Saturday, September 22, 2012


While my son was having his "Pirate Treasure Hunt Birthday" at Webb Mountain Discovery Zone in Monroe CT, I got to snap a couple non-pirate pics of the site.  The first shot is one of the many vernal pools located 171-acre plot and the second pic is the butterfly garden located near the entrance.

Vernal Pool
Butterfly Garden
The Discovery Zone officially opened to the public in 2007 with a mission to promote exploration and learning in a fun, hands-on environment.  If you are traveling through Monroe CT, it is a definitely a worthwhile stop.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hey any mycologists out there!  Are these edible?

These neat looking bright orange mushrooms are growing on the side of my house in a recently planted field of pachysandra.  I am a self proclaimed bio bozo and have no clue.  About all I know about mushrooms is they are a fungus and get their nutrients from decaying organic matter since they lack chlorophyll.  My wife, the much better biologist in our family identified the fungus as either Jack O`Lantern or Orange-latex Milky.  The Jack O'lantern is poisonous while the Orange-latex Milky is edible.  I think she wants to know whether to put them in the family salad or just my salad...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Low Tech Activity Yet Worthwhile Results!

Although I love using the latest technology or some computer app, sometimes the simplest things give students the best understanding.  When discussing the many benefits of knowing the density (D) of a substance, I focused on how you can determine the mass (m) of object if it is too big to put on a scale if you know the density.  The solution is to simply multiply it by the volume (V).

D = m/V  or rearranged is m = D*V

Rather giving examples from the book or a worksheet as I normally would, today I took the students outside and asked them to estimate the mass of some concrete slabs that make up sitting benches outside our building.  As an added bonus they got practice taking measurements and it led into another discussion about significant figures.  The students were able to see real-world applications since you can use this to estimate masses of sorts of objects, even buildings.  I thought about having some students determine the mass of the school by counting all the bricks if they get bored in class.  Good lesson and we got outside on a nice day...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Am I Joking?

I just got done making a big stink about why we need to use the Metric System and my choice for Featured Scientist of the Month is Daniel Fahrenheit.  Actually Fahrenheit was a brilliant dedicated scientist who understood the need to develop a universal scale for thermometers.  See post below...


Daniel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) was born into a German merchant family in Gdansk, Poland.  He was a scientist who is best known for making the modern day alcohol thermometer and mercury thermometer.  His parents died from eating poisonous mushroomswhen he was fifteen.  After spending time in foster homes, apprenticeships, and studying natural science, Fahrenheit become a  glassblower making barometers and thermometers. 

Early thermometers had arbitrary scales and he as well as Isaac Newton years earlier recognized that thermometers based on materials that change at certain temperatures would make them reproducible.  Newton was not a thermometer maker and did a couple of other things anyway.  Fahrenheit choose a mixture of ice, water, and ammonium chloride (a salt) for zero.  He used 32 degrees for the freezing point of water and 96 degrees for body temperature.  The funny numbers come from his original idea of have a 12-point scale where zero, four, and twelve are the three constants.  He then separated each point by eight gradations.  The result, multiply each constant by eight: 4 X 8 = 32, 12 X 8 = 96.  Body temperature is normally measured at 98.6 degrees but he was close.


Unfortunately Fahrenheit's constants were not as simple as the constants Anders Celsius chose for for his scale who used the freezing point and boiling point of pure water.  

Also, for those interested in the where the following conversion formulas comes from:

        F to C where C = (F-32)*5/9     
        C to F where F = C*9/5+32

Notice the difference between 0 and 100 (100) on the Celsius scale and their corresponding Fahrenheit temperatures 32 and 212 (180).  The ratio is 100 to 180 which reduces to 5 to 9.  Whether it is 5/9 or 9/5 and if you have to add or subtract 32 depends on which scale your looking for.