Friday, April 28, 2017

This Blog's History: Himalayan Salt Lamps

In case you missed it the first time around, for This Friday in This Blog's History I share with you the original post I wrote on the pseudoscience of Himalayan salt lamps.  I even show a picture of a homemade Himalayan salt lamp I constructed that works just as well as the expensive store bought ones!  :-)  Check it out below.

The Pseudoscience of Himalayan Salt Lamps

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Is this the year...

Is this the year I finally build the pumpkin launcher I've been saying I'll build for the last two to three years?  :-)  I really want to build one and I think my daughters and I would have fun doing it and even more fun launching pumpkins.  They don't look all that hard to build, although if I actually go through with it I'll probably find myself cursing at these words.  :-)

See, that doesn't look that hard does it?  So what's stopping me?  Usually my wife asks me where I'm putting said pumpkin launcher.  I then respond with "where your car is currently located in the garage," and that's typically the end of building a pumpkin launcher.  LOL!  But maybe, just maybe, this will be the year I build a pumpkin launcher!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

It's Okay to Say "I Don't Know"

I wrote on this back in 2014 but it's important to re-discuss since too often our society teaches us that revealing you don't know something is a weakness.  Not knowing is not a weakness.  At times it is a HUGE strength.  I recently read the following article in which astrophysicist Brian Cox argues for withholding votes to politicians who claim they know everything.

Too often our politicians claim they have the answer to every question asked of them despite being unable to provide any details to said answers.  Take manufacturing jobs, for example.  There's no doubt manufacturing jobs are decreasing in number.  Every politician running for the highest office in the United States in 2016 claimed they had the answer to bring back manufacturing jobs.  Every one of them lied.  Manufacturing jobs are not coming back.  A free market combined with technological advances is the cause of few manufacturing jobs.  Short of banning technology (not even possible), manufacturing jobs are NOT coming back, no matter what any politician says about it.

As a teacher in the classroom I use the phrase "I don't know" all the time.  We should never be afraid to say "I don't know" if that's the truth.  Often in class students will ask excellent questions.  Often I know the answer.  Sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I know the basics, but not the details.  I don't lie to my students.  I'm honest with them when I don't know.  The same goes for my kids at home.  If I don't know, then that's the answer they get.  The key is then using that to learn more and turn that "I don't know" into " I know!".  

If society would accept that "I don't know" is a far more powerful response than crafting an intelligent sounding lie, the world would be a much better place.  Do your part.  Say "I don't know" when you really don't know.  Then investigate and find an answer!  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Solar Eclipse Misconception

The August 2017 total solar eclipse in the United States is quickly approaching and there are many science organizations and media outlets advertising it.  That's a good thing!  Unfortunately not all of the advertising is entirely correct.  For example, I recently read the follow in a local publication:

"The August 2017 total solar eclipse will be the first total solar eclipse in the United States in nearly 100 years."

Um.  No.  That is factually incorrect.  Solar eclipses are relatively rare, but the United States is quite large.  There have been several total solar eclipses in the last 100 years in which the path of totality touched the United States.  If you remove Hawaii and Alaska, which makes no sense since they are part of the United States, there are still a few total solar eclipses touching the continental United States.

The above statement is missing a key phrase.  It should read:

The August 2017 total solar eclipse will be the first total eclipse to cross from the west coast to the east coast of the United States in nearly 100 years."

See the difference?  In fact, one of my colleagues witnessed the total solar eclipse in 1970 as a kid.  This eclipse just skirted the eastern United States.  I think he would be shocked to find out that (a) he's over 100 years old, or (b) wasn't in the United States when he observed the eclipse.  :-)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Science & Nature Brain Box

For my daughter's 10th birthday we gave her the Science & Nature BrainBox game.  She received the Art BrainBox game at Christmas.  The game itself is very simple but supplies a ton of science/nature facts to players.  Inside the box are several heavy duty "cards".  Each card is packed with information on a specific science/nature topic.  Players are given about 10 seconds to analyze the card.  After the time is up, a question or series of questions on the back of the card is asked to the player who viewed the card.  The player viewing the card has to correctly answer the question to earn the card.  Play moves on to the next player.  The player earning the greatest number of cards after a certain time period or certain number of rounds wins.  Simple, yet educational!  Both my kids love playing these!

The boxes themselves are relatively cheap.  It looks like you can buy individual boxes (games) at around $10-20 each.

Friday, April 21, 2017

This Blog's History: Do Kids Grow Faster in the Spring?

In case you missed it, for today's This Blog's History, I point you back to a post I wrote on a claim that is all over the web.  Do kids grow faster in the spring?  I see the claim all over, but can't find any evidence to support the claim.  View the original post below to read more.

Do Kids Grow Faster in the Spring?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Big Flask

There comes a time when everyone in the education profession needs a bit more.  Actually, there comes a time when everyone in ANY profession needs a bit more.  A bit more of what?  A bit more flask!  I saw this guy at the store the other day.

LOL!  Sometimes a regular sized flask just doesn't cut it.  A Big Ol' Flask is needed.  :-)  Since this one has a chalkboard finish, I can only assume it's classroom approved, right?  Right?!?!?  :-)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Distance to TRAPPIST-1 System

Recently I was reading an article on the TRAPPIST-1 stellar system and did a double take on the listed distance to the system.  If you're unfamiliar, the TRAPPIST-1 stellar system is the system in which it was recently announced there were seven rocky planets with three sitting in the star's habitable zone.  Very big and exciting news!  The distance to the system from our solar system is just a shade under 40 light years.  A very large distance compared to distances we commonly travel on Earth in our day to day lives, but very close astronomically speaking.  I took a snapshot of the article I read that caused the double take.

The distance is correctly stated in light years, but check the distance in miles.  The stated distance of 235 million miles seems to be a large distance, but the distance from the Sun to Earth is already 93 million miles.  Stated another way, this is only 2.5 times farther from the Sun than Earth.  That puts this stellar system on the inner side of our solar system's asteroid belt and I guarantee you this stellar system does not reside INSIDE our own Solar System.  :-)  

So what is the correct distance in miles?  The 235 part of the distance is correct, but it's not million.  It's not billion either.  It's trillion miles.  235 TRILLION miles.  A very simple typo of a 'm' instead of a 't' placed this stellar system inside our own solar system.  Yikes!  Trillion.  Not million.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

March for Science This Weekend (April 22, 2017)

The March for Science is just a few days away (Saturday, April 22, 2017).  The big march is in Washington DC, but there are many sister marches scattered across the country and a few in other countries.  You can find one near you here:

March for Science Satellite Marches

It looks like there are currently 428 organized marches planned!  Super cool!  I'm not attending the DC march but am attending one of the satellite marches near me.  My kids are coming too!  I also have my wardrobe ready (see below).  Just need to get our signs made!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Pink Moon - The Truth

Unless you've been hiding under a rock you've likely heard of "The Pink Moon" sometime this month.  Similar to a Blue Moon or a Blood Moon, there are many misconceptions around this Pink Moon.  To be clear, a Pink Moon is simply the first full moon in the month of April.  It's called a Pink Moon to coincide with the blooming of a flower called the moss pink.  That's it.  It has NOTHING to do with the color of the full moon.

Now, it is possible to see an orangish colored full moon if you are observing the full moon just as it rises above the horizon.  This is an atmospheric effect in which reddish/orangish light is refracted (bent) by the atmosphere.  But you won't see a pink moon.  If you find yourself seeing a pink moon, ask yourself if it is possible you recently consumed something causing you to hallucinate.  :-)

April Full Moon 2017: 'Pink Moon' to Light Up Night Sky

Friday, April 14, 2017

This Blog's History: Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix

In case you missed it last time, let me point you back to a post I wrote on Bill Nye's upcoming Netlfix TV series titled "Bill Nye Saves the World".  It releases on Netflix on April 21, 2017.  You don't want to miss it!

Bill Nye Saves the World - Netflix

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Red Dwarf Science - Twitter

If you're a Twitter user there are several users you can follow that tweet science related material.  Unfortunately there are many users tweeting science that isn't entirely correct and in some cases blatantly false.  There are those that intentionally tweet fake science news.  Many times these are easy to spot.  The tougher ones to spot are those that tweet real science, but they sometimes sensationalize it to send a message that is misleading.  In some cases these users tweet 'science' without double checking the validity of it.  They unintentionally post fake or mis-leading science.  One user that does an EXCELLENT job of sticking to real science without sensationalism is Red Dwarf Science.


In Twitter I create lists so I don't miss tweets from specific users.  I have a 'Science' list and Red Dwarf Science is in that list.  I never want to miss one of their tweets!  Again, if you have Twitter, check out this user.  You can expect daily science tweets that will accurately inform you of current events in science.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fidget Cube

A couple of weeks ago one of my colleagues gave me a Fidget Cube.  I'd never seen one of these things before, but have to admit it's a cool little object to have on my desk at work.

It's a small cube, about one inch on each side, that has various knobs, switches and buttons.  It's similar to a stress ball that you squeeze but allows you to 'fidget' with your fingers.  I find myself randomly grabbing it while working and playing with the different knobs, switches, and buttons.  More often than not it's the switch that grabs the attention of my fingers.  It's a nice option to keep my hands active while thinking through what to write next or when I'm talking on the phone when sitting at my desk.  

These little guys are relatively cheap too.  A quick search on Amazon shows you can purchase one for just a couple of dollars.  Now I just have to see how long it takes before I wear out the switch!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ghostbusters (1984)

Last month I introduced my kids to the original 1980s classic, Ghostbusters.  We saw the 2016 version early this year and loved it so I decided it was time to introduce them to the original.

My kids loved it!  It's been several years, if not a decade or more since I last saw it so it was great to finally see it again.  I had completely forgotten that it was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that was trying to shut down the Ghostbusters in this movie!  I'd LOL or ROFL at this, but given the current administration's attack on the EPA and science in general, it doesn't hold the same humor value.  Unless of course ghosts = climate change.  No...still not funny.  :-(

We have it on our to-do list to check out Ghostbusters II from the library and watch it soon.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Time for Kids

Last week I shared a great website, Ology:  A Website for Kids, as a source for kids to pick up a ton of science!  This week I have another website for your kids to check out.

Time for Kids

The link above specifically takes you to the science archives of Time for Kids.  This site has a number of science articles written at a level for kids to understand.  They are not overly long but do discuss real scientific studies.

I will note there is a paywall to access some of the information on the site, but several of the articles are free to read.  Another great way to spend a rainy day or simply get your science on!

Friday, April 7, 2017

This Blog's History: A Quarter Phase Moon

For this week's This Blog's History I point readers back to a post I wrote on the misconceptions of a quarter phase moon.  Guess what?  A quarter phase moon does not appear 25% illuminated as the name suggests!  Click the link below for more.

A Quarter Phase Moon

Thursday, April 6, 2017

OLogy: A Science Website for Kids

Yesterday I pointed readers to a great website at Harvard linking the abstract of a study as a weekly science update.  Although a great site, it's not best for younger kids as the information provided will be way over their heads.  A website that is great for kids is:

OLogy: A Science Website for Kids

Ology is put together by the American Museum of Natural History.  There's a ton of cool stuff to do on this website.  Each day there is a new "card" that honors a current scientist and describes a bit about what he/she does.  There's a listing of various science fields, including physics, climate change, anthropology, microbiology, etc.  Kids can click in each area and learn more about those individual fields of science.  Within each area there is a ton of stuff for kids to discover and learn!  There are games, stories, hands-on activities, and videos.  A great rainy day activity for when your kids are bored or just in the mood or some science!!!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Science Updates by Year - Harvard

I recently came across a very useful website at Harvard that provides a quick look at various science updates by year.

Science Updates by Year - Harvard

There's a new science update each week of the year dating back to 2006 on this site.  For example, the January 13, 2017 update is a "Catalog of Habitable Zone Exoplanets".  Each update is a clickable link that takes you to the abstract of the article of the study leading to the weekly update.  You won't have access to the actual article, but that's okay if you're just trying to get a basic idea of what is new in science.  The abstract will give a general overview without bogging you down with the details.  Don't get me wrong, details are very important, but if you're looking for general updates, the abstract will more than suffice.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Iowa Capitol Building

Last month I had the chance to visit the Iowa Capitol Building, the only U.S. capitol building I've ever visited.  I also visited this capitol building as a kid in elementary school on a school field trip.

It's a cool building and I was able to tour the three floors open to the public.  The chambers of the Iowa State House of Representatives and Senate were both closed, but you could look in through the windows, so that was cool to see.  There were several displays and exhibits discussing the history of politics in Iowa.  There's also a very cool spot you can stand and hear your voice echo.  Move a foot off the spot, seen below, and you can't hear your echo anymore.

There are several monuments and park areas around the capitol building you can tour as well.  The best part?  It's free, including parking!  My kids weren't with me on this trip, but I picked up a souvenir book of all U.S. capitol buildings that can be stamped on each visit.  Right now it has just the Iowa capitol building stamp, but I'm looking forward to taking my kids to view a other state capitol buildings.  My 10 year old was excited to see the book when I came home and is already looking forward to visiting one of the state capitol buildings and getting the book stamped!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Given Up

Okay, I admit, I've given up science.  The lunar landings were faked.  I bought 5 Himalayan salt lamps.  I bath in essential oils.  I've seen the truth!  I pray for rain.  I now know the Earth to be 6,000 years old.  Climate change is a hoax!  Science has deluded me all these years and now I rid myself free of the demons of science! I don't!!!