High Touch High Tech’s February Podcast, Mission to Mars, is live! Join Dinosaur Dan, Narwhal Nina, and special guest Earthquake Ethan as they talk about space exploration, the Mars rover, and the future of humankind!
Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating National Pistachio Day February 26, 2021!
Pistachios are the seeds from the fruit of a small Persian tree, Pistachia vera. They have been cultivated for at least 3,000 years, widely in Central Asia to the Mediterranean region. Green and slightly sweet, pistachios are called nuts, but botanically are seeds. Related botanically to cashews and mangoes, pistachios are one of the oldest flowering nut trees, and are one of the only two nuts mentioned in the Bible.
ripen in late summer or early fall growing so energetically that the kernel
splits the shell. These trees are wind pollinated which means one male tree can
produce enough pollen for 25 seed-bearing female trees. Female trees produce
their first seeds at age five and can bear fruit for up to 200 years!
western Asia and Asia Minor, the trees grew wild in high desert regions and
legend has it that for the promise of good fortune, lovers met beneath the
trees to hear the pistachios crack open on moonlit nights.
their high nutritional value and long storage life, pistachios were an
indispensable form of sustenance among early explorers and traders, including
travelers across the ancient Silk Road that connected China with the West.
kernels can have different colors, ranging from yellow to shades of green. They
are usually about an inch long and half an inch in diameter. But if you want to
taste one, you’ll have to crack open its hard shell first.
ever seen a red pistachio? In the 1930s, importers began dyeing the shells
bright red to disguise blemishes that occurred during harvesting. This practice
made the pistachios more attractive to consumers. Though some enjoy the red
color, many believe the red dye adversely affects the taste of the pistachio
became a food as early as 7,000 B.C. They came to the United States in the
mid-19th century and commercial production began in the 1970s when farmers
began diversifying from the heavy almond industry. The first major commercial
crop was harvested in 1976.
Arizona, and New Mexico make up all of America’s commercial pistachio
production. You can buy pistachios shelled or unshelled, roasted, or salted. They
are available in most grocery stores, and you can buy them in bulk from
is second only to Iran in pistachio production, according to the Agricultural
Marketing Resource Center, a group of experts from Iowa State University,
Kansas State University and the University of California, who serve as an
information resource for agricultural producers.
universally known for producing some of the best quality pistachios in the
world. In 2018, the global production of pistachios was about 1.4 million metric
tons, with Iran and the United States as leading producers,
together accounting for 72% of the total. Secondary producers were Turkey,
China, and Syria.
pistachios are known as the smiling nut. In China, they are called the
happy nut. Pistachios are also known as the green almond. No matter the name,
they are delicious!
We all know that pistachios are good, but we only eat the seeds.
What happens to all those shells? What would you do with thousands of tons of
leftover nutshells? It is a question that Turkey — the world’s third-biggest
producer of pistachios, behind Iran and the USA, has been asking itself
Usually discarded pistachio shells end up in landfills, but
pistachio-loving Turks think they have found a far better solution by turning the
shells into a biogas, an alternative fuel produced by the breakdown of organic
Now Turkey wants to use pistachio shells to power its first
eco-city, which will require fermenting tons of the green waste in so-called
digesters, and then using the resulting gases, mostly methane, to generate
The idea is not as odd as it sounds. For starters, the green city
will be built in what is arguably the best possible location: Gaziantep
Province. This southern region near the Syrian border is the heart of Turkey’s
pistachio production, yielding more than half of the country’s pistachios!
“When you plan such environment-friendly systems, you take a
look at the natural resources you have. So, we thought the ecological city
could be heated by burning pistachio shells,” explains Seda Muftuoglu
Gulec, the municipality’s expert on green architecture.
This peculiar source of energy is renewable and cheap because
Turkey has plenty of shells to go around, so much so that it exported 6,800
tons of pistachios last year! 500 tons shy of the weight of the Eiffel Tower, according
to the Southeast Anatolia Exporters Union.
Experts say turning pistachios into biogas, while untested, is not
only technically feasible but also extremely convenient. Turkey claims
that nutshells are the most efficient source of alternative energy in the
region and could satisfy up to 60 percent of the city’s heating needs.
The planned 7,900-acre, nut-fueled city will be six miles from the
province’s capital city, Gaziantep, and is expected to become home to 200,000
This is Turkey’s first attempt at building an eco-city, and it will be the only one in the world that is heated by pistachios. In Australia, macadamia nutshells are already being turned into biomass. Meanwhile in Monterrey, Mexico, the methane generated from decaying garbage is being turned into electricity to illuminate city lights.
Clever people and scientists the world over are turning to green energy as a useful substitute for fossil fuels. Think about that next time you eat some pistachios!
Now, we all know that nuts contain fat….good fat, but fat none the less. The team at High Touch High Tech has come up with a FUN way to test if foods have fat. Check out the lesson plan, grab your supplies…and a handful of nuts, and try our Nutty Nutrients Fat Tester at home experiment!
National Battery day! What a shock! We get a “charge” out of this day every
year! Observed annually on February 18th, the day serves to
appreciate the convenience batteries provide to us in our everyday lives.
Before we can appreciate batteries, we better determine what a battery is. Batteries are a collection of one or more cells whose chemical reactions create a flow of electrons in a circuit. All batteries are made up of three basic components: an anode (the ‘-‘ side), a cathode (the ‘+’ side), and an electrolyte (a substance that chemically reacts with the anode and cathode).
When the anode and cathode of a battery are connected to a circuit, a chemical reaction takes place between the anode and the electrolyte. This reaction causes electrons to flow through the circuit and back into the cathode where another chemical reaction takes place. When the material in the cathode or anode is consumed or no longer able to be used in the reaction, the battery is unable to produce electricity. At that point, your battery is “dead.”
Batteries that must be thrown away after use are known as primary batteries. Batteries that can be recharged are called secondary batteries. Batteries also come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and occupy an indispensable role everywhere in our lives.
Let’s go back in time to the very first battery. The first true battery was invented by the Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta, in 1800. Volta stacked discs of copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn) separated by cloth soaked in salty water. Wires connected to either end of the stack produced a continuous stable current. WOW! If only Benjamin Franklin would have known, he would not have gone outside during a lightning storm flying a kite!
But wait, was Alessandro truly the first? Has anybody ever heard of the Baghdad Battery? The Baghdad Battery or Parthian Battery is a set of three artifacts which were found together: a ceramic pot, a tube of copper, and a rod of iron. It was discovered in modern Khujut Rabu, Iraq close to the metropolis of Ctesiphon, the capital of the Parthian (150 BC – 223 AD) and Sasanian (224–650 AD) empires of Persia and it is believed to date from either of these periods. Can you imagine the level of ingenuity these people had 2000 years ago?
As we take a deeper dive into batteries, we must mention a man named Michael Faraday. He was an English physicist & chemist. Michael Faraday was one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century. His many experiments contributed greatly to the understanding of electromagnetism. In 1820 Michael Faraday produced the first known compounds of carbon and chlorine. In 1821 he invented the first electric motor and in the early 1830s he discovered a way to convert mechanical energy into electricity on a large scale, creating the first electric generator.
the Colombia Dry Cell became the first commercially
available battery sold in the United States. The manufacturer,
National Carbon Company, later became the
Eveready Battery Company, which produces the Energizer brand, and we
all know the Energizer Bunny!
Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating National Toothache Day February 9, 2021!
Far back into some of the most ancient human remains ever found, archaeologists see a constant human universal: toothaches! Whether broken, lost, ground down completely, or abscessed so severely they impact the bone of the jaw, humankind has suffered with tooth pain since time out of mind. Before the advent of modern scientific dentistry, humans experimented endlessly to find cures for tooth pain. Mummies show that the Ancient Egyptians made attempts to drill loose teeth and wire them into place. Across cultures and times there are also numerous versions of false teeth, such as George Washington’s, which were not made of wood but in fact were made from rhinoceros ivory and the teeth of his slaves.
If thinking about the history of tooth pain makes you cringe, perhaps it will help to know that humankind’s struggle with our teeth is a result of only one of nature’s many designs. At least some other beings we share this planet with have been much more fortunate! Imagine you chipped a tooth. Instead of lengthy visits and painful treatments, imagine the injured tooth just pops out and another one takes its place within 24 hours. What lucky being experiences this design? None other than the ruler of the oceans, the SHARK!
The word shark is practically synonymous in our minds with teeth, or if you like, “Jaws.” On top of their already incredible evolutionary assets such as their keen sense of smell and sixth sense for the invisible electricity of living things, an average shark can produce an unlimited supply of perfect teeth for as long as it lives. Their jaws have a design much like a conveyor belt, with rows of teeth in waiting for the moment that a frontline “working tooth” becomes damaged. The bull shark, widely thought to be the deadliest shark to humans because of its aggression and ability to adapt to a wide range of marine environments, has fifty rows of teeth-in-waiting, one on top of the other, tucked into its jaw.
Imagine if sharks suffered tooth problems like humans do. For a creature that has no hands or feet, and no other way of grabbing prey at all, even one injured tooth would spell disaster. Sharks’ jaws produce an estimate of 20,000 to 50,000 teeth in an average lifetime. This means that fossilized shark teeth are the most abundant fossil on earth, as the many iterations of ancient sharks constantly improved upon their toothy design. It’s thought that the evolutionary design of sharks’ teeth began back in the Devonian period 416 million years ago, when ancestral sharks may have eaten primarily plants. With a boom in ocean life in the Cenozoic period 60 million years ago, sharks began to adapt to new sources of food, and with new food came the teeth that we associate with sharks today. Sharks have been continuously evolving longer than almost any other animal on earth, and the constant, trouble-free perfection of their teeth is just another example of how long they have been evolving to fit their niche as the ocean’s top predator. Hominids like us have only been around for 7 million years at most, and although dropping our baby teeth for our adult teeth is an amazing evolutionary advantage in itself, we have several million years to go as a species before we can drop our dental insurance completely!
Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating National Chopsticks Day February 6, 2021!
It is said that you can neatly divide the world population by choice of eating utensil. About one third of the world population eats with knife and fork. Another third of the world eats with their hands. The other third uses chopsticks at mealtime. For those of us in the knife and fork part of the world, eating with chopsticks may be especially challenging, even counterintuitive. Why even bother with the delicate, tweezer-like balance required to eat with chopsticks? Don’t be afraid of a cramped hand or dropped rice everywhere — learning to eat with chopsticks means you are joining in one of the oldest continuous culinary, cultural, and even technological legacies in the world. Plus, folks on the chopstick side of the world say that East Asian food eaten with knife and fork just does not taste as good!
Some of the oldest chopsticks ever found are around 3300 years old. Chopsticks’ origins in Ancient China represent an innovative technological solution to environmental challenges. They have proven to be such an innovative solution that their simple design has endured without modification for millennia, much unlike the fork, which is relatively recent, and in its oldest form was two long prongs rather than the multiple prongs commonly in use today. One thing most cultures seem to agree on is the spoon, and it is known that spoons were in use in very ancient China even before chopsticks were invented.
Five thousand years ago, the small population of Ancient China depended on millet, not rice, and millet was often served as a gruel meant for a spoon. But, as the population grew, people’s relationship to the environment and the food it provided also began to change. More people were able to grow and harvest more types of food, but also began deforesting already sparse parts of the Ancient Chinese heartland. In response to a lack of fuel, Chinese food evolved to focus on small, chopped-up pieces that could be cooked quickly, with a minimum of fuel waste. Most of the Chinese food enjoyed today, such as stir-fry, still follows this “bite-size” pattern, as opposed to the more “lumpen” style of knife and fork food, such as steak and a baked potato.
Chopsticks, originally employed as cooking tools and plucked straight off a tree, became the perfect fit for Chinese food as it evolved. Easily made of wood, bone, or even metal, chopsticks were in wide use among the people of East Asia before most people in the knife and fork world could afford the luxury of a fork. Seen in the context of history, chopsticks are not counterintuitive at all. In fact, they are a perfect example of a cultural adaptation to a difficult environmental challenge, as are so many of humanity’s best inventions. The tweezer-like action of chopsticks makes them perfect for picking up even very small, precise amounts of food. To understand the simple, enduring, form-follows-function perfection of this technology, all you have to do is look at the name: in the world outside of East Asia, they are known as chopsticks, but in Chinese they are called “筷子“ which means, roughly “little piece picker-uppers!”
In the Western World, using chopsticks on a good day is challenging
enough! Imagine trying to use chopsticks without your thumbs! If you want to
test your skills managing chopsticks or completing other daily tasks without
your thumbs, try our at-home experiment, All Thumbs! Find lesson plan,
supplies, and tutorial video here: