Friday, January 29, 2016

This Blog's History: Leap Years

February 29th, 2016 (a leap year) is quickly approaching.  As a result, I'm bringing back to you, for This Friday in This Blog's History, a blog I wrote a few weeks ago on the science and rules of leap years.  Here's the original post link.

Leap Years

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Inside Out - Movie Review

The other day my 5 year old and I had a date night as my wife and 8 year old were out at a Girl Scouts event.  My 5 year old chose a meal of scrambled eggs and toast and we watched Inside Out from the comfort of our couch.

This is a fantastic movie and if you haven't seen it yet, do so as you will not be disappointed.  The movie looks into the mind of a child and her parents.  Inside the minds are characters that control specific emotions.  The five detailed in this move are joy, fear, sadness, anger, and disgust.  The movie does a wonderful job looking at the battle and conflict between emotions as they relate to life events.  

The movie is not perfect on the science.  The description of memories in the movie is not quite accurate as our memory of past events changes based on current events.  There's a bit of this in the movie, but it does give a bit of a misinterpretation that your memories are stored for access at a later point.  In a way they are, but how you remember events changes.  

Despite this, the movie is fantastic as I've already said and you should watch it.  There are a few tearjerker moments so bring a tissue!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ranger Rick

I'm a big supporter of providing science opportunities to kids of all ages, but especially kids in elementary school.  This is where the love of science grows into adulthood.  There are several magazines out there that share science events with pre-school and elementary aged children.  I've shared several on this blog, including National Geographic for Kids, National Geographic for Little Kids, and Ask Magazine.  Another good option is Ranger Rick.  Ranger Rick shares wildlife science with kids in a fun and entertaining way.

I'll admit that we do not subscribe to this publication, mainly because we subscribe to several other publications and we have yet to win the Powerball lottery.  :-)  However, we do receive a complimentary issue now and then and looking through it, it's a great magazine and one we may subscribe to in the future to replace a different subscription.  

If money is an issue, as I just admitted it was for us, check out your local library.  It may very well offer this publication.  Ours does, as do several other libraries near us.  It's a common publication found in many public libraries so check yours.  Regardless of how you get a hold of a copy (legally of course!), you won't be disappointed.  

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Science Fair Projects

I'm very excited at the moment as my 8 year old recently brought home a form to participate in her very first science fair project!  How cool is that!!!  Science fair projects can be difficult for parents, especially if your child is very excited but needs help picking a project.  Coming up with a good science fair project can be stressful, but fortunately there are MANY resources out there to help parents come up with a great science fair project.  Here are a few websites to help you get started in your search.

Science Fair Project Ideas

Science Fair Project Ideas II

Hundreds of Science Fair Project Ideas

Science Fair Project World

Don't worry too much about finding an original science fair project idea or one that is extremely elaborate if this is your child's first science fair.  Simply find a project they are interested in and go with it.  Your child will have fun and he/she will learn something.  That's the point!  Have fun and learn!  You can't beat that!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Where Did the First Baby Come From?

The other day my 5 year old asked my wife where the first baby came from.  What sparked this question, I do not know, but it was a great opportunity to explain the basics of evolution to my kids.  As science very clearly tells us, there is no first person or first parents to humans.  Humans and today's apes evolved from a common ancestor who evolved from a previous ancestor and so forth.  Explaining this to a 5 year old is a difficult task, but fortunately there are great resources out there.  I discussed one such resource about a year and a half ago.

This is a fantastic book to deliver the basics of evolution to a young child.  As your child gets older, there are other, more detailed books, but this is a fantastic book for young children to get started.  I'm proud to say that I was a Kickstarter supporter of this book and as a result, got several bookmarks when the book arrived.  

Kids love to ask questions and some of those questions are difficult to answer.  Fortunately there are resources out there to help struggling parents.  This is a great resource on evolution and one I highly recommend.  You can find it on Amazon here:

Friday, January 22, 2016

This Blog's History: Welcome to 2016!

We're three weeks into 2016 and although I haven't yet built the two science experiments I hope to build this year, I'm still excited to build them at some point.  For this Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to my very first post of 2016.

Welcome to 2016!!!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

MyOn Book Resource

If you're looking for good, free reading options for your elementary aged child, I highly encourage you to investigate MyOn Books.

The link takes you to a login page requiring a username and password.  Check with your local school district or state education department.  Several states and many school districts have a partnership with MyOn.  For example, where I live, I have access to over 5,000 educational books through MyOn.  Many of them are perfect for my 9 year old.  She has her own Kindle reading device now and she can access these materials on her own.  

Your district or state may not have a partnership, but it's well worth it to investigate and ask!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Star Wars Episode #7 - Movie Review

A couple of weeks ago, before the start of the new school semester, my wife and I took our daughters to see Star Wars Episode #7.  I won't include any spoilers here other than to say it was AWESOME!!!  It's exactly what Star Wars is supposed to be and much more in the mold of the original series.

If you have any interest at all in Star Wars, please, please take your child to see Episode #7 in the theaters.  It is absolutely amazing.  I was on a movie high the rest of the day and am already super excited for the release of Episode #8 (May 2017).  The movie is rated PG-13 and my daughters are 9 and 5.  Our 5 year old handled it fine.  There are obviously some fighting and death scenes, but no bloody scenes to worry about.  

Did I say you should see this movie in the theater yet?  :-)

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Star Wars Episode #3 - Movie Review

As I mentioned yesterday, my daughters and I watched Star Wars Episodes #2 and #3 with family while traveling over Christmas break.  This was my first time watching Star Wars Episode #3 and I'll admit that it was significantly better than Episode #2.  Having said that, the originals are much, MUCH better!!!

I enjoyed some of the fight scenes in this movie and enjoyed learning how Anakin became Luke Skywalker, but there were a few parts that bugged me.  For starters, it seems Padme, Anakin's wife, and mother to Luke and Leah, takes a backseat in this movie.  She's no longer the strong character she started out as in this series.  She's naturally upset that Anakin is turning to the dark side, but doesn't put up much of a fight in this movie.  

Then there's the HUGE science problem in this movie.  When Obi-Wan and Anakin are fighting near the end, Padme is with them as well, although she's been knocked out by Anakin.  Earlier in the movie we learned Padme is pregnant.  When she gets off the ship before this final fight scene, she is not showing as pregnant.  By the end of the fight scene, she is VERY pregnant and showing, and a few minutes/scenes later when basically no time has passed, she gives birth to twins!!!  Huh????  Wrong on so many levels.  When the babies come out they are both full sized babies.  In fact, they are babies that are probably a month in age.  Combine that with the fact that twins are usually born smaller and you have some very bad health science in this movie that could easily have been fixed.  Sigh.  

I'm glad I finally watched Episode #3, and although it was improved from Episode #2, it still had some big problems.  I'm looking forward to taking my kids to see Episode #7 in the theater in a few days.  It's gotten very good reviews and I'm excited!  Something I wasn't when Episodes #2 and #3 came out.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Star Wars Episode #2 - Movie Review

Over the Christmas break while visiting family, my daughters and I watched Star Wars Episodes #2 and #3.  My oldest has seen 4, 5, and 6, but had not seen 1, 2, and 3, yet.  My cousin had just watched Episode #1, so we started with #2 on this trip, but I first explained to her what happened in Episode #1.  We'll watch it at a later time.

For starters, Episodes 1, 2, and 3 are not very good.  I'm not saying you shouldn't seen them or show them to your kids, but I highly, highly recommend you start with the originals, 4, 5, and 6.

In my opinion, Episode #2 is the worst of them all.  I watched it in the theater when it first came out 13+ years ago and was disgusted by it.  As a result, I, until this Christmas, had never seen Episode #3.  I just didn't want to bother with it after watching #2.  My biggest problem with Episode #2 is the large number of contrived love/romance scenes.  It's not that I don't like a movie with romance, but I thought it was overly done in this movie.  The topper for me was when Annakin and Padme were rolling around in a field on their picnic. manufactured and unbelievable.  

There are a few good fight scenes.  There's a fight scene with Yoda which is kind of neat to watch, but overall this is just a very bad movie.  My daughters enjoyed it, but they'll enjoy any movie at this point in their lives.  :-)  

To conclude, if you are a Star Wars fan, show your kids this movie, but don't be surprised if they think it sucks too, especially if they watched the originals first.  

Friday, January 15, 2016

This Blog's History: Sticky Snow

For This Friday in This Blog's History I bring back to you a post I wrote several weeks ago regarding the stickiness of snow.  Some snow is sticky while other snow is not.  Some snow is great for making a snowman while other snow is not.  Why?  For the answer read the original post linked below.

Why is Some Snow Sticky?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Why are Bridges Icy?

With the winter season upon us, many in the U.S. are faced with difficult winter driving conditions.  One such sign you may see on the road is:

Why do bridges ice over before roads on solid ground?  Unlike a road on solid ground, a bridge is surrounded by air on both sides (top and bottom).  All roads lose heat (energy) during cold weather, but a bridge, being surrounded by cold air on both sides, can lose more heat more quickly.  As a result, bridges will develop ice before roads on solid ground.  Thus the importance of taking bridges seriously during cold weather.  Even if the road is wet and not icy, moving from a road to a bridge can be quite dangerous if one is not careful.  

My children are still a few years away from learning how to drive (scary!), but warning your children at a young age of the importance of driving carefully across bridges during cold weather is a god life lesson to learn early in life.  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Magnetic Slime

Over winter break my kids and I finished making slime from a slime kit my 8 year old got for her birthday earlier in the 2015 year.  Our last type of slime to make was magnetic slime.  You make magnetic slime the same way as other slime, but then add magnetite, a naturally occurring magnetic mineral on Earth.  When mixed with the already created slime, the slime becomes magnetic, as shown in our video below.

As you can see the slime is not very strongly magnetic, but there's definitely a magnetic attraction force there.  I was using a weaker refrigerator magnet.  Had I one of the strong magnets from my lab at school it may have pick up the entire glob of slime.  My kids had a blast with making slime and were thrilled to see it's magnetic properties.  My 5 year old said it was her favorite type of slime yet!  

The moral here is you should go out and buy a slime making kit!  Your kids will love it!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Can You Catch a Cold from Being Cold?

Now that winter is officially upon us in the Northern Hemisphere (started December 21 at 11:48 PM EST), let me ask the question of what causes one to catch the common cold?  There's the myth that going outside in the cold when wet or not properly dressed increases your risk of catching the cold.  Actually, this isn't true.  You can't catch a cold from getting cold.  Having said that, don't run outside in your underwear when it's 10 below out!  You can still get frostbite from exposure to cold temperatures.  You just can't catch the cold from the cold.

So how do you catch the cold if it's not from exposure to cold temperatures?  You catch a cold from a virus that causes a common cold.  It could be someone nearby you sneezing or kissing someone who has a cold causing virus.  That's it!  Nothing to do with cold temperatures.  You can, however, increase the symptoms you experience from a cold you already have by exposing yourself to cold temperatures.  That's different from catching the cold though.

For more information on the common cold, check out the great resource on WedMD below.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Laundry Room Experiment

Chalk this up as another science teaching moment that inadvertently presented itself.  My wife and I are re-modeling our laundry room in our house.  It's a small 6 foot by 10 foot room with a stacked washer and dryer.  It's also the room we store our shoes and coats and the storage system we were using wasn't working the way we wanted, so we're in the process of re-doing at, as seen below.

Once all of the coats and shoes were removed as well as a few items that were on shelving units, it was interesting to hear how loud the washer and dryer were when running.  The room echoes big time!  There's nothing different about the washer/dryer or the room itself.  With all of the coats and shoes, along with hats and mittens removed, there's less material to absorb the sound waves coming from the washer/dryer.  As a result, the waves reflect (echo) off the less absorbent walls.

Once we get the rest of the room finished it won't be nearly as loud.  Until then, however, we have to keep the laundry room door closed when doing laundry, otherwise it echoes through the house!  Regardless, this offered a good opportunity to explain sound and echoes to our kids.  

Friday, January 8, 2016

This Blog's History: Science Gift Ideas

Do you have holiday gifts to return and/or exchange?  Return them for money and buy science related gifts!  Here are few science gift ideas I posted before the holidays.  Check them out.  After all, how many fruit cakes does one person need?!?!  :-)

Science Gift Ideas

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Yesterday I wrote about the continued need for science advocacy.  A great website that does just that is AsapSCIENCE.


AsapSCIENCE was created a few years ago by two guys from Canada who love science and simply wanted to share and educate.  Their videos are packed full of awesome science along with humor!  You can't go wrong!  I encourage you to check it out and watch a few of their videos.  I've added their site to my Feedly feed to get regular updates on when new videos are released.  Don't want to miss any!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Need for Science Advocacy

Does it really matter if someone knows the exact science of a lightning bolt?  What about knowing the cause of Earth's seasons?  At a very basic level the answer may be no.  Someone can very easily lead their life never knowing the cause of a lightning bolt with no harm or repercussions.  However, the need for basic science knowledge goes well beyond the basic science itself.  A strong science education leads to strong critical thinking skills.  Consider a recent story about a North Carolina town voting down a proposed solar farm.  During the town meetings, a retired science teacher argued that solar panels are stealing the Sun's energy and causing grass and other vegetation to die.  Seriously?  The town did not vote down the solar farm for this reason, but the fact this even happened is evidence science education in the U.S. has a long way to go.

One of the reasons I write this blog is to clear up basic science misconceptions that are common in the general public.  None are revolutionary in any way or preventing society from advancing, but collectively sharing and teaching science creates an informed public.  An informed public with strong critical thinking skills is a public that can push society forward into the future.

In case you think the North Carolina science teacher being clueless on how the sun and solar panels work is an isolated incident, think again.  We have science teachers all across the country teaching the "controversy" of climate change.  There is no climate change controversy.  There is only an individual's person political agenda.  We have science teachers across the country teaching K-12 kids that Earth is 6,000 years old!!!  Seriously?  It ignores all evidence available to us to believe and teach such a thing.

I hope and dream for a day in which science advocacy is not needed.  Unfortunately that will not happen in my lifetime.  I'm optimistic and believe society will reach this stage, but it will take time.  So what can you do?  It's simple.  Be a science-active parent for your child(ren).  Take your kids to science museums, sciences shows, planetariums, etc.  Take you kids to local science programs offered in the evenings or on the weekends.  Enroll your kids in science camps.  Check out science books from the library and insert a few science related gifts during the holidays and for birthdays.  You don't need to be a scientist to immerse your child in a world of science!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why are there Leap Years?

Every four years we add February 29th to the calendar.  This year, 2016, is one of those years.  We call these leap years.  Why?  Earth's orbit around the Sun takes 365.242199 days.  We have 365 days in the calendar, so if adjustments are not made, the seasons will shift dates on the calendar.  Summer in July will eventually happen in December.  To keep the calendar consistent with the seasons we add an extra day every 4 years.

The length of the year, however, is NOT 365.25 days, so adding a day every 4 years is not enough.  In addition every year divisible by 100 (1900, 2100, for example) are NOT leap years.  If the year is also divisible by 400, it IS a leap year.  So although the year 2000 is divisible by 100, it is also divisible by 400 and is therefore a leap year.  Confused?  LOL!  Blame the Earth and the Sun for not aligning properly to have an orbit of exactly 365 days!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Turkey Hollow - Movie Review

A few weeks ago my wife and 8 year old were at a Girl Scouts' event so my 5 year old and I had the evening to ourselves.  We went out for dinner and rented a movie, Turkey Hollow, from Redbox.

I admit that I was pleasantly surprised with this movie!  It's a kid/family movie in which the "monsters" are puppets created by Jim Henson Studios.  Well done!  My 5 year old was a bit scared during a couple of parts as there's supposed to be this big scary monster roaming the forest.  However, you quickly realize that the big scary monster is not all its cracked up to be and, in fact, isn't all that big and scary.  I won't give any more away than that!  

Despite the few scary parts, my 5 year old really enjoyed it!  We had a blast eating cheese sandwiches together at a local gourmet cheese sandwich dive.  This was followed up with popcorn and a movie at home.  Great times!  Moral of this story?  Take advantage of opportunities such as this.  It's not often I get a night home alone with my 5 year old so I definitely wasn't going to let it slip by.  

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome to 2016!!!

Welcome to 2016!!!  I'm not one who is big on New Year's resolutions.  These resolutions never pan out and it seems silly to arbitrarily define a day as a day to start something new.  I do, however, have some goals.  There are a few larger science experiments I'd like to complete with my daughters this year, most likely in the summer.  I want to build a potato gun.  Obviously there's a safety discussion to be had with this one, but they look very cool and there's much science involved.  I've talked about a potato gun before, but it's always been pushed off to the "do it later" list.  This year I want to put it on the "do it now" list.

The other big science experiment I'd like to do this coming summer is to build a pumpkin launcher.  Building a pumpkin launcher isn't all that difficult, at least from basic instructions I've found on the web.  Storing the pumpkin launcher, however, is another story.  My wife isn't too keen on the idea of moving her car out of the garage to store our pumpkin launcher.  LOL!

Will building these items happen this summer/year?  Maybe, maybe not.  I hope so, but maybe other things come up.  What I do know is that there will be many science experiments done this year with my daughters.  A year without science?  Yikes!  No way!!!