Friday, November 25, 2011

Google Music and My Friend Daria Musk--free download of her newest single!

Daria Musk is a dear, sweet friend and she also happens to be an unbelievably incandescently accomplished musical artist who has found recent, explosive international fame via Google+ Hangouts.  To read her whole story and listen to her music, click here or here.

To read about Google Music, click this link.

Daria has her 4th Google Hangout Concert tomorrow night, 7pm Eastern Standard Time (New York City).  View it live at, or join the hangout on Google+ (if you can snag a front row seat).

Take your kids picture with Santa...ON THE MOON!

Science Santa is in the building! Forget the typical Santa pictures. Have your family photo taken with Science Santa on the moon, floating in space, or next to a rocket ship! Science Santa will be here until 3pm today and from 11AM-3PM on Saturday and Sunday for the Science Santa Extravaganza!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stargazing with your family on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov 24, 2011!

With family and friends visiting this Thanksgiving, why not take them outside tonight for some stargazing?  It is a favorite activity for kids, teens and adults.  No fancy equipment necessary, but sometimes it helps to have an idea of stuff to look for to hold everyone's interest.  

Tonight in Connecticut, it is a beautiful evening to stargaze, and the stars will hold the spotlight tonight because there is a new moon (not visible) at around 1 a.m.   

Highlights include transit of Ganymede in front of Jupiter on Monday night--you need a telescope for this one...
Friday, November 25
New Moon occurs at 1:10 a.m. EST. At its new phase, the Moon crosses the sky with the Sun and typically remains hidden in our star’s glare. But for a few lucky people, that won’t be the case today. Observers in South Africa (during the morning hours) and Tasmania (late afternoon) will witness the Moon take a tiny bite of the Sun. Viewers on New Zealand’s South Island will see the Moon devour some 30 percent of our star as the pair sets. Remember that when viewing the Sun during a partial eclipse, protect your eyes with a safe solar filter.

Saturday, November 26
Look just above the southwestern horizon early this evening and you’ll see a waxing crescent Moon paired with brilliant Venus. The two will present a pretty photo opportunity with the colors of twilight serving as a backdrop.
Eunomia reaches its peak in late November, when it glows at 8th magnitude while passing in front of the California Nebula (NGC 1499) in southern Perseus. Astronomy: Roen Kelly
Sunday, November 27
The asteroid 15 Eunomia glows at 8th magnitude among the background stars of southern Perseus. This normally wouldn’t be an object to highlight, but tonight the 200-mile-wide (320 kilometers) space rock sits right on the edge of the California Nebula (NGC 1499). Although this glowing gas cloud appears prominent in photographs, it is difficult to see through a telescope. Use a Hydrogen-beta filter and observe under a dark sky to make it more noticeable. In contrast, Eunomia stands out because only a few stars in its vicinity shine as bright.
Monday, November 28
If your sky is clear, head outside as darkness falls and look to the southwest. There you’ll see a lovely crescent Moon silhouetted against the background stars of Sagittarius. Although just 17 percent of our satellite is in sunlight, look carefully at its unlit side and you should see a faint illumination. This is “earthshine” — light from the Sun that reflects off Earth, hits the Moon, and then bounces back to our eyes. It shows up well on a thin lunar crescent because, from the Moon’s point of view, Earth appears almost completely lit.

Tuesday, November 29
Target Jupiter with a telescope this morning and you’ll swear the giant planet has a black eye. In reality, the dark spot traversing the jovian disk is the shadow of the solar system’s largest moon, Ganymede. The satellite itself first appears against the planet’s bright atmosphere at 1:51 a.m. EST (10:51 p.m. PST on the 28th). Its tiny disk takes just over 100 minutes to cross the gas giant’s south polar regions. But the more interesting event begins at 4:55 a.m. EST (1:55 a.m. PST) when Ganymede’s shadow first falls on the planet’s cloud tops. This conspicuous shadow transit, which occurs after Jupiter sets along the East Coast, lasts until 6:48 a.m. EST (3:48 a.m. PST).
The Summer Triangle – one of the first sights you’ll see on fall evenings – doesn’t even belong to the autumn sky. It consists of the three bright stars Vega, Deneb, and Altair.
Photo by Jan Kald
Wednesday, November 30
Although the calendar may say late November, the Summer Triangle of bright stars remains prominent during early evening hours. Look high in the west-northwest after darkness falls and you’ll spot Deneb, a conspicuous point of light despite being the faintest of the three. Brighter Vega lies directly below Deneb (and nearly halfway to the zenith), while Altair lies about 45° (one-eighth of a complete circle) to Vega’s left.
Brilliant Venus appears less than 1° north of the Teapot asterism's lid December 1. Astronomy: Roen Kelly
Thursday, December 1
Venus lies among the background stars of Sagittarius the Archer this week. Shortly after sunset tonight, you can see the brilliant planet less than 1° north of 3rd-magnitude Lambda (λ) Sagittarii, the star that forms the lid of the Archer’s Teapot asterism.

The eclipsing variable Algol in Perseus reaches minimum brightness at 6:18 a.m. EST tomorrow morning. If you start watching it during late evening, you can see its brightness diminish by 70 percent over the course of about 5 hours as its magnitude drops from 2.1 to 3.4. Algol appears nearly overhead in late evening and dips lower in the northwest after midnight.

Friday, December 2
First Quarter Moon occurs at 4:52 a.m. EST. The Moon doesn’t rise until shortly after noon local time, however, and by the time darkness sets in, our satellite appears 55 percent lit. It then lies in western Pisces, just west of that constellation’s Circlet asterism.

Venus appears 0.8° southwest of the globular star cluster M22 this evening. You will likely need large binoculars to see the cluster in the darkening sky shortly after sunset.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prezi, online presentation app--educators get a 500megabyte license for free!

I was just snooping around on the Edmodo Science Community and I found a presentation posted by Eric Jones on Falling and Gravity.  Very cool NOVA Science Now video embedded about digging a hole through the Earth, by the way.

I've never heard of Prezi before cool!

Normally, the accounts with some bells and whistles cost about 60 dollars per year, but if you are an active teacher, you can get a free account with 500 megs of online storage space for FREE!
Click here for the link to the teacher account page.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Leonid Meteor Shower This Week! They Might Be Giants Explains Meteors in a Song.

Prime Viewing Tomorrow and Friday nights!

For those teachers that are in Astronomy units with their students right now, be aware that the Leonid Meteor Shower is in prime viewing position on Thursday and Friday nights this week:

Though the meteors can be viewed all night long, on both days, just around midnight and at around 3 a.m. local time, those who stay up should be rewarded with the best view of the rain of falling stars if it's not cloudy. 

Though the annual shower will be less spectacular than in some years, "the Leonids are pretty famous for having a good number of bright ones," says Ben Burress, staff astronomer at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland.  

For those who don't want to get up in the middle of the night, just before moonrise is a good time to watch, Burress says. Thursday, that will be around 11:30 p.m. On Friday night/Saturday morning, moonrise will be at 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning.  Though the shower itself lasts for several weeks, the peak comes at around 3 a.m. both Friday and Saturday morning, when the maximum number of meteors should be falling. Because the moon will be in quarter phase, its light will wash some of the shower out, so go out before moonrise.  

Next year, the meteor shower viewing conditions will be better.  It is easier to see the meteors when the moon is in crescent phase or new phase.

If you are wondering how to explain to your students what a meteor (or shooting star) is, this simple and very catchy tune by They Might Be Giants from their grammy winning album "Here Comes Science" will help to clear things up.  The actual song starts at around 2:30 in the video...this is a live performance of it with sock puppets.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Educational Rap by Rhythm Rhyme Results: Layers of the Earth

Two years ago, an educational aide in one of my classes mentioned that one of her students found this fantastic rap song that helped him learn the Layers of the Earth.  I pictured something excruciatingly amateurish off of youtube...boy was I wrong!  The song, called Layers of the Earth, by Rhythm Rhyme Results is a song that is so well produced, with fact filled lyrics that are accurate and useful (they don't just rhyme).

Click this link to hear a sample of the song.  If you scroll down on the page that the link brings you to, you can find the lyrics (which are easily copy-pasted into Word).  I paid $19.98 for the whole Science Album as a downloadable zip file, but as you see above...there's a coupon--but QUICK IT EXPIRES TODAY!

How I use the songs:
1. I copy the lyrics and give a copy to each student, along with a highlighter.
2. We listen to the song together (usually the downtempo version which is easier to learn because it is slower), nice and loud, while I have the lyrics up on the whiteboard.
3. After the first listen, I ask the students to go through the lyrics and highlight anything they find to be important, interesting or words that are unfamiliar or need defining.  Then we discuss anything, and I clarify what the lyrics may be referring to  (for instance, is the 4000 in degrees fahrenheit or is it 4000 miles?  what does he mean by "one down, three to go"?)
4. Then we listen again.  I don't require the kids to sing, but I do sing and dance around a bit myself  ( I know these songs REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEallly well) which encourages a little bit of grooving on their part.
5. I usually ask the kids if they want to try listening to the "Recall" feature, which leaves out certain words to see if they can fill them in.  This is easier to do if you have the lyric sheets that are provided on the download, which have the omitted words printed in blue ink.
6. If they are feeling really confident, they can then try the "instrumental" version.
7. The only rule I have is that they can sing during song play, but they can't talk.  Usually, students will want to listen to the songs at least three's not too many because the music is THAT GOOD.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Mythbusters Tour Comes to Connecticut!

Yeehaw!  Jamie and Adam are coming to the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, CT next March 31, 2012.  Click here for a tour schedule.

I do love a good mythbusting, and this show will be particularly appropriate for me this year, because the theme of our science fair this year has been selected in honor of our School Theme: The Year of the Story.  So, the Science Fair theme is: Myths, Legends and Folklore: BUSTED!  Or something like that...I'd like to do a Middle-Level mythbusters-type of fair.  Perhaps this is where we could go for our field trip right before the fair?

There is a link to buy tickets for a group...I wonder how much they would be?  I will update this post when I discover what the group rate is.

Mythbusters On Sale Now! from MAGICSPACE Entertainment on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Asteroid Passes Close to Earth...Right NOW!! Grab your telescope!

Look!  It's a bird, it's a plane...holy cow, it's the biggest asteroid we've ever seen come this close (so close...about 210,000 miles...closer than the moon) to the planet in the next hour or so.


Free FUN!! Lesson on the Nature of Science and Inquiry--a.k.a. "CUBE OF SCIENCE!"

Cube of Science!
This is one of my favorite activities to do with my newest science students at the beginning of the school year.  I usually do this with my 6th graders, because I teach all three middle grades, and it is a great way to introduce the idea of SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY (also known as the scientific method, sometimes)--tons of fun!
Click here to download the PDF, with color and blackline masters of the cubes.
Click here to download the SMART Notebook file (interactive die) that has the same PDF as an attachment.

I didn't write this lesson, it is a lesson from a book called Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science by the National Academy of Sciences.  I have used this lesson for TWELVE years in various iterations, and I am always pleased with the results.  

Ways that I have modified the lesson from it's current format:
1. I make a large number cube out of a cardboard box instead of giving out small ones.  We do the first part as a large group--I display the cube on a stool from a lab bench so the students cannot see the bottom.
2. I do not put anything on the bottom of the cube--no "accidents" that knock the cube down will reveal the answer...this drives the kids nuts, but (and?) it models the real 'no answer key' nature of science inquiry.  After all, there is no big book of science answers anywhere that tells the scientists if they got it right...
3. Generally, I don't let the kids use the mirrors or tongue depressors as "technology" models.    In fact, the students can't touch the cubes at all...they have to ask their classmates what is on the other side--they can't turn it themselves.  This models information sharing across the lab, state, country or globe that goes on with scientists around the world.


Monday, November 7, 2011

It's not too early to start planning to go to the 2012 World Science Festival in New York City.

The 2012 World Science Festival in NYC is May 30, 2012 to June 3.


Updated/Upgraded Google Presentations Editor! Finally.

Thank goodness!

The new version of Google presentations

Whether you’re trying to wow your boss with an end-of-quarter presentation or impress your classmates with an animated book report the new version of Google presentations can help.
Check out some of the new features in the latest version of Google presentations:
  • Character-by-character collaboration: See updates in realtime as you edit presentations with other people.
  • Drawing on canvas: Draw organizational charts, flowcharts, design diagrams and much more right within Google presentations.
  • Transitions: Enhance your presentation with new ways to transition between slides.
  • Shape linking: Turn shapes within your presentation into hyperlinks to other slides, presentations, or external webpages.
  • Better animations: We’ve added new themes to make it easy to create show-stopping presentations.

Transition to the new version of Google presentations

We hope that switching to the new version of Google presentations will be a seamless transition. Here's how to enable the new version of Google presentations:
  1. Click the gear icon in your Documents List and select Documents settings.
  2. On your settings page, check the box next to "Create new presentations using the latest version of the presentation editor."
  3. Click Save.
Once you enable the new Google presentations, all of your new presentations will be created in this editor. Any presentation you upload and convert to Google Docs format will be converted to the latest version of Google presentations.
The new version of Google presentations takes advantage of the most up-to-date technology, such as HTML5. For this reason, new Google presentations are only supported in modern browsers. For the best experience, we recommend using Google Chrome, which supports all of the new features in Google presentations.

Which version am I using?

An easy way to tell if you're using the new version is to if there there is a red plus sign underneath the File menu. If there's not, you're using the old version of Google presentations.
Add Slide Icon

How do I upgrade my older presentations to the new version?

At this time, it's only possible to create new presentations in the new version of Google presentations. Older presentations will remain in the old format for the time being, and we'll eventually upgrade them to the new format to give you all of the benefits of using the new version.
You can copy old presentations into the new version by using the import slides feature or by copying and pasting slides using the web clipboard.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy "Population: 7 Billion" Week! There's a Free App for That!

This week officially (October 31 to be exact--frighteningly spooky, yes?) marks the significant milestone of the Earth hosting 7 billion people on her surface, simultaneously.  In order to commemorate this momentous happening, and perhaps wake us up to some realities that are equally hopeful and alarming, National Geographic has created the 7 Billion App available for FREE! in the Apple App Store for a limited time.

As of today, November 2, 2011, the National Geographic 7 Billion App is the most popular app in the App Store!  I just downloaded it to my iPad 2 and I've been glued to it for an hour.  Some of the statistics are alarming, many are surprising (HOW many megacities?), and even more are instructional and hopeful:  how to minimize our impact, how living in urban areas decreases energy demand, and how much space we take up.

"FREE – Limited Time!
National Geographic magazine presents 7 Billion: How your world will change - to coincide with the arrival of the 7 billionth human being to our world. This app explores the challenges of a growing human population in a world of limited resources with informative videos, interactive maps, in-depth articles, and stunning photography. 
Featured content includes….
- How big is 7 Billion? An insightful video of the demographic trends that got us here today and how it will impact us tomorrow.
- Birth of a New Brazil: How big families are out, to the credit of strong-willed women—and the steamy soaps that inspired them.
- The Face of Seven Billion Interactive: Tap on the “typical face” to find out who the most typical human is
- Rift in Paradise: As the global population increases Africa’s Albertine Rift gives us a glimpse of what is at stake in the decades ahead.
- Bangladesh: See how resourceful residents of this country refuse to give in to rising seas
- Food Ark: Explore how preserving heirlooms seeds and breeds are crucial if we hope to feed our hungry world.
And to be incorporated into the app in December 2011: 
- Cities are the Solution: They may be the best way to lift people from poverty and preserve the environment.

This app is presented by DuPont

About the National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888. It is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, and the promotion of environmental and historical conservation."