Thursday, December 31, 2015

1,000th POST!!!

Today's post is the 1,000th post on this blog since its founding a few years ago!  Woohoo!!!  I should stop now, right?  :-)  No way!  I love writing this blog and sharing science and parenting with others.  I have no intention to stop now.  

This blog started in May 2012 and soon moved to a M-F publishing schedule.  Three and half years later I've written 1,000 posts and have about 4500 unique visitors per month.  Not too shabby!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Does the Moon Reflect a LOT of Light?

Let me start by saying that we don't see the Moon because the Moon produces its own light.  The Moon does not produce its own light.  We see the Moon as a result of sunlight striking the surface of the Moon and reflecting back to Earth for us to see.  A full Moon in the night sky can appear very bright, making it difficult to see the fainter stars in the sky.  Meteor showers during a full Moon are not nearly as impressive because the light reflected from the Moon's surface partially fills the night sky.

The bright full Moon in the sky makes it appears as if a large amount of light is reflected off of the Moon's surface.  This is not true.  In fact, the Moon's surface is not very reflective at all.  On average, only 7% of the Sun's light that strikes the surface of the Moon is reflected.  So why does the Moon appear so bright in the night sky?  There are a couple of reasons.  For starters, a large amount of sunlight strikes the surface of the Moon, so even 7% of that is still a considerable amount of light.  The larger reason, however, is that you are contrasting the full Moon against a dark sky.  It's that contrast that makes the Moon appear very bright.  Compare a full Moon that rises as the Sun is setting to a full Moon a couple of hours later.  The same amount of sunlight is reflecting off the Moon's surface, yet the full Moon when the Sun is just setting does not appear nearly as bright as the full Moon an hour later when it is dark outside.  This is due to the contrast of the Moon on a dark sky.

The Moon could appear MUCH brighter if there was a different surface composition.  If the Moon had a very icy surface like Pluto and other far away objects in our Solar System objects, the amount of sunlight reflecting off would be MUCH greater than 7%.  Europa, a moon of Jupiter's, and an object in our Solar System with a very icy surface, has a reflectivity of 64%.  Imagine if our Moon had that reflectivity!  Wow!!! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Playing Scientist

The other day my wife had the kids and arrived home a few minutes before I did.  Both of my daughters were playing in yard when I pulled in and were excited to tell me what they were doing.  They were playing scientists!  They had picked up some acorns and other types of nuts that had fallen from the trees near where my wife works and were cracking them open.  They grabbed a hammer and carefully cracked open the nuts to see what they looked at inside.

It was very cool to see how excited they were.  They weren't pretending to be scientists.  They were actual scientists!  They were doing what scientists do every day which is investigate the world around them through observation.  This was a proud daddy moment for me!

Let me end by continuing to encourage everyone reading this to promote science and investigation in your kids' lives.  Buy them (or check out from the library for free) science experiment books.  For gifts get them a science related gift now and then.  Take them to science events or science museums near you.  Introduce science into their lives and they will take care of the rest!  It's that simple!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Did NASA Invent Tang?

Often times it is brought into question whether money devoted to NASA is worthwhile given other world problems.  People look at the amazing space missions, but then wonder how this affects their daily lives.  What is often not discussed is the ways in which NASA technology benefits us in other aspects of our lives.  This post is not about that.  This post is about one invention that NASA is often credited as having developed but did not.  I'm speaking of Tang.

I've never had Tang, so I can't tell you if it's good or not.  What I can say is that NASA did not invent Tang.  Tang was developed in 1957, a full year before NASA was founded in 1958. Why then is Tang associated with NASA?  Tang was used in several early manned space missions in the 1960s.  Maybe this is where Tang gets its claim to fame (assuming Tang ever had fame!).  It's cool that Tang was used by NASA astronauts, but this is a far cry from NASA inventing Tang.  

Now I'm curious what Tang tastes like.  Can you buy Tang on Amazon?  Yes, yes you can!

Friday, December 25, 2015

This Blog's History: The Martian

Today is Christmas and maybe you'll be lucky enough to get the book The Martian as a gift this year.  How awesome would that be!?!?!  It's Friday, meaning it's time for This Friday in This Blog's History.  Today I point you back to my movie review of The Martian.  If I haven't said it enough yet, let me say it again.  It is an AWESOME movie!!!  Go see it!  Now!!!

Movie Review - The Martian

Thursday, December 24, 2015

First Year Knowing Santa is not Real

I hope everyone reading this is having a happy holiday season.  For us this will be the first year my 8 year old knows the truth of Santa Claus (and the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Elf on the Shelf, etc.), having figured it out herself around Easter, earlier this year.  It's not a sad time by any means, just a different time.  Seeing her question things and thinking through the reality of the whole Santa Claus thing was a joy to see as a parent.  I certainly wasn't going to hide the truth from her when she asked and if I may offer advice, I advise you not to hide the truth either.  Answer your child's questions truthfully.  Be proud of your child for asking questions and thinking critically.

If you want the full story behind my daughter's realization Santa Claus isn't real, go to the link below.

The Truth of Santa Claus

Have a great holiday season and I'll leave you with this holiday goat.  :-)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Doctor Who Christmas Gifts!!!

The other day my wife, kids, and I opened our Christmas gifts to each other.  My 5 year old picked out this very neat fish key chain with eyes that bulge out when squeezed!

My wife and 8 year old picked out a couple of very cool Doctor Who items, including a bookmark and a little TARDIS ornament.

My wife also gave me a very cool tie clip!

Yes, that is a pi!!!  Love it!!!  Can't wait to wear it at work!!!  Yes, I'm a total geek/nerd!!!  My family gave me the PERFECT Christmas gifts this year!  They know me very well!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ant Farm Christmas Gift

My 5 year old doesn't know it yet, but she's getting an ant farm for Christmas!!!  After the success of our triops (okay, after a couple of failures), I thought it would be cool to get her an ant farm.  I know she'll love it!  Here's an image of one we purchased.

This is an Uncle Milton Ant Farm.  Ants are not included.  Those have to be ordered separately and we have not ordered them yet.  I'll wait until the holiday season is over and my 5 year old is back into a normal school routine.  Then we'll order the ants and get started.  I never had an ant farm as a kid, so I don't know what to expect.  I'm curious and I know both of my daughters will have fun watching the ants.  

This was just one of a few science related gifts we gave our daughters, in addition to several non-science gifts.  Science plays a big part in our household, but sometimes a break from science is needed.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mixing Soaps

Whenever the hand soap dispenser by the kitchen sink gets low my wife or I fill it up from a large container of soap below the sink in the cabinet.  On this occurrence, however, my wife emptied one large container and opened a new one, but the two soaps were not the same kind.  One was standard hand soap and the other was the foaming hand soap that's supposed to go in a different dispenser.  My wife didn't realize this at the time, until she noticed they didn't mix, as shown below.

What's going on here?  The two liquid soaps have different densities and do not mix.  The lower density soap sits at the top and the higher density soap sinks to the bottom.  Cool!  This is very similar to the standard oil and water experiments in which the oil and water clearly separate due to different densities.  The was another good opportunity to show off science to our daughters and offer an explanation.

The moral here is that science surrounds us.  You just have to look for it!

Friday, December 18, 2015

This Blog's History: Aging Glow in the Dark Slime

Science fun with making slime doesn't end with the making of the slime.  Observe how the slime changes over the days.  Why does it change in this way?  What's the cause?  This Friday in This Blog's History:  Aging Glow in the Dark Slime.

Aging Glow in the Dark Slime

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Eat Lunch at Your Child's School

Just before Thanksgiving break I had a couple of days off but my daughters were both still in school.  I took advantage and went to my 5 year old's lunch one day at school and my 8 year old's lunch at school the next day.  If you have the opportunity, I urge you to do it one day.

Why?  For starters, you child will love it!  Seeing my 5 year old's smile when she saw me waiting for her at lunch was priceless!  Second, you get to talk to your child at school and have her tell you how lunch works and what happens.  Third, you get to see the kid next to you covered in pudding.  Seriously, the kid sitting on my other side had pudding EVERYWHERE!  Apparently his pudding container exploded in his lunch bag and was all over, and as he was taking things out, he just continued to spread it on everything he touched.  LOL!

Most of all, though, it's a great bonding experience as your child gets to show off his/her mommy/daddy.  My 5 year old was so excited to tell everyone that I was her daddy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why is Some Snow Sticky?

It may seem obvious to adults and older kids, but a young child probably doesn't understand why snow sometimes packs easily to make a snowman (or snowball) and sometimes doesn't pack at all.

Snow is nothing more than a large collection of ice crystals.  To get ice crystals to stick (pack) together, the crystals need to melt.  On a day when the temperature outside is warmer and the sun is out, the snow on the ground will likely be melting somewhat.  This makes it easy to grab a handful of snow and pack it together in a snowball.  However, when it is colder out, the ice crystals are not melting and the snow doesn't stick together.  

There are ways to pack white fluffy snow that won't stick.  Grab a handful and try to squeeze it as tight as possible.  This creates greater pressure on the ice crystals, making it more likely they will stick.  You can also blow hot air on the snow to increase its temperature and cause some melting.  

Now head outside and make some snowballs!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Movie Review - Goosebumps

The other week my wife and I took our kids to see Goosebumps at the theater.  The Goosebumps movie is based on the Goosebumps book series by R. L. Stine.  In fact, Stine makes an appearance in the movie!  As a kid I read several R. L. Stine books, although I don’t remember if any were officially in the Goosebumps series.  

My daughters are 8 and 5 and both enjoyed the movie as did my wife and I.  There are some scary parts in the movie, but our 5 year old handled them fine.  The scary parts are more along the lines of scary looking monsters and not truly scary in terms of a typical horror movie.  You always have the sense the main characters will be fine and aren't truly in danger. It kind of depends on your kid as to whether he/she is old enough to see this movie.  Our 5 year old was fine and our 8 year old loved it!  There were funny parts, serious parts, and parts that might be a tad scary, but overall we all enjoyed the movie.

As for the science, well, it's not meant to be scientifically accurate.  The Ferris wheel rolling around was the one unbelievable part I may have liked to have seen altered.  The wheel travels through too much of the forest to be able to get through without hitting a tree.  In addition, the amusement park in the forest was stated as never opening, yet has full electricity and everything works fine.  Not believable.  Given the nature of the movie, however, I'm just being very picky!  After all, monsters magically appear out of books, so I can't complain too much about science accuracy.  :-)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Tomorrowland - Movie Review

The other week after work my wife, kids, and I decided that it was a good night for a family dinner and movie.  We picked up pizza, stopped at the Redbox, and had a great evening.  The movie chosen for the night was Disney's Tomorrowland.  We all thought it was a good family movie and enjoyed it.

It gives an interesting view of what a future world might look like, but also serves as a frank reminder of our technological limitations.  For example, the boy in the movie builds a jet pack that has trouble staying stable.  Later, the boy, as an adult, has a stable jet pack.  One of the main principles behind a jet pack is Newton's Third Law.

For every action force there is an equal an opposite reaction force.

The jet pack has fuel and exhaust pipes.  Thrust out of the exhaust pipes pushes against the ground, and the ground pushes you up.  Once in the air, the thrust pushes against the air and the air pushes you forward.  Remaining stable on a jet pack is very difficult.  Due to the large forces involved, one tiny movement in the wrong direction and the jet pack sends you flying uncontrollably in the wrong direction, as shown in the movie, at least by the boy.

I'd love to have a jet pack to fly to work every day, but that's not a possibility and may never be.  Jet packs and hover boards, two things that the 1980s me was sure we'd have and be actively using by now!!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

This Blog's History: A Blue Moon

Every so often we hear about a blue moon in the media and there are always several misconceptions passed along.  To be clear, a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month.  That's it.  It's not blue.  The next blue moon is a few (okay, many) months off, on January 31, 2018.  That's still 2+ years away, but it's never too early to take on misconceptions.  So for This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you my blog post on the often confused blue moon.

Are Blue Moons Blue?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Universe Today

If you're looking for a great website to provide you or your kids with accurate, up to date astronomy information that is easily understandable by a general, non-science oriented audience, then look no further than Universe Today.

Universe Today

Universe Today is one of the few websites I have linked to my Feedly feed so I get daily updates on new articles/blogs they post.  Each post is written at a level for a general audience to follow without too much difficulty.  It's a great way to catch up on astronomy related current events and get a better overall feel of what is going on in astronomy.

Here's a snippet of what you're missing by not following Universe Today.

What are you waiting for?  Go to the website now and start learning!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Movie Review - The Peanuts Movie

A couple of weekends ago my wife and I took our daughters to see the The Peanuts Movie in the theater.  I grew up watching the Peanuts holiday cartoons and read Peanuts in the newspaper.  My daughters haven't had too much interaction with the comic strip.  I'm not sure they've seen all of the holiday specials, but I know they've see the Great Pumpkin holiday special.  Both my daughters loved it!  I was a bit skeptical going in, but I have to admit, it was a great movie!

As for the science, well, it's animated, so expect anything.  Is it scientifically accurate that Snoopy flies around the skies on a red dog house?  No, but that's not the point of the movie.  There's mention of the Red Baron, a German fighter pilot in World War I who is credited with 80 air combat victories.  Although my kids certainly didn't pick up on this, Peanuts hits adults by focusing on many of the inadequacies we all have, whether justified or not.  This is most noticeable in Charlie Brown who is constantly second guessing himself, something we all do.  Along the way, there are many good life lessons in this movie.  

If you haven't taken your kids to see The Peanuts Movie, you MUST do so.  You will NOT be disappointed!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Teaching an 8 Year Old

A couple of weeks ago in my high school astronomy class I asked students to share common science misconceptions that we've discussed in class in preparation for an activity in which those students would attempt to correct the misconception in such a way that an 8 year old would walk away with a clear understanding.  This is more difficult than may seem as an 8 year old does not have the educational background an adult has.  It also stresses the important of discussing complicated science in a way that the general public can understand.

The misconception we chose was the cause of the seasons.  Too often kids are taught we have seasons on Earth due to Earth's changing distance from the Sun.  Not true.  We have seasons due to Earth's tilt, as I previously discussed here.  Students had to discuss and formulate a way to explain this to an 8 year old.  After a few minutes I selected a handful of students to give it a shot at the front of the room.

Granted, I did not give my students long to think about this and it is much more difficult than it looks, but one student used hot water from a faucet onto a metal bowl.  If the water directly strikes the top of the bowl, the bowl gets hotter, whereas if the water comes in at an angle, the bowl doesn't get as hot.  This wasn't a bad example and relates to the directness of the sun's rays on Earth's surface!  However, the student used a few words that would confuse an 8 year old.  For example, he used the word 'particle' and 'directness of sunlight'.  These terms make sense to us in the class, but may not to an 8 year old.

The goal of this exercise wasn't to be perfect, but to attempt an explanation to a very general audience without much of a science background.  It's much harder than it looks and you encounter problems you didn't necessarily expect to encounter.  It's a task all of us should take on from time to time to continue that relationship with a non-expert in your chosen field.  Try it on your kids.  Try explaining what you do at work in a way they'll understand.  It's hard, but a worthwhile experience as a parent.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Harry Potter Excitement!

After recently finishing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and watching the movie, we didn't wait long before digging into the third book in the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Both of my daughters were super excited to start.  We're far from finishing, but I must stress again what an amazing family experience it is to read full length novels together!  We all sit on the couch together and read 20-40 pages at a time.  It's a great bonding experience.  Having a movie to watch after the book adds to the excitement!

I encourage you, if you aren't already, to do something similar with your kids.  It's great family fun!

Friday, December 4, 2015

This Blog's History: Being a Good Soccer Parent

I posted this last month and am bringing it back to your attention for This Friday in This Blog's History.  A large number of parents are parents of kids playing sports.  There are ways to be a good parent sports parent and bad ways.  For obvious reasons you should follow the good ways.

Being a Good Soccer Parent

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Holiday Science Gift Ideas for Kids

The holiday season is upon us and for many of us that means buying gifts for our kids, family, and friends.  Gift buying can be difficult because it is not always clear what gift to buy someone.  If you have kids, I encourage you to do a web search for science gift ideas for kids.  Here's one such science activity website that packages and sells science related gifts.

Steve Spangler Science Gift Ideas

There are plenty of other websites to find gift ideas as well.  I ask you, however, to be very careful about basing science related gifts on gender.  When I did a search I found several websites offering science gift ideas for boys, but not girls.  A few offered science gift ideas for girls.  There is no such thing as a science gift for boys or a science gift for girls.  There are science gifts, plain and simple.  A science gift is a great gift for BOTH boys and girls.

You can make your own choice, but any distributor of science gifts for kids that separates gifts for boys and girls is a distributor that won't see my money.  Science doesn't care what gender you are and neither should you when purchasing a science gift for a child.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New Parent Parenting Mistakes

Every new parent makes mistakes.  That's to be expected.  Heck, even veteran parents make mistakes!  I saw the article below on Web MD that lists the 10 mistakes new parents make.  A few of these my wife and I knew before becoming parents and were able to make adjustments, but a few still happened.

10 Mistakes New Parents Make

Number 1 on the list was panicking over anything and everything.  Yep!  Did that!  Even knowing that there's no need to panic probably wouldn't have changed anything for me.  It's hard not to panic over your first child.

The other mistake I made was Number 10 on this list which is trusting unreliable sources for information.  I was still science-orientated of course, but I wasn't nearly as well read as I am now as it relates to skeptically thinking.  I didn't do anything that jeopardized the safety of my child, but there were a few things I did or thought about doing that I would never do or even think about doing now.

One thing I did do, however, was make sure the car seat was properly installed.  It's not an easy task to do right and I cringe every time I see car seats installed incorrectly.  We even took our vehicle to a free car seat safety check and even they were impressed that the seat was installed correctly.  They stated that very, very few car seats are properly installed.

Anyways, take a look at this list, especially if your are a new parent or a soon to be parent.  It's an excellent read and you will learn something!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Power of Democracy

I've made it known on this blog that I wish to raise daughters who are active in the political process in the United States.  My wife and I take them to the voting polls when possible and discuss the importance of voting around them.  I don't want this post to get too political and partisan, but often times it's hard to see democracy working.  Too often it seems the voice of the voters is not heard.  There are, however, times when our voice is heard and positive results are obtained.  A few weeks ago President Obama announced his rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline.

If you are unfamiliar or unaware, the Keystone XL pipeline is a proposed pipeline to bring tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. for refining.  If the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt climate change, the Keystone XL pipeline must not be built.  The Canadian tar sands oil needs to stay in the ground.  The science is very clear on climate change.  We know that it is real and we know that it is primarily caused by humans.

A few years ago it looked like Obama's approval of the Keystone XL pipeline was a foregone conclusion.  Voters concerned about the future of this planet fought back by holding several rallies voicing their concerns.  Petitions took place and more and more people began speaking about the problems with the Keystone XL pipeline.  People, including myself, wrote to President Obama asking him to reconsider.  At first the pipeline decision was delayed and in November President Obama officially rejected the pipeline!

This is democracy in action.  This is why it is important to voice your opinion and be active in the political process.  Politicians do listen when enough people are speaking!  I'm not teaching my daughters what to think regarding politics.  They'll make their own decisions on politics.  I'm teaching them the importance of being politically active.  This country and this planet cannot move forward if the people are not interesting and active in moving forward.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

My family and I are reading through the Harry Potter series together and follow each book by watching the movie.  We recently finished the second Harry Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets, and watched the movie.  Loved it!

The books get longer as the series continues, but at 342 pages, The Chamber of Secrets didn't take us too long to read.  Once soccer season finished, we had more time and finished up the book pretty quickly.  Once we saw we were near the end and would finish before the weekend, we headed to the library to check out the movie.  The movie itself does a pretty good job following the book.  It kept pretty much every important scene, leading to a long movie of 161 minutes.  There's a few differences, but nothing major.  

We've had a blast reading the books and watching the movies.  My 5 year old laughed hysterically during several scenes of The Chamber of Secrets!  She got a bit scared during the spider scene, but it was nothing that terrified her or gave her bad dreams.  

If you're looking for something to do as a family, reading books together is a great idea!  

Friday, November 27, 2015

This Blog's History: Gummy Bear Experiment

Admit it.  You're bored.  It's Black Friday and you don't know what to do but do know you don't want to leave the house and battle the crazy Black Friday crowds!  Try a science experiment with your kids.  Here's the gummy bear experiment we did a couple of years ago.

Gummy Bear Experiment

Of course, this assumes you have gummy bears in the house!  :-)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!  Have a fun day with family and friends, and if you can, find a way to throw some science into your day!  Make some slime with your kids, or explode some pop with Mentos candy pieces.  If that's not up your alley, build water bottle rockets or do a few kitchen related science experiments.  The skies the limit!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Science!!!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and if you're like most Americans, you'll spend the day eating turkey and gorging yourself on too much food.  Don't forget, however, that there's plenty of science to do and/or discuss on Thanksgiving.  Here are a few ideas I've discussed on this blog before.

Soaking Turkey Bones in Vinegar

Breaking Turkey Bones and Superstitions

Does Eating Turkey Make you Sleepy?

Being a Kid on Thanksgiving Again

Have fun!!!  Be safe!!!  And don't worry if you fall asleep.  It's just science working against you!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Astronaut Halloween Costume

Yesterday I wrote about my 5 year old's fruit bat costume she wore Halloween night.  My 8 year old also went trick or treating and dressed up as a NASA astronaut!  Very cool!

This was her outfit for career day last spring when she dressed up as Sally Ride.  She willingly chose to dress up as an astronaut for Halloween, so that was cool.  Dressing up with some science and helping keep our Halloween costs down.  :-)

The interesting part of Halloween night was that my daughter wasn't the only astronaut walking the streets.  I saw two other kids wearing a similar Halloween costume.  It was exciting to see other kids wanting to be an astronaut on Halloween night.  I'm happy to see other kids excited by the world of science!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fruit Bat Halloween Costume

For Halloween this year my 5 year old wanted to be a bat.  No problem.  My wife made a very cool bat costume for her that had a mask and wings.  My 5 year old, however, did not want to be just any bat.  She was very specific in wanting to be a fruit bat.  Yes, a fruit bat!

So what brought this fruit bat obsession on?  A couple of weeks before Halloween my 5 year old's kindergarten class had a visit from a local biologist who brought in bats!  My 5 year old was talking about this for several days before and after the event.  This was very cool of her teacher to set this up and I'm so happy to see a school taking science seriously, but also in a fun way.  Bringing in bats for the kids to see was a great idea and now bats are planted in my daughter's head, not as something scary, but as something fun and exciting!  

Friday, November 20, 2015

This Blog's History: Water Bottle Rocket Kit

Not everyone has the skill or ability to build things from scratch.  Fortunately there are science kits available to help out!  I posted this a few weeks ago after seeing it in the store.  Water bottle rockets are relatively easy to make, but sometimes a kit is easier and simpler, especially if you are giving a gift to someone.  Here's the one we found, but I'm guessing there are several others if you do a simple web search.

Water Bottle Rocket Kit

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Martian - Movie Review

If you haven't seen The Martian, then stop reading this and go out and watch it!!!  I'm always skeptical of space movies because too often they are filled with ridiculous action with no regard for science.  The Martian, however, is not one of these movies.  It was...AMAZING!  This is one of my favorite movies in quite some time and by far one of the best science movies I've watched, if not the best!

The movie had me on my seat with the right amount of action, suspense, and correct science.  The movie is based on a book of the same name and the producers did an excellent job keeping the science in the movie.

There are a couple of bad science moments, but these were known by the author of the book and kept in because the author had no other good way to push the story forward.  For example, the wind blowing things all over the place on the surface of Mars is incorrect science.  There are wind storms on Mars, but the atmosphere is so thin that the wind would have little effect on moving objects.  Radiation shielding was glossed over and little was mentioned regarding Mars' lower gravity.

Regardless of these bad science moments, the movie was filled with accurate science, and I'll say it again, was AMAZING!  Watch it!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Death of our Pet Triops

I regret to inform all of my readers that our family's pet triops has died.  He (or she) lived a "long" healthy life and had much enjoyment swimming around its tank.  I looked up the lifetime of a triops and found that a typical lifetime is 8 weeks and can live as long as 14 weeks.  Ours lived about 7-8 weeks so it had a typical life for a triops.  I went to feed him one night and he was floating upside down near the bottom of the tank.  I'll miss you buddy!  :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Aging of Glow in the Dark Slime

A while back my kids and I made some glow in the dark slime.  As cool as this activity was, it was even more interesting to watch the slime age.  As each day went by, more and more of the water evaporated, shrinking the slime ball.  Eventually it was as thin as an extremely thin pancake.  Imagine someone making very runny pancake patter and trying to make a pancake with it.  You'd end up with a pancake no thicker than a piece of paper.  That is what our slime looked like!  In addition, mold was growing on it.  LOL!  I wish I had a picture, but my wife tossed the slime before I could take one.  Boo to her!  :-)

Imagine the above pancakes looking less edible with growing mold on the surface and you have our aging glow in the dark slime!

If you make slime with your kids, makes sure to document the slime for several days after it is made.  Note how it changes and why.  It's a 2-3 week long science experiment!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pan - Movie Review

Warning!  This post contains movie spoilers!!!

The other weekend my 8 year old and I had 6 hours to kill between her soccer games.  We did a bit of geocaching, but the weather wasn't in our favor and it started to mist, followed by rain.  Geocaching in the rain is no fun so we needed to find a different activity to occupy our time.  We checked the local movie listings and found Pan was playing and fit in our schedule.  We'd seen previews for Pan and wanted to see it and this was the perfect opportunity.

I realize Pan has gotten poor reviews and has been a box office bomb compared to the production costs, but we both enjoyed the movie.  It wasn't the greatest of movies, but I didn't feel we wasted our money buying tickets to see it.  There were, however, a few bad science scenes that bugged me.

Yes, flying is impossible, but that's something everyone needs to accept because that is key to the story of Peter Pan.  Thus I have no problems with the flying.  My biggest issues have to do with gravity.  Regardless of Peter flying or the ships flying, the laws of gravity still exist in Neverland.  Here are my two biggest science problems as they relate to gravity.

1.  The ships are constantly moving and twisting upside down.  Some stuff falls off, but not nearly as much as should.

2.  There's a scene in which Hook falls off a crystal structure and appears to plummet to his death.  Pan then flies down and grabs Hook, saving him from certain death.  Again, I have no problem with Pan flying.  However, there's a several second delay before Pan jumps off to save Hook.  It does not appear to be an infinite fall, thus Hook would have smashed into the ground before Pan ever left the ship.  I don't know the exact time delay between Hook falling and Pan jumping, but it was probably on the order of 30 seconds.  Let's assume that's too high and only 10 seconds went by.  In 10 seconds, Hook, in free-fall, would have fallen 490 m or about 1/2 km.  If it was a 30 second fall, Hook would have fallen 4.4 km.  Again, Pan could not have caught up.  If the delay was a second, then I could believe it, but given the time that went by in the movie, nope, not believable. 

3.  Early in the movie when Blackbeard kicks Pan off the ship, Pan falls a long distance in free fall.  Just before hitting the ground he stops, discovering he can fly.  Given Pan's speed and almost instantaneous stop, Pan would have blacked out given the extremely large g-force acting on him.  Pan, however, did not black out.  Instead, he was thrilled and excited.  No pain whatsoever as one would expect.   

I'm  being picky, I know.  I enjoyed the movie and so did my daughter.  Despite some bad science, I'm still glad I saw it.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

This Blog's History:

On Friday's I always link back to a previous post I've written on this blog.  For this Friday I link you back to a simple science experiment my daughters and I completed over Fall Break.  We wanted to see if different liquids changed phase (froze) at different rates.  Does milk freeze before water?  Does orange juice freeze before apple cider?  Check out the original post for our results and analysis.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Full Moon = Crazy

There's the argument that people tend to be more crazy and/or active during a full Moon compared to nights when the Moon isn't full.  First of all, the Moon can be out during the day, although it is true a full Moon doesn't rise until the evening hours.  Does a full Moon have anything to do with people's behavior on Earth?  The answer is a clear no.  There have been several studies (a few cited below) that a full Moon has no influence whatsoever on the behavior of people.

Lunacy and the Full Moon

Moonstruck! Does The Full Moon Influence Behavior? - This website links to many, many studies.  Some do show a positive correlation, but most do not and some show a negative correlation.

Does a full moon make people mad?

It appears clear from the multiple studies that the Moon plays no role at all in the behavior of people.  So why then do so many people think a full Moon causes people to act out?  It's a memory bias.  There's a preconceived notion that people act out during a full Moon, so when it does happen, people remember that act.  However, when the Moon is not full and people act out, no one links it to the Moon because they aren't thinking about it.  When the actual data is looked at over several months and many people, there's no correlation between acting out and a full Moon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Odd Candle

This isn't truly a science experiment, but I tagged it as one because I don't have another good category for it.  :-)  I'm a big fan of candles to make a room smell nice.  It's fall, so I'm currently using a pumpkin spice candle.  Instead of an open flame candle, I put the candle on a candle warmer which simply melts the wax and gives off a nice pumpkin spice smell.  What's interesting with this candle that my kids have noticed, is the way in which the wax hardens.  Instead of hardening into a flat surface, as my vanilla candle does, the pumpkin spice candles hardens with a hole in the center.

Why the hole?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  I assume it has something to do with the location/pattern of the heating element in the candle holder.  This candle is taller than my vanilla candle that hardens with a smooth, flat surface.  I need to check on the candle as it hardens, but each time I turn the candle off, I forget to check on it before it hardens!  My kids thought it was cool, and I admit I find it cool too!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Oil and Water Experiment

Over Fall Break my kids and I set out to do a handful of science experiments.  We watched a cool video of mixing red colored hot water with blue colored cold water.  In the video the hot water rose to the top when mixed with the cold water which sank to the bottom.  This makes sense given the density of hot water is slightly less that of cold water.  We set out to do the same thing and here was our result.

Nothing.  No layers present.  The hot and cold water simply mixed together.  We heated the hot water to a boil, getting it as hot as possible.  We could have made the cold water colder by dropping ice cubes in it instead of using water straight from the tap.  It's also possible I was too rough in pouring the water, causing extensive mixing.  Regardless, we were not successful.

We were determined to see something, however, so we mixed water and oil and discussed why there is a clear difference in the water versus vegetable oil layers.

The oil is less dense than water and rises to the top, creating a distinct layer.  We put some food coloring in the oil, which doesn't mix as it does in water.  The food coloring drops stayed as drops in the oil which was kind of cool to see!

Monday, November 9, 2015

How Useful is that Toilet Seat Liner?

We've all used public restrooms that offer toilet seat liners for the toilet seat.  These could be single paper style liners you pull out of a dispenser and place on the toilet seat or automatic plastic wrap that rotates and puts a clean liner on the seat each time the toilet is flushed.

I'm assuming that most of us choose to use the toilet seat liner if it's an option.  It's more hygienic, right?  Actually, no.  Assuming the toilet seat is clean and not covered in human waste, sitting on a bare toilet seat is likely just as hygienic as sitting on a lined seat.  STD viruses such as HIV and herpes survive for only a very short time once exposed.  Even if someone has recently used the seat and there is no liner, your skin is an excellent defender of transferring disease.  E.coli may be a concern, but assuming you wash your hands (please tell me you wash your hands!!!) there is little to no concern.

Using a liner on the toilet is probably useless

Although a toilet seat cover may prove to benefit a select portion of the population who have sensitive skin or open sores, most of us are only receiving a psychological benefit.  Will I continue using toilet seat covers if they are an option?  Yes.  Will it really do anything?  No, but I'll still use them because in some way it seems wrong to not use one when available.  :-)

Friday, November 6, 2015

This Blog's History: Playing Skip-Bo

For This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you a post I wrote about playing Skip-Bo with my daughters.  It's a great game that is simple enough to learn yet has a good deal of strategy behind it.  It's a great critical thinking game you and your kids can play together.

Playing Skip-Bo

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Visit a Used Book Store

If you're a parent you likely already know the importance of reading to your child as often as possible.  In addition it's important to encourage your child to read on their own once they've learned how to read. I've tried to make my stance on this clear through various blog posts on reading.  Here's something else you should do.  Take your child to a used book store.  Used book stores are an adventure your child will enjoy.

The reason I call a used book store an adventure is that used book stores are typically less organized than a new book stores.  At first this may seem frustrating, but it allows one to explore and discover hidden treasures!  There's a local book store near where I work that I've visited a few times.  There's a general pattern to book locations based on genre, but there are often piles of books on the floor that don't fit on the shelves.  The store is small, so books are stacked high and there's tight spaces everywhere, but I love it!  It allows me to explore and find books I may never have found in a new book store or from searching online.

Take your kids to a used bookstore and let them explore as well.  Most used book stores will have a children's or young adult section.  I guarantee they'll find something they like.  In addition, books at used book stores are MUCH cheaper than found anywhere else.  I've bought several books for $1.  Can't beat that!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Being a Good Soccer Parent

Having served as soccer coach for three years for my younger daughter's soccer team and having watched several coaches coach my older daughter, I've picked up on a few things on what it takes to be a good parent on the sideline.  We all want our kids to be competitive in sports, but let's face it, some will be better than others.  Even if your kid is one of the best on the field, the likelihood he/she will make it as a professional are extremely slim.  Soccer is competitive enough without parents yelling at their kids from the sidelines.  Here's a great list of 'rules' every soccer parent should learn.

Being a Good Soccer Parent

The most important on this list, in my opinion are:

"What are the first words out of your mouth after practice or a game? If it’s not along the lines of, “Did you have fun?” Or, “Wow, I really like watching you play soccer,” then you’re saying the wrong things. One survey found what kids hate most about soccer is the car ride home with mom or dad. That’s because the first things out of parents’ mouths too often is “How did you lose that game?” or “What was wrong with you out there?”"

"If your child has the ball, he or she won’t hear what you’re shouting. If he doesn’t have the ball and he hears you, now you’re a distraction. Also, the phrase “Just boot it!” went out of style in the mid 1980s. Cheering for your child’s long kick likely sends a conflicting message, since the odds are that’s not what the coach was teaching the team during the week."

" A coach who shouts the entire game just wants to win. Shouting during each play makes them dependent on you. And it makes you hoarse. Letting the players figure things out on their own fosters creativity. Yes, they’ll make mistakes. But recovering from mistakes is part of the learning process. After all, it’s part of how they learn in school and it’s how you gain experience at work. Instead of constantly shouting, a coach should have specific pre-game instructions, encouraging words at half-time, and should be scribbling notes about what the team or individual players need to practice during the week."

Are there times when I think my daughter was slacking and not trying her hardest?  Yep!  Are there times where I thought she could have played better?  Yep!  But my job as a parent isn't to get on her every time she makes a mistake.  Mistakes happen.  It's part of the learning process.  If there's something she's not doing she should, either her coach or teammates will tell her.  Or, and most likely, she already knows when she makes a mistake.  There's no need for me, as the parent, to yell at her about it too.  My job is to ask her how she felt and encourage her when she needs my help.  On the sidelines I cheer, but I leave the yelling to others.  Unfortunately it's often the other parents yelling.  Sometimes it's the coach(es).  I'm so glad my daughters have had coaches who are not constantly yelling at their players.  I watched an opposing team earlier this season that had 3 coaches continuously yelling at the players throughout the game.  Nothing the players did was done correctly according to the coaches.  These were 7, 8, and 9 year olds!  No child deserves that!

My recommendation to all parents is to cheer your child and team on in a positive way.  If it's something negative, keep your mouth shut.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Biscuit Books

My 8 year old in third grade has been reading on her own for a couple of years now.  We still read books together, but more and more of her reading is done on her own, as expected given her reading ability and grade level.  My 5 year old, on the other hand, is just learning to read in kindergarten.  Each week she has a set of words to learn and a small book to read.  To further promote reading we read to her each day and try to find Level 1 books she can read to us.  Finding quality Level 1 books for her has been somewhat of challenge.  Different publishers have different views on what constitutes a Level 1 book.  Some publishers include only basic words in Level 1 books with only 1 or 2 sentences to a page, while other publishers use more advanced words and have more sentences per page.  Our daughter is still learning so the more advanced Level 1 books are not yet appropriate for her to read back to us.

One good series of Level 1 beginner books is the Biscuit book series.

The Biscuit books limit the number of sentences per page and use basic words my daughter is learning right now.  She enjoys reading them and the later books in the series are a bit more advanced so there's progression as we read through the books.  If you have a budding reader at home, I recommend any of the Biscuit books.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Water Bottle Rocket Kit

Water bottle rockets are a fun activity for elementary school aged children and fill up an afternoon with excitement!  Making water bottle rockets is relatively easy, as I've previously discussed here:

Water Bottle Rocket Launch

If you're struggling a bit and need more help, there are water bottle rocket kits you can buy that have all of the materials and step by step instructions on how to build rockets.  I ran across one in a toy store the other day.

I can't attest to the quality of this kit and I can't say whether the kit rocket launches higher than the homemade rocket, but kits are an option.  This particular kit was priced at $9.99 and they had others going up to $19.99.  I'm guessing the more expensive models launch higher.  This is potentially a good gift idea for the budding scientist in your family!

Friday, October 30, 2015

This Blog's History: Glow in the Dark Slime

Making slime is easy and inexpensive to do, even if you buy the materials packaged in a slime making kit.  Add in glow in the dark material and you have a fun afternoon activity.  Check the original post here:

Glow in the Dark Slime

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Corn Maze Season

Looking for something to do this weekend?  Try a corn maze!  Corn mazes are big in the Midwest during the fall.  My wife and I took our kids to a corn maze last weekend and it was a blast!  The corn maze we visited had information signs on farming scattered around the maze.  The goal was to find each sign post and answer questions using the information on the signs.

Most corn mazes are only open through Halloween weekend, so if you're looking to visit one this year, get on it, there are only a couple of days left!  

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Number of Exoplanets

How many exoplanets are officially known to exist?  What is an exoplanet?  Exoplanets are planets beyond our own solar system.  They are planets orbiting other stars in space.  Given there are billions and billions of stars in our own Galaxy, we expect billions and billions of planets.  On top of that, there are billions and billions of galaxies, meaning there are billions and billions and billions and billions of planets in the Solar System!  Wow!  However, we can only officially count what we detect, whether the detection method be direct or indirect.

The first exoplanet was discovered 20 years ago in 1995.  The planet was discovered by searching for gravitational tugs on the star.  Although the star has nearly all of the mass in a solar system, planets exert a force on the star that causes the star to slightly wobble.  This is an indirect detection method because the planet is not directly imaged.  Imaging a planet is extremely tough because the light reflected off the planet to us is very tiny compared to the light given off by the star.

Numbers of exoplanets increased slowly after 1995.  When I first started teaching in 2001 the number of known exoplanets was less than 100.  With the launch of the Kepler spacecraft in 2009, the number of exoplanets soon began to explode.  Kepler is no longer taking data, but the data taken is still being analyzed and the number of exoplanets will increase.  In addition, future telescopes will observe even more planets.  Kepler discovered planets by studying light from stars.  If a planet passes in front of a star relative to us, the star light dips a tiny bit.  Kepler was sensitive enough to detect this dip in light.

Currently, at the time of this blog post (October 28, 2015) there are 1,969 known exoplanets!  Wow!  Where will we be in 10 years? 10,000?  10,000 plus many Earth like planets?  Who knows and that's the awesomeness of science!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Seeking a Math Challenge

My 8 year old is in third grade and has just started multiplication in class.  To say nothing against her teacher or her school, my wife and I have gotten the message from our daughter that the math is a bit easy.  She doesn't seem bored nor does she ask for more, but she breezes through her math school work with no problem at all.  Knowing her as a child, we decided to get a math book for her to work on in addition to her school math work.  We went with the following book:

The book itself isn't a challenge book.  It's a standard third grade math book, but it allows our daughter to jump ahead to topics they haven't covered yet in school.  She's definitely ready and was super excited when the book arrived.  It didn't take any coaxing on our part at all to get her to test out the book.  As soon as she was done with her homework, she jumped right into it!  We'll have to see how it goes.  If she breezes through it in a couple of months, we may get the fourth grade version of the book.  

Parenting is tough, but if you're a parent, you already know that.  Watching your child struggle and not knowing what to do to help can be very frustrating.  A child struggling to understand a concept is tough, but so is watching a child struggle to be challenged.  I wouldn't say our 8 year old is there yet, but I'm seeing a few signs that this is a possibility in the future.  My wife and I are trying to be proactive.  Are we doing this right?  Maybe.  Maybe not   But we're trying and we'll continue to research the best methods to challenge our daughters if they need a greater challenge in their education.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Liquid Freezing Time Experiment

Over Fall Break my daughters and I completed several science experiments.  In one experiment we took several liquids and tested to see which froze first.  Our chosen liquids were:

Orange Juice
Skim Milk
Apple Cider

Physics tells us that the rate at which something changes temperature is dependent on the specific heat capacity of a substance.  If we link this directly to the phase change from liquid to solid, we should be able to predict which freezes first.

We put exactly one tablespoon of liquid in a same sized ice cube section.  This allowed us to be consistent with both volume and depth.  The tray was placed in the freezer and we waited, checking every few minutes for changes.  

What should we expect?  Water has a specific heat capacity of 4.18 kJ/kg*C.  This means that it takes 4.18 kJ of energy to raise or lower the temperature of water 1 degree Celsius for each kg of water.  Objects with a greater heat capacity take longer to increase/decrease temperature and objects with a lower heat capacity take less time to increase/decrease temperature.  Therefore, the liquid with the lowest specific heat capacity should freeze first, everything else being equal.  So what are the specific heat capacities of these four liquids?

Water = 4.18 kJ/kg*C
Orange Juice = 3.73 kJ/kg*C
Milk = 3.94 kJ/kg*C
Apple Cider = 3.65 kJ/kg*C

This means the apple cider should freeze first with the water last.  In reality, it was difficult to tell.  We did notice the apple cider turning a bit slushy early on and a crust of orange juice ice forming early, so that is expected given those two have the lowest specific heat capacities.  The water and milk did take a bit longer to show any signs of freezing, as expected.  Using a specific heat capacity to predict is a bit simple, as the latent heat needed for a phase changes is also necessary.  Regardless, we did have some predictions that matched our results.  Another result was the milk cube.  It wasn't white, it was much more clear!  

Friday, October 23, 2015

This Blog's History: Liquid Water on Mars

In case you missed it (and I don't know how that is possible!), here's my post on the latest news on liquid water on Mars.  This is a huge discovery and has great implications on the possibility of life on Mars.

Liquid Water on Mars

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Excitement of Books

Reading to your kids on a consistent basis when they are young and letting them see you excited while reading will produce adults who are excited to read.  That's me as an adult.  Take me into a library or used bookstore and I'm like a little kid walking into a toy store for the first time.  I don't want to leave!  I love books!  I love to read!  I dedicate time to reading each day!  Yet I want more time to read than is available in my lifetime!  The other day at parent teacher conferences where I work (I was the teacher), a parent gave me the two NASA published books below.

Super cool!  I think the parent wasn't sure if I'd like this gift, but I did!  I may not have shown it as much on the outside as I did on the inside, but I love books and these are astronomy books!  AWESOME!  Read to your kids.  Read yourself.  Express excitement over reading and your kids will be lifelong readers themselves!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Banana Slice Experiment

Here's a neat little activity that's part science experiment and part party trick.  It's common to peel a banana and slice it into pieces, but have you every peeled a banana to find it already sliced?  Probably not which is why this is a neat trick to play on your friends.  It is possible to slice a banana without peeling it!  Start with a regular banana.

Whatever you do, don't peel the banana.  Grab a narrow sewing needle that is as long as the banana is thick.  Find a ridge and poke the needle into the banana, but not through the other side.  Wiggle the needle around the banana inside the peel.  The needle will easily slide through the banana and slice it.  Pull out the needle and move a bit further down the ridge.  Repeat.  Each time you poke the banana and wiggle the needle, you are creating another slice.  This does put marks on that side of the banana, but as long as you aren't pushing the needle through the other side of the banana, the other side will remain mark free.  Hand the banana to a friend with the un-poked side up and have them peel it.  They'll discover an already sliced banana!

Now that's cool!!!  It's a great indoor activity, especially if you trick a friend while doing it!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A Kindergartner's Dinosaur Book

A couple of weekends ago my 5 year decided she wanted to write her own dinosaur book.  My wife gathered up some materials to construct a book and my daughter spent part of the afternoon creating pages for the book and putting together a story.

My 5 year old is just learning to construct sentences, so my wife wrote the story and my 5 year old illustrated it.  The book contains about 5 to 6 pages of a dinosaur and its story.  Super cute!  It's amazing what kids can do with their imagination when parents let them use it.  Too often parents force their kids into too many structured activities.  There's a place and a good reason for structured activities, but there needs to be a good balance between structure and free play.  It's the free play where amazing things can happen, such as a dinosaur book!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Glow in the Dark Slime

Wow!  Fall has flown by and we've been so busy with school and sports activities through most of August, September, and the first part of October, that we've slacked on doing science experiments as a family.  Last week was Fall Break week and the kids and I decided it was time to do a few science experiments!  What better way to celebrate Fall Break than science?!?!

Back at Christmas my 8 year old received a slime making kid.  Shortly after we made color changing slime.  This time we decided to make glow in the dark slime!

Making slime is pretty straight forward and the instructions in this kit (above) are easy to follow.  When mixing in the materials you'll get a few chunks that don't dissolve in the water.  My recommendation is to remove them with a spoon when it's clear they won't dissolve any further.  

The trick to making glow in the dark slime is to add Zinc Sulfide (included in kit).  When light strikes Zinc Sulfide, it excites the electrons.  The electrons move up and down energy levels.  When moving down they release energy in the form of photons (light).  Take the slime into the dark and it glows!

Now that is cool!!!  At this point the zinc sulfide was not evenly mixed in the slime which is why you see the streaks above.  After my kids played with the slime for a bit, the zinc sulfide was much more evenly mixed, as seen below.

This slime making kit was well worth the very reasonable price.  We bought it for $14.99 at Target (comes with 4 slime making activities), but you might find it cheaper at Amazon or Ebay.  Regardless, slime making is a morning of fun for you and your kids!

Friday, October 16, 2015

This Blog's History: Dihydrogen Monoxide

For this Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you that nasty dihydrogen monoxide.  Stay away from it!  LOL!  ROFL!  :-)

Dihydrgoen Monoxide

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kids, Sports, and Concussions

Both of my daughters are soccer players.  My oldest has expressed little interest in other sports.  She refused to play softball and basketball.  She did give gymnastics a try and liked it but liked soccer much better.  This is all fine by my wife and I.  We'll allow our kids to play and/or participate in whatever activities they like as long as they are not over-scheduled with activities.

I've often asked myself what I would do if we had boys.  Would I allow them to play football?  There are girls who play football, but the chances of my daughters wanting to play football are slim to none.  They could surprise me, but I highly doubt it.  But would I allow boys, if I had one, play football?  I'm not really sure.

There's more and more evidence (in fact, it is quite clear now that playing football leads to long term health effects) that football leads to life long disabilities.  Give the constant stress up on the body through vicious hits, many former football players walk with limps, have knee problems, and/or have on-going back problems.  These are just a few of the long term health effects.

The worst effect is the damage done to the brain.  It's very common for football players to have had multiple concussions.  A concussion is basically the sloshing around of the brain inside the skull due to a strong hit.  Although concussions lead to long term effects, most players have likely experienced many smaller concussions that were never diagnosed.  Every hard hit sloshes the brain a bit and this damage builds up over time.  Long term effects from concussions lead to several mental disabilities.

NFL Concussion Research

Anyone can get injured in any sport and those injuries may have long term health effects.  However, research is very clear that football is more damaging on the brain than most other, if not all sports.  I don't have boys, so if I did, I'd have to think about this in much greater detail, but I lean toward NOT letting them play football.  I emphasize, however, that I would need to do much more research before coming to a conclusion.

Having said that, soccer is not a concussion free sport.  Heading the ball is a key aspect in the game and it is possible for concussions to occur.  Each hit has the potential to slosh the brain around a bit.  There isn't nearly enough research in this area as there is in football, but there are more studies looking into soccer and concussions.  My daughters are not at the age of heading the ball yet, but will soon be.  Studies do show that soccer is the sport in which females are most likely to receive a concussion.

I admit to being bit fearful of my daughters receiving concussions as a result of playing soccer.  Am I being a good parent by allowing them to play soccer if it increases their risk of a concussion?  Am I being a good parent by not?  All sports can be dangerous.  To put it simply, I just don't know.  As a parent I have to think about what is best for my daughters that is reasonable.  I can't wrap them in bubble wrap to keep them safe.  Life and sports come with risks.  The key is minimizing those risks. Much easier said than done.  

To conclude, being a parent is hard!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Flu Vaccine Season

October is here which means it's flu vaccine season.  If you're a regular reader of this blog you know my stance on the flu vaccine.  Get it!  I just called up the clinic we go to each year for the vaccine and they are arriving this week and ready next week.  Thus I anticipate a trip to the clinic for my family and me sometime next week.  No need to delay.  Best to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The flu vaccine gets a bad rap because it isn't nearly as effective as other vaccines and must be given every year.  The flu is constantly evolving and there's always some guess work into which strain to vaccinate for.  Some years the flu vaccine provides great protection but other years not so much.  The 2014-2015 flu vaccine did not provide much protection, unfortunately.  The flu strain had mutated quickly.  However, that doesn't mean you should reject getting the flu vaccine.  Even in a bad year, such as last year, the flu vaccine provides some protection.

Every year many people, typically the very young and very old (but on occasion the young and healthy) die from the flu.  According to studies done by the CDC, anywhere from 3,000 - 49,000 people die in the U.S. each year from the flu.  Even on the low end, 3,000 is a large number when there is protection that is easy to get.  The flu vaccine may not stop all deaths, but even in an ineffective year, it will stop some.

There are a few people who cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons, but those people are few and far between.  Let's face it.  You are not one of those people.  Do yourself a favor and vaccinate your kids and yourself against the flu.  You may hear all the time people claiming they got the vaccine but had the flu.  Maybe.  I won't discount someone getting the flu, but most people claiming they have the flu have nothing more than a common cold.  Symptoms are similar.  Having a stuffed, runny nose and feeling a bit weak is not the flu.  That's a cold.  A flu is much more effective at putting you down for the count.

Despite what you may hear, the flu vaccine does not cause autism.  It does not cause mercury poisoning.  It does not give you other illnesses and it certainly doesn't give you the flu itself.  The vaccine may be less effective some years, but remember that every year thousands in the U.S. die from the flu and some protection is ALWAYS better than no protection.