Fun Friday – Rockets!

Fun Friday – Rockets!

 What is a rocket?


A rocket can describe any object that is propelled by fast moving liquid or gas!


Most rockets have a nose or cone at the top, a body that houses the fuel and fins at the base.
Rockets are usually powered by a chemical reaction (explosion) within the rocket itself. This chemical reaction requires both fuel and oxygen, both of which must be carried within the rocket.
The fuel and oxygen are called the propellant. There are two types of propellant, liquid propellant and solid propellant.
A solid propellant rocket is easier, simpler and cheaper to make.  However, these rockets are harder to guide and control as once the chemical reaction is started it is hard to stop.
A liquid propellant rocket is more complex and expensive to make but the burning of the liquid fuel is allot easier to control.
 photo credit: Flying Jenny via photopin cc

photo credit: Flying Jenny via photopin cc

A bit of history


The Chinese were the first to invent rockets when they started filling bamboo tubes with gunpowder and lighting them.
Rocket science really began with an English man called Isaac Newton. He formulated three laws to explain the physics of motion. These laws explain how rockets work!

Newton‛s 3rd Law of Motion states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction!

To understand this law think of a balloon full of air.
Demonstrating Newton's Law of Motion
Demonstrating Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion
If the balloon is untied and the air suddenly let out, it will escape the balloon with such force that it will propel the balloon in the opposite direction.
The force of the air leaving the balloon is called the thrust! The thrust that powers the launch of a rocket comes from the force of the gas (generated by the burning fuel) being ejected from the rear of the rocket!

The first liquid propellant rocket was launched in 1926 by an American called Robert Goddard.  He is considered the father of modern rocket science!

Rocket to the Moon


Neil Armstrong... photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via photopin cc
Neil Armstrong…
photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
via photopin cc

In 1969 Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin became the first men on the moon.

Armstrong and Aldrin traveled to the Moon in a rocket called Saturn V. It was 100 metres tall and weighed more than 3,000 tonnes! It was the largest rocket ever launched!

An Experiment to try at home


Make a stomp rocket!


You will need… an empty 2L plastic bottle, paper, insulation tape, a 1/2 inch PVC pipe, a length of rubber tubing;

What to do… tape one end of the rubber tubing to the neck of the bottle and tape the other end to one end of the PVC pipe. Next make the body of the rocket by wrapping a piece of paper around the PVC pipe and secure it with tape at the overlap. Remove the rocket from the pipe. Cut four triangles of paper and attach to the body of  the rocket near one end; these are the rocket fins. Make a nose (cone shape) for the other end of the rocket and attach it with tape.  You are now ready to launch your rocket. (Best to do this outside!).
Sit your paper rocket over the PVC pipe and place the 2L bottle on the ground on its side. Stomp on the bottle and watch your rocket shoot off!
This is what your stomp rocket should look like
This is what your stomp rocket should look like

So what is happening?
… when you stomp on the bottle the air inside it shoots out through the tubing and the pipe, forcing the rocket off the end of the pipe! Just blow into the pipe to re-inflate to bottle to start again!

An Experiment to try at home


Make a teabag rocket

I have shared this one with you before, but for those of you who have not seen it I thought it would be a nice addition here…. a double for the Bank Holiday Weekend ;0)

If you try any of the experiments or have any comments or questions, please let me know in the comments below!


Just a thought – "a fistful of love!"

Just a thought – "a fistful of love!"

A rose can say ‘I love you’, orchids can enthrall, but a weed bouquet in a small chubby fist, – that says it all.” -Author Unknown

I heard this saying recently and it came to mind again today as I strolled home in the beautiful sunshine with my little three year old. We were admiring some flowers in the hedgerow and my little companion decided he would like to bring some flowers home for his convalescing daddy. After the delay of Summer in this Country it is uplifting to see all these little bursts of colour emerging in the hedgerow. It is amazing how many different flowers we came across on our slow half mile walk home from playschool!


This little fistful includes dandelion, buttercup, daisy, herb roberts, forget-me-not, speed well, scarlet pimpernel, vetch and horsetails. Anyone who has been following my blogs will be aware of my loose definition of a weed and my delight in all these little hedgerow friends.

We often look to the exotic and rare in the pursuit of beauty but if we take a moment to bend our heads and look into our local hedgerows and grassy verges we can find an abundance of beauty in the common, local and tiny plants that grow there.

Many of these plants held symbolic and medicinal value to our ancestors, perhaps I will explore these lores and legends a little further in individual blogs about some of these little delights, what do you think? If you have an opinion, a suggestion or some information to share on the topic please drop me a note in the comments below!

Just a thought…

Two Toed Amphiuma

Two Toed Amphiuma

Week 27th May – 2nd June 2013

How did you do with this weeks “Mystery Creature”? A few correct answers… it was a two toed Amphiuma!

photo credit: brian.gratwicke via photopin cc
photo credit: brian.gratwicke via photopin cc
The two toed Amphiuma (Amphiuma means) is a snake like salamander found primarily in Southern USA.  They are often (incorrectly) called conger eel, congo eel or congo snake. It has four short legs with two toes on each which appear to serve no purpose.  These creatures can grow up to one metre in length and are nocturnal, feeding usually on small fish, snails, small salamanders, small frogs and even some snakes.  They tend to live in acidic waters in swampy areas.
The Amphiuma has a very slimy skin which make them very difficult to handle.  They do not pose any chemical (poisonous) threat to humans but can harm physically as they have a very fast sharp bite, with a double row of razor sharp teeth.  They are also thought to generate suction to draw in their prey.  Typical of salamanders they do not have a tongue, but unlike other salamanders they are not mute, but instead are know to make a whistle type sound.
The female lays up to  as many as 150 to 200 eggs, laid in a long string and then coils around them to incubate them for almost five months (20 weeks), until the young hatch.

#FunFriday – learning about pressure!

I am pleased to be part of a Science and Nature theme at this week.  If you check out the links you can find some fun and fact filled articles on Sound, Light and Pressure along with some suggested experiments on each topic.

For today’s #FunFriday post I have shared one of the experiments on Pressure….hope you like it!


Have a great weekend and remember to drop me a comment if you try it or have any suggestions or questions!  I always love to hear from you!

The hippy "ape"

The hippy "ape"

My son just loves apes, all sizes, shapes and nature!  I think he feels a kindred spirit with their curious, mischievous side and the ease and ability with which they swing and climb.  As his mother, watching him grow over the last seven years, I can certainly vouch for these similarities between boy and beast!

However, that is where the analogy ends.  There is a darker side to many apes such as chimpanzees and baboons;  they are often know for their aggressive, bullying and violent nature!  That is, until we look at the laid back left side of the Congo river, the exclusive habitat of the Bonobo ape (Pan paniscus).  Although similar in size and shape to the chimpanzees of the right bank (Bonobos tend to have slightly leaner bodies, longer limbs and smaller skulls) these apes are defined by their “make love not war” attitude to life!

photo credit: Jeroen Kransen via photopin cc
photo credit: Jeroen Kransen via photopin cc

So, is this laisser-faire attitude really what is seen in bonobos in the wild?  

The bonobos are know for their relaxed, non-aggressive nature, living in large sociable groups with a strong female dominance to their social hierarchic.  There are a number of long term studies examining these animals in their natural habitat.  Although there are exceptions to the rule, they do indeed seem to be a lot more peaceful than their cousins on the other side of the river

What makes the bonobos such placid creatures?

So why are the bonobos so much more placid?  Some of the answers lie within their food choice and its supply within their habitat!  Bonobos are similar to chimpanzees in that they eat fruit, leaves and a bit of animal protein; the big difference though is that they are also fond of local herby vegetation.  This vegetation is a good source of protein and sugars and, even more importantly, it can be found all year round!  The bonobos are not frequently challenged by the threat of food shortages and starvation.  This allows them to forage in large, social groups, ensuring that each individual may have continuous social connection and back-up.  The chimps on the other side of the river are not so fortunate!  Their diet is more restricted and therefore  more scarce!  This immediately adds stress.  The requirement to find food arises, along with the need to fight for it.  These stresses are at the basic level of survival and inhibit the development of large and strong social bonds.  It also explains the incidence of cannibalism among chimpanzees.

Empathy is another trait associated with bonobo interaction, thought to be developed from an early age.  Comparative studies of the chimp and bonobo at a neuro-biological level have shown significant differences between the two apes and provide biological support for the suggestion of empathy among bonobo populations.

Are bonobos always chilled out?

Current studies are looking at stress levels in bonobo apes.  By examining the levels of the stress hormone cortisol within urine samples taken from male bonobos it would appear that high ranking males do appear to get “stressed out” sometimes.  The cause, not too surprisingly, appears to be the presence of a female.  In a society known for its peaceful behaviour it must be very stressful trying to remain calm and cool when vying for the affection of a pretty “lady”.

What about their family tree?

Bonobos and chimpanzees are our closest living relatives.  The question of which came first and to which we may be most closely linked is still open.  There are suggestions that the bonobo has evolved as a “naturally domesticated” version of its more aggressive cousin.  Where does that put homosapiens? We have evolved  a softness and empathy in our communications and an emotionally developed social behaviour, and yet we have raged the largest wars and atrocities on earth;

Which ape do you think we most resemble?


#FunFriday – experiment with sound

This weeks #FunFriday experiment is a simple and easy way to teach children how sound moves in air.

What you will need:

  • An empty plastic bottle
  • Scissors
  • A piece of plastic (cut from a plastic bag or equivalent)
  • An elastic band or tape
  • Small candles
  • Matches

(Adult assistance required!)

Just follow the steps in the video… and the “big kids” among you might like the second half of the video… where I scale things up a little!

So what is happening?

When you tap the plastic it acts like a drum.  The sound waves it creates make the air molecules vibrate.  These vibrating molecules then make the molecules beside them vibrate.  The vibrations travel through the air in the bottle and blow out the flame.

Hope you enjoy this one… if you like it please share it and if you have any comments or questions I’d love to hear from you!

Down to Earth

This week the Canadian astronaut,  Commander Chris Hadfield and his fellow astronauts (Tom Marshall (American) and Roman Romanenko (Russian) ) returned from the International Space Station (ISS). After spending more than five months in Space, their bodies have one more adjustment to make…. adjusting to gravity.

As there is no gravity in Space the information fed to the brain is modified and the brain adjusts accordingly.  However, on return to Earth the brain has to modify its spatial reasoning and coordination once more and re evaluate everything with the inclusion of gravity! Apparently, it feels a bit like stepping off a playground roundabout, but the effects last a little longer!

Hadfield is reportedly finding walking difficult, moving his feet slowly and tending to bump into things.  Corners and stairs pose a greater difficulty.  It will be three weeks before Hadfield will be able to safely drive a car.  His back and limbs are aching as they adjust to the mechanical stresses of gravity.  It is not just walking and moving that pose a bit of difficulty, Hadfield even reported to having to modify how he talks, adjusting to the weight of his tongue and lips again.

Hadfield via Twitter: “Wired head, chest, arms and feet, learning how the body works when it has been weightless for half a year.” May 16, 2013. (Credit: Chris Hadfield)

Now safely back in Houston, Hadfield will undergo a series of tests to analyse and monitor the effects his Space stay has had on his body, and the progress his body makes during this adjustment period.

The prolonged exposure of the astronauts’ bodies to the weightless environmental (microgravity) on board the ISS will have had significant effects, most notably a weakening of their muscles and bones.  Astronauts can loose about 1% bone mass per month while is Space. They will also have had a reduced heart rate, decreased production of red blood cells and a weakened immune system.  The distribution of water within the body is also effected by such weightlessness.  Another interesting modification to the body in microgravity is that it becomes taller – up to 3% taller.

Bone density and muscular health and composition are influenced by mechanical stress.  In the absence of gravity there is little mechanical stress placed on the musculoskeletal system of the body and weakening and atrophy become an issue.  In order to combat this the astronauts spend many hours each day training with specially adapted gym equipment.  They also wear special body suits to maintain a more even distribution of fluid throughout the body.

The good news is that the effects on the body produced by the weightless environment tend to revert quickly.  Gravity brings the astronauts’ bodies “back down to Earth!”

Pass the butter

The other day I was standing in my kitchen when I heard a little snigger from behind me.  You know someone is up to mischief before you even turn around…and they were!  My little three year old had a block of butter in one hand and a spoon in the other and he was ready to dive right in….


I am probably about to unleash a tirade of abuse when I reveal my reaction to the request…I walked over, dug the spoon into the butter and presented it to my happy child.  I then removed the butter – job done.  In my mind a win-win situation.  I believe there can be benefits to feeding a spoon of butter to a growing child now and then!  My mother in law reared nine children and she wisely observed that each went through a stage in their younger years of literally craving butter.  She believed they were following their instinct for necessary saturated fats, required for their rapidly developing brains and nervous system – and I am in her camp!


Butter making in Ireland goes back thousands of years and was originally performed by women who herded and milked the cattle on higher pastures in the Summer.  As time progressed milk production evolved techniques to enhance preservation, such as adding large quantities of salt and burying the butter in bogs (due to the turfs antiseptic properties).

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Ireland was the dominant exporter of butter to Northern Europe and the Americas.



I have always had the opinion that we should aim for the more natural source of a food, the least processed the better.  Following this gut instinct I have always chosen butter over margarine or spreads.  Before I get into the fat and cholesterol issues let’s look at what else can be found in our pound (or 454 g for all the metric people) of butter….

Butter contains the fat soluble vitamins A, E, K and D.

Vitamin A is required for healthy body growth and development, for maintenance of a healthy immune system and for good vision.  It also acts as an antioxidant, but how much is really in butter?  One teaspoon of butter will provide about 2 percent of your RDA (recommended daily allowance) of Vitamin A.

Vitamin E is another good antioxidant and also contributes to healthy skin, hair, nails.  One teaspoon of butter contains approximately 0.7 percent RDA.

The primary role of Vitamin K in the body is to assist in the correct clotting of blood, without it we cannot seal and heal wounds.  There is about 0.3 percent RDA of Vitamin K in a teaspoon of butter.

Vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of calcium and phosphate within the body, thereby required for healthy bones.

While some of these levels of vitamins are low, they are fat soluble vitamins and are therefore more easily absorbed into our bodies due to presence of fat within the butter.

Butter contains the water soluble vitamins B and C

Low levels of B Vitamins and Vitamin C are found in butter.

Butter contains Minerals and trace elements

Butter contains Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium and Iodine, all essential for healthy bodily function and immune system;  Butter also contains trace elements such as selenium which is a natural antioxidant.



Most of the butter found on Irish tables is typically made from just one natural ingredient – cow’s milk.  It is made from churning fresh or fermented milk or cream.  The Vitamins and Minerals found in butter are naturally present (although these may sometimes be added during production).  Butter usually contains salt.

Butter is high in saturated fats (often associated with cardiovascular disease).

Margarine is made from a number of ingredients, the base ingredient is typically a plant oil.  These oils contain a lot more poly unsaturated fats than butter. However in order to make the product solid  a small amount of saturated fats are introduced.  The processing of margarine and the introduction of saturated fats requires high temperatures which create additional unwanted fats… called trans fats.  Vitamins and Minerals are often added to the margarine during manufacture.  Additional colouring is also added, otherwise the margarine would be grey!



Saturated fats, Polyunsaturated fats, Trans fats…. what does it all mean.  Basically saturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats are made of of the same things, put together in a slightly different way.

Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature and are found in animal derived products, such as butter, milk, cheese and meat.  There are also some vegetable fats that are high in saturated fats, usually tropical oils such as coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.

Polyunsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature and are found in larger qualities in vegetable and plant oils, some nuts and cold water fatty fish.

Trans fats are sometimes found naturally in trace amounts but the larger amount in our diets comes from processing of polyunsaturated fats.  Partial hydrogenation of these fats results in the production of trans fats. Consumption of artificially produced Trans fats have been connected with an increased risk of hearth disease.  Trans fats present naturally in ruminant animals may actually have health benefits and are not directly linked to the negative effects on health associated with their industrial counterparts.



These days cholesterol is thought of as a dirty word, but it is not all bad.  Cholesterol is an essential fat and plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body.  Some cholesterol we get from our diet and some is made in our livers.

Cholesterol cannot move around the body on its own, it need to be transported through the bloodstream by carriers called lipoproteins. The lipoproteins we hear about most often are LDL (low density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoprotein).

LDL transports cholesterol around the body using the bloodstream as its highway. However, when we have too much cholesterol the LDL starts depositing it in the arteries and these can build up and form blockages.  This is why high levels of LDL cholesterol is considered a BAD thing.

HDL on the other hand goes around mopping up excess cholesterol and transports it back to the liver.  This is why HDL cholesterol is considerd the GOOD guy!



Saturated fats are essential for healthy development and function of the body.  A diet with sufficient saturated fats allows for a healthy immune system, blood cells, nervous system and brain function.

Image source:

The first food we make for our babies – breast milk – contains more than 50% saturated fats… this really emphasizes the importance of saturated fats in the development of babies and young children.  Our brains are made up of about 60% fat; this fat content includes polyunsaturated fats such as the Omegas  (3 and 6) but the largest portion is saturated fats.  We need saturated fats in our diet in order to maintain a healthy immune system: without it we deplete the ability of our white blood cells to recognise and destroy invading antigens such as viruses and bateria.  So our need for saturated fats extends far beyond our early development, saturated fats are a constant requirement throughout life (they can even reduce the signs of aging by maintaining a healthy elasticity to our skin). 

Our lungs need a thin layer of a lubricant, called a lung surfactant, within the air spaces, in order to function correctly and stay healthy.  This surfactant is made up of 100% saturated fats.

Despite the fact that saturated fats in the diet have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease there is much evidence to the contrary.  Saturated fats in the diet can actually increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL) that is used to mop up excess cholesterol, as explained above.  Also, saturated fats within the diet have been shown to reduce the levels of a substance called lipoprotein (a) which is linked to an icreased risk of heart disease.

More and more studies are being conducted to examine the effect of saturated fats on our health and investigate the correlation between saturated fats and risk of heart disease.  These studies are now reporting a diet containing significant levels of saturated fats is not directly related to an increased risk to cardiac disease. Some reports suggest a diet rich in saturated fats reduced a risk of heart disease while other suggest the issue may lie more with the consumption of large amounts of carbohydrates along with the saturated fats.

photo credit: Aristocrats-hat via photopin cc

Recent studies conducted on a group of men in Australia examined the benefit of substituting saturated fats in the diet with unsaturated fats.  All the men (458 men aged 30 – 59) in the study had suffered a recent coronary event.  Results from these studies showed an increase in the risk of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease in the group that substituted vegetable derived polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats in their diet.



You can tell from this blog that my fridge contains only butter (no margarine need apply); I should also point out that my family does not contain any dairy intolerant members!  So butter it is…however I do acknowledge that butter can contain a lot of salt, that the fat content is very high and that, although made from one basic ingredient, the quality of that ingredient – cow’s milk – depends on the quality of the cow!  How the cow is fed and treated naturally effects the butter produced.    So, like anything else, we need to shop wisely, choose the food that meets our own standards as much as possible (be that reduced salt, organic etc) and keep to that age old recommendation…. EVERYTHING IN MODERATION!

Now, can someone please pass the butter…

Robin eggs

Week 13th – 19th May 2013

How did you do with this week’s mystery creature?  Did you like the little twist this week… can you name this EGG?  So what common back garden bird laid these eggs?…

This week’s mystery creature… robin eggs!

It was a Robin! These six beautiful speckled eggs were laid by a robin right outside my kitchen window.  I have been charmed watching her gather the nest materials and then “sitting casually” on the fennel plant to distract any threatening on watchers of her ultimate path to her new home.  She prepared her nest on the ground alongside my herb garden, in a clump of scutch grass.  As we do not wish to disturb this nest in any way the possibility of grass cutting or weeding in that area of the garden has been put on hold…. can you hear my husband’s sigh of relief?

The female does all the nest building and then lays four to six eggs (one a day); the male helps out by helping  to feed his mate during these busy times.  The incubation period is approximately 13 days and, judging by the  haggard look of the birds over the last few days, I would say their little brood have hatched….. I remember that stage in my own life!