3 cool physics experiments

 

 

I’ve always liked putting on a show and, given the fact that Easter is fast approaching and I will be spending some time with my nieces and nephews, I’ve been thinking about learning a few cool physics experiments that I could use to show them how fun science can be. And, because I like sharing my discoveries with you, I decided to make a blog entry about it, as it may come in handy to some of you too.

 

The Egg and the Bottle is a classic, easy to master, experiment that I’m sure you’ve all seen by now. To conduct this experiment, you need a glass bottle whose neck is wide, but not wide enough for an egg to go through, an old milk bottle is the best fit, a sheet of paper, a lighter, and a hard-boiled egg. Then, once you have gathered all your materials, the first step you need to make is to fold the paper so that it fits the bottle. Then, you set it on fire and drop it in the bottle. As it burns, place the egg on the bottleneck and watch the magic in action. Due to the burning process, the molecules of air in the bottle move away from each other, and some even escape the bottle. When the flame goes off, the partial vacuum effect happens, and air molecules from outside the bottle are sucked inside. However, because the egg is in the way, the pressure vacuums it inside also.

The diet coke and mentos mix is another fun experiment you could try. For this one, take your audience outdoors because it will get messy. To make the fountain happen, just drop a peppermint flavored candy in the soda bottle, and the result will follow. As scientists explain, the resulting jet is a simple reaction. Because mentos have many small pits that provide a place where monoxide bubbles can form and then escape. Or, as scientists call it, the nucleation of bubbles in supersaturated solutions.

Is your audience fascinated with tornadoes? Why not teach them to create their miniature tornado in a bottle! To make this possible, just fill a half a liter bottle with water, add some drops of soap and, for the young ladies, some glitter. Then, stir the bottle around to form a cyclone. The miniature whirlpool is a great depiction of how a wind vortex looks from up-close. To make things even more eye-catching, you could combine the experiment with a fun video about tornados. I suggest you play them a video that it is child-appropriate while still informative.

So, give these cool experiments a try and let me know about how it went and how the small ones reacted to them.

 

 

Continue reading »

What everyone should know about Stephen Hawking

 

He has not only made guest appearances on Star Trek and The Simpsons, but globally-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has also earned huge praise thanks to his complex physical concepts made accessible to the ordinary guy via his bestselling book A Brief History of Time.

Few know that despite Dr. Hawking’s influential body of work, he has yet to be awarded the Nobel Prize. Despite this, he has earned some of the most remarkable distinctions in the scientific community.

Dr. Stephen Hawking is the author of some popular science books. Born on January 8, 1942, Dr. Hawking was born on the day of Galileo’s 300th death anniversary.

Although Hawking’s theories are challenging for a non-scientific mind to understand, this impressive cosmologist did not exactly show the level of brilliance you would expect in his school studies. His grades ranked the worst in his class when he was nine years old. He did exert some extra effort to drive those grades up to above average and little else.

That said, Stephen Hawking showed a keen interest in the workings of many things. He was known to take things such as radios and clocks apart but nevertheless, putting the disassembled items was something he wasn’t quite good at.

He would have loved to major in mathematics because of his intense liking for the subject from an early age, but his father thought otherwise. Stephen’s dad wanted him to take up medicine. However, Stephen Hawking wasn’t fascinated with biology since he found it too descriptive and extremely inexact.

Stephen Hawking apparently wanted to focus on distinct, precise concepts. Thus, although Stephen attended Oxford, he majored in physics. To combat the loneliness and isolation he felt in his first year at Oxford, Stephen Hawking joined the rowing team. He did not have a muscular or large build even before he was diagnosed with the motor neuron disease.

However, he served as a coxswain, a non-rowing position. As a coxswain, it was his responsibility to control the stroke and steering rate of the rowing team. As such, he was called by a fellow boatsman as an adventurous type of teammate.

Shortly after a week of getting to know Jane Wilde, who became his wife, Stephen Hawking went to the hospital to undergo two weeks of tests to find out what was wrong with his health. It was then that he was diagnosed with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

He was told he most likely only had a few years to live. Although Stephen was shocked and kept wondering how this could happen to him, he felt luckier that others were far worse than he was.

In 1983, together with Jim Hartle, Stephen Hawking developed the theory that the universe is without boundaries. Utilizing the concepts of quantum mechanics and general relativity, he and Jim sought to understand the shape and nature of the universe. Thus, they proved that although the universe is a contained entity, it has no boundaries.

Stephen Hawking, genius that he is, actually lost a bet about black holes in 1997 with John Preskill, a fellow scientist. Hawking admitted he had been wrong when he said that information gets lost in black holes that eventually evaporate.

In 2004, he conceded he was wrong so when delivering a lecture during a scientific conference, Stephen declared black holes have more than one topology so when the information coming from all those topologies are measured, the information is not lost.

Truly a brilliant mind such as Stephen Hawking is still very much human in all aspects of the word.

 

 

Continue reading »

How I chose my telescope

 

 

Now is as great time as any to shop for a telescope. I myself took advantage of the way manufacturers of quality telescopes have tried to outdo each other with their various products. The buying process was both fun and challenging, but I did my homework sufficiently to know I got a top-of-the-line instrument and nothing less.

It has become an exciting time for novice astronomers because of the many choices of telescopes and accessories. However, to ensure I was getting a device that would fit my needs, I first needed to determine what was important to me.

This meant knowing how dark the skies could become at night where I live, or what celestial objects I would be predominantly observing up close. Since I am not yet an expert, I also took that under consideration, so I wouldn’t be getting an overly complicated tool that would probably only end up in the closet than on the lawn.

I wanted something light but not overly so to prevent the instrument from toppling over with the slightest accidental bump. After I had gotten familiar with what the market had to offer, the buying process became somewhat easier.

 

I had read that a telescope’s aperture is its most vital specification. The aperture denotes the diameter of the scope’s primary optical element, which can be a mirror or a lens. The dimension of this element is an indication of the instrument’s ability to collect light for viewing a faraway object.

The resolving power of the scope depends on the aperture too. I decided early in the day that it was critical to know as much as possible about the aperture of a scope if I was to optimize night sky viewing. A bigger aperture is always better than a small one. A 3-inch scope may not be able to let me distinguish the craters of the Moon in a manner that a 6-inch scope can.

Of course, this is under the same conditions and using identical magnification. With the surface area of a 6-inch scope being four times larger than that of a scope that is half smaller, the bigger aperture scope is more capable of gathering four times as much light to make the galaxy look four times more brilliant, or 1.5 magnitudes brighter.

I knew beforehand I should not be fooled by the seemingly stupendous magnification of some devices on the market. Magnification varies according to the eyepiece I use on the eye end of the scope, so that element is not constant, to say the least especially if you are looking to buy the best telescope for a beginner.

Of course, there was also a need to factor in aperture as well as the conditions of the atmosphere when assessing the magnification. What was more important was to know how much detail is delivered by the lens or mirror of the scope to enable me to find the optimal magnification to support the viewing of that much detail. This is without scattering the target’s available light.

This is something I didn’t need because it would render the object too dim to see or too blurry. To enable me to look at nebulae, galaxies and other faint objects, I should use low power objectives. Medium-high power objectives are ideal for observing bright objects such as the Moon and planets.

Excess magnification will only cause blurry views. To find the top useful magnification, I just needed to figure out the aperture of the scope in inches multiplied by 50, which would be the same as twice the aperture in millimeters.

This means a high-quality 4-inch scope cannot be pushed beyond around 200x. I got a small device with good optics that enables me to view the rings of Saturn or the main cloud belts of Jupiter, which can be seen even with just a magnification of 75x.

I steered clear of department store scopes that promised silly things like 700x power or something to that effect, as it would all simply be hype.

That’s how I got my beautiful telescope.

Continue reading »

My favorite websites about science

 

 

My fascination for plenty of things has driven me to explore the web to locate many scientific sites where I can pick up much information on science, especially astronomy.

Space.com has been ranked among The Most Popular Science Websites by eBizMBA, which evaluates a variety of websites according to the specific categories they belong to. Space.com gets an estimated unique monthly visitors of 3.5 million and is regularly updated, so there’s always fresh news and features on the site.

Space.com even has the trailer for the new sci-fi thriller entitled ‘Life,’ which hits theaters on March 24 this year. The movie stars Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson, among a superb cast of others. However, that’s just one of the things that make Space.com endlessly superlative, as it also features plenty of stuff to go crazy about on astronomy.

This includes the 4th flyby of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno spacecraft. And there’s plenty more where that came from.

 

ScienceDaily covers the latest scientific discoveries and breaking news in the science world. One of the most popular science news sites, this one provides access without any subscription fees to more than 65,000 research articles along with 1,500 book reviews, 2,500 encyclopedia entries, 15,000 images as well as limitless numbers of education videos, all for free.

There’s always an article for every topic in science, from zoology to astrophysics. The great thing about this site is it gets updated several times a day for seven days every week, which means there’s no shortage of something fantastic to read or go over to get any science enthusiast like me engaged all the time.

I have even signed up for the email newsletter to ensure I am given notifications of critical scientific discoveries along the way.

Fans of The New York Times will be delighted to know it has a special Science page dedicated to scientific events about the cosmos, space, and the environment. Do check the site out, won’t you?

NOVA, which just happens to be public television’s most watched documentary series, aside from being the highest-rated TV series on science, is accompanied by articles, personal essays, interviews, and slideshows along with 360-degree panoramas plus interactive features to accompany every topic.

National Geographic has its Science and Space site that provides plenty of information on a variety of topics such as space, technology, archaeology, the Earth, the prehistoric world, the human body, and health.

 

Another free and fun resource of scientific knowledge online is Understanding Science, a website designed to communicate what science is and help learners know how it works. I love how the site provides an inside look at the core principles, motivations, and methods concerning science in general.

K-16 teachers will find the site highly useful as it provides strategies and resources that can improve their understanding as well as reinforce the nature of science as they tackle their scientific teaching role.

Understanding Science delivers a highly informative reference for students and the general public to also understand the nature of science more accurately.

Indeed, the web has become a veritable source of scientific information with something for everyone!

Continue reading »