Adventures in Science

Archive for the ‘Basic’ Category


Little Octopus Climbing Over a Rock by Parry Gripp

Instant kid science dance party pop hit! ❤ ❤ ❤

More Parry Gripp tunes here.



Awesome Hero–The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

William Kamkwamba, Awesome Hero


William Kamkwamba was born to a farming family in Malawi in Africa in 1987. His home and the homes of his neighbors didn’t have electricity or running water. The family’s crops depended on the amount rainfall that they received because their farm had no irrigation. When he was 14, a horrible drought struck Malawi  and the crops failed. Many Malawians died of starvation. William and his family survived but suffered horrific deprivation. His father was deep in debt from buying food for the family so couldn’t afford tuition. William had to drop out of school.

After surviving the famine, William was inspired by a textbook he borrowed from his local library called Using Energy to build a windmill to make electricity and eventually pump ground water from a well to irrigate the family’s farm. He was determined to give his family a more secure food supply with two maize harvests a year as well as an irrigated garden for a variety of vegetables.

William Kamkwamba slowly built his windmill from salvaged and modified scrap material. He describes how he did it in his autobiography The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. The ingenuity involved in the design and construction of his windmill is astounding. This book is *highly* recommended to all young people over the age of 12. Read it. Listen to it. Do it.

There is also a picture book version of William Kamkwamba’s story for younger children because it is *that* good.

Learn to program with Scratch

Do you want to create your own video game, music video, cartoon, robot slave, maniacal war machine, and much more? Of course you do! Then you need to learn the basics of programming. By learning to program, you will have complete control over the design and performance of your creation or invention.

One of the easiest introductions to beginning programming is with Scratch. Scratch is a free program developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. It was developed to give kids the tools they need to be creative with computers.

You can download it here:

Here is one of several tutorial videos, sometimes presented by kids, showing how the program works:

Go ahead and watch some of the others. See how Scratch can help you do amazing things!

The Scratch web site has many help pages and different forms of tutorials and tools to get you started. Adults will especially appreciate the handy Scratch Help Screens within the program. I found it easy to refer to while trying to figure out how to make our magic unicorn do our bidding.

We played around with it and the three of us–an adult, 5-y.o., and a 12-y.o.–designed and had a simple, silly playable game with just a few hours of trial and error.

Hungry Unicorn by One Giant Leap of Awesome
Scratch Project
You say: “lame.”
We say: “AWESOME!”
“AWESOME!!!” might need some tweaking here and there…

The Scratch interface has a wonderful, easy to use design. The built-in image and sound editors make it easy to do everything from within the Scratch program. The colorful graphic command blocks ease novices into the concepts of programming blocks and the systematic reasoning needed for programming. Finally, once you have become used to programming with Scratch, you can graduate to learning the nitty gritty of programming without the graphic command blocks. Go for it!

Here’s a cute cartoon by Scratch user Robojam200
Scratch Project


Germs are a common word that people use to describe tiny living things, too small to see, that can make us sick. These tiny living things are made up of two types: bacteria and viruses. A more scientific name for life forms that can make us sick is the word pathogen.
Did you get strep throat this winter? A lot of people did. But what caused so many people to get sick? Strep throat is caused by a tiny living thing that in great numbers can invade our bodies. When they multiply and take over we get sick. Below is a set of four pictures of tiny bacteria or viruses–types of pathogens–that can make us sick. Can you figure out which of these germs cause strep throat?

Yep. It’s the Streptococcus bacteria. There are many types of Streptococcus bacteria. The most common one that causes strep throat is called Streptococcus pyrogenes.

Viruses are much smaller than bacteria. So small that scientists must use special microscopes to get pictures of them. Can you figure out which of the pictures above are of viruses? If you picked the adenovirus and the norovirus, you are correct. Those pictures are in black and white and are somewhat fuzzy because it is so difficult to get images of such small things.

Below is a fun video about germs with advice on how to avoid spreading them and avoid getting sick.

Fortunately, for most of us, our bodies have strong defenses that fight off invasions of germs. This video shows how that works.

Hand washing should also be added to the list of ways to help your immune system.

This video shows us how our immune system works too. It’s better because it was made by 11-year-old, Harrison Harris.

*If you live in a country with good medical care, you have probably never met anyone who has had diptheria. That is because there is a shot given to babies, with later booster shots, that prevents someone from getting the disease altogether.

Joanne Loves Science

This is Joanne Manaster. She is a scientist who studies cell biology. She also likes to share her love of science with everyone especially kids. She does this through her website, Go check it out! There is so much fun science there including reviews about science books, science videos, and science web links.

Our favorite part of Joanne Manaster’s site is Gummi Bear Science. She has done a series of videos in her laboratory where she dramatically experiments on the protein and sugar in the Gummi bears.

If you can stomach watching cute, delicious, little Gummi bears get frozen, shrunken, shattered, bloated, decapitated, and pureed by sound waves you will learn a lot!

Our 11-y.o. editor-in-chief thinks the Gummi bear videos are radical. She has no pity. No heart.

Oh, the gummanity!!

Digested in a lab flask! What a waste!

If you are a sick puppy and want to see more Gummi murrderrr, Joanne Manaster has a couple of other videos here.

Dinosaur Hero

One Giant Leap of Awesome has its first Awesome Hero! Aaron is a 6-y.o. boy from California who is podcasting imaginative dinosaur adventures loaded with fun dinosaur facts.  Aaron calls his podcast, Aaron’s World.  Click here to explore his blog, enjoy the podcasts, and learn more about Aaron and dinosaurs.

Along with his time traveling spaceship and INO, the Computer from the Future, Aaron’s World usually focuses on one type of dinosaur per episode. INO–pronounced “I know”–reads questions from listeners and is Aaron’s trusty and informative sidekick. Some episodes so far have found our intrepid dinosaur adventurer climbing trees to learn about Microraptor, visiting Mexico at the late, late cretaceous to witness the asteroid impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and travelling a time tunnel into the future to meet INO’s inventor– Princess Scientist!

Aaron’s World comes out every two weeks during its 20 episode season. We can’t wait to see where Aaron’s, talent, imagination and love of dinosaurs take us next!


The picture above is not an animation. Those circles around the cute smiley guy aren’t really moving!

When we look at things with special patterns, color mixes, or points of view our brains get confused or lazy and start assuming things. That’s when we start to see still pictures move.

I found this optical illusion on Prof. Richard Wiseman’s blog. He is a psychologist and a magician and his blog is awesome because he blogs a lot about puzzles, optical illusions, and magic.

Here is one of Prof. Wiseman’s magic tricks. At the end he shows us how the trick was done.

Epic magic trick!

Here is another very tricky video:

Owned! I was so busy watching the cards I didn’t see any of the other changes.  How about you?