2016 will have an extra second added to the end of it…

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Sorry to tell you HTHT Followers, 2016 will have an extra second added to the end of it!

Many of our favorite celebrities and scientists have passed away, the planet is becoming warmer everyday, and now, scientists will be adding an extra second onto 2016 on New Years Eve.

As you finally count down the end of 2016, you’ll have to make it past 11:59:60, thanks to the addition of an extra ‘leap second’. The extra second in the last minute of the year, means the final minute of 2016 will last for 61 seconds. These leap seconds are added to make up for the fact that Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down, and to make sure that our precise clocks remain in sync with how long a day lasts on Earth.

“This extra second, or leap second, makes it possible to align astronomical time, which is irregular and determined by Earth’s rotation, with Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) which is extremely stable and has been determined by atomic clocks since 1967,” explained the Paris Observatory in France, which houses the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), responsible for synchronizing time.

So why do we need leap seconds at all?

The same reason that we add leap days to certain years. 2016 may have felt extra long because this year had a leap day and now a leap second!

Earth’s rotation fluctuates slightly year to year, sometimes getting longer, sometimes shorter. The spin is also influenced by geological events such as strong earthquakes, and even the freezing and melting of ice sheets. So by adding a leap day or leap seconds we can accommodate for those fluctuations caused by Earth’s rotations.

If there were no leap seconds, we would find ourselves to be 2 or 3 minutes out of sync with the position of the Sun by the year 2100.

Image Source: Pixabay.com


So if you want to ring in the New Year 2017 off at the right time….

make sure you adjust for that extra leap second!

The Winter Solstice 2016!

Winter Solstice- Image Source: Pixabay.com

Winter solstice 2016 in Northern Hemisphere was at 5:44 AM on Wednesday, December 21. 

The term solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium, meaning ‘the Sun stands still’. This is because on this day, the Sun reaches its southern-most position as seen from the Earth. The Sun seems to stand still at the Tropic of Capricorn and then reverses its direction.

During winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Earth is actually closest to the Sun. Different seasons are not defined by how far the Earth is from the Sun. Seasons occur because Earth orbits the Sun on a slant, with an axial tilt of around 23.4 degrees. Therefore different amounts of sunlight reaches the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, causing variation in temperatures and weather patterns throughout the year.

For more information check out this informative video on the summer and winter solstice:

S.T.E.A.M & Engineering with Gumdrops

S.T.E.A.M. has become a hot topic in the world of education. It is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics for guiding student inquiry, discussion, creativity, and critical thinking skills.

Today we are going to focus on the Engineering side of S.T.E.A.M. What is engineering? Basically, anything that is built must first be engineered, or in other words, planned out. An engineer is a person who designs and builds complex products, machines, systems, or structures.

Engineering combines science and mathematics to create structures and devices to solve problems.
-Need a bridge? Ask an engineer.
-Need to keep food cold? Ask an engineer.
-Need to keep your house from falling? Ask an engineer!

The engineering process involves these 5 Steps:  ABDCE: Ask/Problem, Brainstorm, Design, Create, Evaluate/Test. Encourage your junior scientists’, and teach them about the engineering process with our super-fun gumdrop challenge below.

Gumdrop Challenge
Engineering always starts with a problem to solve.  For the gumdrop challenge the problem is: how can you build a structure with just 10 gumdrops and 20 toothpicks that can hold up a textbook?

Strength in Triangles
Let’s brainstorm! What shapes are super strong?  Should your structure be skinny or have a wider base?  What will it look like – a house, a dome, a teepee?

Some shapes are stronger than others.  Triangles for instance are super stable and can be found in many bridge and house designs where extra strength is needed. Even in nature you find the triangle.  Pine trees generally have a triangle-like shape so that they don’t topple over when heavy snow falls.  You tend to find a lot of pine trees in colder climates for this reason.

What makes the triangle so strong? The triangle can hold large loads without collapsing because of its inherent structural qualities and it is the only shape that has this level of stability and rigidity. For instance, triangles have three hinged connections, while squares have four right-angle connections.  The acute angles of the hinged connections help fix the triangle’s shape, even when a force is applied, because the edges are compressing against each other providing support. When forces are applied to a square, it easily loses its shape and becomes a parallelogram because its connections lack that angled compression unique to triangles. Engineers often add a diagonal through the middle of a square, basically turning it into two triangles and making it stronger. Even hexagons have hidden triangles within their shape that add stability!

Gumdrop Design Time:
Draw out your gumdrop structure. What will it look like?  How will you incorporate triangles? Can you do it without triangles?

Many structures look like one shape but are made up of several connected triangles.

-Truss bridges are used to span greater distances than your basic beam bridge.  They tend to look like trapezoids but are made of chains of alternating triangles.

Build and Test your Structure:
The next step in the engineering process is to build your gumdrop structure.  Try a bunch of different designs:  with or without triangles, skinny and tall, squat and low, dome shaped. Try to guess which will do best!

For the final step, test your structures by placing a book on top of each one.  Which structure holds the book best?  What improvements can you make to achieve your goal?

Reflect and Rebuild:
Like any good scientist, you’ll test your structure, assess its effectiveness, and then go back to the design step to improve it! Science is all about experimenting, adjusting, and repeating your efforts until you reach your desired outcome. Plus, when you’re done you get to eat some delicious gumdrops.

Join our HTHT @ Home Science Experiment to make your own Truss Bridge:

Top 10 Trending Science Gifts for 2016!

Not sure what to get for your science lover in the family this year for Christmas? Take a look at some of these trending science toys and gifts below, they will surely be a hit!

1. Micro Magnets*:

*These are not suitable for young children!

You can purchase the MicroMagnets from Zen Magnets Here!

2. Project MC2 Ultimate Lab Kit:

For more Project MC2 gifts check out these links:

H2O Powered RC Car: https://youtu.be/1JFBHwtnogc

Ultimate Spy Bag: https://youtu.be/H0Q4xvceZ_I

A.D.I.S.N Journal: https://youtu.be/1kUaKYp_XRE

You can find these Project MC2 Kits Here!

3. Ozobot Robot:

You can Buy the Ozobot Here!

4. Makey Makey: An Invention Kit for Everyone:

You can Buy the Makey Makey here!

5. Gravity Maze:

Get Your Gravity Maze Here!

6. View Master – Virtual Reality Headset: 

Get the View Master Headset Here!

7. Crayola Color Alive Easy Animation Studio:

You Can Purchase the Crayola Easy Animator Kit Here!

8. Hot Ice Crystals: 

You can buy the Hot Ice Crystals Science Kit Here!

9. Kinetic Sand: 

Buy Kinetic Sand on Amazon.com!

10. Energy Stick: 

Buy the Steve Spangler Energy Stick Here! 

Cookie Chemistry

Cookies – it’s as easy as throwing some ingredients in the bowl and popping them in the oven right?  Sure mixing up cookies is pretty easy but the real work begins once you close the oven door. There are actually several fun chemical reactions that happen once your cookies are baking in the hot oven.  Most basic cookie recipes call for flour, butter, eggs, salt, baking soda, and white and brown sugars.  From there creativity abounds as you add flavors and mix-ins.  Each ingredient plays an important role in creating your favorite ooey gooey cookie.

Mix it up:

As you mix your cookies, flour is the most important ingredient of all because of gluten.  Gluten is a sticky, stretchy, strong protein found in wheat.  It is necessary to create structure in breads and baked goods, but it actually doesn’t exist until you start baking!

When flour becomes wet, the gluten inside of it activates via the combination of two proteins (glutenin and gliadin) and your dough becomes sticky and has more structure.  You develop the gluten by kneading your dough, which stretches the gluten and encourages it to form a network.  Bread involves a lot of kneading but cookies and other baked goods require a light hand.  You can overmix your dough and create a tough cookie!

So mix it up and pop your cookies in the oven and get ready to watch all the different reactions that happen to turn your dough in to a delicious cookie.

Heat it up:

As the dough heats up in your 375 degree oven, butter begins to melt around 92 degrees.  Butter is an emulsion, which is a mixture of two things that don’t want to stay together.  In the case of butter, those two things are fat and water.  As the butter melts, the dough ball spreads and loses its structure.  If you chill your cookies prior to baking you’ll actually have less spread.  This is ideal for holiday cut-out cookies, because the cookie bakes and forms a solid structure faster than the butter melts to a liquid.  Chilled cut-outs keep their shape whereas warmer dough yields weird amoebic shapes.

As the water pulls away from the butter emulsion it bubbles and is released from the cookie as steam.  The fat in the butter actually coats the gluten and “shortens” it by preventing it from forming longer strands.  This is simply why you don’t have super puffy, twice-their-volume cookies.

At 144 degrees the protein molecules from your egg begin to uncoil and connect to form a solid structure.  Then at 212 degrees water completely boils off and the cookie dries out leaving wonderful airy pockets.  How did those pockets get there?

Give it a Rise:

There are two ways to give your baked goods a rise:  yeast or sodium bicarbonate.  Yeast is actually a living creature that activates when combined with warm water, starch, and sugar.  As it consumes starch, its “food”, it releases carbon dioxide, giving life to bread and many other baked goods.

Cookies on the other hand utilize sodium bicarbonate, usually baking soda, which creates carbon dioxide when it heats up.  If you’ve ever done a volcano experiment with vinegar and baking soda it’s a similar reaction except the baking soda is reacting to heat rather than an acid! Water vapor escaping from the dough in combination with the carbon dioxide released by our baking soda is ultimately what makes our cookies light and airy.

Why not baking powder?  The main difference between baking powder and baking soda is that baking powder carries an acid with it, which means that it reacts both when it’s mixed in the dough and also later when it’s heated.  Baking powder creates extra leavening and a fluffier cookie.  Many recipes call for either one or a combination of both.

Golden Brown:

The most exciting part about baking is the wonderful golden brown color and delicious flavor created in the process.  Both of these elements happen thanks to the Maillard reaction and carmelization.

The Maillard reaction occurs around 310 degrees when proteins and sugars break down and realign into rings.  The rings reflect light and create that wonderful golden brown color.  White granulated sugar is mostly sucrose so doesn’t participate as well in the Maillard reaction, which is why a lot of cookie recipes call for both white and brown sugar.  Brown sugar has both glucose and fructose, which happily create rich, complex flavors via the Maillard reaction.

At 356 degrees the magic really happens when carmelization kicks in.  Carmelization is when sugars break down with high heat to create a wonderfully rich, nutty flavor.  Carmelization doesn’t occur at lower temperatures so cookies baked at 350 or lower have a more mild flavor and color.  Playing with the temperature can totally change the flavor of your cookie!

So mix up some cookies and observe some chemical reactions first hand.  Best part is you get to eat the results of your labor!  The following basic recipe can be customized with different flavors and toppings.

Basic Sugar Cookie Recipe:

  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/4tsp baking soda
  • 3/4tsp salt
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4tsp almond extract
  • 1 egg

Optional topping:  regular, or colored decorating sugar to sprinkle on top prior to baking

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line pans with parchment paper.
  • Mix all dry ingredients except sugar in a bowl
  • In a separate mixing bowl cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy
  • Beat in the egg and vanilla and almond extracts
  • Add the flour mixture gradually mixing after each addition
  • Spoon tbsp portions of dough on to your pans.  Flatten each ball with a glass to about a ¼ inch thickness
  • Optional:  Sprinkle the tops with sugar!
  • Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes.  10 minutes for a softer cookie; 12 minutes for a crunchier, more golden cookie.  Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool

Tip:  For roll out cookies you can cut into festive shapes, add an additional ½ cup of flour to the recipe.