Friday, December 30, 2016

This Blog's History: Vaccines do NOT Cause Autism

For This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a post (I've written several) on vaccines.  Please click the link below to read my thoughts on this topic.  Summary:  Vaccines do NOT cause autism.  Vaccines are perfectly safe!

Vaccines Do NOT Cause Autism

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Homeopathy Has No Basis in Science

Today's post is one of several (both past and future) inspired by the November 2016 issue of Scientific American that had a feature article on "Things We Know To Be True".  Discussed in this article are five science findings that we definitely know to be true despite the many misconceptions swirling around them.  In addition the article has several side windows of other science findings we know to be true.  Today's topic is one of the five main science findings discussed.

Let's start with defining homeopathy.  The dictionary definition of homeopathy, found through a simple Google search is:

"The treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease."

The dictionary definition understates the definition of 'minute' in the above sentence.  The actual substance (medicine) is diluted in water many, many times.  For example, the Scientific American article states that a homeopathic product stating an active ingredient has a '200 CK' dilution means the active ingredient is diluted with 1 part per 100 parts of water, and then repeated 200 times.  The odds of a single molecule, let alone enough to do anything, of active ingredient left after the dilution process is extremely small.  There are literally ZERO molecules of active ingredients in the product.  

A homeopathic product may have a taste to it, but this is almost always due to the insertion of a sugar substance (non-active ingredient).  Simply put, homeopathic products are NOT medicine.  They will do NOTHING to help with the symptoms you are experiencing.  Yet these products are found directly next to regular medicinal products at pharmacies making it very confusing to customers.  In the past, I've made the mistake of purchasing a homeopathic product.  We were on a holiday trip and one of our kids was sick.  This seemed to happen every time we went on 8-10 hour car rides to see family when our kids were younger!  We stopped at a gas station to pick up something and it wasn't until later I realized that what we picked up was a homeopathic product.  We were in a hurry, stressed, and the homeopathic words on the box were very tiny.  Ug!  We didn't harm our kids.  We just gave them sugar water to relieve a symptom that couldn't be relieved with sugar water.  

Homeopathy is a scam.  There is no scientific basis it in it whatsoever.  There are NO scientific studies showing their effectiveness to do what they claim to do.  What these boxes should say is "No active ingredients.  NOT medicine!"  To leave this off the box is to deliberately confuse customers.  

Homeopathic products often say "ORGANIC" or "NATURAL" on the box.  These words indicate nothing on the effectiveness of the product but are a red flag for a scam when it comes to medicine.  So the next time you head to the pharmacy for medicine, be very careful to read the box.  Do not buy anything homeopathic unless you wish to throw away money on a product that has no chance of working as described.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Children of Auberon by J. Wolf Scott

Readers of this blog know that in addition to being a science geek, I'm a lover of fantasy and science fiction books.  So are my kids.  They've been checking out more and more comic books along with fantasy books from the local library.  In addition we've been reading the Harry Potter series together (currently on book four).  We recently purchased the book series "Children of Auberon" by J. Wolf Scott.

Scott is an author my family and I personally know and we purchased these books (currently six at a local event and had them signed by the author.  Super cool!

We haven't started reading this series yet as we have to first finish reading the Harry Potter book we are about halfway through.  Once finished with that book, we're going to start with "The Sodality".  This is the prequel to the five book series.  The sixth book in the series (seventh counting the prequel) releases in the summer of 2017.  Although I can't provide a review at this time, I'm excited to read it with my kids.  Once we finish I'll post a review here, on this blog.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Vsauce 3 - YouTube Science Channel

I've previously shared my enjoyment of watching Vsauce and Vsauce2 YouTube videos.  Both are science themed YouTube channels that produce videos on a regular basis.  Admit it, you feel as if you still don't have enough Vsauce in your life.  Fortunately there's a third Vsauce channel, Vsauce3!!!

Like the other Vsauce channels, Vsauce3 produces a new video about twice per month.  Recent videos focus on Mars, meteorites, and ripping out spines.  Very interesting topics!

If you need more Vsauce after watching all three Vsauce channels, well, you're out of luck.  There are no more at this time.  There are, however, many excellent science channels out there, several of which I've shared on this blog.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Fun with Science Gifts

It's the day after Christmas and most of you are probably spending time with family or out shopping looking for the best after Christmas Day sales. Or possibly returning that ugly brown sweater vest your Grandma Betty gave you as a gift.  Yes, that was me a few years ago.  One of my grandmothers gave me this very ugly sweater vest that I'm pretty sure she pulled out of her husband's (my grandfather's) closet!  It's been a running joke in my family for years now!  Every Christmas it comes up as a topic of discussion and we all have a good laugh over it!  One year my wife and I received a combo gift.  It was a used lamp that had a burnt out light bulb in it.  LOL!  Gotta love family!

Anyway, I hope you received a few science themed gifts for Christmas.  If not, add some to your list next year so your family will know that you need more science in your life.  If you didn't, be sure to send a few science themed gifts yourself!  I guarantee you that you have at least one, if not several, science lovers in your family.  Show that you love them by recognizing their love for science!  We all need more science in our lives!

Have a great day!  Have fun with science and enjoy the time you have with family!  Try not to blow yourself up either with that brand new shiny chemistry kit!!!  :-)

Friday, December 23, 2016

This Blog's History: The Truth of the Bermuda Triangle

For This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a post I wrote on the Bermuda Triangle.  There are so many TV shows, movies, books, magazine articles, newspaper stories, and social media shares trying to pass Bermuda Triangle pseudoscience as truth that I'm left banging my head on the wall.  What does actual science say?  Find out by clicking the link below to read the original post I wrote last month.

The Truth of the Bermuda Triangle

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day?

Today's post is a continuation in the series of posts I'm writing based on the November 2016 issue of Scientific American in which a feature article focuses on "Things We Know to Be True".  This issue only had a single sentence statement on the question in the subject of this post, but it is one that covers a very common misconception related to one's health.

How much water should you drink each day?  It's very commonly stated that humans need eight eight-ounce glasses of water (or other liquid) per day.  That's 64 ounces of water per day.  Unfortunately there is no science to back up this claim.  Obviously we need water to survive and can't survive more than a couple of days without water.  But do we really need 64 ounces?  Drinking too much water can kill you too!

There is no specific amount of water or other liquid an individual should drink each day.  The Mayo Clinic states this depends on many factors, such as age, health, and physical activity to name just a few.  The best rule of thumb to determine how much liquid to drink is to drink when you are thirsty and don't drink when you are not thirsty.  Your body is the best indicator of how much you should drink.  Your body will tell you through thirst that you need to drink more.  Barring any other significant health issues, you'll be fine drinking liquid when your body tells you that you are thirsty.  It's as simple as that.  There's no need to force down 64 ounces if you're not thirsty.  You're body may send you other signals indicating the need for more liquid.  Constipation, for example, could be a sign of not enough liquid, although it could also be a sign you need more fiber in your diet.

To conclude, drink when you are thirsty.  Do this and you'll most like be fine.  :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Most Read Posts on this Blog

Every once in a while I like to check and see which blog posts have been most popular on the Cool Science Dad blog.  I started this blog 4+ years ago and this is post #1255.  Of all of those posts, which are the 5 most read posts based on page visits?

5.  Volleyball - 3,048 page visits

4.  Thunder/Lightning Misconceptions - 7,269 page visits

3.  What Direction Does the Sun Rise and Set - 9,290 page visits

2.  Can You Get a Moonburn? - 15,740 page visits

1.  The Egg Drop Experiment - 16,115 page visits

Wow!  16,000+ page visits for the Egg Drop Experiment!  That's a lot of page visits!  This experiment is commonly done in high school physics classes.  I did this every year for my students when I was teaching physics.  Students typically had a lot of fun, and frustration, building ships to house an egg.  We'd head to a parking garage and start to drop the ships from higher and higher heights, trying to see how high the ships could be dropped and still protect the egg from breaking.  Each year a couple of ships would survive a four story fall onto grass.  We'd then move over to concrete.  In all the ships dropped in my physics classes over the years, only one resulted in an unbreakable egg!   Just one!

If you're interested, check out the posts above.  Find out if you can get a moonburn.  Learn about misconceptions related to thunder and lightning.  The Sun rises in the east, right?  Not so fast!  Check them out.  Knowledge is power!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mindware Products

My daughters don't know it yet (shhh!  Don't tell them!), but they are about to open Christmas gifts in a couple of days and among their gifts are a few items from Mindware, which describes itself as selling "brainy toys for kids of all ages."

We received a product catalog several weeks ago in the mail and my daughters spotted it.  They went through it and circled ideas they like and we thought these were great gift ideas.  One of the things we purchased was a 14 in 1 robot kit which has materials to build 14 different solar powered robots.  Super cool!  There are a ton of different great gift ideas here with plenty of options to choose from for both younger kids and older kids.  I suspect we'll be heading back to this online store for upcoming birthdays as well as Christmas in 2017!

I encourage you to check it out yourself (see link below).  If you're looking for good gift ideas and aren't sure what to get, search Mindware for some cool science themed gifts.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Skeptics with a K Podcast

I shared last Friday a list of science themed podcasts you should check out.  Today I want to specifically share with you one of those podcasts, Skeptics with a K.  This is a science/skeptic themed podcast I've been listening to for about a year now.  Skeptics with a K is put out by the Merseyside Skeptics Society out of the UK.  Most of the podcasts I listen to are out of the U.S., but I enjoy listening to a couple out of the UK and Australia.  There's quite a bit one can learn from those living outside of the U.S.

Skeptics with a K produces a new episode about once per week.  A recent episode in November discussed the crazy conspiracy theory of chemtrails.  Another took a look at the science of male contraceptives.  It's an excellent podcast and one you should consider listening to.  At the very least check it out at the link below.

Skeptics with a K

Update:  Apparently I enjoy this podcast soooo much I posted on it twice, with the first being back on November 29, 2016.  LOL!  Oh well.  It's a great podcast so check it out!

Friday, December 16, 2016

This Blog's History: More Science Themed Podcasts

You know you need more science in your podcast listening list!  I posted this about a month ago.  It's a huge list of science and skeptic themed podcasts.  There is also a list of Atheist themed podcasts if you're interested.  I figure you need more science in your life, so I share this post with you again on This Friday in This Blog's History series.

More Science Podcasts

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Evolution is the Only Reasonable Explanation for the Diversity of Life on Earth

This blog posts continues my series on "Things We Know to Be True", inspired by the November 2016 issue of Scientific American.  One of their top 5 things known to be true is evolution.

"Evolution is the Only Reasonable Explanation for the Diversity of Life on Earth"

I'm not an evolutionary biologist so I can't describe the detailed research behind this.  However, that is not a reason to not accept the widely accepted research on this done by the biology focused scientific community.  The experts have done their research and continue to do their research.  It is now VERY clear life arrived as a result of evolution.

Are there still questions?  Absolutely, but having questions does not throw away all of the scientific findings thus far.  Simply because there are still questions does not mean you get to throw away the science in favor of your belief.  In my life, there was never much controversy around evolution during biology class in school.  Maybe there was and I was blind to it, but it never seemed a problem.  In fact, it wasn't until much later in my life when I first came across people who stated evolution was a lie and touted a 6,000 year old Earth!  Yikes!  And now it seems as if every other person I encounter thinks evolution is somehow a lie spread by Satan.  Double yikes!!!

Sadly, too many people ignore the science of evolution in favor of their own personal beliefs that are not founded in any evidence.  Thus the reason for further promotion of critical thinking skills in schools, as I mentioned in yesterday's blog post.  My daughters have not encountered anti-evolution in school yet, but we've had talks about how old the Earth is.  In those talks I've shared with them how some people believe the Earth is 6,000 years old, but science shows us the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and the Universe is 13.8 billion years old.  In fact, when they were younger, we read the book "Grandmother Fish" several times.  A great book for teaching young kids the basics of evolution and how to think.

Just yesterday I saw a advertisement for a T-shirt that said:

"Science Doesn't Care What You Believe"

Absolutely true.  Believe what you want but science will always trump someone's beliefs.  In this case, a belief in a 6,000 year old Earth is trumped by the overwhelming science supporting evolution.  Oh, and the next time someone asks you how evolution can be true if there are still monkeys, respond by telling them that evolution does NOT say man came from monkey.  Evolution says man and monkey both evolved from a common ancestor.  Sigh.  That question is a huge pet peeve of mine and shows nothing but ignorance of the person asking.  They've taken no time to investigate evolution at all before attempting a snappy statement to attempt (and a very poor attempt at that) to debunk evolution.  SMH.  

Okay, that's it for today.  I'm starting to go into rant mode.  :-)  Stay tuned for more in this "Things We Know to Be True" series.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

LED Light Bulbs

When we first moved into this house 10 years ago we started replacing all incandescent light bulbs in the house with more energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs (the curly ones).  It took a couple of years as we waited for each bulb to go out before replacing it.  As the years have past, light bulb technology has changed and fluorescent light bulbs are being phased out by LED bulbs.  LED bulbs look more like incandescent light bulbs in shape, but use less energy than fluorescent light bulbs and last longer.  For typical standard use, the manufacturer states a lifetime of 13.5 years, compared to 7 years for fluorescent light bulbs.

A standard 60 watt incandescent light bulb uses 60 joules of energy each second.  The equivalent fluorescent light bulb uses 13 joules of energy each second.  The equivalent LED light bulb uses 9 joules of energy per second.  Assuming a light bulb is on 3 hours per day (considered standard usage), I computed the following annual energy usages for each style of bulb.

Incandescent = 236,520,000 Joules = 65.7 kwh

Fluorescent = 51,246,000 Joules = 14.2 kwh

LED = 35,478,000 Joules = 9.9 kwh

Assume an electricity cost of $0.10 per kwh of energy use and you find an incandescent light bulb costs $6.57 per year, a fluorescent light bulb costs $1.42 per year and an LED light bulb costs $0.99 per year to operate.  My house has about 75 light bulbs.  It seems high, but walk around your house and count up the number of light bulbs.  You'll probably find just as many, if not more!  For my home, annual costs add up to:

Incandescent = $492.75

Fluorescent = $106.50

LED = $74.25

I don't know about you, but $74.25 is a LOT less than $492.75.  Not too mention the frequency of changing light bulbs is drastically reduced and much less energy is used!  The moral of this story?  Go out and purchase LED light bulbs for your home! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Story on Critical Thinking Skills

I'm a big proponent of teaching kids critical thinking skills.  As the saying goes, it's important to teach kids how to think instead of what to think.  I strongly believe this country and this planet would be much better off if critical thinking skills were much more wide spread across communities than they currently are.  Critical thinking skills are used all throughout one's life if one knows how to use them..  The other day I ran across a scenario in which I was required to use my critical thinking skills to solve a problem.

When pulling out of the garage for work I pushed the button on my garage door opener and nothing happened.  The door would not close.  My first guess was a dead battery in the opener.  I got out of the car and went into the garage to close the door using the hard wired opener on the wall.  Before leaving for work, I tested the opener in the other car and it didn't work either.  I tested the wireless opener on the outside of the garage and it didn't work either.  That was odd.  That led me to conclude it wasn't a battery issue, but somehow all of the codes were erased.  Oh well, I've had to program the codes a few times in the past, so when I get home, I thought, I'll do it again.

When I got home I erased any stored codes, deciding to start from scratch.  Programming a garage door opener is very easy and takes about 30 seconds.  The code wouldn't take.  I tried the wireless opener.  No luck.  Odd.  Then I started thinking.  Over the weekend, I replaced the light bulb on the garage door opener as it had gone out.  I had an LED bulb, so I put that in.  I figured the light bulb couldn't be the problem, but since that was the last thing I did before the garage door openers stopped working, I took the light bulb out.  Voila!  The garage door openers programmed no problem.  I put the LED bulb back in and the openers wouldn't work.  I replaced the LED bulb with a fluorescent bulb and the garage door openers worked.

I have no idea why the LED bulb was the problem.  Drawing too much current for the openers to work?  A bit odd since they draw less current than the other bulbs.  Regardless, a bit of critical thinking saved the day.  I honestly had no idea what the problem was, but decided to trouble shoot to see if I could figure it out.  Critical thinking skills saved a call to a repair person along with $100 or so just to be told it was the light bulb.  :-)

The point here isn't to brag about my critical thinking skills.  Heck, if I knew more about repairs, I probably could have saved half the time it took me to figure out the problem!  The point is to stress how critical thinking skills are used and needed every day.  Promoting these skills in young children will help them to grow into adults who use critical thinking skills in all aspects of life.  These skills are woefully underused in society today and as a result we are not progressing as a species as quickly as we could.  In may ways (e.g. climate change, women's rights, equality) we are stepping backwards as a result of less than adequate critical thinking skills.

Monday, December 12, 2016

GMOs Are Safe

This post was inspired by the November 2016 issue of Scientific American and a continuation of the series I'm writing on things we know to be true.  This post's topic was not one of the main articles written on things we know but a side statement.  It's one in which I've changed my mind on after reading up on the science.

The topic is GMOs (genetically modified organisms).  From wikipedia, the definition of a GMO is:

"genetically modified organism (GMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques (i.e., a genetically engineered organism)."

 Much of the food we eat today is a GMO.  Because of this, there are many movements to ban GMOs, label GMOs, and reduce the number of GMOs in production today with the push that GMOs are harmful to human health.  Unfortunately there are no scientific studies suggesting GMOs are harmful to humans.  Over 2000 studies have been completed and all show there are no harmful effects from consuming GMO products.  There was a study in which rats were fed GMO corn for a period of time.  These rats had a greater rate of tumor growth, but it was later determined the rats used in the study were already pre-disposed to developing tumors at a greater rate than other rats.  The study itself was retracted.

In my life, I used to be against GMOs.  I signed petitions, I was excited to purchase and eat non-GMO food products, and I shared anti-GMO propaganda on social media.  Then I started looking into the science of GMOs and quickly realized I was wrong.  GMOs are not harmful.  They do not increase tumor rates.  They do not reduce life spans.  They are perfectly safe.  In fact, now I get annoyed when I see food packaging stating the product is non-GMO.  I'm LESS inclined to buy a food product with a package stating it is non-GMO.  The company has the right to produce this packaging, but it is an anti-science statement used to promote greater sales to those who think GMOs are bad for you.

If the science is clear, why do so many people think GMOs are bad?  A lot of it has to do with big corporations versus small, family farming.  I understand that, but the two are very different issues.  We can have a discussion about the business practices of Monsanto or Dow and yet still recognize that GMOs are safe.  If we are serious about solving world hunger problems, GMOs MUST be part of the solution.  To demonize them to push an anti-science belief is literally killing people who don't have enough food and die of malnutrition.

I admit it.  I was wrong on GMOs for several years.  Then I started reading up on them and I realized I was wrong.  I could have dug my feet in and stuck with my anti-science belief, but I was mentally strong enough to recognize I made a mistake.  I hope you will do the same if you are reading this and hold an anti-GMO viewpoint.

Friday, December 9, 2016

This Blog's History: Sky Map Mobile App

For This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a post I wrote about the Sky Map mobile app you can download for free on your phone.  If you enjoy looking at the night sky then this is a must have app as it will help you identify the stars and other objects you are looking at.  Like I said, it's free to use and very easy to use.  Can't beat that!  For full details, check out the original post below.

Sky Map Mobile App

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Call to Action: Protect Women's Reproductive Rights!!!

The Ohio state legislature, earlier this week, passed a bill that bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, essentially banning abortion after just 6 weeks.  This is a direct attack on women's reproductive rights.  I realize this is a controversial issue, but it's important enough for me to bring up on this science themed blog, and there is science involved if you'll bear with me for a moment.  

The bill has not yet been passed into law as it requires the signature of the Ohio governor, John Kasich.  Kasich is very much pro-life but has stated in the past that he does not welcome an automatic lawsuit.  Very similar bills were passed in recent years by North Dakota and Arkansas and soon ruled unconstitutional, costing taxpayers an unnecessary loss of taxpayer money.  If Kasich signs this bill into law there will most certainly be a lawsuit that will hopefully also be ruled unconstitutional.  Hopefully it doesn't come to this and Kasich vetoes the bill, although the legislature could push for an override of the veto.

If women's reproductive rights are important to you, I strongly urge you to call Governor's Kasich's office (616-466-3555).

There's a web form to send a letter, but making phone calls, even if you have to leave a message, is MUCH more effective.  When making your call be polite, state your name and location, even if it isn't Ohio, and state your concern.  The bill number in question is HB 493.  

So where is the science in this subject?  For starers, there is much anti-science in the push to ban abortion.  State legislatures across the country have passed or tried to pass bills that require mandatory ultrasounds, in some cases vaginal ultrasounds, a completely unnecessary political procedure.  They've passed or tried to pass bills requiring doctors to say that abortions are reversible, increase one's risk of cancer, increase one's risk of abortion-related death, etc.  None of this is supported by science.  NONE!  In fact, a mother is much more likely to die during childbirth than during an abortion procedure.  

I know of no one who wants more abortion.  This is an issue of women's reproductive rights.  Banning abortion doesn't stop abortion.  It pushes women into seeking unsafe abortions.  The result is many more women dying.  We know this to be the case as abortion was banned in the U.S. prior to Roe vs. Wade in the 1970s.  There is a safe way to reduce the number of abortions and that is quality sex education in schools.  Yet the same people trying to ban abortion are demanding that abstinence only sex education be taught in schools.  That isn't sex education.  That's sex denial.  Teenagers are going to have sex regardless of whether they are told not to.  It is our duty as parents and as a society to teach safe sex practices.  This will reduce abortions and sexually transmitted disease.  Education is our best tool to reduce abortion.  There will always be a need for abortion, but quality sex education can drastically reduce the rate of abortion in this country.  

Barring a federal ban on abortion, bills such as these, even if they are passed, will not have a direct affect on me.  If my daughters ever find themselves in a position to need an abortion, I will be there to support them 100%.  If that's paying for funeral expenses for a fetus (an actual law in Texas!!!), driving across multiple states to find an abortion clinic, spending money in hotels to satisfy mandatory wait laws, etc., I will do that.  We have the means to pay.  Others do not.  As a result I will fight attacks on women such as this in every way that I can and I hope that you will too.  Sitting silent while our mothers, daughters, aunts, nieces, wives, girlfriends, and all women have to suffer the consequences of these draconian laws is NOT ACCEPTABLE!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

As mentioned yesterday, I'm going to be writing several blog posts on "things we know to be true".  This is inspired by the November 2016 issue of Scientific American.  One of the 5 things we know to be true discussed in this article is "Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism."

Where does this idea even come from?  In 1998 Andrew Wakefield and colleagues published an article in Lancet suggesting the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, and rubella) kids typically receive at 12 to 15 months of age increases the risk of being autistic.  Follow-up studies attempting to replicate the findings were unsuccessful and it was quickly determined the data in the study was fraudulent and financial gain was a motivating factor in the study.  The authors were found guilty of ethical violations and the article was officially retracted from the journal in 2010.

Why even consider a link?  There's a correlation in the age at which the MMR vaccine is received and the age at which autism is often diagnosed in kids.  Correlation, however, does not equal causation and after numerous studies there is NO connection between vaccines and autism.  Vaccines DO NOT cause autism.  The science is very clear on this.  However, once the statement was released stating a possible connection, the misconception/myth exploded and spread quickly.  Once a misconception is spread it is extremely hard to wipe it from society.  According to the article in Scientific American, 85% of parents with autism understand vaccines due not cause autism, but that remaining 15% believes so on a fabricated study designed to provide the authors financial gain.  You can read more on this here:

The MMR vaccine and autism: Sensation, refutation, retraction, and fraud

In my life I remember hearing that vaccines cause autism well before I considered having kids.  I didn't pay much attention to it as kids were not in my immediate future.  Once my wife and I started talking about having kids, I had to think about this issue.  Fortunately I knew to do my research and very quickly came to the conclusion that vaccines do not cause autism and that vaccines are perfectly safe.  Our kids received and will continue to receive every vaccine on schedule.  They also reciee teh flu vaccine each year in the fall.  Others, however, are not raised to think critically or punished when they think critically, and it is very easy to believe in every conspiracy theory, myth, and/or misconception one comes across.  In some societies and in some areas of society in the U.S., critical thinking is frowned upon.  In my household we do not frown upon critical thinking.  We teach our kids to think critically and question everything.

This single study has led to an increase in portions of the population not vaccinating their children.  This is a huge problem!  Once eradicated diseases are on the verge of returning.  Choosing to not vaccinate your child does not just affect your child.  It effects every child who is unable to be vaccinated due to a weakened immune system.  Those children only have herd immunity to rely on.  As fewer and fewer parents choose to vaccinate, that herd immunity weakens and children unable to receive vaccines are at great risk of contracting a disease and becoming very sick or even dying.  Not vaccinating your children has huge negative ramifications on society.

To conclude vaccines do not cause autism.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Scientific American - November 2016 Issue

The November 2016 issue of Scientific American is a must read for several reasons.  For starters, there is an excellent feature article on entangled black holes and what that means for astronomy.  There's also a very interesting article on the future of fusion reactors on Earth as a source of energy.  These, however, are not the reason I write about it today.  There is also a wonderful article that mentions several "things we know to be true."  These are areas of scientific research in which the science is extremely clear, yet is still controversial in the United States.  The five discussed in this issue are:

  • Evolution is the only reasonable explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.
  • Homeopathy has no basis in science.
  • Climate change conspiracy theories are ludicrous.
  • Vaccines do not cause autism.
  • No credible evidence of alien visitation exists.
A few others are mentioned in passing in the article but the above are discussed in detail.  I've written about a few of these on this blog in the past, but I'm going to re-visit these.  Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to write about each of the five above, including a few of the others mentioned in passing in the magazine, and discuss the role they've played in my life and the raising of my kids.  

It's hard to believe that in 2016 science is ignored by much of society.  Ideas debunked decades and centuries ago have come back to play a prominent role in the everyday lives of people.  Why?  There's no clear answer to this, but studies have shown that explaining the science of a misconception to those believing the misconception often hardens one's views of the misconception.  That is simply amazing and makes the task of promoting real science even more difficult.  It's a task, however, that must be undertaken to further improve our lives.  

Monday, December 5, 2016

No, You Can't Name a Star!!!

I re-posted last Friday a website with some great gift ideas for the science geek/nerd in your family.  With still a few weeks to go before the holidays I was searching around for other ideas and found this website:

Geek Gift Ideas

There are some good ideas on here, don't get me wrong, but I was very annoyed see that one of the ideas is to register a star in honor of your loved one.  Ug.  No, no, no, a thousand times no!  This is a scam!  You cannot name a star.  Well, you can, but it has no recognition among the scientific community.  This is simply a scam that suckers people into spending money they think is honoring a loved one, but it does no such thing.

Now, I will give this website some credit for stating that the naming of the star is not officially recognized.  Fine.  They are right on that.  Why then are you even listing it?  It's not romantic!  It's not honoring a loved one!  It's a scam that dupes people into thinking their named star actually means something!  ARG!  Yes, I'm very annoyed to see this on a website that describes itself as scientifically minded.  It's not.  Not if it is advertising star names for sale.

Please, please, please do NOT waste your money on this!

Friday, December 2, 2016

This Blog's History: Gifts for Your Science Geek

The holiday season is upon us.  If you missed it a month ago here is the post I shared in November looking at a website that has many great ideas for the science geek/nerd in your family.  So many great ideas!

Gifts for Your Science Geek

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Moving Forward

I've taken awhile to post this, mainly because I didn't wish to talk politics for awhile following the general election in the U.S. in November.  Readers of this blog know that I vote for politicians who promote the advancement of science.  In this past election, that was Hillary Clinton.  I was deeply disappointed when she lost.  I admit to having some fear for what this means for the future of this nation, in particular what this means for the fight against climate change.  However, on the morning of Wednesday, November 9 I had a choice.  I could rant and rave about a rigged election and unfair results and let my daughters see this, or I could move forward and use this as example to explain how democracy in the U.S. works.

It was hard telling my daughters in the morning that the next president will be Donald Trump.  They both wanted Hillary Clinton to win.  They both wanted to see the first female president.  I explained to them that Mommy and Daddy are disappointed but the people of the U.S. voted for Donald Trump (I didn't go into the Electoral College with them).  We may be disappointed, but we had a choice and we made it.  Others made their choices too.  More people on the other side (based on electoral votes) voted than on our side.  Therefore we lost.

But it's important to move forward.  I explained that Donald Trump is our president.  We may not like it, but we have to accept it.  We can't say that he's "not our president".  We are one country and he IS our president whether we like it or not.  I explained we move forward.  We still fight for the things we think are right.  We write to our politicians.  We play a greater role in the political process.  They are getting older.  In four years they will be 13 and 10.  Old enough to have a better understanding of politics.  I want to get them involved.  I want to get myself more involved.  This may take the form of making phone calls, canvassing, placing signs around the community, working with the local county party.  I don't know right now, but what I do know is I want my daughters to understand the importance of politics.  If we don't fight for what we think is right, we lose.

Part of why I write this is for me.  I'm still stunned.  I'm still disappointed.  I'm still somewhat fearful of how this will all play out.  It's a feeling that many had when Obama won in 2008 and 2012.  Now it's my turn to experience these feelings.  I don't like them nor should I.  Nor should anyone.  But we move forward to continue the good fight to make this country a better place.  We are not the best country in the world.  In fact, I think it's ridiculous that anyone should be fighting to be the best.  No one is the best at everything.  But we can fight to make things better.

This is a bit rambled as I'm quickly writing my thoughts as they come to mind.  For that, I apologize.  I know there are many excited about this year's election outcome and others who feel how I do.  My goal is to teach my daughters that it doesn't matter.  We are still people who have human rights.  We have to work together to make the world a better place and we can't do that by failing to acknowledge the other side won fair and square.  The other side did win fair and square based on the rules set forth in the U.S. Constitution (referring to the Electoral College).

That's enough for now.  I'm not sure if any of this makes any sense.  Right now not much makes sense to me so I'll assume what I wrote above comes across as a foreign language.  I don't know.  Peace.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Truth of the Bermuda Triangle

How many of you were mesmerized by the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle as a kid?  I know I was.  There were several TV shows discussing the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.  They ranged from possible alien interference, natural interference, as well as other paranormal influences causing an abnormally large number of ships and planes to disappear.  Scientific evaluation of the Bermuda Triangle tells a much different story.

The Bermuda Triangle is a triangular region in the Atlantic ocean off the east coast of the U.S.  A scientific analysis, however, shows that although a number of ships and planes were lost in this area, the number is not abnormally larger than other high traffic areas across the globe.  You can read more on this here:

Most of the accidents that took place in this region can easily be explained by equipment error or pilot error.  What's more interesting is that many of the accidents claimed to be caused by the Bermuda Triangle did not actually happen in the Bermuda Triangle!  But they add to the mystery and further promote the myth as truth. 

So what can we conclude?  Flying and/or sailing, although very safe, still has some danger.  The same is true for driving a car.  It's safe, yet accidents happen all the time.  In a high travel area such as the Bermuda Triangle it is statistically expected there will be more accidents than a low travel area.  The higher numbers however are not a reason to jump to paranormal conclusions or government conspiracies.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Skeptics with a K Podcast

For fans of science themed and/or skeptic themed podcasts, I encourage you to check out the Skeptics with a K podcast.  This is a podcast out of the UK that aims to promote skeptical and critical thinking in all aspects of life.

Skeptics with a K Podcast

Living in the U.S. I'm most familiar with skeptical podcasts based in this country but there are a large number of skeptic's societies and skeptic podcasts in the UK.  I enjoy listening to this podcast because it focuses on skepticism but also presents a viewpoint from across the pond.  Hearing viewpoints from others in countries outside of your own is good way to broaden your horizons.

If you're interested, check it out at the link above.

Monday, November 28, 2016

It's Okay to Be Smart - YouTube Science Channel

It's been a week or two since I last shared a science themed YouTube channel, so I thought I'd start the week with a new one that I've found to be excellent!  If you  haven't seen it, definitely check out the It's Okay to Be Smart YouTube channel.

It's Okay to Be Smart

I love the title of this channel because kids at time often think it's not okay to come across as smart or be geeky/nerdy.  Fortunately my daughter's have never experienced this, but as they enter puberty and middle school, it wouldn't surprise me if they come home one day being teased or bullied because they like geeky/nerdy things such as their current love for science and school.

I didn't have YouTube videos when I was a kid and am so glad this technology exists for my daughters.  It allows them to learn about science they may not pick up in school and/or realize there are so many others out there including women and minorities who love science and don't care that others are bothered by their love for science.

It's Okay to Be Smart produces a new video each week.  Recent topics include Death From Above, Ants in our Plants, and Is Sugar a Drug.  It's a great channel you should definitely check out.  Add it to your list.  As I've said before, you can never have too much YouTube science!!!

Friday, November 25, 2016

This Blog's History: George's Secret Key to the Universe

I shared this a month ago and am re-sharing for This Friday in This Blog's History.  My 9 year old found a cool book titled George's Secret Key to the Universe.  Excellent book that she enjoyed reading that taught her much about the Universe!  It was at our local library, so likely found at your local library too!

George's Secret Key to the Universe

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Daily Free eBooks

If you're a lover of books and always looking for something new to read or a new author to check out, consider signing up for the ArcaMax Free eBook Newsletter.

ArcaMax Free eBooks

Each day I receive an email with a few featured books to buy through Amazon, along with the free book of the day.  Many of these free books are self-published and the first in a longer series.  They are designed to get you to buy the latter books in the series.  Many are romance books I have no interest in, but it's quite common to see science fiction/fantasy books.  When there is one, I download it with plans to eventually read it, although eventually could be 50 years from now!  I've probably downloaded over a 100 in the last couple of years.  Whenever I'm looking for a new book or new author or simply want something different, I read one of these free books.

Some are complete crap, but others are surprisingly good and draw me in to buy the other books in the series.  This was true for the Exilon 5 series by Eliza Green I wrote about the other day on this blog.

I encourage you to check out this newsletter.  If you don't like it you can simply unsubscribe.  It does add one more thing to my inbox every day, but I scan to the bottom of the letter where the book is listed and then decide to download or not, followed by deletion of the newsletter.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Black Hole Quiz

I have to credit one of my former students for finding this and sending it my way.  How well do you know black holes?  You can test your black hole knowledge with this simple black hole quiz!

Black Hole Quiz

I'm happy to report I scored a 9/9!  Make a game out of this with our kids.  See who gets the highest score and declare that person the Master of Black Holes in your house!  :-)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Exilon 5 by Eliza Green

I recently finished reading the first book (Becoming Human) of the Exilon 5 series by Eliza Green.  This is a self-published science fiction series that, to be honest, I only read because the first book was free on Amazon Kindle.  I'm very glad I read it as it was a very good science fiction book that mixes science fiction with a nearing apocalyptic Earth.

The book takes place approximately 150 years in the future.  Earth is very polluted.  Masks are required to walk outside.  Humans have populated a second planet, Exilon 5.  However, an alien race, unknown to humans, lives on Exilon 5.  I won't given anything else away, but it was a very interesting read and one I recommend to you or your science fiction loving kids.  

My only complaint is the ending of the book was very abrupt, even for a continuing series.  Most book series have some sort of plot conclusion at the end of each book before moving on to the next book.  The end of this book came across as more the end of a scene than a more typical book conclusion.  Regardless, I enjoyed this read and have already purchased the next two books in the series.  

You can either buy all 3 books in the series for $9.98 or get the first free and buy the next two at $4.99 each.  Either way the price is the same.

Monday, November 21, 2016

More Science Podcasts

I've discussed several science podcasts on this blog in the past, but I recently found a website listing a large chunk of science podcasts worth listening to. Many of these I already listen to.  Others I've heard of but don't regularly listen to.  Others yet I had never heard of and plan on checking out!

List of Science Podcasts

Several of the podcasts are from BBC that I've never listened to, but should.  There are several on the brain and several on debunking damaging pseudoscience.  I plan on checking out a few of these myself and so should you, especially if you're a science geek and podcast junkie!

Friday, November 18, 2016

This Blog's History: Mars Schiaparelli Lander Lost

In case you missed it, for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a post I wrote about the crash landing of the Mars Schiaparelli Lander last month.  Despite the lander failing, the mission itself is a huge success with the Trace Gas Orbiter looking for signs of methane in the Martian atmosphere.

Mars Schiaparelli Lander Lost

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ben Franklin and Electricity

It is a very common misconception taught in elementary and middle schools that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity by flying a kite in a lightning storm.  Part of this story is true, but Benjamin Franklin did not discover electricity.

In fact, if you type into google who discovered electricity, you get a picture of Benjamin Franklin!

The funny thing about this search is the article Google points to is a Universe Today article in which it clearly states Benjamin Franklin did NOT discover electricity.  Electricity was already well known by the time of Benjamin Franklin although the understanding of how it works was lacking.  Franklin designed an experiment to study electricity.  He did fly a kite with a metal key near the end of the string.  When touching the key a small shock was observed, convincing Franklin that lightning itself is electricity.  This, however, was not a discovery of electricity.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Was Napoleon Short?

I read about this interesting history misconception the other day and it's sort of science related, so I thought I'd share it with anyone bored enough to read my blog.  :-)  It's a common to read that Napoleon, Emperor of France and King of Italy during the early 1800s, is often credited as being very short with a height of 5 feet 2 inches.  That is short for an adult male although not unheard of by any means.  Unfortunately this is not true.  Napoleon was actually 5 feet 7 inches tall, which is taller than the average man of that time period and location.

So why the misconception?  The misconception results from the difference between the French pouce and British inch of the time period.  The pouce was equal to 2.71 cm and the inch was equal to 2.54 cm.  This conversion confusion is the result of the missing five inches in Napoleon's height.  

Today in the U.S. 5 feet 7 inches is below average height for an adult male (5 feet 10 inches) although taller than the average height of a U.S. adult female (5 feet 4 inches).  For that time and location, however, Napoleon was not short.  He was taller than average.

It's amazing that a simple confusion resulting from conversion differences has led to such a large misconception that has carried through for nearly two centuries!  That's how many misconceptions start.  A tiny mistake is made that carries through to a larger mistake that gets repeated over and over until it becomes common 'knowledge'.  Misconceptions take place in all fields of study and it's the job of any good scholar to work to debunk those misconceptions. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Autumn Series by David Moody

I'm not sure how well this fits in with my Cool Science Dad blog.  It's not real science.  It's not even science fiction.  It's more zombie/apocalyptic science fiction.  Regardless, I'm going to put in this post on this blog.  :-)

I recently finished reading the last book in David Moody's Autumn series.  It's a six book series in which billions of people die of some sudden on-set disease.  Those who are immune must somehow survive, but survival becomes more difficult when the dead rise and start to move around.  As each day goes body the bodies continue to decay, but brain activity increases, making them smarter and more dangerous.  In other words it's a zombie series, although the author never uses the word 'zombie'.

I love zombie books.  Yes, I know zombies aren't real.  I really hope you didn't think I thought that.  :-)  I like to read science fiction/fantasy books that have a touch of science, but then go beyond that.  There's little science with zombies, but these books have some truth in that they discuss the physical and psychological effects on individuals placed in a do or die situations.  One never knows how they'll react until placed in a very difficult situation in which death is a very real possibility.   If you like zombie books, you can't go wrong with David Moody's Autumn series.  

Monday, November 14, 2016

Vsauce 2 - YouTube Science Channel

A couple of months ago I wrote about the awesome Vsauce YouTube channel that produces very cool science videos.

Vsauce YouTube Videos

Today I have another great YouTube channel focused on science to present to you.  It's called Vsauce2!!!  It's part of the Vsauce universe (there's a third channel too!) and releases a video about once per month.

Recent videos include discussions on Chronesthesia, Making Lava, Levitating Hand, and Electronic Skin.  Like the original Vsauce channel, Vsauce2 is another great source for awesome science themed videos!

Friday, November 11, 2016

This Blog's History: Falling to Your Death in Water

It's Friday which means it is time for This Friday in This Blog's History.  A few weeks ago I wrote about how falling into water from too high of a height can literally be deadly to you.  Check out the full details of my post by clicking the link to the original post below.

Falling Into Water - Death?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Test Your Science Knowledge

Do you think you are misconception free when it comes to science?  Are you sure about that?  I encourage you to test yourself with this simple 10 question online quiz.

Science Misconception Quiz

How'd I do?  I scored a 10 out of 10.  :-)  No need to be jealous!

This is only a ten question quiz, and I guarantee you I still hold misconceptions, as do you.  It's a matter of continuing to invest oneself in science and continuing to learn throughout your life.  Bit by bit you'll reduce the number of science misconceptions you hold.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Gifts for Your Science Geek

With the holiday season upon us, my wife and I are looking around for cool gifts for our kids.  It's not always easy.  They both love science experiments, books, superhero action figures, etc.  Here's an interesting site I found while searching on the web for science-themed gifts.

The Best Geek and Science Gifts

Some of these ideas are really silly, cheesy, and just plain dumb.  However, there are several very cool ideas to be found on this page.  For example, my 6 year old is big into maps and I bet she'd love a shower curtain showing a map of the world!

My 9 year old would likely love a good science book.  Here's a great one from the makers of AsapScience (a great YouTube channel).

This is not merely a list of ideas of science themed gifts for kids.  There are several that are intended for adults.  For example, I'd love a space themed shower curtain for the bathroom.  It clashes with the current color scheme in our bathroom, but it looks cool!

Regardless of what your geek interests are, you'll find some very cool gifts for the favorite science geek in your life!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My Kids Discuss Syria

Last month my 9 year old brought up the topic of Syria while in the backseat of the car.  Her and her sister, my 6 year old, started having a discussion about civil wars.  I was so impressed with their conversation that it got me thinking about the state of society in the U.S. today and I wrote a long post on Facebook the next day.  Here's what I wrote:

"Note: This is a long post. Last night after picking my kids up my 9 year old starts a conversation between her, my 6 year old, and me. The topic? Syria. Yes, Syria. My 9 year started a conversation on Syria. Her 4th grade class is reading about Syria and having a discussion in class about the civil war there. It was amazing listening to the conversation in the back seat. My 6 year old asks what a civil war is and my 9 year explains, using the U.S. civil war as an example. She talked about Abraham Lincoln, and slavery as the big reason for our own civil war. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, state’s rights, sure, but mainly a state’s right to keep slavery legal in the south. Let’s not apologize away the history of the civil war.)
The conversation turned to Syrian refugees fleeing on boats and walking many miles to find new homes. It covered bombings of schools and homes and people, including children, being killed. I interjected a few times with questions such as “Why do you think this happened? How do you think the refugees feel? What do you think we should be doing to help?” We (mainly they) talked in the backseat about how it is important to appreciate what we have and the freedoms we live by.
This was definitely a deep, thought provoking discussion started by my kids. My 9 year understands that bad things are happening, although I don’t think she quite grasps how awful the Syrian civil war is for those directly affected. That will come with time. What she does understand (and my 6 year old) is that everyone should be treated equally with basic human rights. We talked about this, linking it to Syria. The refugees forced to flee their homes have a basic human right to not have their homes bombed, schools bombed, and friends and family killed or injured. Given that’s already happened, they have the basic human right to seek a safe place to live, whether that’s a quality, temporary home somewhere in another country or a permanent home. They have the human right to be happy. They didn’t cause what happened to them and shouldn’t be shunned by others, including the U.S.
I look at the world today and I’m shocked and confused that in 2016 there are so many people fighting AGAINST certain groups of people from having basic human rights. We live in a society in which those with a different skin color are discriminated against when it comes to the quality of education, jobs, finances, etc. We live in a society in which a large portion of the population wants to decide for you who you love and who you should marry. We live in society in which (and I cannot believe this) there are arguments on who has the right to use a public bathroom. A place to pee and poop!!! We live in a society in which those who are not of the majority religion are looked down upon. We live in a society in which women are shamed and it’s deemed appropriate or apologized away when people brag about wanting to assault women. We live in a society in which far too many think quality healthcare is a privilege and not a human right. A large portion of society sees no problem if one’s life is ruined by hundreds of thousands of dollars in health bills, simply because someone gets sick. We live in a society in which an entire political party ignores the SCIENCE of climate change and doesn’t care that millions to billions will have their lives seriously affected (negatively) as a result of doing nothing.
I look at all of this and can’t believe we question basic human rights in 2016. I look at my Facebook feed (yes, I know I should never do this. It’s like reading the comments section on any online article!) and see post after post after post arguing against human rights from family, friends, and acquaintances. I see posts arguing that we shouldn’t help Syrian refugees because they need to fix their own problems. I see posts arguing that people here in the U.S. who get sick should fend for themselves and “pull themselves up by their boot straps”. I see post after post after post apologizing away comments on sexual assault against women (I don’t see nearly as many, but sexual assault from women on men is just as awful). I see post after post after post arguing that minorities in this country struggle as the result of their own doing. I see all of this and it’s tough to have any hope for the human species.
But then I listen to my daughters discussing serious issues in the backseat of my car and there’s where my hope lies. Where my grandparents and parents’ generation has failed and where my generation has failed, I have hope that my kids’ generation will overcome these failures and succeed in demanding and receiving truly equal rights for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, country of origin, sex, etc. My kids get it. Other kids their age get it. I look at them and can only imagine how they’ll react when they are older and see that people actually fought against the basic human rights of others. My hope for the future and success of humankind lies in my kids and their generation."

My kids amaze me every day!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sky Map Mobile App

The Sky Map app for your phone is a must have science app.  It's one I've had on my phone for several years and comes in very handy whenever I'm gazing at the sky.

Sky Map Phone App

This app does exactly as the name suggests, which is provide a map of the sky.  You turn it on, then point your phone in the direction you wish to look at, and the app displays a map of the sky in that direction.  It's a very simple and effective way to determine what you're looking at.

What's also cool is you can point your phone downward, toward the ground, and it will show you the portion of the sky that is currently blocked!  Give it a try.  It's a free download from the mobile app store and very useful to have whenever you're looking at the sky.

Friday, November 4, 2016

This Blog's History: Upcoming 2017 Total Solar Eclipse in the U.S.

In case you missed it, for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a blog post I wrote on the upcoming 2017 total solar eclipse sweeping across portions of the United States.  Given this is the first total solar eclipse to grace the U.S. since 1970, it's a BIG DEAL!  Therefore, this will not be the last reminder of this eclipse coming from me between now and next August when the eclipse arrives.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Making a Model Earth

Over fall break, in addition to making a volcano, my kids made a small model globe of the Earth.  This was also part of the Smithsonian kit my 9 year old received as a gift earlier this year.

They started with a spherical blue Earth and had to draw in the lines of the continents and then paint the lines.  Granted, there's not much science to this activity, but it does give one experience with the overall geography of the Earth.  Knowing where the continents are located is a good piece of knowledge to have.  

Not too shabby!  The polar ice cap in the north extends a little too far to the south, but that's just me being over-picky!  Not sure what we're doing with this globe now.  I'm guessing they will find a shelf in their room to sit it on and admire.  It also comes with a mini-moon attached.  Now that I think about it, this could be a good physical model to use to illustrate the lunar phases with a flashlight.  I'll have to check that out!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

George's Secret Key to the Universe

During fall break I took the kids to the library to pick out new books and spend a bit of the afternoon exploring the library and reading.  My 9 year old, after some searching, found this book.

As you can see from the picture, George's Secret Key to the Universe is written by Lucy and Stephen Hawking.  Lucy Hawking is an accomplished author and journalist.  Stephen Hawking is Lucy's father and accomplished theoretical physicist.  The two teamed up to write this wonderful book!  It's written at an upper grade school level and designed to teach kids about the Universe.  Awesome!  My daughter's first book by a Hawking!  

My daughter dug into it right away at the library and had already read a good chunk of it before we left the library.  I encourage you, on your next trip to the library, to check and see if it's in stock.  If your kids love science, they'll likely love this book.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Making a Model Volcano

One day over fall break last month my daughters and I pulled out their "science box", which is a box filled with science experiments, and set out to do some science.  They pulled out the Smithsonian kit which contains 6 different science experiment activities.  Prior to this day they had already completed the Dino Dig activity.  Today they decided to do the volcano activity.

The volcano activity in this kit provides a set of materials to make a mini volcano structure and then use baking soda and vinegar to create a mini volcano eruption.  Here's the volcano after construction.

The next step was adding in some food coloring to enhance the effect.

And finally the video!!!

So yeah, the reaction wasn't the greatest, but the my kids had a blast making the structure and testing it out!  It occupied them with science for a full hour, so can't complain with that!

Monday, October 31, 2016

NASA Mobile App

Happy Halloween!  I'm not yet sure if I'm dressing up, but if I do, I will be wearing my full, adult sized cow costume that includes udders!  But that's only if my kids let me!  Anyways, on to some science since you can never have too much science in your life.

The NASA website is a great source for space physics and astronomy related news, activities, and educational programs.  I don't always have access to the web on my laptop, but fortunately NASA has a fantastic mobile app you can download free from your app store on your phone.  It's a great app for browsing recent news, videos, programs, and to check out recent updates on NASA space missions.  It's a great time killer when you've dropped your daughter off at soccer practice and have nothing to do for the next 90 minutes.  :-)

Check it out.  Like I said it's free.  Just search NASA in your phone's app store and you'll easily find it.  It's better than playing Candy Crush or Subway Surfer.  :-)  I encourage you to waste your time learning science instead.  :-)

Friday, October 28, 2016

This Blog's History - Making Geodes

In case you missed it last month, for This Friday in This Blog's History I point you to a geode making kit my daughters and I worked on one lazy afternoon day.  We didn't make actual geodes, but the kit was quite interesting and provided a hands-on science activity for all of us.  To read the full details, click the link below to go to my original post that includes pictures of our results.

Making Geodes

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Update on Mars Schiaparelli Lander

Last week I wrote about the recent crash landing of the Mars Schiaparelli Lander.  You can read more about that here:

Mars Schiaparelli Lander Lost

As I mentioned in that post, the mission itself is still a success as the spacecraft orbiting Mars was a success.  This orbiter, the Trace Gas Orbiter, will search for traces of methane in the atmosphere of Mars, which is an indicator for past life on the Mars.  Over the past few days scientists have learned much more about the landing failure of the lander.

It's now believed the lander exploded upon impact and there are now images of the impact site on the surface of Mars taken by an orbiter.

This image switches back and forth between a before and after shot of the landing site.  The image on the right is a zoomed in region.  Notice the dark black spot in the upper left of the boxed region.  That is the Mars Schiaparelli impact site.  The white spot in the lower part of the boxed region is the parachute.  This is a cool image that shows off our capabilities of taking quality images of a surface from far above!  

Scientists also think, at this time, the thrusters may not have fired.  The explosion on impact was the result of full propellant tanks when the lander struck the ground.  Again, this mission is NOT a failure given the success of the orbiter. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Nate Silver - FiveThirtyEight

If you're a number junkie, and I know I am, and you like politics, then you must check out the FiveThirtyEight website created by Nate Silver.


Nate Silver is known for his crunching of polls to determine the likelihood of presidential and senate candidates of winning their seats.  He uses current polls along with voting trends in states to determine projections that have been very accurate in the past.  With this election season coming to close, it's a website I check daily, and often several times a day, to see how the presidential projections have changed.

Even if you're not a fan of politics, FiveThirtyEight is a great source for statistics in other fields such as sports.  Right now there is a feature article on the Chicago-Cleveland World Series currently underway.  There's another feature article on the quality of NFL teams this current season.  FiveThirtyEight is not so much a political site, but a site that crunches numbers and produces projections in various field.  It's just mostly known for its work in politics.

If you love numbers and you love statistics and projections, you'll love FiveThirtyEight.  I personally blame Nate Silver for taking up a great deal of my time this election season!  LOL!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Numberphile - YouTube Math Channel

Readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of YouTube science channels.  I've shared several on this blog and I have several more to share in the coming weeks and months.  Some I watch on a regular basis.  Some I watch every now and then.  Others I find interesting, but don't really watch unless I have plenty of free time and am caught up on everything else (which will never happen).  Today's YouTube video share fits into the latter category above.


Numberphile is a YouTube math focused channel that produces a new video approximately once each week that focuses on numbers of some type.

Numberphile is an interesting channel, but not one of my favorites.  My preference is more science focused videos and without an unlimited amount of time in a day, I simply don't have the time to keep up on these videos.  However, if you have a strong interest in math you should definitely check this channel out.  You may have a much greater interest in it than I do and find it very worthwhile.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

This Blog's History: How Much Longer is Earth Habitable?

Yeah, I know, it's not Friday, but I had to post about the lander that crash landed on Mars yesterday.  So This Blog's History post is coming to you on a Monday.

With more and more exoplanets discovered by astronomers every month, and more of these exoplanets residing in a stellar system's habitable zone, it begs the questions, how much longer is Earth habitable.  I addressed this several weeks ago and point you to my discussion on this for This Friday in This Blog's History.

Spoiler:  It's a long time, but not as long as you think.

How Much Longer is Earth Habitable?