Thursday, March 21, 2013
This lists both scientific and nonscientific themes covered in the episodes. Handy if you want to find an episode that covers a topic you'd like to use to enhance your classroom lesson.
Editor's Note: The link to this site may change. If the link is dead, please report it to me, and I'll try to fix it.
Note 2: Still not getting paid by anyone for mentioning the site. :)
Celebrating 15 Years with the 15 Classroom Activities Greatest Hits from the Journal of Chemical Education
Free activities! These are written so you can use them in the classroom as soon as you've gathered the materials for the experiments. Many of them are quite clever in their use of materials to demonstrate a chemical property.
Celebrating 15 Years with the 15 Greatest Hits, 1997-2012September 2012 marks fifteen years since the first classroom activity, "A Refrigerator Magnet Analog of Scanning-Probe Microscopy" was published in the Journal of Chemical Education.
112 Activities later - readers are still finding these activities attractive and useful; with their use of materials available from local grocery and hardware stores, wide range of chemical concepts covered, a ready-to-photocopy-and-use format, and the knowledge that each one had been tested by fellow teachers. Many of the activities require a subscription to JCE, but others do not. Here's a link to more information about the 15 greatest hits.
Not the best photo, but do you think that these caplets are the same or are there differences? What observations could you make to determine if they are the same or different? The answer will be revealed soon.
This was a little thought experiment I came up with while I was at the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers Conference. :)
Sent from my Windows Phone
This could be such a cool optics experiment in a classroom. I could imagine getting a few large boxes (refrigerator size or bigger), taping them together, then creating the set up as described. You could try different lenses to see how that changes the image as well as their suggestion to change the aperture, or the amount of light, that goes through the lens. it would be neat to set it up so the lens could pick up the movements in the school, like in a cafeteria, so you could have a video camera set up to capture the images over time, then do a time elapse of the video to speed up the motion vs. time.
Editor's note: When I get excited about an idea, I tend to write really long run-on sentences. Sorry.
Note 2: I haven't been paid by anyone to share this idea or websites associated with it.
Note 3: I think I may have to build one myself. This could become a very cool traveling experiment for family science nights. The key will be to 1) get extraneous light blocked out, and 2) make it durable, and 3) make it easy to assemble and disassemble.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
|Banana, Pear, and Golden Delicious Apple ready to eat|
Have some pears or apples that aren't quite ripe enough to eat? If you have a banana handy, use this simple trick to speed up the ripening process of the fruit so you can enjoy it sooner.
How does it work?
What happens if fruit is exposed to too much ethylene?Fruits that make ethylene to trigger ripening do not stop making ethylene once the fruit is ripe. They will continue to make ethylene, and the fruit will continue to get softer and softer, with more and more sugar, and will eventually be rotten.
How do you like your banana?Bananas have many levels of ripeness and people often disagree about which one tastes best. Some people like them slightly green, when they have a bit of sweetness but are still quite starchy. At the other extreme are people who love bananas with lots of dark brown spots. These bananas are much softer and very sweet. They may have bruises caused by the fruit getting injured, which causes the ripening process to be accelerated at those spots.
Did you know?
A more detailed explanation of how ethylene contributes to the fruit ripening process.
Nice resource about the ripening process for many fruits from a company that makes machines that produce ethylene safely for container ripening. The banana section has a chart showing bananas at several stages of ripening.
Monday, July 23, 2012
What is rarely mentioned is that we were the first generation to see the changes in our culture that started back in the 60s. Desegregation of schools was largely finished. More girls played at least one sport, partially a result of Title IX and the recognition that it was just as safe for girls to play sports as boys and the girls wouldn't be any less "ladylike" if they played. Girls still had Barbie dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids, but we also had our small collection of Star Wars figurines and Matchbox cars. In my class, we still had some "homemaker" moms, but most of our moms worked when we were at school, and a few of my classmates were "latch key kids", those that were unlucky enough to go home after school to an empty house. But our mothers were raised to believe they could become teachers, nurses, or secretaries, and while many had rebelled, many women were still in careers that were considered "traditional" for women.
For many girls, it was television opened our eyes and widened our world to all of the other possible careers we could have when we grew up. On television dramas, women would often be powerful (yet ruthless) business owners. Think Alexis Carrington (Joan Collins) in Dynasty- women could make it to the top of the business word but they had to be b**ches to do it. Or gorgeous. You could be a detective, but you had to look like Heather Locklear or Farah Fawcett.
But women in the news were different. Slowly women were beginning to be leaders in business and government. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the U.K., and we saw her in meetings head-to-head with the leaders of other nations. Sandra Day O'Connor sat proudly with her peer Supreme Court judges, all old white men.
And then there was Sally Ride. The space shuttle program was still relatively new, the shiny white gliders with black undersides reminded me of a great whale. Every space shuttle launch was covered on television, and the astronauts were proudly paraded around to talk about the importance of the space shuttle. My generation was too young to remember any of the moon launches, so our knowledge about space exploration was limited to encyclopedias (the hardbound kind that I swear weighed more than me!) and stories from our family about watching the first moon landing on television. In the first few launches of the space shuttle, the astronauts and command center for the shuttle looked like a picture out of NASA's moon program days: a command center full of white men helping the white male astronauts during the shuttle's flight. Until Sally Ride.
A young, attractive woman with dark brown hair, but not so pretty that you might think she got the job because of her looks. She looked like someone who could be the mother of one of my friends. (In fact, she was born the same year as my parents.) Sally Ride was going to space on a space shuttle mission! She may not have been the first woman in space, but she was the first woman from the United States to go and that was all that mattered during the Cold War. In interviews before her first shuttle launch, I remember her being quite shy, almost embarrassed by all of the attention she was getting. But in 1983, when she walked tall and proudly on the bridge to board the Space Shuttle, girls like me all across America realized they too could become astronauts or at least be a scientist because Sally was going to space! After returning from her first mission, the words "Sally Ride" quickly became synonymous with "women in science". She was one of the most visible female science since Marie Curie. Whenever a story or book was written about scientists, Sally Ride's picture always appeared. She was featured in many of those thin biography children's books written about famous people. Certainly women before her had made important contributions in science, but their stories were usually told as a footnote to the work of a male scientist--basically describing the woman as a helper or lab assistant to the brilliant male scientist. But Sally wasn't a lab assistant. She was a physicist and an astronaut!
I entered my first science fair project one year after Sally's first space shuttle mission. Never once while I was working on the project or being questioned by the male judges. (I didn't have any female judges the first year.) did I ever feel like I didn't belong because I was a girl. And when I won a second place ribbon for my project, I knew there would always be a place for me. In science. As a female.
I continued to follow Sally Ride's career after her work with NASA. The Sally Ride Science program and its resources to encourage girls to pursue science careers will be her legacy to young women and the work I hope she was most proud of.
Today, after learning of her death, I wondered how many other women were impacted by her like me. In college, about half of my classmates in my science classes were females. I can't help but think that Sally Ride played a part in getting many girls to pursue scientific careers. She will forever be known as a woman in science who broke the glass ceiling for future generations of female scientists. Thank you, Sally, for helping me realize that I too could one day be a scientist.
NSTA :: News Story
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Search Your Engines: NASCAR Engineers Zoom In on Motor Problems with Powerful Microscope [Slide Show]: Scientific American
Some questions for your students:
The track is 2.5 miles long (1 lap=2.5 miles), and the cars go 400 laps.
1) How many miles do the cars travel during the race?
2) Each turn is angled at 9 degrees, 12 minutes. Can you make a model that shows how much of a bank that is? What does the unit minutes mean in terms of an angle measurement?
3) Non-profits are "hired" to clean the track and bleachers after the race. How much garbage do you think they pick up after the race?
4) The fastest NASCAR time on the IMS track was over 186 miles per hour. If the driver had sustained that speed during the race, how long would it take for him/her to complete the race.
The answer to question 3 is 400 tons.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
As a former science fair participant (International Science and Engineering Fair in 1988 and 1990) and Westinghouse Science Talent Search semifinalist, you would think I would always be a proponent for science fair projects as a way of teaching students about the scientific research process (note I didn't say "scientific method", which is mostly used in the education field but not in "real science" labs). However, textbook-based science curricula do not prepare students to think scientifically. To then throw them in to a required science project is unfair to the students. It's obvious that the students aren't ready for the assignment based upon the amount of help they need from teachers, their parents, and even their neighbors. I created a list of all of the skills I developed while doing science projects, and I'll try to post it here sometime. No other assignment in school, even in high school, requires as much organization, thinking scientifically, writing and presenting well, collect data and use the right mathematical tools to compare the data, than a science fair project does.
I like that Wired.com is challenging its readers to think outside the current model of science fairs in schools and imagine a better process for the future. I'm torn about the desire for collaborative projects. In any group project (even at the university level), there's always going to be one or two students who do all of the work and at least one who doesn't have a clue but still gets credit because of the work of their partners. Yes, in real science, work is done in a more collaborative fashion, but not in the way educators imagine. You might have a team that's working on the same big problem, but each individual has a piece of the problem to work on. Then the group meets regularly to discuss the pieces of the research to determine how to proceed next. (Forgive me for the oversimplification.) Most of the hands-on work in many of the scientific fields is still done individually. For example, if a computer code needs to be written, one person will do most of the work, and will seek out advice from peers and mentors as needed. But, science groups don't have one person who records the experimental work, one person who gets the supplies, and two people who manipulate the supplies to execute the experiment. There's nothing wrong with that model in the classroom, but it isn't "how real scientists do science". The collaborative nature of science is usually much more subtle. In many areas of research, there are only a few people in the world working on a given problem. On the one hand, you would like to "talk shop" with those other people to see if you can help each other with your experiments. On the other hand, you're competing with those same people for grants, intellectual property rights, and first to publish. So, you can't share too much with other scientists because it may impact your own group's ability to continue their research. This is especially true in the corporate world, where first to patent and first to manufacture a product can make the difference between making a profit from the work or not even releasing the product if you have no competitive advantage. http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2012/05/ff_foundcontest_sciencefairs/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=socialmedia&utm_campaign=twitterclickthru&goback=%2Egde_2332780_member_116354725
'via Blog this'
Saturday, May 19, 2012
(6) Wall Photos
This is such an unusual plant. It only blooms once every few years...and only one giant flower. When the flower opens, it emits a terrible smell. Thus the common name of corpse flower.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
I would have loved to have been in the room when the researchers came up with the idea of calculating how much gas a dinosaur would produce in a given day. Gas produced by the body isn't exactly something we humans like to think about, let alone talk about or study. When the first research was presented about how much methane was being produced by cows all over the world, it was the subject of many jokes. This study leads to a curious hypothesis that a known warming period in climatology history may have been due to dinosaur gas production. I can imagine a joke coming from this research too...maybe something like "how many Ford trucks does it take to produce as much gas as one dinosaur?"
This is a great example of really thinking outside the box in science.
'via Blog this'
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Love this! Too bad I don't have any kids to make one with. I may just need to make one for myself. 8:)
Monday, April 16, 2012
I highly recommend that you check out Carol's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day as well as the rest of her website. She is quite humorous and has created garden characters to share some of the goings-on in her garden that might appeal to children.
Monday, April 9, 2012
Imagine thinking that you think you can find a way to improve a a chemical reaction that's been used for over 100 years and completely changed the accessibility of colorful clothing to the masses. Before a method was created to synthesize dyes, only the wealthy could afford things made from dyes, particularly blue and purple. It had to be extracted
Wiki about indigo dye; includes structure of indigo
Improving a 100 year old chemical process
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Food dyes can be used to explore the effect of pH on the color of the dyes. Because most food dyes can also behave as indicators, it would be easy to set up an experiment to determine why egg dyeing instructions always recommend that you add vinegar to the water. You could make the egg dye at three different pHs. 1. Water plus vinegar 2. just water 3. water with something basic that can be easily handled, such as sodium bicarbonate
Questions to ask:
Are the dyes different depending on the pH?
Are some food dyes more sensitive to pH?
Which dyes have the most intense color?
Could the vinegar serve more than one purpose when dyeing eggs? Hint: Egg shells are made of calcium carbonate. How does an acid react with calcium carbonate?
The best chat I have seen that shows the colors of foods at different pHs (thereby, acting as indicators) is Chemical Demonstrations, vol. 3 (the green one) by Shakhishiri. It's a great volume but a bit pricy for most teachers.
Here's a free website that has descriptions of some of the food indicators. http://antoine.frostburg.edu/chem/senese/101/acidbase/faq/household-indicators.shtml
Video clip that shows food indicators in use
Shakhishiri's website of chemistry resources
Friday, April 6, 2012
So, I thought it was funny to find this Venn diagram of difference between nerd, dork, and geek, courtesy of Great White Snark. I've never put "dork" even remotely in the same category as nerd and geek, but the diagram shows what I've always articulated but never thought to put in pictures. (I imagine pictures in my head a lot for data relationships, but I'm lousy about putting those images to paper. It's something I'm working on. See Dan Roam's site for an interesting study of using simple pictures (yes, even stick people!) to illustrate challenging topics Calling all visual thinkers: The Napkin Academy is here!.
Since Geek Chic seems to be popular right now (Thank you, Big Bang Theory.), I can finally wear all of my dorky science shirts out in public and not get looked at like a total nut. I've even gotten compliments on a few of them. Weird, right?
So, what do you think? Is there a difference between a nerd and a geek? Which would you rather be? Do you have a story to share about a particularly geeky moment in your life?
Monday, April 2, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
She is evaluating Immune Attack, a video game where the player navigates a nanobot through blood vessels and connective tissue to help a ill patient with a non-functional immune system. The game is designed to help teach people about the immune system in a fun, interactive format.
You can try out Immune Attack yourself at
The message for the night was Science Rocks!, but I think the true message was "Anyone can be a scientist!" (the anthem that we sang at the end). They had an excellent panel of speakers, although it might have been better to have them as a separate event. I would have loved to learn more about the accomplished panel. After all, it's not every day that you have two astronauts, a mathematician, a race car driver, and a biochemist on the same stage, along with an excellent science entertainer and a highly regarded science journalist. Here's a link to a list of the speakers.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Here's the link to my Delicious page.
Sometimes my commentary for a story could really be its own blog post, but I forget to post it here. So, check out my Delicious page!
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Friday, December 16, 2011
For questions or more information about the videos, please contact Purdue University.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Chemical & Engineering News Digital Edition - August 29, 2011
Click here to go to the issue.If you cannot click on the links, paste this link into a browser:
I came across this collection idea while looking at craft sites on the web. Issue 1 of Less Than 100g - Bottle cap collection: Create a collection of things that each weigh less than 100 g.
- What would you collect?
- What weighs less than 100 g that you could include?
I'm going to post examples of collections of science-related goodies that I have that meet the less than 100 g limit. I checked them all with a kitchen scale that I keep at home.
First off, my wind-up toy collection:
I love these little toys. Each winds up and does something different. I'll try to put together a video to show them off. You might be wondering what this has to do with science. Well, a number of years ago, NASA had a program running on the space shuttles called Science of Toys where astronauts would test the behavior of toys like these on the shuttle and compare that to what we see on Earth. Check out these NASA websites for more information about the really neat Science of Toys program.
Toys in Space Investigation
Thursday, August 25, 2011
A Brief History of the Toilet (Forget about skyscrapers, protected harbors or capital markets. The lowly toilet is key to what makes modern cities possible.) (Note: Some of these images might not be appropriate for students.)
and Check How Intense the East Coast Earthquake Was in Your Zip Code. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=check-east-coast-earthquake-intenity-by-zip-code&WT.mc_id=SA_WR_20110825
They have published many stories that would be great for students. Here's a link to the newsletter signup page in case you're interested. The best part is that it's FREE!
I picked up this cool way for storing your field supplies while attending the Decatur Township training for the Indiana Science Initiative program last month. I don't know who the teacher was that came up with this idea, but the 5th grade teachers made these to use during their outdoor science studies. They are so simple to make! And cheap too! I'll post some pictures later to show what the bags look like when they're finished.
Want something more permanent? Here's a great way to use old clothes to make a nifty bag with pockets!
Make a field bag from recycled clothes
Each section is relatively short but is packed with interesting stories. I also love the variety of illustrations throughout the book. I've become accustomed to the formal language used in most science communications, and The Story of Science proves that you can still describe important ideas in science without using the stagnant writing style that we scientists are used to reading and, sadly, writing as well. This is definitely not your ordinary science book, and if you love science books as much as I do, it's certainly worth checking out.
Here's an article about the book series with a couple of video links about using narrative storytelling to present scientific information. She currently has 3 books in the series.
Using Narrative Storytelling to Engage Readers about Science
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Search Your Engines: NASCAR Engineers Zoom In on Motor Problems with Powerful Microscope [Slide Show]: Scientific American
Search Your Engines: NASCAR Engineers Zoom In on Motor Problems with Powerful Microscope [Slide Show]: Scientific American
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
A bit about my own previous experiences with sandstone and limestone: The house that I grew up in was built on land that had a large sheet of sandstone just a foot or so below the surface. There were lots of places where you could see exposed sandstone, especially along the side of roads where hills were blasted through to make a flatter road. My dad worked for a quarry where they mined and crushed limestone for building roads, so I've seen a limestone quarry and limestone in lots of different sizes. Our house's driveway was covered with limestone. Large pieces of limestone were used for covering homes and businesses. We even had it on the bottom third of my house. So, I know a bit more about both rocks from my own observations growing up. (This is a good example of how each of us brings their own experiences in when doing science. Had I not known as much about sandstone and limestone, I might have approached these experiments differently.)
I'm not a geologist, but I did take a geology class in college. I really enjoyed rock and mineral identification. My chemistry background came in handy when I had to learn about the different tests that are used to identify rocks and minerals, especially the chemical test of dropping small amounts of acid on a sample to see if bubbles are formed.
This is what the limestone sample looks like. Notice the lines in the rock on the upper right hand corner of this photo. That is an interesting set of lines in the rock. They look like they might be tiny cracks.
Limestone: Before testing (Well, not quite. Notice the bottom center of the rock. That's where I did the streak test.)
Rock A=Sandstone? Rock B=Limestone?
I decided to do the tests that would cause the least damage to the rocks first. The last experiment was going to use a hammer, and I didn't know what the rocks would look like after that!
A hardness test is a great way to start identifying a rock after you've described the color(s) in the rock, the luster of the surface (Is it shiny or dull?), and identified any special fractures or layers in the rock. To test hardness, you "scratch" or rub the rock against something with a known hardness. Geologists use a scale called a Mohs scale that lists materials and their hardness on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being a diamond and 1 being talc. Here's a link to a step-by-step guide for testing hardness from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. http://www.childrensmuseum.org/geomysteries/cube/b2.html
I first tried to scratch the rocks with my thumbnail. My nail was worn down by the rocks, so the rocks are both harder than my fingernail. Nails have a hardness of 2.5, so I knew that the rocks were harder than 2.5. I then tried to scratch the rocks with a paperclip, which I read had a hardness of 3.5. In both cases, the paperclip scratched the surface of the rocks. I forgot to take photos of the rocks after they had been scratched by the paperclip, but it'll be on the video.
From the two hardness tests, I determined that the rock was harder than 2.5 but less than 3.5. That eliminates a lot of possibilities of what the rocks were, but it's not enough to identify them.
Link to mineral hardness of many common minerals:
In a streak test, you rub the rock against a rough surface. The surface must be harder than the rock. Otherwise, the rock will get scratched by the surface. I had a unglazed tile left over from some Christmas craft projects last year, so I rubbed the rocks against the tile. This is what rubbed off the rocks onto the tile.
Streak test (limestone on left; sandstone on right)
This was really interesting to me. The limestone sample left a white powder on the tile, but the sandstone left a dark gray mark on the tile. When I rubbed the limestone powder between my fingers, it felt chalky. The sandstone didn't feel chalky but it wasn't really grainy either. I wasn't expecting either rock to feel chalky, so that was an interesting observation. (If you look at the bottom of the post, you'll see my notes that I took during my experiments...but you may want to wait if you don't want to know what I discovered just yet!)
Rock A=Sandstone? Rock B=Limestone?
Vinegar-Expected Results No bubbles Bubbles
Vinegar-Actual observations Bubbbles No bubbles
Color Gray with white streaks Dark brown. A few cracks present.
Looks like a crystal No No
Surface Grainy Smooth
Luster (shine) dull dull
Hardness test >2.5 but <3.5 >2.5 but <3.5
Streak test Gray White. Powder feels like chalk.
Next I wanted to try a variation on the vinegar test that the teachers did. Normally the bubble test is done with dilute hydrochloric acid, but since this experiment is for 3rd graders vinegar is used because it's safer. I wanted to put just a few drops of dilute hydrochloric acid (0.5M for any chemistry geeks out there) onto each rock and see what happens. Based upon what the teachers saw, I expected the limestone sample to not bubble and the sandstone sample to bubble. Here are the photos of what I saw.
|Sandstone surface immersed |
in a small puddle of hydrochloric acid.
You can see bubbles where the liquid and the rock are touching.
I did the same experiments with the Limestone. I first put a few drops of Hydrochloric acid on the surface.
|Hydrochloric acid on Limestone|
If you look closely, you can see bubbles forming.
|Several minutes later--|
One surface touching a puddle of Hydrochloric acid on Limestone
Lots and lots of bubbles!
Monday, May 16, 2011
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
I'll share some problems you could do with students about this idea in a future post. I worked in a national petroleum lab for two summers so I have some interesting petroleum science I could share. Gasoline is a great example of lots of scientific principles in action that we take for granted as long as we remember to fill the tank!
Last night, the t.v. show Modern Family was all about the extended family celebrating Mother's Day. Jay, the patriarch of the family, decided to make a special recipe that he loved that his mom had made for him as a kid. At the end of the episode, he took a big wiff of the delicious dinner, and it made him cry. The smell of the dinner triggered powerful memories of his mom and and the happy times he had with her.
Your sense of smell can be a very powerful trigger of memories. But how? And why? After all, the part of your brain that detects smells is very close to your nose but not close to the places where memories are stored.
The sense of smell is one of the most basic processes in the human body as well as other animals, yet our understanding of how your brain captures molecules and translates that into something that your brain recognizes as a smell is cutting edge science. In 2004, Richard Axel and Linda Buck won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their groundbreaking work in how the sense of smell works. That just goes to show that there are plenty of basic things about science that we still don't understand very well, even things that are so basic to the human experience.
Here's a link to Richard Axel's Nobel Prize lecture.
And here's one for Linda Buck's Nobel Prize lecture.
There's a lot going on in the small space that a human nose takes up I like using Google Chrome's interactive You can adjust what you see, adding and removing the cardiovascular and nervous system, as well as human organs. You can even fade any of the three so the system is visible but not so much that it blocks your view of other features. You have to download Google Chrome to use this tool.
Once Chrome is installed, you can click here to access Google Body.
In my next post, I hope to talk a bit more about how the brain stores memories, then I'll tackle how scents trigger those memories.
Other resources for images of the nasal system:
A very detailed set of slides showing the anatomy of a nose can be found at this site by Kansas State University. http://faculty.ksu.edu.sa/yousryelsayed/Atlas%20ENT%20teaching%20slides/Atlas%20Anatomy%20of%20the%20nose%20and%20paranasal%20sinuses.pdf
If you'd like to see some images that are more appropriate for younger children, The Children's Hospital Boston has some good images that separate the sinuses from the rest of the nasal system (olfactory).