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!