Monday, January 17, 2011

What is Science?

Science isn't being bored in class while someone lectures.
Science is the learning we gain through the scientific method.

Observation Hey, look!
Question Why is it like this?
Hypothesis Well one time, at band camp, this happened, so maybe ...
Prediction it would happen the same way here.
Testing No.  Hmm.  Wonder why.  Let's try this.

And that is all in the way of learning you will get from me today.  But you wanna see something cool (Doyle, did you post about this?  I forget where I first saw it, but THANKS to who did!)?  Look at this.
Wanna read something cool? Read how they did it.

Can you imagine how much sky-watching and tinkering they'd have to do before they'd come up with that system? Quite obviously, for at least a few people, staring out into space (and actually paying attention) was the thing to do.  Sweet.

And then there is this:
And thanks to Classic Detritus, we get beautiful art, with an explanation of some of it's scientific limitations.
 In a nutshell, in "real life," the shell they have in the movie dons't match the math they are showing.  It is still a logarithmic spiral though.  But I can't confirm, I didn't do the measurements myself.

And of course, there is one of the reasons I wrote this whole post: I found some awesome shells on Galveston Beach on New Year's Day (To my hubs, these shells seemed much more fragile this year than he remembers.  Of course, his hands don't count as a scientific instrument.  We'd need something with more accuracy and precision.  But it got us thinking.  What would make them more fragile?  What happened between last year and this one?  The BP oil spill happened.  What was that dispersant again? But maybe these are just older, more worn shells than the ones you've crushed before?  No, he says.  Well, we know CO2 makes water more acidic.  And an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere would influence the dissolved CO2 in the ocean.  And acidity "eats away" at calcium carbonate.  And if they are made of calcium carbonate...but we don't know.  We weren't using the scientific method all the way through, you see?  No testing, no researching through peer review journal articles.  But observation, paying attention, and wondering and being curious will get you pretty far, but the tedious tinkering of the dedicated and hardworking may save us all.)

You see, science is everywhere.  All we have to do is pay attention.

All I got so far in my new room.  Don't judge.  We can go from here to the scientific method, no probs.
P.S. The way that my tutor groups are divided, I only get the same kids 9 times before my gig is up.  I got 9 80-minute sessions to inspire them to consider that Science is the way, the truth, and the life, and that they should never be discouraged from challenging themselves with it's study.  No pressure, right?  Send advice, now please, thanks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bad Mother Earth Daughter

Ooooh, I've been a bad Mother Earth Daughter!  Please Mom, allow me to apologize! But first, let us look at what seems to be the new theme of my blog: illegal yet agronomic art.  Let us pause to say
Dearest vandals and/or artists,
I do not support your allegedly illegal acts, oh no! I do however, like your topics of interest.  Please pursue them constructively.  Mayhaps my Introduction to Environmental Science class at ACC would interest you next semester.  You may learn that there are VOCs in them thar spray paints, and there are health risks involved in exposing yourself to them, and then perhaps you would choose to use milk-based paints. Legally.  Heh.
 Thank you.  
Love, TheDirtOnSoil
PS Sorry for the commersh milk link, I'm not getting paid to link to it.  But you and Martha Stewart do have something in common!!! And it is a recipe, so- Awesome!
You see? It is hard not to admire the topic.

Back to why I am not on Mother Earth's Good List right now:
The basil seeds will replant themselves, no problem! 
  1. I am on a compost break.
  2. My pet soldier flies disappeared (I think I can blame the cold, at least in part. But you know the whole not-giving-them-food thing has got to be causing problems.).
  3. I haven't been prosthelytizing about soil to my full potential: educational blog post frequency = decreasing.
  4. My garden... you know, has been neglected.
Maybe a few minutes of your time, Amanda?
Yet there is hope for me, fellow souls.  There is yet hope.  For example,
  1. Prosthelytizing will increase next week when I start tutoring science to high school kids and professoring environmental science to college kids.  
  2. Also, I did take the Soil Science licensing exam.  I didn't say I passed it. That is to be determined.  
  3. I've been planning an awesome post *since September cough cough cough* on how urine is chemically transformed to plant food (AKA nitrate) by bacteria.  You didn't think it happened all by itself did you?  It might be free fertilizer to us, but those nitrosomonas and nitrobacter gotta work for their money.  So you know, please keep the faith and stay tuned.
Wait, what is my point?  Oh that is right, I didn't have one.  Blogging is fun!! 
Thank you Parsley, for not making it look so bad.  You look great.  Keep it up.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Math Science Photo Series

Found this art on the Speedway Grocery at the corner of Speedway and 38th in ATX.  BTW, if you are a very strict parent, don't take your adorable toddler in there because the nice people inside will offer him/her free candy (I guess not everyone is immune to his smile)!  But if you are very strict, said toddler will freak out with chocolate glee.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

See Roots in their Natural Habitat

Dearest soil enthusiasts,

¡Feliz año nuevo!  ¿Cómo fue su celebración?

To celebrate my new science teaching jobs that I mentioned on Twitter, I'm looking around for fun soil science ideas that address our Texas HS Science learning objectives, TEKS.  I found instructions for making a root viewing box where you can make lots of fun experiments.   I hope I can muster up the motor skills to make one.  Hammer, please avoid my fingers.  Thank you.  I found instructions here (horizontally oriented) and here (vertically oriented).  Mickey over at My Wisconsin Garden made a pretty one with cedar with some nice germination results.
Vertically oriented root viewing box by the NRCS
Of course, we can use root viewing boxes to learn about tropism*, like
  • positive geotropism (grow towards the source of gravity), and 
  • negative light tropism (grow away form the source of light), and 
  • negative thigmatropism (growing away from obstacles touching them)  (activity details for all here)
You could
  • see how the roots respond to different soil textures (sand, silt, and clay), and
  • varying soil moisture at depth (water it for longer or shorter time periods)
You could
  • compare the root lengths of different plants, like native Texan prairie grass to conventional lawn grasses, and then 
  • think about what that means for facilitating erosion (Native is better! But find out for yourself).  
You could
  • do so many things!  Heh, you though you were getting more, eh?
Also, the Capital Area Master Naturalist's Education and Outreach Committee has a learning activity on root length, and you can ask them to present it to your group.  Any age.
    If I make this you'll soooo get pictures, hopefully in a classroom setting, administration-willing.


    Tropism: A response to stimuli by plants is called a tropism (source).