Monday, June 30, 2014

What is a Blood Moon?

Back in April I discussed the April 15, 2014 Lunar Eclipse observable in most of the western hemisphere.  This eclipse was also called a Blood Moon.  So what's a Blood Moon?

Officially...nothing.  Astronomers do not use the term Blood Moon.  The best I could find on the use of the term Blood Moon is in biblical prophesies.  More on this here:

All lunar eclipses appear reddish/brownish/orangish during totality, so I guess you can say the Moon sort of looks blood colorish.  But that's a big stretch.  Here's a picture of a typical lunar eclipse in totality.

That's a far cry from the color of blood.  To conclude, the term Blood Moon is not used in astronomy and it's not a term you'll see me use again, unless I have to debunk some crazy claim or lie regarding lunar eclipses.  :-)

Friday, June 27, 2014

This Blog's History: Making Paper Airplanes

This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you an old post on making paper airplanes.  Paper airplanes are a great outdoor summer activity.  You can have contests to see who can build a paper airplane that travels the farthest, highest, longest in air, most creative, etc.  The categories are limitless.  Paper airplanes are a morning or afternoon of summer fun!  For the original post, check the link below.

Making Paper Airplanes

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Library Animals

I mentioned last month that all parents should check out their local library to see what type of summer reading programs they have going on.  You'd be surprised at what you might find.  I took my daughters to a recent nature/animal program at our library.  There was a discussion on various animals along with actual animals present!  After the program the kids got to come up and pet the animals.  My daughters' favorites were the anteater and the armadillo.

This is the first time I've had a chance to be up close to an armadillo.  It was neat watching him/her scurry around.  I was surprised at how fast they move!  So check out your library for a summer full of fun!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Teach Your Kids to be Skeptical

Earlier this year I posted, and posted, and posted on the importance of teaching your kids to be skeptical.  I want to emphasize this once again, for a fourth time.  :-)  We live in a world where people say things that are automatically accepted by the masses.  If you're active on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site, you often see images of quotes.  Are these quotes real?  If so, were they spoken by the person stated?  Is a person's claims correct?  Misleading?  Blatantly false?  Many times it's hard to say at first, thus the importance of being skeptical.

Now let's correctly define a skeptic.  A skeptic is NOT someone filled with crazy conspiracy theories.  A skeptic is NOT someone who ignores reputable evidence in an effort to hold on to one's own claim or belief.  A skeptic is someone who requires strong evidence for any extraordinary claim.  For example, if a friend of mine says he saw Big Foot in the woods last night, I'm going to be skeptical.  My friend needs to provide evidence.  Maybe that evidence is a picture, but even then, I'm still going to be skeptical.  There is no reputable evidence for Big Foot that exists, so my friend having evidence is a very shaky claim.  The picture would need to be analyzed by experts before I could conclude that my friend saw Big Foot.

To help your kids become skeptics, give them examples of claims lacking supporting evidence.  Talk to them about why one should be skeptical of the claim (i.e. lacking evidence).  Becoming a good skeptic takes time and experience.  With your help, your children will one day become good skeptics.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How Long Does a Housefly Live?

The lifetime of a common house fly is a very common misconception among the general public.  I remember, as a kid, being told in school that house flies will live a day, maybe two at most, before dying.  Alas, this is another misleading statement that isn't true.  The common house fly doesn't live very long, but lives longer than a day.

I checked out a few sources and decided to post the link from a insect/pest expert, Orkin.  According to Orkin, the common house fly can live up to 30 days and reaches the maximum number of days alive when temperatures are warmer.

How Long Do Flies Live?

This explains why that pesky house fly seems to be flying around a room for days.  Because it is!!!  It's not a new fly each day.  It's the same fly that you just haven't gotten rid of yet!

Monday, June 23, 2014


Read something on Facebook that you're just not sure is true?  See a quote on Facebook that you're not sure is attributed to the person stated?  Think someone is misleading you on the science of something?  Sometimes it's hard to tell if you are being mislead or if someone is telling the truth on an issue.  If you're not sure, a great website that does a fantastic job of debunking or verifying claims is Snopes.


Snopes has entries on hundreds, if not thousands of different topics.  If I'm not sure on something someone has said or something I've read, I'll first go to Snopes to see if they have an entry on it.  This is also a great teaching moment for your kids.  If they are questioning something someone said, sit down and check out Snopes with them.  See what you can find and discover the truth WITH your child!  It's a moment that you, and your child, will never forget!

As kids, you and I didn't have these tools to discover the truth.  It was much harder to see through a misconception or a lie.  Today, with tools such as Snopes, there's no excuse for not verifying something that sounds fishy.

Friday, June 20, 2014

This Blog's History: Are GMOs Harmful?

This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you a post on something very controversial in today's society:  GMOs.  Are they harmful?  Are they bad for your health?  You can read the original post below for more details.

Are GMOs Harmful?

At this point in time, the science does not point to them being directly harmful to your body.  However, it may be that the farming practices used and business practices used by GMO companies can be bad for the environment, future crop productions, and potentially the economy.  However, eating a GMO product is not bad for your health, according to studies testing GMOs.  GMOs have been around for centuries and, if used correctly in combination with organic farming, are a necessary tool to combat the growing global hunger problem.

Here's one such article on one such misleading statement regarding the affects of eating GMO products.

Monsanto Corn

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Do Parent Birds Abandon Baby Birds?

Here's a summer time question.  Do parent birds abandon their baby birds if they detect the presence of a human near the nest at any time in the past?  This is a fairly common question that has a fairly common misconception.  You've likely heard that if you walk up to a nest of baby birds and touch it or linger too long, the mother bird will smell your previous presence and abandon the nest and the birds.

Fortunately for those of us that care about the survival of baby birds, this isn't true.  Mother birds take very good care of their offspring.  Their sense of smell is not that well developed to flee if they smell a human.

The moral of this story is to not believe everything you hear, but to also not to fear getting too close to a nest of baby birds.  Your close presence will not prevent the mother from returning.  You should still be careful touching the nest or birds.  You don't want to poke them too hard, crack an egg, or knock the nest out of the tree.

For more details, check out this entry on this topic.

A Bird in the Hand

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Catapult Building

Building a catapult is a cool summer activity you can do with your kids.  I tried this for the first time with my high school students in Physics class.  They were given a goal of launching  marbles into a bucket located 5 meters from the catapult.  They were given very few restrictions or guidelines because I wanted them to be creative and was simply curious as to what they'd come up with.  Not all of the catapults successfully launched the marble into the bucket, but more than half did and the others were close.  Overall I was very impressed.  Here are a few pictures of catapults they built.

Catapults can be built by anyone of any age.  The younger your child, the more help he/she will need, but it's a great opportunity for you to assist your child in building something of his/her own creation!  See what you can come up with!  Try launching different objects.  What makes the object launch farther?  Higher?  Best accuracy?  Least accuracy?  Use your imagination and let your child use his/her imagination.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Neptune Book Mistake

My daughters picked out a kid's book on Neptune the other day from the library.  One evening before bed I sat down to read it to them and ran across a mistake.  It was most likely a typo.  Let's see if you can find it.

Find it?  Look closely!  On the left page it says that Voyager 2 launched in 1977.  This is correct.  However, on the right page it says that Voyager 2 launched in 1989.  This is incorrect.  Voyager 2 flew by Neptune in 1989!  It's still a good book, but the Ph.D. in astrophysics leaves me picky when it comes to typos such as this.  :-)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer = Water Bottle Rockets

Summer is here which means it's time for water bottle rockets!  I've posted about water bottle rockets before here and here.  I'm posting on it again since water bottle rockets are awesome!  Your kids are guaranteed to have a blast and they get to experiment with different designs to see which work the best.

Get the details of how to build one here:

Building Water Bottle Rockets

Here are a few pictures of recent water bottle rockets 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students built at a recent weekend science class.

So what are you waiting for?  Enjoy the weather by building and launching water bottle rockets!

Friday, June 13, 2014

This Blog's History:

This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you the National Eagle Center.  It's a great place to visit during the summer if you happen to be in or near the south eastern part of Minnesota.  Your kids will love it!

The National Eagle Center

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Americans Doubting Science

The state of science approval in the United States is downright pathetic.  It amazes me how many people ignore science and instead go with their beliefs, refusing to look at the evidence right in front of them.  For example, a recent poll came out discussing people's approval of varies sciences facts.  And by facts (I could also use the word theory), I mean statements backed up by evidence.

New Poll Reveals Many Americans Express Doubt Over Global Warming, Evolution, Big Bang

In this article, it's stated that only 51%  do NOT accept the Big Bang!  Really?  Despite the overwhelming evidence, 49% do not accept or are either unsure on the Big Bang.  Sigh.  Numbers are just as bad for the age of the Earth, climate change, and evolution.

On the bright side, only 4% doubt that smoking causes cancer, leaving some hope for humanity.

I encourage you to continue introducing your children to science.  Don't let them be a person who ignores the evidence science presents in its statements.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Science Experiments with Peeps

Easter was 2+ months ago, but if you're like my family, you still have a ton of peeps leftover that no one is eating.  What's a peep?  If you're asking that question, you must live in a closet!  Here's a peep.

A peep is basically a marshmallow coated in some sugary substance.  If I've ever eaten a peep in my life, I can't recollect that moment.  They are not something I ever intend to eat.  But I will subject these little guys to science experiments.  

So if you have leftover peeps, there are quite a few science experiments you can do on peeps.  Here are a few my family tested recently.

1.  Put a peep in a glass or room temperature water.

After a good hour in the water, we took it out to examine the peep.  The sugary coating on the peep dissolved in the water and what was left was a squishy ball of peep goo!

2.  Freeze a peep.  Place it in a freezer for an hour or so.  It will shrivel up into a rock hard ball of...well, peep goo!


3.  Microwave a peep!

The microwaved peep quickly expands and turns into a hot pile of goo!

4.  Place a peep in a cup of boiling water.

This experiment was quite cool!  Once dropped in the very hot water, the sugar dissolved off the surface of the peep and the peep quickly dissolved in the water, turning it blue!  We had a blue peep.

5.  Burn a peep.  

The peep eventually turned into a big ball of ash/char.  Yummy!  Not!  

What else can you do with peeps?  Think about what else you and your kids can do with peeps.  Just be sure to take proper safety measures and always make sure there's an adult around to supervise young children as they experiment with peeps.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Floating Egg Test

Ever wonder how you can tell if an egg is bad?  You may have heard the egg floating test which claims that if an egg sinks in water, it's good to eat, but if it floats in water, you should throw it away.

How to Tell if an Egg is Bad

Is this a valid test?  Unfortunately it is not so simple.  As an egg ages, gasses are released and the overall density of the egg decreases.  Thus it is true that an older egg is more likely to float, but this does not necessarily mean the egg is bad.  According to the Government of South Australia Health Department:

"Fact: There is no way of knowing whether there are bacteria in or on an egg, and Salmonella can be present whether it sinks or floats."

Thus the floating egg test doesn't mean an egg is bad.  It could be, but so could a sinking egg.  The only way to tell is to open it up.  If it looks odd or smells bad, you have a bad egg.  If not, then the egg is probably still good.

This summer my daughters and I are going to test this by seeing how long it takes a fresh egg to sink/float, but refrigerated and not.  Results will be posted here.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Density Experiments

At a recent science demo show, my two daughters had an opportunity to see density differences in action.  We've done several of our own density experiments at home, but it's always cool to see how fluids of different densities interact with each other.  Here's a picture of a beaker containing fluids of different densities that I took at the show.

This beaker contains water tinted blue with food coloring and vegetable oil.  The beaker is on a hot plate so the water is boiling, which simply enhances the visual effect of the two fluids separating.  

The cool thing with density experiments is that you can do many of them at home.  Try different fluids.  If water and oil separate, what about milk and oil?  Orange juice and oil?  Liquid soap and oil?  If something floats in water, does it also float in oil?  What about sinking?  

The possibilities are limitless.  Just open your cupboard and open up your mind!  Be careful with baking soda!  It will react with vinegar and make a mess!

Friday, June 6, 2014

This Blog's History: Watch Cosmos!

This Friday in This Blog's History I remind you once again that if you haven't watched any episodes of the new Cosmos series, starring Neil deGrasse Tyson, then you need to!!!

Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Thursday, June 5, 2014


Soccer season for my two daughters is now complete and I'm once again reflecting on my experience of coaching my 3 year old's team.  The experience was a very positive one.  It was my second season, following the Fall 2013 season, of coaching my 3 year old's team.  I also had the opportunity to fill in as coach for a game for my 7 year old's team.  Both experiences were amazing and I loved every minute of it.  I encourage all parents to carefully consider volunteering to be a coach for your child's team.  Maybe it's soccer, basketball, football, t-ball, baseball, softball, etc.  City and county leagues are always looking for volunteer coaches.

In most cases, no coaching experience is needed.  Many leagues will provide coach training sessions.  Take myself as an example.  I have no experience playing organized soccer and the number of unorganized soccer games I've played in my life can be counted on one hand!  Soccer was not a big thing when and where I grew up.  My 3 year old's team consists of 3 and 4 year old kids.  At that age, the coaches biggest responsibility is getting all kids to play, helping them when they fall down and/or cry, and making sure they all get to kick the ball a few times during the game.  Coaching responsibilities increase a bit as skills become more important as your child ages, but one can easily pick this up by watching a few games in the older age groups.

Coaching isn't for everyone, but don't immediately discount it.  I never thought I'd be a coach and then suddenly the opportunity presented itself and now I love it!  It's a great bonding experience with my girls.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Library

Summer is here which means you definitely need to take your kids to the local library to see what they have going on for summer activities and programs.  Most libraries usually have something going on for kids.  For example, my local library has a summer reading program taking place that awards kids weekly prizes for reading.  For my 7 year old, prizes are based on time reading, since she can read on her own.  For my 3 year old, prizes are awarded based on the number of books read by the parents.  Regardless, both of my kids are excited to earn prizes this summer.

In addition to prizes, each week there is an afternoon education show at the park.  My kids have done this the past 2 years and love it!  It gives us something to do at least one afternoon each week through June and July.

So take a trip to you local library and see what they have to offer this summer.  You may be surprised at the joy your kids get when you visit the library for these programs.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

May Blog Stats

The stats for the month of May 2014 are in and The Cool Science Dad Blog just set another personal record!  For the month of May, there were 6,866 unique page views, an increase of 16.8% over April's page views.  April was the previous record.  Hopefully the numbers will continue to climb.  I've greatly enjoyed writing this blog and have no plans to stop anytime soon!

Below is the chart of page views per day for each month over the  last 2 years.  Last month there were 221 unique page views per day!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Take Your Kids to the Voting Polls

With the mid-term primary season well underway and the 2014 mid-term elections quickly approaching, I encourage all parents to take their kids to the voting polls, if at all possible.  Whenever my wife and I vote, we try to take our daughters with us when possible.  Although they are many years from being eligible to vote, introducing the voting process to them now will ingrain in them the importance of voting.  

Turnout rates in elections in the U.S. are very low.  Presidential elections may hit 60%, low compared to the the rest of the world.  Mid-term (non-presidential) elections have a much lower turnout rate.  The 2010 mid-term election had a national turnout rate of about 40%.  Primary elections are even lower.  My county had a 2010 mid-term primary election turnout of 22%.  This year's mid-term primary election brought out less than 11% of the county's electorate.  Yikes!  That's low!  89% of the electorate stayed home and did not vote.  What kind of message does that send to today's youth?  Not a good one, that's for sure.  

You can do your part in raising these numbers by:

1.  Voting yourself.

2.  Taking your kids to the polls, explaining voting, and showing them how to vote.

Politically active parents will make politically active kids.