Adventures in Science

Posts tagged ‘awesome science’

Cary Huang’s enhanced Scale of the Universe…

Original Scale of the Universe


….is a parody and I was fooled and originally had a serious post on it. I should have known better than to post anything from a 4Chan link.

Cary Huang created an updated version and parody of the interactive “Scale of the Universe” flash animation.

More at


Clean your room the NASA JPL way


Did you see the launch of the Mars Curiosity Rover last week from NASA at Cape Kennedy, Florida? It was awesome!

Curiosity is an exciting and important robot because its job when it gets to Mars in 8 months is to look for life there. Scientists suspect that there is some very primitive form of life on Mars, but we need to send a probe with instruments and detectors built into it to test the martian environment for evidence of life.

Curiosity probably won’t find a baby plant like Wall-E does in the movie. If life is detected it’s more likely to be a type of tiny, microscopic life. That would be great because it would be the first time that people have discovered life anywhere other than Earth.

Here’s a video animation from NASA/JPL that shows us how Curiosity will travel from Earth to Mars and what Curiosity will be doing once it lands.

Yes! It will shoot laser beams at stuff on Mars.

One of the most important things you need to keep in mind if you are building a robot that will probe another planet for life, is that you don’t want to send any Earth life with your robot probe. If your rover arrives on Mars covered in Earth germs your life detectors are going to detect life, but possibly not martian life. Or perhaps the scientists would be scratching their heads when Curiosity discovered that along with unknown alien life, Mars also has athletes’ foot. Awkward…

To send a clean spacecraft to another planet you need to build it in a clean room like this:



The above picture was the Mars Curiosity Rover’s room on Earth at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. Your bedroom is a pig sty compared to Mars Curiosity Rover’s room. The interesting thing about this room is that it is cleaner than cleanest place you’ve probably ever been outside of a hospital operating room. Operating rooms and JPL’s clean room are designed to have fewer than 10,000 particles of 0.5 micrometers (microns) or more in diameter in the air. Microscopic life bigger than 0.5 microns are yeast, mold, most bacteria, spores and pollen.

Hey, wait! People are bigger than 0.5 microns! They are covered cooties! How can we prevent the people working in the clean room from contaminating the spacecraft? Here’s how. Before it traveled to Florida in preparation for launch to Mars, you used to be able to watch the clean room engineers and technicians build Curiosity on the internet via a webcam. However, Curiosity is traveling to Mars at the moment so Curiosity Cam is off air. Fortunately, we have a video of JPL clean room technicians in action:

You can’t miss that the technicians are completely covered in white clean room suits. These are also known as bunny suits.

We wish they came with the


The clean room suits including masks, gloves, smocks, pants, and booties are designed to keep human cooties, hair, skin cells, or whatever off the spacecraft. There are many more videos showing the assembly of Curiosity at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory clean room at YouTube. Check them out.

This NASA video from a different project shows how even pieces of paper must be wiped down front and back before they can enter a clean room, or in this case, a clean tent:

Now, think about how you would get your room clean enough to make a robot for space in there.

Don’t forget the bunny suit.


Robot party tonight…all right!

Dean Kamen

Photo of Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, robot, and, FIRST enthusiast, via ABC

If you are an American middle or high school student YOU can build a real robot by joining your high school’s FIRST robotics team. If your school doesn’t have one, you need to pester the science and technology teachers to start one. Send them to

FIRST, also, is a national annual robot build and design competition for high school students. Students start with a robot kit with no instruction manual and a task their robot needs to perform. With the help of a team mentor, the teams use their combined skills to rise to the challenge of assembling and programming their robot. Through innovation, cooperation, and problem solving the kids work to make the best performing robot they can. The teams compete on a local level and then winners move up to nationals for the super robot smackdown and killer party as seen in the following video about and the 2011 finalists.

Robot partay!

You and your team will gain experience in engineering, design, electronics, programming, problem solving, communication, team building and fashion.

Robot Team Spirit Wear

Above photo courtesy of BurningQuestion

Well, maybe not fashion.

In the video, I heard one of the team mentors say that the kids needed to use their language skills to apply for grants (donations of money) as well. I can’t think of a better way to acquire and use such a wide variety of valuable life skills while having a blast with friends.

Kids in the FIRST program have an awesome cheerleader, the super talented, of the pop group Black Eyed Peas. is a passionate promoter of science and technology education. He paid for and produced the program televised on ABC in the United States. He understands that the valuable the hands-on science and technical experience gained from building a robot can give kids a leg up on a better future. He rocks and rules.

Pwned….by science!

Image: My L'il Pwny by KeyzerSoze on DeviantArt

A couple of weeks ago 18-y.o. Stephen Thomas uploaded a video of his high school physics presentation to YouTube and it went viral. He’s taken his favorite show, My Little Pony, and with his knowledge of physics determined whether some of the ponies’ adventures and misadventures were possible. He did a pretty good job.

Even though Stephen Thomas debunked the Sonic Rainboom *whimper*, One Giant Leap of Awesome names him an

Great Book: Flatland

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott

Published in 1884, Edwin Abott Abbott’s Flatland is a hilarious romp through a rigidly structured two-dimensional society populated by lines and other geometrical shapes. The storyline is built with a sublime, intuitive exploration of the mathematical concepts of the first through third dimensions.  In the end, along with the characters, we are invited to conceptually grasp beyond those first three dimensions.

Carl Sagan gives the best explanation of Flatland in this clip from his classic series, Cosmos.

Exploring Magnetic Fields

At there is a great explanation of magnetism and magnetic fields for kids by Chris Woodford. If you read that first you will get more out of this post. At the bottom of this post I’ve included a link to a more advanced video on magnetic fields from for those who want a more detailed explanation.

Now let’s play…

Let’s explore the magnetic field or region of space around magnets in which the magnetic force occurs to get some insight into what it is like and how it works. Most of the time magnetic fields are invisible to our eyes. The demonstrations in the following videos help us to see the lines and curves of force of magnetic fields around different types of magnets.

First is this video from funlearners channel on YouTube:

Here we can see some slices through the magnetic field with all of the little compass pointers on the plexiglass lining up. Plus we can see that the magnetic field changes shape with the two differently shaped magnets. You really get a sense of the 3-D shape of the field when the bar magnet is in the middle and the man spins the viewer.

Here is a 3-D magnetic field viewer by wbeaty that you can make yourself:

Easy peasy! Try not to touch the steel wool slivers that you cut off too much. Instead of picking them up with your fingers just cut them over a sheet paper and then pour them into the bottle down the crease of the paper folded in two. Also, rinse your fingers after working with the steel wool to avoid nasty metal slivers in your skin or eyes.

Experiment with your 3-D magnetic field viewer using one, two or more magnets. Try different shapes and types of magnets to see if and how the fields differ. Carry your viewer around the house and see if you can spot a hidden magnetic field. Then try to figure out what is causing it.

This video from KJMagneticsProducts is what happens when you stick a powerful magnet into magnetic paint:

That magnet is going to be hard to get clean again. That paint is wet, but the particles of iron pile up on each other in the shape of the lines and curves of the magnetic field until it looks solid. There are many videos on the internet showing ferrofluids, which are liquids that become strongly magnetized by a magnetic field. Ferrofluids display the beautiful geometries and movement of magnetic fields. We will revisit ferrofluids in a future post on OGLoA. Until then, go look them up. You won’t be sorry!

For the older kids, if you have an old-style computer monitor just lying around, research how it can be made into a magnetic field viewer. Get permission from your parents first!  Here is a great one featured in this video by YoungTesla:

Move over LavaLite, we’re going to make one for parties! YoungTesla has three magnet/computer monitor experiments on his YouTube channel and lots more. Check it out.

As promised here is more on magnets and magnetic fields from

Introduction to Magnetism

Khan Academy is a wonderful web site for self-study or to use as another source of information when you are stuck on a topic in your school work.

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.