Tuesday, December 27, 2011

how to make your own giant pool of cornstarch

A few years ago, I wrote a post about Steve Spangler and the giant pool of cornstarch he used on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. Little did I know, Steve wrote up his little stunt!

Now, if you'd like to know how to make your own pool of cornstarch you can run across, you can follow Steve Spangler's instructions. You'll need:
  • a container that is 7 feet long, 3 feet wide and about 1.5 feet deep
  • roughly 2,400 pounds of cornstarch
  • 240 gallons of water
  • a cement mixer truck
A quick search unearths this place which apparently sells 50 pound bags of cornstarch for $50, which will set you back about $2400 for the amount you need. Even this place, which sells 50 pounds for the incredible price of $20 per pound will end up costing you $960. But, really, can you put a price on this kind of entertainment?

How does this demo work?

Cornstarch is simply starch derived from corn. "It is ground from the white endosperm at the heart of a kernel of corn. Cornstarch is used as a thickening agent in cooking, a health-conscious alternative to talc, and the main ingredient in a biodegradable plastic." (source)

When mixed with water, one concocts a fabulous substance affectionately referred to as oobleck, after the Dr. Seuss book. Real oobleck is made up of tiny, solid particles of cornstarch suspended in water.

From an Exploratorium source,
When you bang on it with a spoon or quickly squeeze a handful of Ooze, it freezes in place, acting like a solid. The harder you push, the thicker the Ooze becomes. But when you open your hand and let your Ooze ooze, it drips like a liquid. Try to stir the Ooze quickly with a finger, and it will resist your movement. Stir it slowly, and it will flow around your finger easily.

Your finger is applying what a physicist would call a sideways shearing force to the water. In response, the water shears, or moves out of the way. The behavior of Ooze relates to its viscosity, or resistance to flow. Water's viscosity doesn't change when you apply a shearing force--but the viscosity of your Ooze does.

Back in the 1700s, Isaac Newton identified the properties of an ideal liquid. Water and other liquids that have the properties that Newton identifies are call Newtonian fluids. Your Ooze doesn't act like Newton's ideal fluid. It's a non-Newtonian fluid.
Other non-Newtonian liquids include ketchup and quicksand. Check out the Science Friday video for other cool info and experiments.

What else can I do with cornstarch or oobleck?

You can put oobleck on a speaker and watch it (awesome clip #1 - oobleck starts at :58), awesome clip #2, awesome clip #3) Even The Big Bang Theory found this entertaining:

And apparently, according to the Hodgson company, there are about 1 million other uses for cornstarch.

You can read more about oobleck and quicksand on Steve Spangler's blog.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3D printers FTW!

A recent (12.10.11) article in the Economist couldn't come at a more perfect time. It's the start of Christmas break, I have free time to read it, and I have been the proud owner of a 3D printer for exactly one week. From the article:

[At] EUROMOLD, a big manufacturing trade fair held in Frankfurt from November 29th to December 2nd [2011], ... 300 or so exhibitors working in three-dimensional printing (or “additive manufacturing” as they prefer to call it).... Some of their 3D printers were the size of cars; others were desktop models. All worked, though, by building products up layer by layer from powered metal, droplets of plastic or whatever was the appropriate material.

I learned about many manufacturers who are using this process to imitate nature. For example:
  • an artificial hip made by Materialise, a Belgian firm (see cool video featuring them)
  • a load-bearing column constructed from filaments of concrete, imitating the basic design of plant stems, and printed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • heat exchangers, whose best design resembles a fish gill (more surface area!), by a British firm called Within Technologies
  • light, geodetic structures imitating a “cytoskeleton” of fibrous proteins that holds a cell in shape. The work is being done at Southampton University in Britain, where researchers have printed an unmanned aircraft from laser-sintered nylon (sintering is a way of making objects by heating powders, important for one of the videos below!) OMG - they PRINTED A PLANE!
That ability to create light, strong structures which have complex internal shapes may well turn out to be additive manufacturing’s killer app. The layering of powders or droplets that are then sintered into solidity, or cured with heat or ultraviolet light, allows spaces to be left inside the product. And if such a space would otherwise collapse, it can be filled with a powder that remains intact during curing and is then washed out or blown away. Even moving parts, like clock mechanisms, have thus been made in one go in a 3D printer.


If you'd like to have your own 3D designs printed, there are companies like i.Materialize and Shapeways that will do it for you. Other folks have printed musical instruments, food, blood vessels (?!) and - in the case of this innovative San Francisco company - stylish prosthetics.

But, I've been much more interested in printing 3D objects myself. Preferably with my students, who are much more fearless with technology than I am.


Back in 2008, I first became intrigued with 3D printers when I saw a RepRap at Maker Faire for the first time. They had me at "self-replicating machine." Apparently, if you built one printer, it could PRINT a second set of parts (minus the electronics, metal, etc) for you to build a second machine. This amazed me. Every year since, I have been back to gawk at their booth.

Years later, a student sent me a link to the video demonstrating one of ZCorp's 3D printers. Incredible! (If you want the very technical details about how this works, you can watch Michael Mock's explanatory video.)

Still, not something inexpensive enough for the classroom, although DIY 3D printers were coming down in price. At the 2011 Maker Faire, some 3D printers were selling for as low as $800. Some students and I got to brainstorming fundraisers, and I started looking for grant money.

In the fall of 2011, I attended the NextGen Science Fair and, not surprisingly, hung around the RepRap booth. There, I met Brook Drumm and learned about his plans to create Printrbot, an affordable 3D printer that "can be assembled and printing in a couple of hours." One of his goals is to get 3D printers into the hands of kids!

Fast forward to December 2011: The first Printrbots are ready (you should definitely read all about his Printrbot Kickstarter Project) and Brook came to our school to set up and train us on our very own 3D printer! What will we print? We will be able to use ready-made designs from Thingiverse, or design our own objects using the free programs Google SketchUp or Tinkercad. (One of my students has his gummy bear design ready!) As long as the design can be exported to a .stl file, and is within the boundaries of the Printrbot, we should be able to print it!

Check our the Printrbot and my middle school kids in the video below. The printer is quite new and we have a lot to learn, but it is tantalizing with its possibilities.


Now, if you are still reading, you probably find 3D printing as fascinating as I do. Here are some other incredible videos:

3D Metal printing

Markus Kayser Solar Sinter


And finally, as with all new technologies, there are new issues to consider. Affordable 3D printing brings up new considerations with copyright. Should be interesting to see how it all pans out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

QR codes are popping up all over!

Oh man, this post is long overdue. I started it years ago in November of 2010, when I saw my first QR code on a billboard in the Denver airport. At this point, I had seen QR codes on my United mobile boarding passes for a while, but this was the first time I saw one of the codes "out in the wild," so to speak.

Soon, I was seeing them everywhere! Bus stops, actual buses, catalogs, advertisements, even on a sticker on a bike rack outside the local Chipotle.

Then, in April 2011, Chicago CBS shared a QR code story and Richard Byrnes (Free Technology for Teachers) wrote an awesome post on QR codes. Heck, by April, even my mom knew what a QR code was! :) Researchers even had developed a QR code-based vending machine that accepts PayPal. I realized it was time to go back and dig out my notes.


And I finally did it. I got a QR code app. I checked out this Feb 18, 2011 blog post describing 5 of the current iPhone apps for scanning QR codes and bar codes. I decided on Scan. The first thing I did was use it to access the NSTA mobile site for the 2011 national conference in SF. (The second thing I did was scan that (unlabeled) sticker on that bike rack. It was some ad about smoking cessation.)

I've learned that QR stands for "Quick Response" and has been around since 1994. QR codes were originally created by a company called the Denso Corporation and these 2D bar codes have been popular in Japan for some time. (see 2007 blog post, 2009 blog post)

How do they work?

Well, if you have some time, read the Wikipedia article on this one. Or this blog has more specific information on the QR code design process.

Image CC by Zephyris.

There are a few parts I can figure out:
  • The three large squares (4.1) are the position markers. These tell the scanner where the edges of the code are.
  • Then there is one (or more) smaller alignment squares (4.2), to make sure everything is in line.
  • The dotted lines (4.3) are called "timing patterns" and define something about the position of the rows and columns.
  • The pink section determines the format (2) - is it a website? a text message? Numbers? Letters? Chinese characters? A combination?

Want to generate your own QR code?

There are many, many options to create your own QR codes. In Sept 2010, TechCrunch wrote a post about Google's new URL shortener. Apparently, if you simply add “.qr” to the end of any goo.gl URL, it will create a QR code. Scanning this with any QR code reader will take you to the URL. Then in October, Bit.ly released it's own version of Google's little trick. Just add “.qr” to the end of any bit.ly link (including custom URL's) to generate a QR code.

This summer, while I was cavorting around in Alaska, I learned that you can create QR codes with an image in the center! One of the resident techies aboard the ship recommended BeQRious as a reliable site to try this.

I like the simplicity of this site. In fact, I used it to make the QR code on the back of my new business cards. :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

3 new elements named!

On November 4th, three new elements received their names. Of course, WebElements, periodic table on the web, was already on it! (Oh, and make sure to scroll down the WEbElements page and check out what the kids baked... I hope I have kids that cool one day. :)

Read about each new element:
  • darmstadtium (110) - named after the city (Darmstadt, Germany) where it was originally synthesized (in 1994)
  • roentgenium (111) - named in honor of the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who first discovered X-rays
  • copernicium (112) - named in honor of scientist and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus

What's interesting to me is that these elements were first observed in a laboratory in 1994, 1994, and 1996, respectively, yet it took until 2011 for them to receive names. I read this fascinating post (from 2002) about how elements are named. Even then, the author writes,
It was only in 1997 that the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, or IUPAC, proposed names for 104 - 109. These elements were created in laboratories in the United States, Russia, and Germany. Only a few atoms were created and they only existed for a short time. The naming of chemical elements is a matter of national and professional pride, however, and selecting a name these days requires a lot of bickering and bargaining. Elements 110, 111 and 112 have been created, but have yet to be named.
I liked reading the post and leaning more about how elements have been named using Latin symbols, the compounds they make up, Greek words, how the element was made, the place name where it was synthesized, mythology, and most recently, after famous scientists.

Well, armstadtium (110), roentgenium (111), and copernicium (112)... welcome to the Table!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

bird garments: penguin sweaters & chicken jumpers

A link off the Chicago Tribune this morning about knitting penguin sweaters led me to a rather intensive research session on bird clothing. Who knew? Perhaps, I should clarify that I am only interested in dressing up animals when it serves some sort of rehabilitation purpose, as it does in these three stories. Dogs in frills for the amusement of their owners? Not so much. (All images are linked back to their original sources.)

First, penguin sweaters. It's true (snopes.com says so) that the Penguin Jumpers Project (now finished) collected over 15,000 jumpers to help rehabilitate Little penguins (Eudyptula minor - the smallest penguin species in the world) that have been affected by oil spills in Tasmania. As many of you may already know, a good washing with Dawn dish soap will clean the feathers of oil, but often the birds are too sick to be handled and washed right away. In the meantime, these sweaters are put on the birds so that the birds will not preen their feathers, potentially poisoning themselves with the oil. When their strength returns, the birds are washed and the insulating and waterproofing properties of the features restored.

Another group was asking for donations of jumpers... for chickens! When chickens are cooped up against each other in hot sheds at battery farms, the can often lose their feathers. Then, if they are fortunate enough to be rescued and moved to free-range conditions, they do not have the feathers to keep their bodies warm in the open fields. According to the rescue group Little Hen Rescue, "Not all farmed hens [we rescue] are bald, but usually there is around 10-20% that are, these hens depending on the time of year stay with us until feathered." While they are growing their feathers back, many of them will be wearing these donated jumpers.

Check out Little Hen Rescue's page for more pictures of hens in jumpers. Or check out a video here. Or see Paul Howard's Picassa album for my favorite picture of hen jumpers.)

Finally, if I am discussing bird garments, I can't leave out the story of Pierre, a penguin at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, CA. By penguin standards, Pierre is an old bird. In the wild, penguins live about 15 years; in captivity, they live to about 20. Pierre turned 28 last February. When he was 25, he molted, and never grew back his feathers. When it was determined that there was no health-based reason for his balding, senior aquatic biologist & penguin handler, Pam Schaller came up with a creative solution - she collaborated on a penguin-sized wetsuit, which Pierre wore until his feathers and his demeanor recovered.

It's a great story. To learn more you can:
In 2009, another wet-suit-wearing Cal Academy penguin made the news. Ralph, a nine year old Humboldt penguin, also had a similar wetsuit experience.

Friday, October 14, 2011

quark song

Today, a student introduced me to the Vlogbrothers (YouTube Channel). Hank and John Green are brothers who make nerdy videos. Hank lives in Montana, and John lives in Indiana, yet they still engage in nerdy collaboration across the miles.... Apparently, it all started in 2007, when the brothers chose to refuse text communicate and only communicated through voice and vlogs for the year.

The video below is one of Hank's songs, Strange Charm. It's about quarks. Quarks are a type of particle that makes up matter. Most of the matter we see around us is made from protons and neutrons, which are composed of quarks. The most recently discovered quark (the top quark) was announced in 1995! (A shout-out to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, IL for the discovery!)

There are 6 types, or "flavors" of quarks: up, down, charm, strange, top, bottom. Each quark carries a fractional charge, and a color charge. (?!) According to the theory of quantum chromodynamics, quarks are always combined in groups of three quarks (of different colors) or as pairs consisting of a quark and an antiquark (of the same color). (??!!) This is more than my brain can handle, but it is pretty cool.

If you want to learn more about quarks, I suggest visiting the following sites:

Hank Green is also known for his blog, EcoGeek, which he began in graduate school as a class assignment!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bike performance on China's Got Talent

I live in a town that has a bike polo league, a synchronized bike ballet, and the Bay Area Dérailleurs, a bicycle inspired dance team... but I have never seen anything like this!

From China's Got Talent... 16 girls on a bike! Not to mention a lot of jumping and flipping. Incredible.

Thanks to the "related videos," I also learned about 23 year old Liu Wei from Beijing, who won the China's Got Talent Show on Oct. 10, 2010. He swims competitively, and plays piano... yet he lost his arms in an accident when he was 10 years old. His attitude & determination are inspirational. You can watch his amazing performance here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Iron Science Teacher II

This past Saturday was the Exploratorium's first "Educator's Night." Not only was there free food and drinks, but there was a special edition of the Iron Science Teacher*. I've previously competed in the event, and I was happy to volunteer again.

My secret ingredient was "chalk." This was a tough one for me. After discarding a number of boring ideas, I clinched the title (for the second time!) with chalk** chromatography. (And, of course, putting kids in costumes... works every time.)

Click the image below to watch my 9/17/11 "victory" - secret ingredient: CHALK (my "show" is from 24:00 - 39:25) NOTE: the competition is just for fun; you don't actually win anything. :)

You can also click the image below to watch the 7/16/10 competition - secret ingredient: TRIANGLES (my "show" is from 21:08 - 35:58)

* Parodying the cult Japanese TV program, “Iron Chef,” the Iron Science Teacher showcases science teachers as they devise classroom activities using a particular ingredient—an everyday item such as a plastic bag, milk carton, or nail. Contestants are drawn from the Exploratorium Teacher Institute and compete before a live audience.

Apparently, back in 1997, the museum's high-tech webcast studio was looking for new shows. During a staff brainstorming session, a fan of the Japanese cooking show (which aired on a local television network, without subtitles, at the time) suggested naming a secret ingredient for science teachers to use in an experiment to present to the audience. "It was honestly and truly a joke," Linda Shore, Director of the Teacher Institute and host of the show, said, "We thought we'd do one show."

Now 10 to 12 shows are produced annually for the Exploratorium's Web site, many of them during summer institutes. "Secret" ingredients (which are actually revealed to participants in advance so they can practice) have included everything from ordinary baking soda and food coloring to Marshmallow Peeps and pantyhose.

** Seriously, I learned a lot about chalk. Most chalk produced today (I found out) is dustless - it still produces dust but the dust settles faster. "Manufacturers accomplish this by baking their chalk longer to harden it more. Another method, used by a French company, is to dip eighty percent of each dustless chalk stick in shellac to prevent the chalk from rubbing off onto the hands." This almost ruined my experiment!!!! (Cheap, not dustless, chalk pictured below.)

I also learned that the first true chromatography is actually attributed to a Russian scientist who used a liquid-adsorption column containing calcium carbonate to separate yellow, orange, and green plant pigments. He first used the term chromatography in print in 1906 in his two papers about chlorophyll! Conveniently for science teachers, calcium carbonate has traditionally been a major component of blackboard chalk. (Although modern chalk is now mostly gypsum.)

One last random fact: There is currently no Wikipedia page for the Iron Science Teacher... this has to change. :)

UPDATED OCT 4: Now, there IS a Wikipedia page for the Iron Science Teacher. The first Wikipedia article I've created "from scratch"! :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

contagion billboard

Talk about your viral videos... I recently received a link to one of the most innovative billboards I've learned about.

From the YouTube page,
In support of Academy Award ® winner Steven Soderbergh's latest film "Contagion" -- in theatres September 9th, Warner Bros. Pictures Canada teamed up with microbiologists and immunologists from around the world to create a one-of-a-kind bacteria message board located at 409 Queen Street West [Toronto, Canada] in an abandoned store-front window. On August 28th, two large Petri dishes were inoculated with live bacteria including penicillin, mold and pigmented bacteria and almost overnight have revealed the true Contagion -- an artistic interpretation of the spread of a virus as depicted in the film.

Wow! You can visit the Contagion's IMDd page for more info on the movie itself, including the trailer. I am a big fan of virus movies... my favorite being the 1995 film, Outbreak.

The movie was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia (no doubt near or in the CDC) and San Francisco. In fact, one day in February 2011, I was riding down Polk St. and was forced to stop. Apparently, they were filming Contagion in downtown SF that afternoon. It was cool, but also a little scary - military personnel, and long lines of people waiting to get into the imposing "MEV-1 Vaccination Center" (normally the Civic Auditorium)...

I was surprised to learn that Contagion was actually filmed at both my "homes" - the Bay Area and Chicago - at Central Elementary School (Wilmette, IL), Midway Airport, Sherman Hospital (Elgin, IL) and various other places in Glenview, Naperville, Waukegan, Western Springs & Chicago itself! (Oh, and Hong Kong & Los Angeles, but I am not connected to those places, so I am less excited about those shots.)

Anyway, back to science...

If you want to learn more about how agar is poured into petri dishes and inoculated with bacteria, you can watch this Steve Spangler video below. Then imagine it on the large scale of those billboards!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

colorful ant abdomens & honeypot ants

Recently, the UK Daily Mail featured this article about a colorful insect experiment! You can also click on either of the first two photos to be taken to the article.

Mohamed Babu is a scientist from South India. One day, his wife showed him some ants had turned white after drinking spilt milk. This gave him an idea!

Babu mixed the sugar drops with edible red, green, blue and yellow dyes and placed them in his garden to attract the insects. (He used a paraffin base for the drops, so that they kept their shape when touched by the ants.)

I can only imagine his glee when the ants abdomens began to turn the colors of the drops!

He noticed that the ants seemed to prefer the lighter colors - yellow & green - to the darker colors, red & blue.

This experiment reminds me of an excellent question from a student one day in science class long ago. My student asked,
We've learned that all arthropods have a tough outer covering called an exoskeleton. However, we have also learned that some arthropods, such as "honey-pot" ants and ticks actually expand as they collect honey or blood in their body. Is the exoskeleton able to expand? Do these organisms have a different type of exoskeleton that other arthropods?

I didn't know the answer so, as usual, I asked the UCSB ScienceLine (a GREAT resource for science teachers or other curious folks). You can still see the question since it is archived on the site. A couple of scientists explained how exoskeletons are actually made of hard plates joined by soft areas, much like the pads on a baseball catcher. When the honeypot ants do their thing, the soft parts stretch, but the hard parts stay the same size. The scientists point out that the exoskeleton is "now useless at protecting the ant, but the full ants just stay inside the nest where they are fairly safe."

There are somewhere around 30 different species of honey pot ants, and they most often live on the edges of deserts in Western America, Mexico, Australia, South Africa and New Guinea. During the rainy season, particular worker ants (called repletes) drink up the liquid sugar from flowers until they are engorged. Then, during the dry season, they provide food for the rest of the colony by regurgitating a little bit at a time. You can see a great picture of a single ant here. Even NASA.gov has a blog post about these wonderful ants which includes a recording of a conversation with a scientist who knows a lot about ants - he is working on classifying all of the ants in the world!

Just for kicks, here is a CC pic of some full honey pot ants!

Image is CC-BY by Greg Hume via en.wikipedia.org

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Blogging Black Hole - Year in Review

Welcome back to Celebrating Randomness! As many of you know, "This blog is intended mainly for my middle school students, but is gladly shared with all those who appreciate randomness in science and life."

Seventeen months ago (when Blogger discontinued its ftp support and I had to restructure where and how my blog was published), I just quit. I was still finding random facts and interesting science, but these ideas were languishing in draft.

If anyone is interested (or really, really, bored) here is a quick recap of 101 ideas that ended up in draft during this "blogging black hole." Whether or not they get developed into full-fledged posts remains to be seen, but I am moving forward in search of more randomness in the future.

Things I found interesting (date put in draft)
  1. UCBerkeley develops a portable CellScope that uses cellphone cameras and may revolutionize diagnostics in the field... and the classroom? (8.21.11)
  2. Pandora for books? BookLamp launches. (8.20.11)
  3. Oxford English Dictionary introduces new words for 2011 - 'retweet' 'seting' and 'woot' make the list. (8.19.11)
  4. MIT researchers tested a new drug that proved effective against 15 viruses - we'll see what comes from future tests. (8.14.11)
  5. Ever wonder how magnets work? (8.9.11)
  6. Will light waves provide a faster internet connection? (8.6.11)
  7. This Swedish guy apparently did not realize that authorities don't really support home atom splitting.... (8.3.11)
  8. Cyclists are faster than Jet Blue flight during LA's Carmaggedon (7.29.11)
  9. Great house for a book-lover - full of shelves! (7.7.11)
  10. This year's Alameda State Fair boasts the world's largest hamburger, weighing in at 700 pounds! (7.5.11)
  11. A friend got me interested in the science of fireworks! (source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4, source 5) (7.3.11)
  12. A condo association in Palm Beach plans to pay for DNA testing for abandoned dog poop on the premises. (6.30.11)
  13. I saw a sand fulgurite for the first time at the Boston science museum! They are created when lightning strikes sand. (6.29.11)
  14. In the Maldives, which already has a hotel with an underwater restaurant, now offers an underwater hotel room. (6.25.11)
  15. Chicken head tracking is hilarious! (6.19.11)
  16. I had no idea this variety of gummy bears exists. (6.17.11)
  17. It's pretty fun to put alkali metals in water, although I'd rather watch these videos than do it myself! (6.17.11)
  18. You can play A Google a Day - "Crack the question using the full range of Google search techniques in the search box above the question." (6.3.11)
  19. Obama signs an extention of the Patriot Act FROM FRANCE using an autopen. (5.27.11)
  20. This is a pretty good video about cheese. I learned a lot. (5.17.11)
  21. Military develops an "iron man" suit. Paralyzed UC Berkeley grad uses a modified version to walk across the stage at graduation. (5.15.11)
  22. Too lazy to count calories? Take a picture of your food and let the app Meal Snap do it for you. (5.14.11)
  23. Easily distracted people may have "too much brain" - really? Cool. (5.13.11)
  24. Some of the best geeky google doodles. (5.12.11)
  25. Awesome problem solving. This SF homeowner wants a garage, but city regulations prevent him from changing how his house looks on the outside. Check out what he did. (4.28.11)
  26. Yet another reason not to get Botox - it "blunts emotional understanding." (4.26.11)
  27. One of my students is obsessed with cone snails. Here are 2 cool videos: vid1, vid2. (3.23.11)
  28. A Michigan comedy festival opens by trying to beat the World Record for the number of people tossing rubber chickens at one time. (3.11.11)
  29. As one article puts it, "DJ Ruth Flowers, a 69-year-old British grandmother, is conquering the Parisian party scene." whoa. (3.10.11)
  30. I was interested to see QR codes popping up all over. (3.4.11)
  31. Senior Raynell Murrel wrote the song "I Can't Hear You With That Gold in Your Mouth" based on a school rules. (2.26.11)
  32. SF entrepreneurs sell cookies from their apartment window & delivers them on a string. (2.18.11)
  33. The WindMade labeling initiative wants to create the first global consumer label that identifies a product as made from wind power - will this be a trend? (2.11.11)
  34. OK, I like ducks, but apparently duckduckgo.com also "provides a clean interface together with a no-tracking privacy policy." (2.6.11)
  35. LaLa, a rescued penguin in Japan, shops for his own fish at the market in (2.4.11)
  36. This game - Who Pooped? - is ridiculous, and educational. (2.3.11)
  37. These dogs have indentified cancer with 98% accuracy. (2.2.11)
  38. City getting low on road salt? This town used pickle juice instead! (1.30.11)
  39. I guess typing two spaces after your period is old skool. (1.19.11)
  40. Not funny, but important. The paper orginally credited with linking the possible cause of autism to vaccines has been retracted and COMPLETELY DEBUNKED. Yet, people still believe it. Sigh. (1.17.11)
  41. Berkeley physicists trap antimatter - awesome! (1.15.11)
  42. My fifth graders asked the many periodic table spoofs, including a periodic table of smellements and an html one. (1.11.11)
  43. 3D printers, like the RepRap, are cool. Some printers can even "print" prosthetic legs! (1.10.11)
  44. Here's an awesome video of fruit and vegetables decomposing. (1.7.11)
  45. Josh Groban sings Kanye West tweets on Jimmy Kimmel Live - ridiculous. (1.6.11)
  46. Life must be more interesting driving a chalkboard car in SF. (12.29.10)
  47. I learned about the coin washer at the SF Westin St. Francis and other odd jobs. (12.26.10)
  48. Steve Spangler teaches about glow sticks: then and now. (12.26.10)
  49. A couple of 8 - 10 year olds have their study published in a science journal (12.23.10)
  50. Check out this cool interactive scale of the universe! Kinda like the old Powers of Ten movie... (12.20.10)
  51. Fecal transplants can be used to treat debilitating diarrhea. Sounds gross, but it's pretty awesome. (12.17.10)
  52. Guinness World Records certified the Bhut Jolokia as the world's hottest pepper. I also learned about the Scoville scale they use to measure hot-ness of peppers. (12.5.10)
  53. I always love hearing the current price for the gifts in the 12 Days of Christmas (2010) (12.1.10)
  54. I was floored to experience SF's interactive bus stops (Yahoo! Bus Stop Derby) - you could play against other neighborhoods while you waited for the bus! (11.26.10)
  55. The dictionary teaches us words for things we didn't know had names. (11.15.10)
  56. These creepy billboards will deliver personalized ads based on its approximation of your age and gender. (11.13.10)
  57. The bushcricket has the largest testicles: body size ratio. Its testicles are 14% of their body weight! (11.12.10)
  58. An interesting list of 19 products that America doesn't make anymore. (11.7.10)
  59. I'm almost done with a post about geckos regrowing their tails. (11.5.10)
  60. Speaking of dogs, they look really cool when they drink in slow motion. (11.4.10)
  61. Heaven to Betsy - here is a device so that your DOG can have a Twitter feed. (11.3.10)
  62. Germans hate the Google Street View. However, this time it was a fake Google car. (10.24.10)
  63. I love using this marshmallow experiment when teaching my students about the value of delayed gratification (10.23.10)
  64. Kim Kardashian was rumored to have a diamond-encrusted cake. This led me to discover some other really expensive food - like a $1000 bagel! (10.22.10)
  65. In Berkeley, I drove past this awesome bird car! I learned it was designed by the late Marilyn Dreampeace. (10.17.10)
  66. Wanna use an old skool typewriter with your iPad? Well you're in luck. (10.14.10)
  67. SF urban farmers raise chickens AND ducks! (10.13.10)
  68. Forget cuddly animals, you can adopt a microbe! (10.8.10)
  69. SunChips wanted to make a compostable bag, but then pulled them from the shelves because they were too loud. (10.7.10)
  70. The Belmont stop was voted most romantic 'L' stop. Well, according to Craigslist. (10.3.10)
  71. A Chicagoland student's design will now be featured on Chiquita banana labels. (9.23.10)
  72. Using the 2010 Census data, this user created maps of race and ethnicity for major U.S cities. (9.22.10)
  73. Check out this backpack for bikers with interactive lights. (9.16.10)
  74. I learned a new word - paraprosdokian! (9.11.10)
  75. Do you ever wonder what's REALLY inside a Twinkie? (9.10.10)
  76. Researchers say that movements associated with good dancing in men may be indicative of good health and reproductive potential. (9.9.10)
  77. At Nightlife "Games" night, I learned that the old Duck Hunt (see new version) won't work on flat screen TVs. (9.3.10)
  78. A local artist creates wonderful art for BART. (9.2.10)
  79. I found the best. cupcakes. EVER. (8.17.10)
  80. Students were asked to have DNA test in order to enter UC Berkeley. (8.12.10)
  81. Face transplants are incredible. (7.26.10)
  82. Boston Dynamics has the coolest robots. (7.21.10)
  83. Some facts about the ducks (and Duckmaster!) at the Peabody Hotel. (7.18.10)
  84. The carbon footprint of a banana is lower than the kiwi. (7.12.10)
  85. This push pin art reminds me of the toothpick guy. (7.11.10)
  86. Duck genitals are fascinating. Truly. You can read the lite version or the long version. (7.10.10)
  87. Some bacteria and pigeons (!) have magnetite in them, which may contribute to their sense of direction. (7.8.11)
  88. Some countries have an impressive list of banned baby names. (7.4.10)
  89. There is now a giant eyeball sculpture in Chicago. (7.2.10)
  90. I rode past a grassy field in SF, which I learned was for housing goats for urban landscaping jobs (7.1.10)
  91. From now on, the cheese will be tessellated on all Subway sandwiches. (6.30.10)
  92. I got new rainjacket. Sweat comes out, but rain can't get in. This eVent fabric technology is very puzzling to me. (6.21.10)
  93. So many people kiss & touch the Stanley Cup, Chicago lab EMSL Analytical had it tested for germs. Ends up, it's not that germy. (6.20.10)
  94. In China, there is a new, very strange trend of dyeing your dog to look like other animals (6.17.10)
  95. I went to a Chicagoland Owl Hardwood and saw some amazing imported wood - got a small sample of Ebony - one of only three woods that sink! (5.31.10)
  96. There are some great music video science parodies - Lady Gaga spoofs "Lab Romance" & "Chromosome" and, of course, there's that rap about CERN's Large Hadron Collider. (5.30.10)
  97. In Louisiana, people photographed a pink dolphin, which made me think about other albino animals. (5.29.10)
  98. Found a collection of crazy license plates. (5.28.10)
  99. Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden made a foolish comment about health care and chickens. Democrats responded by setting up a website, "Chickens for Checkups," and by sending volunteers in chicken suits to her campaign events. (5.24.10)
  100. Someone shared a collection of these funny signs from abroad. (5.16.10)
  101. I love learning about the science of the new Bay Bridge. (5.12.10)
Stay tuned. :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

2011 peeps contest

So, one of my favorite things about Easter (besides the Bring Your Own Big Wheel event in SF - watch my video from 2008) is the annual Chicago Tribune Peeps contest. Its call for entries happens sometime in March, and winners are announced on Easter Sunday.

This year's Chicago Tribune Winners include:
No. 1: 'Satine the Sparkling Peep from Moulin Peep'
No. 2: 'Larry Peep Live on PNN'
No. 3: 'Peepmares'

This year, I expanded my horizons and realized that the Chicago Tribune is not the only paper to run a Peeps contest (you can see all the Tribune entries here)

Other contests include:

And... if you haven't had enough Peeps, you may want to check out: The Power of the Peep, a documentary...
Boxed in sets of five and staring out with sugar-blackened eyes, Marshmallow Peeps have been emerging like clockwork from a factory in Bethlehem Pennsylvania since the 1950s. They were born in the mind of a Russian immigrant, hatched in Easter baskets, and eaten by the dozens across the country. Then they armed themselves with lances, stood in front of trucks, mutated in microwave ovens and set out on their own.

This is the story of what happened when a marshmallow met modern America. It’s the story of how a sweet candy product got to the shelves of your convenience store – and what happened after it left them behind.

The Power of the Peep - Marshmallow Peeps Documentary Trailer from weebedee on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

happy mathematical new year

A coworker at school passed this along....

2011 is prime number year

.....also the sum of 11 CONSECUTIVE prime numbers: