Tag Archives: chemistry

Cool as a cave

Mammoth caves - Historic entrance
Mammoth caves – Historic entrance

It was hotter than hot–over 90 degrees with a thick southern humidity that hits you like a bus when you step outside.  As I pulled on my long sleeve shirt, I chuckled at the thought of wearing it on the surface, 250 feet above my current location.  It was 55 degrees where I stood and boy was it fabulous.

With 405 miles of mapped cavities and some unknown distance of unmapped offshoots, Mammoth caves in Kentucky is the longest cave system in the world.  I experienced a mere few miles of this wonder, with at least a couple of those miles intertwining and overlapping each other like spaghetti in a bowl.  However little distance walked, crawled, & climbed, it was undoubtedly one of the coolest adventures of my life–both figuratively and literally. Continue reading Cool as a cave

Thing explainer explained

In his new book, Thing explainer: complicated stuff in simple words, Randall Munroe uses the top ten hundred words in the language spoken most in the world and lots of pictures to explain how some things work.  In a world with too many big words, this book is great.  However, some of the top words, simple enough alone, are still changed for others and one of the big words that tell you what the book is (marked above) isn’t even in the top words!  Despite several wrong word choices, Thing explainer hits the mark for interestingly explaining things.

courtesy of xkcd.com
courtesy of xkcd.com

Continue reading Thing explainer explained

The Elements: A Visual Exploration

ElementsThe periodic table of elements is one of humankind’s iconic symbols. Despite the fact that you may only know the names and properties of several elements, you no doubt recognize the grid. Theodore Gray takes this famous table to a new artistic standard in his now world-renowned book The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe. A bright and glossy black tome with a single element on each open 2-page spread, this is a great beginners resource for the visual depiction in high resolution photographs (if possible) and written description of each element. Accompanying each page are things in the world that are made up of the element. From common metals used in jewelry like silver and gold to rare earth metals like Lanthanum whose oxidation lights up camping lanterns, each element includes stories of how these elements are interesting to many more than just chemists.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 10.02.51 AMIf you or your kids are more digitally stimulated, there is also an iPad app ($13.99) that includes each page of The Elements book in HD. Or visit www.periodictable.com for free interactive fun with the elements. On this website, you can also purchase posters, placemats, and cards to enhance your child’s chemistry IQ.

FullSizeRenderA great companion activity to The Elements, is this 1000 piece puzzle that I recently put together.  As you and your child add pieces to the puzzle, searching for similar-looking elements and browsing each name, symbol, and atomic number, I suggest looking up each element in the book or iPad app. When adding a new element to the puzzle, make sure to discuss what the element is and what it makes up in the world. Shout out, “I found Europium!” when adding this flaky rock to the puzzle, “And Europium creates fluorescence in light bulbs!”

Who knew chemistry could be so much fun!