Science Goes for Gold with New NBC Series: The Science of the Olympics!

science of olympics

Tomorrow the quest for Olympic Gold begins as the best athletes in the world gather in London to battle it out for their chance of athletic glory. If all goes well, the organization and technology that runs the event will be seamlessly invisible, allowing fans both at the event and at home to follow every step, every run and every jump.

But for those who like to know about the behind-the-scenes technology, NBC has posted a 10-part series that delves into the mechanics of London 2012. The National Science Foundation has collaborated with NBC for this incredible series ‘Science of the Summer Olympics’ which delves into a variety of different parts of the Olympics, from the biomechanics of the athletes, to the dedicated effort that goes into making the split-second timers.

The NSF’s assistant director for engineering Thomas Peterson said: ‘The work of engineers not only affects Olympic sports, it also helps us perform ordinary activities in better ways. ‘This series will illustrate how engineers can impact both sports and society, and we hope it will inspire young people to pursue engineering. Some of the questions explored in the series include:

  • How does swimmer Missy Franklin use the principles of fluid dynamics to move more quickly through water?
  • What are the unique biomechanics that have helped make sprinter Usain Bolt the world’s fastest human?
  • What does weightlifter Sarah Robles have in common with a high-tech robot?
  • How do engineers build faster pools, stronger safety helmets, and specialized wheelchairs for disabled athletes?

Each video segment will be available to NBC affiliate stations, and for free on the Web accompanied by an engineering-focused lesson plan for middle- and high-school teachers developed by the National Science Teachers Association.

‘The Olympic Games are a time when the world gathers to watch the best athletes compete for gold, and with this new video series, people can see and learn exactly what it takes to reach the top,’ said Soraya Gage, executive producer of NBC Learn. ‘We’re thrilled to continue this successful partnership with NSF and NBC Sports, to provide students and teachers with engaging content that makes learning about engineering both relevant and fun.’

The first episode is available below, and the rest of the five-minute films are available here.

Learn More About The Science of the Olympics at

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz Google Doodle Gets Wavy!

heinrich rudolf hertz

Today’s Google Doodle honors German Physicist Heinrich Rudolf Hertz who is probably best known for the unit of measurement that bears his name.

Hertz’s experiments in electromagnetism paved the way for wireless communications, as he was the first scientist to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves. His early research served as an expansion of the theory of electromagnetism proposed by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell in 1865. Maxwell proposed that light itself was a series of electromagnetic waves and this prompted Hertz to construct his own apparatus to generate electromagnetic radiation.

Hertz did this in 1886 with a radio wave transmitter using a high voltage induction coil, a condenser, and a spark gap.

But he also had to detect the waves, so he built a receiver to detect the oscillating current. This was visible through the sparks across the spark gap. In later experiments with electromagnetic waves, Hertz determined that the radiation’s velocity was the same as light’s velocity and that radio waves’ reflection and refraction was also the same as light.

The “Hertz,” a universal measure of frequency, was established in 1930.

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates what would be his 155th birthday, Hertz Died at the age of 36.

Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin!


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The Lightning Rod

When most of us think about Benjamin Franklin and his inventions, we think about a man running around outside during a thunderstorm with a kite. Ask any child and they will be quick to tell you that Benjamin Franklin invented electricity but the fact of the matter is, Franklin didn’t invent electricity, he simply figured out how the transfer of electricity works by inventing the lightening rod. During that time, in the 1700s, fires were commonplace as a result of lightning strikes. His simple lightning rod helped to channel that power away from the houses and buildings, and to a grounded source.


Were you aware that Ben Franklin also invented bifocals? As Franklin got older, he realized that his vision had started to decline. The inventor turned to science to find a solution for the uncomfortable task of switching between glasses for close-up reading and distance viewing. In 1784, Franklin discovered his solution with a pair of engineered eyeglasses he dubbed “double spectacles. Franklin had his optician take the lenses from his two sets of glasses, cut the lenses in two horizontally, and then mount them back into the frames. The optician placed the lens for close work at the bottom and the lens for distance at the top. Traditional eyeglasses simply correct vision for one distance, but the invention of the bifocal allowed for two corrective powers to be used in each lens, thus eliminating the need to switch between.


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Benjamin Franklin did not always work as an inventor. As a matter of fact, he once served as the postmaster general. In an effort to figure out the best route for delivering mail, he invented a simple odometer which allowed measurements between two areas when it was attached to the delivery carriage. Today, the odometers used in automobiles are much more complex.





The Gulf Stream


Did you know that Ben Franklin was the first scientist to study the Gulf stream? The Gulf stream is a powerful, warm current in theAtlantic Ocean. Those of us who live along the coast are familiar with what the Gulf stream is but very few of us realize the fact that Benjamin Franklin is one of the men that helped map it out. It was known that sailing from the United  States to Europe took less time than traveling in the other direction. This fact fascinated Benjamin Franklin so he took the time to map out the Gulf stream by measuring current depths and wind speed in order to come up with one of the first, accurate concept drawings of the phenomenon.


The Franklin Stove


The Franklin stove was a concept that was thought up by Benjamin Franklin in order to help individuals use less wood, while still producing more heat. Since wood fires accounted for a lot of the heat during that time, having a more efficient way of receiving that heat was welcomed by almost everyone. Something that is interesting about this particular invention is the fact that he turned down a patent for this concept. He wanted it to be available for everybody and was not interested in making a profit from it.


Today, young scientists are looking to the stories of Franklin’s experiments and his inventions and finding their own scientific inspiration. The Franklin Institute is a great resource for information on Benjamin Franklin. You can visit this website to find instructions for experiments with electricity, air, heat, and even the Glass Armonica. Find your own inspiratin and spark your imagination with even more experiments including how to build your own Leyden Jar! 

FUN Holiday Science – Poinsettia pH Paper!

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Many plants contain pigments that are responsive to changes in acidity. An example is the poinsettia plant, which has colored ‘flowers’ (really specialized leaves called bracts). Although poinsettias are perennials in warmer climates, most people are likely to see them used as a decorative houseplant over the winter holidays. You can extract the red pigment from deeply colored poinsettias and use it to make your own pH paper strips to test whether a liquid is an acid or a base.


  • poinsettia ‘flowers’
  • beaker or cup
  • hot plate or boiling water
  • scissors or a blender
  • filter paper or coffee filters
  • 0.1 M HCl
  • vinegar (dilute acetic acid)
  • baking soda solution (2 g / 200 mL water)
  • 0.1 M NaOH
How To Do It – 
1. Cut flower petals into strips or chop them in a blender. Place the cut pieces into a beaker or cup.
2. Add just enough water to cover the plant material. Simmer until the color is removed from the plant. (Personally, I would just microwave the chopped bracts with a little water for about a minute and allow the mixture to steep, like a tea.
3. Filter the liquid into another container, such as a petri dish. Discard the plant matter.
4. Saturate clean filter paper with the poinsettia solution. Allow the filter paper to dry. You can cut the colored paper with scissors to make pH test strips.
5. Use a dropper or toothpick to apply a little liquid to a test strip. The color range for acids and bases will depend on the particular plant. If you like, you can construct a chart of pH and colors using liquids with a known pH so that you can then test unknowns. Examples of acids include hydrochloric acid (HCl), vinegar, and lemon juice. Examples of bases include sodium or potassium hydroxide (NaOH or KOH) and baking soda solution.
6. Another way to use your pH paper is as a color-change paper. You can draw on pH paper using a toothpick or cotton swab that has been dipped in an acid or base.
Learn more about pH levels here :

Edible pH Indicators – Reactions : Acids & Bases 

12 Days of Christmas – Cool Science Christmas Presents!

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It’s possible I’m a little biased, but I think science-y Christmas presents are the coolest! There are all sorts of chemistry sets, crystal growing kits, glow in the dark experiments and other educational toys and gifts. You can apply your knowledge of science to impress by making personalized presents, like handcrafted perfume, soaps, colored fire chemicals and more.
You’ve seen those lists of gifts that crafty people can make. Those gifts are nice, but gifts made by science geeks are sooo cool!
  • Space Mud
    Space Mud is a great gift. No one under the age of 12 will tell you otherwise. If you are making a gift for someone either more mature or less into ooze you might want to go for the fizzy bath bomb.  You can either make the space mud, put it in a zipper baggie with a festive bow, or you could make up a package of ingredients so the recipient can make their very own Space Mud!
  • Fizzy Bath Bombs
    There comes a point where it’s time to wash away the daily grime and relax. Fizzy bath bombs are perfect. You can fragrance them or include soothing essential oils. The best part is how they fizz under water.
  • Colored Fire Care Package
    Fill a basket with pinecones which have been treated to produce colored flames. Add a festive bow. Seriously, what gift could be better than colored fire?
  • Absinthe
    … and the answer to that question is: A basket of colored fire pinecones accompanied by a bottle of lovingly home-crafted absinthe. Absinthe is at the adult end of the gift-giving spectrum.
  • Crystal Snowflake Ornaments
    You can either make a set of crystal snowflakes as gifts or to attach to gifts as decorations or you can package the borax with instructions and pipecleaners so the recipient can grow their own crystals. The snowflakes can last for years.
  • Invisible Ink
    There is more than one way to make invisible ink. Why not package them all up together with tips on how to write and reveal secret messages? You can use corn starchbaking soda, or lemon juice. This is a great last-minute gift for kids you probably can make without shopping.
  • Custom Perfume
    You can distill your own essential oils and use them to create a signature scent to make a one-of-a-kind gift.

Not feeling crafty but still looking for ideas? Here are some more great science gifts that you can purchase:

Chemistry Kit

A chemistry kit is the obvious choice for a chemistry toy or gift. There are lots of different types of chemistry kits available, ranging from chemistry kits focused on food or slime to more advanced kits that allow you to explore a wide range of chemicals.

Molecule Kit

This is sort of like tinker toys… for chemists. You can make molecules from atoms, joined together by stick-like bonds. A molecule kit is a great way to get a hands-on feel for how molecules are put together and shaped.

Lab Coat

How do you recognize a chemist? If they are an organic chemist, it might be by the way they smell. Otherwise the dead giveaway involves the lab coat. Every chemist needs a lab coat. Messy chemists may need more than one.

Crystal Kits

Growing crystals is a lot of fun! You can grow crystals that resemble gemstones, crystals that grow before your eyes, and crystals that glow. Most of the crystal kits contain multiple projects, so one kit can keep you busy for a long time.

Polymer Kits

A polymer kit is a special type of chemistry kit which allows you to investigate the way molecular subunits join together to form larger structures called polymers. The projects in polymer kits typicall allow you to make bouncy balls, polymer ‘worms’, slime, and jelly marbles.

Rock Tumbler

Rocks are composed of minerals and minerals are chemicals. Plus, there’s actually quite a bit of chemistry involved in the polishing process. If you’re looking for a geochemistry-related gift, this one’s perfect.

Santa’s Existence Finally Proven Using High Tech iPhone App Software!

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It has been the holiday mystery of the ages – the real life existence of Father Christmas, better known to children around the world as the jolliest of elves… Santa Claus. Over the years, the FBI, Scotland Yard, MENSA and the Illuminati have all tried in vain to gather proof that the man in the big red suit did exist. Today, the unthinkable, unimaginable has occurred: through new technology developed by Wet Nose Design in London, undeniable evidence proving Santa’s existence has been uncovered

Santa’s Existence Finally Proven Using High Tech iPhone App Software is a post from: Appmodo

The World’s Largest Crocodile!


The tiny town of Bundawan isn’t exactly a tourist mecca for the Philippines, but they’re doing their best to develop attractions.  The first thing on Bunawan’s list of things to see?  A 6.2 meter (20 foot) long, 1-ton crocodile that is believed to be the largest crocodile in the world.  The world’s largest crocodile was captured in the Agusan marsh outside of Bunawan on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao in September.  It was measured at 6.2 meters by famed Australian zoologist Adam Britton, who measured the current Guinness World Record crocodile, 5.8-meter Cassius, in 2008.

“We are happy to announce that we have the biggest crocodile in the whole world,” crowed Bunawan town council member Apollo Canoy.  ”So far we have not had any contacts with Guinness, and we do not know whether they plan to visit us soon.

Guinness is aware of the crocodile, believed to be the largest saltwater crocodile in captivity at this time, and they’re following the story as details emerge.  They need more evidence before they crown the Bundawan crocodile as the largest ever captured.  Until then, Bundawan continues to reap the benefits of having a giant crocodile, with the croc drawing 27,000 visitors every year to the tiny swamp town.

The croc eats nearly 37.5 pounds of pork in a day.

ScienceMadeFunKids Announces the “Name That Site” Contest!

Hey Parents, Teachers & Kids – We need your help!

The NEW premier section of ScienceMadeFunKids is looking for an exciting & compelling name! The new section will debut in 2012 & offer amazing and engaging activities where science & imagination collide!

If your entry is chosen you could win one of these exciting prizes:

– a FREE 1-year subscription to the NEW premier section of ScienceMadeFunKids!
– a FREE in-school field trip for your entire class!
– a FREE Sizzlin’ Science Birthday Party!

Simply log on to ScienceMadeFunKids to submit your “Bright Idea” today!

Good Luck!



Dinosaur Dan presents “Hands-on Science for a High Tech World” to educators across WNC!

For the third year in a row, HTHT of WNC provided its “Hands-on science for a high tech world” workshop for early childhood educators from around Western North Carolina.

This year 48 teachers, and early childhood directors participated. The hour and half workshop flew by, and everyone had a great time. More importantly, wonderful science process skills were shared and conveyed to teachers.

Teachers were able to ask questions and share feedback. Teachers learned amazing ways to teach kids science in a fun manner using safe, common, everyday materials. You can see for yourself just how much fun these educators were having with High Touch High Tech.

Just another example that science is fun for kids of all ages, even those that are kids at heart!



Children Science Series, “The Cat in the Hat Knows Alot About That” Marathon in Honor of Dr. Seuss’ Birthday!

Today celebrates the 107th birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, and also Read Across America Day as proclaimed by the National Education Association.
If you are Dr. Seuss fans like we are, there are many ways that you can celebrate and “go go go on an adventure” in the Thinga-ma-jigger with Nick, Sally, and the Cat from The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. This show is designed to get preschoolers interested in science and does a wonderful job establishing positive views about science and scientists in young learners.
If you aren’t familiar with The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That and want to know more about the show, get to know the characters first and watch a show with your children.  Also take a look at ways you can promote active television viewing.
Use the show to get your children interested in topics and then explore resources on the PBS Parents site.  PBS Parents has a fantastic list of activities related to each episode and books to accompany each episode that are designed to increase your child’s knowledge with their favorite characters from the show.
Additional activities can be found on where there is an entire site dedicated to The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That. Printables, games and video clips ranging from 30 seconds to just over 2 minutes are perfect to spark the interest of a new generation of scientists and innovators.
Read the top Dr. Seuss Quotes here:
Find out more about The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That by checking out the link below: