Little Piece Picker-Uppers

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
National Chopsticks Day
February 6, 2021!

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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!

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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. 

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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:

All Thumbs
Video Tutorial:


How to eat with Chopsticks:

How NOT to use Chopsticks:

An awesome two-part documentary on the deep cultural meaning of chopsticks in the East Asian world:

The Southern Hemisphere: What’s going on down there?

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Is the earth round? I think we can all agree
that it is. What we are going to tell you next, spoiler alert, will remind you
of your high school geometry class.

A great
circle is the largest possible
circle that can be drawn around a sphere. All spheres have great circles. If you cut a sphere at one
of its great circles, you’d cut it exactly in half. The Earth is not a perfect
sphere, but it maintains the general shape. All the meridians on Earth are great circles. Meridians,
including the prime meridian, are the north-south lines we use to help describe exactly where we are
on the Earth. All these lines of longitude meet at the poles, cutting the Earth neatly in half. These halves are
called the Northern & Southern hemispheres.

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Let’s talk about the hemispheres of the earth.
The earth is divided into 2 by the equator. Can you go to the equator? Actually,
you can! Many countries have now created tourist attractions at the equator!
However, you cannot “see” the equator as it is an imaginary line splitting the
earth in half. Creating the Northern hemisphere and the Southern hemisphere.

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you ever wondered when man first thought about the equator and the hemispheres?
The earliest documented mention of the round earth concept dates from
around the 5th century BC, when it was mentioned by ancient Greek
philosophers. In the 3rd century BC, Hellenistic
astronomy established the roughly spherical shape of the earth, as a
physical fact and calculated the Earth’s circumference. This knowledge was
gradually adopted throughout the “old world” during the 3rd-8th
centuries and ongoing during the “Middle Ages.”  A practical
demonstration of Earth’s sphericity was achieved by Ferdinand Magellan
and Juan Sebastian’s circumnavigation from 1519-1522. The argument had
officially been settled…the earth is round!

to the equator, or the line of 0 degrees latitude, divides the earth into
the Northern and Southern hemispheres. There are differences in
the climates of the Northern and Southern hemispheres because of
the Earth’s seasonal tilt toward and away from the sun.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

occurs because deep inside the earth, liquid iron is flowing and generating the
earth’s magnetic field, which protects our atmosphere against harmful radiation
from the sun. This field changes over time and behaves differently in different
parts of the world. The field can even change polarity completely! The magnetic
north and south poles can actually switch places. This is called a
reversal and last happened 780,000 years ago. Quite some time ago!

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Magnetic Field Lines

South America and Southern Africa, there is an enigmatic or difficult to
determine magnetic region called the South Atlantic Anomaly, where the field is
a lot weaker than one would expect. Weak and unstable magnetic fields are
thought to precede magnetic reversals, so some have argued this feature may be
evidence that we are facing one.

new study published June 12, 2020, in the Proceedings of the National Academy
of Sciences,  has uncovered how long the
field in the South Atlantic has been acting up – and sheds light on whether it
is something to worry about.

magnetic fields make us more prone to magnetic storms that have the potential
to knock out electronic infrastructure, including power grids. The magnetic
field of the South Atlantic Anomaly is already so weak that it can adversely
affect satellites and their technology when they fly past it. The strange
region is thought to be related to a patch of magnetic field that is pointing a
different direction to the rest at the top of the planet’s liquid outer core at
a depth of 1,795 miles (2,889 km) within the Earth.

“reverse flux patch” itself has grown over the last 250 years. But we don’t
know whether it is simply a one-off product of the chaotic motions of the outer
core fluid or rather the latest in a series of anomalies within this particular
region over long time frames.

it is a non-recurring feature, then its current location is not significant –
it could happen anywhere, perhaps randomly. But if this is the case, the
question of whether its increasing size and depth could mark the start of a new
reversal remains.

it is the latest in a string of features reoccurring over millions of years,
however, then this would make a reversal less likely. But it would require a
specific explanation for what was causing the magnetic field to act strangely
in this particular place.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Saint Helena Island

find out, scientists travelled to Saint Helena – an island in the middle of the
South Atlantic Ocean. This island, where Napoleon was exiled to and eventually
died in 1821, is made of volcanic rocks. These originate from two separate
volcanoes and were erupted from between eight million and 11.5 million years

discovered when volcanic rocks cool down, small grains of iron-oxide in them
get magnetized and therefore save the direction and strength of the Earth’s
magnetic field at that time and place. A group of scientists collected some of
those rocks and brought them back to their lab in Liverpool, where they carried
out experiments to find out what the magnetic field was like at the time of
eruption, potentially 11 million years ago.

results showed us that the field at Saint Helena had vastly different
directions throughout the time of eruption, showing us that the magnetic field
in this region was much less stable than in other places. It therefore
challenges the idea that the abnormality has only been around for only a few
centuries. Instead, the whole region has likely been unstable on a timescale of
millions of years. This implies the current situation is not as rare as some
scientists had assumed, making it less likely that it represents the start of a
reversal. Please feel free to re-read the last 2 paragraphs!

could explain the odd magnetic region? The liquid outer core is generating
moves (by convection) at such high speeds that changes can occur on truly short,
human timescales. The outer core interacts with a layer called the mantle on
top of it, which moves far slower. That means the mantle is unlikely to have
changed very much in the last ten million years.

seismic waves passing through the Earth, we have some insight into the
structure of the mantle. Underneath Africa there is a large feature in
the lowermost mantle where the waves move extra slow through the Earth –
meaning there is most likely an unusually warm region of the lowermost mantle.
This possibly causes a different interaction with the outer core at that
specific location, which could  explain the strange behavior of the
magnetic field in the South Atlantic.

aspect of the inside of the Earth is the inner core, which is a solid ball the
size of Pluto beneath the outer core. This solid feature is slowly growing, but
not at the same rate everywhere. There is a possibility that it is growing
faster on one side, causing a flow inside the outer core that is reaching the
outer boundary with the rocky mantle just under the Atlantic ocean. This
may be causing irregular behavior of the magnetic field on the long timescales found
on Saint Helena.

Although there are still many questions about the exact cause of the irregular behavior in the South Atlantic, this study shows us that it has been around for millions of years and is most likely a result of geophysical interactions in the Earth’s mysterious interior.

Interested in learning more about the hemispheres and magnetism? Try our at-home experiment and make your very own compass! Grab your materials and follow the instructions here:

Yael Annemiek Engbers, Ph.D. candidate, University of Liverpool 
Andrew Biggin, Professor of Palaeomagnetism, University of Liverpool

Should old acquaintance be forgot?

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is almost New Year’s eve! Although most people are happy to be saying goodbye
to the year 2020, it has certainly been a year to remember! Of course, when we
talk about New Year’s eve, the words of Auld Lang Syne will surely come up! Why
is that? What’s the song about?

song’s melody is synonymous with the new year (and the theme of change) in the
English-speaking world, despite nearly incomprehensible words. The problem is
that the text on which the song is based is not in English at all — it’s
18th-century Scots, a similar but distinct language responsible for lyrics in
the song such as “We twa hae run about the braes / and pou’d the gowans
fine” that are utterly incomprehensible to Americans.

the story of how an 18th-century Scottish ballad became
synonymous with the new year is tangled, involving both Calvinist theology’s
traditional aversion to Christmas and the uniquely central role that watching
television plays in American New Year’s celebrations. Bridging the gap is a
once-famous, now-forgotten Canadian big band leader who for decades defined New
Year’s Eve and transformed a Scottish folk custom into a global phenomenon.

old acquaintance be forgot?” is a rhetorical question the song asks?

answer is that it’s a rhetorical question. The song is asking whether old
friends should be forgotten, as a way of stating that obviously one should not
forget one’s old friends. The version of the song we sing today is based on
a poem published by Robert Burns, which he attributed to “an old
man’s singing,” noting that it was a traditional Scottish song. 

remember to not forget about your old friends! And on that note, let’s dive deeper
into the cultural history of New Years.

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Assarhadon – Babylon

earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new
year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon.
For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal
equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and
darkness—heralded the start of a new year. In 45 B.C., New Year’s Day is
celebrated on January 1 for the first time in history as the Julian calendar
takes effect.

after becoming Roman dictator, Julius Caesar decided that the traditional
Roman calendar was in dire need of reform. Introduced around the seventh
century B.C., the Roman calendar attempted to follow the lunar cycle but
frequently fell out of phase with the seasons and had to be corrected. In addition,
the college of priests, the Roman body charged with overseeing the calendar,
often abused its authority by adding days to extend political terms or
interfere with elections.

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Chinese New Year

of the oldest traditions still celebrated today is Chinese New Year, which is
believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago during the Shang Dynasty. The
holiday began as a way of celebrating the new beginnings of the spring planting
season, but it later became entangled with myth and legend. According to one
popular tale, there was once a bloodthirsty creature called Nian—now the
Chinese word for “year”—that preyed on villages every New Year. To frighten the
hungry beast, the villagers took to decorating their homes with red trimmings,
burning bamboo, and making loud noises. The ruse worked, and the bright colors
and lights associated with scaring off Nian eventually became integrated into
the celebration.

traditionally last 15 days and tend to center on the home and the family.
People clean their houses to rid them of bad luck, and some repay old debts as
a way of settling the previous year’s affairs. To encourage an auspicious start
to the year they also decorate their doors with paper scrolls and gather with
relatives for a feast. Following the invention of gunpowder in the 10th
century, the Chinese were also the first to ring in the New Year with
fireworks. Since Chinese New Year is still based on a lunar calendar that dates
to the second millennium BC, the holiday typically falls in late January or
early February on the second new moon after the winter solstice. Each year is
associated with one of 12 zodiacal animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon,
snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Modern
celebrations of the Lunar New Year include the tradition of giving the
gift of a bright, beautiful red envelope (known as hóngbāo) to your
friends and family. These envelopes are filled with money – and symbolize good
wishes, luck, and prosperity for the new year ahead.

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Nowruz Table

Iran and other parts of the Middle East and Asia, the roots of Nowruz (or “New
Day”) reach far back into antiquity. Often called the “Persian New Year,” this
13-day spring festival falls on or around the vernal equinox in March and is
believed to have originated in modern day Iran as part of the Zoroastrian
religion. Official records of Nowruz did not appear until the 2nd century, but
most historians believe its celebration dates back as far as the 6th century
B.C. and the rule of the Achaemenid Empire. Unlike many other ancient Persian
festivals, Nowruz persisted as an important holiday even after Iran’s conquest
by Alexander the Great in 333 B.C. and the rise of Islamic rule in the 7th
century A.D.

observances of Nowruz focused on the rebirth that accompanied the return of
spring. Traditions included feasts, exchanging presents with family members and
neighbors, lighting bonfires, dyeing eggs, and sprinkling water to symbolize
creation. One unique ritual that arose around the 10th century involved
electing a “Nowruzian Ruler”: a commoner who would pretend to be king for
several days before being “dethroned” near the end of the festival. Nowruz has
evolved considerably over time, but many of its ancient traditions—particularly
the use of bonfires and colored eggs—remain a part of the modern holiday, which
is observed by an estimated 300 million people each year.

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the same region, ancient Egyptian culture was closely tied to the Nile River,
and it appears their New Year corresponded with its annual flood. According the
Roman writer Censorinus, the Egyptian New Year was predicted when Sirius—the
brightest star in the night sky—first became visible after a 70-day absence.
Better known as a heliacal rising, this phenomenon typically occurred in
mid-July just before the annual inundation of the Nile River, which helped
ensure that farmlands remained fertile for the coming year. Egyptians
celebrated this new beginning with a festival known as Wepet Renpet, which
means “opening of the year.” The New Year was a time of rebirth and
rejuvenation, and it was honored with feasts and special religious rites.

unlike many people today, the Egyptians may have also used this as an excuse
for getting a bit tipsy. Recent discoveries at the Temple of Mut show that
during the reign of Hatshepsut the first month of the year played host to a
“Festival of Drunkenness.” This massive party was tied to the myth of Sekhmet,
a war goddess who had planned to kill all of humanity until the sun god Ra
tricked her into drinking herself unconscious. In honor of mankind’s salvation,
the Egyptians would celebrate with music, revelry, and—perhaps most important
of all—copious amounts of beer.

you look toward 2021, no matter how you choose to celebrate, we at High Touch
High Tech – Science Made Fun, wish each one of you a safe, happy, and joyous
New Year!

And if
you’d like to kick off the new year with your very own fireworks, try out our
at-home experiment, “Exploding Colors”!

Find a list of what you need and instructions here:

You can
also watch our “How To” video here:

Soil Science is a dirty business!

Join High Touch High Tech in celebrating
World Soil Day
December 5th, 2020

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What kind
of science is in soil? What is soil? So many questions…

Soil is a
material composed of five ingredients — minerals, organic plant matter,
living organisms, gas, and water. Are their soil scientists? Of

What do
soil scientists do? A soil scientist is a person who is
qualified to evaluate and interpret soils and soil-related
data for the purpose of understanding soil resources as they
contribute to not only agricultural production, but as they affect
environmental quality and as they are managed for protection of human health
and the environment. WOW, soil scientists definitely play a key role in
protecting our health and environment.

It seems
to me that Soil is pretty easy to ignore. We might notice it when gardening or
playing outdoors. But even when we forget about it, soil is always there,

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Soil microbes under a microscope

Most of what we see are mineral particles that we recognize as sand, silt, or clay. There is also plenty of water and air. But soil is also alive. It contains countless fungi and microbes. They help recycle dead and decaying matter by breaking down the remains of plants, animals, and other organisms. What if we could put on really cool goggles to see inside the soil, we would see an incredible microscopic world of fungi and bacteria? We need to talk about the bacteria in soil because they perform an incredible function. These bacteria are said to be symbiotic and are real helpers to the plants. These bacteria can convert nitrogen to ammonia, which the plants utilize for their development.  

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While soil science is fascinating, why are we talking about it now? Because World Soil Day is December 5, 2020. How do we celebrate World Soil Day, you might ask? The motto for World Soil Day is Keep soil alive and protect soil biodiversity! Plants nurture a whole world of creatures in the soil, that in return feed and protect the plants. This diverse community of living organisms keeps the soil healthy and fertile. This vast world constitutes soil biodiversity and determines the main biogeochemical processes that make life possible on Earth.

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It turns
out soil is a living resource, home to more than 25% of our planet’s
biodiversity. Interestingly, up to 90% of living organisms live or spend part
of their lifecycle in soils.

Next time
you take a break and go outside, or maybe spend a few minutes in your backyard,
reach down and take a good look at the soil. If you have a magnifying glass,
bring it outside with you. When you look at the soil use your imagination and
think about how many microorganisms there are in the soil, and how remarkably
busy they all are!

One way to
celebrate World Soil Day is to provide your soil with rich nutrients like those
found in compost! Check out our at-home science experiment, Compost in a Cup!
Grab your supplies & celebrate soil!

Lesson Plan:


Nature’s Density

Image credit: how to smile

What is
Density? Density is how much ‘stuff’ is packed into a particular area.

example, if we have 13 balls in a box and we have the same box with 27
identical balls inside it. We say the box with 27 balls has higher density than
the box with 13 balls.

is a fundamental property of matter. Density is defined as mass divided by unit
volume. It is measured in grams per cubic centimeter or kilograms per cubic
meter. The Greek letter rho, is the symbol for density.

ρ = Mass ÷ Volume

two liquids can take up the same amount of space(volume) but can have
completely different masses. If liquid A has a higher mass, MORE of that liquid
is in that space and therefore is denser. If liquid B has a lower mass, LESS of
that liquid is in that same space and is therefore less dense than liquid A.

Image credit: steve spangler science

liquids in your tower have similar volumes but they have different densities.
What does that mean? That means that each liquid has a different amount of mass
in that volume. The liquids with the highest density are at the bottom, and the
ones with the lower density are on top of each other. So, which of the liquids
is most dense? And which is least dense?

Join our HTHT @ Home Science Experiment and make your own Density Tower:

Bang in a Bag

Image credit: little bins for little hands

A chemical reaction is a process in which one or more chemicals
(or things) combine to make something new. The ‘things’ or chemicals that we
started with are called Reactants and the new ‘thing’ that is made are called
Products. It is called a chemical reaction since:

  1. It is accompanied by a rearrangement of the
    atoms in the reactants to form different chemical matter. The product formed is
    a new entity and is chemically different from the starting reactants.
  2. It is usually irreversible: this means that in
    most cases, I cannot get back what I started with.
  3. A chemical reaction is usually accompanied by
    a color change, smell, heat or light or release of a gas.

An example
of chemical reactions is the burning of wood in the presence of oxygen to
produce ash, water vapor and carbon dioxide.

A Chemical reaction or change is different from a physical change.

A physical change usually involves only a change of state: from
solid to liquid, liquid to gas or gas to water. A physical change does not
involve a change in the chemical entity of the reactant. The products will have
different physical properties than the reactants (such as state of matter,
texture, shape), but the chemical structure remains exactly the same as the
reactants. Therefore, a physical change is usually reversible.

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An example
of a physical change is the change of states of water. Liquid water freezes to
become ice, and when heated turns to water vapor or steam. But in all three
states, it is still chemically identical: H2O, which is made of two
atoms of Hydrogen and one atom of Oxygen. So, change of states of matter is not
a chemical, but a physical change.

In the Bang
in a Bag chemical reaction you just observed, acidic vinegar (chemically acetic
acid) reacts with basic baking soda (chemically sodium bicarbonate) to form an
entirely new substance called sodium acetate, carbon dioxide (the gas produced)
and water. Once the reaction is complete, you cannot get back the vinegar and
baking soda. The release of carbon dioxide caused the sound and the bubbling
you observed during the chemical reaction.

Join our HTHT @ Home Science Experiment and make your own Bang in a Bag:

Bag Stab & Polymerization

A plastic bag is made of polymers, long chains of individual molecules called monomers. When a sharp pencil pierces the bag the polymer chains separate without breaking. The chains of molecules then squeeze tightly around the pencil creating a seal that prevents it from leaking.

find use in our everyday life, from water bottles and Tupperware to tires for
automobiles. The word polymer
is derived from the Greek root poly-, meaning many, and mer, meaning part or
segment. Many of the same units (or mers) are connected together to form a long
chain or polymer.

are of two types: Polymers such as starch, proteins and DNA occur in Nature,
and are called Natural polymers. Synthetic polymers are derived from petroleum
oil and made by scientists and engineers. Examples of synthetic polymers
include nylon and plastic.

repeating chains can be linked together to form a cross-linked polymer, which
may become branched and become a Branched chain polymer. As the degree of cross
linking in the polymer increases, the polymer usually increases in rigidity and
toughness. This is why we see plastics that have different degrees of hardness
from a plastic bag to a hard-plastic baseball bat.

Join our
HTHT @ Home Science Experiment and learn about polymers:


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catapult is a lever, a stick or beam, propped up by a fulcrum, the pivot point.
The catapult magnifies your force to throw an object. So, you do not need as big
of a force to propel a large object, but the larger the force, the farther it
goes. In ancient times, catapults were used to throw heavy rocks.

and fulcrums can be used to pick up heavy things like rocks and building
materials. Have you ever used a see-saw? That’s a lever and fulcrum! See if you
can point out which part of your catapult is the lever, and which is the
fulcrum? The craft stick with the spoon is the lever and the stack of other
craft sticks is the fulcrum. The spoon beam pivots around the stack to generate
the force to launch the load. When you press down on the spoon, it pulls up on
the rubber band on the opposite end—this is its potential energy. When the
spoon is released, it pulls back up on the rubber band and the pom pom goes flying!
The potential energy is converted into energy of motion- kinetic energy.
Gravity also does its part as it pulls the object back down to the ground.

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it Further:

launching a bouncy ball with your catapult. Compare it with the pom pom. How far
or high did it travel? Did it go as high or far as the catapult?

catapult also demonstrates Newton’s 3 Laws of motion:

An object at rest stays at rest until a force is applied, and an object will stay in motion until something creates an imbalance in the motion. (First Law) The acceleration produced when a force is applied depends on the mass of the object. (F = Ma; Second Law) Every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. (Third Law)

pom pom will remain at rest until a force acts on it (the release of the spoon
and/or gravity) – First Law

bouncy ball will not travel as high or far as the pom pom as the bouncy ball
has more mass than the pom pom and will require a larger force to travel the
same distance and speed as the pom pom – Second Law (Force = Mass X

the spoon is pushed down, the load (pom pom or bouncy ball) travels upward- in
the opposite direction equal to the force applied on it. (Third Law of

A catapult is a simple machine that has been around for ages. Have your kids dig up a little history and research when the first catapults were invented and used! Hint; check out the 17th century!

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

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Birds Beaks & Adaptations

Discover the many ways that Birds use their Beaks!

Birds are a class of vertebrates with more than 18000 different species. Of the various features that are common to all birds, perhaps the most characteristic is their beak. All birds have one beak. But it has evolved differently in each species to improve its functions in response to its environment. These functions include feeding themselves and their young, defending themselves, grooming their feathers, mating, regulating their body temperature or building nests.

But what exactly is a beak?

In biological terms, it is a type of mouth in which the jaws have no teeth and are covered by a horny layer of a protein called keratin (like the nails or horn of a rhinoceros).

What are the different types of beaks?

Generally, bird beaks are categorized according to their shape and function. There are several different kind of bird beaks:
1. Hooked beaks: Owls, eagles, hawks, and other birds of prey that use their beaks to rip open flesh. They are usually meat eaters.

2. Cone shaped beaks: Goldfinches, sparrows and canaries are all good examples. They have a short, robust beak that ends in a conical shape, allowing them to break open seeds.

3. Short, curved beaks: Parrots and macaws have short curved beaks for splitting open hard fruits and nuts.

4. Straight, thin beaks: Bee eaters and Robins specialize in catching and eating insects with their straight and thin beaks. Woodpeckers also have strong thin beaks to peck through wood to find bugs.

5. Long, thin, needle-like beaks: Nectar feeders such as Hummingbirds swoop their beaks into flowers to find their food.

6. Wide, flat beaks: Filter feeders such as Flamingoes, swans and ducks have a filtering system in their beaks to pick out the dirt from the ponds and riverbeds.

7. Spatulate beaks: Wading birds such as spoonbills have large long beaks that help them pick up mollusks and small animals from the bottoms of ponds and marshes.

8. Large, long, and strong beaks: Fish eating birds such as pelicans, albatrosses and seagulls have long, curved beaks to catch fish and then prevent them from escaping. The pouch on a pelican’s beak helps it take huge gulps of water to store the fish in it. Herons and Cranes have long, strong beaks to catch fish.

9. Crossbill beaks: The Red Crossbill’s crossed bill tips may look odd, but it is in fact a clever adaptation to getting seeds out of closed pine cones.

10. Multifunctional beaks: A Toco Toucan’s beak is not just for show, this multi-purpose appendage can be used to collect and skin fruit, frighten predators, attract mates, and defend territory. Recent research has also shown that it also helps to keep the bird cool in the heat of the tropical day.

Learn more about birds and their beaks by participating in our HTHT @ Home Science Experiment:

Also check out this interesting resource, provided by Mystery Science, on nests and why birds lay eggs in the spring!



The Limelight School of the Week is…. Vandora Springs Elementary School in Garner, NC.



TEACHER:  Ms. Allaman

GRADE: 2nd grade

PROGRAM:  Cycle Babble

SCIENTIST:  Meteor Martin


Good Day to all the wonderful and extremely talented Scientists out there.  With Summer just around the corner, I assume those of you in traditional schools, are counting down the days until vacation and all the fun you will have traveling, going to the pool, summer cookouts, and hopefully seeing me in Summer Camps around the area!  For those of you in year-round schools, I’m sorry, but you will still be able to have loads of fun, and just think, at least you will be cool sitting in the classroom with all of your friends.

This week I want to give a huge shout out to Mrs. Allamon and the rest of the 2nd Grade teachers and students at Vandora Springs Elementary.  I had the opportunity to work with these bright and enthusiastic students not once, but twice, in one week.  We had such a great time leaning about the Life Cycles of organisms as well as different aspects of Weather.

I quite often mention to children during classes that little did they know, that they were going to be participating in not only a science class but also an art class at the same time. This lesson plan on life cycles is no joke as we build all four stages of metamorphosis of an insect from egg to adult.  I enjoy how most students will line their desks in correct order as we complete each stage.

One of my favorite subjects is Meteorology and I love being able to transfer my enthusiasm about weather to the children.  We covered information about our atmosphere, random collisions of particles as well as talking about low- and high-pressure systems.  The most exciting part of the lesson was when the kids are able to see how it is possible to blow up an eight-foot wind bag with only one breath.  I wish you could hear all the oohs and aahs from the children as the experiment works.  The bewilderment on their faces is truly something to witness.

I would like to thank Mrs. Allamon and the rest of the very helpful 2nd Grade staff for having High Touch High Tech be part of the curriculum at Vandora Springs Elementary.  I can’t wait to see you all again next year.  I hope your summer is safe, restful and full of fun adventures.

Until net year, this is “Meteor” Martin blasting off!!!