Monday, April 27, 2009

Grow a science garden

Over the week-end, I was reading about Michael Twitty and his involvement with African-American heritage gardens. I love the idea of growing plants with special meanings and sharing those meanings with others. Growing up Catholic, I've heard of Mary gardens planted in flowers (often blue and white) with symbolic ties to the Blessed Mother. So, I started thinking, what would a science garden look like?

A science garden would have to include peas. Gregor Mendel, the famous geneticist, cross-bred over 300 strains of peas. His discoveries of dominant and recessive traits are the foundation of modern-day genetics.

Apple trees would be another good choice. Isaac Newton is widely reported to have watched an apple fall while developing his theory of gravity.

Peanuts should also be included. George Washington Carver developed over 225 peanut products in his lifetime, including gasoline, shampoo, dry coffee, and, of course, peanut butter. (If you're allergic to peanuts, consider planting sweet potatoes. He found over 100 uses for them, too.)

Charles Darwin, famous for his theories of evolution and natural selection, is said to have favored orchids. Benjamin Franklin set up a plant exchange between French and American gardeners, bringing rhubarb, yellow willow, and the cabbage turnip to colonial America.

A science garden would probably have most plants grown in neat and orderly rows, perhaps with varying watering schedules and fertilization rates to see the effectiveness of different cropping techniques, à la Rothamsted (reportedly "the oldest agricultural research station in the world"). But any science garden should have at least one corner where all of the leftover seeds are thrown together for fun, just to see what happens.

Photo credit: Scott Bauer, ARS, USDA

Friday, April 24, 2009

Get ready for Astronomy Week!

Astronomy Week starts next Monday, April 27th, with Astronomy Day occurring on Saturday, May 2, 2009.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

** Stop by Sky & Telescope® to find an astronomy club, planetarium, or observatory near you. Be sure to read their Observing Blog to learn about current night sky conditions.

** has free night sky maps to download.

** Visit the Astronomical Society of the Pacific to download monthly discovery guides to the night sky. Galaxies and the Distance Universe is this month's theme.

** If you can't get outside, you can always have some Solar System Fun with NASA and the NASA Kids' Club.

** Donna Guthrie, of MEET ME AT THE CORNER, invites you to enjoy a virtual field trip to the Palomar Observatory including an interview with astronomer Dennis Mammana.

**And check out these past posts on astronomy from Mama Joules:

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day
Night Sky
ESA Kids
USGS Astro Kids

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Today is the 39th birthday of Earth Day. (That sounded really old until I realized that I'm even older ... eek!)

** Visit my friends Corey and Lynn and discover new ways to Celebrate Green!

** Drop by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and play games at the Environmental Kids Club. You can also download an Environmental Tips Widget like the one at the top of this post.

**If you're in the U.S., check out Earth 911 to find a recycling center near you, enjoy National Park Week, and join the Great American Cleanup™ now through May 31st.

Photo credit: greenbk, through a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

** And you can always go outside and hug a tree!

Photo credit: National Park Service

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Celebrate Earth Month with TV Turn-Off Week

A friend of mine is participating in TV Turnoff Week, a national initiative to reduce the amount of time we spend in front of TV and computer screens. I can't think of a better week for it than this one -- Earth Day is tomorrow! Celebrate by turning off the TV or computer and going outside. Take a walk with your dog or bring along the kids for a trip to the park. Your mind and body will thank you!


Monday, April 20, 2009

Bring back sidewalks

Yesterday, I took my baby for a walk. We had stopped for lunch in a lovely neighborhood in the next town over, one of those planned communities where everything was designed to be within arms' reach. It occurred to me, as I headed to my car to drive to the next store, that maybe I should try walking for a change instead of buzzing busily from stop to stop.

Well. For a planned community, someone should have thought about where to place the sidewalks! Yes, there were sidewalks along the main drag, but no one thought about why you might be walking along the road to begin with -- to go shopping. I had a stroller, but I could just as easily have had a wheeled bag to carry my groceries or been traveling in a wheelchair. Twice, I had to backtrack because my sidewalk simply ended or ended in stairs (!) Once I had to hop the curb to get from point A to point B. (Try doing that safely in a wheelchair!)

I was left wondering how one could actually manage to shop this way. I could barely carry the few groceries I had while also maneuvering the stroller. Don't get me wrong -- the skies were beautiful and I greatly enjoyed savoring the flowering trees while the baby napped. I highly recommend it. But it struck me that it would have been wise to first drive by my walking route to plot out my course. And that would have defeated the main purpose of my walk.

Photo credit: Leon Brooks,

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

National Environmental Education Week

This is National Environmental Education Week, "the largest organized environmental education event in the United States." This year's theme is Be Water Wise.

Want to calculate your carbon footprint? Learn to keep a nature journal? Look up a "green reading" list? Plan a school water audit? Take "nature bee" and "water bee" quizzes for your grade? This is the place!

Photo credit: Sherry James, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Monday, April 13, 2009

In praise of green toys™

Little Brother got a set of "American-made, eco-friendly" green toys™ for his birthday. I was thrilled with the packaging. I don't usually think about how many cellophane windows, plastic twist ties, screws, strips of tape, and more are used in the standard packaging of children's toys. Little Brother's set of kiddie kitchenware was not only made from recycled plastic, the green toys™ packaging consisted entirely of cardboard and one, lone rubber band. It was wonderfully refreshing unwrapping the toys (no frustration! no hassle! everything but the rubber band goes in the recycle bin!) and led me to wonder why standard packaging is so wasteful.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Have a green prom

Whole Foods Market is sponsoring Project Green Prom, a challenge issued to all high school students by teens turning green to hold more eco-friendly proms. From wearing environmentally-friendly make-up to using fewer paper products on the night of the dance, Project Green Prom has fashion, beauty, and decorating tips for you. Print your invitations on recycled paper or post the prom announcement online. Consider buying a vintage prom dress or swapping last year's dress with a friend. Share a limo instead of driving separately. And save your decorations for years to come!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Flying cars

Want your own personal flying car? Get your driver's and pilot's licenses -- and $10,000 deposit -- ready and head on over to Terrafugia. Their "roadable aircraft" is set to roll off the assembly line in 2011. The prototype hit the skies on March 5, 2009 for a test run. The company claims that the wings can fold up in less than 30 seconds! In car mode, the company says the vehicle can get 30 miles per gallon and can go up to 65 miles per hour. The full purchase price is expected to range around $200,000 (US).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Science Poem: Intrasolar interloper

I'm participating in the Poem-A-Day Challenge over at Poetic Asides. Yesterday's prompt was "outsider" and I decided to write about the planet Pluto.


Intrasolar interloper
(dedicated to former planet Pluto)

On a rocky outcrop of your ice-laden heart,
we sacrificed your stature.

Despite seven-six years of service,
retirement was no guarantee.

Nix and Hydra still shadow you
holding up your Kuiper belt.

Your union with Charon, however,
remains an unconsummated affair.

Highly eccentric and inclined to dramatic
circles of ovoid oblivion,

You rotate off-kilter, adrift,
your volatile nature frozen in time.


Artist's rendition of Pluto and Charon

Credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Royal Society recommends science books

The Royal Society, "the national academy of science of the UK and the Commonwealth", is currently accepting entries for the 2009 Royal Society Prize for Science Books. The books selected will (hopefully!) reflect some of the best science writing of 2008.

You can add to your reading list by checking out last year's honorees. Here are the top six picks in the Junior Prize category:

Photo credit: Royal Society for Society Prizes for Science Books', through a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Over 1,000 children read these finalists and decided the eventual winner. The big book of science things to make and do, by Rebecca Gilpin and Leonie Pratt, took home top honors in the Junior Prize category in 2008. Each activity (over 50 of them!) in this book teaches a scientific lesson in a fun and engaging way.

Have fun reading! :)