Scoop in Some FUN – July is National Ice Cream Month!

Ahhh, ice cream. A rite of summer. Whether a simple cone, a sundae or a huge banana split- ice cream is the indulgence of choice for families across America. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday as National Ice Cream Day. The President recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that’s enjoyed by 90% of the nation’s population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of theUnited States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”  

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, the evolution of ice cream began as early as the 4th century B.C. Historians have found records of Roman emperor Nero ordering ice with fruit on it. King Tang of China was the first to experiment with different methods of mixing ice & milk.  Ice cream started in China, and was then brought back to Europe and last but not least America. History books note that some of the greats to enjoy the frosty treat included Alexander the Great, Solomon, Caesar and even Marco Polo. 

Ice Cream remained a treat for the wealthy until 1851, when Jacob Fussell of Baltimore realized the best way to avoid wasting cream was to freeze the excess. Ian Harrison said in The Book of Firsts, that Fussell’s iced cream was so popular he set up a factory. On June 15, 1851 he made the first delivery of mass produced ice cream, at a third of the price of his competitors.

Ice cream is similar to hot dogs, everyone has their own accessory or add-on to make it perfect for their palate. Think about all the stuff you can buy that is made to put on your ice cream. You have ice cream cones, bowls, flavored syrups, sprinkles, nuts, caramel, marshmallows, and the list could go on and on.  

In 1896, the first ice-cream cone was made by an Italian-American named Marcioni, but the idea was not all the rage until the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Other ice cream treats were soon to follow. After an American confectioner watched a boy agonize over which treat he wanted, chocolate or vanilla ice cream, he began to experiment and launched the first Eskimo Pie when he combined the two in 1921. 

An ice-cream seller in Wisconsin always ran low of goods on Sunday, so he served smaller portions and added chocolate sauce or fruit syrup to compensate. The idea became so popular that customers began asking for the “Sunday ice cream” during the week. The Popsicle was also a mishap. An American lemonade salesman left a glass of lemonade with a spoon in it on a cold windowsill overnight. By morning the drink had frozen. When he tried removing it, he was holding the world’s first Popsicle.

The history of ice cream is closely associated with the scientific developments that took place from the 17th century on. As the fields of chemistry and refrigeration techniques expanded, so did ice cream.  One of these major discoveries was that when dissolving salts in water, it would produce a cooling effect.

Today, the U.S. ice cream industry generates more than $21 billion in annual sales and provides jobs for thousands of citizens. About 9 percent of all the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream, contributing significantly to the economic well-being of the nation’s dairy industry. Ice cream consumption is the highest during the months of July & August.  The number one flavor among U.S. consumers is vanilla, with chocolate, Neapolitan, strawberry, and cookies ‘n’ cream rounding out the top five.

There are some brands of ice cream that are just as American as ice cream itself. Have you ever met anyone who didn’t know about Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream? Blue Bunny, Hagan Daas and Hershey ice cream are huge favorites as well. Whether you prefer a store bought brand or making your own, celebrate National Ice Cream month with a bowl or a cone of your favorite flavor & scoop a little sweetness into your summer! 

Make Way For The New Energy Moo-vement!

When it comes to finding cleaner greener sources of electrical power, people across the globe are starting to think outside of the box in order to reduce carbon emissions and increase efficiency. Coal, solar, wind and hydro may be the most common sources to power your home, but there is a new energy moo-vement catching on that could be a win-win for everybody.  A dairy farm produces milk, of course, but new technology has allowed farmers to begin producing their own electricity – using that least-desirable by-product of cows: manure.  Dairy farms full of livestock are being transformed into modern day power plants. 

Cows produce a lot of manure. One cow can create an incredible 30 gallons of manure each day. Now imagine the output of the US’ 100 million cattle. That’s one big pile of cow pies.

When farmers clean their barns, they put the manure in a big heap, and spread most of it on their fields for fertilizer. But now, farmers have a new way to handle their cow manure. They use it to make electricity. Manure can be converted on site to a form of fuel called biogas. Biogas can be burned for heat, cooking, generate electricity, or it can be sold to power utility companies elsewhere.

Here’s how it works: A big pooper scooper that looks like a giant squeegee moves back and forth cleaning the barn floor. The scooper pushes the manure into a big 600-gallon concrete tank, similar to a swimming pool. The tank is called a digester because what happens there is just like what happens inside a cow: bacteria called anaerobic digesters get to work and continue to break down the manure. 

Methane gas in the atmosphere is known as a “greenhouse” gas because it traps heat just like a greenhouse does, causing our planet to warm up. That’s an environmental concern. But the digester process has a positive outcome and provides an environmental benefit. The methane gas is captured and used as a fuel to power electric generators. Capturing the methane to use for electricity prevents it from entering the atmosphere.  The product that is left after the digester is finished is a byproduct that is a nutrient rich, odor-free fertilizer that can be used for compost or even cow bedding.
Many believe this cow green energy moo-vement is the global future of fuel. Many parts of the world have started to move away from the other types of biofuels like corn ethanol and even biodiesel. Both of these fuels use a food source as a main component which has created a growing controversy, particularly with the growing food shortages that have been on the rise.

The amazing power of poo is a renewable resource that is capable of saving over 200 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year in theUSalone! Scientists have estimated that converting manure from the 100 million cows in theUnited States, would produce renewable energy equal to 8 billion gallons of gasoline, or 1% of the total energy consumption in the nation. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing what cows can do! Converting cow manure into a renewable source of fuel is one of those rare situations in which everybody and everything wins – especially the environment!   

 Learn More About Cow Power by visiting Central Vermont Public Service

The Physics Of “Brave”‘s Curly Red Mane Brings Hair-Raising Animation to Life!

The one thing you can depend on with Pixar is that they will continually up the visual ante in their film.  For their latest film, Brave, Pixar has taken on the task of taming the wild red mane of Merida, a princess in the Scottish Highlands as willful and troublesome as her head of incredible red curls.  As it turns out, Pixar had to invent a system to depict Merida’s stubborn curly hair.  Forget the beautiful balloon house from Up, Merida’s mop is Pixar’s crowning achievement. 

“I have become obsessed with curly hair.  It is truly fascinating; curly hair defies physics in the way it moves and behaves,” said Claudia Chung, the simulation supervisor who worked on Brave‘s wild mane.  ”We used 1,500 hand-placed, sculpted individual curls.  There is this weird paradox where a ‘spring’ of hair needs to remain stiff in order to hold its curl, but it also has to remain soft in its movement.”  Added Chung, “It took us almost three years to get the final look for her hair, and we spent two months working on the scene where Merida removes her hood and you see the full volume of her hair.  When I first saw the storyboards for ‘Brave,’ I drooled; I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I knew this was going to be so much fun.”

How they did it was a revolutionary new system for animating hair on film.  Dubbed a core curve and points, the computer model looks like a beaded necklace.  As Merida moves, her hair moves with her, but retains its general shape.  Her curls, a mass of individual springs of hair ranging from tight pincurls to fat wavy spirals, came from two distinct sources.  One of these sources was a curly wig the staff members took turns wearing; the other was an actually curly-haired Pixar employee, who found herself getting soaked down by the team so they could study how curly hair looks and moves wet.

More about the science of animation:

Mickey Mouse Discovered on Mercury!

Mickey Mercury or Mercury Mouse?

The space probe Messenger has traveled far closer to the sun without being destroyed than most satellites probably could.  Its purpose is to study one of the strangest planets in the solar system, the Sun’s closest neighbor Mercury.  Part planet and part comet, Mercury has been a fascinating study for NASA scientists, and Messenger has managed to take over 100,000 images of the strange planet, but no image is stranger than this.  NASA’s Messenger satellite has captured an image of Mickey Mouse on the surface of Mercury.

NASA calls the shape an ”accumulation of craters over Mercury’s long geologic history,” but I think we all know differently.  Messenger is the first spacecraft to ever orbit the planet closest to the sun, and it had to specially designed to maintain its position on Mercury given the planet’s slow rotation status and the incredible amount of heat the satellite has to endure being so close to the sun.

Celebrate The Summer Solstice!

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Summer solstice, the day with the longest amount of sunlight this year is today – Wednesday, June 20. Summer solstice is significant for scientists and religions alike, it’s a day tied to solar phenomena and community celebrations.

Carolyn Sumners, vice president of astronomy and the physical sciences at the Houston Museum of Natural Science provides a scientific explanation of summer solstice on “The earth is always tilted on its axis at 23½ degrees,” says Sumners. It orbits around the sun in that position – and in the Northern Hemisphere, when that tilt leans most toward the sun it’s the summer solstice. 

The historical significance of summer solstice goes far back. Ancient Egyptians would wait for the Nile’s flooding season beginning summer solstice, for the floods provided fertile soil for farming. The Incas began the tradition of Inti Raymi, the multiday Festival of the Sun, which is still celebrated by tourists and natives of South America every year on June 24 (around the time of summer solstice). Even the Olympic Games in Greece were specifically scheduled to commence once summer solstice ended.

Today, summer solstice is still celebrated around the world. In the UK, thousands gather at Stonehenge to witness the solstice sunrise –the moment when the sun completely aligns with the outer Heel Stone.


In the United States, a simple Google search of “summer solstice festival (state name)” will show a list of cities and towns celebrating this day with parades, festivals, music, games and athletic events.

To all of us at Coolibar, it’s a day to remind others about healthy sunny living. We, like most, love to be outdoors, and summer solstice is a day to celebrate. While the sun is extra strong, for an extra long time, remember to be SunAWARE, and keep your UPF 50 clothing, hat, sunglasses and sunscreen on hand.

Many people like to celebrate summer with a family barbecue, a trip to the beach or a long bike ride. How do you to take advantage of the longest, most sun filled day of the year?   Let us know what summer means to you  by commenting below!


Venus Transit 2012 from Super Hi-Def NASA Camera

Did you check out the Venus Transit last week? We know of a few people who headed out to try and see it. But, if you missed it, or if you just want a better view of it, check out this video, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

The observatory’s main purpose is to examine the sun’s atmosphere and the video captures images about eight times better than HDTV, according to NASA.

On June 5, it captured the transit of Venus across the face of the sun, an event that won’t happen again until 2117. The best views in the contiguous U.S. were in the west. For those of us on the east, this might be the best view we’ll get.


Don’t Miss the Rare, Once in a Lifetime Celestial Event Tomorrow – Venus Transit 2012!

Odds are we’ll all be gone the next time this dance comes around!

The planets Earth and Venus waltz in their orbits at different tempos and at different angles. But every once in a while we can see Venus’ form clearly silhouetted against the brilliance of the sun. One of those occasions comes tomorrow afternoon — and it won’t come again until 2117! 

On Tuesday, Venus will cross in front of the sun. This event will take about seven hours and begin at 6:00 pm Eastern Daylight. The next time Venus passes the sun will be in 2117, says researchers at the Kepler Mission and planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research.

NASA will broadcast through the Internet from the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Spectators in the Mid-Pacific will have a great view in particular because the sun will be high during the crossing. And in the U.S., the evening will offer the best views. Click here for the Webcast – Live Streaming Info!

This event may be more historical than scientific, but it is an astronomical event that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Learn the Important Safety Precautions for Tomorrow’s Venus Transit & More About This Incredible Celestial Event Here!

Venus Transit 2012: Global Visibility Map


The above figure, produced by Fred Espaneck for his “2012 Transit of Venus” web site, shows that the entire event will be widely visible from the western Pacific, eastern Asia, and eastern Australia.

Most of North and Central America, and northern South America will witness the beginning of the transit (on June 5) but the Sun will set before the event ends. Similarly, observers in Europe, western and central Asia, eastern Africa, and western Australia will see the end of the event since the transit will already be in progress at sunrise from those locations.