Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bad Astronomy May Term: Gravity

The fifth movie my students and I watched in my Bad Astronomy May Term course this past May was Gravity.  I also selected Gravity to watch during my 2015 May Term and you can read my report from that year here:

Gravity: Bad Astronomy May Term

I won't re-hash those details here.  Click the link if you wish to read them.  Overall Gravity has quite a bit of good science with some bad science bits thrown in.  Personally, I loved this movie!  I think my students found it boring and not as exciting as some of the other movies we watched.  Part of what makes it appear 'boring' to some is the lack of sound in space, but that's GOOD science!!!

Why do I like this movie?  It's relatively short at 90 minutes, but in that time it packs in everything needed to make a good movie.  There's tension.  There's some character development without over-doing it.  There's space, astronomy, and catastrophic events.  And there's good science.  Granted, there's some bad science that is a bit annoying because it could easily be fixed, but it's nice to see some thought put into making a movie with good science.

I encourage you to watch this movie with your kids.  It's rated PG-13, so use your parental gut instinct.  There's not a lot of blood and gore and language is fine.  You do see a floating dead body in space and another body with a hole through the head, but these scenes are a mere second or two in length.  Use your best judgement.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Deep Astronomy - YouTube Channel

There are several excellent astronomy themed YouTube channels you can watch to learn some amazing science, but Deep Astronomy is a bit different in that the author, Tony Darnell, adds a personal touch to the videos.  Darnell previously worked professionally in the field of astronomy but has always had a love for astronomy outreach.  Recently he quit his professional job and devoted himself full time to astronomy outreach.

Deep Astronomy - YouTube Channel

His videos at Deep Astronomy are amazing.  He does an excellent job bringing astronomy current events to the general public in a very understandable and easy to understand way.  In addition, he has the goal of producing more vlogs (video blogs) in which he discusses more of his personal life as it relates to astronomy.  I look forward to seeing these videos.

If you're looking for more astronomy education through short videos, Deep Astronomy is an excellent place to start!

Update:  Okay, so after posting this I realized I already wrote about Deep Astronomy a month ago.  Oh well, at least the posts are different.  I guess this goes to show how great I think this YouTube channel is!  You should most definitely check it out...NOW!!!  :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Disney World - Magic Kingdom

On our trip to Disney World earlier this month we had tickets for 5 days to visit the 4 parks.  After spending a day at each park, we decided there were still a few things we wanted to see at Magic Kingdom, so we used our fifth ticket day to visit Magic Kingdom again.

If you've never been to Disney, it is soooooo much more than the rides.  Yes, there are some cool rides, but if you're looking for thrilling roller coasters, Disney is not your place.  There are some roller coaster we apparently tortured our kids through (or so they tell us), but they are watered down in terms of thrills.  What makes Disney Disney is the incredible detail they put into every ride that goes from the ride it self to the waiting lines.  It is simply amazing!

On top of the rides there are the shows, parades, and mini-performances that pop up everywhere.  Then there are the characters located all over the park.  In our five days at Disney we stood in line to get signatures and pictures from 45-50 characters!!!  If you are doing characters, arrive early to the ones that have limited viewing times.  On our second day in Magic Kingdom we realized we were close to getting pictures with ALL Disney princesses.  We needed Tiana, but her viewing times were limited.  We hoofed it over there, getting in line 15 minutes before she was even coming out.  A few people behind us they cut off the line.  That's how hard it can be to get the pictures.  But the kids loved it, and admittedly, so did I.  I was the one wanted to get more pictures by the end of the trip.

In addition to character pictures, there are photographers all over Magic Kingdom ready to take your picture in strategic locations.  Buy the PhotoPass package for $149 and you'll get lots (over 500 for us!) amazing pictures of your whole family!

We did two character dinners, one at Cinderella's palace which is in the big castle Magic Kingdom is known for.  Super cool!  The other was at the Crystal Palace which is where Pooh bear and his friends reside.  Disney does an amazing job with character dinners.  They make sure every character (4-5 at each dinner) stops at your table for pictures and signatures.  The food is excellent and you never leave hungry.  It's very expensive (get a dining plan!) but Disney does not leave you wanting for food, that's for sure!

To conclude, we had a great time in our two days at Magic Kingdom!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Bad Astronomy May Term: Solar Attack

For the fourth day of my Bad Astronomy May Term class my students and I watched Solar Attack.  In Solar Attack the Sun is emitting large blasts of energy in the form of Coronal Mass Ejections (CME).  CMEs are a real thing and do have the energy necessary to affect satellite communications systems.  In a worst case scenario, a CME headed toward Earth could cause problems to Earth's electrical grids, possibly resulting in millions of deaths.  The deaths would not be due to the CME itself, but from the lack of electricity for what some studies show could be ten years.  So CMEs are a real thing and are a concern for people on Earth.  However, Solar Attack gets pretty much all of the science wrong.

Let's start out with some basic science facts.  CMEs send out solar wind particles.  Highly energetic particles with mass.  If Earth is in the path there can be negative effects.  Earth, however, has a magnetic field that acts to deflect these particles from reaching Earth's atmosphere and surface.  These magnetic field lines meet near the poles of Earth.  Particles can get trapped in these magnetic field lines, traveling along the lines, toward the poles where they interact with the Earth's atmosphere and produce lights we know in the north as the Aurora Borealis.  In the south they are called the Aurora Australis.

In rare cases, but cases that have happened, these particles can knock out communication satellites for a temporary period of time.  The movie, however, gets most of this wrong.  Nowhere in the movie do they even mention the magnetic field.  It is completely ignored!  Instead, they discuss how these particles are entering through Earth's ozone hole and punching other holes in the ozone.  So much wrong in this!  Earth's ozone layer absorbs UV radiation from reaching Earth's surface.  Earth's magnetic field stops solar wind particles.  So much wrong!  

In addition, somehow these solar wind particles can knock satellites out of orbit that can come crashing down to the Earth (only on top of large cities!) without burning up at all in the atmosphere!  Again, so much wrong.  The particles could knock out the satellite for a period of time but NOT knock it out of orbit!!!  Even if the satellite did fall out of orbit, it would not crash that quickly.  It's orbit would decay over a period of time and most of it would burn up in the atmosphere.  

Later in the movie the solar wind particles somehow start shooting out asteroid style flaming fire balls.  I don't even know what to say to this!  No, no, no, a thousand times no!!!

How is the problem solved?  Well, the problem is these particles somehow lighting all the methane in Earth's atmosphere into a big fireball.  So the solution is to put out this atmospheric fire by blowing up the north pole with a nuke!!!  A nuke!!!  They are successful, but haven't really addressed the real problem which was stated earlier in the movie.  For some unknown reason, the Sun was sending out CME after CME directly toward the Earth.  So if that's the case, atmospheric fire is solved, but not the next!

Let's get back to the methane.  Right now methane makes up 0.00017% of Earth's atmosphere.  It's a huge problem for global warming, not atmospheric fireballs.  In the movie the content is stated as 5%!!!  5%!!!  I'm not even sure that if we burned every fossil fuel in the planet and released all locked up methane it would come even close to 5%.  That's 29,400 times more methane than currently in the atmosphere!

There are plenty of other horrible science moments in this movie, but those are a couple of the more major ones.  Watch the movie if you want.  It's not that great, although it is better than Solar Crisis, which we watched earlier in the week.  

Friday, June 24, 2016

This Blog's History: Water in a Glass Experiment

In case you missed it, let me point you back to the post I wrote on a very simple science experiment you can do in which you can get water to go above the rim of a glass without spilling out.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bad Astronomy May Term: The Martian

For our third movie in my two week May Term class, the students and I watched The Martian.  Excellent, amazing movie!  I watched it in the theater when it came out.  It was just as good the second time.  The science im the movie is very good, but there are a couple of bad science moments worth discussing.

The entire basis of the movie is setup by a large dust storm causing the team of astronauts on Mars to leave quickly.  In the process, one astronaut, Mark Watney, played wonderfully by Matt Damon, is left behind, presumed dead.  Watney didn't die and now must survive until a rescue team can return.  The dust storm scene early in the movie has a few moments of bad science that the author of the book, Andy Weir, was well aware of.  Although Mars does have large dust storms, the density of the Martian atmosphere is much, much lower than that of Earth's.  Thus storms do not have nearly the same force as storms on Mars.  The force acting on the launch shuttle are not as they were portrayed in the movie.  The author, however, needed something to push the story line forward and decided this was best for the overall story.  Can't fault him.  

Another bigger bad science moment is late in the movie when Watney is about to be rescued.  He can't quite reach the rescue ship, so cuts a hole in his glove to provide an out-gassing of gas to propel himself forward.  The out-gassing will cause a force that pushes Watney in the opposite direction of the out-gassing, but in the movie he uses one hand only.  This will put in him an uncontrollable spin.  He needed to cut a hole in both gloves for more stability.  Even this, however, likely would not have worked.  If the out-gassing was stronger in one glove, he'd also go into an uncontrollable spin.  Even with two gloves out-gassing equally, if he started off a bit off-balance or moved his hands ever so slightly, he'd be off course and in a spin.  

Despite these bad science moments, The Martian is an absolutely amazing movie!!!  If you haven't seen it, please do!   

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kennedy Space Center

Earlier this month we took a trip to Disney World.  As mentioned in a previous post this was the first Disney World visit for my wife and two daughters.  I visited Disney World 25 years ago as a kid and also visited the Kennedy Space Center on that same trip as a kid.  I wanted my kids to have the same Kennedy Space Center experience I had as a kid, so we took a break from Disney and took a day trip over to the Kennedy Space Center, which is approximately a 1 hour drive from Disney.  IT WAS AMAZING!!!  The KSC is truly a full day experience so try to arrive as close to opening as possible.

If/when you go, definitely take advantage of the bus tour that comes with the ticket price.  It's a 2-3 hour tour that drives you to restricted areas you can't get to in your own vehicle.  You get to see one of the launch pads, the crawlers used to move the rockets, and the Vehicle Assemble Building (VAB) which is super cool close up!!!  Here are few of the pictures we took on the tour.

The bus also drives you by the Space X building here.

The bus drops you off at the Apollo/Saturn V center which is a museum of sorts dedicated to the Apollo missions.  A super cool place!!!  

Then you take the bus back to the main facility.  At the main facility the biggest exhibit area is dedicated to the shuttle missions, specifically the Atlantis shuttle which is on display.

Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  In addition, there are a ton of hands-on simulators for you to play around with.  My kids loved this place and so did I.  There's also the rocket garden outside, as well as a couple of gift shops that are very reasonably priced.

You can spend more money going on another bus tour that gets you closer to some of the restricted facilities, but if you've never been to KSC, the standard admission is more than enough to fill your day. 

So the next time your at Disney or near central Florida, definitely clear a day to visit the KSC.  You won't regret it!  It is an amazing place!!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bad Astronomy May Term: Solar Crisis

Back in May I taught a two week course titled "Bad Astronomy" in which we discussed common science misconceptions and watched several movies identifying as many bad science moments as possible.  The second movie we watched was "Solar Crisis", a 1990 film starring Charlton Heston and Jack Palance among others.  The basic plot of this movie is the Sun is somehow causing problems on Earth and the only way to stop it is to plant a nuke in the Sun, let it blow up, and somehow the Sun is returned to normal.  Yeah, makes no sense to me either.

This movie is filled with bad science.  One of my favorite scenes was when astronauts, not tethered, are guiding in spacecraft manually using orange sticks, very similar to the people who guide airplanes to the gate after they've landed.  ROFL!  Then of course there's the bomb stopping the Sun.  How, exactly does planting a bomb in the Sun stop the Sun for whatever it's doing?  

The other big problem in this movie is the plot.  There's this whole story line of characters on Earth that are never or rarely in space.  Take these characters away and the plot of the movie is unchanged.  These characters play no role whatsoever.  In fact, the movie ends with so many plot holes that the entire class was left shaking their heads.  We had a great time discussing both the bad science and bad plot.  

Do I recommend you watch this movie?  No.  A lot of movies have bad science but are still enjoyable due to a strong plot line.  Solar Crisis does not offer that.  It earned a 3.8/10 from IMDB (how is it even that high!?!?!) and a 13% from Rotten Tomatoes.  A horrible, horrible movie!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Father's Day for Animals

Yesterday was Father's Day and I had an awesome time with my wife and kids.  I hope you did too.  I want to take today to appreciate the father animals out there that play a very important role in raising their offspring.  For most animals, the father plays only a small role if any role in the offspring, but in a few, it is the father that does a majority of the work.  How do I know this?  An awesome video from SciShow of course!

Awesome Animals Dads

There are father animals that carry eggs on their back until hatching time.  There are animals that swallow eggs and tiny offspring and protect them in a pouch (see below) until they are ready to live on their own.  There are father animals that even give birth to their offspring!  Very cool!  So to all the father animals out there working hard every day, I take this moment to thank you.  Keep up the good work!

Friday, June 17, 2016

This Blog's History: Falling Objects

For This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a post on a science misconception I posted a few years ago.  There's a myth that heavier objects fall to the ground faster than lighter objects.  Not true.  For full details, click the link below.

Speed of Falling Objects

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Trip to Disney World Overview

Last week we took a trip to Disney World, spending a week there.  I went to Disney World as a kid, approximately 25 years ago, but this is the first trip to Disney World for my wife and kids.  We stayed at a Disney resort, spent five days in the parks, one each at Hollywood Studios, Epcot Center, and Animal Kingdom, and two days at Magic Kingdom.  We also took a day trip to the Kennedy Space Center (more on this in a future post).  We had a blast!!!  Over this summer I'll post a few times on our trip, but here's some advice I have for those of you traveling to Disney World in the future.

1.  PhotoPass - Buy the PhotoPass package ($149).  It is WELL worth it.  We took a lot of pictures with our phone, but we didn't want to bring our better Canon camera in the parks.  It's hot, humid, and backpacking the camera and lenses was not something we wanted to do.  There are photographers all over Disney that simply scan your Magic Band and you download the pictures when you get home.  In five days at the parks, we had close to 500 pictures to download through PhotoPass.  Wow!  Well worth the $149!

2.  Dining Plans - Get a dining plan.  Yeah, it may seem expensive, but you get your money's worth!  We did the plan in which you get one table service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack each day.  Food at Disney is expensive.  Table service meals ranged from $175 - $210 BEFORE tip for the four of us.  Quick service meals were always in the $60 - $80 range for the four of us.  The dining plan takes care of all of this and I wasn't worried at all about how much we were spending because I had already paid for it prior to leaving.  Plus the food is EXCELLENT!

3.  Stay at Disney Resort - It may seem more expensive, but not really.  You avoid driving to the parks and paying for parking when you stay at a Disney resort.  You hop on a Disney shuttle bus and don't have to worry at all about traffic.  Super easy!  In addition, the resorts have pools, restaurants, and other activities.  Ours had a boat to Disney Springs and offered evening movies (free) and horse carriage rides.

4.  Character Dinners - Do these if you have kids.  You need reservations and they count as table service meals, but they are excellent.  We did four character meals and at each one, at least 4 Disney characters came by each table for pictures and autographs.  Very cool!

5.  Go to KSC - Okay, not part of Disney, but at only a 1 hour drive away, why not take a break from Disney and go to the Kennedy Space Center?  It was amazing!!!

6.  Ignore Weather Reports - Stop looking at the weather because it will just depress you.  It rains nearly every day, but usually in small spurts.  Buy ponchos and accept that you will get a bit wet.

7.  Don't Buy Cheap Ponchos - Tying in to the rain, don't buy cheap $1 ponchos.  We did and they immediately ripped upon first use.  We ended up buying more expensive ($8) ponchos at the Kennedy Space Center that were made with thicker plastic and had the KSC name on them.  Much better!

8.  Have Fun! - Most importantly, have fun!  There is so much to do that you can't possibly find yourself bored.  Enjoy your time and don't worry about the hot, humid, rainy weather.  Just accept it and go with the flow!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Cool Science Dad Celebrates 4 Years!!!

Four years ago, on May 30, 2012, I created and posted for the first time on the Cool Science Dad blog.  I'm a bit late in getting this post out.  I was busy getting ready for and having fun at Disney World!  More on that in future posts.

I started this blog as a way of sharing different science activities I've done with my kids (now entering first and fourth grade).  In addition I included posts on common science misconceptions.  I've loved writing for the past four years and plan on writing for several more.  As I'm writing this, both of my kids are currently at a science based summer camp and having a blast.  It's been amazing watching and writing about their science related accomplishments and achievements over the past four years.  It's for them I started this blog.  

In the past four years, readership has grown from a few hundred per month to several thousand per month and recently passed 200,000 all-time page views.  Wow!  Hopefully someone has gained a few ideas or basic  science knowledge from reading.  

That's it for today.  Tomorrow I'm going to dig in to some of the details of our trip to Disney World!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Science of Multi-tasking

I think it's safe to say that we all find ourselves multi-tasking from time to time.  For example, I'm multi-tasking right now.  I'm writing this post and listening to a podcast at the same time.  So how good are humans at multi-tasking?  Unfortunately, not very good.  There are several studies showing that humans are not able to multi-task two or more tasks at the same time equally well.  I watched this very cool YouTube video from BrainCraft discussing this very topic and found myself nodding my head to much of what was shared.

BrainCraft - Multitasking

When multi-tasking we tend to switch back and forth between tasks.  Thus we are not really multi-tasking but multi-switching.  When multi-tasking we have a tendency to focus on one of the tasks and ignore the other.  For example, right now my focus is on writing this post.  I'm listening to a podcast at the same time, but not really paying attention to it.  If you asked me what was discussed in the podcast over the last 5 minutes, I could give you a general idea but not the specifics.

There are, however, people who can truly multi-task specific tasks, such as running and knitting at the same time.  Can these same people multi-task other tasks?  Hard to say.  There are people who can handle multi-tasking better than others, but those numbers are small.  If I'm remembering the number from the video correctly, it is only 2.5% of the population.

In conclusion, I suggest we all face the facts.  We can all multi-task, just not very well.  :-)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Do Tornadoes Hit Cities?

Last week I shared my biggest pet peeve tornado myth.  Since we are still in tornado season in the Midwest U.S. I thought I'd share another myth today.

"Tornadoes do not hit bit cities."

Nope, completely false.  Cities do not stop tornadoes.  Cities do not stop tornadoes from forming above them.  Tornadoes form wherever the weather conditions are right regardless if there is a city in that spot.  Consider the tornado that swept through Joplin, Missouri in 2011.  Joplin is by no means a big city, but it is home to 50,000+ people.  That's not small.  There's a high density of man made structures, yet that tornado caused considerable damage and killed 161 people!  The city of Joplin did not stop that tornado.  Tornadoes hit big cities all the time.  Name a big city in the U.S. and it's been hit by a tornado.

Do most tornadoes strike cities?  No.  Most tornadoes will occur in rural areas, but that has nothing to do with cities stopping tornadoes.  It has everything to do with the amount of land covered by cities versus the amount of land covered by rural areas.  According to the 2000 U.S. Census (yes, old data, but the 2010 Census data will not change this much), 94.6% of U.S. land area is rural.  Assuming tornadoes are evenly spread across the U.S. (they aren't, but the Midwest U.S. is primarily rural), statistically most tornadoes will hit a rural area simply because there are more rural areas.

If I haven't been clear already, let me be clear now.  Cities do NOT stop tornadoes.

Friday, June 10, 2016

This Blog's History: Astronomy vs. Astrology

For this Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a post I wrote several years ago on the differences between astronomy and astrology.  One is a real science and the other is not.  One is truth while the other is a bunch of BS.  I decided to share this today as I've seen several mentions of astrology (the BS one) come my way in recent weeks.

Astronomy vs. Astrology

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Can Tornadoes Cross Rivers?

Today I present a very big and potentially very harmful science misconception that is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  I'm assuming we all know what a tornado is and if you live in the Midwest US, you've most certainly taken cover during a tornado warning.  Tornadoes are not weather events to take lightly.  They are very serious and every year people die from tornadoes.  There are many, many myths regarding tornadoes, but today I'd like to focus on one specific myth.

"Tornadoes can not cross rivers."

I've heard this used where I live to claim that this area is safe from tornadoes due to the crossing of certain rivers that supposedly protect this area from tornado damage.  No, no, no, a thousand times no.  I have a colleague who says this at times, but I'm pretty sure he's just trolling me to see my reaction.  :-)  However, there are others who take this myth as truth and don't take proper precautions during tornado warnings.

There is absolutely nothing stopping a tornado from crossing a body of water such as a river or lake.  In fact, tornadoes can FORM over rivers and lakes!!!  I don't know where this myth came from but it is wrong, wrong, wrong!  If there's anything you ever take away from reading my blog, please walk away with the understanding that a river does NOT stop a tornado.  Two rivers do not stop a tornado.  Three rivers do not stop a tornado.  See the pattern?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Fraser Cain - YouTube Channel

Trust me, you do NOT subscribe to enough science based YouTube channels.  Since I know your list is short and you need more channels to watch, I encourage you to check out Fraser Cain's channel.

Fraser Cain - YouTube

Fraser Cain is an advocate for delivering quality science to the general public in an understandable format.  He's the producer of Universe Today and co-host of the Astronomy Cast podcast I believe I've mentioned before in a previous post.  I enjoy the Astronomy Cast podcast and once I learned he had his own YouTube channel and I went over and checked it out.  Love it!

He produces about two videos each week.  One video is a short, 5-10 minute video on some astronomy topic, and the other is a much longer video in which he invites other astronomers to a hang out chat.  I usually don't have time to watch an hour long video, but I've checked out a few clips and the hang out chats are very interesting and informative.  If you have the time, I'm guessing you'll find these longer episodes very worthwhile.

I've never met Fraser Cain, but I've heard from others (a former grad school colleague of mine was on one of the recent chats) that he's a great guy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bad Astronomy May Term: Armageddon

I recently finished teaching my two week May Term titled Bad Astronomy.  The course focuses on the misconceptions the general public has with many science concepts, specifically in the field of astronomy.  We watch several movies and have a discussion on the bad science in them.  We always start with Armageddon because it is FILLED with bad science.  I won't go into full details of the bad science in this movie as I previously discussed it last year around this time.

Bad Astronomy: Armageddon

This movie never gets old for me.  It's interesting because it's filled with many action scenes, but WOW is the science horrible.  The movie starts with horrible science, has horrible science in the middle, and ends with horrible science.  Once could probably count the number of good science scenes on one, maybe two hands.  There are a couple of scenes with good science, but trust me, those are few and far between!

If you've never seen this movie, please watch it.  It is an interesting and fun movie to watch.  I won't call it a good movie, but it's not entirely a waste of two and half hours.  There's an all star cast in terms of well known people.  I encourage you to make a game out of it.  Watch it with your kids.  It's PG-13, mainly for some intense scenes and the dropping of the f-bomb once.  See who can come up with the greatest number of bad science moments.  After the movie share and discuss.  Movie, popcorn, and science.  The movie is filled with bad science, but if you find those moments and discuss why they are bad science, you've turned bad science into science!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Science of Facebook Quizzes

The probability that you, who are reading this, having taken a Facebook quiz is very close to 100%.  I'm sure there are a few readers who have never taken a Facebook quiz, but if you're like me, you've been suckered in to taking one or a hundred.  Is there any science behind these quizzes?  No.  They're fun to take and it's fun to see what the results are, but the results, other than the fun behind them, are meaningless.  Anyone with the time and desire can put together a quiz, however, there's no science in the actual results.

Think about some of the quizzes you've taken.  Which Disney princess are you most like?  Someone can ask a few questions to test your personality and have those linked to the personality of Disney characters.  There may be a bit of truth in these quizzes, but unless there are many, many questions asked, you may only loosely have a personality similar to a Disney character.

Other quizzes have no truth to them at all.  Consider quizzes that don't ask you questions, but supposedly scan your Facebook feed to obtain the information it needs to supposedly arrive at a result.  Is the quiz really scanning your Facebook feed and using your posts to determine results?  Likely not.  How do you know?  Refresh your browser and take the quiz again.  Do you get the same result?  If not, guess what, the quiz is simply returning a random answer.

Don't get me wrong, Facebook quizzes can be fun and entertaining.  Most people realize there's little science behind them and take nothing away from the quiz.  If this is you, fantastic, keeping quizzing away.  However, if you take these quizzes as absolute truth and let them run your life, that's a problem.  It may sound crazy that someone does this, but consider the number of people who are firm believers in astrology.  Consider those you know who read their horoscope everyday and honestly believe it is a scientific, truthful report of your day/week/month.

I like Facebook quizzes, but there is always the possibility of unintended harm and unintended anti-science.

Friday, June 3, 2016

This Blog's History: Everything Comes in Threes

Do things come in threes?  Yes and no.  Yes, but only because you've convinced yourself that things come in threes.  No, because there's no scientific evidence at all to support things coming in threes.  Famous people deaths do not come in threes.  Horrible natural catastrophes do not come in threes.  It's your mind that makes it appear as if these things come in threes.  For this Friday in This Blog's History, let me point you back to my original post on this from a couple of months ago when there were a few famous deaths.

Everything Comes in Threes

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Facts on Styrofoam

Two days ago I discussed a claim we tested of dissolving styrofoam.  The styrofoam did dissolve but I wasn't sure on how environmentally friendly this was.  I'm still not sure and that's not the focus of this post.  The point of this post is to discuss whether standard styrofoam is environmentally friendly when broken into pieces.  I've heard, and you may have as well, that breaking styrofoam releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.  Is that true?  Let's find out.

I began with a Google search, but it's very hard to determine whether a site is truthful on the science.  Are pro-styrofoam groups hiding the harmful effects?  Are anti-styrofoam groups exaggerating any harmful effects to push their agenda?  I eventually found a report from the University of Illinois that I'm comfortable placing trust in.  A research group at a University is less likely to have a bias prior to starting the research.  Here's the link to this short report if you'd like to check it out yourself.

Styrofoam Facts

From this report it appears CFCs were once used in the manufacturing process.  Breaking these old packing peanuts up releases CFCs into the atmosphere causing ozone depletion.  That is not the case in styrofoam today.  Styrofoam does fill landfills, but not nearly as much as you would expect.  From this report styrofoam makes up less than one half of one percent of all municipal solid waste.  There is some release of low level chemicals when exposed to heat.

Even though styrofoam may not be as environmentally harmful as we think, there are still other concerns to consider.  It still does fill landfills.  It can be littered on streets and ditches.  It is made from petroleum based products.  Although the styrofoam itself may not be chemically harmful, the production of it is certainly not a clean use of energy and can be harmful to the environment.

So there you go.  Take that as you will.  Once I have more on the dissolving sytrofoam I'll post what I've learned.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Library Summer Reading Programs

It's the first day of June and there's a good chance your kids are out of school for the summer.  If you haven't already, I encourage you to check out your local public library for summer reading programs.  There's an excellent chance your library offers something to encourage kids to read over the summer.  Our local library's summer reading program started last week.  Kids are encouraged to track their reading over the summer and for every few hours they read, they get to pick out a prize donated by area businesses.  In addition, each week there is a free program held at a local park, sponsored by the library.  We've been doing this for the last several years and both kids still love it.  Reading is awesome.  Libraries are awesome!  Every time I walk into a library I'm excited and overwhelmed.  So many awesome books I want to read and a limited lifetime in which to read them.  :-)  Share the love of reading and libraries with your kids.  If you do, they'll love reading too!