December E-News: 10 Holiday Gifts for the Science Lover!

As a kid, I remember how cool science toys & scientific discovery kits were. From mixing gooey concoctions to assembling dinosaur skeletons – these holiday gifts provided endless hours of fun & were always special. They allowed me to step into the shoes of a ‘mad scientist’ & discover how the world around me worked, one test tube at a time. The gift of science can inspire & awaken that sense of wonder for a new generation of curious kids – kids that are waiting to discover how awesome science can be!

This year, skip the usual suspects. No more socks, over-hyped toys or argyle sweaters masquerading as thoughtful gifts.  Instead, hit the holiday equivalent of a bases-loaded home run by putting a bow on the wonder of scientific discovery. Rather than a fake smile and rehearsed “thank you,” you’ll be greeted with chemical reactions that result in fake snow, “crime scene” investigations that lift stray fingerprints, and other incredible science experiments. This has all the makings of a merry season, doesn’t it?

This year, go above & beyond to give a gift that will be meaningful & memorable for that special science lover in your life. Just in time for the upcoming holiday season, we’re giving you our list of the coolest science gifts for 2012. Find fun, clever ideas that can take your holiday to an entire new level! Our Sizzlin’ Science Holiday Gift Guide features new twists on classic science concepts as well as some innovative and really fun completely new additions.

Our scientists know how to have serious FUN! So, get those chestnuts roasting on that Bunsen burner, pour a beaker full of eggnog & let us point you towards that perfect gift for the science lover in your life!

Worx Fire Truck


Ideal for: Curious kids. Toys in the Worx line – a car, firetruck and chopper – have translucent plastic bodies. When your child (6 and up) reads the accompanying interactive storybook about any of the 20 or so parts that make the real vehicle function, he or she can press the Worx touch pad – which makes that specific toy part glow and “work.” The Speedster car is $29.99, but splurge on the Torch firetruck ($59.99), which is also self-propelled. – $59.99 at

The Amazing Squishy Brain


Ideal for: Aspiring neurosurgeons. You can build a thoughtful head, then take it apart – repeatedly – from 24 anatomically correct pieces that include an eight-piece skull, an equal number of squishy brain portions, squishy eyeballs, vertebrae and spinal cord. Mini-tools include forceps, scalpel and tweezers. (See a video of kids assembling one, at It comes with a book appropriately titled “Heads Up.” – $27.99 at

Multicolored Glass Galileo Thermometer


Ideal for: Desk-bound dreamers; home décor. In the early 1600s, the thermoscope – an ancestor of the thermometer – was invented, based on Galileo’s observation that a liquid’s density changes in proportion to its temperature. Small, sealed and marked glass bulbs, filled with liquid, rise or fall in a larger transparent cylinder of clear liquid; the lowest floating sphere indicates the temperature. Models from Edmund Scientific range in size from 12 inches (shown here) to 22 inches. The bulbs – calibrated in four-degree increments – are filled with liquids of different colors, making it a desktop eye-catcher. – $13.95-$49.95 at

Cybug Solar Fly 2


Ideal for: Anyone 12 and older with twin interests in robots and solar power. Can you borrow a soldering iron? That and some basic tools are all that’s required to assemble this solar-powered robot that’s shaped like a housefly. While it doesn’t fly, its infrared eyes detect light and make the insect creep toward the light source. (You could use lamps and flashlights to set up an obstacle course for it!). The fly also can draw power through its antennae when it “eats” at “feeding stations” you can build (instructions included). – $49.95 at

‘The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science’


Ideal for: Laboratory lovers. Science can be a chaotic process. What better way to demonstrate that fact than with this collection of 64 experiments designed to cause a little manageable mischief? Build rockets, create homemade lightning or trigger a soda geyser – and learn about a few underlying science principles along the way. – $12.95 at

Fireworks Lightshow in My Room


Ideal for: Insomniacs, ages 6 to 97. This hand-held device projects images of fireworks onto walls or ceilings and also plays booming sound effects. There are different light shows on a disc you can rotate; pick the projection you want. – $39.95 at

littleBits Starter Kit



Ideal for: Anyone ages 8 & up that has a spark for learning about electricity & how things ‘work’. Designed by M.I.T. Media Lab alum Ayah Bdeir, littleBits are tiny circuit boards that snap together with magnets. The kit comes with a battery pack, LED lights, a pressure sensor, a dimmer and other components.  Just connect and play. Color coded modules (power, input, output, and wire) magnetically stick together to make larger circuits. – $104.95 at

Connor’s Kits for Kids: Polymer Power


Ideal for: The DIY junior chemist. You can buy off-the-shelf “slime” anywhere, but what if you’re looking for something a little more custom? Among other science kits from this Chapel Hill company, Polymer Power allows budding scientists to make their own squishy creations; run it through the “Slimer-izer” to change the consistency to whatever they like. – $19.95 at

GeoSafari Pocket Scope


Ideal for: The 8- to 13-year-old explorer. From the tiny bugs on the ground to their predators perched high up in the trees, get a better view of the natural world with this combination microscope and telescope. The retractable device fits in your pocket, so you can see things eight times farther and 30 times larger anywhere you go. – $12.99 at

Big Bucket of Science!


Ideal for: EVERYONE! You just can’t go wrong with a bucket chock full of scientific marvels — especially if you’re offering it as a gift. Steve Spangler’s Big Bucket of Science is filled with 18 test tubes containing some of the most popular science class experiments! The Big Bucket of Science features favorites like Insta-Snow, Energy Beads, and Magic Sand that teach scientific principles like polymers, hydrophobic materials, and UV-sensitivity. – $49.99 at

Explore Other Science Gift Ideas

You can explore the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, NASA , and more for that unique Christmas present this year.

ThinkGeek – Selling geek t-shirts, mugs, ties, high caffeine products, and many other gifts for programmers, linux hackers, and open source geeks.

Discovery Gifts | Educational Gifts – Discovery Channel Store – Find educational gifts for everyone on your list. Shop the official Discovery Store for exclusive Discovery toys, gifts by price and Discovery staff picks!

National Geographic Gifts – Shop National Geographic for creative gifts for women, men and kids, or create the perfect personalized or custom gift for anyone on your list.

Young Explorers – Educational Toys for Little Explorers

Kennedy Space Center Official Gift Shop : The Space Shop at NASA – Kennedy Space Center Official Gift Shop : The Space Shop at NASA

December E-News: Make it a Hands-On Holiday with FUN Science!

Holiday gifts are the perfect way to incorporate science into our holiday traditions. Opening a gift that has been hand crafted from science can spark that natural curiosity and open the door to valuable ideas, skills and potential hobbies.

Science is a part of our daily life; everything we do and deal with has since. From cooking to playing ball; growing a garden to watching snow fall – understanding science can help us appreciate and relate to the world around us. No matter the age, the gift of science can fuel curiosity, ignite inspiration, and motivate our lives in so many ways.

Holiday gifts are the perfect way to incorporate science into our holiday traditions. Opening a gift that has been hand crafted from science can spark that natural curiosity and open the door to valuable ideas, skills and potential hobbies.  

It’s been said that the best gifts are those we make ourselves. Whether you’re motivated by a skimpy budget or desire to create one-of-a-kind gifts for those on your Christmas list, you’ll find something for everyone. Along the way, you may even learn a thing or two!

1. Holiday Air Fresheners:

This simple project illustrates how polymers can cause a scent to permeate the air for weeks. Custom scents, colors, and jars allow you to personalize air fresheners for different people. 

Read entire project > >

2. Pine Cone Fire Starters:

Fill a basket with pine cones which have been treated to produce colored flames. Add a festive bow. Seriously, what gift could be better than colored fire?

Read entire project > >

3. Crystal Holiday Ornaments:

These are great for making many types of holiday decorations. You can either make a set of crystal snowflakes as gifts or to attach to gifts as decorations. The snowflakes can last for years & make for a great yearly tradition for families. Short on time? Simply package the ingredients & instructions, wrap in a festive bow & give as a DIY grow your own crystal basket.  

Read the entire project > >

4. Relaxing Bath Salts:

Few things are as relaxing as a hot bath on a cold day. Up the comfort factor with homemade bath salts. Try baby soda bottles for packaging single-serve bath salts and amber bottles for larger quantities. 

Read entire project > >

5. Fizzy Bath Bombs:

Much like bath salts, bath bombs can foster a luxurious feeling in the tub. These bombs cause a chemical reaction which results in bubbles and fizz. Pack them in a wide-mouthed glass jar circled with ribbon or in a tissue-lined box. 

Read entire project > >

6. Hand-Churned Butter:

Learn about emulsions while churning out an edible gift for someone on your list. If you’re extra handy around the kitchen, bake a batch of bread or muffins to accompany the butter. 

Read entire project > >

7. Play Dough Footprint Keepsakes:

These little footprints or hand prints make the perfect keepsake for all of the moms & dads out there. Even better, they are super easy & super cheap to make!

Get the play dough recipe here & the full project directions here.  

8. Lip Balm:

Protect your pout against the elements with handmade lip balm. Handy with your design software? Then create custom labels to adorn the container. Check out your local dollar store for unique containers / vials to put your lip balm into.

Read entire project > >

9. Homemade Paper:

Put old newspapers, laundry lint and junk mail to use with this project! The homemade paper is great for Christmas cards or group it with envelopes and a pretty pen for a gift set. 

Read entire project > >

10. Luscious Hand Cream:

No need to go out & buy expensive hand creams & lotions when you have the power of science! Get project details & recipes for many types of hand creams that you can make at home. You can even print off your very own custom label! 

Read entire project > >

What’s your favorite DIY gift this season? Let us know how you are using science during this holiday & we could feature you in an upcoming blog post!

Email us at or find your local HTHT location on Facebook! 

I Didn’t Know I Could Recycle That! Today is America Recycles Day!

Image Source:

“I see the chasing arrows, but I just don’t know what to do with my (insert product here).”

It’s a common dilemma, especially for those items that don’t operate under a clear-cut recycling plan, such as plastic bottles. Tack on a “hazardous” label and disposal laws, and you’ve got yourself a recycling conundrum! 

Check out our list of the most shocking recyclable items that can be found in almost every home in America. As an added bonus, we’ve thrown in a couple oddities for your entertainment! Get ready to celebrate as this list is sure to spark your excitement for today’s holiday – America Recycles Day! 

Since 1997, communities across the country have come together on November 15th to celebrate America Recycles Day. Today is the day to educate and motivate. Today is the one day to get our neighbors, friends and community leaders excited about what can be accomplished when we all work together. One day to make recycling bigger and better 365 days a year. Today, we challenge you to get involved in a local ARD event. Together, we can make recycling bigger and better in 2012! 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – I Didn’t Know I Could Recycle That!

Comment to let us know how you celebrated America Recycles Day! Get more fun articles like this from our November E-News! 

Watching the Solar Phenomenon: The Science of a Solar Eclipse!

Image Source:

A total solar eclipse occurred over the northeastern Australian coast early in the morning of November 14  (yesterday afternoon for the United States & last night for those in Europe). Clueless about this spectacular astronomical event? No worries, we’ve got you covered. We’re here to explain what causes this remarkable act of nature, what sky-gazers see and how those outside of Australia can join in the experience. 

What exactly is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when the moon, as it orbits Earth, passes directly in front of the sun, obscuring its rays and casting a shadow on Earth’s surface. Sometimes referred to as a “happy accident of nature,” a total solar eclipse occurs when the moon is perfectly aligned with both the sun and Earth, so it appears from our perspective that the sun is completely blocked. 

When is this happening and who can see it?

A rare, complete solar eclipse dominated the northern Australian skyline on Wednesday, shrouding part of the country in complete darkness. It was the first such eclipse in Australia in 10 years and the last one expected until 2028. And the moment was almost ruined, as dark clouds hovered over the horizon in the days leading up to the eclipse. 

It estimated to take about three hours for the moon’s shadow to travel the entire path of totality. A total eclipse of the sun can only be seen from within what’s known as the path of totality, a narrow path the moon’s inner shadow travels as it glides across the Earth. The most populated areas within that path are in the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region. What time total darkness occurred, and how long it lasted, depended on location.  Totality of the 95-mile shadow began just after dawn and lasted for about two minutes, with a partial eclipse being visible from as far away as east Indonesia and southern parts of Chile. 

In Australia, the eclipse brought out fleets of spectators seeking unique vantage points, with an estimated 40 hot-air balloons filling the sky and a flotilla of cruise ships, sailboats and yachts staking out viewing points near the Great Barrier Reef, according to An estimated 50,000 spectators were reported to have traveled to Australia to view the eclipse, according to estimates, with hotels saying they had been booking reservations for more than three years.

What’s all the fuss about? Don’t these happen frequently?

According to NASA, a full solar eclipse happens, on average, every 18 months. The last one happened in July 2010, crossing Chile’s Easter Island, and one will occur over equatorial Africa in November 2014. But for any given region, a total solar eclipse only happens, on average, once every 375 years. 

Solar eclipses were shrouded in superstition in ancient times — in China, for example, viewing total solar eclipses was important for divining the future success of an emperor. However, as scientific knowledge deepened, these events became opportunities for conducting important experiments. It was during a total solar eclipse in 1919 that Einstein’s theory of general relativity was tested and confirmed for the first time.

A solar eclipse is often described as one of nature’s most awe-inspiring events. Some people are so moved by the experience of watching an eclipse that they travel around the world chasing them.

What’s it like to experience a solar eclipse and what do you see?

About an hour leading up to totality, all sorts of things begin to happen. There are changes in the color of the sky, the temperature drops, birds and animals behave in a peculiar manner and shadows sharpen, according to Rick Brown, an eclipse chaser from New York who is viewing his 14th total solar eclipse. “I never really expected to be moved the way I was. It’s a phenomenal thing to see,” he said, recalling his first experience. 

As the moon’s shadow sweeps across the Earth, the sun turns into a crescent in the sky. Just before totality, so-called Baily’s beads — bright spots of sunlight shining through the moon’s craggy surface — can appear around the moon. Then the moon completely blots out the sun, leaving only a halo of light visible. After the brief period of darkness, Baily’s beads might appear again as the sun comes back into view.

I missed it. Where can I see this eclipse?

You can watch the video in a time-lapsed format on several sites across the web. Check out this video of the entire eclipse event. 

On Twitter, there was a tweet-up devoted to the event and you can always get first-hand accounts of the event on iReport, where we asked people to share their solar eclipse photos and experiences.

Do I need special glasses to watch a solar eclipse? 

Yes! Permanent eye damage can occur if you look directly at the sun. That means when viewing any partial phase of a total eclipse, you need to wear proper solar eclipse glasses. Regular sunglasses won’t offer enough protection, and forget about using telescopes or binoculars unless you’ve attached special filters to them. Only during totality can you remove filters and glasses. If you’re feeling crafty, you can create your own pinhole projector.

Want to learn more about the solar eclipse? has an entire website dedicated to the solar eclipse phenomenon.