Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Think about that for a minute. What if this frog were alive today? Imagine the croak from a ten-pound frog! Picture a gigantic frog romping through your flower garden. The scientists studying super frog think that it was aggressive and would pretty much attack anything that came near it. Yikes!
So far, giant “frog from hell” is the only known one of its kind. But that the neat thing about science ... you never know what might be unearthed next!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
So, what sort of pictures do they have? How about these?
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
I commented on this to the cashier. "Do you think it could be counterfeit?"
The clerk looked at me in surprise. "No. We've been seeing these for weeks."
That made me wonder. Had I been seeing them for weeks, too? Maybe I'd been using these bills for a while and just hadn't noticed.
How often do we grow complacent with our surroundings? Part of being a scientist includes really seeing the world.
Take a moment today to really examine something in your daily life. It could be the telephone, a dog toy, the house key, your hairbrush. How would you describe the item to someone who'd never encountered it before? Is it soft, prickly, fuzzy, squishy? Does it make noise? Is it colorful or bland? Can you eat or chew it? Does it smell?
Observing your surroundings -- and acknowledging your biases -- is crucial. You can't experiment with your world if you aren't paying attention to it.
One of my favorite quotes sums this up nicely:
"Eyes that look are common. Eyes that see are rare." J. Oswald Sanders
Friday, April 18, 2008
On June 10, 2008, the contest winner(s) will get to control where the cameras are pointed for nearly an hour aboard the Cassini spacecraft, which is nearing Saturn. NASA scientists have already chosen the best three images to photograph: Rhea or Enceladus, both icy moons of Saturn, or Saturn's rings. Check out the Targets Overview to watch video clips about each choice.
Contest entrants have to write a convincing essay in 500 words or less about which of the three is best and why this choice will advance science. You can enter alone or in a group of up to four students (from grades 5-6, 7-8, or 9-12), but please note that the entries must be submitted by a teacher. The deadline for entry is noon Pacific time on May 8, 2008. If you have any questions, write to scientistforaday [at] jpl [dot] nasa [dot] gov.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Blowing bubbles is a wonderful way to introduce the concept of wind direction. Draw a simple compass on a piece of paper using arrows to show north, south, east and west. Place this at your feet. Make sure that both you and the compass are pointing north and blow some bubbles. You or your child can keep a running tally of which direction the bubbles are drifting. If they always float toward the north, for example, you know that the wind is coming from the south.
(My thanks to my oldest for patiently blowing bubbles for me to photograph. Snips of my half of our dialogue: "Wait, wait, they're not blowing the right way. Stand over here." "No, let's try over there, that background is all wrong." "Oh, no! Can you do that again? I missed the shot.")
Monday, April 14, 2008
When I was in graduate school, we spent some time discussing natural disasters and their impacts on humanity. I was surprised to learn that drought was considered to be a significant natural disaster. In the
What is drought? Simply put, a drought occurs when there is a substantial lack of rainfall in a given area, enough to negatively impact people, plants, and animals.
The definition of drought, however, is unique to a given location. What would be considered a drought in the wetlands of southern
There are a couple of factors that make coping with drought challenging. For one, by the time that you realize you are in drought, it’s already begun. Pinpointing when a drought first starts is nearly impossible, although groups like the United States Geological Survey do an admirable job of searching for signs of trouble. (Among other things, the USGS monitors the flow of water in streams and rivers. Low flow signals a possible drought-related problem.)
Once you realize that you are in a drought, no one can say how long it will last. Rainfall models can only tell you so much. For city planners and others who regulate water flow, it can be difficult to decide when and how to moderate water intake. Imposing water restrictions, ironically, can make a drought situation worse if panic ensues and people begin to hoard water. UNL’s
Friday, April 11, 2008
This is the last week-end of the 2008 National Cherry Blossom Festival in
“The plantings of the cherry blossom trees originated as a gift in 1912 from the people of
Japanto the as gesture of friendship and goodwill. Since then, the number of trees has expanded to approximately 3,750 trees of 16 varieties on National Park Service land.” United States
The first time I heard about the cherry blossoms, I wondered what all of the fuss was about. I mean, they’re just trees, right? And trees produce flowers in the spring. So what?
Well, last year I was fortunate enough to visit the
Thursday, April 10, 2008
"What's the opposite of maybe?"
I thought hard for a minute and answered, "I don't think 'maybe' has an opposite. It's kind of half-way between 'yes' and 'no'."
"I think the opposite of maybe is 'maybe not'," he replied.
Maybe my son is smarter than I am ...
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Funny, the first thing that I thought of when I read about this event was that I would like a picture of a goldfish or a turtle or maybe a bird. But none of those animals are mammals. In short, mammals are like us: warm-blooded, hairy, and milk-producing. Most mammals give birth to live offspring, although Australia’s monotremes (the platypus and echidna) are notable and fascinating exceptions.
Need some help with your mammal request? Check out the San Diego Zoo’s Animal Bytes: Mammals for inspiration.
Monday, April 7, 2008
One of my favorite authors is Madeleine L’Engle. I was about 10 when I first read A Wrinkle in Time and Meet the Austins. Finding L’Engle’s work was like finding a piece of myself that I didn’t know was missing, a coming home to self. I love the way that she deftly wove art with science, science with Christianity, in her stories. Her characters seem so real to me that, at times, I have had difficulty putting down her books.
Why the fascination? L’Engle’s world is populated with poet/scientists and artist/researchers. I love that her characters stretch across genres. Her work reminds me that I don’t have to give up writing poetry to be a science writer, or forgo my love of art in favor of research. It’s okay to do it all, to be interested in more than one thing at a time.
But school doesn’t tend support this idea, especially in higher education. What’s the first big choice you make in college? Declaring a major. There’s an undercurrent of thought that once you’ve chosen your major, you have to give up on everything else to focus on your goal. How unfortunate is that?
Far too often, I think, we tend to separate ourselves from science as if it were an abstract set of concepts unrelated to our daily lives. Popular culture tends to foster this misperception. How often do we appreciate the work of, say, Leonardo DiVinci* for both his scientific AND artistic contributions? Usually, he is lumped into one group or the other, depending upon the interests of the reviewer. (* Kudos to the Museum of Science for recognizing that DiVinci was all that and more!)
The popular 80’s board game, Trivial Pursuit, always bothered me for the same reason. You would get a slice of “pie” for your game piece if you correctly answered questions in one of six different categories, which included Arts & Literature and Science & Nature. It occurred to me that it would make more sense if we all try to live in the center of the pie, where all of the pieces interconnect.
Friday, April 4, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
In order of priority, here's the breakdown for what you like about the blog:
Science activities & crafts / science education (5 votes each)
Mama Joules' musings / how things work (4 votes each)
Science & the arts (3 votes)
Current science news / book & movie reviews / All of the above (2 votes each)
Website of the week (1 vote)
Now, two things really surprised me about this poll. For one, I've been really focused on finding websites of the week. I guess it's not really that important. I think I'll keep that feature for now, but modify those posts to expand on why I like the website or talk about what's neat about the topic.
Which leads me to point number two: at least four of you out there actually like reading my rambling thoughts on science and life. Cool! Check out yesterday's post and have an ice cream on me. *grin*
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Mark your calendars!
April 29, 2008: Free Ice Cream at Ben & Jerry's!
According to numerous internet sources, Tuesday, April 29, 2008 is the 30th annual Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s ice cream stores. Check out their Fun Stuff page for E-cards, online games, paper crafts, and my personal favorite, the Flavor Graveyard.
April 30, 2008: 31 Cent Scoop Night at Baskin-Robbins!
Come to any Baskin-Robbins ice cream store on April 30th from 5-10 pm for 31¢ scoop night. Check out the Baskin-Robbins Store Locator to find the store nearest to you.