procedure she gave me.

1.  Mix hot water with cold water.
2.  Add some vinegar.
3.  Add some syrup (the type that goes on pancakes).
4.  Add some salt.
5.  Add some milk.
6.  Add some sugar.
7.  Mix it all together and see what happens.

Uh...okay.  It's cool that she's thinking about her own science experiments.  She came up with this idea, so I'll do it with her soon.  Might have to add some baking soda to get any sort of interesting reaction, but she was super excited about it, so it's my job as her dad to be excited about it too!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Water Damage Science

Anyone with kids knows that your house is never clean.  You can clean it, but within 15 minutes it's dirty again.  It's just something that as parents you need to deal with.  Sometimes it's important to turn negative home maintenance "events" into a science learning experience.  Several years ago I ripped out the carpet in our house and installed laminate flooring.  We love the floor, but it gets a small scratch now and then which is no big deal.  However, the other day I saw this in the middle of the floor.

See that bump in the floor?  Apparently one of my daughters spilled water there that was never found and never wiped up.  It soaked into the laminate flooring and the wood expanded, leaving a bump!  I was not a happy camper.  Not much I could do though, so it was an opportunity to share with my daughters what happens when wood gets wet.  It expands and remains in its expanded state!  Here's another example in our house of this.

This piece of wall is right next to our sink.  We had a leaky faucet awhile back and didn't notice water was leaking onto the counter until this piece of particle board soaked it up and expanded.  Sigh.  The joys of having kids and owning a home.  :-)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Garfield Books

When I was a kid I fell in love with the Garfield comic strip.  As with most comics, Garfield strips were collected together in books.  During my childhood I collected the first 30 books of strips.  There are 55 plus Treasury books and other special collection books.  My Garfield books have been stored in a box in my garage since leaving college.  My 6 year old learned I had these and was super excited.  She watches the Garfield cartoon show and wanted to read the books herself.  You can imagine my excitement at this.  A couple of days later we dug them out of the garage and found a place on her bookshelf for them.

I find it exciting that my daughter is interested in some of the same books that I was as a kid.  As an additional science bonus, I showed my daughter the bottom of of each of the books.

See the discoloration?  It's the exact same length on each book.  This is smoke damage from a house fire at my house when I was a senior in high school.  My bookshelf at the time wasn't as deep and the books extended out from the shelf a bit.  The bit hanging over the shelf edge is discolored due to smoke.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Setting a Good Example

Much of teaching your kids to respect others is to set a good example and respect others yourself.  I took my 6 year old to a football game last weekend and witnessed a big parent failure.  There were several bouncy houses set up at the game and at halftime I took my daughter over to them.  She picked the one she wanted to bounce in and we got in line.  It wasn't a long line with her starting 3rd in line.  While we were waiting, another little girl, about 3 years old, came running up to the bouncy house and squeezed herself right in front of my daughter.  Okay, not a problem, 3 year olds will do that when they are excited.  The dad, however, did nothing!  He watched her budge in line and then smiled.  Smiled!  What, because she's 3 years old it's okay to budge?  Come on dad, set an example by pulling her out of line and moving her to the back.  If that was my 3 year old (and trust me, my 3 year old would do that), I'd immediately pull her out and explain to her that we needed to go to the back of the line.  That dad blew a great teaching moment and the fact that he smiled at her while she budged tells me that the dad thought it was okay that she ignored the line and budged.  Sad.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wasp Story

Those of you following my Facebook Community have seen my many posts this week regarding my wasp problem.  It's turned into a great science moment for my daughters.  They've learned about wasps, built wasp traps with me, and emptied those wasp traps.  I'll have pictures coming soon.  It's been an exciting week that started out bad with the discovery of the wasp infestation, but has had a positive effect by providing science teaching moments for my daughters.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My 3 Year Old and Podcasts

If you haven't already figured this out then let me just say it.  I'm a podcast junkie.  I have wide selection of podcasts that I frequently listen to.  These podcasts cover politics, science, and comedy.  I've previously posted here and here a list of quality science podcasts that you should check out.  Usually when I've picked up or dropped off my 3 year old at daycare (or any other time she's in the car with me) I'll ask her if she wants to listen to music.  Until recently the answer was always yes.  Lately, however, she says no.  She follows this up with one of the following two statements.

1.  I want to listen to your phone.
2.  I like to listen to people talking.

Both of these mean that she wants to listen to one of my podcasts on my phone.  Like I said, I listen to a wide variety of podcasts, but some are not appropriate for children.  In these cases I switch to a science podcasts (i.e. Science Fridays) and that's what we listen to in the car.  Hey, if she wants to listen to science, more power to her!  I'm excited that she's happy to listen to science podcasts.  It's an educational experience for both of us!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dads and Daughters Must Do's

My wife found this and passed it along to me.  It's a link to a website that lists 50 things that all dads should do with their daughters.  Each of the 50 items is taken from another dad/daughter website that I follow.  I've read all of these before, but it's neat to see the top 50 all in one place.  It's a good read and will really get you thinking about parenting, especially if your a dad with a daughter.  Here's the link:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

When Did Neil Armstrong Pass Away?

Some of you may have seen a news blurb a week or so ago that Neil Armstrong passed away.  If you're not already familiar, Neil Armstrong was the first human to step on the Moon, back in 1969.  Because of this huge science accomplishment he's an American icon and most people know who he is.  However, there was a "rumor" last week that he passed away.  I first saw the "news" that Neil Armstrong passed away a couple of weeks ago on Twitter.

At first I thought, that's sad, he was an important person in space travel and it's sad to see him leave us.  Then I thought, wait a second, I thought he passed away last year?  And why isn't there more news about this on other news sites?  Hmmm.....

So I did a quick web search and found that Neil Armstrong died in August of 2012, not 2013.  Apparently what happened is ABC news updated a web article on Neil Armstrong from last year to note the one year anniversary of his death.  The date on the article changed, leading people to think that Neil Armstrong just passed away this year.  It doesn't sound like this rumor developed as a way of deliberately confusing people.  It was an honest change by ABC news that was a bit confusing and led to people thinking Neil Armstrong just passed away this year. It just goes to show you that if something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't.  In those cases it's always a good idea to find another source and check things out for yourself.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Talking to Your Daughter About Her Body

My wife found another great article she passed my way which discusses how to talk to your daughter about her body.

The key in being successful about talking to your daughter about her body is to not talk to her about her body except in very general terms.  The article give a few examples that are okay to use along with some that are never okay to use.  It's a very good article and I definitely recommend you read it.  It's relatively short too.

My wife and I have talked about how we eat and how we talk about our own bodies.  How a parent talks about his/her own body can have a profound impact on how a son/daughter looks at his/her own body.  For example, for about a two week stretch I was tracking my nutrition intake.  When my daughter asked about it, I didn't tell her it was an effort to lose weight (which it wasn't) or to make myself look better (which let's admit, has a hint of truth behind it).  Instead, I told her I was tracking my salt intake because eating too much salt can be bad for you, which is the truth and I was interested in learning more about my salt intake.

Talking about diets, your body's looks, losing weight, being fat, etc., etc., are big no no's around kids.  Avoid at all costs.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Spongebob Squarepants Uno

Another great card game to play with your kids is Uno.  If your kids are young, Uno is a great way to teach them about numbers and colors.  If they are a little bit older it's still a great game that you can use to teach them about game strategy.  I've been working quite a bit on teaching my 6 year old how to play defense in games such as Sequence, Skip-Bo, and now Uno.  There's so much more to card games than playing offense.  Offense is great, but defense is also needed to help you win games.  To spice up the Uno experience you can try out Spongebob Squarepants Uno.

My 3 year old loves it when she has the Spongebob in his underwear card!  She finds this hilarious!  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cool Science Dad Facebook Community

If you haven't joined my Cool Science Dad Facebook Community, you should!  Here's the address:

I post links to each blog entry there, as well as a few other science notes that don't make it into this blog.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sequence for Kids

Ever play the board/card game Sequence at any point in your life?  If not, you've missed out on a lot of fun.

If you've never played, the goal of the game is to get a sequence of 5 chips in a row.  You have a set of cards in your hand and when it's your turn you lay down a card and put a chip on that card's place on the board.  My 6 year old has fun playing this, but it's a bit difficult for my 3 year old to understand the whole idea of playing cards and suits.  Fortunately there is a Sequence for Kids version that is perfect for my 3 year old.

Instead of suited playing cards you have animal cards.  When it's your turn you lay a chip down that matches one of the animals on your card.  Perfect for both my 3 year old and 6 year old at the same time.  For my 3 year old it's a great matching game.  For my 6 year old, I've started teaching her some strategy, especially on the defensive side of the game.  It's one thing to play offense and work on getting your own "sequence", but sometimes you don't have the cards for that and need to stop someone else from getting a "sequence".  That's where the strategy comes into play.

So there you go, another board game to get your kids thinking critically and having fun at the same time!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Mom's Letter to her Son

Here's a great article on CNN that is actually a letter that a mom wrote to her son before he left home for college.  It's a lot of great advice and if you have a child nearing college, please read this!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How Far Can You Jump? Sports Science Experiment

This past week my family and I did our first sports related science experiment.  Here's the question.  How far can you jump?  Then, can you jump farther from a standing position or with a running start?  How big of a difference is it if you have a running start?  As parents we all know that you can jump farther with a running jump, but my wife, both of my kids, and I did a few jumps and obtained data to verify our predictions.  This is an easy, but fun experiment to do with your kids and all it requires is a measuring device of some kind.  We used a 25 foot tape measure.

If you're a regular reader of this blog then you are well aware of my nerdness.  So as you can guess, simply jumping was not good enough for me.  I graphed our results in Excel!

You can see that we all jumped farther when we had a 1 step running jump.  What was a bit surprising is that our jump distances did not increase beyond a 1 step running jump.  They basically leveled out after that.  Interesting!

So there you go.  A very simple experiment that you can do with your kids.  Have fun!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Popular Science Magazine/Phone App

If you're not already a subscriber to Popular Science magazine, I highly encourage you to consider a subscription.  It's a relatively inexpensive magazine.  A 2 year subscription (24 issues) costs $18.  It's a great magazine that delivers loads of science at a very understandable level for the non-science person.  It's a great way to pick up some science knowledge and build your science knowledge base for when your kids ask a question.

If the subscription cost is too much, you can still get much of the magazine content online for free at  There's also an excellent phone app for androids (and presumably the iphone).  Check it out.  You're guaranteed to learn something.  If your child is old enough, give him/her a subscription for their birthday or Christmas.  It's a great gift idea for the science lover!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Science T-Shirt #2

As mentioned in a previous post, my wife found a great science T-shirt for my daughter that had the periodic table on it.  Later that day in a different store, I saw a "Science is golden, duct tape is silver" T-shirt.  Or so I thought that's what it said.  As you can see in the image below, that's not what the shirt said.

So walking through the store, here are the thoughts going through my head.

"The shirt I saw had the smiley face on it, but I've seen these shirts with just the words and no smiley face.  I have to admit that I have a big problem with the design that includes the smiley face.  When I read it, the message I receive is that the duct tape covering the mouth of the smiley face is silencing science.  I don't think this was the intention of the designers, but to me, that's what this message implies.  Science should never be silenced.  Science is all about discovering the truth of the world around us and truth should never be silenced."

Yep, I read the shirt wrong.  In the store, in my head, I'm going on a rant about how people are trying to silence science when there's nothing about science at all on the shirt.  Once I realized that, I thought, hey, that's a cool shirt!  LOL!