What are you afraid of? Me, I’m fairly OK with bugs and creepy crawlies but I can’t last five minutes into most horror films. We all have our own personal fears Read more
Free on-line Pancake Science Magazine for children
I am very excited to share this latest project with you; this is an idea I have had for a while so I am delighted to have finally finished and published. I really hope you like it and that your junior scientists get plenty of entertainment from this Pancake Science Magazine.
Have a look through and see what you think, there are experiment ideas and a video link to show you how. It is crammed full of interesting facts… from who made the first pancake to the mathematical formula for the perfect pancake flip.
You’ll also find puzzles and quizzes and a free printable download if you prefer to print them off and let the children test their pancake knowledge. There are also some pancake jokes to entertain you all and Dr. Simple can be found throughout the magazine, a familiar face with a few costume changes!
There is a little colour coding for all the subjects covered, from chemistry to astronomy, to maths. So your kids can just dip in and choose their favourites, if they prefer.
I would really love to hear what you think and how your children find this magazine, if you have a minute to give me any feedback I’d be delighted.
I haven’t shown this to my own kids yet, but I think I have this rainy afternoon’s entertainment sorted now.
Hope you Enjoy!
Need a mobile friendly version? just click here! And this is a separate link to the free printable.
The erupting snowman – a Christmas science experiment
We have had a lot of fun with this little Christmas science experiment. It is so simple, it is definitely worth a try if you have a few minutes to spare and want to give the kids a good laugh.
Here is what you will need:
- A small jar, or similar, decorated as a snowman. We covered ours in modeling clay and painted it but you could get the kids to paint a jar or decorate it as they wish. (The jar I used here is 100ml volume but you can alter the size.)
- Some water (I used 40mls)
- Washing up liquid (I added about a tablespoon)
- Baking soda (also know as bread soda or sodium bicarbonate, but NOT baking powder… they are quite different)
- A teaspoon.
- Something to stir with
- White malt vinegar (I used 40mls)
Here is what you do:
- First add the water and then the washing up liquid.
- Next add a heaped teaspoon of baking soda.
- Give it a good stir.
- Add all the vinegar, quickly, stand back and watch’s the poor snowman’s brains explode… that’s got to hurt!
- And once your poor snowman has recovered, you can give him a quick rinse and do it all over again!
The Science bit:
It is all down to the vinegar and baking soda, when the two are added, they react rapidly together and one of the products of the reaction is carbon dioxide gas (CO2). This gas mixes with the diluted washing up liquid forming a white bubbly foam that erupts out the top of the snowman.
Simple! Seasonal! Science!
Looking for some more #science and #craft ideas for the Christmas Season? I have two guest posts on the lovely Where Wishes Comes From blog; Click the links below to pop over and have a look. There is lots more to see over there as Sadhbh is running a Craft Advent special, a different activity every day!
Take the Science Wows Hallowe’en Science Quiz
The Hallowe’en break has finally arrived! If you are looking for activities to keep your family entertained here is something sure to please …. Hallowe’en and science combined into one, fun quiz!
Use it to challenge, entertain or inspire your junior scientists, or get all the family involved and see if the children can beat Mum and Dad!
There is even a certificate to print off at the end of the quiz.
Remember to follow the screens right to the end, to find out an interesting fact on each question.
Good luck and have fun!
I hope you have a great Hallowe’en, and remember, there are lots of science experiments you can try too… check out the oozing pumpkin, the spooky cups, or the glowing monster slime; or how about making your own fake blood? All in the name of spooky science fun.
photo credit: via photopin (license)
The Science of Love
I love Bjork’s song about falling in love (“It’s oh so quiet“), the lyrics really describes the chaos involved. We hear talk of being madly in love and sometimes that is exactly the symptoms we express, so this Valentine’s Day I thought I’d take a look at the biological and neurological events behind it all. What is the science of falling in love?
Is love ruled by the heart or the brain?
According to a 2010 study entitled “The neuroimaging of love” 12 separate areas of the brain are involved in the process. These areas control the release of a number of chemicals that result in the biological responses of love. Our clear minded focus on the object of our desire, the flushes of our cheeks, the butterflies in our stomach and the fluttering of our heart… the result of hormones (such as testosterone and oestrogen) and neurotransmitters (such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, adrenaline and vasopressin).
Head over heels in love
That first flush of love that literally has you tripping over yourself, how does that work? The wonderful cocktail of biological chemicals that swamp the body as we fall in love literally make us light headed and dizzy. We exhibit a strong focus of thought, an increased tendency to take risks and a stiking increase in energy, stamina and motivation.
Madly in love
The activity in the brain during the early stages of love have been likened to those seen in certain mental illnesses. Sufferers of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), for example, exhibit enhanced brain activity in similar areas and experience reduced levels of serotonin (40% less) as do people in the first flush of love. Both tend towards single minded obsession on a particular object, in the case of the love struck, this being the object of their desire.
Love is the drug
It seems love really is THE drug, as the effect on the body during those early, heady days of love are similar to a hit of cocaine! Dopamine, released in larger quantities during the early stages of love, causes that drug like high, including the euphoria, the rapid heart beat and the sweaty palms. Likewise, falling out of love can be just as long and painful as kicking a chemical addiction.
As the biological anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fischer puts it “romantic love is one of the most addictive substances on Earth”
Is there such thing as “love at first sight”?
Apparently it can take as little as one fifth of a second to fall in love!
What happens after the first flush?
The honeymoon period is said to last two to three months. The stages of falling in love can be broken down into three phases…
Lust, which is governed by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen
Attraction, controlled by the neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenalin and serotonin
Attachment, this is cemented by elevated doses of oxytocin and vasopressin
Once the heady stages of love start to subside the major “long term bonding” comes under the control of oxytocin and vasopressin. The higher levels of oxytocin (the cuddle hormone) are understandable, it is linked to the bonding process between mother and baby and helps with the let down of milk during breastfeeding. In general, the more physical and demonstrative the loving couple are, the more oxytocin is produced, strengthening the bond.
The role of vasopressin is a little more surprising. It is primarily linked with water retention and kidney activity and it was a study on prairie voles, of all things, that lead to the link between vasopressin and bonding of couples. It would seem that vasopressin is present in high levels in prairie mates, when it is clinically suppressed in the male prairie vole his interest in the female wanes and he stops protecting her from the advances of rival mates.
Keeping love alive
Couples who are more physical and affectionate with each other are more likely to have a stronger, long term relationship. Staying positive about your partner also seems to play a vital role. Other Studies show that couples who actively engage in exciting and novel activities together have a better chance of staying together. So for your next “date night” check out your nearest sky diving or abseiling club!
Back to Bjork
Despite all this science to explain it, I still think that Bjork nails it with her description of falling in love, so I leave you with this… and whether you are in the quiet or the chaos of love, I hope you have a good Valentine’s Day.
Lacking New Year motivation? There is always some science to explain it!
I recently wrote a post about my aims and goals for 2015, and beside my laptop there is a serious plan of action for me for the upcoming year.The kids are in school, the sun is shining through the window, the dishes are not sitting in the sink and the Christmas tree has been removed. No distractions, no excuses, I am ready and primed for action….. right? WRONG!
I am lacking some very important factors…. energy, creativity and motivation!
In fact I am standing on the precipice of disappointment and failure. It is half way through the second week “back to work/school/life” after Christmas and I am pretty sure I am not alone. Before I give up on myself and my abilities, bin the plans and ditch the diaries, I have decided on a different approach.
I will arm myself with knowledge, because understanding why I feel like this will help me to accept it and help me to pass through it, so I won’t end up “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.
Why the lack of energy? Well, is this one really surprising? For most of us we just have to look at our diet over the last few weeks… sugar is probably high on the consumption list.
Originally sugar does give us energy, it causes a rapid peak in blood sugar levels. It can be quite similar to a caffeine hit. With every high there comes a low and for sugar that usually happens within an hour or so. A hormone called insulin is released in response to the high levels of blood sugar. Insulin instigates the uptake of sugar from the blood to the cells, resulting in low levels of blood sugars, fatigue, weakness and hunger. On top of all that, the cells will convert the sugar they do not use directly as fuel into fat, as it is lighter and easier to store in the body.
In general, the food we eat over the holiday season, although tasty, often has the overall effect of lowering our mood. Protein rich diets for example (how much turkey did you eat?) can lower our serotonin levels and leave us feeling low. Carbohydrates can increase serotonin levels, but, if eaten with protein, can have the opposite effect… back to that serotonin slump again.
So the lack of energy is not exactly surprising.
For most of us Christmas is about doing very little, exercise wise. I am a firm believer in taking time off and just resting for a while and those dark days at the end of the year seem like a good time to do so. The lack of exercise does, however, come at a cost… not only does regular exercise boost our mood, our energy levels and our general wellbeing, it can also increase our creativity.
Considering the fact that I barely left the house for much of the Christmas, it is little wonder that I am feeling low in mood and motivation.
Change of body clock
Then there is the change to our body clocks. Most of us don’t get up as early in the morning, if we don’t have to. Even the children tend to sleep a little later (if we are lucky) because they too are staying up later every night. So we shift our body clocks on an hour or two and feel like we are recharging the batteries. The only problem is, once work and school resume, we need to jolt our bodies back into that early rise again.
The more clever and organised among us may do this in a gradual way but I inevitable cling to it until the very last second and then just go “cold turkey” on the first morning back after the holiday; Not exactly conducive to good energy levels and motivation.
We have just established that I am tired, my body clock is out of whack and that my diet has made me sluggish. Not exactly great motivators. So how can I improve things? I came across a really interesting article all about the science of motivation. To understand motivation, both lacking and encouraging, we need to take a look at the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine is commonly linked with triggering pleasurable feedback and reward within the body. Its true role goes a little deeper than that as it is also actively involved in controlling mood, attention, behaviour, memory and motivation. The complex fine-tuning of the effect of dopamine on our bodies comes with examining the route the neurotransmitter takes within the signalling pathways of the brain. If we imagine these pathways as a very complex rail system. The tracks the dopamine train follows, along with the individual stations the train passes through, dictate the overall response. When dopamine reaches certain parts of the brain, it signals feedback to anticipate reward or predict a particular outcome. This creates the motivation to act, rather than the reward for acting.
Spikes in dopamine levels have been recorded in situations of high stress, coming before any reward and likely to create motivation to action to reach a certain outcome.
This knowledge is very interesting but how does it help to motivate us when we are in a slump? By knowing how it works we can manipulate the system; create small, achievable tasks that will result in a drip feed of dopamine within the brain. As each small task is performed the levels of dopamine will increase and so too, hopefully will our motivation. This system certainly got me through this blog post, when the task appeared too big I broke it down into words, sentences, adding images, choosing title until eventually the motivation increased, the reward feedback kicked in an the paragraphs began to add up.
In other words, I took it in baby steps, allowing myself feel the individual reward as each step was achieved.
How does all this help me with my New Year’s resolutions?
Firstly, I have realised that I may be aiming too high, new year plans are great but it is never a good idea to try to force them into being in early January. Better to implement these goals and changes gentle, over time, and in small doses.
I need to remember to cut myself some slack. I chose to take the down time and I am really glad I did. Now I have to accept that it may take a little time to shift life up a gear, just as it takes time to shift the extra weight that comes with a good Christmas season.
The first of January may be a great day to make all these predictions but the first of February might be a better date to roll them out! In the mean time I am going to shuffle slowly and quietly through this month, I’ll call it “working behind the scenes”. Maybe by February I’ll be all revved up and ready for action.
I am sure that there is still time to cram a year of plans into 11 months – once I remember to take it in baby steps and let the dopamine flow!
How are you doing with your New Year plans?
Imagining the New Year – time for some projections (a blog linky)
I saw 2014 out with a bit of reflection, now it is time to look forward with some predictions and projections (let’s call them anything but resolutions). My first thought when starting this was to keep it short and simple, I am doomed to fail if I make more than a few “changes”. Clearly I have failed already…. I finished up with ten! But they are necessary and they overlap… in places… if you look hard enough. Just trust me and take a look!
1. TIME, TIME, TIME
OK, so I have learned that I can’t make more of it but I really have to work out how to manage it a lot better. This year my focus is on compartmentalising my time, dividing my day into its appropriate parts and then sticking to it. Working when I should be working, cleaning when I should be cleaning and most importantly, being a present and calm mum when my children are around me.
2. REMEMBER TO BREATH
This leads me to the second point… to stay calm. I find that the further behind I slip on my to-do list the higher the stress levels. Remembering to simply take a few deep breaths can quickly ease the stress… I just have to work on making it a habit!
New research shows that lungs are the primary excretory body for weight loss with a staggering 84% of fat burned off in the body released as carbon dioxide; this definitely gives me double the reason to remember to take some daily deep breathes in 2015.
3. JUST SAY NO
No I am not starting an anti-drugs campaign, I just need to learn to use the word a little more (except when talking to my children, then, apparently, I use the word all the time). I have a tendency to just keep saying yes to every request, adding projects and tasks to my list, thinking I will manage. This year I hope to be more realistic – taking on less and achieving more.
Sometimes a smile can fix everything. Even forcing a smile can create a fake it ‘til you feel it effect, reducing stress, boosting the immune system and even increasing attractiveness. I’m definitely in!
5. MARK THE MOMENT
I am all about memories, I have even written about them here a few times. But sometimes I am so busy creating new memories that I forget to stop and remember the ones I already have. Technology is great… these days you can capture a moment with so many different devices and within minutes they are safe in some form of cloud storage. But that is where too many of mine are ending up… in the clouds! This year I hope to actually write moments down a little more or even print some photos out and update our wall art a little.
I even received a cool new present to help me out on this one… (once I have read the manual!)
6. ME, ME, ME
This one is predictable I know but we could all do with a bit more me time right? I plan to find simple ways to look after myself a little more which brings me on to…
7. KEEP IT REAL (OR MAKE IT DO-ABLE)
This is usually where I fall down. I come up with some of the best plans that are going to turn me into everything I ever wanted to be. But then I fail! The secret, as I have finally learned is to keep it real. I know me well enough to know my own limitations. I have placed skipping ropes beside my laptop as I work (they go unused as the timer beeps).
I have failed to implement changes even when they involve things I actually want to do. So now I know I have to keep it simple… and do-able. Here is one example… every year I say I’ll dance more as it is something that really lifts my spirits, but I never seem to do it. But if I put on some funky tunes while I do the dishes then it might just work… I just can’t help but shake this booty when it’s all about that bass!
8. BE IN THE MOMENT
This will be my hardest challenge. If anyone had to ever spend more than a few moments in my head (*shudder) they would agree. But time (there it is again) is moving quickly and my babies are growing fast. I have so much in life to be grateful for, I just want to take the time to enjoy what I do have, when I have it.
It just so happens that my other half trains people in mindfulness meditation… I think it is about time I tap that resource and find out what it is really all about! This time next year I could be a whole lot more zen baby!
9. FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY
Corny I know but we all succumb to self doubt, right? Some more than others, maybe. It has certainly been knocking on my door of late; but I have some new ideas for Science Wows … some big plans for 2015 and although they fill me with both fear and excitement I am determined to give them a shot. I’m ready to dive right in and hopefully when I look back at the end of the year I will have reached the shore.
10. TURN IT AROUND
We all have traits within ourselves that are perhaps not the kind we like to brag about. I have come to acknowledge and accept mine (or most of them). It seems they are not for shifting, so instead I am planning to use them to my advantage. I am planning to put my pig headed (teeth gritting) stubbornness to good use… and call it tenacity. Last year I used it to increase my fitness, change my diet and even slim my waist a little. I may have slipped off that wagon but knowing I have the tenacity to do it makes me look forward to taking on the same challenge in 2015.
I also have a bit of a hang up with anything to do with numbers. Getting those five a day into my kids used to literally keep me awake at night. If I don’t keep myself in check then blog stat watching can get to obsessive levels. This year I am planning on using this numerical OCD to my advantage, by tracking my daily activity. Another nifty present I received over the festive season will hopefully allow me monitor movement, activity, sleep and all that jazz. Once I can get some numerical feedback there will be no stopping me… with daily, and even hourly targets to set myself I can change my figure while watching the figures (sorry couldn’t resist that one).
This post is part of another linky… a great idea from the wonderful Busy Mama blog with the theme of Imagining the New Year. Click on the image below to see what other people have in mind for 2015… well worth a look.
What do reindeer really like to eat (and other random facts)?
Christmas is finally here, or almost. We have made it to the final day and the excitement is mounting by the hour. Businesses close, friends and family arrive and last minute shopping is performed with lightning speed. Adults tally gifts, count the seats around the table and check that there are enough brussel sprouts for all. Children meanwhile think only of Santa and his all-important cargo that will be dispensed this very night. If their minds wonder to food at all it is usually just to consider what treats they will leave out for the big man and his furry friends. In this house the current dilemma is whether Santa would prefer a mince pie or some Christmas cake. There is no debate in the Science Wows HQ about what to leave out for the reindeer though, that was sourced in yesterday’s adventure. The children ventured out in the wind and rain, up the lane, through the fairy field and into the little wood with the plentiful supply of LICHEN; Rudolph and his friends will be well fed tonight!
In the spirit of this festive season, I thought it might be nice to share a few facts you may not know about our red nosed friend and her buddies.
LIKING THE LICHEN!
Lichen is the staple food of Reindeer (or Caribou); there is even a type of lichen named after them, called “reindeer moss”. Most species of reindeer also eat grasses, mushrooms and mosses; Just like cows, reindeer “chew the cud” first digesting half chewed food into one stomach, only to regurgitate it, chew it some more and swallow it into another stomach.
ON THE HORNS OF A DILEMMA
Unlike other deer species both male and female reindeer usually have antlers. The males lose theirs in Winter, (usually at the end of the mating season in early December) but the females keep theirs until after they give birth, in the spring; that is why all Santa’s reindeer must be female as they still have their antlers on 25th December!
Reindeer antlers are a bit like human fingerprints, no two are exactly alike! They are made of bone with a rich supply of blood and can regenerate fairly quickly. Reindeer antler growth and regeneration has been much studied in the areas of science and medicine in particular. Deer antler velvet be given in the treatment of such conditions as rheumatism, sports injuries and weakened immune system and is being studies for possible application of certain cancer treatment.
OH BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE
Reindeer are very well adapted to their cold habitats. In winter months their fur grows longer and the hairs of their winter coat are hollow, helping to trap air and insulate from the extreme weather conditions. The fur around their muzzles grows also protecting their airways from the bitter cold air. They can also alter their blood circulation allowing a higher core temperature to be maintained in their upper body.
Reindeer have an acute sense of smell, allowing them to detect lichen under the very deep snow. Their hooves are well adapted to digging in the snow, changing in structure during the colder months to assist in shovelling through the snow, as well as improving their traction on the frozen ground.
During the colder months reindeer migrate south. In fact some reindeer species migrate further than any other terrestrial animal, clocking up more than 900 kilometres in one year.
Reindeer are the only mammals that can see UV light which helps them detect a number of facts in their “winter wonderland” environment, from food to predators.
Whatever you leave out for the reindeer this year, or at what angle Santa lands on your roof, I hope that you all have a very happy and healthy Christmas (or with a new phrase I learned “Happy Elbow”).
Christmas memories (a seasonal linky)
As a child Christmas was always my favourite time of year. As an adult I think it still is… the lists, the planning, the choosing of gifts, the food, the lights, the parties…. and the tree. My husband seems to think that if I was left to my own devises our house would look like an exploded Christmas cracker! I will concede that Christmas may be a time for going a little over the top… from food and festivities to (over) decorating! For me Christmas is also about memories…. The recent ones, the distant ones, and the ones we have yet to make! One common feature in many of my own Christmas memories is the Christmas tree.
My very first memory contains a Christmas tree… it was my third birthday and I remember sitting by it, playing with a newly received present and turning my back on all my little party friends.
For many years as I grew up, Christmas day meant a big breakfast in my Nanny’s house. My Nanny was a wonderful woman with a very big heart and a very small house but she always filled it with family. She had 35 grandchildren and instead of buying each and every one a gift, she would let us pick something from her Christmas tree that she would fill with lots of little trinket. One year in particular stands out for me…. I picked a little satin purse with the image of a little girl on it. That little purse has stood the test of time and every year since has had a place on our Christmas tree. Even now as I am all grown up and have a tree of my own, I always take a moment, as I place it on the tree, to remember the wonderful woman who gave it to me.
Fast forward a few years and I got the chance to buy and decorate my very first Christmas tree. I was in my early twenties and sharing a house with two other student friends. We all decided we had to have a REAL tree to get the full effect and got a little carried away while choosing it (they DO all look a lot smaller when viewed outdoors!). We chose the biggest tree we could find but had to cut half of it away just to get it in the front door. Another few branches had to be trimmed to get it into our tiny sitting room and still more to stand it upright. We could hardly fit into the room with it but oh how we loved that tree. The closest we could come to Christmas carols was a Bing Crosby CD we found so we played it on a loop and danced around the house decorating every surface we could find. Perhaps inspired by my Nanny and her “TARDIS” like home, that little house held many a Christmas party, bursting at the seams with the number of people contained within… and always under the twinkling lights of an oversized, over decorated tree.
These days the student Christmas parties have been replaced with more family friendly celebrations. We love putting up the tree together – we are still getting a very large tree but at least the tree can actually fit in the door of our family home. As the boxes of decorations come down from the attic the excitement increases… a treasure trove of memories just waiting to be rediscovered. We decorate and marvel at our carefully chosen tree, with Christmas carols blaring in the background and hot seasons drinks and treats to add to the festive fervour. Adding to the Christmas glow is the knowledge that we are creating new Christmas memories for us all.
Every year, as we decorate the tree, myself and my husband chuckle away as we recall a Christmas memory our first born son created for us. When he was one he became truly fascinated with the big tree with the sparkly lights that his parents placed in the corner of the room. Whenever he could escape he would sit under the tree and placing a Christmas light in his mouth. We would turn around to see a little boy sitting quietly, his two cheeks glowing from the bulb. He used to have such a serene and contented look on his face.
This Sunday we will all go together to pick our tree and spend the afternoon decorating, admiring and remembering. We will prepare for the big event by making our own new decorations to add to the tree, a fairly new tradition we have kept up over the past few years.
Perhaps this Christmas, we will create another new memory or two to carry fondly with us into future Christmases, yet to arrive. Memories are great stories to share so that is why I am inviting you all to share some of your Christmas memories with me. If you want to join in this seasonal linky just write your post and click on the blue button below to add it to the list. There is even a badge (below… just click, save and use) you can include in your post. Of course you don’t need a blog to get involved, feel free to add your memories to the comments below!
If sharing these linky posts on social media please use the hash tag #christmasmemories.
I hope you all get to make many happy new memories this Christmas too!
A Halloween round up for the mid-term break
Halloween midterm has officially started and with perfect timing, so too has the cold and wet weather. Fear not, there are so many activities available to keep little ones entertained for the season.
For the “stuck indoors” days why not try a little Halloween Quiz. Click on the link below to retrieve a printable copy of the quiz. it is guaranteed to keep the kids occupied for quite a while, and there is plenty of opportunity to get adults involved too. If the questions leave some a little stumped why not try finding the answers on line or through your favourite reference source.
It is always nice to double check the answers which is why you will find a second document below, giving the answers to all the questions, just so no one is left frustrated!
More Halloween inspiration:
There is a nice Halloween linky over at the Where is my mind gone blog with lots more Halloween activities and ideas for the mid term break. Just click on the image below to check it out.
There are also some lovely craft ideas from Sadhbh of Where wishes come from, over on My kids Time at the moment.
Of course if you are looking for some Halloween Science experiments for the break, you can find a round up of the Science Wows team’s Top Five, right here.