Canadian High Schoolers Send Lego Astronaut Into Space!

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Canada’s first astronaut?

For four and a half months, Canadian high school students Matthew Ho and Asad Muhammed spent every Saturday working on a project.  No, it wasn’t restoring an old car, it was building a homemade satellite/space vehicle.  Somehow, they not only managed to build their spacecraft, they managed to send a Lego minifigure into space.  It’s a shame it wasn’t one of the official Lego astronauts, but the important thing is Canada has gotten someone into orbit!  It’s a victory for the Canadian space program!

The pair were inspired by other videos of people sending balloons into space, possibly these guys.  The two spent only $400 to build their spacecraft, though the planning was meticulous.  They wanted their Lego man to launch and return to them in Canada to avoid having to cross the border to retrieve him.  The ascent took an hour and five minutes; after the balloon popped, the descent took only 30 minutes.  The homemade spacecraft consisted of a lightweight Styrofoam box carrying three point-and-shoot cameras, a wide-angle video camera, and a cellphone with GPS to track the landing. The balloon was bought online and filled with helium from a party store; two mitten warmers were used to ensure the electronics didn’t get too cold on the trip into space.

Earth Hit By Largest Solar Radiation Storm Since 2003!

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It’s been a long time since Earth was hit by a solar storm of the magnitude of the solar storm that hit Earth’s atmostphere over the weekend; according to the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the earth was hit by the largest solar storm since 2003 beginning on late Sunday night and stretching into Tuesday morning.  A solar storm is a combination of two events, solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).  Basically, it means the sun’s been burping radiation at our home planet.  Even if we don’t see it (and we usually don’t), it can do some crazy things to satellite communications and the like.

“Being hit by a CME does not automatically mean aurora,” said NASA solar physicist C. Alex Young, explaining why we all didn’t get another aurora borealis sighting. ”A CME has to be what we call ‘geo-effective.’  It must have enough mass, speed and magnetic field (including the orientation of the field) in order to disturb the magnetosphere sufficiently (to generate aurorae).”

The region responsible for this storm was AR 1402 (the AR stands for active region, meaning a place with a lot of bubbling sun activity).  Expect more such eruptions, not just from this area, but from the sun in general.  The year 2013 is slated to be a solar maximum year, meaning the sun is going to be very active and earth is going to be getting a nice tan thanks to all the solar energy.

Hundred Year Old Predictions For The Future Come True!

Ladies Home Journal

Predicting the future is usually difficult although an American engineer did a pretty good job when he wrote his predictions for the next hundred years way back in 1900. 

John Elfreth Watkins was a civil engineer working for American railroads of the 19th century. In 1900, he contributed an article to the Ladies’ Home Journal, entitled “What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years”. Somehow, Watkins was able to foresee the invention of mobile phones, digital photography, television, and even TV dinners. 

Now, 112 years later, a history editor for the Journal’s sister publication, the Saturday Evening Post, dug out the article to see how Watkins did. The article made 28 predictions. Here are some of the more interesting ones he got right and wrong.

Correct Predictions:

– Digital color photography – Watkins didn’t know how it would happen, but wrote about color pictures being able to move around the world in minutes. “Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle inChina a hundred years hence, snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspaper an hour later…photographs will reproduce all of nature’s colors.”

– Mobile phones – He wrote that wireless telephone circuits will span the world even though it was 15 years prior to the first transcontinental call. “We will be able to telephone toChina quite as readily as we now talk fromNew York toBrooklyn.”

– Pre-made meals – He wrote people would purchase ready-to-eat meals from establishments similar to bakeries. “They (the store) will purchase materials in tremendous wholesale quantities and sell the cooked foods at a price much lower than the cost of individual cooking.” He also said these meals would be made in laboratories as opposed to kitchens.

– Television – He foresaw cameras and screens connected by electric circuits that allow people to see events on the other side of the world. “Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at span.

– Central heating and air conditioning
 – The great minds he spoke with talked about how a device would regulate the temperature in a house.

The article also correctly predicted “huge forts on wheels”, what we know as tanks, that the population growth will slow, people would get taller and high-speed trains would exist.

What He Got Wrong:

– Free university – “A university education will be free to every man and woman.” While more people are able to attend university, the costs continue to rise forcing many to take on huge debt.

– Fitness levels – “Everybody will walk ten miles…A man or woman unable to walk ten miles at a stretch will be regarded as a weakling.” Watkins wrote exercise would be compulsory in schools, but while it is mandatory to a certain age, obesity levels continue to rise in theU.S. andCanada.

– Mosquitoes terminated – “Mosquitoes, house-flies and roaches will have been practically exterminated.” He thought this would happen because all the breeding grounds, including stagnant pools and swamp lands would be gone.

– Fewer letters – “There will be no C, X, or Q in our every-day alphabet.” He thought those letters would eventually become unnecessary and spelling by sound would be adopted.

It’s downright impressive how many of these predictions have actually come to pass in the 112 years since the column was written. It almost makes you wonder if the days of C, X, and Q being part of the English alphabet are numbered. 

HTHT of Oakland County Cooks Up Excitement With Kitchen Chemistry!

High Touch High Tech of Oakland County, Michigan kicked off 2012 by cooking up some fun with the students at Bingham Farms Elementary School! Students became real scientists as they rolled up their sleeves and got hands-on with the “Kitchen Chemistry” afterschool program. From creating HTHT’s signature “Space Mud” to colorful sidewalk chalk, these students were excited about science & had a blast experimenting with common household ingredients.

Bingham Farms Elementary School is known for striving to increase student excitement, interest and performance in science, so when they partnered with High Touch High Tech to provide afterschool programming, it was a perfect match!  The local newspaper “The Birmingham Eccentric” even stopped by to capture all the fun! Check out the full article in “The Birmingham Eccentric” Newspaper here.

High Touch High Tech of Oakland County is looking forward to many more future programs with Bingham Farms Elementary & continues to excite children about the world of science each & every day.

If you are in the Oakland County area & would like more information on High Touch High Tech please visit their website at or call 248.926.5500. You can also email them at

Students discovered science in the kitchen by mixing common household ingredients

Young scientists discovered how to make their very own sidewalk chalk!

Glow in the dark bouncing balls was just one of many exciting hands-on experiments that these students participated in!

Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin!


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The Lightning Rod

When most of us think about Benjamin Franklin and his inventions, we think about a man running around outside during a thunderstorm with a kite. Ask any child and they will be quick to tell you that Benjamin Franklin invented electricity but the fact of the matter is, Franklin didn’t invent electricity, he simply figured out how the transfer of electricity works by inventing the lightening rod. During that time, in the 1700s, fires were commonplace as a result of lightning strikes. His simple lightning rod helped to channel that power away from the houses and buildings, and to a grounded source.


Were you aware that Ben Franklin also invented bifocals? As Franklin got older, he realized that his vision had started to decline. The inventor turned to science to find a solution for the uncomfortable task of switching between glasses for close-up reading and distance viewing. In 1784, Franklin discovered his solution with a pair of engineered eyeglasses he dubbed “double spectacles. Franklin had his optician take the lenses from his two sets of glasses, cut the lenses in two horizontally, and then mount them back into the frames. The optician placed the lens for close work at the bottom and the lens for distance at the top. Traditional eyeglasses simply correct vision for one distance, but the invention of the bifocal allowed for two corrective powers to be used in each lens, thus eliminating the need to switch between.


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Benjamin Franklin did not always work as an inventor. As a matter of fact, he once served as the postmaster general. In an effort to figure out the best route for delivering mail, he invented a simple odometer which allowed measurements between two areas when it was attached to the delivery carriage. Today, the odometers used in automobiles are much more complex.





The Gulf Stream


Did you know that Ben Franklin was the first scientist to study the Gulf stream? The Gulf stream is a powerful, warm current in theAtlantic Ocean. Those of us who live along the coast are familiar with what the Gulf stream is but very few of us realize the fact that Benjamin Franklin is one of the men that helped map it out. It was known that sailing from the United  States to Europe took less time than traveling in the other direction. This fact fascinated Benjamin Franklin so he took the time to map out the Gulf stream by measuring current depths and wind speed in order to come up with one of the first, accurate concept drawings of the phenomenon.


The Franklin Stove


The Franklin stove was a concept that was thought up by Benjamin Franklin in order to help individuals use less wood, while still producing more heat. Since wood fires accounted for a lot of the heat during that time, having a more efficient way of receiving that heat was welcomed by almost everyone. Something that is interesting about this particular invention is the fact that he turned down a patent for this concept. He wanted it to be available for everybody and was not interested in making a profit from it.


Today, young scientists are looking to the stories of Franklin’s experiments and his inventions and finding their own scientific inspiration. The Franklin Institute is a great resource for information on Benjamin Franklin. You can visit this website to find instructions for experiments with electricity, air, heat, and even the Glass Armonica. Find your own inspiratin and spark your imagination with even more experiments including how to build your own Leyden Jar! 

Scientists Discover We’ve Got a Sixth Taste Bud!

Remember back when life was simple and we only had FOUR types of taste buds . . . sweet, sour, salt, and bitter?  And then in the ’80s, we found out there was a fifth type, one that tasted savory flavors?

Well now it turns out we’ve had a SIXTH one all along.  And the flavor it detects will NOT shock you.  Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis have found we have a sixth taste bud . . . that tastes FAT.

The sensitivity of the fat taste bud varies a lot from person to person . . . and could actually be one of the contributing factors to why some people are prone to eat less healthily than other people. More studies on that are coming. Read more on Medical

Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2011

From law-violating subatomic particles to entirely new, earth-like worlds, 2011 was an incredible year for scientific discovery. In the past 12 months, scientific breakthroughs in fields ranging from archaeology to structural biochemistry have allowed humanity to rewrite history, and enabled us to open to brand new chapters in our development as a species.

Here are some of our favorites.



The world’s lowest density material

With a density of less than one milligram per cubic centimeter (that’s about 1000 times less dense than water), this surprisingly squishy material is so light-weight, it can rest on the seed heads of a dandelion, and is lighter than even the lowest-density aerogels. The secret — to both its negligible weight and its resiliency — is the material’s lattice-like structural organization, one that the researchers who created it liken to that of the Eiffel Tower.


“Feeling” objects with a brain implant

It could be the first step towards truly immersive virtual reality, one where you can actually feel the computer-generated world around you. An international team of neuroengineers has developed a brain-machine interface that’s bi-directional — that means you could soon use a brain implant not only to control a virtual hand, but to receive feedback that tricks your brain into “feeling” the texture of a virtual object.

Already demonstrated successfully in primates, the interface could soon allow humans to use next-generation prosthetic limbs (or even robotic exoskeletons) to actually feel objects in the real world.


Astronomers get their first good look at giant asteroid Vesta

In July of 2011, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft entered the orbit of Vesta — the second largest body in our solar system’s main asteroid belt. Just a few days later, Dawn spiraled down into orbit. Upon reaching an altitude of approximately 1700 miles, the spacecraft began snapping pictures of the protoplanet’s surface, revealing geophysical oddities like the triplet of craters on Vesta’s northern hemisphere — nicknamed “Snowman” — featured here. Dawn recently maneuvered into its closest orbit (at an altitude averaging just 130 miles). It will continue orbiting Vesta until July of 2012, when it will set a course for Ceres, the largest of the main belt asteroids.

NASA’s Kepler Mission changes how we see ourselves in the Universe

2011 was a fantastic year for NASA’s Kepler Mission, which is charged with discovering Earth-like planets in the so-called “habitable zone” of stars in the Milky Way. Kepler scientists announced the discovery of the first circumbinary planet (i.e. a planet with two suns, just like Tatooine); located the first two known Earth-sized exoplanets; quadrupled the number of worlds known to exist beyond our solar system; and spied Kepler-22b — the most Earth-like planet we’ve encountered yet. And here’s the really exciting bit: Kepler is just getting warmed up.


Heartbeat-powered nanogenerators could soon replace batteries

In a few years, you may never have to recharge your phone again — provided part of you keeps moving. Back in March, scientists announced the world’s first viable “nanogenerator” — a tiny computer chip that gets its power from body movements like snapping fingers or – eventually – your heartbeat.

The researchers can already use the technology to power a liquid crystal display and an LED, and claim that their technology could replace batteries for small devices like MP3 players and mobile phones within a few years.


Discover More Top Scientific Discoveries of 2011 on

Google Doodle Celebrates The Father of Geology, Nicolas Steno!


A new Google Doodle today honors the 374th birthday of the Danish anatomist Nicolas Steno, the man widely regarded as the father of modern geology.

The new inanimate Doodle features the Google logo with letters sketched out of three to five layers of earth, depending on the height of the letter and links to search results on Steno.

It is a fitting tribute for the man whose life’s work on rock layers and fossils largely led to the study of geology as we know it today. Intrigued by a shark’s tooth fossil embedded in rock, he set out to learn how one solid object could be found inside another solid object, such as a rock.

He determined that fossils formed when particles in water drifted down and formed layers over objects. Steno hypothesized that the layers of rock are arranged in a time sequence, with the oldest layers on the bottom and the newest on top. His theory became known as Steno’s law of superposition.

Born Neils Stensen in Copenhagen, he was also known as Nicholas Stenonis or Nicholas Steno. He left him home in 1660 to study medicine in Italy, where he became involved with a body of researchers following Galileo’s mathematical approach to science.

Following his geological discoveries, Steno left science, became a devout Catholic, and ministered in Germany, Denmark and Norway. Pope John Paul II beatified Steno in 1988, bringing him one step closer to sainthood.

Google has honored many notable mathematicians and scientists with their patented Doodles, including:

What do you think of the Steno Google Doodle? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Birthday Sir Isaac Newton!

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It’s Isaac Newton’s birthday. At least, it’s the anniversary of his birth – January 4, 1643, according the the Gregorian calendar.

If you’re a purist, you might have already marked the anniversary of his birth, on December 25th. As according to the Julian calendar, in use in England, at the time of his birth, the scientific great was born on Christmas Day, 1642.

In addition to laying out the Laws of Motion, he also did innovative work on the properties of light, as can be seen in this Lego re-enactment. And of course the logo for Apple, Inc. would only have half the symbolism it does if it weren’t for him.
You can check out a  “free feature”, animated, video clip (meaning you can view it without a subscription) about his life, at, today.

The Eyes Have It – Amazing Animal Eyes

According to scientists, eyes evolved around 540 million years ago as simple light detecting organs. Today, vision is the most important sense for many animals, often being  incredibly varied and complex. Take a look at some of the strangest and most incredible eyes in the animal kingdom.

#10 Tarsier

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The tarsier is a small (about squirrel sized) nocturnal primate, found in the rainforests of South Eastern Asia. It is the only fully predatory primate in the world, feeding on lizards and insects and is even known to catch birds in mid flight. It’s most remarkable feature; however, are its enormous eyes, the largest of any mammal, relative to body size. If your eyes were proportionally as big as those of the tarsier, they would be the size of grapefruits. These enormous eyes are fixed in the skull and can´t turn in their sockets. To compensate for this, the tarsier has a very flexible neck, and can rotate its head 180 degrees, just like an owl, to scan for potential prey or predators. With each eye weighing more than its brain, the tarsier has extremely acute eyesight and superb night vision.

#9 Chameleon


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Chameleons are famous for their ability to change color, an ability that helps them communicate and express their intentions, or mood, to other chameleons (only a few species use color-changing as camouflage). These lizards also have very unusual eyes; their eyelids are fused, and cover almost the entire eyeball, except for a small hole to let the pupil see through; each eye can be moved independently from the other, and so the chameleon can scan for prey and potential threats at the same time. This also means that the chameleon has a full 360 degree field of vision.

When the chameleon sees a potential prey (usually an insect, although the largest species are known to devour mice and other small vertebrates), it focuses both eyes in the same direction, gaining stereoscopic vision – very important if we consider that the chameleon captures prey by shooting out its tongue at high speed, a technique that requires a very precise distance and depth perception. Chameleons have very sharp eyesight, being able to see an insect several meters away.

#8 Dragonfly

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The dragonfly, possibly the most formidable aerial hunter among insects, also has some of the most amazing eyes in the animal world. They are so big that they cover almost the entire head, giving it a helmeted appearance, and a full 360 degree field of vision. These eyes are made up of 30,000 visual units called ommatidia, each one containing a lens and a series of light sensitive cells. Their eyesight is superb; they can detect colors and polarized light, and are particularly sensitive to movement, allowing them to quickly discover any potential prey or enemy.

Some dragonfly species that hunt at dusk can see perfectly in low light conditions. Dragonflies also have three smaller eyes named ocelli which can detect movement faster than the huge compound eyes can; these ocelli quickly send visual information to the dragonflies’ motor centers, allowing it to react in a fraction of a second and perhaps explaining the insect’s formidable acrobatic skills.

#7 Leaf Tailed Gecko


Leaf tailed geckos have pretty surreal-looking eyes; their pupils are vertical and have a series of “pinholes” which widen at night, allowing these lizards to pick up as much light as possible. These eyes also have many more light sensitive cells than human eyes, giving the animal the ability to detect objects and even to see colors at night.

Leaf Tailed gecko and other nocturnal gecko species can see up to 350 times better than humans dim light! Leaf tailed geckos also have a series of strange, intricate eye patterns, which provide camouflage. These lizards lack eyelids; their eyes are protected by a transparent membrane, and geckos are often seen cleaning this membrane with their tongue.


#6 Colossal Squid


Not to be confused with the better known, but smaller Giant Squid, the Colossal Squid is the largest invertebrate known to science; it also has the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. Each one of the Colossal squid’s eyes can be up to 30 cms across, being bigger than a dinner plate and having a lense the size of an orange. These huge eyes allow the squid to see in dim light conditions, very useful for an animal that spends most of its time hunting at 2000 meters below the surface.

It must be mentioned that only sub adult colossal squid have been captured and studied thus far; full grown Colossal squid may grow up to 15 meters long. These giants would have even bigger eyes. Unlike the Giant Squid, the Colossal squid has stereoscopic vision, having a greater ability to judge distances. Even more amazing, each eye has a built-in “headlight”, an organ known as a photophore which can produce light so that whenever the Colossal squid focuses its eyes to the front, the photophores produce enough light for the squid to see its prey in the dark.

#5 Four Eyed Fish


Found in Mexico, Central America and Northern South America- these are small fish can usually be found in fresh or brackish water and can measure up to 32 cm long. They feed mostly on insects, so they spend most of their time swimming at the surface. Despite their name, four eyed fish have only two eyes. However, these eyes are divided by a band of tissue and each half of the eye has a pupil of its own. This bizarre adaptation allows the four eyed fish to see perfectly (and at the same time) both above and below the waterline, scanning for both prey and predators.

The upper half of the eyeball is adapted to vision in air, while the lower half is adapted to underwater vision. Although both halves of the eye use the same lens, the thickness and curve of the lens is different in the upper and lower eye halves, thus correcting for the different behavior of light in air and water. This means that when the four eyed fish is completely submerged, the upper halves of the eyes are out of focus. Fortunately, the fish spends almost its entire life on the surface, and it only has to dive completely once in a while to prevent the upper halves of the eyes from dehydrating.

#4 Stalk Eyed Fly


These small but spectacular creatures are mostly found in the jungles of South East Asia and Africa, with a few species also found in Europe and North America. They get their name from the long projections from the sides of the head with the eyes and antennae at the end. Male flies usually have much longer stalks than females.

Male stalk eyed flies also have the extraordinary ability to enlarge their eyestalks by ingesting air through their mouth and pumping it through ducts in the head to the eye-stalks. Here’s an amazing video of the male stalk eyed fly, newly emerged from its cocoon, actively enlarging his eyestalks.


#3 Spookfish


The spookfish is a deep water, ghostly-looking fish that has some of the most bizarre eye structures known to science; each eye has a lateral swelling called a diverticulum, separated from the main eye by a septum. While the main part of the eye has a lens and functions in a similar way to other animal eyes, the diverticulum has a curved, composite mirror composed of many layers of what seem to be guanine crystals. This “mirror” is superior at gathering light than the normal eye; the diverticulum reflects light and focuses it onto the retina allowing the fish to see both up and down at the same time.

The spookfish is the only vertebrate known to use a mirror eye structure to see, as well as the usual lens. Spookfish are found worldwide but are rare to see, since they spend most of their lives at a depth of 1000-2000 meters. They feed on small crustaceans and plankton, and measure about 18 cm in length.


#2 Ogre Faced Spider


Spiders are popularly known for having many eyes (although this varies greatly among the different species, with some having two, four, six or eight eyes). At first glance, the Ogre-faced spider appears to have only two eyes, however, it actually has six! This is an adaptation for a nocturnal lifestyle; ogre faced spiders have superb night vision not only because of their huge eyes, but because of an extremely light sensitive layer of cells covering them.

This membrane is so sensitive in fact, that it is destroyed at dawn and a new one is produced every night. Ogre faced spiders are unusual because they can see perfectly at night even though they lack tapetum lucidum, a reflective membrane that helps others spiders (and other predators such as cats) to see in low light conditions. As a matter of fact, scientists believe that ogre faced spiders have better night vision than cats, sharks, or even owls.

#1 Mantis Shrimp

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 And finally, we get to the animal with the weirdest and most amazing eyes in the world. The mantis shrimp is not actually a shrimp, but a different kind of crustacean from the Stomatopoda order. Known for its aggressiveness and formidable weaponry (they have an extremely sharp and powerful claw) mantis shrimp are voracious predators found mostly in tropical waters.

Their eyes are compound, like those of the dragonfly, although they have a far smaller number of ommatidia (about 10.000 per eye); however, in the mantis shrimp each ommatidia row has a particular function. For example, some of them are used to detect light, others to detect color, etc.

Mantis shrimp have much better color vision than humans (their eyes having 12 types of color receptors, whereas humans have only three), as well as ultraviolet, infrared and polarized light vision, thus having the most complex eyesight of any animal known. The eyes are located at the end of stalks, and can be moved independently from each other, rotating up to 70 degrees. Interestingly, the visual information is processed by the eyes themselves, not the brain.

Even more bizarre; each of the mantis shrimp’s eyes is divided in three sections allowing the creature to see objects with three different parts of the same eye. In other words, each eye has “trinocular vision” and complete depth perception. Scientists are only starting to understand the mysteries of Stomatopod vision. We can only imagine what the world really looks like to a mantis shrimp.

To say that animals come in all shapes and sizes can be an understatement. The animal kingdom is full of fascinating eyes that give a glimpse of the wonders of nature. You can find more amazing animal eyes by checking out these sites:

Eye Say: How The Animal Kingdom Views The World

Top Five Animals With Stunning Eyes