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!