Friday, February 27, 2015

This Blog's History: The 5-Second Rule

You have a piece of cake you just can't wait to take a bite of and it's the last piece of cake in the house!  Then before you take that bite, you drop it on the floor.  What do you do?  Do you pick it up quickly and eat it citing the 5 second rule, or do you toss it out and cry yourself to sleep?  This Friday in This Blog's History I bring you back my post on the 5-second rule.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Crime Scene on the Deck!

A few days ago my two daughters were outside playing, having a blast in the snow.  They were playing in the back yard and on the deck that extends from our patio door.  When it was time to come in, they walked around the house to the garage.  After getting all of their snow gear off, my wife and I noticed this on the deck.

My wife says "it looks like they murdered a small animal on the deck!"  Yes, it certainly does!  Obviously my children did not murder a small animal (I hope), so what did they do?  Their grandma gave them a set of colored snow 'paint' for Christmas.  They each received an empty squirt bottle-like container along with colored powder that you mix with water to make liquid snow paint.  

My daughters had a blast coloring the snow and then mixing it all around.  The colors they chose on this day were red and orange, hence the "bloody" deck.  No bones or animal carcasses were found!  LOL!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

101 Cool Science Experiments

My 7 year old is constantly on the lookout for science experiment books.  Whenever she goes to her school's library our our local public library, she looks for, and often finds, a new science experiment book.  The other day she found this one.

101 Cool Science Experiments.  Several of these experiments we've done before, but the book gave us several new ideas to test out.  My daughter placed book marks on several pages to mark experiments she wants us to test out.  She was a bit disappointed when a I told her a few of them will have to wait until summer since they require outside plants or dirt (currently frozen).  However, several are inside experiments and the ones that are not give us a list of things to test out this summer. 

I encourage you to check out this book and others like it for very cool, simple science experiments that will expose you kids to science experimentation.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's Time To Go Ice Fishing!

Okay, I'm not referring to actual ice fishing where one goes onto an ice covered pond, drills a hole, and fishes.  I'm referring to the literal fishing of ice!  This was a cool little science experiment my daughters and I did the other day.  You start by filling two glasses of ice water.  Take a string and drop it into one of the glasses.  Now pull the string out.  Does any ice come out with the string?  No.

Now take the second glass and stir in a few spoonfuls of salt.  Once the salt has dissolved, drop a string into the glass, on top of the ice.  Wait a minute or two and slowly pull the string out.  Does any ice come with it?  It should!  You can see this from our image below.

What's happening here?  The salt in the water changes the freezing temperature of the water.  When the string gets wet and is placed on the ice, it 'freezes' to the ice.  When the string is slowly pulled out, ice cubes come with it!

This is a great experiment to shows your kids the effect salt has on water.  Give it a try yourself!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Con

I'll admit it, my 7 year old conned me on Valentine's Day.  We weren't doing anything special as a family other than hanging out and eating dinner together, which in its own way is special as it's quality family time.  My 7 year old had checked out a family movie at the library earlier in the day and our plan was to watch it together on Sunday.  About an hour before dinner she says:

"Why don't we get carryout food and eat it in the living room while watching our movie tonight?"

All said with a big smile on her face.  :-) My response was "yes, let's do that!"  Now, I'm one who thinks it's important to eat together at the table with no TV/phone/other electronics distractions.  However, every once in awhile (every month or two) we have a special meal in the living room watching a family movie together.  We hadn't done this in awhile and neither my wife nor I were eager to cook dinner, so my 7 year old's plan was a darn good one!

So I drove out for carryout and we had a great meal followed by cuddling on the couch and watching a movie.  Later, after the kids had gone to bed, my wife says "you realize she conned you into getting exactly what she wanted, right?"  Yep, I fully realized that, but my daughter suggested something that I wanted too, so I couldn't resist.  LOL!

Friday, February 20, 2015

This Blog's History: The Edible Chemistry Set

I previously mentioned that my 7 year old received a simple edible chemistry set for Christmas.  It comes with 14 experiments using the ingredients provided.  It's worked out to several days of science fun!

Check out the original post for the set we have and for the first series of experiments we completed.

The Edible Chemistry Set

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Zealand Science Teacher

If you're looking for a great source on science education, curriculum, news, safety, etc., I highly encourage you to check out the New Zealand Science Teacher.  It's a great source for different science activities for kids as well as adults.  From their website:

"New Zealand Science Teacher is published on behalf of the New Zealand Association of Science Educators (NZASE) by NZME. Educational Media. New Zealand Science Teacher is NZASE’s official publication and features a veritable cornucopia of information on everything you wanted to know about science and science education but never thought to ask!"

I encourage you to check it out.  I guarantee you'll learn something new!  As an added bonus, I recently did an interview with them that was recently published:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Elephant Toothpaste

Ever made elephant toothpaste?  If not, you definitely need to try this out with your kids!  You need the following ingredients:

Hydrogen Peroxide (6% works best, but in the video below we used a 3% solution)
Food coloring
Liquid Dish Soap.

Begin by pouring 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide into a 20 oz pop bottle (or 1 liter as we did).  Drop a few drops of food coloring into the bottle as a simple way to color the 'toothpaste'.  Be careful with the hydrogen peroxide as it can burn your skin.  An adult should definitely be the one to handle this step.  Squirt about 1 tablespoon of dish washing soap into the bottle.

In a separate bowl mix 1 tablespoon of yeast and 3 tablespoons of water water.  Mix until the yeast dissolves.

Now carefully poor the yeast/water mixture into the pop bottle and watch what happens.

We used a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution and as you can see from the video it worked, although the reaction was slow moving.  A 6% hydrogen peroxide solution will improve the dramatic effect by increasing the reaction time.  My daughters still enjoyed it, however!  Give it a try on your own.  It's a great rainy day/weekend activity!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Amateur Astronomy - NOAO

Last week I wrote about Zooniverse, a great online platform designed to introduce amateur astronomers to real world research.  There are several huge sets of astronomical data that can't possibly be analyzed by a small team of professional astronomers, so help from the outside community is crucial.

Another great online research platform for amateur astronomers is one setup by the National Optical Astronomer Observatory (NOAO).

The NOAO platform doesn't have as many available projects as Zooniverse, but the projects it does have are not found on Zooniverse.  

If you're looking to get involved in real astronomy research and aren't finding anything you like at Zooniverse, I encourage you to check out the NOAO.  You may find a great project there!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dawn Spacecraft

The Dawn spacecraft is a NASA mission with the goal of closely studying two large asteroids in the asteroid belt:  Vesta and Ceres.  Dawn launched in 2007 and completed its observations of Vesta a couple of years ago.  Since then it has been on its way to Ceres, the largest known asteroid and officially one of the handful of dwarf planets in our Solar System.  Dawn is expected to arrive at Ceres in a few weeks on March 6, 2015.  Dawn will not land on Ceres, but will orbit it and eventually become a permanent satellite of Ceres after the mission ends later this year.

One of the interesting things observed on the surface of Ceres is a large white spot, seen below.

As Dawn has gotten closer to Ceres the image resolution has improved and we're starting to see several white spots on the surface.

What are these white spots?  At the moment no one knows for sure.  They are likely ice depressions/craters of some kind, but we'll know more as Dawn gets closer to Ceres.  In the meantime, enjoy the images as they come in and be sure to show your kids.  For more information, check out NASA's page on Dawn.

Friday, February 13, 2015

This Blog's History: The Balancing Bottle

You may have missed it last month, so for This Friday in This Blog's History, I bring back to you the video my daughters and I made of the balancing bottle act.  Took a few tries, but we eventually achieved success.

The Balancing Bottle

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What is in an Apple?

The other day I wrote on the amount of ridiculous 'advice' so-called food experts provide regarding what one should and shouldn't eat.  As an example I provided an image showing the composition of a banana.  A banana isn't simply a banana.  It's composed of several ingredients including water, sugar, and a bunch of other stuff that most of us can't correctly pronounce.  However, no one would avoid eating a banana because they can't pronounce the ingredients.  One might avoid eating a banana to prevent heartburn, but that's a different issue.

A banana isn't the only example of a common, all-natural food, that has a slew of ingredients confusing to 99% of humans.  Take an apple as a second example.  An apple is not just an apple.  It's composed of several ingredients, most of which cannot be correctly pronounced by the average person.

Yep, look at all those chemicals!  It's impossible to eat a chemical free food and anyone advertising chemical free produce loses my business.  These "chemical-free" signs are popping up at farmer's markets and all I can do is shake my head.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Changing Color of Water Experiment

Here's a neat little rainy day science experiment you can do with your kids right in your kitchen with just a few supplies you already likely have.  Grab three small jars or glasses of the same height and fill all three with water.  Place a few drops of food coloring in two of the jars.  Make sure the colors are different in each jar.  Now take a napkin or paper towel and roll it into a long, narrow shape.  Stick one end in a colored jar and the other in the plain water jar.  Repeat for the second jar of colored water.  You should have something like this:

Watch the paper towel very carefully and you'll easily notice it soaking up colored water.  It'll take a bit, but eventually the colored water will soak all the way through the towel and start coloring the clear water.  In our experiment the blue did MUCH better than the red.  The next day we woke up to this:

You can't really see it in the picture, but the blue water soaked up through the red water' jar's paper towel and turned it a very light shade of blue.  My daughters thought this was pretty cool, especially the next morning when the clear water was now blue!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Amateur Astronomy - Zooniverse

I'm a big advocate of getting kids involved in science at an early age and a great way to to that is through online research platforms setup specifically for amateur scientists.  In some fields of science, such as astronomy, it can be hard to get real world experience, but over the last couple of years there are several online platforms designed by professional astronomers that seek the help of amateur astronomers to analyze huge quantities of data.  One great example of this is Zooniverse.


Zooniverse has several different astronomy research projects any amateur astronomy, with no initial experience, can become involved with.  These projects range from galaxy classification to planet hunting to solar storm watching and more!

Each possible project requires no prior astronomical experience.  Within the project page are tutorials and test examples to get you started.  I highly encourage all parents to point Zooniverse out to their kids, regardless of age.  Younger kids will need more assistance obviously, but you can still introduce them to the world of real astronomical research!

Monday, February 9, 2015

What is in a Banana?

What is in a banana?  At first glance it may seem like a silly question to ask what is in banana.  A banana is just a banana, right?  Well, not exactly.  Too often we hear or read food/diet 'advice' warning us to not eat this or not eat that.  Quite often it's said that you should not eat anything with non-natural ingredients or something that has too many ingredients or something that has ingredients you can't pronounce.  Most of this 'advice' is nothing but a bunch of rubbish.

Take the claim that you should avoid food with ingredients you can't pronounce, for example.  Whether or not you can pronounce an ingredient has no bearing on whether the ingredient is something you should eat.  To think so is simply nonsense.  Take the banana.  A banana is a banana and you often see bananas as key ingredients in some food items.  But what makes up the composition of a banana?  The results may surprise you.

I freely admit I have no clue on the composition of a banana, but it's easy enough to look up.  So here you go.  Drum roll please.  The ingredients of a banana are:

Hmmm...I can pronounce water and sugar, but most of the ingredients in an all-natural banana are a mystery to me!  However, that should never stop me from eating a banana.  In fact, I ate one earlier today, and I'll probably eat another tomorrow because there's a few on my kitchen counter right now.

The moral of this story is to not fall for the outrageous claims to "fix" your diet and make you live a long healthy life.  Despite everything out there on diets, it basically boils down to eating lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting your intake of sugars and red meats, and exercise.  That's still the best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  

Friday, February 6, 2015

This Blog's History: The Dancing Noodles

For This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you the Dancing Noodle Experiment!  You likely have everything you need to do this experiment right in your kitchen.  There's probably no need to run to the store.  So what are you waiting for?!?!?!

The Dancing Noodle Experiment

Thursday, February 5, 2015

How Quickly Does Chewing Gum Digest?

If you're like me, you probably chewed gum from time to time as a kid and probably had someone warn you not to swallow the gum for it will stay in your stomach for 7 years before it digests.  7 years!!!  Is there any truth to this statement?  Turns out no.  Chewing gum taking a ridiculous number of days/years to digest is nothing more than a common misconception.

If it doesn't take gum years to digests, what actually happens when you swallow gum?  Basically nothing.  It may take a bit longer for the gum to pass through your body, but the gum will pass right through and exit as waste.  That's it.  It's still not a great idea to swallow gum as blockages can take place, but rest assured, the gum won't be sitting in your stomach for the next 7 years.

For more detailed information check out:

Fact or Fiction?: Chewing Gum Takes Seven Years to Digest

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Truth of Measles

By now I'm sure you've heard of the measles outbreak in the U.S., and if this is news to you, do a quick Google search and you'll find many articles such as the one linked below.

As of January 30, there were 102 confirmed cases of measles spread throughout 14 states in the U.S.  Given a population of 320 million or so, 102 cases may not seem like a lot.  However, the country freaked out when 2 people contracted Ebola in the U.S.  Measles is MUCH more contagious than Ebola and unlike Ebola, measles can be (and should be) fully eradicated through a simple vaccine.  

This is particularly concerning given the increase in measles cases over the last few years due to a large anti-vaccine push among certain groups.  Historically your anti-vaccine people have comprised two groups.  You had the very religious group who believe the Bible tells them vaccines are against God's will, and you had the very liberal, anti-science people saying that vaccines are poison introduced to our bodies.  Both groups are dead wrong, but in the past these groups were limited in numbers.

The concern to me now is the growing push by mainstream politicians to discourage vaccines.  Over the last few days we've seen two national level politicians argue AGAINST vaccines.  Chris Christie argued for choice for parents, which at first glance seems okay, but a parent's choice should not trump known science.  Then Rand Paul came out saying vaccines are known to cause mental disorders, a lie so atrocious that it disgusts me.  

There are NO scientific studies arguing that vaccines are harmful to a person's health.  Yes, there can be slight, temporary side effects due to vaccines, and in very rare cases there are more major effects.  However, the chance of dying from these diseases is MUCH, MUCH, greater than the side effects.  

Many people argue that it is there choice to not vaccinate their kids and their decision has no effect on others.  This statement is completely wrong!  Not vaccinating your kids effects everyone!  There are people who CAN'T receive vaccinations for health reasons.  There are young babies who are too young to receive certain vaccinations.  Their only protection is herd immunity, meaning enough people are vaccinated to prevent the spread of a deadly disease.  

It amazes me that in 2015 we are allowing fully eradicable diseases to enter our lives again.  It amazes me how anti-science is becoming the mainstream argument.  I am deeply concerned by the future of this country and world when people are choosing measles over a simple vaccination.  To all parents and future parents out there, I urge you, I plead you, follow the science and get vaccinated.  Vaccinate your kids.  Help protect you and your loved ones as well as protecting those around you.  Your continued existence is at stake as measles, and other diseases, kill!  And they can kill in large numbers if not placed under control. 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Phil Plait's Crash Course Astronomy

You may know Phil Plait as the Bad Astronomer, but he has a great new YouTube astronomer series out called Crash Course Astronomy.

Crash Course Astronomy Episode #1

The series just started and right now there are two episodes out.  I checked out the first episode and it is a fantastic introduction to astronomy for the non-science person.  The episodes are not long.  The first episode is 12 minutes, so you can easily find a time in your or your kids' schedule to watch them.
To top things off, Phil Plait is a great advocate for science education and does a fantastic job explaining difficult concepts in a very understandable way.  Plus he shows passion and is genuinely excited about astronomy.  Combine all of this together and you have an excellent astronomy YouTube series!  Check it out!

Monday, February 2, 2015

The 5 Second Rule

As parents, we've all heard of the "5 Second Rule" and likely mentioned it to our kids before, whether as a joke or not.  Is there any truth to the 5 second rule?  First, in case you aren't aware of what the 5 second rule is (or 3 second rule, 7 second rule, etc.), it refers to the time a dropped piece of food can touch the floor before you can pick it up and still eat it.  Yes, very scientific, I know.  :-)

Believe it or not, there's a WebMD article on this and an actual study was done testing the 5 second rule.

Basically the article concludes that there is no consensus on whether it is safe to eat food after it's hit the floor.  If it's a dry piece of food or utensil, I rinse it off at home and eat it or with it.  If the same thing happens at a restaurant or my office at work, no way, it goes to the garbage.  This is me being very unscientific since it is very possible my kitchen floor at home is dirtier than elsewhere, but psychologically I feel better about eating "floor" food if it happens at home.  

How's that for a non-answer to this question?  :-)