## Leap Year Day 2016

In case you have not heard, today is Leap Year Day! Almost every 4 years we get the chance to celebrate this day! Why do you ask? It takes some understanding of our solar system and time to figure out why a leap day exists.

The way we measure time on Earth is a bit complicated. Years are measured by the length of time it takes our planet to orbit the sun. We call this a “solar”  year.  The precise measure of a solar year is 365.24219 days. Those numbers at the end of the decimal point add up. Without any sort of adjustment for the extra quarter of a day, seasons as we know them would eventually become very different. Winter would feel like summer and Summer would feel like Winter!

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian calendar and introduced the century rule.

“If a leap year falls on a century, a year ending in double zeroes, you only add a leap day if it’s divisible by 400,” physicist Judah Levine, a man the Washington Post once dubbed “the nation’s timekeeper” says. “For that reason 1900 wasn’t a leap year but 2000 was.”

In 2100, we’ll skip it again, forcing leap babies to wait a total of eight years to celebrate their birthday.

According to the rules set forth in the Gregorian calendar leap years have occurred or will occur during the following years:

One of the biggest debates among leap babies is which date they celebrate their birthdays during off years!  Some opt for Feb. 28, saying the last day of February is most accurate, while others insist March 1 is more correct because they were born the day following Feb. 28. Then there’s the camp that believes time of day is the determining factor—if you were born in the morning, the 28th is yours, but if you were delivered past noon, it’s the 1st.
Hope all you Leap Babies have a wonderful day today!

## The Science of Mirages

The Science of Mirages

We’ve all seen that part in the movie where the weary desert wanderer has been walking for hours and is dying of thirst. Then he happens upon a vast body of water on the horizon. He runs towards the water, it grows closer and closer, until he springs himself into the air only to land back down in the sand and no water in sight. You might think the traveler was hallucinating, but mirages are a naturally-occurring optical illusion. In cartoons, a mirage is often depicted as a peaceful, lush oasis lying in the shade of swaying palm trees, but in reality it is more likely to just look like a pool of water.

How do mirages form?

Mirages really have nothing to do with water at all. It’s really all about how light travels through air. Normally, light waves from the sun travel straight through the atmosphere to your eye. But, light travels at different speeds through hot air and cold air.

Mirages happen when the ground is very hot and the air is cool. The hot ground warms a layer of air just above the ground. When the light moves through the cold air and into the layer of hot air it is refracted (bent).

A layer of very warm air near the ground refracts the light from the sky nearly into a U-shaped bend. Our brain thinks the light has traveled in a straight line.

Our brain doesn’t see the image as bent light from the sky. Instead, our brain thinks the light must have come from something on the ground.

You can see from the image above what is going on in order for a mirage to appear. The “bent light from the sky” is refracted as it passes from cooler air into hotter air and back up to your eye. Our brains play a trick on us as it assumes that the refracted light follows a straight path. Because of this, we follow the light back to the source, which appears to be the ground. Combining all of this together, refracted light from the sky is interpreted as straight, letting us see an image of the sky on the ground.

This is why many mirages appear as blue water. We think we have stumbled on an oasis when in reality we are seeing a shimmering image of the blue sky. Since our brains don’t recognize the sky as being on the ground, we imagine the image to be shining blue water.

Where can you spot a mirage?

There’s no need to trek to the desert to see a mirage: they are very common on roadways, airport tarmacs and even on the hot sand at the beach. Mirages can be spotted anywhere where the ground can absorb a lot of heat.

The most spectacular mirages occur in wide expanses of flat land as too many hills, dips or bumps will prevent the refracted light from reaching your eyes.

Take a look at this video for more in depth information on the Science of Mirages and to see a mirage called a Fata Morgana where a city in China experienced seeing a floating city!

## National Bubble Week

National Bubble Week

National Bubble Week originated in the year 2000 as a way to celebrate the start of spring. Because bubbles are such an iconic, fun outside toy, it’s only natural to use these floating spheres to usher in the season.

Here are some fun bubble facts:

A Bubble Gets Its Color From Iridescence: As waves of light pass through the bubble, it gets distorted by reflecting off different layers of soap film.

You Can Freeze Bubbles: A bubble’s shell is composed of a layer of water molecules surrounded by two thin layers of soap. Technically, a bubble will freeze below 32 degrees Fahrenheit like all water. The only problem is that bubbles tend to burst after a few seconds, so in order to see a bubble freeze, the temperature needs to fall to a temperature that will freeze water molecules more quickly.

Why Do Bubbles Burst?: Anything that fractures the tenuous layer of water molecules can cause a bubble to burst. For example, a gust of wind or an object (like your finger) will easily cause a bubble to burst. Also, a bubble will burst if enough of the water molecules evaporate.

Many Bubbles Makes A Foam: When many bubbles are joined together, it becomes a foam.

## Smoke & Mirrors Day

Smoke & Mirrors Day

Smoke & Mirrors Day is celebrated on March 29th of each year. The source of the name is based on magicians’ illusions, where magicians make objects appear or disappear by extending or retracting mirrors amid a confusing burst of smoke. Generally, “smoke and mirrors” may refer to any sort of presentation by which the audience is intended to be deceived.

## Houdini’s Birthday

Harry Houdini’s Birthday

Born Erik Weisz in Budapest on March 24, 1874. Weisz arrived in the United States on July 3, 1878. The family changed their name to the German spelling Weiss, and Erik became Ehric. Friends called him “Ehrie” or “Harry”. When Weiss became a professional magician he began calling himself “Harry Houdini” after a French magician named Houdin.

Harry was known for his amazing escapes from  jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in sight of street audiences. But his greatest escape and most famous act was the Chinese Water Torture Cell. In the act he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full with water. The act required that he hold his breath for more than three minutes. This would be the act that Houdini performed for the rest of his career.

## World Water Day

World Water Day

March 22, 2016

This annual event focuses attention on the importance of freshwater and advocates for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. In 1993, the first World Water Day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly and since, each year focuses on a different issue pertaining to water.

How can you help?

#### Here are four easy steps to spread the ripples of change from Wateraid.org:

It’s easy to be a part of World Water Day and make a difference.

By raising funds and spreading the word, you can help us get another step closer to ensuring that everyone everywhere has access to safe, clean water by 2030.

• Step 1  Go blue! You can dress head to toe in blue, sport a Walter the water drop face mask, bake blue cakes or play the blues – be as creative as you like!
• Step 2  Challenge your friends, school or office to join you. Ask for a small donation to take part and tell your local media too.
• Step 3 – Tell the world why you are #Blue4Water and call on world leaders to keep their promise for everyone to have access to clean water and sanitation by 2030.
• Step 4  Change your profile picture to our blue wash (coming soon!), and share your photos on social media. Spread the ripples of change even further.

## St. Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration that happens annually on 17 March to mark the death date of the most commonly-recognized patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. It is also a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Newfoundland and Labrador and Montserrat. Keep reading for more facts about St. Patty’s Day.

Some common St. Patrick Day Facts

• St. Patrick’s Day has become a popular holiday in the United States. People wear green and eat corned beef and cabbage.
• It is also believed St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. However, post-glacial Ireland never actually had snakes. Many believe that the term “snakes” referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place. Today, there are no snakes to be found!
• Most people, whether they are Irish or not, wear green on this day. One of the Irish traditions is to pinch anyone who is not wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day.
• St. Patrick’s Day has become a holiday all around the world and for one day out of the year anyone can be Irish and join in the celebration.

## Valentine’s Day Science!

Valentine’s Day is this Sunday!

Join in doing some hands-on, FUN, Valentine’s Day science this weekend. Try some of these experiments below:

Conversation Heart Science:

## Experiment Supplies:

• conversation hearts or red hots
• water
• vinegar
• honey (or other sugary substance)
• salt/salt water
• microwave or freezer
• bleach

Let’s find out what happens to the conversation hearts as we added each item to them.  Draw each item on a piece of paper and predict what you think might happen.

Add 1 item at a time (salt, honey, water, vinegar, salt water, etc) or put them in the freezer or microwave and record your observations.

The water dissolved the candy after awhile. The vinegar bubbled on some of the candies at first, but not others, until eventually it all bubbled up and dissolved. Honey didn’t react and neither did microwaving or freezing.

The salt alone had no effect, but salt water did. Try and see what bleach does to the candies! With adult supervision of course!

Borax Crystal Hearts:

## Experiment Supplies:

Borax
Jars or vases
Popsicle sticks, string, tape
Pipe cleaners

To get started on your crystal hearts. Take your pipe cleaners and form them into hearts! Make sure you can get your heart in and out easily. Yes, you can push the pipe cleaner into the jar, but once it is crystalized it will be very hard to pull out! Use the popsicle stick to hold the string. Use a small piece of tape to keep it in place. You can do two in one jar but make sure they are small and have room!

For more FUN Valentine’s Day Science experiments you can do right at home, visit our Pinterest Page here!

## #WomenInSTEM

Today we are celebrating the first ever International Day of Women and Girls in Science! This day has been created by the United Nations to empower women and young girls in order to push past the perceived masculine history of STEM, and go forth into amazing scientific fields.

According to a UN study conducted across 14 countries, the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related fields are 18%, 8% and 2% respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37%, 18% and 6%. Now is the time to change those numbers!

Here at High Touch High Tech we pride ourselves with putting FUN, hands-on, science right into the hands of children across the globe!

We recently heard from Samantha Greenseid, a student that grew up having High Touch High Tech programs visit her classrooms while she was going to school.  Here is Samantha’s story:

“Ever since I can remember I have been intrigued by science. That being said, High Touch High Tech was introduced in my life when I was about four years old. I remember being a toddler at Temple Beth Am and this eccentric “Dan the Science Man” entered the multi-purpose room. His daughter, Becca, was one of my friends so I was excited to see him. But the excitement only grew when he started teaching us about the wonders of science. Digging for fossils, making the infamous baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, and many more experiments were my first memories of science, and it all started with High Touch High Tech!

Fast forward about 19 years, I am now 23 years old and about to start my journey into medical school in Missouri in July 2015. A lot of other children were exposed to High Touch High Tech and obviously are not becoming scientists, doctors or nurses. My interest for science was probably deeply-rooted into my soul from the day I was born, but without having High Touch High Tech teach me so early on about the excitement for science, I don’t think I would’ve explored science so early in middle and high school and then went on to graduate with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from Florida State University. The future of science and medicine is in the hand of our youth, and that’s exactly where High Touch High Tech aims their focus. Without Dan and HTHT, who know where I would be. I know where I’m headed and it’s because of High Touch High Tech. Thank you Dan the Science Man for allowing me to pursue becoming a physician and helping others from such an early age.”

Please share your Women in Science stories with us! We’d love to hear how science has influenced your lives!