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?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Mars Schiaparelli Lander Lost

The big astronomy news in the last 48 hours is the loss of the Mars Schiaparelli Lander just before it was set to land on the surface of Mars.  Let me provide a bit of context.  The lander was a part of the European Space Agency's ExoMars program.  The goal of this program was to launch a spacecraft to Mars that contained both an orbiter and a lander.

The lander, Schiaparelli, stopped sending a signal approximately 1 minute before landing. The ESA team is still analyzing data to determine what went wrong, but they expect something went wrong when the parachute was deployed.  The lander likely crash landed on the Martian surface at a high rate of speed and was destroyed to the point of not being able to send a signal back.  At a basic level the lander was a failure.

However, the mission itself is NOT a failure.  Only a small amount of science was to be done with the lander.  The lander was basically a test of the feasibility of landing future landers on the surface.  The main goal of this mission lies in the orbiter, called the Trace Gas Orbiter.  The orbiter has the goal of studying methane in the Martian atmosphere to look at the possibility of life on Mars at some point.  Thus far, the orbiter is a success.

Getting to Mars is very difficult.  NASA has had a lot of success in recent years, but historically, about half of all missions to land on Mars have failed.  It's not easy launching something from one planet to another and a failure to land is by no means a mission failure.  Again, this mission is NOT a failure.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Daily Science News - Phone App

A great science news app I recommend for your phone, tablet, or other mobile device is the Daily Science News app that you can get for free from your phone's app store.

The app updates continually with new science news.  Although I generally have a good idea of current events in astronomy, the science field I'm most interested in, apps such as these help keep me up to date on what is new in other science fields such as chemistry and biology.

You can never have too much science!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Falling Into Water - Death?

As a kid I could never understand how jumping into water from a large height could kill you.  After all, I jumped into a swimming pool all the time and survived.  You break through the water's surface.  It's not as if you are falling on a hard surface.  Yet it's true that jumping into water from a large height can kill you.  How is this possible?

The problem is that water is dense and a force is imparted on your body, quickly slowly you down as you enter the water.  The faster you are moving when you hit the surface, the greater the imparted force.  Falling from a higher height results in a greater velocity upon impact.  If the force is large enough, and it will be from high heights, bones can be broken and organs damaged such that death is possible, and at higher heights likely.  Suicide jumpers jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in which the height is 220 feet have a 98% result of death on impact.  

So how high can you jump into water and survive?  It all depends on the orientation of your body when you enter the water.  A belly flop into the water from 10-20 feet can be enough force to cause internal bleeding.  Thus the importance of proper diving techniques, even from short heights.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Talk Origins Phone App

It's pretty hard to find someone without a smart phone these days and those who do not have smart phones are quickly trading in their old flip phones for smart phones.  Regardless of what you think of the disadvantages of smart phones, it's absolutely clear that smart phones have many advantages.  One of those is the quick availability of science information through various science themed apps.  One of these apps, Talk Origins, focuses on evolution.

The Talk Origins phone app contains a very helpful database of responses to those attempting to debunk evolution.  Evolution is a complicated science topic and there are many, many misconceptions with new ones popping up all the time, typically pushed by young earth creationists who think the Earth was created a mere 6,000 years ago.  Unless you have an immense knowledge regarding evolution, it can often be difficult to debunk these misconceptions.  The Talk Origins phone app fixes that.  The app divides these misconceptions into categories and sub-categories to help you easily find what you are looking for.  

I highly encourage you (and your kids) to search your phones app store for Talk Origins.  It's a free app filled with awesome science!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Jill Stein and Anti-Science

The presidential election season in the U.S. is fully upon us and we are bombarded by political content every single day.  A couple of weeks ago I discussed my opinion on why you shouldn't vote for Gary Johnson based on his views on science.  I briefly mentioned Jill Stein being better on science but still holding several serious anti-science views.  Let me use this post to discuss what I mean on this and why you shouldn't vote for Jill Stein.

It's no secret that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both un-liked candidates by a majority of voters.  This has led to a much talk on an increased third party vote for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.  Despite this, neither is going to win the election.  They don't even have a long shot at winning the election.  Their chances are literally zero of winning.

Jill Stein is certainly better on science than Donald Trump and likely better than Gary Johnson.  However, she is NOT better on science than Hillary Clinton.  Let's start with vaccines.  Jill Stein is not anti-vaccine.  She's fully in support of vaccines, but she makes comments that make it seem as if one needs to be careful of vaccines.  For example, she tweeted:

"As a medical doctor of course I support vaccinations. I have a problem with the FDA being controlled by drug companies."

The problem with this statement is that it makes those already leery of the science of vaccines, even more so based on her questioning the FDA and drug companies.  It's fine to question the FDA and drug companies, but separate this from vaccines.  Jill Stein should know better on this issue.  

Let's look at GMOs.  Stein is in favor of GMO labeling and reducing GMOs in the marketplace.  She is absolutely dead wrong on the science of GMOs.  Study after study after study has found GMOs just as safe as all other food on the market.  The push to label GMOs and denounce GMOs is extremely anti-science and you already know my feelings on anti-science.

Here's potentially the kicker to Stein's anti-science views.  Jill Stein, on the topic of WiFi, has said:

"We should not be subjecting kids’ brains especially to that. And, you know, we don’t follow that issue in this country, but in Europe where they do, they have good precautions around wireless, maybe not good enough, because it’s very hard to study this stuff. We make guinea pigs out of whole populations and then we discover how many die."

OMG!  No, Wifi is not harming kids.  It is not causing cancer.  It is not causing illnesses.  It is not weakening children in any way.  There is no scientific evidence at all to support harmful effects due to Wifi.  It is absolutely ridiculous to state there might be health issues related to Wifi.  There are some people who claim to have anecdotal evidence that Wifi signals make them sick, but there is no science to back this up.

Just like I said with Gary Johnson, there is only one electable pro-science candidate on the presidential ballot in the U.S. this year and that is Hillary Clinton.  If you care for science at all, please do NOT vote for Jill Stein.

Friday, October 14, 2016

This Blog's History: Fun Science Experiments

I shared this awhile back, but for This Friday in This Blog's History I've chosen to share it again.  There are never too many science experiments you can do with your kids and Kidspot is a great website with a ton of science experiments you can do with your kids.  Check it out!

Kidspot: Fun Science Experiments

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reactions - Youtube Channel

About a month ago I discovered another very cool YouTube science channel called "Reactions".  It's a channel that creates weekly videos on chemistry in daily life.  The videos I've seen are extremely interesting and leave me wanting to test out some of the things shown.  For example, one of their more recent videos discusses why bread and chips go stale and then goes on to show how to 'un-stale' bread and chips.  This I want to try!  Next time we have stale chips, we're going to pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds as the video suggests and see if they go from stale to crispy again.

Reactions - Youtube Channel

Check out the video for yourself.  I'm confident you'll find something you enjoy in these videos.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Head Lice Misconception

If you're a parent reading this then it is very possible you've dealt with head lice in your children.  We had our first head lice incident about a year ago and then again 6 months later in both of our daughters.  Ugh!  The common misconception with head lice is it primarily occurs in those who do not practice proper hygiene.  Wrong!  And I'm not just saying that to protect my daughters.  Science tells us this is wrong.

Head lice can occur in the dirtiest person you know or the cleanest person you know.  Hygiene does not play a role in the odds of contracting head lice.  If you find head lice in your child's hair, please be sure to make your child aware that it has nothing to do with how clean/dirty they are.  Kids have enough to worry about regarding what their peers may say should they find out to have to deal with misconceptions from their parents.

The best way to avoid head lice is to not share hats, combs, pillows, blankets, etc. with others unless you are absolutely positive they are free of head lice.  And even then you'll never actually know.  Head lice have an incubation period of 7-10 days.  Therefore someone may have lice days before it is ever noticed in the hair.

Lice are a fact of life.  It sucks when you have them, but they are not the result of disease or uncleanliness and pose no direct health hazards.  Comb them out carefully and repeat every day for two weeks and they'll be gone.  Happy hunting!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

88 1/2 Science Experiements

My 9 year old recently picked out the book 88 1/2 Science Experiments in a recent Scholastic Book Club book order through her school.

The other day she was going through the book picking out the science experiments she wanted to do first.  She's already picked the days in which we are to do these experiments!  The next extended weekend break her school has matches up with my extended break at the school I work, so she's already made plans for those days!  LOL!  I'd better be ready!  

If you're interested in this book, you can learn more by checking the link to Amazon where you can review and purchase the book if you wish.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

Are you getting excited for the 2017 total solar eclipse set to sweep across the continental United States?  I sure am!  This is the first total solar eclipse to touch the United States since 1979!  That's 38 years between solar eclipses in the U.S.!  Wow!  So where do you need to be to observe this eclipse?

If you are between those two blue lines you'll be in the path of totality.  Outside that path you'll see a partial eclipse.  I anticipate making a trek to the Kentucky/Tennessee area on August 21, 2017.  No way I'm going to miss this opportunity!!!  Looking at the map you need to be in the correct place at the correct time.  Make a mistake on the location and you have no time to move.  The path of the Moon's shadow on Earth moves very quickly.  The total eclipse will last less than 3 minutes at any given location!  Thirty eight years since the last one and this one only lasts 3 minutes!  Wow!

If you're anywhere near that path, take time to maneuver your way into it because it will be well worth it!!!

Friday, October 7, 2016

This Blog's History - Kalahari Indoor Theme Park

ICYMI, for This Friday in This Blog's History I share with you a post I previously wrote on our trip to the Kalahari Indoor Theme Park during our trip to the Wisconsin Dells this past July.

Kalahari Indoor Theme Park

We all had a lot of fund here!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tornado Shelter - Which Side of Your House?

Several weeks back I shared a few tornado related misconceptions that many people hold as truth.  These included tornadoes being stopped by rivers (NO!), keeping your windows open (NO!), and tornadoes avoiding cities (NO!).  Here's another common misconception.

"Which side of your house should you go to when taking shelter from a tornado?"

The misconception states you should take shelter in the southwest corner of your basement.  Why?  The misconception states tornadoes come from the southwest and therefore are more likely to dump debris in the northeast corner of your house.  Not true.  The basement part is right.  Always take shelter in a basement.  Position yourself under something sturdy if possible and stay away from windows if possible.  The important thing, however, is get to the basement if your house has one.  If your house doesn't have a basement, take shelter in an interior room of your home away from windows and exterior walls.

Once in the basement, the direction doesn't matter.  You are just as safe in the northeast corner of your home as the southwest or middle of your home.  So don't waste time going to a specific corner.  Get to an area in the basement away from windows and under something sturdy, if possible, to protect yourself from falling objects.

Also, tornadoes do not necessarily come from the southwest.  So even if the part about debris falling in a certain direction, it wouldn't matter as tornadoes move around and can come from any direction.

Stay safe out there!!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Presidential Candidates on Science

I don't spend much time discussing politics on this blog, but when I do it is science focused and I don't hide my ideological leanings.  I want a president who is strong on science and a candidate who is electable.  By that I mean I'm not voting for third party candidates.  They are simply not electable at the presidential level.  I'm voting for either the Democratic or Republican candidate on the ballot in the upcoming November 8 ballot.  

The website reached out to both candidates (and the two candidates running as third party candidates) asking them 20 science related questions.  If science is important to you, I highly encourage you to go to the link below and read through their responses.  They tell quite a bit about the candidates and theire are drastic differences between Clinton and Trump when it comes to science.

If it's not clear already, I'm voting for Hillary Clinton.  Donald Trump's policies on science do not push this country forward in science fields and his comments on climate change will set the world back decades.  This planet can not afford Donald Trump as president.  You'll have to make your own decision.  When it comes to science, read through yourself their responses to these questions.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Making Geodes

Several months ago my 9 year old received a geode making kit for her birthday and last month we had a free day to open it up and mess around with it.

First of all, what is a geode?  A geode is a rock with a hollow inside that contains crystal formations.  Given that, this kit does not make actual geodes.  It makes geode-looking crystals in a rock-looking plastic shell.  :-)  Nonetheless, it was interesting.  It takes a few hours sitting in a liquid chemical mixture, so you don't create the geode looking structure immediately.  We let ours set overnight and the next morning found this.

Not as impressive or colorful as the box shows, but nonetheless, an interesting science kit that cost about $10.  It gave us something cool to do on a free weekend day.  Did I just say free weekend day?  There are very few of those!!!  And when there are, we do science experiments!  :-)  Here's the link to this same geode kit on Amazon.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Gary Johnson - Lack of Science Understanding

In the U.S. we are currently in the thick of the presidential election season.  It's the start of October and elections are on Tuesday, November 8.  As a result, the news is filled with the daily movement of the two major party candidates:  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.  There are, however, two other candidates on most state ballots:  Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.  Gary Johnson said something the other day that further stresses how important it is to have quality science education in the K-12 school system.

Climate change is a HUGE issue that MUST be dealt with ASAP if we are to stop further warming and further climate change damage to this planet.  Unfortunately we won't hear much from the candidates on climate change.  Donald Trump has called climate change a Chinese hoax.  Hillary Clinton has firm policies to address climate change, but this is rarely discussed in the media nor is it brought up much in debates.  Gary Johnson's stance on climate change?  This quote from 2011 pretty much sums up his feelings.

"In billions of years the sun is going to actually grow and encompass the Earth, right? So global warming is in our future."

Since then he has repeatedly pushed against any legislative action to address climate change.  This quote is a prime example of lack of basic science understanding.  Yes, in billions of years the Sun will grow and encompass the Earth.  However, we are seeing drastic climate changes in just the last two decades and those changes are accelerating!  Who cares what happens to the Sun billions of years from now if our children (and us) are facing drastic climate problems today?  This isn't a problem for several generations down the road to worry about.  Climate change right now is causing mass extinctions across the globe.  It's causing more disastrous weather systems.  It's causing a shrinking of coastlines.  It's causing billions and trillions of dollars of damage to cities, states, and countries.  And it's only going to get worse if we do nothing.  

Gary Johnson attracts millennials who are fed up with politics and those looking for someone who is against wars, against government involvement, and for marijuana legalization.  However, if you have any hope for this planet's survival and if you strongly support science and science research, please, please, please, do not cast a vote for Gary Johnson (same applies to Trump).  Jill Stein has better views on science but is still anti-science in many crucial ways.  The only electable pro-science candidate on this year's presidential ballot is Hillary Clinton.