Science Wows takes a holiday – and leaves you with some travel tips (not for the faint hearted)

It is holiday time in the Science Wows house today. Hopefully, while you are reading this I will be jetting off to somewhere nice and sunny for a bit of R&R and to soak up those rays (Sunscreen packed of course!)

The first half of our summer holidays has gone really well so far, despite a bumpy start. The four year old assumed the holidays from school also meant we were about to hop on a plane to foreign lands and was quite put out when that didn’t turn out to be the case.

He got over it soon enough, but there is no denying his enthusiasm. He chose his suitcase months ago and has had it stashed under his bed ever since. When the “week to the holiday” whistle was blown he decided it was time to pack. His brother joined in too and it was the best morning long activity of the whole summer so far. The only issue I would have with it is the content of their suitcases.

Here is an example of what they packed…

  • Chess set X 1 (this has now been moved to the hand luggage!)
  • Moshi monsters X 1,000 (I may be rounding it off but that gives a pretty good estimate)
  • Loom bands X 1,000 (and NO that is not me exaggerating again!)
  • Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs (this alone has probably used up the entire Ryan air luggage weight quota – but apparently it is an essential for travelling to anywhere foreign)

 Spot anything missing from their suitcases? That’s right… clothes! Who needs them, apparently!

As part of this lovely linky over at Colorines Wonderful I have been inspired to share with you some tips on travelling with children. I have kept this one to the air-travel side of things!

  • The first one is obvious… don’t let your children pack their own suitcases 😉
  • Keep it light and simple! I used to think I had the hand luggage sorted, covering every option, every food group, every recreational preference. All I really had was over packed bags and a sore shoulder from all the weight. Have you ever tried to retrieve a scattered set of colouring pencils from under the seat of a plane?
  • This leads nicely on to the next tip, once your children are old enough GET THEM TO CARRY THEIR OWN HAND LUGGAGE! They will quickly ditch all those extras!
  • Travel days are not the time to worry about their five a day! I used to pack all the healthy food stuff but it really just means you are trying to cover up the dried fruit and bread sticks mashed into the aeroplane seat! Once they are not filling on e-numbers and lots of fizzy drinks then its a good day to chill and ignore regular meal times and nutritional content.
  • Don’t underestimate how long a child can take in the toilet when you really need to get moving. Try to get this business out of the way WELL before the flight even boards! I am sure there must be a mathematical formula out there proving how the speed of the child’s bodily functions is inversely proportional to the amount of time you have to dash to the boarding gate and smile sweetly at the irate air staff who have called you by name because you are THAT late!
  • When on the plane REMEMBER TO BREATH! The more relaxed you are, the calmer your children will be… and the less likely they will be to spend the entire journey kicking the seat in front of them!
  • If you are travelling with a baby… your entire hand luggage should only consist of spare changes of clothing. Bring three times more nappies than you can ever imagine needing. You would not believe what those altitudes can do to a child’s digestive system but you are likely to find out as well as learning how hard it is to change a baby in an aeroplane toilet! And yes, I am definitely speaking from experience on this one!
  • Once the flight is over NEVER ask another parent how they got on! They may be in denial and make you feel even worse than you already do!
  • Finally, once you have all the luggage collected and children corralled you can start to smile again and relax. Unless you have yet to collect the rental car; In that case we go right back to …REMEMBER TO BREATH!

After reading all this you may want to check out the other posts in the linky, for some more realistic, and optimistic tips and advice 🙂

In the meantime enjoy your summer holidays, whatever you are doing or wherever you are going and I will be back here very soon to WOW you with some more scientific takes on every day life.

Until we meet again this is what I will be at…

scientists on vacation

A simple slice of science – Why do we yawn?

A simple slice of science – Why do we yawn?

This week’s question comes from seven year old Emily, who, I hear is always asking her mum questions… sometimes her mum even writes about it here.

Emily wants to know….

Why do we yawn?


Dr. Simple will try to stop yawning long enough to answer the question…. because yawning is contagious! See how many times you yawn while reading this and leave us a note in the comments below!



So, go on, tell us how many times did you yawn?


Further reading/references:

The surprising science of yawning

Different yawn, different functions?

In group/out group bias in contagious yawning

Individual Variation in Contagious Yawning Susceptibility Is Highly Stable and Largely Unexplained by Empathy or Other Known Factors.


Ants with wings – a new fashion trend or something out of a horror movie?

Ants with wings – a new fashion trend or something out of a horror movie?

You would want to be living under a rock not to have seen them! Last week I was literally covered in them during an evening stroll; then it seems the infestation spread… yesterday it arrived in Dublin! Seagull invasions are so last week… we are all talking “flying ants”.

photo credit: wit via photopin cc
photo credit: wit via photopin cc


Ants with wings is this something new?

Not really. There is no one species of winged ants but many species will produce wings during a certain stage of the life cycle of the colony. As we all know, ants like to be busy so if all the chores are done, the larder is full, the young are being tended to and the queen is happy, well there is really only one job left to do…. procreate!

And it is a lot easier to get out there and find the right ant for you if you can grow a pair of wings for a while!

To put it a little more scientifically… in mature, thriving colonies, some eggs, treated under the right conditions, will produce winged ants, both male and female. The females are virgin queens with the potential to start a new colony of their own. The males, well, they have only one thing on their mind!


Why so many?

The newly produced winged ants will remain in the colony until conditions are right for what is referred to as the Nuptial flight. These flights are very weather dependant, requiring warm temperatures with little chance of strong wind or rain. The ants will all leave the colony together in one coordinated flight. This is also synchronised with the flight of ants for neighbouring colonies.

The large numbers serve two purposes….

  • firstly, they increase the chances of a significant number of ants surviving predation and successfully mating and starting new colonies
  • secondly, where reproduction is concerned, it is always a good idea to widen the gene pool. The large swarms of flying ants from many different colonies allows cross breeding and the creation of a stronger genetic line.


What happens to the winged ants after the “deed is done”?

After mating both the male and female ants loose their wings.

The female will often mate with several males during the mating process but this will be the only time in her life that she will mate. She stores the male sperm in a pouch in her body called the spermatheca. After mating she will dig a nest to start her own colony… the sex on her offspring is decided by her. All fertilised eggs are female, all non fertilised eggs are male.

When she starts a colony she will produce only female ants, each of which will be infertile and wingless.The queen tends to the first set of eggs on her own but once the worker ants are reared they will tend to her every need and the needs of the colony.

The males? Well they actually die soon after mating… it is their sole purpose.. tough job but what a noble one!



Fun Friday – 2 of our favourite sea experiments for kids

Fun Friday – 2 of our favourite sea experiments for kids

These two experiments are inspired by Dr. Simples latest post about “Why the sea is salty“.

First up to show the effect of adding salt to water…



Take the floating egg experiment one step further!
Take the floating egg experiment one step further!


Take this one step further….

We mentioned in the video that you can take this experiment a step further.

Float the egg in the salty water as before.

Add a few drops of food colouring to a jug of unsalted water.

Carefully pour this coloured water down the side of the glass so that it sits on top of the salty water.

The egg will sit between the two layers… can you see it in this picture?



This is a really simple experiment but always keeps both young and old entertained!

All you need for this experiment is…

  • an empty clear plastic bottle (a 1 or 2L soft drink bottle will work fine)
  • water
  • cooking oil (any kind)
  • Blue food colouring
  • A funnel


What you do…

  1. Using the funnel fill the plastic bottle about one third full with water
  2. Add a few drops of food colouring to colour the water blue
  3. Using the funnel again fill the bottle with the oil (you will notice that the water and oil will quickly settle into two separate layers)
  4. Close the lid tightly on the bottle and turn the bottle on its side
  5. The water layer will be on the bottom of the bottle
  6. If you rock the bottle from side to side you can create a wave like motion of the water, looking just like a little ocean in a bottle; see what kind of waves you can make!


Ocean in a bottle
Ocean in a bottle


How does it work…

This is a good experiment to explain density. The oil is less dense than the water so it will sit on top of the water, creating two separate layers. The layer of oil keeps the water contained within the bottom half of the water and makes the movement of the water look like waves where the two liquids meet.

I have discussed density in more detail in this previous post as well as sharing lots more density experiments.

If you get bored of your ocean in a bottle, why not stand it upright again and add some Alka Seltzer tablets to instantly turn it into a lava lamp!





A Simple Slice of Science – Why is the sea salty?

A Simple Slice of Science – Why is the sea salty?

This week’s question for Dr. Simple came in from a little boy who has just turned five and sometimes goes by the name of Spidey (you might find him here); He wants to know…

Why is the sea salty?

This is a great question  and Dr. Simple was delighted to “dive right in” and answer it!

Before Dr. Simple gets stuck in it might be a good idea to look at the definition of a sea and an ocean. Dr. Simple will use the word sea to mean both, which is commonly done, but there is actually a difference between the two words…

“seas are smaller than oceans and are usually located where the land and ocean meet. Typically, seas are partially enclosed by land.”



A nosegay to say….

A nosegay to say….

I love this time of year when so many favourite flowers are in bloom and the air is filled with their heady scents. Although I love all plants I have always been drawn to those that have a particular function. The first thing I did once I got my own tiny patch of garden was to plant herbs, and I have kept that up ever since. From cooking, to scenting to health and wellbeing, herbs have it all.

Another function I enjoy in plants is their symbolism and meaning. A few years ago this led me to do some research on nosegays.

A nosegay is a posy of aromatic herbs and flowers that dates back to the sixteenth century. Originally these were a necessity for ladies, carrying them through the streets to disguise all unpleasant smells and protecting  from plague and disease. Although they were created for aromatic and disinfectant purpose they soon became fashionable for a very different reason… the symbolic meaning of each plant contained within the nosegay. Suddenly a functional bouquet can become a personal and charming gift.

I have made many nosegays for friends and family over the years, often picking a theme and including the appropriate plants… maybe a gift for a friend who has been ill, containing herbs symbolising protection, health and a speedy recovery; or an array for the arrival of a new baby… containing wishes and virtues to bestow upon the infant.

This is what I found in my garden and nearby hedgerow
This is what I found in my garden and nearby hedgerow



Today I was drawn into the garden once more, the scents of herbs and flowers were just bursting into the Summer air.


So I gathered so many favourites, like a child in a sweet shop, unable to show restraint… I chose every plant I could think of, and I have compiled them into a very big bouquet as a virtual gift for all you lovely readers.




This one is for you…


A nosegay to say...
A nosegay to say…


I wish I could send all the lovely scents with this virtual bouquet but instead I will wish you all the virtues it bestows. As a thank you for reading, sharing, commenting and letting me know that you really do like what I write…

This nosegay brings you...
This nosegay brings you…