March E-News: Einstein’s Life Lessons

Albert Einstein has long been considered a genius by the masses. He was a theoretical physicist, philosopher, author, and is perhaps the most influential scientists to ever live. 

Einstein has made great contributions to the scientific world, including the theory of relativity, the founding of relativistic cosmology, the prediction of the deflection of light by gravity, the quantum theory of atomic motion in solids, the zero-point energy concept, and the quantum theory of a monatomic gas which predicted Bose–Einstein condensation, to name a few of his scientific contributions.

Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” He’s published more than 300 scientific works and over 150 non-scientific works. Einstein is considered the father of modern physics and is probably the most successful scientist there ever was.

But, you don’t have to be a physicist or an elite research scientist to take away from what Einstein had to offer. We don’t tap often enough into the words of wisdom Einstein shared with the world. From the simply stated to the profoundly put, there’s a lot we can take away from Einstein’s words.

Everyday brings a new opportunity to put his teachings to good use in our personal lives. In celebration of Albert Einstein’s birthday, we bring you 5 Amazing Lessons You Can Learn from Albert Einstein! 

March E-News: Science on the Brain!

The Brain is an amazing piece of hardware. It is like a supercomputer that can solve problems, receive and respond to messages, create stories, and play video games. Can you believe that your brain along with the nervous system does all that, and more? It is so much more than a computer.

Your brain does the thinking. The approximate amount of thoughts the brain processes a day is 70,000 thoughts. It sends important messages through your nervous system. You don’t even have to think of things yourself. Your brain does it for you. For example, it tells you to breathe, do you ever think about breathing? Even while you are sleeping, it gives your body the signal to keep breathing. It tells your legs to walk to get to the kitchen because the microwave is beeping and you need to get your popcorn, or maybe run with the football instead of being tackled.

Ever wonder why you feel out of control with emotion? That is because your brain controls feelings. Like when you feel happy or sad, love or anger, including fear. These are all signals from your brain. Think about it. Do you have to think before you want to be happy or sad? No, when an event or situation occurs your brain says good or bad. It tells you to smile or cry.


The brain is made of about 100 billion nerve cells. To put this in perspective, you have the same amount of nerve cells in your brain as the galaxy stars! Our brain looks similar to a blob of grayish-pink jelly with a wrinkly surface, divided into sections. Blood vessels carry oxygen and nutritive substances to the brain cells and also remove waste.

The skull is the bone that protects the brain. There is also, tissue-like skin and liquid that is a barrier between the brain and skull. When you’re born your brain only weights 3/4 of a pound and will grow to be about 3 pounds by the time you reach adulthood.  Albert Einstein’s brain actually weighed less than the average brain, weighting in at 2.71 pounds. Knowing that, you might just wish your brain was smaller!

Did you know that when a woman is pregnant, the baby’s brain is growing so quickly at one stage, the tiny brain is producing a quarter of a million new baby neurons every minute! That is why an expectant mother gets so tired. 


Our amazing brain is divided into three major parts. They are called the cerebrum, the cerebellum, and last but not least, the brain stem. The larger portion is the cerebrum. In back, beneath the cerebrum sits the cerebellum. And the brain stem is attached to the spinal cord at the bottom back part of the brain.

Now you need to know that the cerebrum and the cerebellum are sectioned into two parts. They are what we refer to as the right brain and the left brain. Can you guess which side controls which side of your body? Well, as they say opposites attract. The right side of your brain works for the left side of the body and the left side of the brain works for the right side of the body. The nerves cross over from the right and left side of the body and cross again as they reach the brain.

And did you know that the left side of your brain has 186 additional neurons than the right side of your brain? I don’t know about you but I’m feeling a little lopsided.


The cerebrum is the biggest portion of the brain. The cerebrum deciphers troubles and composes your needs. It’s kind of like a Genie in a bottle that grants wishes! 

This is where all the thinking takes place. The language you speak and the expression of emotions all come from your cerebrum. Especially from your cerebral cortex that is on the outside of your cerebrum. Here are a few facts about the cerebral cortex:

  • If you were to stretch the cerebral cortex out it measures 2 and 1/2 square feet. That is the equivalent to the area of your average night stand. Think about that when you roll over in bed tonight!
  • 85% of the brain is comprised of the cerebral cortex. If you want a little more detail about the cerebral cortex, the percentage of the actual volume is in the frontal lobe at 41%, the temporal lobe at 22%, the parietal lobe at 19%, and the occipital lobe at 18%.

Back to the cerebrum, this is the indicator of the senses. Signals are carried via the nerves. These signals are what allow you the ability to smell, taste, and feel. All, this from the cerebrum! Now, wave your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care. Your cerebrum did that.


Cerebellum’s the name and balance is its game.

Your body movements are synchronized and harmonized by the cerebellum. It takes a cerebellum to hit a home run. Your cerebrum will tell your hands and arms to move, but your cerebellum will coordinate for precision in order for you to drive it out of the yard. Yea!

Here’s a fun fact: The cerebellum makes up only 10% of the brain, but holds up to half the neurons in the entire brain.


While you’re doing all the things you think are important, your brain stem is at work keeping you alive and doing the things you don’t even think about. Do you even think about it when touching something excruciatingly hot? Most likely, no. You innately pull back without even thinking.

Most importantly the brain stem keeps the heart pumping, the lungs breathing, and eyes blinking so you can worry about other things. Like whether you remembered to bring your lunch today.


You know the system that your brain, nerves, and spinal cord run through to reach your entire body. It carries messages and signals to all your organs and muscles. If it didn’t you would be something of a mess. All your nerves are packaged and make up the 17 inches of the spinal cord that travels down our back. These nerves are coordinated throughout the body to the different areas that need to receive important messages. Like which hand you use to write with. Of course, your spinal cord has protection. The backbone always has its back. Get it? Back.


Your brain uses 20 percent of your entire body’s energy, even though it is only 2 percent of your body weight. That explains why I get more tired solving a difficult math problem than playing a good game of basketball.

If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. Studies show that by stimulating your mind daily, your brain will strengthen and grow to meet new challenges. Maintaining a strong brain will prevent some types of mental illnesses.  So, give your brain a daily workout. There are a lot of brain teasers or brain games that you can play to upkeep your thinker. Boosting your thought processing, memory, and reasoning skills will keep you in shape for the long haul.

The brain shrinks 0.25% in mass each year following the age of 30. Bet those brain exercises look good right about now.

The brain is a vital part of your body. Its function reflects in your life and the lives of others. Maintain a healthy brain to have knowledge and share knowledge. It is important to be aware and care. Brain is power!

March 10th – 16th marks the 2013 National Brain Awareness Week. Each year, the global scientific community comes together to recognize and celebrate the behind-the-scenes efforts to learn, research, discover, map & further understand the human brain & it’s functions. The world-wide brain buzz celebration brings neuroscience into the spotlight & continues to inspire the next generation of scientists. We encourage you to take advantage of this celebration & use the week to learn about more than the basic brain functions but discover how remarkable the human brain really is!

Get Thinking with these Great Resources! 

The Dana Foundation: The Official Home of National Brain Awareness Week! 

National Geographic: Your Amazing Brain! Learn About your Incredible Brain! 

10 Amazing Tricks to Play on Your Brain

Society for Neuroscience: Awesome Tools & Resources to Get Inside Your Head! 

Sweeten Up Your Valentine’s Day with FUN Science!

Today, we’re celebrating the holiday of love with a  “hearty” dose of FUN science! Get ready to take a walk on the sweet side & discover if you’ve got the beat!

Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the post to find FUN  Valentine’s Day At-Home Science Experiments!

As always, We’d LOVE to hear how you spent your Valentine’s Day with Science! Click here to email us pictures & more!

To millions of American’s, Valentine’s Day means chocolate hearts, flowers & heart balloons, conversation hearts & even, heart cards. Matters of the heart have baffled humans since the dawn of time, with sonnets & entire books devoted to the meaning of love. But what about our actual hearts?

As we prepare to be immersed in heart-shaped imagery in the coming weeks, we wanted to investigate the mysteries of that vital organ that makes us tick – the human heart! It’s a fact that you can’t live or love without it & this month, we’re getting to the heart of the matter. Prepare to be amazed as we uncover some fascinating facts about our personal pumping machine! 


Who says the kids at MIT only learn about quarks, electrons, and semiconductors? Turns out that for the past 6 years, a popular club at the prestigious school has celebrated the science of chocolate! 

In the spirit of the upcoming holiday, Valentine’s Day, we’re taking a walk on the sweet-side of science to find some decadent facts straight from MIT’s Laboratory for Chocolate Science.  Plus – check out the end for a delicious how-to video from the MIT Scientists with all you need to know for tea-infused chocolate truffles!


Power of the Pulse! 

The heart. It’s amazing! Our heart is the key organ of our lives, pumping oxygen-rich blood to every part of our body. The rhythmic throbbing of your heart is called your pulse. Get Pumped as you explore the incredible power of the pulse & what makes us tick with this FUN at home experiment!

Click Here to Get Started & Download the How-To Guide!

Pumping Heart Model

The heart has long been the symbol of poetic love and a widely used symbol on Valentine’s Day. Our blood picks up the oxygen from our lungs. Our blood carries the oxygen all through our bodies and picks up the CO2 that we won’t use. Then it’s released from our blood into our lungs for us to breathe out.

Our heart is a huge muscle that pumps our blood all through our bodies. This model shows how the heart muscle can pump blood.You can make this model of a heart with your child to demonstrate how blood is pumped around the body. Why does our blood only pump in one direction? (answer: the valves close off and do not allow the blood back into the chamber it just came from.) You can see how to make a model heart here:

Dancing Hearts

Good ‘ol baking soda and vinegar! These two substances react to form Carbon Dioxide. A solid (Baking Soda, or Sodium Bicarbonate) and a liquid (Vinegar, or Acetic Acid) react to form a gas!

Fill a tall, clear glass half full of water. Let your child drop in 2 or 3 little candy valentine hearts (conversation hearts). Observe the hearts. Now stir in a Tb of Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate). Observe the hearts. Do you see any bubbles forming along the edges? Pour in a little Vinegar (acetic acid). Observe the hearts. Do you see any bubbles forming along the edges? Wait for a moment and you will see the bubbles form along the edges of the hearts…so many bubbles that they buoy up the heart so that it rises to the top of the water. The hearts will rise and fall. Why do the hearts fall? Why do they rise again?

Love Potion

Another round of Baking Soda and Vinegar to create a Carbon Dioxide explosion! You’ve probably all done this reaction at home, but put this Valentine’s Day twist on it for a lot of chemistry fun!

Pour a Tb of Baking Soda (Love Powder) into a tall, clear glass. We used a vinaigrette cruet because it looked more like a potion bottle. Drop in 2 drops of red food coloring. Have your child drop in one or two valentine candies (just for fun- they don’t effect the reaction). Now pour a tiny bit of vinegar (Valentine’s Day juice) into the bottle and swirl it all around quickly. Watch the liquid turn red and dissolve the solid baking soda. It will bubble slightly. Now pour a bit more vinegar into the bottle and observe the power of the Love Potion! Be sure to do this fun little experiment over the sink. 

Find even more science experiments that are perfect for Valentine’s Day! You can perform a color change reaction, make a chemical “beating heart”, prepare a special Valentine gift, and more!

The Science of Hurricane Sandy

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Over the past few days, the East Coast has been battered by Sandy, a storm that is already breaking records. The damage has yet to be fully tallied, but, given the extensive damage to New York City alone, will likely be in the billions.

One question many are asking is how Sandy happened.  After all, by the time it made landfall in New Jersey, the stormdidn’t even qualify as a hurricane. Throughout its trip up the coastline, the storm was only a Category One hurricane, the weakest on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which NOAA uses to rank a storm’s strength and potential for damage. For comparison, Katrina struck New Orleans as aCategory Three, and Andrew hit Miami as a Category Five.

Sandy, however, was not an ordinary Category One storm. Sandy’s unusual strength up the coast was due to a combination of factors: As it traveled north, Sandy was energized by a low-pressure stream, which carried the storm even farther; a pressure-blocking system over Greenland pushed it westward into the U.S. instead of letting it drift back into the ocean.

While Sandy was the result of several weather phenomena aligning, it is likely that we can expect more storms as the climate begins to change more quickly. Although hurricanes hit New York as early as 1821, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo perhaps put it most concisely when he remarked that larger storms appear to be a “new reality.” It’s a prime time for scientists and engineers to come forward and come together to develop systems to help us become more prepared for future storms.

Celebrate Your Pancakes with a Side of Science!

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Happy National Pancake Day! A meal that is so amazingly simple to put together with a little flour, an egg, some milk, a small amount oil and sugar, and a few pinches of baking powder and salt . Behind the simplicity of America’s favorite breakfast meal lies an incredible, scientific transformation. That’s right folks, each day millions of people across the globe start their day with a little science! 


Have you ever wondered where the bubbles in your pancakes come from? These incredible little bubbles are what bring the words “fluffy” and “pancake” together as they were meant to be! In celebration of this most delicious holiday, we were curious to investigate what is going on behind this marvelous mixture &  discover the scientific purpose behind the various ingredients of the incredible, edible pancake! 

Pancakes, like every other  recipe, hides a story of chemical reactions that create new flavors and textures. With pancakes, the chemical reaction is between a leavening agent – such as baking soda & baking powder – & an acidic ingredient – such as buttermilk – producing tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. These bubble form throughout the pancake, and are trapped as the batter cooks and solidifies. So instead of a leaden disk, you get a light and fluffy pancake honeycombed with tiny air pockets. The more of these leavening agents you add to a mixture, the more carbon dioxide will be produced, and the more bubbles will form. These pancakes have both ingredients, and are therefore especially fluffy.

Once you have your tiny pockets of air bubbles, then comes the most complex and interesting part of the process. This is the Maillard Reaction, and it’s the step that gives pancakes their aroma, and that gorgeous golden brown color. When you raise the heat on your pancake mix, the amino acids that make up the proteins begin to chemically bond with carbon and oxygen atoms from sugars. The end result is a complex brew of hundreds of different aromatic flavor inducing molecules, that give your food a distinctive and rich palette of flavors.

The Maillard reaction is behind the bold flavor of roasted coffee, the malty flavor of certain beers and malt whiskey, that brown crust on a perfectly cooked steak, the nutty notes of maple syrup, or the delightful aroma of freshly baked bread. What’s more, the Maillard Reaction works best in an alkaline environment (i.e. a less acidic one). So the secret to getting that golden brown color is to add more baking soda. Once you’ve added enough to neutralize the acidity of the buttermilk, anything left over will add to the browning.

And there you have it, science being put to use to answer one of the big questions in life: what’s for breakfast?  

Here’s a brief run-down of the FUN science behind each ingredient of our favorite breakfast heavyweight! 

Functions of the ingredients: 

– Flour – needed for structure. When mixed with liquid, the starch gelatinizes and the proteins form gluten, both of which give structure
– Liquid – needed for structure, as mentioned above, and also important for dissolving sugar and baking powder
– Eggs – when cooked, the proteins coagulate to give structure
– Fat – acts as a tenderizer by preventing too much gluten from forming
– Sugar – also acts as a tenderizer, and contributes to flavour and colour through caramelization
– Baking powder – when mixed with liquid, it leavens the batter by producing carbon dioxide (CO2)

How to make awesome pancakes:

– Don’t overstir – Overstirring can cause the batter to lose too much of the CO2 that is formed, which will make them soggy and dense!
– You want a lumpy batter – If you overstir, too much gluten will form, which will make your pancakes too tough.
– Cook them right away – If you let them sit, the batter can lose CO2
– Don’t set the temperature too low – If they cook too slowly, they lose too much CO2
– Don’t set the temperature too high – Otherwise you might burn the pancakes before they are done cooking or cause uneven browning
– When to flip? – flip when the edges start becoming dry and bubbles form at the surface of the pancake
– How many times to flip? – pancakes are best if you only flip them once!

For more information on how pancakes work, check out this article from Serious Eats.

Discover more FUN science with these great resources! 

I also enjoyed this post by Carolyn Tepolt, a Biology PhD student at Stanford who blogs about food science.

And this post by sprinklefingers is quite interesting and has some helpful tips.