Posts Tagged ‘Astronomy’

SCONYC 2010

Last weekend I went to the annual SCONYC conference for New York City Science Teachers. Here’s a summary of the day:

Forensic Microscopy Workshop – My fellow TC-ers and I headed up a a workshop on forensic microscopy. It was a bit disappointing because it didn’t end up being as hands on as we had hoped, but I got a few good pictures out of it:

playing with a lens and camera

a classmate’s split ends – it was amazing that we could use the digital camera to capture what we saw in the microscope!

Operation Shellshock – Key Address by Lt. Richard Thomas of the New York State Police

There were a myriad technical difficulties, so we couldn’t hear most of his talk, but Lt. Thomas handled them well! He spoke about his experience working under cover to help stop the black market trade of indigenous New York amphibian and reptiles.

Active Physics – This was a fantastic workshop given by John Roeder of The Calhoun School in Manhattan. In my methods classes, we have worked a lot with different Active Physics activities, but I had never grasped how the curriculum as a whole worked. As John walked us through the curriculum, I was quickly convinced that I would definitely use this curriculum if given the opportunity! I’m heading over to his school in two weeks to observe him in action.

The conference was held at the incredible Stuyvesant High School in Battery Park City.

The school has escalators that travel two floors at a time. It also has these fantastic tiles I forgot to take a picture of: they are glass boxes with some sort of memorabilia from each year since the school was started. So cool! We even got to eat in a cafeteria that overlooked the Hudson River.

NY Center for Space Education – Katherine Brown, of the NYC Challenger Center, gave a talk and materials based on several different NASA-designed science curriculum. We even got free UV beads :)

If you have a Challenger Center near you, go check it out! They are amazing places and fantastic resources for professional development and field trips.

Joy of Chemistry – all I can say about this workshop is that I want to grow up to be as crazy as the two women who presented it! They spent the hour demonstrating awe-inspiring chemistry experiments and describing how they can be effective in the classroom. Their effort to remind us that science is fun was easily rewarded as the room was packed and we were all on the edge of our seats! They recommended reading the book “The Flying Circus of Physics with Answers” for us physics people and gave us the procedure for each of their demonstrations:

  • Floating Golf Ball (my favorite!)
  • Fortune Fish
  • Switch Pitch Ball
  • Magic Sand
  • Secret Message with Window Cleaner
  • Flash Paper
  • Naked Eggs
  • Blue & Orange/Gold Reaction
  • Collapsing Soda Bottle
  • Magic Birthday Candles
  • Soda Geyser (I learned you can use seltzer instead of diet coke – much easier cleanup!)

In addition to the workshops, we had a great walk through the exhibit hall. I’m hoping a few of the booths I left my name with will be sending some sample text books!

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CoRoT-7b: The Disappearing Planet

In the Fall of 2009, astronomers found an exoplanet that seemed to be similar to Earth, orbiting a different sun. However, now they have discovered the orbit of the exoplanet continues to change because of its changing tides; the tides are changing due to its continuous loss of mass. The surface of the exoplanet is so hot that it is merely evaporating.

This would be a fantastic article from CNN.com to use in an Astronomy, Physics, or Earth Science class in a current events section or when discussing orbits.

Here are three of the articles from September/October 2009 when the exoplanet was first being monitored:

Earth Science Week 2009

Happy Earth Science Week 2009!!!

For all sorts of cool resources, check out Teach Science and Math’s Resources Post.

NASA Resources

NASA has many resources for teachers – the best two at the moment are a site just for educators and your chance to be a part of the committee to review NASA flight plans!

Recent Posts, Ideas, and Resources

Here’s a list of recent posts from all sorts of blogs that have been really useful:

Does Gravity Push or Pull?

In one of the first classes I’ve taken in graduate school, a peer asked whether we thought gravity pushes or pulls. I was stuck between the two, but since everyone else agreed that gravity pulls, I didn’t say much and have been mulling it over ever since.

I finally figured out why I couldn’t settle for one or the other: relativity.

The reason we jump to the conclusion that gravity “pulls” is because that is how we experience gravity. We feel the gravitational force of the earth pulling us toward its surface – we call it falling. However, imagine you are at some fixed point in space looking at the interactions between the earth and the moon. This is where relativity comes in – you are able to observe Earth and its moon interacting from a fixed point not on the surface of either planetary object being observed. In essence you have never experienced gravity and can only draw conclusions based on what you see. The two objects seem to move towards each other, a phenomena we tend to describe as attraction. But what if that’s not what’s occurring? Just because we describe it as “pulling” doesn’t mean the gravitational force isn’t “pushing”.

What if, in the galactic scale, gravity behaves otherwise? Of course, I’m not in a position to test this hypothesis, but I think it is worth considering. Physicists must be in the practice of considering what reality would be like if the opposite of every scientific law and theory were true. Otherwise, scientific developments such as Quantum Mechanics never would have occurred!

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts!

NOVA scienceNOW

While I was watching last night’s episode of The Colbert Report, I was pleased to see that Steven Colbert’s guest was Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, an Astrophysicist associated with the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Dr. Tyson hosts the PBS show NOVA scienceNOW. He described the show as an opportunity to share all parts of science with the public in a way that is easy to understand and interesting. The show’s website has episodes and information listed by scientific category: Health & Biosciences; Natural & Human Worlds; Physics & Space Science; Scientist Profiles; and Technology & Math.

I clicked on the link to Physics and found a great page all about CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Websites like this are so important in expanding science literacy. Even now as I am reading Dan Brown’s book Angel & Demons, I am frustrated that his depiction of physics and of CERN are inaccurate, fully knowing most readers won’t do any research to find what information is correct and what is not. I hope that programs such as NOVA scienceNOW will aid in correcting myths about science.

For more information on Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, visit his official website.