Tag Archives: science

Theoretical Physics Tonight


large hadron collider


Tonight I am taking my kids to see a lecture on The Higgs Boson and the Fate of the Universe at our local zoo. When I saw the event, I knew right away my kids would want to go–the boy says he is either going to be an engineer or a theoretical physicist when he grows up, and we are all huge Big Bang Theory fans. My good friend Billie and her adult son are going, too; it is fun for all ages.

I love that my kids are interested in this kind of thing, and that we have a great culture in this city that supports public learning for free. The lecture is co-sponsored by the St. Louis Zoo and the Academy of Science in St. Louis, which promotes the advancement and integration of science and technology into contemporary society. The Academy has a Junior Academy program that I think I will be suggesting to both kids. I would love to integrate more science activities into our free time, but I have not been as good about planning those as I would have hoped. This sounds perfect!

What do you do to encourage science learning for your kids or yourselves? Am I missing some great ideas?


How cool is this?


Today’s Google doodle celebrates Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist who was the first person to successfully photograph DNA. I am sadly not surprised to read that Franklin was not given credit for this until much later, with a hostile fellow researcher passing the picture on to Watson and Crick, who subsequently got all the credit for discovering the structure of DNA. But it is good to see the credit where it belongs now!

Our first science activity


Our first activity for our summer of science was not really an experiment, but it was definitely science-related, and we did learn things, so it totally counts, right? Well, I make the rules here, so, yes, it does.

I posted a bit on Tuesday about the transit of Venus across the sun. Tuesday was the last chance to see this until 2117, so it seemed like a perfect way to kick off our science learning for the summer. Plus, I thought the children would be very impressed by the pinhole camera.

We started off with the girl feeling sick, so she did not join us outside for our attempts at observation. It was just as well, since we couldn’t get the pinhole camera to work exactly. I mean, we saw poked the hole in the aluminum foil, and we saw the reflection of the sun on the white construction paper, but we couldn’t see Venus. I think it may have been too small to show up on our tiny reflection. Next, the boy suggested we take some digital pictures of the sun and try to see Venus that way. That seemed like a great idea, but my old cheap digital camera was not up to the task.

In the end, we watched the video about the event on NASA’s website and talked about it a bit, but we weren’t able to actually see it for ourselves. I still think it was a success, though, if only because we learned that we need to plan ahead for this sort of thing. We did learn some interesting things, though, mostly about the history of science, and how this was one of the first major world wide collaborations for the sake of science. And, come to think of it, their first effort was not successful, and they learned to plan better for the second transit, 8 years later. So, an interesting parallel.

Anyone else doing science activities with the family?

See the Transit of Venus Across the Sun Safely


Image courtesy Nasa.gov

Starting at a little after 5:00 CT here in St. Louis, we will be able to see the transit of Venus across the sun for the last time for over 100 years. NASA has a lot of cool information on the scientific relevance of this event, but it is a fun event for anyone interested in space. Around here, it will be an opportunity to create a pinhole camera and do our first summer science event. Technically, this isn’t an experiment, but I am counting it as our weekly science goal because it involves building something and learning science-y stuff, ;).

We are going to make a pinhole camera because, of course, no one should ever look directly at the sun. Ever. You could go blind! They are not making that up–take it seriously! Fortunately, making a pinhole camera is easy and quick.

Click on the image for expanded directions courtesy of San Francisco’s Exploratorium.

All you need is some cardboard or construction paper, a bit of foil, a pin and a friend or family number to enjoy the experience with you.

You can see the transit here starting at just after 5 until sunset, although it will take about 7 hours for the transit to complete. If you click on the graphic above, you can see a larger version with timing all over the world. If you would like to go to a viewing party in the St. Louis area, there are a few, and of course, you can watch it online.

Remember, it is important to be safe when dealing with the sun, but don’t let that stop you from seeing this–I don’t think any of us will be around the next time this happens, in 2117.

Summer Goals


Today is the first day of summer vacation for my children. I still have to work, of course, but they have lots of free time on the horizon. Today I left them asleep while I headed off to work, and I didn’t give them any directions for the day. It is the first day of their vacation, they should decompress, relax and enjoy it. Especially since things will be changing soon.

Last summer, my kids spent so much time watching television, I had to prompt them to reply to anything I said.
“I am really here in the room, not on TV entertaining you! Answer me! Have a conversation.” This year, I have vowed that things will be different. The TV will not be the primary form of passing the time. They will use their brains and their bodies for more than holding the couch down and watching other people far away do interesting things.

This is not the first time I have tried to get them to watch less tv. I work at home two days per week, but I am in the office the other three, and in the past, this has translated to at least three days per week of almost constant TV watching. To counteract that to some extent, I have decided that this year there will be goals in 4 areas:

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Physical fitness
  • Science

The girl also needs to start thinking about a service project. She is entering high school in the fall, and she needs to start thinking about building her record for college applications. Plus, we need to do something to show her that the fact that I don’t buy her everything she wants as soon as she wants it does not mean she is disadvantaged, ;).

I broke the news to the kids over brunch this past Sunday. They were not impressed. They became a little more enthusiastic when I said that they could choose their own goals (although I have to approve–they must be an actual stretch). So far, the girl has decided to learn to play golf with my dad, and the boy has decided to finish a story about dragons who live in the sewer system he is writing with his best friend. They are still thinking about the remaining goals.

For the science goal, I have decided we will do one science experiment per week as a family, so they don’t need to come up with a separate goal for that. They can find something they would like to do, or I can come up with one, but ev

eryone has to participate. Also, to make this whole thing slightly more fun for them and less heartless, I bought the family pool passes. If they are at the pool, they are doing at least some moving around, and they won’t be watching TV.

As for me, I am making a few goals as well.

  • Writing: Establish a daily writing habit. I need to post more regularly here and at Gaming Angels. I am also working with a friend to start a crocheting blog for her new business. And I keep saying I write fiction, or at least I want to write fiction, but not doing any writing. It is time to change that. Oh, and here of course.
  • Physical fitness: Since I got the FitBit, I definitely exercise more. I take more steps, and I am less sedentary. I could do better, though. For the past 30 days, my average number of steps is 5,612–not terrible, but I can definitely improve. I want to be consistently at 7,500 per day by the end of the summer. I know 10,000 is the usual goal, but I want to try to get there a bit more gradually; once I have mastered 7,500 consistently, I will raise the goal again. I also want to make sure my total active time for each day (lightly active, fairly active, very active) totals at least 4 hours every day, with at least 1 ½ hours in fairly or very active.
  • Crafting: I am substituting this for science, since that is covered in the family goal, and I have a ton of crafting projects I want to do. For now, I will be relatively modest in my goals: 5 crochet projects and 5 non-crochet projectscompleted before school starts for the kids on 8/14. 

You may have noticed I didn’t put a reading goal in there; I am not sure what to do. I already read a lot, and I don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to reading more. All those goals up there will take a lot of my time spent not working, eating or sleeping! I am still thinking about this one. I haven’t made the kids finalize their goals yet, after all, why should I be done with mine?

Do you do summer goals? Or is it all loose and easy at your house?