Tuesday, February 28, 2017

7 New Earth-Like Planets

If you haven't heard, it was released last week that scientists have discovered a solar system 39 light years from us that contains 7 Earth-like planets.  Wow!  That is super exciting!  Well over 1,000 exoplanets (planets in other solar systems) have been discovered, but what makes this new discovery special is the closer proximity to us and number of planets in the same system.  This is the largest number of Earth-like planets found in a single solar system.

Scientists discover 7 ‘Earthlike’ planets orbiting a nearby star

What makes them Earth-like?  All seven are in this stellar system's habitable zone, a region a specific distance from the star in which temperatures make it possible for liquid water to exist on the surface.  With liquid water comes the possibility of life!  That's what makes this discovery so exciting.  But let's be clear, there is no evidence life exists on these planets.  Technology isn't quite there yet to make that determination.  All we can say at this point is that life is possible based on the location of these planets relative to the star.

Will we discover life elsewhere in our Galaxy?  I honestly believe so and I believe it will happen in my lifetime, possibly in the next decade.  How awesome would that be???  Beyond awesome, that's how awesome!!!  Discoveries such as this is what makes astronomy and science in general so exciting!

Monday, February 27, 2017

March for Science Update

A reminder to all readers of this blog that the March for Science march is quickly approaching.  The official March for Science will take place in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 22, 2017.  I wish I could go to the march in our nation's capitol, but unfortunately travel at that time of the years is not feasible with my kids in school.  Instead we'll attend the sister march closest to us.  As I write this there are 287 officially registered satellite/sister marches across the globe with most taking place in the United States.  For more information on the March for Science, go here:

March for Science

If you can't attend the D.C. march, their website has an excellent page in which you can search for satellite marches closest to you.  You can go there directly here:

Satellite/Sister Marches for Science

They also have a store in which you can purchase merchandise.  I purchased my shirt that I'll be wearing on the day of the march!

Official March for Science Store

Right now we are in the process of making a couple of witty science signs for our march.  This will be my very first march/rally/protest in which I've officially participated.  And we'll be taking our kids!  Can't wait!!!

Friday, February 24, 2017

This Blog's History: Greater Science Activism in 2017

In case you missed it earlier this month, for This Friday in This Blog's History, I point you back to a post I wrote sharing a few of my thoughts on my goals for greater science activism in 2017.

Greater Science Activism in 2017

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Earth Orbiting Satellites

There are many, many artificial satellites orbiting the Earth.  Some satellites are used for defense purposes, others are used for astronomy purposes, including studying Earth's climate, while others yet are used for communication and satellite TV signals.  Adding all of them up gives a very big number!  How many?  Over 1,300!?!?!  That's a lot of satellites!  I ran across this interesting article with an interactive chart showing where these satellites are located.

New interactive chart shows just how many satellites are orbiting Earth

It brings up an interesting question of how we, as a planet, handle space junk as satellites become obsolete and replaced with newer, more improved satellites.  Some satellites are intentionally dropped into a low Earth orbit and burn up upon re-entry into the atmosphere.  Other obsolete satellites are up there perpetually orbiting the Earth.  At some point this is an issue countries are going to have to deal with over risk of a collision or large pieces not burning up in the atmosphere and reaching the ground.  Although there's a 70% chance of an ocean impact given water coverage on Earth, it's still possible a chunk could hit land and even possibly a populated area.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nickipedia YouTube Channel

Will I ever run out of cool science themed YouTube channels to share with my readers?  Doubtful.  :-)  There are so many good ones out there!  Today I want to share with you Nickipedia, a science themed YouTube channel produced by Nick Uhas.


He produces many videos showing very cool science experiments and demos, including a series on blowing stuff up.  I'm always excited when he publishes a new blowing stuff up video to see what he's chosen to blow up!  

Check this channel out and add it to your watch list!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

ProPublica - Investigative Reporting

This post focuses less on science and more on critical thinking and evidence collection.  Critical thinking and evidence are of course very important in science, but they are just as important in news reporting.  Mainstream media sources have drastically cut their investigative journalism budgets and rely more and more on click bait and sensationalist news.  As a result consumers, you and me, are getting less and less information as each year goes by.  Fortunately there are a few investigative journalism organizations out there refusing to give up on critical thinking and evidence based reporting.  ProPublica is one of those organizations.


ProPublica is not a news source that publishes tens and tens of articles each day.  Their focus is on deep investigative journalism and telling the story that mainstream media sources (think CNN, MSNBC, FoxNews, etc.) won't make the effort to tell.  You can expect 1 to 2 quality articles on average per day and fewer on the weekends.  What they lack in quantity they more than make up in quanlity.  They are also expanding their journalism efforts too so what they publish may increase in quantity in the future.  

I'm tired of the click bait.  I'm tired of sensationalism.  I'm tired of news sources reporting random Twitter user tweets.  I want the truth and to get the truth investigative journalism is needed.  I encourage you to check out ProPublica, in particular if you are depressed and dismayed over the state of the mainstream news media today.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hidden Figures

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I took our kids to see Hidden Figures at the movie theater.  An AMAZING movie that you absolutely MUST see and a movie your kids MUST see.  The movie takes place during the early years of NASA when the U.S. was trying to keep up with the Soviet Union space program.  The Soviet Union was the first to put a human in space and this was a tough blow to the U.S.  Hidden Figures focuses on NASA's attempts to put a U.S. human in space and the role women of color played.

NASA, at this time, is dominated by white men.  In fact, ALL scientists in leading positions in this movie are white men.  The movie starts just before computers are used at NASA.  The 'computers' at the start of the movie are humans, typically women, including women of color.  The movie focuses on the struggles of women of color to move up the ranks at NASA.  It shows how black women were seen as lesser humans, seemingly unable to do the same work as a white male.  The message in the movie is fantastic.  Women, and in particular women of color, are just as smart, just as capable (if not more) than white men.

I wish I could see inside the minds of my 6 year old and 9 year old.  I can only image what they are thinking when they saw scenes of blacks being forced to sit at the back of the bus, use different bathrooms, drink from different drinking fountains, drink from different coffee pots (actual scene in the movie), and be looked at as lesser humans.  The sad part in all of this is that white, male privilege still exists in science today.  Things are more equal, granted, but most areas of science are still dominated but white men and that is a problem.  The other sad thing is that today, in 2017, many people are still battling the use of bathrooms.  The bathroom battle doesn't focus on race today, but on one's gender.  In 2017 there is an on-going battle of who can and cannot use a public bathroom.  Seriously??? We are all humans who pee and poop.

Go see Hidden Figures.  You'll love it.  Your kids will love it, and they learn a very valuable lesson on morals.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

This Blog's History - SkepticalScience.com

If you're looking for the Day 4 results of my daughter's bacterial growth science fair project, check back on Monday.  Today is This Friday in This Blog's History and I point you back to a post I wrote about skepticalscience.com, a fantastic website that does an amazing job explaining the science of climate change.  If you care about the science of climate change than definitely check out this page.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Another Hubble Repair Mission?

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990.  Over the last 27 years it has produced an amazing number of amazing images and helped astronomers answer many astronomical questions and continues to do so to this day.  Over this time there have been five service repair missions to Hubble in which astronauts added new instruments and fixed some of the moving parts that keep the telescope operational.  There was a lot of debate after the Columbia shuttle explosion in 2003 as to whether it was worth it to send up a fifth service mission.  Eventually a fifth service mission was approved and took place in 2009.  Without another service mission instruments will eventually break down with wear and tear and Hubble will no longer be operational.  The current plan is to continue to use Hubble as long as possible with no new service mission planned.

There are now hints...very preliminary hints, that the Trump administration may approve funding for a 6th service repair mission.  Don't get me wrong, I disagree with Trump on pretty much every issue, but funding to keep Hubble operational is a good thing.  To be clear, these are just hints that don't even approach preliminary plans.  Even if funding was approved, we currently do not have a spacecraft that can send a mission to Hubble.  It's likely the private space industry will come into play here.  For more details, and by details I basically mean hints and/or rumors, you can read the very short article on this here:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nerdy Valentine's Day Cards

Yes, I know, Valentine's Day was yesterday, but I didn't see these until yesterday afternoon.  Print them out and save them for next year.

Nerdy Valentine's Day Cards

I like nerdy science gifts.  T-shirts, calendars, posters, stickers, Doctor Who office decorations, etc.  You name the nerdy science gift and I want it!  I wasn't always that way.  I loved science in high school, but I was much more into sports and collecting sports memorabilia.  Part of that was probably due to the stigma of coming across as a science nerd.  Being a science nerd when I was a kid brought along a certain level of teasing and/or bullying that I had no interest in, so I shied away from outwardly expressing my love for science.  That changed in college and even more so as an adult.  Now I simply do not care what others think!  But it's also now 'cool' to be science nerd, at least from what I can see.

So back to these Valentine's Day cards.  The website I linked above may have a 2018 edition of cards next year, but that shouldn't stop you from downloading this year's version and using them next year or from sending out a few late Valentine's Day cards this year.  :-)  Send one to that science lover in your family.  Do that and he/she will know that you love them!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Solar Powered Eco House

If you're like us you spend the holidays traveling to the homes of different family members and end up having several Christmas get togethers.  Counting our own we had four this year!  At the fourth, my 9 year old received this for Christmas:

Super cool!  A Solar Powered Eco-House through the Smithsonian.  We've received Smithsonian science kits in the past and they have always been excellent so we have high hopes for this one.  She hasn't put it together yet as she's been busy with other science activities, including her science fair project for school.  Once she puts it together and we test it out I'll share our results.  

Before ending this post, I encourage you to check out other Smithsonian science kits.  There are several very cool ones they sell at reasonable prices.  A quick google search (link below) shows many different offerings.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Sawbones Podcast

Last week I shared the Exposing PseudoAstronomy podcast.  This week I share another pseudoscience debunking podcast, Sawbones.

Sawbones is produced by Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin.  Each week they produce a podcast debunking the many myths surrounding the medical field.  Recent episodes focused on chapped lips, ginger, and vaseline.  This is a very cool podcast I recently discovered.  Given my science expertise is not in medicine, I've found this podcast very entertaining, interesting, and educational.  Check it out!

Friday, February 10, 2017

This Blog's History: Christopher Columbus Did NOT Discover Earth is Round

For This Friday in This Blog's History I point you back to a common misconception I wrote on a few weeks ago.

Christopher Columbus Did NOT Discover Earth Is Round

While we're at it, Columbus didn't discover America either.  He killed and slaughtered whole populations of natives, but he didn't discover anything about Earth itself.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Time to Brag!!!

This post is nothing more than me bragging about my 9 year old's recent accomplishment so if you'd rather not read about me bragging, close this page now.  If you're okay with me bragging for a bit, continue to read on!

If you're a reader of this blog you're aware my 9 year old is competing in her school's science fair.  For her project she decided to swab for bacteria from several sources and test the growth rate in Petri dishes.  She also tested anti-bacterial wipes and soap to see if they really do stop bacterial growth.  To see some of the results, go back a few days on the blog and take a look.  The results are quite cool!  Anyway, the science fair was held and my daughter was the grand prize winner of all projects in 3rd/4th/5th grades!!!  I am so happy for her and proud of the great effort she put in to this project!!!  She spent many hours getting the project set up and then monitoring and recording the results each day.  The smile and excitement on her face when her name was announced was priceless!!!

She advances on to the regional science fair in a couple of weeks.  On the way home from the school science fair she was already talking about a few changes and tweaks she wants to make before the regional fair.  As a parent promoting science I couldn't ask for anything more.  I'm not talking about the winning of the science fair.  I'm talking about the joy and excitement she has for science!  That is definitely priceless!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Wide Spread Belief in Myths of Child Psychology

Today I want to point everyone to an excellent article in Skeptical Inquirer (The Magazine For Science and Reason) titled "Science vs. Silliness for Parents:  Debunking the Myths of Child Psychology."  Unfortunately the article is only available to subscribers (you should definitely be one as this is an amazing publication that focuses on science and reason).

The article itself discusses a research study in which college students and parents, as two separate groups, were given several statements on child psychology and asked to state whether they thought the statement was true or false.  For example, one statement was "Most 'only children' (without siblings) are more likely to be selfish and spoiled."  Science does not support this statement, yet 79% of college students and 54% of parents said this was true.  Wow!  Another statements was "Most toddlers go through a 'terrible two's' stage."  Again, no science supports this statement, yet 88% of college students and 83% of parents (the highest of any statement given) said this was true.  Double wow!  

It goes to show you that ALL of us have misconceptions, many of which we are not even aware of.  For example, when my children were two, I believed in the 'terrible two's' myth.  It wasn't that I felt my kids were 'terrible' at that age, but that it was something I had heard over and over.  It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I read an article on this and discovered science says this is false.  

If you have a chance to read the January/February 2017 issue of Skeptical Inquirer in which this article is found, please do so.  It's an excellent article.  Better yet, subscribe to the magazine.  I can't even begin to explain the amount I've learned and the number of misconceptions I've had cleared up as a result of this publication.  It is worth EVERY dollar.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Climate Change Conspiracy Theories are Ludicrous

It's been a couple of weeks since I last wrote on a "Thing We Know to Be True", inspired by November 2016 issue of Scientific American.  Today's thing we know to be true is one of the main 5 discussed in this particular issue.  I'll be blunt.  Climate change is real.  It is primarily caused by humans.  If we don't do anything it will only get worse.  The argument of economics against climate change is total bunk.  Not doing anything only worsens the economy and increases costs.

I won't get into all of the details but every argument against climate change is complete pseudoscience.  The science is ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that climate change is real.  If you have doubts, go to www.skepticalscience.com.  This site will answer all of your questions using REAL science as the foundation for those answers.

The U.S. signing on to the 2015 Paris Agreement is a good start, but much more needs to be done.  With the new U.S. administration filled with climate change deniers, it's very possible the U.S. will pull out of the Paris Agreement basically giving the planet a big middle finger.  I don't really know what to think.  It is boggling to me the absolute denial of science that is permeating through our government and society.  Is there hope?  I don't know.  I used to think yes, but now I just don't know.  If there is hope, it lies with my kids and their generation.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Science Fair Project - Bacterial Growth Day 4

I made you wait a couple of extra days, but here is where my 9 year old's science fair project (Testing Bacterial Growth) stands after 96 hours.

Left:  Floor.  Middle:  6 year old's mouth.  Right:  Bathroom Sink

Left:  Dirty Cell Phone.  Middle:  Clean Cell Phone.  Right:  Dirty Cell Phone with Anti-Bacterial Soap

Left:  Doorknob.  Right:  Keyboard.

Continued bacterial growth across the board, aside from the keyboard which still shows no growth.  The bacteria from my 6 year old's mouth is very interesting with the appearance of a much larger colony that suddenly appeared overnight.  The other interesting thing observed is the bacterial growth in the petri dish with the dirty cell phone swab but with added drops of anti-bacterial soap.  The soap is not stopping the growth of bacteria!  

Tune in soon to see the final results after Day 5.  The dishes are starting to stink a bit so although we'd love to extend the experiment, it's time to toss these samples!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Join the March for Science!!!

I first posted this last week and re-posted last week as well.  Here it is again.  We must stand up and fight the current White House Administration and their fight to deny science.  Our lives and the lives of our children depend on it!


The steps the current White House Administration has taken in just the first few days since the inauguration are astonishing in a bad way.  There are so many things to say, but let me focus on science.  The administration is led by someone who thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax.  The administration is led by someone who has surrounded himself with climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, and others who completely disregard science.  What do we, as those who understand the need for science, do?

We march!  I ask you, if you haven't already, to join the March for Science movement that has exploded in the last few days.  There is a not so secret secret group on Facebook with 500,000+ members.  This Facebook group started earlier in the week and already has a 1/2 million followers!  This movement is currently planning a march in Washington D.C., very similar to the awesome Women's March that took place on Saturday, January 21 in DC and in many cities across the country.  There are several ways to join the March for Science.  First, join one of the online social media groups.

March for Science Facebook Group

March for Science on Twitter (@ScienceMarchDC)

Share their posts to your friends on Facebook.  Re-tweet them on Twitter.  Do whatever you can to spread this resistance movement.  This administration may hate science, but we will not let this country ignore the power of science!  In addition, there are several resistance/alternative twitter accounts representing real science agencies.  Why alternative accounts?  Because the current administration has demanded these agencies stop sharing science.  Facts do not matter to this administration.  If it goes against their very extreme ideology, they shut down the agencies and people working for those agencies.  Government employees working for science agencies are in extreme danger of losing their jobs if they speak out.  Thus the revolt!  A few of the alternative Twitter accounts are:




There are many others out there too.  When I say "We March" that may not necessarily mean you need to go out and directly march.  There is much more you can do.  Spread the news.  Share the facts.  Promote real science.  Write and call your representatives in Congress and at the state level.  If you want to march but can't get to DC, it's very likely there will be other marches on the same day in a city nearer to you.  The date of the March for Science in DC is not yet announced, but when it is, I'm seriously going to consider going.  I don't know if I'll make it to DC, but I will definitely look at a march in a nearby city on the same day.

If we sit and remain silence, science will disappear.  When science disappears, we all lose.  And by lose, many will literally lose their lives.  This is not a joke.  Climate change denial, vaccine denial, de-funding of science agencies, and attacking scientists and their families will result in the loss of many lives.  There is a war on science going on this very minute.  We must stand up and RESIST!

Update:  The date is now announced!!!  The March for Science in DC and in many other cities across the country and world will take place on Saturday, April 22, 2017!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Science Fair Project - Growing Bacteria Day 3

It's now Day 3, 72 hours since my 9 year old swabbed bacteria from different sources and set up the incubator to promote bacterial growth.  Here's where things stand:

Left:  Bathroom Sink.  Middle:  6 year old's mouth.  Right:  Floor

Left:  Dirty Cell Phone.  Middle:  Cell Phone Clean.  Right:  Cell Phone with Anti-Bacterial Soap

Left:  Doorknob.  Right:  Keyboard.

Continued bacterial growth all around for the most part.  Day 3 showed some interesting changes in bacterial growth from the cell phone swabs.  Notice there is bacteria growing from the cell phone swab after it was cleaned with an anti-bacterial cloth.  Interesting.  Not as much growth as the dirty cell phone, but growth none the less.  A couple of tiny colonies from the doorknob, but nothing from the keyboard which is interesting.  Tune in soon for Day 4 results!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Science Fair Project - Growing Bacteria Day 2

As I said yesterday, my 9 year old is collecting data as part of her science fair project.  She's testing bacterial growth from several different sources.  After 12 hours there wasn't much to see, but the next morning, approximately 24 hours after starting, there was quite a bit to see!  It was quite a surprise for her to wake up the next morning and find several colonies of bacteria growing!

Left:  Bathroom sink.  Middle:  6 year old's mouth.  Right:  Floor

Left:  Dirty Cell Phone.  Middle:  Clean Cell Phone.  Right:  Dirty Cell Phone with Anti-Bacterial soap added

Left:  Doorknob.  Middle:  Control dish with no bacteria added.  Right:  Keyboard

Check out that growth from the bathroom sink!  Wow!  The mouth has quite a bit of growth too and just a bit from the floor.  Not much from any of the cell phone swabs yet nor anything from the doorknob or keyboard.  So far so good!  Can't wait to see what Day 3 has in store for us!