Marching For Science

Posted by TechyDad on April 28, 2017 under Politics, Science

One of the many scary moves that the current administration has taken has been a disregard for science. Whether it’s declaring climate change a “hoax” or candidate Trump insisting that vaccines cause Autism or massive cuts to the EPA, the Trump administration has taken action after action against science. Scientists, as well as people who are in favor of supporting science wanted their voices heard. Thus, the March For Science was born.

Like the Women’s March before it, the March for Science was a series of marches that took place all around the world. Our local March for Science differed from our local Woman’s March in many ways, though. While the Women’s March involved a march first followed by speakers, the March for Science began with science demonstrations by local colleges and companies. It was hard to get to some of these tables due to the sheer number of people around them – especially kids. I’m not going to fault the march for this, though. If anything, it showed how many people love science.

After the demonstrations, there were a series of speakers. Our local Women’s March suffered here with the sound system not being good enough. (A consequence of there being way more people than they projected – so it was a good problem to have in some ways.) I’ll admit that I couldn’t hear much from the speakers, but then again, we weren’t positioned well. We behind the stage and to the side so the sounds of cars and people around us drowned out much of the speakers.

While the speakers were talking, we spent much of the time looking at the amazing signs that people had made. Since the march coincided with Earth Day, many of the signs carried pro-environmental protection messages. A few were anti-Trump specifically, but many supported science without directly referencing the President.

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I had made my sign earlier in the week and was very proud of it:

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JSL one-upped me, though. While brainstorming ideas for him to make into a sign, I heard NHL watching Pokemon and joked “Science, I choose you!” As soon as I jokingly said it, though, our eyes went wide and we knew that had to be his sign. He sketched it out and made the sign himself. (The only help I provided was holding the poster board still so it didn’t move as he traced the lines.) JSL’s sign had plenty of admirers and a lot of people asking to take photos of him with it.

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Soon, it was time for the walk to begin. This walk was around a block in Albany – about four tenths of a mile. We walked down the street, cars honking as they passed by. At one point, some women behind us started an inspired chant: Stand up for Truth, stand up for reason, science and facts are always in season! (NHL got annoyed at me when I joined in. Teenagers!)

The sidewalk was jam packed and, at one point, we stopped entirely. Science can’t be held up too long, though, so the march continued. When we finished, there were some after events, but we had been there awhile and knew the kids would be fried so we took our leave.

Still, the March for Science had one more surprise. As we rounded the corner to walk to where we were going to be picked up, we spotted the end of the March for Science. Yes, we had finished the march, but the tail end of it had barely begun! I suggested we join the tail end and march again, but I was over-ruled. (Spoil-sports!)

As we left, as with the Women’s March, I felt buoyed by the turnout. The administration might not be a supporter of science, but there were plenty of people in our local area and at marches around the world that do. We’ll keep fighting, keep resisting, and keep demanding that science be unrestrained from political interference and listened to when crafting policies.

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The History of Universe Set To Rhyme

Posted by TechyDad on December 22, 2014 under Books, Science

universe-verseI’m a big fan of science.  I also love comic books.  So when I heard about James Lu Dunbar’s comic – The Universe Verse – I wanted to read it.  When I learned that it was a rhyming comic book, I definitely wanted to not only read it, but wanted to read it to my children.  I actually posted about the first two books of the Universe Verse three years ago.

Since then, James has released a third book in the series.  Bang! (Book One) covers the Big Bang, the formation of matter, and how stars and planets were made.  It’s Alive! (Book Two) handles the origins of life, Evolution, and DNA.  However, It’s Alive! only hinted at the scope of life that came to be.  James ‘ third book Great Apes! goes back to those single cell organisms and shows how they became more complex.  It takes us to the era of multicellular organisms, the end of the Dinosaurs, the rise of the mammals, primates, humans, language, and finally science.  If you think this quick summary tells the whole story, though, you are sadly mistaken.  Throughout the book, James takes complex subjects and makes them easy to understand.  He also makes it all rhyme which can be helpful when little kids hear words like photosynthesis, mitochondrion, or eukaryotic.

I would definitely recommend James’ work to any parent who loves science or any kid who loves science.  I know I’ll be reading this book to my kids (as well as re-reading it myself several times).  If you want to sample it, I’ve got some good news for you.  For the month of December (which, as of this writing still has nine more days left), you can download the eBook version for free.  Yes, you get all three books in PDF format for absolutely nothing.  These could easily be loaded onto a tablet or computer to read.  For a more offline version, though, you’ll probably want to buy the hardcover version which can be purchased at 20% off of the normal $24.95 price by using the coupon code "fanclub".  (NOTE: I’m not sure how long this coupon is good for so I recommend buying his book quickly.)  There are also bulk discounts if you want to buy three or more copies and distribute them to your friends and family.  It’s probably a little too late to buy them for Christmas or Chanukah, but there is never a bad time to give the gift of science!

NOTE: I received a free copy of James Lu Dunbar’s The Universe Verse in PDF form via the deal I mentioned above.  At no point was I required – or even asked – to review it, though.  All of the opinions expressed above are my own.

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Notion of Motion at MiSci

Posted by TechyDad on June 21, 2013 under Museum, Science

We’ve gone to the Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady a few times already.  However, on Father’s Day, we headed back to see a new exhibit titled Notion of Motion.  Whereas the previous exhibit, illustrated how people see and how our eyes can be fooled by optical illusions, the current one dealt with how things move.

There were fans blowing silk flags, pendulums rocking back and forth, and sand on conveyer belts.  And, as with most exhibits in MiSci, there was plenty of opportunities for the boys to touch and experiment on their own.

Right when we walked in, there was a small machine with a circle of rope spinning around inside of it.  Appropriately enough, it was called a Rope Squirter.  The rope was sped up so much that it would go high in the air before coming back down and back into the machine.  By touching the rope, you could see how its motion was affected by your hands.

Further in, there was a big spinning disc.  You could place smaller discs, or balls on top to see how they moved.

There was also a gravity well.  Kids (or us adults as well) could roll small white balls to see how they react to gravity.

Everywhere we went, the boys got to touch and play, but they also got to learn a lot about how the world works and how things move.

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Next up from MiSci is an exhibit about dinosaurs.  Given the previous two exhibits, I can’t wait to see this next one.

Have you ever gone to a museum where your kids were encouraged to touch the exhibits?

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Visiting The Museum of Innovation and Science in Schenectady

Posted by TechyDad on June 3, 2013 under Museum, Science

misci-logoOn Wednesday, I briefly wrote about the Museum of Innovation and Science (aka MiSci) in Schenectady.  Specifically, about how the ring of fire made my mother-in-law look like a dandelion.  The Bridge-Of-Fire was just one of the many exhibits in the museum, however.

In fact, there are so many exhibits and they are so much fun and so interactive, that the first time I went I didn’t take photos of many of them.  That’s saying something because I take photos of EVERYTHING!  Random flowers, food as I’m cooking it, the sky, food before I eat it, my kids… everything.  And yet, I was having so much fun with my kids and their cousins the first time we went to MiSci, that I forgot to retreat behind the camera lens from time to time.

First up is Seeing.  This was all about optical illusions and exploring how we see the world.

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For example, this sculpture looks one way when viewed up close and another when viewed from afar:

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There was another spot where you could toss a basketball into a net.  Easy enough until you put a pair a lenses in front of your eyes.  When you did this, it shifted your vision making you think that the net wasn’t where it actually was.  The end result was that shots that you aimed right for the net wound up way off course.  (NHL, thwarted the illusion, however, by all-too-quickly adapting his shots to compensate.)

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Another station let you look into a viewing hole where you see a series of chairs.  Looking in from the see-through side, however, reveals a different sight.chair

Other stations showed how eyes see objects (upside down – the brain flips them right-side up), how the apparent size of an object is altered its distance, and so much more.

Sadly, that exhibit has moved on.  Thankfully, though, other exhibits will take its place.  (Including Dinosaurs! in a month.)

Other exhibits at the museum showed off other properties of science, such as the wonders of magnetism, and technology (such as the evolution of the camera).

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One of my favorites, though, was the planetarium show.  We sat in the seats and the host began to talk about the show.  Then, she began it by showing the Sun in the sky.  (One of the few times when you can stare at the Sun and not hurt your eyes.)  Unfortunately, you can’t see the stars during the day since the Sun’s light overwhelms them so much.  Fortunately, a planetarium is a time machine of sorts and our host sped up time until the Sun set below the horizon.  Little by little, the sky darkened and the stars began to come out.  Eventually, we were able to make out some constellations.

planetarium

The biggest impact, however, came when our host pointed out that the stars were still being overwhelmed.  Not by the Sun, however, but by the lights from the city around us.  Again, we were lucky and she was able to turn these off.  Now, I’ve never had the fortune of seeing the stars from a location devoid of light pollution.  When the city lights were turned off, suddenly thousands of stars appears overhead.  There were so many of them, it felt like they were burning into my eyes.  It was an amazing sight.

In the end, we have had two fantastic times at MiSci and can’t wait to go back again.  Thanks to getting a membership, we can not only go back as many times as we like, but we can go to other museums like the Museum of Science in Boston, the Buffalo Museum of Science, or the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City.  It looks like we’re going to have a science museum filled summer and we couldn’t be happier!

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Superheroes, The Sun, and (Because) Saturn!

Posted by TechyDad on April 25, 2013 under Geeky Pursuits, Science, Social Media, Space, Superheroes

I had three things I wanted to post about, but none of them seemed long enough for a post on their own.  So here they are together in a mish mash of superheroes, science, space, and social media!

Beware of Geek Kid

First comes a bit of Geek Fail on my part.  Recently, Cartoon Network released a large amount of their library on Netflix.  As I drooled over the shows that I could share with my boys, I saw "The Powerpuff Girls."  I laughed at it and, on a lark, decided to show them the show so we could laugh at it together.  Never underestimate a geek’s love of superheroes, though.  While I couldn’t take the show seriously enough to enjoy it, my kids loved it!  Now NHL is determined to watch every episode.  Geek Fail?  Or perhaps Geek Win in that NHL loves superheroes so much that he even likes PowerPuff Girls.

Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Incandescent Plasma

Next up comes a little video that NASA put together.  You see, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory three years ago.  Since then, it’s been regularly taking photos of the Sun.  One photo every twelve seconds.  For three years.  It’s given scientists tons of data to prove and disprove theories about our favorite star.  NASA has taken those photos and strung them together into an amazing four minute video showing some amazing details.

Thanks to NASA images and videos being public domain for the most part (about the only ones that aren’t are items with the NASA logo or with people in the shot), you can download high resolution movies or still shots from this movie.

Why? Because, Saturn!

A couple of days ago, Phil Plait (aka BadAstronomer) and Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) started conversing on Twitter.  Phil was tweeting a drive to press Congress not to cut planetary science at NASA.  This is a very good cause on its own.

Then, Jenny pointed out how "Because, Saturn!" was a good answer to anything.

"Why do I have to eat my broccoli?"   "Because, Saturn!"

"Why can’t I watch TV?"   "Because, Saturn!"

"Why can’t I stay up late?"   "Because… Saturn!"

Jenny mentioned putting this on a shirt.  While I haven’t done that, I did come up with this nice looking graphic.

Because_Saturn

That image comes from NASA via the Cassini space probe.  They stitched together 126 individual photos to come up with this 40 megapixel beauty.  Of course, you can and should go to NASA’s website to look up some of their other wonderful photos.

NASA makes getting great science and amazing images from millions of miles away look easy.  So please click the link above to press Congress to give NASA funding for planetary science efforts.  Why? Because, Saturn!

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