It’s Finally Here…Happy Earth Week, Everyone!

Image Source: Pixabay.com

Happy Earth Week! 

That’s right folks, tomorrow is Earth Day which means today marks the start to a full week of celebrating the planet we call home. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal as birds sing, flowers bloom, the sun shines and people across the world join together to celebrate our planet.  Earth Day was established to raise environmental concerns to the forefront of our national conscience.

Earth provides everything we need to survive – shelter, food, water, air and so much more! This annual holiday serves as a reminder of how we personally impact the Earth. It presents an opportunity to educate children on how to make responsible decisions when it comes to protecting the Earth’s resources.  Some may not realize that making small changes in our daily routine can minimize our carbon footprint.

Get involved with Earth Day!

Every year on April 22, over a billion people in 190 countries take action for Earth Day. From San Francisco to San Juan, Beijing to Brussels, Moscow to Marrakesh, people plant trees, clean up their communities, contact their elected officials, and more—all on behalf of the environment.

Like Earth Days of the past, Earth Day 2014 will focus on the unique environmental challenges of our time. As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever. Earth Day 2014 will seek to do just that through its global theme: Green Cities. With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our cities and forge a sustainable future. Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

Did you know?

If everyone in the United States recycled their newspaper, the lives of 41,000 trees would be spared each day. That adds up to about 15,000,000 trees per year! One single tree can detoxify the air of up to 60 pounds of pollutants. Unfortunately only 27% of all American newspapers are recycled. Recycling can also help save energy for households across the nation. Recycling one aluminum can save enough energy to watch three hours of TV or the equivalent of one half gallon of gasoline. 

Whether you are an Earth Day celebration veteran or just getting started, there are plenty of opportunities and ways that you can make a contribution throughout this week & every week.

Think Globally, Act Locally!


Here are 5 simple and fun ways to make a positive impact this week in your home, school or community:

    • Support your local farmer’s markets
    • Unplug your charger(s) and other electronics that you are not using
    • Reduce your shower to 5 minutes
    • Bring your own recyclable bag to the grocery store
    • Stop printing out your ATM receipts 

April is a time of new beginnings so spring into action by introducing new habits that will help in conserving water, renewing energy, reducing waste, and improving air quality. This is your chance to make our planet a safer, healthier place to live, work, and play for all living things!  

Comment below & let us know how you plan to celebrate this week! 


Looking for more ideas on how to celebrate? Check out these great resources:

NASA invites you — and everyone else on the planet — to take part in a worldwide celebration of Earth Day this year with the agency’s #GlobalSelfie event.

HTHT E-news Archives: November 2012 – I Didn’t Know I Could Recycle That! 

Celebrate Earth Week with FUN Science at home & in the classroom.  

As the global organizer behind Earth Day, Earth Day Network creates tools and resources for you to get involved with Earth Day in your community. Check out this video on the official 2014 Earth Day theme: Green Cities. 

5 Amazing Life Lessons from the One & Only, Albert Einstein!!

 

Albert Einstein has long been considered a genius by the masses. He was a theoretical physicist, philosopher, author, and is perhaps the most influential scientists to ever live. In honor of this science icon and to say ‘Happy Birthday Einstein,” we thought we’d share one of our favorite archived e-news articles from March 2013! 

Einstein has made great contributions to the scientific world, including the theory of relativity, the founding of relativistic cosmology, the prediction of the deflection of light by gravity, the quantum theory of atomic motion in solids, the zero-point energy concept, and the quantum theory of a monatomic gas which predicted Bose–Einstein condensation, to name a few of his scientific contributions.

Einstein received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” He’s published more than 300 scientific works and over 150 non-scientific works. Einstein is considered the father of modern physics and is probably the most successful scientist there ever was.

But, you don’t have to be a physicist or an elite research scientist to take away from what Einstein had to offer. We don’t tap often enough into the words of wisdom Einstein shared with the world. From the simply stated to the profoundly put, there’s a lot we can take away from Einstein’s words.

Everyday brings a new opportunity to put his teachings to good use in our personal lives. In celebration of Albert Einstein’s birthday, we bring you 5 Amazing Lessons You Can Learn from Albert Einstein! 


These quotes are just a few of our favorites that show how Einstein reached people all throughout  walks of life – Do you have a favorite lesson from Albert Einstein? We want to know which of them resonates with you in your life!

Leave us your thoughts below – We always look forward to hearing what our readers have to say!

Company Aims to “Disrupt the Pink Aisle” with Fun Science!

Fewer than 3 in 10 graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are women. And barely 1 in 10 actual engineers are women. Early in a girl’s life, the toys marketed to her are usually things that don’t encourage her to enter those fields. 

In a world where men largely outnumber women in science, technology, engineering and math…and girls lose interest in these subjects as early as age 8, GoldieBlox is determined to change the equation. Construction toys develop an early interest in these subjects, but for over a hundred years, they’ve been considered “boys toys”. By designing a construction toy from the female perspective, GoldieBlox is “disrupting the pink aisle” & inspiring the future generation of female engineers.

This company is teaching young girls that these fields of science can be fun – and apparently, epic by the looks of this super-genius 2-minute video. Watch & Learn! 

If you like what GoldieBlox is doing to innovate for girls’ toys, you could Like them on Facebook. And if you want to see them win a chance at airing their commercial in the Super Bowl, make sure you go & vote here

GoldieBlox spent three weeks building a magical machine of toys with a crew of future inventors, present day engineers, and imagination specialists. Among the leaders was Sabrina, a 7 year old who walked the film crew through the garage portion of “The Princess Machine” of GoldieBlox. Check out all of the behind-the-scenes magic of this epic video! http://bit.ly/HWNb4S — check out the toys that made this possible. 

 

The inventor and CEO of GoldieBlox, Debbie Sterling, went to Stanford University to earn her engineering degree. Looking to make your own mark in the engineering world & STEM movement? Start here to see the list of the best schools for engineering


Want more STEM? Check out our monthly STEM Spotlight! 

 

Holy Moley! 5 FUN Facts About Mole Day

Today, October 23 (or 10/23, as it’s written the American way), from 6:02 am to 6:02 pm, is Mole Day. No, it’s not a day for freckles, spies, Mexican sauce, or cute little burrowing mammals. Rather it’s the day to celebrate the chemical unit the “mole.”

What is a mole, you ask, having forgotten high school chemistry. A mole of something is 6.02 x 10^23 of it (kind of like a dozen of eggs is 12 eggs, a mole of eggs is 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 eggs*.)

*okay, technically, it’s 602,214,129,270,000,000,000,000 eggs (give or take a few quintillion – scientists can’t agree on the exact number).

So, with that out of the way, here are 5 fun facts about the mole and Mole Day:

1. The mole is attributed to 18th century Italian scientist Amedeo Avogadro, whose full name is Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro di Queregna e di Cerreto. Man, that’s a long name, but it somehow fits the long number that now bears his name (6.02 x 10^23 is called Avogadro’s Constant). His parents called him Amedeo Carlo Avogadro.

We won’t get into the technical aspects, but in 1811 Avogadro proposed a law (now known as Avogadro’s Law) stating that equal volume of all gasses, at the same temperature and pressure, have the same number of molecules.

As with many scientific accomplishments of that age, Avogadro’s findings were promptly ignored. It took about a hundred years for the scientific community to get around to appreciating what he’s done. In 1909, French chemist and Nobel laureate Jean Baptiste Perrin proposed that quantity of molecules be called “Avogadro’s Constant.”

2. Mole Day was proposed in an article in The Science Teacher in early 1980s. Inspired by the article, Maurice Oehler, a chemistry teacher (now retired) in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, created the National Mole Day Foundation in 1991.

3. Did you know that the Mole Day has annual themes? Here they are:

1991 The Mole The Merrier
1992 Go For The Mole
1993 Mole Out The Barrel
1994 An Ace in The Mole
1995 Moledi Gras
1996 Molemorial Day
1997 We Dig Chemistry
1998 Ride the Molercoaster
1999 It’s A MOLE World
2000 Celebrate the Molennium
2001 Molar Odyssey
2002 Molar Reflections
2003 Rock ‘n Mole
2004 Pi a la MOLE
2005 Moles-Go-Round
2006 Mole Madness
2007 Secret Agent Double Mole Seven in Moles are Forever
2008 Remember the Alamole
2009 Molar Express
2010 Moles of the Round Table
2011 Molar Eclipse
2012 Animole Kingdom

4. To help you celebrate, here’s the Molemorial Day song by Michael Offutt (that’s the theme of the Mole Day in 1996, when Offutt recorded the song). Actually Offutt created a whole album, titled “Molennium,” filled with songs about the mole.

5. As you can probably guess, a mole (6.02 x 10^23) is a VERY large number. But, what does a mole of moles look like? What if we release a mole of moles onto our planet? xkcd explains:

An eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) weighs about 75 grams, which means a mole of moles weighs (6.022×10^23)×75g≈4.52×10^22kg.

That’s a little over half the mass of our moon.

Mammals are largely water. A kilogram of water takes up a liter of volume, so if the moles weigh 4.52×10^22 kilograms, they take up about 4.52×10^22 liters of volume. You might notice that we’re ignoring the pockets of space between the moles. In a moment, you’ll see why.

The cube root of 4.52×10^22 liters is 3,562 kilometers, which means we’re talking about a sphere with a radius of 2,210 kilometers, or a cube 2,213 miles on each edge. (That’s a neat coincidence I’ve never noticed before—a cubic mile happens to be almost exactly 4/3pi cubic kilometers, so a sphere with a radius of X kilometers has the same volume as a cube that’s X miles on each side.)

If these moles were released onto the Earth’s surface, they’d fill it up to 80 kilometers deep—just about to the (former) edge of space:

October 2013 E-News: It’s International Dinosaur Month and the Award Goes to…

Way back in 1841, Richard Owen first classified a group of related fossils as “Dinosauria,” which translates to “terrible lizard” in ancient Greek. But dinosaurs aren’t terrible, they’re wonderful! And since 1841, these planet-ruling, long-extinct creatures have been exciting our imaginations, changing what we know about Earth’s history, and giving pop culture its most popular and beloved monsters.

And so, in celebration of the 252 millionth anniversary of the first dinosaur taking its inaugural step, give or take a few million years, we give you best of the best in the prehistoric popularity contest. Lucky for you, it’s just in time for International Dinosaur Month

The Heaviest Dinosaur 

The heaviest dinosaur ever discovered is the Brachiosaurus weighing in at a whopping 80 tons. It was the equivalent to 17 African Elephants. Brachiosaurus was the equivalent to 17 African Elephants measuring 16m tall and 26m long. The excavation of Brachiosaurus in Tanzania, Africa, during the early part of the century involved hundreds of local workers who carried the enormous bones by hand for many miles to the seaport. They were then shipped to Germany and mounted inside of the Humboldt Museum in East Berlin. This museum was custom designed to fit the skeleton of Brachiosaurus. That skeleton is still on display, and it is still the most impressive dinosaur mounted in the world. It is as staggering to visitors today as when it was unveiled many decades ago.

The Smallest Dinosaur

The smallest fully-grown fossil dinosaur is the little bird-hipped plant-eater lesothosaurus, which was only the size of a chicken. Smaller fossilized examples have been found but these are of baby dinosaurs.

The Smallest Dinosaur Egg

Current evidence suggests all dinosaurs laid eggs of a wide variety of shapes and sizes—from 1 inch (3 centimeters) to 21 inches (53 centimeters), round or elliptical. Dinosaur eggs were perforated with tiny holes, which allowed life-giving oxygen to enter. The smallest dinosaur egg so far found is only a little over 1 inch long (3 centimeters.) Scientists have yet to solve the mystery of which species of dinosaur laid the tiny egg. Once the egg has been fossilized it will become hard like rock, but it will retain a structure of its own.

The Most Brainy Dinosaur

One of the most intelligent dinosaurs was Troodon. It was a hunting dinosaur, about 2 meters long, and had a brain size similar to that of a mammal or bird of today, stereoscopic vision, and grasping hands.

The First Dinosaur to be Discovered in North America

The first discovery of dinosaur remains in North America was made in 1854 by Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden during his exploration of the upper Missouri River. He discovered a small collection of teeth which were later described by Joseph Leidy in 1856 as belonging to Trachodon, Troodon, and Deinodon.

A short two years later, Leidy had the honor of describing the first reasonably complete dinosaur skeleton the world would know, Hadrosaurus foulkii. Named after its discoverer William Parker Foulke, this specimen was recovered during quarrying of a sand pit in Haddonfield, New Jersey. This specimen, is now on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

The Tallest Dinosaur

The tallest dinosaurs were the Brachiosaurid group of sauropods. Their front legs were longer than the rear legs giving them a giraffe-like stance. This combined with their extremely long necks, which were held vertically, meaning they could leaf through even the tallest trees. Brachiosaurus – the most well known of the group – was 13 meters tall. Sauroposeidon was massive and probably grew to 18.5 meters tall making it the tallest dinosaur.

The Fastest Running Dinosaur

The speediest dinosaurs were the ostrich mimic ornithomimids, such as Dromiceiomimus, which could probably run at speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour.

The Oldest Dinosaur

In January 2013, Science Today published the discovery of a new dinosaur species that lived around the same time as Eoraptor in the late Triassic, some 230 million years ago. Dubbed Eodromaeus, it was discovered in the Ischigualasto Formation, a geological basin in northwestern Argentina that is riddled with some of the oldest dinosaur remains known.

The Eodromaeus has been a hot debate among Paleontologists & has taken the top spot in the oldest Dino category previously held by the Eoraptor, meaning “dawn thief,” whom had held the title at 228 million years.

The Longest Dinosaur Name

The dinosaur with the longest name was Micropachycephalosaurus meaning “tiny thick-headed lizard”. Its fossils have been found in China, and it was named in 1978 by the Chinese paleontologist Dong.

Even eons later, the world is still just as into dinosaurs as it was 251,000,000 years ago. In fact, there are countless ways to get the kids (and/or yourself) even more in touch with these beloved prehistoric pals, this side of the Stone Age.

All month long, we invite you to celebrate your love of dinosaurs with us. Make this month’s celebration one of prehistoric proportions with a HTHT fan-favorite Paleontology Party that is sure to WOW all of your fellow Dino-lovers.

Looking for even more ways to celebrate? Check out these other great ideas & resources:

  1. Archeologists in training can hone their skills by digging for Dino bones online.
  2. If this dinosaur expert doesn’t have all the kids’ questions (“Why are dinosaurs so big?”) answered, this video from National Geographic surely will.
  3. If a natural history museum is within reach, pack a lunch, and make a family day of it!  Larger-than-life skeletons will put the ancient beasts’ grandeur in full perspective. While you’re there, take the time to get to know the species of dinosaurs & study their bones. You can show off your new Dino-knowledge with all your friends at your Dino party!
  4. Dress as a dinosaur for Halloween. Million-year-old reptiles always get more candy!
  5. Have a Dinosaur Movie Marathon. You know what we’re thinking… JURASSIC PARK!!!! But for the younger audience, there are plenty of other incredible dinosaur movies out there. Check out the ‘Dinosaur’ category on Netflix & find a movie that will entertain your friends of all ages. Prepare some dinosaur snacks, like sandwiches cut into to Dino shapes and Dino shaped cookies too. Try icing cakes to look scaly or even check out this Dino egg cake recipe. Now all you need is some friends, Dino movies and of course POPCORN!

And don’t forget to join the Mesozoic Madness conversation on Twitter @HTHTWNC & Share your favorite highlights with us on Facebook! 

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 LiveScience.com.  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:

LiveScience.com: 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

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.

November E-News: Native American Science!

Image Source: Pixabay.com

In November, we celebrate change – in more ways than one! We’re already halfway through the fall season, and we still see and feel many changes: it begins to get just a little bit colder, almost every leaf has fallen to the ground, and everyone is anticipating the first snowfall. One thing that never changes throughout the year is the fun and excitement that learning brings! November is National American Indian Heritage Month. This month we investigate how science was used in the everyday lives of Native Americans all across our country. From astronomy to chemistry to meteorology, Native American’s incorporated science into their way of life & made their mark with scientific research that can still be used today. 

National American Indian Heritage Month celebrates and recognizes the accomplishments of the original inhabitants, explorers and settlers of the United States. In 1990, Congress chose the month of the November to recognize the American Indians as this month concluded the traditional harvest season and was generally a time of thanksgiving and celebration for the American Indians.

American Indians were very insightful people. Their scientific observation began with their established relationship with nature – used to teach them the importance of scientific concepts like astronomy, geology, biology, chemistry and even physics. American Indian knowledge and inventions sprung from hunches or intuitions, rather than modern day scientific observation which involves rigorous and systematic study.  Many of the foods we eat and the medicines or remedies we use were introduced by Indians. Here are a few of the ground breaking contributions that Native Americans gave to the future of modern day science. 

Astronomy 

American Indians were very careful scientists. They learned important facts about objects in the sky and used them to tell time, to predict the changes of the seasons, and to use maps. Today, American Indian scientists help us learn more about the sky and galaxy. In fact, Native Americans have known for thousands of years that there was a black hole located through the center of the bowl in the big dipper. NASA discovered it just a few years ago.

John Herrington – Astronaut

Geology

American Indians knew that the world was round long before Europeans ever did. For example, this is reflected in the Lakota Creation Story. The first four beings – Inyan (rock), Maka (earth), Taku Skan Skan (sky), and Wi (sun) are all round because roundness is the most sacred state. The inclusion of this information in such an ancient story shows that the Lakota have known that the Earth is round for many thousands of years.

Dr. Robin Kimmerer – Plant Ecologist

Biology

Maize is a popular food, and it is well known that it was a gift to the rest of the world from the Native Americans.  What is not commonly known is that corn is the result of one of the most amazing plant breeding accomplishments in the history of the world. Maize is the result of many years of cultivation and domestication of a wild grass known as teosinte. Arturo Warman, a maize historian, has called maize “a thoroughly cultural artifact, in that it is truly a human invention, a species that does not exist naturally in the wild and can only survive if sown and protected by humans.” It is also believed that the domestication of maize is directly related to the rise of civilization in Mesoamerica. Since the days when it was given to Columbus, maize has affected everything from land use, to food production, to cuisine, and to population growth around the world.

Dr. David R. Burgess – Biologist

Chemistry

Another amazing fact about corn is that the Native Americans used alkaline substances to remove the hard exterior of corn once it hardened. Once corn dries, the outer edge of it becomes lignified. This means that the cells around the center of the corn kernel become tightly latticed, like the weaving of a basket. Native Americans were able to use the alkaline substances to soften the corn and make it edible again. Often, certain kinds of corn were kept hard so that the people could make foods like popcorn from them.

The Native American tribes who live in areas where there are cedar trees have always known to throw cedar on a fire during a thunderstorm. Grandmothers and Mothers would throw pieces of cedar on the fire when lightning was near, because they knew that cedar warded off lightning. What is the value of this in the world of Chemistry? Because cedar wood has a negative charge, it repels lightning; therefore, throwing cedar into the fire reduced the risk that lightning would strike the area where the people were. Native Americans have had a practical understanding of Chemistry since long before the science itself was developed.

Dr. Jani Ingram  Chemist

Many pharmaceutical drugs that are commonly used today come from our Native American ancestors. Their extensive knowledge of medicinal plants has contributed to present-day medicines that include salicin. Willow contains salicin, which is acetyl salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. They used complex pain killers long before aspirin was developed by modern science. Native Americans would boil a tea or chew the willow leaves or inner bark. The leaves and inner bark contain the medicinal extract, which helped relieve minor pain from headaches, joint pain, and toothaches. The same way aspirin is used today. The willow is often given the nickname ‘toothache tree’. Over 200 medical drugs and their source can be linked back to Native Americans for their use of healing plants.

Without written records, historians must work backward from oral traditions preserved in written form or dissect physical remains to uncover many of the purposes or reasoning of their ancient scientific discovery. Native Americans have made scientific contributions in every area of endeavor and affected many aspects of modern day American life. All of these contributions came from incredibly insightful Native Americans that learned about the world around them, not from the internet but from actually living in it.  

Additional Resources:

– For a full database full of Native Americans & their contribution to the world of science, check out the SACNAS.  The SACNAS celebrates both the traditional  knowledge and (Western) science contributions of Native Americans to the nation’s scientific endeavor.

– Think About it Thursday: Did Native Americans Use Science?

– The Law Library of Congress : Native American Heritage Month

– EducationWorld.com : Celebrate Native American Hertiage Activities & Lesson Plans

 

 

The Science of the Perfect Storm – Hurricane Hunting with Sandy!

Starting yesterday evening, residents along the eastern U.S. coast and much further inland, from Washington D.C. to Chicago, hunkered down and braced for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, the biggest hurricane (by area) on record. Ever. (Since 1988.)

Scientists have been following and projecting Sandy’s path with all the tools at their disposal: ocean buoys, radar and satellite imagery, and computer modeling. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also gathers information from special reconnaissance aircraft, which fly over hurricanes and can drop instruments into them to measure wind speeds, air pressure, temperature, and altitude. 

The storm that is threatening 60 million Americans in the eastern third of the nation in just a couple of days with persistent high winds, drenching rains, extreme tides, flooding and probably snow is much more than just an ordinary weather system. It’s a freakish and unprecedented monster.


Don’t Just Watch Hurricane Coverage on TV….Experience a Tropical Monster for Yourself on ORBIT! 

Discover the mighty hurricane by following it through the Caribbean basin. Watch as the threat level increases with every correct answer! Click the image above to get started on your very own Hurricane Hunting expedition!


What forces created this “Frankenstorm”?

Start with Sandy, an ordinary late summer hurricane from the tropics, moving north up the East Coast. Bring in a high pressure ridge of air centered around Greenland that blocks the hurricane’s normal out-to-sea path and forces it west toward land.

Add a wintry cold front moving in from the west and colliding with that storm. Mix in a blast of Arctic air from the north. Add a full moon and its usual effect, pulling in high tides. Factor in immense waves commonly thrashed up by a huge hurricane plus massive gale-force winds. Do all that and you get a stitched-together weather monster expected to unleash its power over 800 square miles, with predictions in some areas of 12 inches of rain, 2 feet of snow and sustained 40- to 50 mph winds.

“The total is greater than the sum of the individual parts” said Louis Uccellini, the environmental prediction chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologists. “That is exactly what’s going on here.”  This storm is so dangerous and so unusual because it is coming at the tail end of hurricane season and beginning of winter storm season, “so it’s kind of taking something from both – part hurricane, part nor’easter, all trouble,” Jeff Masters, director of the private service Weather Underground, said Saturday.

With Sandy expected to lose tropical characteristics, NOAA is putting up warnings that aren’t hurricane or tropical for coastal areas north of North Carolina, causing some television meteorologists to complain that it is all too confusing. Nor is it merely a coastal issue anyway. Craig Fugate of the Federal Emergency Management Agency told reporters Saturday: “This is not a coastal threat alone. This is a very large area. This is going to be well inland.”

It’s a topsy-turvy storm, too. The far northern areas of the East, around Maine, should get much warmer weather as the storm hits, practically shirt-sleeve weather for early November, Masters and Uccellini said. Around the Mason-Dixon line, look for much cooler temperatures. West Virginia and even as far south as North Carolina could see snow. Lots of it. It is what NOAA forecaster Jim Cisco meant Thursday when he called it “Frankenstorm” in a forecast, an allusion to Mary Shelley’s gothic creature of synthesized elements. 

Check out this real-time wind map to see just how far Sandy can reach: you can see the leading edge of the hurricane pushing into the East Coast. The National Hurricane Center will give you a map of the storm’s projected path, along with some other meteorological projections such as the risk of storm surge.

Google has also put together a map showing the path of the storm. Google’s version has toggles so you can turn cloud cover on and off, show the locations of webcams in the area and chart out the locations of Red Cross shelters. 

Learn more about Hurricane Sandy & stay up to date with these resources:

August E-News: Mother Nature’s Olympians Crowned!

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games have officially begun and five days in, the athletes are well on their way to captivating the world with their super-human abilities. Watching these athletes in action, vying for gold can be mesmerizing to those of us sitting at home. The Olympics are a time to celebrate the world’s fastest and strongest humans in the world – the best of the best. But we wondered, how would record-breaking runners, such as the fastest man in the world Usain Bolt, fare against the wilder side of the animal kingdom?

These Olympians of the natural world could easily make humans look somewhat unimpressive when compared to their strength, speed, agility and endurance used daily as a matter of survival. In honor of the Summer Games, we thought we would shake things up a bit and highlight some spectacular “Animal Olympians” with gold medal-worthy abilities. 

Track & Field

High-Jump Stars

The High-Jump champion of the animal world may just be the spittle bug. This insect is only as long as a pencil eraser but it can jump 115 times higher than its body length, while the record for humans is just a little over 8 feet. That’s about 1.25 times the height of the record-holder,Cuba’s Javier Sotomayor.  In comparison, the spittle bugs jump would be the equivalent of a person leaping over a 70-story skyscraper!!

Long Jump

 

Tiny crustaceans called copepods were recently named the world’s best animal jumpers. They leap with greater muscle power than kangaroos, frogs and all other impressive animal jumpers. copepods can accelerate to 500 body lengths per second when they perform an escape jump away from countless underwater predators. VIDEO: See a copepod perform its medaling jumps!

Sprinting

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is credited as the fastest human, with a top running speed of 27.79 mph. In the animal kingdom, the cheetah can bolt at speeds over 70 miles per hour or more for short bursts, making them the world’s fastest land animals. But even that doesn’t always ensure this big cat gets a meal. The gazelles and other small antelope that are the cheetah’s main prey are not as fast as the cat, but they have greater endurance and agility in a high-speed chase and often escape the spotted speedster.

Also on the podium would be the pronghorn antelope and the world’s fastest bird, the Ostrich. Both of these animals are strong medal contenders for any running events with the pronghorn pulling out at 55mph followed by the ostrich clocking in at an amazing 40mph.

In The Pool – Amazing Aquatics

400 Meter Freestyle

 

In the pool, both Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps may have some competition when it comes to the incredible sailfish. This fish shoots through the water reaching a swimming speed of 67mph! Their high speed would allow them to zip through any Olympics swimming event with ease!  

VIDEO: Watch Sailfish in Action in this LIFE clip.

Fish, sharks and marine mammals are such talented swimmers that Olympic athletes study their movements and wear swim suits modeled after their body structures. Dall porpoises can swim up to 35 miles per hour, making them the fastest water-dwelling mammals, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Russell Mark, USA Swimming’s director of biomechanics, stated that the dolphin/porpoise-style kick can make or break most human swimming races. “This is when swimmers push off walls and swim underwater without moving their arms,” he explained.

Relay Swimming

 

The killer whale or orca can swim up to 30 mph, however, it usually cruises at much slower speeds, between 2 to 6mph. The best contender for relay swimming would be the gentoo penguin. This bird may not be able to fly in the air like other birds, but it makes up for its flaws by flying through the water. With wings that work as paddles, this penguin is shaped for swimming reaching speeds up to 15mph – three times faster than humans!  

Diving

 

The beaked whale, actually more closely related to dolphins than whales, can dive deeper in the ocean than any other animal. Heading down to depths of 6,230 feet, that’s over a mile deep, it can then hold its breath for 85 minutes before resurfacing for air. Their breathing and blood-circulation systems are made for this, since they have much more oxygen in their muscles than we do and they can send more oxygen through their blood to their brains and hearts. 

Weight Lifting

Even Olympic weightlifters would have to contend with some fierce competition from the wild side.  The heaviest individual weight lifted by a human in an Olympic competition was 580.9 pounds, a record set by Iran’s Hossein Rezazadeh. Weighing in at 340 pounds, Rezazadeh falls short of lifting an object with a mass twice his own weight. It’s hard to believe that his efforts would fall short of a medal when up against a beetle. That’s right, an insect, could, pound for pound, blow away all other human and animal contenders.  The Rhinoceros Beetle can lift up to 850 times their own weight!  Battling it out for the Silver & Bronze would be the African Elephant and the African Gorilla.

VIDEO: Watch a Rhino Beetle Put to the Test

Gymnastics


The African Bush Baby is a tiny primate and lives in the treetops. It has incredible gymnastic abilities. As it prowls the tropical forests at night looking for fruits and insects to devour, bush babies can make leaps of 20 feet or more, which is many times their own body length. They are great jumpers and acrobats too as they move in complete silence and can see in almost absolute darkness with the help of their huge eyes.

Animal Olympians are much like human Olympians – there is something about them that makes them stand out from the rest. Some of them run, swim or fly faster than other animals. Others can jump higher, dive deeper, or lift more. A few are Olympians because they live the longest, grow the tallest, weigh the most, or are simply the strongest. What animal would you nominate for an Olympic medal?

If you want to learn more and are ready for some Olympic sized fun, check out the full list of Animal Olympians here.

Discover more FUN about Animal Olympians with a few fun facts & try your hand at some Olympic Sized trivia!