Monday, August 31, 2015

Water to Ice = Expansion

Here's an inadvertent science experiment we did at home that you can also do in a controlled way.  We like to put a sports bottle of water in the freezer to take out when frozen to soccer games and soccer practices.  On hot days, we have a second bottle that started as ice, but melts into cool water a couple of hours later when we still want cool water to drink.  However, one must be careful when doing this because water expands as it changes phase into ice.  One can't fill a sealed bottle to the top with water.  Doing so allows no room for the water to expand as it transitions to ice.  The water WILL expand one way or another.  In our case, there was nowhere for the expanding ice to go, so it cracked the container, as shown below.

You can also see that the bottom of the bottle is rounded.  The container gave a little bit, but the ice expanded far too much and the container cracked.  If a can of pop gets too cold, the pop inside (mostly water) will expand, and the can will pop open, spraying pop everywhere!  

I recommend doing this as a science experiment to show you kids that water does expand when it becomes ice.  Use a bottle you have no use for again and test it out.  How long does it take to pop?  

Friday, August 28, 2015

This Blog's History: The Mold Experiment

A mold growing experiment is a great and easy experiment for your kids to do on their own with just a bit of parental guidance.  Just grab some jars, seal them up, be patient, and wait for mold to grow.  I posted the results of our mold experiment a few weeks ago, so if you're looking for some good mold growing ideas, check out the link below.

The Mold Experiment

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Triops FAIL!!!

Last week I posted on our second attempt to grow triops from this kit my 8 year old received last Christmas.  Our first attempt failed.  No triops hatched.  But I thought I knew why.  The instructions stated the water temperature must remain no cooler than 72 degrees.  To save on energy costs we never keep the house at 72 degrees in the winter.  At most it is set at 68, so that would be a reasonably explanation as to why the triops didn't hatch.

So we tried again this summer when the inside house temperature was ABOVE 72 degrees at all times.  We followed the instructions word for word.  We even put the small tank next to a sunny window to further keep the temperature up.  Did any triops hatch?  Nope!  So now I'm left shaking my head.  I have no idea why they didn't hatch and as a result of our two failed attempts, I can't encourage anyone to buy one of these kits.  Maybe others have had success doing something I didn't.  If so, let me know!  Since I have no triops pictures of my own to show you, I will leave with a random picture from the web.  :-)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sock in Shorts with Eyes!

When you have little kids, you never know what you're going to find around the house, in your car, in their backpacks, and in the pocket of your shorts.  And when I say pocket of your shorts, I literally mean pocket of your shorts!  We went to see Shaun the Sheep (great movie BTW) and afterwards we went out for lunch.  When I grabbed my wallet out of my shorts pocket, out came this:

So, yes, as I'm paying I pull this out of my pocket with my wallet.  What the heck?  It's a kids sized sock with eyeballs glued on.  I have no idea how this ended up in my shorts pocket.  Obviously one of my kids put it in there, but I have no recollection of this!  Or maybe my kids didn't put this in my shorts pocket.  Maybe, just maybe, this is what happens to socks that mysteriously disappear in the washer and/or dryer!!!  Just a thought!  LOL!  Kids can frustrate their parents at times, but as a parent who has been frustrated by his daughters many times, it's moments like this that erase all of those frustrations.  All I could do was smile, laugh, put the sock back in my pocket and hand the credit card to the server.  :-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Mystery Cave

Yesterday I discussed the trip my daughters and I took to Forestville Mystery Cave State Park.  There are several things to do in the park including many miles of hiking, but one of the main attractions is Mystery Cave.  If you've never been to a cave, Mystery Cave is a great first time caving experience.  Even if you've been to caves before, Mystery Cave is a great option to see another cave.  The park rangers have several different tour options.  You can't visit the cave on your own, you need to be part of one of the tours.  Tours reservations can be made in advance or you can walk up, but the numbers for each tour are limited and you may wait a couple of hours for the next free tour if you just walk up.  For more information go to:

Mystery Cave Tours

We took the Scenic Tour.  It was the only option for my 5 year old.  There are other cool cave options, but you need to be older.  Despite this, the Scenic Tour was fantastic!  It's about an hour long tour that takes you into different sections of the cave.  Here are a few pictures we took.

The tour was amazing and well worth the admission cost!  I can't wait until my daughters are both old enough to go back and do the flashlight tour.  It takes you into a different, less developed (fewer walkways, no lights, etc.) part of the cave.  To end, if you're in or near southeastern Minnesota and looking for things to do, Mystery Cave is an excellent option!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Forestville Mystery Cave State Park

Near the end of July I had the opportunity to take my daughters to Forestville Mystery Cave State Park in southeastern Minnesota.  I've visited this area before but never entered the state park.  Little did I know what I was missing!  The park has an historical 'town'  (called Historical Forestville) area where employees dress up in historical dress to give a feel for what it's like to live in a time without today's technology.  It also has over 19 miles of hiking if you like that.  My daughters and I took a 1 mile scenic hike along a river that gave a great view of the bluffs.  Here are a few of the pictures we took.

There are plenty of other trails if you are willing to walk farther and have more time than we did.  On top of this, and the reason our hike was shorter, is Mystery Cave!  Mystery Cave is an large cave system located near the park and officially part of the state park.  However, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear about our trip to Mystery Cave!  :-)

Friday, August 21, 2015

This Blog's History: Does Your Blood Boil in Space

There's a big misconception that your blood boils in space (without a pressurized suit).  This misconception is pushed in books, movies, and TV shows.  What really happens?  I covered this last month and for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you to it again.  Don't get me wrong.  Space without a pressurized suit is no fun and very deadly, but your blood doesn't boil.

Does Your Blood Boil in Space?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

New School Year

August is here meaning my daughters are off to another year of school.  My 8 year old started third grade earlier this month and my 5 year old started kindergarten.  Both were super excited to start school, especially my 5 year old.  She's watched her big sister get on the school bus for 3 years and has patiently been waiting her turn to ride the bus!  She had a huge smile on her face in the morning too!

Each year I take a picture of my daughters holding a sign for their grade. When they graduate I'll put together a picture of each year they started school to visually see their progression.

August always reminds my wife and I that our girls are getting older and they are no longer the little babies we rocked in our arms.  One on end it is a bit sad, but on the other hand it is such a joy watching them grow and take on new challenges.  It's just a reminder to enjoy each day and live in the moment because the moment passes by very quickly!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Only in your State

My wife sent this to me the other day and it is a very valuable resource.

Only in Your State

It's a website listing MANY things that you can only do in your state.  It allows you to choose a state and browse through the list of amazing things you can do in your state.  There were many in my state I had no idea existed!  So if you and your kids are bored and have nothing to do, check out this site and find something to do.  If you still can't find anything to do, well, there's probably no hope for you!  :-)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Growing Triops: Attempt Two

This past Christmas my 8 year old received a triops kit as a gift.  A triops is a genus of small crustaceans whose fossils date back to 300 million years ago.  I first wrote about this on January 19, 2015.  At that time we were unsuccessful.  None of the triops hatched, but I had a good reason why.  The triops needed a warm water temperature no cooler than 72 degrees F.  In the winter we keep our house cooler than this and the water temperature likely did not exceed 66-68 degrees F.  Now that summer is well underway, we are giving this another shot.  We saved half the eggs, setup a tank of water, let it warm to room temp, and are keeping our fingers crossed!  We also placed the container next to a window for the sunlight to warm it further.  The temp should not drop below 72 deg F.

The eggs are supposed to hatch in 2-4 days, so hopefully by the end of this week or beginning of next week I'll have pictures of triops to show you!  If not, then I have no idea what I'm doing wrong because I've dotted all the i's and crossed the t's according to the instructions!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ireland - Knowth

This is the last of my Ireland/Northern Ireland vacation posts.  If you've never visited, please find a way to do so because it is awesome!  It is a vacation you will not regret!  Now to the point of this post.  One of our stops was Knowth, located not far from Dublin.  What is Knowth?  I can't do it justice, so here's what you can find on Wikipedia.

"Knowth is a Neolithic passage grave and an ancient monument of Brú na Bóinne in Ireland's valley of the River Boyne. It is the largest passage grave of the Brú na Bóinne complex and consists of a large mound and 17 smaller satellite tombs."

That doesn't do it justice, so here are a few pictures we took.  

To visit here you need to take a tour that you catch at a different place and take a short bus ride here.  For more information, go to the link below.

It's a very impressive place, so if you are ever in Ireland, this is a must see!

Friday, August 14, 2015

This Blog's History: Defying Gravity

Want to defy the law of gravity?  You can!  Sort of.  :-)  Here's a cool science experiment that seems to break the law of gravity!  Test it out yourself!  For full details, read the original post at the link below.

Defying Gravity

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bill Nye The Science Guy - First Episode

I mentioned earlier that Bill Nye the Science Guy is now streaming on Netflix!!!  My 8 year old found out and was super excited because she had seen an episode at school.  We sat down to watch our first episode together, titled Gravity.  It's definitely a cool show that does a great job reaching out to kids.  However, I was a bit disappointed based on two pieces of very misleading science that were presented.

1.  When Bill was discussing gravity on other planets he kept referring to someone's weight in units of kilograms.  Although I understand what he was saying, it is misleading.  Your weight is the gravitational force acting on you and changes based on a planet's gravity.  Your mass, measured in kilograms, doesn't change.  Yet he was talking about different weight changes and reporting those changes in units of kilograms.  Technically he's not wrong, but it was easily leading to confusion.

2.  There's a song later in the episode and in that song a kid says that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 discovering Earth is round.  Absolutely wrong.  Earth was known to be round for 1000 plus years by the time Columbus set forth on his voyage.  Columbus did NOT discover the Earth was round and it was disappointing to see that in an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Given that, however, I still support this show and think it does much more good than harm to any child watching it.  My daughter loved it and we'll continue watching it.  Hopefully Netflix puts the other seasons on streaming soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Good Dinosaur - Trailer

As a family we've recently gone to the movie theater to see Inside Out and Minions, both great movies!  Before each movie was the trailer for Disney Pixar's upcoming The Good Dinosaur.  

Let me be clear.  The movie looks interesting and if my kids want to see it, we'll go see it.  The trailer, however, bothers me.  The basic plot asks what would have happened had the asteroid that struck Earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs never happened?  What if the asteroid zoomed by Earth and missed?  This is shown in the trailer, but the trailer begins by showing this asteroid belt PACKED with asteroids bouncing into each other.  Um...NO!  That is NOT the asteroid belt.  Although the asteroid belt is certainly a region of asteroids orbiting the Earth, it is still very empty.  There are, on average, millions of miles between two distinct asteroids.  The trailer pushes the misconception the asteroid belt is full of asteroids bouncing against each other.  SMH!  :-)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ireland - Long Woman's Grave

When visiting Ireland this summer, we stayed in a house in Omeath.  Omeath is located in north-eastern Ireland, very close to the Northern Ireland border.  Carlingford is a few kilometers away.  This area is part of the Cooley Mountains and one of the peaks is near Omeath.  A few kilometers from our house was a trail head that winds through the mountains all the way to Carlingford.  We didn't take the whole path, but did hike to the top of one peak where the Long Woman's Grave is located.

The hike itself is not easy, but not super hard.  My wife and I took our two daughters (4 and 8) and they handled the hike just fine.  There's a few areas where they needed some hand holding, but nothing much to worry about.  The monument for the Long Woman's Grave, seen below, is in the parking lot at the beginning of the hiking trail, so it requires no hiking.

The hike took us about 80 minutes to reach the top (and again, the trail continues for several kilometers all the way to Carlingford).  We stopped when we reached the large cairn of stones at the peak of one of the mountains.  

The view from this peak was absolutely amazing!

At the top it was incredibly windy!  We were very glad we brought jackets with us!  At a higher elevation and no wind block, the wind flowed freely and we definitely felt it.  The noise was loud enough that we had to yell at each other to be heard.  But still VERY COOL!!!

If you're in Ireland and in this area and up for a nice hike, (80 minutes up, about 40 minutes down) this is a good one!

Monday, August 10, 2015

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

I can't believe I'm in my mid 30s and never read Arthur C. Clarke's 2001:  A Space Odyssey before this summer!  Something is wrong with me!  Fortunately I've come to my senses and read the book.  Simply amazing!  This is an absolute must read!!!

The amazing thing about this book is despite the published date of 1968, Clarke does an amazing job discussing technology that actually becomes reality!  Obviously some things don't match up with today's world and much of it is still very science fiction, but to see Clarke write about technology that becomes a daily part of life is amazing!  

Like I said, this is a must read book.  If your middle school or high school student is bored and looking for a good book, this is it!  Send him/her to the library or buy a cheap used copy online.  Anyone who reads this will NOT be disappointed!

Friday, August 7, 2015

This Blog's History: Planetary Rings

In case you missed it, here's my post from a two months ago, detailing planetary rings.  Everyone associates rings with Saturn, but there's a misconception that Saturn is the only planet with rings.  For more details, check out the original post.

Planetary Rings

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Northern Ireland - Titantic Belfast

When you're visiting Northern Ireland (and let's face it, after reading my posts on Ireland/Northern Ireland, you'll definitely go visit one day!) make sure to stop in Belfast and visit Belfast Titantic, a museum dedicated to the Titantic ship that sank in 1912.

If you're from the U.S., you'll find admission kind of pricey.  Although the conversion rate between the U.S. dollar and the Euro (in Ireland) is good right now, the conversion rate between the dollar and the pound (used in Northern Ireland) is not so good.  Between admission, lunch, the gift shop, and parking, we spent close to 250 USD (family of 4).  That's was by far the most we spent seeing something over the entire trip.  However, I will admit it is worth it!  This is an awesome museum and there's much more than the Titantic here.

The museum starts with an overview of the Irish economy and how this eventually led to the Titantic.  It is simply fantastic.  So bite the bullet, spend the money, and have fun!  There's also a ship a half block away, also part of the museum, you can tour for an extra 10 euro (for the full family of 4), that gives you a look at the living conditions inside a ship transporting people across the Atlantic.  

Have fun when you visit!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Theory of Everything - Book by Stephen Hawking

A while back I posted about the movie "The Theory of Everything" which chronicles the life of famous physicist Stephen Hawking.  Watching this movie encouraged me to finally read Hawking's book, "The Theory of Everything".  I checked it out from the local library and set out to read it.  Despite being written in the late 1980s, the science still holds up and it is a wonderful read!  You will definitely learn much about astronomy by reading this book.

Even with a Ph.D. in astrophysics, I found I had to read parts of this book several times to grasp, but that shouldn't scare you way.  Even if you have no background knowledge in astronomy, read this book!!!  You will learn something and become much more knowledgeable of the subject matter.  Most of this book is written with a general audience in mind.  This is a also a great gift idea for the science lovers in your family!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ireland - Trim Castle

When you visit Ireland (and I say when because you DEFINITELY need to find a way to visit!) you MUST visit Trim Castle.  Trim Castle isn't far from Dublin, so when you're in that area, take a relatively short drive to the town of Trim where the castle is located.  Trim Castle has intact walls, as well as a renovated keep that offers tours.

It costs a couple of euros per person to enter inside the walls and an additional euro or two to tour the keep.  For a family of four it cost us somewhere between 10-12 euros to do both, so not too bad.  Definitely tour the keep.  It is awesome!  It's a guided tour and you will learn much about the keep.  If the weather is cooperating, and it did when we toured, you can walk on the top of the keep and get a wonderful view of Trim.  

To conclude, WHEN you visit Ireland, Trim Castle is a MUST see.  It was also used in several scenes in the movie Braveheart!