August 2013 E-News: Science of the Southpaw!

There’s no denying it. Left-handers are the odd men out.

Sure, lefties make up about 10 percent of the population — but, frankly, it seems like society has forgotten about them. Right-handed gadgets, awkwardly designed desks, cooking tools that fit comfortably in your right hand make the modern day conveniences not so convenient for those that are left-hand dominant.

What causes someone to become left-handed or often referred to as a southpaw? Scientists aren’t exactly sure, but research points to a complex collaboration between genes and environment. While no exact set of “leftie genes” have been discovered, people who dominantly use their left hands do have more left-handed family members. And researchers have found different brain wirings in righties vs. lefties. But no matter what it is that drives someone to be ambilevous, science has also uncovered a particular set of personality traits that left-handed people tend to have. 

So for all of you lefties, leftie-loving righties and ambidextrous folks out there — it’s time to brush up on your left-handed knowledge and help put an end to leftie discrimination once and for all. This month we say… let’s hear it for the Lefties!

1. Loud & Clear: Lefties hear speeches differently. 


People who are using their left hands when listening may more easily hear rapidly changing sounds than those who are using their right hands. Georgetown University researchers who conducted the study found that the left and right hemispheres of the brain specialize in different kinds of sounds — the left hemisphere, which controls the right hand, likes rapidly changing sounds like consonants, while the right hemisphere, which controls the left hand, likes slowly changing sounds, like syllables or intonation.

According to their study, if you’re waving an American flag while listening to a presidential candidate, the speech will sound slightly different to you depending on whether you’re holding the flag in your left or right hand. The research could ultimately result in better treatment for stroke and language disorders.

2. How You Handle Your Health: Does hand dominance determine your health?


Only about 10 percent of the population is left-handed. Now, here’s some food for thought: About 20 percent of people with schizophrenia dominantly use their left hands. Coincidence? Probably not, say scientists, who have also found an increased risk for dyslexia, ADHD, and certain mood disorders in left-handed people, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. 

Researchers are not exactly sure how to explain it, but many believe it’s related to how the brain is wired. Your noggin is divided into two halves — the left side and the right side. Most people (righties and lefties alike) rely on the brain’s left hemisphere for tasks like language functioning. However, about 30 percent of left-handed folks are either partial to the right hemisphere or have no dominant hemisphere at all. According to scientists, having one hemisphere dominate is much more efficient — and that’s why some left-handers are at an increased risk for learning impairments and brain disorders.

However, lefties may be in luck when it comes to other health conditions: A survey of more than 1.4 million participants, which was published in the journal Laterality, found that left-handers had lower rates of arthritis and ulcers.

3. Left Wing or Right Wing? Either way, we vote for Left-Handers!


Doesn’t matter which way they swing politically: A surprisingly high percentage of recent U.S. Presidents were on the left (in terms of handedness, of course).

The lengthy list of left-handed leaders includes four of the last seven commanders in chief — President Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Gerald Ford — as well as past presidents James Garfield and Harry Truman. In fact, there’s a rumor that Ronald Regan was born a leftie, but stringent school teachers converted him to a righty when he was young.

Should right-handed presidential wannabes fake it? Our penchant for left-handed U.S. Leaders is probably pure coincidence; however, some science suggests that left-handed politicians actually have an advantage in televised debates. As a whole, people tend to associate right-handed gestures with “good” and left-handed gestures with “bad,” according to the researchers. Since television presents a mirror image, the lefties are the ones who appear to gesture with their right hand (the “good” hand).

4. Out of Left Field: Southpaws Will Beat You In Sports. 

Golf legend Phil Mickelson; tennis ace Rafael Nadal; boxing champ Oscar de la Hoya — did you know that a number of your favorite sports superstars are lefties? 

Actually, left-handers may have the advantage in sports that involve two opponents facing each other, such as tennis, boxing and baseball, according to an MSNBC review of the book “The Puzzle of Left-Handedness” by Rik Smits. The author chalks it up to the fact that those sporty Southpaws get a lot more opportunity to practice against their dominant right handed opponents than vice versa (since there are so many more righties out there).

Talk about a homerun for lefties!

5. Leave the Celebrating to the Lefties: They Have Their Own Day! 

Mark your calendar — August 13 is International Left-Hander’s Day.

Lefties across the globe will be celebrating the event, which was first launched in 1992 by the UK-based Left-Hander’s Club to increase awareness about the left-handed lifestyle. According to the group’s Web site, it’s a day “when left-handers everywhere can celebrate their sinistrality and increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed.” If you’re a righty, don’t worrythis holiday doesn’t discriminate against dominance.

How should you observe the occasion? Create a “leftie zone” — a designated area of personal space where everything must be done in a left-handed fashion, from your workspace setup to the way you use cutlery. And that rule also extends to any right-handers who happen to enter the leftie zone!

Don’t get left out of the celebration! Check out these free resources for great ways to get involved with your own activities or Left-Hander’s Day Party! 

All over the planet, nine out of 10 people, on average, favor their right hand for writing, throwing and so on. Despite more than a century and a half of research, scientists have yet to find an exact answer for what determines a person’s handedness. But, did you know that hand dominance stretches way beyond the bounds of being human. Many mammals, including our closest living relatives the chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas, exhibit a preferred hand. Dogs do too!

But the shocking science doesn’t stop there! You can discover much more fascinating facts about your left-handed friends at  From cavemen to can-openers to left-handed staircases, check out these great resources to learn even more incredible things about your left-handed friends: Why Lefties are So Rare

Look Mom – Both Hands! The Science of Life’s Extremes: Right vs. Left Handed

What Makes a Lefty: Myths and Mysteries Persist

Explain It! The Truth About Left-Handed People

Make a Splash…Make a Difference! Get Ready for World Oceans Day!

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Did you know that the largest mountains on Earth have never been climbed? They lie under the ocean, along with the vast majority of all living beings on Earth! The ocean is a majestic mystery; if the seas were the size of your computer screen, the representative amount that has been fully explored by humans would be the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Amazingly, 95% of the ocean has not even been seen by human eyes, let alone explored. Who knows what could be down there – Jurassic sea monsters, new life forms, shipwrecks loaded with treasure, or even clues to predicting earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

With the earth being about 70% water, there is an overwhelming amount of exploring to do. That’s why it is so important to learn about our Oceans. How else are we going to discover our history, where we came from, and how our world is evolving? All these answers can be traced back to the sea, where all life on earth began. Still interested? Join us as we dive a little deeper & reveal our top 5 reasons to study the deep blue sea, while we still can!

1) The Ocean is Responsible for Our Weather and Our Climate

Hurricanes, floods, El Nino, La Nina – what do they all have in common? The ocean! Changes in weather prompt people to worry about the Mayan calendar or speculate that the Apocalypse is the cause but in reality, it’s the ocean that’s behind the changes.

 Surprisingly, the sediment of the deep ocean is like the rings of a tree, it holds a wealth of knowledge about ocean currents in the last 100,000 years. Scientists have discovered that currents remained stable for years, only to suffer inexplicable jolts where they were thrown off course and the weather changed dramatically.

2) The Seafloor is the World’s Largest Museum

There are Thousands of Shipwrecks Waiting to be Discovered! 

Shipwrecks litter the ocean floor like capsules frozen in time. Shipwrecks found along trade routes offer us a glimpse into the history of entire civilizations, as well as a snapshot into a day in the life of those who perished aboard them. Besides just the gold and silver that treasure hunters seek, cargo from shipwrecks has included bronze and marble statues from ancient Greece, ancient jars filled with the residue of the foods they once contained, and priceless ceramic vases from Asia.

3) Understanding Continental Drift and Plate Tectonics

Volcanoes, Earthquakes & the Sea Floor

It wasn’t until 1955 that U. S. Survey ship, Pioneer, discovered magnetic striping on the sea floor of the west coast of the United States. Magnetic striping occurs when grains of magnetite align themselves with the Earth’s magnetic field, which has repeatedly changed from north to south and back again due to the Earth’s fluid iron core. This proved that the sea floor was moving, and gave credence to the theory that the continents rest on tectonic plates. The edges of the plates, called plate boundaries, are where the majority of the volcanoes on Earth are found, 90% of the most active volcanoes on Earth are in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where plates are constantly moving.

The best place on Earth that plate boundaries can be observed is the sea floor, where the crust can be seen forming at mid-ocean ridges. Studying the sea floor enables us to learn more about the volcanoes and earthquakes that occur at the plate boundaries, and may one day enable us to predict them.

4) 95% of Earth’s Living Creatures are Found in the Ocean

Stepping into the Ocean is Like Stepping Back in Time!

Quick – what’s the largest animal that ever lived on Earth? No, it’s not a dinosaur and it’s not extinct. The largest animal that has ever lived on Earth is the blue whale. But after hundreds of years of study, we still know very little about this elusive creature.

We used to think the deep sea abyss was devoid of any life, until in the 1970s Dr. Robert Ballard (of Titanic fame) and his crew found hydrothermal vents surrounded by a bounty of sea life. Giant tube worms were found living in the dark, fed by bacteria in their tissues that oxidized sulfur to provide energy. Previously we had thought that all life required the sun, now we know that it can not only survive without it, some creatures are fed by what we would consider toxins.

What else don’t we know and what can ocean creatures teach us?

5) The Earth is 70% Covered in Water & Oceans Affect How We Live

Shouldn’t We Protect our Planet & Learn About All that it has to Offer?

The ocean is our life support system; it gives us our water and our air. We will only protect what we understand, and we hardly understand our ocean at all. It’s important to understand where our resources come from and how to preserve them. Things like fish, oil, and the importance of the sea food chain.  Our future could soon rely on the ocean, it’s not all the way explored and some possibly important minerals could be hiding under the ocean floor.

June 8th is  World Oceans Day, a day when people around the globe come together to celebrate our ocean and take action to protect it. And with good cause! The ocean not only makes our world livable, it provides us with food, water, commerce, recreation, and medicine. World Oceans Day gives people across the globe the opportunity to pause and reflect on the critical role the ocean has in sustaining our planet. With awareness comes the opportunity to better understand that the things people do every day have an impact on the health of the ocean and that the health of the ocean has an impact on their daily lives.

What can I do?

This June, challenge yourself to make a 2013 – 2014 commitment to protect the ocean. The theme is about making lasting change and it’s up to people like you to rise up and be the voice for the ocean all year long. Whether you live on the beach or on the prairie, you can still make a difference on World Oceans Day! Check out these great ideas on how you can dive in to make a difference!

Make an Ocean Promise

Share the Knowledge of Ocean Conservation!

Wear Blue, Tell Two

There’s an Ocean of Opportunities to Celebrate

Speak Up and Take Ocean Action

Organize an Aquatic Cleanup in Your Neighborhood

Ocean Lovers Come in All Ages – Learn How to Get Kids Involved

One Fish – Two Fish – Red Fish – Blue Fish! Celebrate with Dr. Seuss

Get Inspired by Jacques Cousteau & Take Part in Cap Rouge Day!

There are hundreds of events being held all over the world, find one near you and celebrate with a purpose this World Oceans Day or organize an event yourself! Check out these additional resources for ideas, free materials, event listings & more provided by The Ocean Project:

Activity kit is available for download

World Oceans Day youth video contest with great prizes

Partnership opportunities to enhance your event

NOAA: 30 Days of Oceans –  A Countdown to World Oceans Day 2013!


Teacher Appreciation Week: Thank You for All YOU Do!

As we celebrate teachers this week, there are so many things to be thankful for, but we should start at the top with a recognition that we appreciate everything that teachers do.

Walking into a classroom every day, motivating, inspiring, and yes, teaching children is certainly an endeavor worth celebrating!

For our part, we’d like to express our sincere appreciation to all the teachers that we have had to the privilege of interacting with here at High Touch High Tech as well as all the teachers our entire team has had the honor of learning from.

Looking for a way to show your appreciation?

If you’re crafty, check out these easy to make DIY Teacher Appreciation Gifts.

Find more low/no cost ideas in VolunteerSpot’s free eBook, The Greatest Gifts for Teachers.

Celebrate Administrative Professionals Day with FUN Science!


Today is Administrative Professionals Day! This is just one day out of an entire week designated to celebrate the men and women who support us each day, and keep everything running behind the scenes. What better way to show your gratitude than with a little science? 

From school secretaries to afterschooladmins – this FUN, hands-on experiment is sure to bring a smile to those that make your job a little easier each day!

Chromatography Flowers

Ingredients & Supplies:

  • Chromatography paper (Coffee Filters or Paper Towels cut into circles)
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper or table cloth
  • Cup/container (wide enough that your paper can rest on top)
  • Variety of water-soluble felt tip pens (black works best!)
  • Pipe Cleaners 


Cover work area with a vinyl table cloth or a nice thick layer of newspaper. Place your chromatography paper onto newspaper or tablecloth to keep the marker from bleeding through. Start off by making a nice sized dot in the center of your paper about the size of a penny. 

Next, add water to your cup until the water line is about 1 or 1 ½ inches from the top of the cup.  Cut a pipe cleaner that is about an inch longer than the height of the cup you are using. Push the end of the pipe cleaner through the center of the paper (through the black circle you drew) and place in your cup of water.  The paper should be resting on top of the cup and not touching the water.   Your pipe cleaner will act as a “ladder” for the water to climb and soak into the paper.  You can see the water spreading across your paper which is called capillary action, and the separation of the ink.    

Let your coffee filter dry on newspaper.  When the filter is dry, fold it in half and then fold in half again. The filter will be shaped like a triangle. The top of the flower is where the edges are. Tape pipe cleaner to bottom of filter (where the point is) to make a stem.  Separate the top of the flower into layers, making the flower look like a carnation or another kind of flower.

Put flower in a vase and enjoy!

Repeat to create more flowers. Use different color combinations as well as making different “designs” on your paper. 

The Science Behind It:

A technique known as chromatography is used by scientists to help separate and identify the components of various mixtures (solvents), such as those used in making commercial inks and dyes. You will discover that many of the inks (like many materials) are actually mixtures of two or more different substances.  As water is soaked up through a center wick (pipe cleaner) and then gradually moves outward across a piece of filter paper (coffee filter or paper towel), the ink spot around the center “blooms” into a brilliant pattern of pigments.  The movement of the water, which “climbs” or “crawls” across your paper, is called capillary action. 

Capillary action is defined as the ability of a liquid to flow against gravity where liquid spontaneously rises in a narrow space such as a thin tube, or in porous material such as paper.

By no means limit yourself to the supplies and suggestions listed here because the most exciting (and beautiful) results are often a result of trying something new.  Try different marker colors, marker brand, paper materials, and see if you get different resultsscientists would call this experimenting! 

Most importantly… Have FUN!

Click Here to Download More Experiments!


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.

December E-News: Make it a Hands-On Holiday with FUN Science!

Holiday gifts are the perfect way to incorporate science into our holiday traditions. Opening a gift that has been hand crafted from science can spark that natural curiosity and open the door to valuable ideas, skills and potential hobbies.

Science is a part of our daily life; everything we do and deal with has since. From cooking to playing ball; growing a garden to watching snow fall – understanding science can help us appreciate and relate to the world around us. No matter the age, the gift of science can fuel curiosity, ignite inspiration, and motivate our lives in so many ways.

Holiday gifts are the perfect way to incorporate science into our holiday traditions. Opening a gift that has been hand crafted from science can spark that natural curiosity and open the door to valuable ideas, skills and potential hobbies.  

It’s been said that the best gifts are those we make ourselves. Whether you’re motivated by a skimpy budget or desire to create one-of-a-kind gifts for those on your Christmas list, you’ll find something for everyone. Along the way, you may even learn a thing or two!

1. Holiday Air Fresheners:

This simple project illustrates how polymers can cause a scent to permeate the air for weeks. Custom scents, colors, and jars allow you to personalize air fresheners for different people. 

Read entire project > >

2. Pine Cone Fire Starters:

Fill a basket with pine cones which have been treated to produce colored flames. Add a festive bow. Seriously, what gift could be better than colored fire?

Read entire project > >

3. Crystal Holiday Ornaments:

These are great for making many types of holiday decorations. You can either make a set of crystal snowflakes as gifts or to attach to gifts as decorations. The snowflakes can last for years & make for a great yearly tradition for families. Short on time? Simply package the ingredients & instructions, wrap in a festive bow & give as a DIY grow your own crystal basket.  

Read the entire project > >

4. Relaxing Bath Salts:

Few things are as relaxing as a hot bath on a cold day. Up the comfort factor with homemade bath salts. Try baby soda bottles for packaging single-serve bath salts and amber bottles for larger quantities. 

Read entire project > >

5. Fizzy Bath Bombs:

Much like bath salts, bath bombs can foster a luxurious feeling in the tub. These bombs cause a chemical reaction which results in bubbles and fizz. Pack them in a wide-mouthed glass jar circled with ribbon or in a tissue-lined box. 

Read entire project > >

6. Hand-Churned Butter:

Learn about emulsions while churning out an edible gift for someone on your list. If you’re extra handy around the kitchen, bake a batch of bread or muffins to accompany the butter. 

Read entire project > >

7. Play Dough Footprint Keepsakes:

These little footprints or hand prints make the perfect keepsake for all of the moms & dads out there. Even better, they are super easy & super cheap to make!

Get the play dough recipe here & the full project directions here.  

8. Lip Balm:

Protect your pout against the elements with handmade lip balm. Handy with your design software? Then create custom labels to adorn the container. Check out your local dollar store for unique containers / vials to put your lip balm into.

Read entire project > >

9. Homemade Paper:

Put old newspapers, laundry lint and junk mail to use with this project! The homemade paper is great for Christmas cards or group it with envelopes and a pretty pen for a gift set. 

Read entire project > >

10. Luscious Hand Cream:

No need to go out & buy expensive hand creams & lotions when you have the power of science! Get project details & recipes for many types of hand creams that you can make at home. You can even print off your very own custom label! 

Read entire project > >

What’s your favorite DIY gift this season? Let us know how you are using science during this holiday & we could feature you in an upcoming blog post!

Email us at or find your local HTHT location on Facebook! 

I Didn’t Know I Could Recycle That! Today is America Recycles Day!

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“I see the chasing arrows, but I just don’t know what to do with my (insert product here).”

It’s a common dilemma, especially for those items that don’t operate under a clear-cut recycling plan, such as plastic bottles. Tack on a “hazardous” label and disposal laws, and you’ve got yourself a recycling conundrum! 

Check out our list of the most shocking recyclable items that can be found in almost every home in America. As an added bonus, we’ve thrown in a couple oddities for your entertainment! Get ready to celebrate as this list is sure to spark your excitement for today’s holiday – America Recycles Day! 

Since 1997, communities across the country have come together on November 15th to celebrate America Recycles Day. Today is the day to educate and motivate. Today is the one day to get our neighbors, friends and community leaders excited about what can be accomplished when we all work together. One day to make recycling bigger and better 365 days a year. Today, we challenge you to get involved in a local ARD event. Together, we can make recycling bigger and better in 2012! 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – I Didn’t Know I Could Recycle That!

Comment to let us know how you celebrated America Recycles Day! Get more fun articles like this from our November E-News! 

From Shamrocks & Shenanigans – Traditions of St. Patrick’s Day!

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Today, St. Patrick’s Day is a transcontinental celebration of Irish culture, filled with festive food and traditions. Amidst the millions of people that don green to celebrate the Irish few know the reasoning behind many popular St. Patrick’s Day traditions. Have you ever wondered why we wear green, tell stories of leprechauns, display shamrocks and pinch our friends on St. Patrick’s Day? Read on to discover how these modern day St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans came to be.

Why green? 

According to some accounts, blue was the first color associated with St. Patrick’s Day, but that started to change in the 17th century. Green is one of the colors in Ireland’s tri-color flag, and it has been used in the flags of several Irish revolutionary groups throughout history. Ireland is the “Emerald Isle,” so named for its lush green landscape. Green is also the color of spring, the shamrock, and the Chicago River, which the Midwestern city has dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day for the past 40-odd years.


Corned beef or bacon? 

This St. Patrick’s Day, millions of people will sit down to an authentic Irish meal of corned beef and cabbage. Or so they think. In fact, only half of it is really Irish. Though cabbage has historically been a staple of the Irish diet (along with potatoes), it was traditionally eaten with Irish bacon, not corned beef. Irish immigrants in America could not afford the bacon, so they substituted it with corned beef.

Pinch me, I’m Irish

Forgot to wear green on St. Patty’s Day? Don’t be surprised if you get pinched. No surprise, it’s an entirely American tradition that probably started in the early 1700s. St. Patrick’s revelers thought wearing green made one invisible to leprechauns, fairy creatures who would pinch anyone they could see (anyone not wearing green). People began pinching those who didn’t wear green as a reminder that leprechauns would sneak up and pinch green-abstainers.

Leprechauns, Pots of Gold & Rainbows

Just what does a mythical leprechaun look like and why are they so special? A leprechaun looks like a little old man and dresses like a shoemaker with a cocked hat and leather apron. According to Irish folklore, leprechauns were cranky tricksters who you wouldn’t want to mess with. They live alone and pass the time by mending the shoes of Irish fairies. According to the legend, the fairies pay the leprechauns for their work with golden coins, which the “little people” collect in large pots–the famous “pots of gold” often associated with leprechauns. The legend says that if you catch a leprechaun, you can force him to tell you where he hid his pot of gold. Supposedly, this pot of gold is hidden at the end of a rainbow. Because you can never find the “end” of a rainbow, you can’t get the pot of gold. To get the gold, you first get to catch the little Leprechaun.

The cheerful, friendly ‘Lil elf most Americans associate with St. Paddy’s Day stems from a 1959 Walt Disney film called Darby O’Gill & the Little People. The Americanized, good-natured leprechaun soon became a symbol of St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland in general.

 Shamrocks & the Four-Leaf Clover 

According to Irish legend, St. Patrick chose a three leaved clover or shamrock as a symbol of the church’s Holy Trinity because of its three leaflets bound by a common stalk.  A shamrock is not a four leaf clover, contrary to popular belief.

Although clovers are most often found in nature with three leaves, rare four-leaf clovers do exist. Finding one is thought to bring someone extreme luck. The folklore for four-leaf clovers differs from that of the Shamrock due to the fact that it has no religious allusions associated with it. It is believed that each leaf of a four-leaf clover represents something different: first is hope, the second is faith, the third is love, and the fourth is happiness. The good luck attached with the four leaf clover predates Christianity in Ireland back to the ancient Druid priests.

You don’t have to be Irish to have some hands-on fun on this holiday, exercise your green thumb this St. Patrick’s Day & learns to grow shamrocks indoors!

 Kiss Me I’m Irish

The popular “Kiss Me, I’m Irish,” saying is a reference to The Blarney Stone. The Blarney Stone is the “Stone of Eloquence” in Blarney Castle. Legend holds that kissing the stone brings good luck and gives you the ability to never be lost for words, becoming a smooth talker so-to-speak. If you can’t make it to Ireland to kiss the actual stone, convention says the next-best option is to kiss an Irishman.

No Snakes In Ireland? 

Another St. Patrick myth is the claim that he banished snakes from Ireland. It’s true no snakes exist on the island today, but they never did. Ireland, after all, is surrounded by icy ocean waters—much too cold to allow snakes to migrate from Britain or anywhere else. But since snakes often represent evil in literature, when Patrick drives the snakes out of Ireland, it is symbolically saying he drove the old, evil, pagan ways out of Ireland and brought in a new age. The snake myth was likely spread by well-meaning monks centuries after St. Patrick’s death.

The Luck o’ the Irish 

Want to get lucky this St. Patrick’s Day? If so, follow these rules:


1. Find a four-leaf clover.

2. Wear green (so you don’t get pinched).

3. Kiss the blarney stone.

4. Catch a Leprechaun if you can.

There are many traditions associated with Saint Patrick’s Day.  Regardless of your actual heritage, we all embrace our inner Irishman (or woman) on St. Patrick’s Day. Looking for more ways to have FUN this holiday? Check out these FUN games & resources! 

Quiz Your Noodle – National Geographic St. Patty’s Day Quiz

Clover Puzzler

Funny Fill-In (Mad Lib)

St. Patrick’s Day: Celebrating Irish Scientists & Inventors

Ask most people what they think are Ireland’s greatest contributions to the world and they would probably come up with suggestions such as great music, great writers and great food. It’s unlikely that scientists would be high on the list, but Ireland has given us many great inventors, innovators & scientists. Their work covers a broad spectrum from developing medical treatments to pioneering new technologies and revolutionizing the way we work, rest and play. This month, we want to celebrate the Irish natives that have achieved greatness in the scientific field and highlight those achievements which have made such an impact on our modern world.

Related Article: From Shamrocks to ShananigansThe FUN Traditions of St. Patrick’s Day!

Robert Boyle is known as being one of the original modern chemists and made many key contributions in the scientific revolution of the 1600’s. He said that all matter is made up of tiny particles joined together, that it is not continuous. His most famous discovery, which examined the pressure-volume relationship in laboratory conditions, now bears his name (Boyle’s Law) and was to prove fundamental to our understanding of gases and atmospheric pressure.boyle

William Thompson is also known as Lord Kelvin is noted for his infamous curiosity & investigation of heat. His interest in the measurement of temperature and thermodynamics led to his creation of the absolute scale of temperature- The Kelvin Scale or Absolute Scale. This scale is still used today by scientists across the world.

In 1932, Earnest Walton in collaboration with John Cockcroft, became the first people in history to artificially split the atom, thus ushering the nuclear age. Up until their discovery of ‘splitting the atom’, scientists thought that the atom was the smallest thing possible and could not be split. In 1951 they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics – making Walton Ireland’s first and only Nobel science laureate.

Throughout the centuries, Ireland has proven itself to be a nation filled with innovation, producing many successful engineers that have revolutionized the way we live. From the hypodermic needle to the perforated stamp, their contributions have made a lasting impact in the military, medical, transportation and tourism fields. 

John Philip Holland is accredited with being the inventor of the modern submarine. He had a keen interest in science and was inspired by the book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This inspiration led him to wonder the possibility of constructing submersible boats. In 1898 the Holland submarine was launched. Armed with one torpedo tube and a pneumatic gun, his innovation changed military tactics worldwide.

The first hypodermic needle was created in Dublin’s Mental Health hospital in 1844. Physician Francis Rynd improvised the needle & hypodermic injection in order to give a local anesthetic to a woman who was suffering with an agonizing pain in her face.

The modern tractor was invented by an innovative self-taught mechanic, Harry Ferguson deemed the “Mad Mechanic”. It was lighter, more effective and safer than earlier tractors, and helped to revolutionize farming. Ferguson also invented four-wheel-drive, anti-skid braking, and was the first Irish man to fly in 1909.

Another Irish invention includes perforated stamps, invented in the 1850s by a Dublin printer, Henry Archer – before then, each stamp had to be cut from a sheet. 

city of science Ireland’s scientific achievements are being honored & celebrated this year as Dublin was chosen to be the European City of Science for 2012.  The scientific celebration kicks off during Dublin’s famous St. Patrick’s Festival. The St. Patrick’s Day parade will feature floats & displays seeking to answer some of science’s most engaging questions, such as “How is a rainbow formed?”, “What makes the weather change?”, and “How is electricity made?”  The City of Science title will remain throughout the year and will globally recognize Ireland for all of their scientific accomplishments.

Discover more about Dublin’s City of Science 2012

More Irish Inventors

More Irish Scientists

National Sandwich Day- Discover the Science of a Sandwich!


Science of the Sandwich: turn your favorite, triple-decker into a tower of nutritional power!

Here’s how not to build a sandwich: Start with wimpy white bread, smear on the mayo really thick, and then pile on an entire package plus a dozen individually wrapped slices cheese. Instead of a hero, you’ve got yourself a nutritional supervillain. The good news is, it’s simple to recast that sandwich. Here’s how to do it right, whether you want to ensure a nutritional lunch, additional muscle growth or just plain old good health.


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All great sandwiches start with great bread. The more nubs and nuggets you see–which indicate fiber content–the better. When shopping, select varieties whose ingredient lists start off with “whole-grain wheat” or “whole-wheat flour.” But know that “wheat flour” isn’t the same thing as “whole-wheat flour”–it’s the “whole” part that contributes the fiber. And don’t go just by color; some wheat breads made with refined white flour (wheat flour that’s been stripped of the coarse, fiber-rich kernel) are colored to look tike whole-wheat bread. Kaiser rolls, baguettes, focaccia, and most pitas (except whole-wheat pitas) are considered “white” bread. Even sourdough, rye and pumpernickel are often actually colored and flavored white-flour breads. A good benchmark is a nutritional score of at least two grams of fiber per slice. Whole-wheat breads may have a smidgen of fat, but not enough to worry about.

Smart bread choices include Freihofer’s Stone Ground 100% Whole Wheat, Wonder 100% Whole Wheat, Nature’s Cupboard Natural l0-Grain, Arnold Country Wheat, and Rubschlager Danish Style Pumpernickel.


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Most manufacturers of reduced-fat cheese have finally figured out how to make a product that maintains its classic flavor after the calories and fat have been minimized. More good news: Trimming the fat from these cheeses doesn’t keep them from remaining valuable sources of calcium that keep your bones strong and healthy.

Deli counter: Take a number at the deli counter, it’s worth waiting in line for the likes of Yarlsberg Light Swiss and Alpine Lace Swiss.

Prepackaged aisle: In the prepackaged-cheese aisle, check out Sargento Light Deli Style Sliced Provolone and Sargento Light Deli Style Sliced Swiss. Kraft makes a very serviceable fat-free American cheese product called (surprise!) Fat Free Singles. Kraft also makes Fat Free Swiss Singles, but the flavor seems indistinguishable from that of their American slices (the possibility exists, of course made of stone).


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With all the lean choices now available, why to heavily processed, high-fat deli meats oozing with nitrites? Roasted and smoked turkey breast, baked ham and lean roast beef are all better picks.

Just make sure to buy actual meat and not meat blends (baked ham versus ham luncheon meat, for example). The first place to go is the deli counter, where a guy in a white smock will actually weigh and cut the fresh chunks of meat for you into any thickness your heart desires.

For great deli-counter meats, try Healthy Choice Honey Maple Ham, Healthy Choice Honey Roasted and Smoked Turkey Breast, Healthy Choice Italian Style Roast Beef, Boarshead Ovengold Turkey, and Boarshead Baked Ham.

If you insist on shopping in the prepackaged-meat aisle, be careful: If it looks like it’s been preserved in hair gel, perhaps it’s a bit too processed. When you buy pure meat (such as turkey breast, ham carved from the bone, and roast beef), you can actually pull the slices apart with the “grain.”

Some tasty and healthy prepackaged-meat options are Healthy Choice Deli Traditions Garlic & Herb Roast Beef, Healthy Choice Deli Traditions Cooked Ham, Healthy Choice Oven Roasted Turkey Breast Variety Pack, Butterball Fat Free Honey Roasted & Smoked Turkey Breast, and Butterball Fat Free Smoked Turkey Breast.


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Sandwiches give you the perfect opportunity to sneak in a few of those five servings you’re supposed to eat each day. Start with dark-green lettuce (such as romaine or red leaf), and choose vine-ripened tomatoes for the most flavor. Great additions to any sandwich include roasted red peppers (from water-packed jars), bottled sweet and hot peppers, water-packed artichoke hearts, red-onion slices, fresh basil, fresh watercress leaves, fresh baby spinach leaves, shredded carrots, and even cucumber slices for extra water, fiber and bulk, a triad that increases satisfaction without increasing calories. In fact, one whole cup of vegetables has only 50 calories, but can be loaded with vitamins and minerals. Options include:

* 1 cup carrots–19,000 IU of vitamin A

* 1 tomato–138 mg potassium; lycopene

* 1 cup red peppers–282 mg vitamin C

* 1 cup spinach–245 mg calcium


If you’re a true mayonnaise lover, there’s no need to go without. Fat-free and reduced-fat varieties of mayonnaise and Miracle Whip can just as creamy and fat-laden as their oily counterparts. Besides the classic French’s yellow mustard, try country-style honey mustard or any of the gourmet varieties now available in most markets.  Fortunately, plenty of healthy and tasty toppings are out there, although some of them can carry hefty amounts of sugar.

Fat-Free Sauces (two tablespoons)

* Salsa-

* Tomato-basil sauce-

* Fat-free Italian salad dressing-

* Black bean sauce-

* Light soy sauce-

* Teriyaki sauce-

* Hickory-smoked barbecue sauce-


To add zip to your fat-free mayo, mix in some cayenne pepper.


Mayonnaise and Miracle Whip: At 11 grams of fat per tablespoon, mayonnaise should come with a prescription for Lipitor. Try fat-free varieties–or mustards, tomato sauces, steak sauces, soy or most Asian sauces.

Full-Fat Cheese: There’s no reason to buy full fat-cheese anymore, not when the reduced-fat selections taste just as good. However, because of their higher water content, fat-free varieties typically don’t melt as well, so keep an eye on the stove to prevent burning.

White Bread: Need we remind you that white bread is lacking in many nutrients? Ease the switch to whole grains by opting for whole-wheat bread before graduating to grainy, multigrain slices.


Mayonnaise-Free Cole Slaw: Combine one cup of prepackaged cole slaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots) and a quarter-cup of ranch dressing.

Tropical Fruit Salad: Combine two cups of mixed fresh fruit (you can use any combination of cubed melon, papaya, mango, pineapple, berries and oranges).

Brown Rice/Black Bean Salad: Toss together one cup of cooked instant brown rice, one-third cup of canned black beans, two chopped green onions and two tablespoons of  Italian salad dressing.

Discover more about National Sandwich Day on ABC or read about the top 31 sandwiches in America