Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Amazing Project

Tonight I came across the most amazing thing.  It's called Zooniverse.  I saw a link on facebook sharing the Andromeda Project (about), where you can actually go through the images of the Andromeda Galaxy and label star clusters, distant galaxies and picture errors for the astronomers. 

For those who have been out at the observatory with me, you probably know that Open Clusters are my favorite deep sky objects. This is my personal favorite that I've observed:
NGC 2362:  Located in the constellation of Taurus, the first time I found this open cluster the beauty actually took my breath away.  This image cannot fully convey the wonder, but few images could ever attempt to replace looking through a telescope yourself.

The point is to go through the images and help label clusters and points of interest or irregularities for the scientists.  The tutorial was quick and fairly easy, they also have an added guide to help with tricky identifications and a forum (called Talk) to connect with other users.

I'm excited about this projects because of my passion for clusters, but also because it helps me give back to the researchers.

On the Zooniverse website they have 13 different science projects that you can choose to help.  A majority of the projects are Astronomy based, but they also have 4 biology (3 nature, 1 health), 2 Climate and 1 Humanities projects.  Also they have 3 different lab projects, 2 space and one humanities.  Although one of the space one is about marine life, so it's a mix.
I plan on trying out each one and reporting back to you. 

Also if you would like see what I've done in the Zooniverse suite, I have claimed the user name AskAlisonScience.  I'm not sure exactly what the mechanisms are for looking at user profiles yet, but if you join and can look me up, that's my name.

Keep Learning!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How to Clean Dust out of your computer without Compressed Air

Okay, Today at work a computer tower was acting up.  It was covered in dust and beeping like crazy.  I really don't know what's wrong with it, so I decide to start the only place I know, to clean it.

Dusk in a desktop, or even a laptop, can cause a lot of problems.  I try to clean mine out once a year.  Well this computer has never been cleaned.  Amung all of our cleaning supplies, we do not have a can of condensed air.  But I knew that we had a balloon hand pump!

I have to say, I've cleaned computers MANY times, but this was one of the fastest.  I always struggle to clean the fans, but the hand pump cleaned them off within seconds.  It was wonderful.

I'm going to have to get one for home.  They are cheap, I just looked up the price at party city (since it's on my way home from work) and I can spend under $10 and have a few options.

Anyway I thought I would share this discovery today.  I'm sorry I've been rather awol.  There has been a lot going on right now and I'm just trying to focus on work and home for a time.

Never stop learning or questioning!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Quick Astronomy Question

Q: What beginner telescope would you recommend for a young adult? What field guide or book?

A:  The book I would recommend is the Pocket Sky Atlas.  This was the required field book for my Observational Astronomy class.  Also, I would suggest learning how to use a Skymap.  They can be found here, each month a new one comes out with this months events in Astronomy, and what the sky will be like on a nice clear night.

As for telescopes, there are many factors to consider.

One: What will you be using it for?  How deep into the night sky do you want to see?  I guarantee you won't have a view like the Hubble, but you would be surprised what you can find with a simple telescope.

Two: This is a big one.  Budget.  You can easily spend less than a $1,000 on a new telescope.  If I could go out and buy the telescope I wanted right now I would probably spend $500-$700.  (That would most likely include the accessories that I want)

When you look at telescopes there are several different styles to consider.   I'm partial to reflecting telescopes, but there are also refractors.  Reflecting uses mirrors, Refracting uses lenses.  Both work very well, I'm just more used to reflecting

Another option to consider is the size of the aperture.   Basically the larger the diameter of the barrel the better the view.  Of course, the larger the barrel the less likely you are going to move it a lot. is a good resource for looking into different telescopes.  They have a beginner telescopes section with prices ranging from ~$50 to ~$400.  The other thing to consider is binoculars.  A nice pair can be turned to the night sky and you can see a surprising amount.  Actually the skymap mentioned above lists what you can see with binoculars each month as well.

So the actual recommendation?  Well looking around, I found a reasonable one.  It is a 3 inch reflecting telescope.  It is a table top style, which means it is very small.  But it also comes bundled with a tripod here.  I'm not a huge fan of the table top style, but a lot of that depends on your viewing area and set up.  If you had a tripod, it would be a lot more versatile which is what sold me on it. 

To me, if you go below a three inch telescope you might as well get binoculars.  The biggest limitation to using binoculars is that if you don't have a stand for them, you have a hard time sharing the view.

Good Luck,

A personal explanation

I want to apologize for my absence lately.  I have been pretty divided.  I realize that this is rather unprofessional of me, and I am sorry.  I am human.  I had intended to write another post about science news for September.  I was asked a question recently about the most recently discovered comet "C/2012 S1 (ISON)."  I also want to follow up on the initial Higgs article with a more indepth question I was asked.

So where have I been?  Well September is a bad month.  There are two things that make it very personally depressing.  I spent the end of September with a friend.  The first week of October I experienced an increase in my mood, but was playing catch up with house and life matters.  The second week I prepared to throw a party.  Now it is the third week of October.  I have to work this weekend (just like I did all the other weekends with exception of this past one).

I also have been working on a new project.  I have a line of jewelry I make, and I started a blog for it.

I am hoping to resume writing on here true scientific posts soon.  I will most likely cover the comet question first.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What exactly is a Higgs?

When someone hears of the higgs search what do they think of?  Black holes maybe.  We all remember the rumors that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC, a particle accelerator that was built to find the Higgs particle and conduct many particle physics experiments) creating black holes and causing a panic.  Well don't worry you can always check the webcams.  Okay, so that's a joke, but it's amusing to me.  Really if you want to know if we are okay, you should check this site.  You can refresh it as much as you want.

But back to the point.

Origins (a National Science Foundation funded website committed to communicating advance science to the public) has a wonderful explanation on the Higgs Boson particle and field.  As they outline it was the question "What is mass?" that lead to the search for the Higgs particle/field.  We think of mass as being inherent to all matter, so how, why would we need something to explain mass?  Well in science we try to ask the questions that seem easy but turn out are pretty hard.  Try to answer the question what is mass.  You will probably come up with a circular answer.  For example:

What is mass?
Well we know that matter has mass.
Okay, what is matter?
Well matter is what makes up the universe.
And the universe is?
All matter and energy.
Well that brings us back to what is matter, or we could ask what is energy, but we would pretty much end up in circles again.

We try to explain these basic yet very complicated questions much in the same way people try to answer or communicate the idea of love.  It can be tangible in a way.  We could discuss the biological process of love, but that's not enough for a lot of people.  What causes the process to begin anyway, pheromones?  Not always.  Love is a complex interaction of emotions, which are not easily quantified.  But maybe that's a discussion for another day.

Back to the Higgs.

The Higgs particle was predicted by the standard model (and a man named Peter Higgs).  The standard model outlines our knowledge of particle physics.  It explains the particles we have discovered or predicted and the physical interactions in the universe.  How can things be predicted here?  Well that includes a lot of theory and math.  But I found a good explanation.

Victoria Martin, a former student of Peter Higgs and current researcher at the LHC, gave a wonderful description called the "A Layperson's Guide to the Higgs Boson."  Here are the highlights, slightly shortened.

"So what is this particle Higgs invented? We particle physicists investigate the properties of fundamental subatomic particles. Just as everything is made of molecules and those molecules are made of atoms, it turns out those atoms themselves are made of more fundamental particles: electrons, protons and neutrons. We believe the electron is a truly fundamental particle: it isn’t built up of smaller building blocks. However we know that the protons and neutrons are not fundamental; they consist of three even smaller particles we call “quarks”.

This is where Higgs’ particle comes in. We can’t figure out why the electron and the quarks have a mass; unless, somehow, they obtain a mass by interacting in a special way with the so-called Higgs field.  If this Higgs' explanation is correct and this Higgs field really exists and is present everywhere in the Universe, then one consequence is that the Higgs field can clump together and form a new kind of particle. This new particle is Higgs’ particle, which we call the Higgs boson. To see if Higgs’ theory is really true we will need to find some Higgs bosons and see if they really do interact with quarks, electrons and the other fundamental particles we know about."

I only have one final note.  On July 31st, 2012 this news was released, and I'll give you the punch line: 
"the ATLAS Experiment submitted a scientific paper describing the discovery of a new particle consistent with the Higgs Boson."  
 Now in science this is going to require a LOT more testing, but it is still pretty exciting.  Science is actually a really slow process sometimes, we try to be both optimistic about discoveries and cautious.  We have to keep out method in tact and repeat experiments including letting other teams of scientists repeat them.  Only after many people have concluded the same things can we truly feel safe making a revolutionary statement.  So I present that news with excitement and baited breath waiting for more testing.

I'm going to let it rest here.  Let me know if anything need clarification.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Top 10...Errr, Top 4.5 Science Links For August

Here are my top 4.5 favorite articles I've read online this past month.  With them I've included a brief summary and why I enjoyed it.  (Note, they are not really ranked, I enjoyed all of them, so the numbers are just to keep track.)  I was going to do top 10, but the month got away from me, with the move.  The reason it is 4.5 is because I included another link without comment.  Perhaps we could have a discussion about link 4.5?  Read it, and let me know if you have any questions.

     This article discusses the recent discovery of planets orbiting a binary star system.  We've seen this type of system in the movies but this is the first time we have observed multiple planets around a system like this.  This discovery was made by the Kepler Mission, a NASA mission to discover exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars.  (exo-meaning outside of our solar system) AKA extrasolar planets).  Why did I include this?  Well not only is this REALLY COOL science, but it pushes our understanding of how a solar system forms.
     Remember, science is like cleaning out a closet, the room is going to get messy when you pull all the stuff out of the closet, but in the end everything is better.  Asking questions in science is the same way, the answer you think you are going to get is often not there, instead you find more questions which you must then answer. 
    Why I loved this article is because it highlights an interesting side of science.  Basically this:  Scientists like small easy to manage problems.  Sounds good right?  The problem is that the real world is very interconnected, there are a lot of variables that are hard to manage and to measure all of them all the time.  This is one reason that the weather report is highly variable.  Calling for rain all week?  Well it was cloudy Monday...  Then it was sunny all week.  There are many global variables to track in weather prediction.  The same is true for all areas of science.  When you get down to real world systems there are truly thousands (if not infinite) of variables to keep track of.  
     In medicine, not only what the person eats, how much they exercise, what kinds of exercises, bathroom habits, sleep patterns, stress levels, emotional stability, family history, genetics, home life, weather, air quality, levels of communication between the patient and the doctor, etc all effect the delicate balance of human life.  It is nearly impossible to always account for all these things when treating someone. 
     One of my favorite books is A Brave New World and this reminded me of that.  I have always found the idea of learning while sleeping fascinating.  I love learning and would love to do it around the clock.  However learning to sniff when I hear a specific noise isn't what I was going for.  That doesn't mean this isn't a cool study, it is very cool.  Of course I instantly thought of Pavlov's dog (Pavlovian conditioning) when I read this. 
      Side note: In A Brave New World they use hypnotic conditioning of children to teach their beliefs while the children are asleep.  That's why I thought of it.
     Chemical exposure during development can be very complicated.  When the embryo's cells are developing they are more reactive than an adult's cells.  In the early stages especially when the cell signaling is crucial.  From one cell we get millions that end up being sectioned off into to different organ types.  This means that from early signals the cells begin to organize and form the first tissues of the babies.  This is why chemical exposure can have such a dramatic effect, cells signal each other with chemicals.  The likely conclusion here is that the exposure to PFCs stimulates fat storing cell production.  Of course this is just my educated guess, I have not done any personal research into this.
So let me know if there are any questions/comments about 4.5 (Or any of them of course). I would love to clear anything up or start a discussion.

What's on tap for this month?  Well I plan on doing a Top ten list at the end of the month/beginning of October.  Since I have a few Astronomy programs scheduled I will be doing an Astronomy related post.  Also, I want to get some serious work done on a particle physics entry that I promised I would write.

Keep your questions coming.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reptile Trivia

I'm posting this really late, the move took it's toll.  I'm back at work in the science center today so I thought I would catch up with this post.  I plan on having a newly researched post next week and hopefully my top links for the month.

Today (August 8th, 2012) during Reptile summer camp, we played a trivia game.  I typed up the questions, so I shall share them.  Some of them are very specific to the camp, but some of them are general knowledge.

  1. Which reptile still has their teeth showing when they close their mouths?
    1. Crocodiles
  2. What continent was the viper from yesterday?
    1. Asia
  3. What is the theme of this class?
    1. Reptiles
  4. T/F: SC has crocodiles in our swamps.
    1. False
  5. T/F: All turtles can pull their necks into their shells?
    1. False
  6. T/F: All turtles have webbed feet?
    1. True
  7. What was the first snake pulled out today?
    1. Great plain rat or Corn.
  8. What country was Daisy, David's snake, native to?
    1. Kenya
  9. What are two main differences between a turtle and a tortoise shell?
    1. Weight and Shape.
  10. What is the difference between the Corn snake and the Great Plains Snake?
    1. Coloring.
  11. T/F: The Science Center has Venomous snakes.
    1. False.
  12. What is a box turtle?
    1. Tortoise.
  13. What is a terrapin?
    1. Mix between turtle and tortoise: Lives in water and on land.
  14. What reptile is a good mother?
    1. Alligator.
  15. Where is the pattern the same for both the Corn and the Great Plains snake?
    1. Belly/bottom
  16. Who won the race on Monday?
    1. Box Turtle.
  17. What type of turtle was the last shown yesterday?
    1. Sunburst turtle.
  18. T/F: Snakes are warm blooded?
    1. False.
  19. T/F: The black snake has the same pattern on his belly as the Corn snake?
    1. True.
  20. Who was the first kid of the summer to hold three snakes at once?
    1. Jason.
  21. How far south can we find corn snakes?
    1. 30 miles south of Spartanburg SC.
  22. What is the current count of sea turtle nests in SC?
    1. 4,367
  23. Which island had eleven hundred and one sea turtle nests?
    1. Cape Island
  24. When do sea turtles nest?
    1. Night.
  25. When is the end of the sea turtle nesting season?
    1. Tonight, tomorrow, last night, pretty much now.
  26. When does nesting season begin?
    1. Mid of May.
  27. Where do the eggs live in the nest?
    1. The egg chamber.
  28. How many eggs can a sea turtle lay at once?
    1. 150 eggs
  29. T/F: Leather back sea turtles are very common.
    1. False.
  30. T/F: Leather back sea turtles can weight about 1000 lbs.
    1. True.
  31. Can turtles/tortoises live without their shells?
    1. No!
  32. What is it called when fishermen use nets that are miles long?
    1. Long Line fishing.
  33. When fishermen catch something that they don't want while fishing for something else, what is it called?
    1. Bi-catch.
  34. South Carolina's state reptile is?
    1. Loggerhead Sea Turtle
  35. T/F: Cape Island is open to the public during nesting season.
    1. False.
  36. What date did the sea turtles begin nesting this year?
    1. April 30th.
  37. When will the nests be finished hatching?
    1. By the end of September/1st of October.
  38. What was the first predator to go after the baby alligator on the video yesterday?
    1. Skunk.
  39. T/F: There are snakes called Queen snakes.
    1. True.
  40. What do Queen snakes eat?
    1. Soft crayfish, they freshly shed their exoskeleton.
  41. What's David's favorite snake?
    1. Red tailed Boa.
  42. Do snakes get hungry after they shed?
    1. Yes.
  43. Can snakes bite you, even if they are not venomous?
    1. Yes, they have teeth. But that doesn't mean they will.
  44. What type of snake did David bring today?
    1. Red tail boa.
  45. How many snakes does David own?
    1. 30
  46. How many snakes has David brought in?
    1. 4.
  47. Which is longer, a crocodile or a caiman lizard?
    1. Crocodile.
  48. In snakes, which are larger, male or female?
    1. Female.
  49. In turtles, which is larger, male or female?
    1. Female.
  50. What is my favorite turtle?
    1. Sunburst turtle.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tickles: The Video

I created a video about Tickles the baby snake who died.
It's on my youtube channel.

I just wanted to share.  I really loved this snake.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Update: Moving

Hello all.  My fiance recently got a job a few hours away, and I'll be living with him part time.

What that means: I will maintain my job at the science center three days a week and spend the other four with him.

The Blog:  I can't promise posts until we get settled.
I did promise a post about the Higgs; current research links; and I would like to add a section for questions that I'm asked.  So those will be coming, my life is just a little crazy.  Also I got a comment on improving my fire post and I need to look into that.

Happy Learning!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Breaking news! Or not....

Well it was brand new in February...

So this afternoon I am teaching for an hour in the Fossils and Dinosaurs camp.  Prepping for this, I was looking at some interesting videos.  I found this Nova program (Ice Age Death Trap) that premiered in February.  I wish I could show the whole thing to the kids (mostly because I want to see all of it), however it's a little long for this age group.  Instead I'm going to show them these three videos.

Video 1 is about Evolution seen in salamanders in California.  It's pretty cool.
Video 2 is about this interesting Prehistoric crocodile found in Tanzania. 
Video 3 is the PBS evening news segment on the Ice Age Death Trap  video.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Fire: Why Blue is hotter than Red and What it Is.

When it comes to understanding fire, the first point I must make is that fire is a chemical reaction.  The physics/chemistry involved in fire is just fascinating. 

Here's what I'm going to cover:
  • How Fire is a chemical reaction.
  • Why Fire produces light and heat.
  • What the different colors in fire mean.

To truly understand how it works we need to understand a few things about atoms.  Atoms are of course made of particles called electrons, protons and neutrons.  Which one plays an important part in chemical reactions?  Electrons have the most influence there.  Protons can play a large part in chemical bonding.

So what's the deal with electrons?  As you know they have a negative charge and they orbit the nucleus of the atom.   What you may not have known is that electrons orbit at specific energy levels.  If an electron moves to a different energy level it must either gain or lose the exact difference in energy levels.
A simple atom in ground state.  The blue is the electron (-) and the purple/pink is the proton (+).

What happens when the energy is gained?  Well the energy must come from somewhere.  "Energy cannot be created nor destroyed" it can only change form. This is why fires can start when it's hot.  If you heat something that is combustible you a giving the electrons energy in the form of heat.  Heat is a form of light, contained in the infra-red spectrum.  Our body interprets infra-red as heat.

This shows hoe our simple atom is excited, and the difference in the energy levels.

All forms of matter prefer being in an non-excited state (the ground state), the state that requires the lowest form of energy it can.  So after an electron is excited it wants to return to the ground state.  Thus the electron gives away the energy it absorbed by releasing it in the form of light.  The light can be all along the spectrum of light.  What states the electron changes between determines the wavelengths of light produced.

This shows how the electron returns to the ground state.
Here we have the spectrum of light, from Radio to Gamma waves, in increasing energy.  Showing how the visible red light is less energetic than visible blue or purple light.

The color of the visible light results from the energy. Blue light is more energetic than red light, which is why a blue fire is hotter than a red fire, it has more energy it is giving off.

This also is true in Astronomy, a blue star is much hotter than a red star. But “what burns twice as bright burns half as long” and maybe the numbers are not exactly true, the idea is, a blue star burns out much faster than a red star.  The hotter a reaction is the more fuel is used up at once. When the fuel is gone the reaction is over.

At night a blue light is much more blinding than a red light because our eyes have adjusted to the dark by dilating or expanding to let more light in.  When we are exposed to that energetic light we receive a lot more energy than our eyes were expecting.  This causes our pupils to shrink very quickly, the combination of all the light and the rapid shrinking causes pain and overwhelms our eyes which is why it is difficult to see afterwards.  When exposed to red light our eyes don't need to shrink much, if at all, so we can stay dark adapted.

To summarize...
  • A chemical reaction resulting in heat and visible light
  • Purple/Blue Fire > Yellow/Red Fire (in energy)

Additional Information
 NASA explains Fire

Need more clarification?  This Richard Feynman video should help!

Let me know if anything was confusing, and always keep asking questions!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why are Moths attracted to Light?

Most of my research as lead me to this conclusion:  They are not.  Not strictly speaking anyway. 

There are several different thoughts on why they seem to be though.

The first theory (T1) is they get confused by lights.  It seems that nocturnal moths use light for navigation.  Before we lit up the night with light polls, porch lights, and all the other lights we felt compelled to use at night; moths are said to have used the moon for navigation.  Our lights are brighter if they approach it, therefore they use it to navigate by rather than the moon.

Another theory (T2) is the moths are confused by the light because they are trying to get to the darkest spot next to the light.  This is due to "Mach Bands" (in the image below) where a color difference looks strongest at the point of highest contrast.  Meaning that the world looks darkest next to the light.  They are seeking the darkness and the bright light throws them off.  One scientist, Henry Hsiao, observed moths veering away from the light once they got close to it as they rarely actually bump into the light.

For some species of moth we have a third theory (T3) is moths just respond to different wavelengths (or color) of light differently.  This is why you are more likely to see moths around a white light than a yellow light.  One possible explanation of this is their food source.  They often eat the nectar from flowers, similar to butterflies.  Some flowers reflect ultraviolet light.  Ultraviolet light (UV) is a light that we cannot see as it is boarding the visible range.  Some insects like moths and bees can see in the UV range.  This means it is possible that they are approaching the light seeking out food rather than the light itself.

It seems that whatever the cause once they get to the light they are confused.  The reason they are seen sleeping near the light has two theories.
One: They often sleep as a reflex to the brightness mimicking the sun.
Two:  They merely tire themselves out flying around the light so they go to sleep on a near by surface.

A final note on moths: Not all moths are nocturnal.

T1 Links:
Penn State Research
T2 Links:
T3 Links:
How Stuff Works
Penn State Research

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Quick Update

Hello everyone, I'm just letting you know that I'm alive and working on the fire blog.  I have been exhausted and working a lot lately.

Today I had the glamorous job of cleaning out a fish tank, the same tank I cleaned last week.  It turned green again in a week.  No one expected it to, but we worked very hard on getting the tank completely cleaned.  At one point we took a brief break.  When we (we = me + boss) went back into the animal room the largest fish had jumped out of the bucket we put them in.  He was flopping around on the floor still, so it must have just happened.  I noticed him and put him back before he died.  We then put a cover over the bucket.

Oddly even after days like that I still love what I'm doing.

Tomorrow I will learn how to use the starlab a portable planetarium.  I will be going to a library with my boss and giving a few shows.  I'm starting to get nervous, but also very excited.  I haven't done a show in a little while.

This Saturday I actually have the day off!  This is the only Saturday this month I am free!  Otherwise I will work up to 6 days a week.

I plan on posting a collections of links from recent science articles I like, and hopefully doing this periodically.  I would love to do it once a week, but I'm not sure I can right now.  So I'm going to aim for twice a month posting 10-20 articles I enjoyed over the past two weeks.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Possible Higgs?!

Possible Higgs
I'm speechless....

How to explain this?

Well, in physics we have something called the "Standard Model" which defines all basic particles in the universe as we know it.  The standard model predicted many particles before they were confirmed.  The Higgs particle is the only one that has not been found.

This is one of the main reasons we (mankind) built the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  The LHC is a particle accelerator, the largest in the world.  The size is important when colliding particles because the particles will have a longer distance to gain more energy before colliding.  All other particle accelerators failed to produce the Higgs particle before the LHC.  Now the LHC may have found it.  As always in science though, more tests are needed to reproduce the results.  But this could really mean a lot to the physics world.

I know this explanation is rather weak right now, and I apologize.  When I have time I will write a thorough post about the Higgs that I hope everyone can understand.

But before I do that one, I still need to work on that fire blog!  I have remembered it.  It is coming.  Expect it soon!

And as always, feel free to contact me with questions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Science Camp: Week Two: Space Camp

This week is space week.  Last week was weather.  So far so good, I'm excited about the topics we did today.

I told the kids about the life of a star and fusion as well as explaining how telescopes work.  Tomorrow I am going to point the telescope out the window for them.  Sadly I cannot show them the stars because I only have them in the morning.

I've really been enjoying myself.  I'm even enjoying the stress of it all.

I'm going to have to come to some sense of balance to manage by blog and my responsibilities.  I will keep my promise about my next major post, but until then I will update about camp and interesting things that are happening.

Keep learning!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Camp: The First Two Days

I have been busier than I thought I would be the last few days.  On the upside I've been having a blast!

After my first afternoon doing this science summer camp I told my mom "I can't wait until I'm doing this for the rest of my life."  Even when I get frustrated I'm happy.  This past spring I kept thinking the words "I've arrived" when I was out at the observatory during a public night.  I keep thinking those words again.  What I mean by this is; I've become comfortable enough that I can answer most questions without prep and I am also comfortable with what I don't know.  I can enjoy the process of finding out myself or learning that I have more to learn.

Shanda and I are goofing around here.  We found these masks among other  supplies.
For example, we were talking about evaporation.  Shanda, a teacher I'm working with, posed the question "What happens if you add food coloring to water and let the water evaporate?  Does the food coloring stay in the cup or does it evaporate too?"  We were not sure of the answer and we had a discussion with the kids.  During the next break when the kids had some play time we realized that we had all the components to concoct an experiment.  In the discussion I pointed out that if you boiled sea water, you would be left with salt.

Our experiment was set up like this:  we put water, salt and blue food coloring into a ceramic mug.

Regular table salt and blue water.  Plus you can see that I took off my mask.
I then heated the mug on a hot plate to expedite the evaporation process.

Boiling blue salt water!  Next is a video if you are interested.

 We determined that we could make blue salt!  The kids thought this was very cool. 
 We had a lot of fun with this.  (Well I did at least!)  Soon we will be doing some crafts with the kids.  Hopefully I will get some good pictures of that.

I will answer the second question that I proposed soon.  I just wanted to share this first.  Again, my schedule has gotten away from me but I'm enjoying every minute of it.

I can't wait for tomorrow at camp.  Night everyone!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Question Two

And for my next trick, I mean post, I will be writing about fire.

Like moths drawn to the flame, you will be drawn to my next post!

I'm in a goofy mood, but I am going to blog about fire next time.  What it is, why it displays the properties it does.  And the title with be: Fire: Why blue is hotter than red; and what it is.

In other news, I will be volunteering at a local science center for one of their summer camps.  I'm excited about this.  I will be doing the demonstrations.  The summer camp is meteorology based so the experiments are simulating weather conditions and demonstrating related properties.  For example: I get to crush a can.  Some of you know what that is.  I'm very excited about this.  I will be can crushing in front of second graders.

For those of you who don't know what that is:  Video.  He does a pretty good job of explaining what's happening, but you if anyone wants me to explain it please comment or e-mail me.

I probably won't be posting tomorrow there's a parade and a birthday party that I will be going to.  But I should be posting on Sunday.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The First Question To Be Answered Is...

Why are moths attracted to light?

I was sitting in my living room watching a moth bounce against the window trying to get closer to the light inside. At the same time I found myself wondering what my first blog post should be.  I found it fitting that I should start this blog off with a question that I don't know myself.  So I will do some research tonight and post the answer tomorrow.

I look forward to learning something new with you.