That Old Black Hole

Love this video of a second grader asking Neil deGrasse Tyson about black holes colliding:

I like that he takes the question seriously and talks about how cool the physics of this situation would be without condescending to this boy. Kids at that age are just starting to learn about the universe, and it’s a great time to get them inspired by astronomy. I remember doing an astronomy unit in second grade and it was the best. More funding for science and space research/education, please!

Also, now I have this song in my head:

Do the black hole, everybody!

(via swissmiss)

The Eureka Moment and Why Breaks Are Important

You know how you can sit in front of your computer, struggling to figure out how to get your main character from point A to point B, and then it hits you when you’re in the middle of brushing your teeth that night? A new study confirms you’re not alone.

Apparently, study participants were given a challenging task. Some participants were allowed to have a break, and others weren’t. The ones who had a break performed better at the task afterward than the ones who had to work straight through the allotted time. This suggests that breaks are actually helpful in getting your mind working in new ways.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can skip the work, just take breaks, and expect results:

“The implication is that mind-wandering was only helpful for problems that were already being mentally chewed on. It didn’t seem to lead to a general increase in creative problem-solving ability,” says [research team leader Benjamin] Baird.

So get to work, but also feel free to give yourself a little time away from the desk if you’re stuck on a particular issue.

Write Your Own STEM Haiku

What happens when you combine the sciences and the arts? STEM haiku at STEM Friday! The idea, in celebration of National Poetry Month:

  1. Select a STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) topic.
  2. Brainstorm a list of words about your topic.
  3. Count the syllables in each word.
  4. Use the words to share a short STEM thought using the haiku format.

What a cool way to combine poetry and science. My example:

A siren wails.
It approaches, wavelength shifts–
Wave farewell, Doppler.

Try out your own science haiku and share below or in the comments at STEM Friday.

Understanding, Not Fear

Brain Pickings has a great roundup of quotes from famous scientists about what science is. One of my favorites, by Marie Curie:

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

A fantastic philosophy for life in general, and I think one writers should keep in mind as well. Part of writing and reading means opening your mind to other possibilities and ways of life, even if they’re uncomfortable or scary. The more we understand, the better.

Science in a Second

When I was in first and second grade, I was really into books that explained different scientific phenomena or natural events. (Why does the moon change shape? Where do fish go in the winter? How do birds fly?) Of course I can’t remember the titles of these books, but they were a nice introduction to science. Similarly, Just a Second by Steve Jenkins is a cool combination of science facts and great illustrations based around what can happen in nature in just a second. The review at Brain Pickings shares some images from the book, like this one:

Books like Just a Second impart information, but I think they’re most valuable as tools to get kids excited about science and the world around them. I see this image and immediately focus on the whale because, come on, whales are freakin’ amazing. Maybe someone else will see this and think “Light is intense!” and investigate more about physics. I wish I could have added this one to my book collection in first grade!

Tracking Waldo

I would call it cheating, but it’s just too awesome: a computer programmer wrote an algorithm to find the elusive Waldo:

“Heike’s algorithm narrows down the places Waldo could be hiding by searching for the colors of his signature shirt.

First, it filters out all colors but red. Next, it identifies parts of the image with alternating lines of red and white. Finally, it puts a white circle around the part of the image that most closely matches the famous sweater.”

Very clever, Heike! Your next challenge: find Carmen Sandiego.

(image: Indiebound)