Science lessons applied for safety, in your car. Do you drink water?

August 17, 2017

Still image from Idaho Power's short video on water bottles causing fires in cars.

Still image from Idaho Power’s short video on water bottles causing fires in cars.

Idaho Power sends along this video, teaching how to avoid starting your car on fire on a sunny day.

Can you use this video in your classroom?

It demonstrates science, how lenses work, how light works. Science classes should be able to use it.

The video offers safety instruction, stuff elementary kids should know to improve the safety of their daily lives. Their parents should know about it, too. Instruction for the kids, and a safety flyer for kids to take home.  A short piece Boy Scouts can use for Safety merit badge instruction. Surely Girl Scouts can use the safety instruction for a badge.

What other uses can you find?

Basic science provides critical basis for living, for parenting, and for teaching and learning. Anyone opposed to science instruction should rethink the harms that ever result from ignorance, or even forgetfulness.


Teacher video: No, Texas can’t secede

December 11, 2012

Another video from super teacher CGPGrey, right up our Texas alley, on the issue of Texas secession:

Minor error:  No provision I can find in any Texas Constitution to allow Texas to split.  Language to allow a territory to split into as many as five states was pretty standard for new U.S. territories organized during the 19th century; but that didn’t carry over to the Texas Constitution approved by Congress, not in a unilateral way.  One needs to recall that when Texas entered the Union, it carried with it lands that eventually became parts of New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming — which was part of the scruff with Mexico, which led to the U.S.-Mexico war of 1846 to 1848.

Still a teacher from another state demonstrates a much clearer conception of Texas history and state and federal law than some of the nutcases in Texas.  That so many Texans hold so many false perceptions of law and Texas history is an indictment of Texas education, and Texas’s governor and legislature.

You also should check out:

And, while we’re thinking about it, did you ever comment on the Digital Aristotle concept, which first introduced this blog to Mr. Grey?


Gradient Sun, NASA video for classroom use

October 21, 2012

Real science often is more fantastic that the stuff people make up. Haldane was right.

Still shot from NASA solar gradient video

Not the Sun you’re used to seeing.

In a century our studies of the Sun progressed from the deep calculations based on erroneous assumptions of what our star is make of  (Lord Kelvin‘s calculations on how long the iron in the Sun would take to cool to its present color), to today’s solar studies, in which nearly every moment of the Sun’s life is recorded through a half dozen different sensors, by satellites and telescopes and whatever other means we have to capture data from the Sun’s burning.

It’s hard science — but it borders on art, too, doesn’t it?  Watch this:

Gradient Sun [HD Video], originally uploaded by NASA Goddard Photo and Video.

What’s going on here?

Via Flickr:

Watching a particularly beautiful movie of the sun helps show how the lines between science and art can sometimes blur. But there is more to the connection between the two disciplines: science and art techniques are often quite similar, indeed one may inform the other or be improved based on lessons from the other arena. One such case is a technique known as a “gradient filter” – recognizable to many people as an option available on a photo-editing program. Gradients are, in fact, a mathematical description that highlights the places of greatest physical change in space. A gradient filter, in turn, enhances places of contrast, making them all the more obviously different, a useful tool when adjusting photos. Scientists, too, use gradient filters to enhance contrast, using them to accentuate fine structures that might otherwise be lost in the background noise. On the sun, for example, scientists wish to study a phenomenon known as coronal loops, which are giant arcs of solar material constrained to travel along that particular path by the magnetic fields in the sun’s atmosphere. Observations of the loops, which can be more or less tangled and complex during different phases of the sun’s 11-year activity cycle, can help researchers understand what’s happening with the sun’s complex magnetic fields, fields that can also power great eruptions on the sun such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections.

The images here show an unfiltered image from the sun next to one that has been processed using a gradient filter. Note how the coronal loops are sharp and defined, making them all the more easy to study. On the other hand, gradients also make great art. Watch the movie to see how the sharp loops on the sun next to the more fuzzy areas in the lower solar atmosphere provide a dazzling show.

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

To download this video go to:

NASA image use policy.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Find us on Instagram

Teachers ought to figure out how to use this in classrooms — and I don’t mean astronomy, physics and chemistry only.  Can you find a use for this film in geography?  History? English and literature?

Sometime shortly after World War II scientists captured film of a mass coronal ejection from the Sun.  You probably can imagine the film I’m remembering.  That snippet found its way into films students saw in science, geography, chemistry, biology (“this is our Sun, from which all living things get energy, through photosynthesis”), and probably a half dozen other subjects.  It was spectacular, and it was just about all that was available for classroom use, then.  Students now probably have never seen it.  Worse, my experience is that students in high school generally have very little familiarity with the science projects carried out by agencies like NASA and the National Science Foundation, and they know very little about the Sun, or the Moon and other planets.

Teachers, the state isn’t going to help you put this into your classrooms.  Can you figure out some way to get it in?


Volcanoes, travel plans, and history

June 13, 2010

James is home for the weekend, then back to Wisconsin on Sunday for a summer of physics beyond my current understanding.  He flew home to wish bon voyage to Kenny, who is off to Crete to learn how to teach English, and then (we hope) to find a position teaching English to non-English speakers somewhere in Europe.

I wondered:  What about that volcano erupting in Iceland?

Little worry for the trip over, this weekend.  Longer term?

So I turned to the Smithsonian to find a volcano expert, and came up with this video of  Smithsonian Geologist Liz Cottrell who explains where the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull fits in history, and maybe some — with a lesson in how to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull’s name.


  1. Can teachers figure out how to use this in geography, and in world history?  (Science teachers, you’re on your own.)
  2. Life is a gamble if you live close to a volcano, and sometimes when just happen to be downwind.
  3. In the past couple of hundred years, maybe volcanoes worldwide have been unusually quiet.
  4. As to size of eruptions and the damage potential:  We ain’t seen nothin’ recently!

Tip of the old scrub brush to Eruptions!

Ida, our only Darwinius masillae: Are we a lemur’s nephews and neices?

May 22, 2009

She’s being called Ida (EE-duh, to the Brits, EYE-duh to Bob Wills fans).  How could you miss all the hype about her unveiling this week?

Science fans complain that the hype might be over done.  Creationists appear a bit panicked by the developments.

Ida herself?  She’s beautiful.  Here’s an interview with Michael Novacek from the American Museum of Natural History in New York, carried on the public television news program World Focus.

Here’s a collection of British television stories on Ida, including David Attenborough’s animation of the reconstruction of her skeleton — some great graphics:

See also:

“I swear (or affirm)”: Ready for the inauguration?

January 14, 2009

Here’s a map that should be more viewed in America, but a map which has been much overlooked in the post-election euphoria, or post-election gloom.  It’s the map of electoral college results, still showing Republicans in a Soviet/Maoist red, and Democrats in blue:

Electoral College results from the 2008 presidential election - American Presidency Project

Electoral College results from the 2008 presidential election - American Presidency Project

Note especially the blue dot in Nebraska, around Omaha.  Nebraska splits its electoral college votes, giving each congressional district’s vote to the elector for the candidate who actually won in that district.  Obama won Omaha’s district; Nebraska is officially a red and blue state.  Maine also allows a split in electors, but this year did not see a split among the electorate.

America is not so red as some claim, even in the electoral college.  More states are surrounded by blue states than surrounded by red states.

Perhaps it’s time to find other ways to color these maps, so that we cannot so easily speak of a red state/blue state split that does not reflect politics, economics, or much of anything else in America.

Dallas students are out on inauguration day.  We can hope our government and history students will glue themselves to the television to watch the ceremony, but we know better than to expect it.

Will you discuss the inauguration in your classes, whatever the subject?  Here are some sources you could use:

Stimulate the economy? Fast Draw, video from CBS

February 19, 2008

Here’s a video from the guys at Fast Draw, about economic stimulation, offered first on CBS Sunday Morning on February 17. Great stuff for a high school economics course.

Will CBS make this available for teachers?

There is a commercial you gotta view for 15 seconds prior to the video — my apologies.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from posted with vodpod


Write or call CBS Sunday Morning to plead for released copies:
CBS News Sunday Morning
Box O (for Osgood)
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019


TAPES: Log on to the CBS Store or call 1-800-542-5621.


Cronkite narrates Texas water supply programs

February 10, 2008

And they are available for classroom use at a very modest price.

A couple of weeks ago I caught most of a program on water resources in Texas, from the Texas Parks and WildlifeDepartment. What caught my ear was the voice of Walter Cronkite, I thought.

Sure enough, it was Cronkite.

Texas Springs trailer image

TP&W produces a weekly program on the lands it manages, recreation and other issues dealing with land and environmental protection in Texas. The weekly programs come packed full of information and great photography — wise Texas history and geography teachers will see whether their local PBS station carries this program and tape it regularly.

Several times in the past five years TP&W produced special programs on Texas water resources. This one was produced in 2007:

Texas, the State of Springs: This hour-long documentary, narrated by Walter Cronkite, examines the alarming decline of Texas’ natural springs and addresses the current issues that directly impact spring flow and what can be done to save these vital resources.

Texas the State of Springs, initially aired on PBS stations across Texas on Thursday, February 15, 2007.

You may purchase a DVD copy of the documentary — and of two previous editions, one narrated by Cronkite and an earlier one narrated by Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel. They are available for $12.00 each, a bargain. Copyright expressly encourages use of these productions in classrooms.

Every middle school and high school in Texas should have a copy of these programs in their libraries. Perhaps your PTA would donate the $36.00 to put all three of them there?

Walter Cronkite, recording for Texas Parks & Wildlife

That’s the way it is!

%d bloggers like this: