25 July 2012

10 July 2012

Cartoon Physics

The All-Star baseball game is on today, and while I am not watching it, I have been getting a very interesting summary of the game from Neil deGrasse Tyson, possibly the world's most popular astrophysicist.  (At least real astrophysicist, Raj from Big Bang is pretty popular too...)

He has been live tweeting the game through "the lens of an astrophysicist,"  which has definitely given me some new thoughts about the game. Including this one: About that slow pitch: BugsBunny can throw a slower one. He's subject instead to Cartoon Laws of Physics 

If you aren't following him, I highly recommend it -- @neiltyson.  Also, you can always follow me =) @msgoldsteinsci.

This reminded me of an assignment I had in high school physics, we were to watch a cartoon and record all of the instances of "cartoon physics" and why they were wrong.  It actually was pretty fun.  So for your enjoyment, below, are the Cartoon Laws of Physics.

Cartoon Law I

Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation.
Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.

Cartoon Law II

Any body in motion will tend to remain in motion until solid matter intervenes suddenly.
Whether shot from a cannon or in hot pursuit on foot, cartoon characters are so absolute in their momentum that only a telephone pole or an outsize boulder retards their forward motion absolutely. Sir Isaac Newton called this sudden termination of motion the stooge's surcease.

Cartoon Law III

Any body passing through solid matter will leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter.
Also called the silhouette of passage, this phenomenon is the speciality of victims of directed-pressure explosions and of reckless cowards who are so eager to escape that they exit directly through the wall of a house, leaving a cookie-cutout-perfect hole. The threat of skunks or matrimony often catalyzes this reaction.

Cartoon Law IV

The time required for an object to fall twenty stories is greater than or equal to the time it takes for whoever knocked it off the ledge to spiral down twenty flights to attempt to capture it unbroken.
Such an object is inevitably priceless, the attempt to capture it inevitably unsuccessful.

Cartoon Law V

All principles of gravity are negated by fear.
Psychic forces are sufficient in most bodies for a shock to propel them directly away from the earth's surface. A spooky noise or an adversary's signature sound will induce motion upward, usually to the cradle of a chandelier, a treetop, or the crest of a flagpole. The feet of a character who is running or the wheels of a speeding auto need never touch the ground, especially when in flight.

Cartoon Law VI

As speed increases, objects can be in several places at once.
This is particularly true of tooth-and-claw fights, in which a character's head may be glimpsed emerging from the cloud of altercation at several places simultaneously. This effect is common as well among bodies that are spinning or being throttled.

A wacky character has the option of self-replication only at manic high speeds and may ricochet off walls to achieve the velocity required.

Cartoon Law VII

Certain bodies can pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot.
This trompe l'oeil inconsistency has baffled generations, but at least it is known that whoever paints an entrance on a wall's surface to trick an opponent will be unable to pursue him into this theoretical space.

The painter is flattened against the wall when he attempts to follow into the painting. This is ultimately a problem of art, not of science.

Cartoon Law VIII

Any violent rearrangement of feline matter is impermanent.
Cartoon cats possess even more deaths than the traditional nine lives might comfortably afford. They can be decimated, spliced, splayed, accordion-pleated, spindled, or disassembled, but they cannot be destroyed. After a few moments of blinking self pity, they reinflate, elongate, snap back, or solidify.


A cat will assume the shape of its container.

Cartoon Law IX

Everything falls faster than an anvil.

Cartoon Law X

For every vengeance there is an equal and opposite revengeance.
This is the one law of animated cartoon motion that also applies to the physical world at large. For that reason, we need the relief of watching it happen to a duck instead.

Cartoon Law Amendment A

A sharp object will always propel a character upward.
When poked (usually in the buttocks) with a sharp object (usually a pin), a character will defy gravity by shooting straight up, with great velocity.

Cartoon Law Amendment B

The laws of object permanence are nullified for "cool" characters.
Characters who are intended to be "cool" can make previously nonexistent objects appear from behind their backs at will. For instance, the Road Runner can materialize signs to express himself without speaking.

Cartoon Law Amendment C

Explosive weapons cannot cause fatal injuries.
They merely turn characters temporarily black and smokey.

Cartoon Law Amendment D

Gravity is transmitted by slow-moving waves of large wavelengths.
Their operation can be wittnessed by observing the behavior of a canine suspended over a large vertical drop. Its feet will begin to fall first, causing its legs to stretch. As the wave reaches its torso, that part will begin to fall, causing the neck to strech. As the head begins to fall, tension is released and the canine will resume its regular proportions until such time as it strikes the ground.

Cartoon Law Amendment E

Dynamite is spontaneously generated in "C-spaces" (spaces in which cartoon laws hold).
The process is analogous to steady-state theories of the universe which postulated that the tensions involved in maintaining a space would cause the creation of hydrogen from nothing. Dynamite quanta are quite large (stick sized) and unstable (lit). Such quanta are attracted to psychic forces generated by feelings of distress in "cool" characters (see Amendment B, which may be a special case of this law), who are able to use said quanta to their advantage. One may imagine C-spaces where all matter and energy result from primal masses of dynamite exploding. A big bang indeed.

From The Funny Pages, 29 November 1994

07 July 2012

It's "like" 103* outside....

So, if you are like me you have been seeing pictures like this on Facebook, for the past week or even more.

Everyone has been taking pictures of their car's thermometers lately.  Yesterday, mine read 110*, but it really wasn't, so what's going on?

First of all, lets start off with what everyone is reporting on the news -- weather forecasts saying that it will feel like it is 103* or even more outside.  But, thermometers are going to only show 100*.  Why is that?

The "feels like" temperature is the heat index, which is the combination of the outside air temperature plus the relative humidity.  The relative humidity is the percentage of the amount of moisture in the air compared to what it would be if the air were completely saturated.  So, when you go outside your body reacts like it is 103* or more, even though the air temperature isn't that high.

OK, not that big a deal, after all, if it isn't really real, it can't get you sick, right?


According to the National Weather Service, heat is the number one weather related cause of death in the US.  That's more than the big scary weather -- tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards.

When the relative humidity is high, you get that gross, icky feeling, like you are covered in sweat, and any little movement makes it even worse... (you know what I'm talking about).  What's going on is that the physiological response that your body uses to prevent overheating, sweating, isn't doing its job -- the air already contains a lot of moisture, so it's not going to absorb the moisture off of your skin (not technically what's going on, but you get the gist).

Without this process happening, your body will overheat, and you can get sick.

So, how do you stay safe? (From the National Weather Service):
- Slow down.  Don't over exert yourself during the hottest parts of the day (hold off your workout, stay in the coolest places possible (especially children and seniors) -- this may not be indoors).
- Dress for summer.  Your new down coat may be super awesome, but you shouldn't be wearing when it is hot outside.  Instead, opt for lightweight, and light-colored clothing that reflects heat and sunlight.
- Put less fuel on your inner fires.  Protein speeds up your metabolic heat production and also increase water loss.
Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated beverages.
- During excessive heat periods, spend more time in air-conditioned places.  Check out your local library if you don't have AC at home, there are lots of interesting adventures in store for you.
- Don't get too much sun.  Sunburn reduces your body's ability to dissipate heat.
- Do NOT take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.  Salt can dehydrate you, which reduces your body's ability to self-regulate temperature.  So put down the diet pills (you should just do this in general).

For further information, check out the links above, which also include symptoms of heat related illness, so you know what to look for, and what you should do.

Also, take time to check in on the elderly, they don't feel the heat as well as you do, and are more likely to suffer from heat related illness.  So go check in on grandma or grandpa, or (substitute grandma or grandpa if you are like me), make sure they are ok, and get them to some AC if they aren't.  Maybe you can ask them to tell you about their lives when  they were younger, they always love that stuff =)

So for now, keep cool, remember that it's summer, this stuff (like heat) happens, protect yourself, and check back in a few months for the follow-up, "What do you mean it's "like" -9* outside???"

ps, thanks to my friend Hollie for the picture =)

14 June 2012

A helpful hint for the summer

While I was looking around on Pinterest (also known as procrastinating) I found this picture. 

Good to know what these look like.

Summer is now here, and many people will be spending time outdoors, whether camping, hiking, gardening, or just playing outside.  Knowing what these three plants look like is the key to avoiding a nasty, itchy allergic reaction.

So remember the adage, "leaves of three, let them be."  Or even better, if you don't know what it is, don't touch it.

08 June 2012

Don't let science fiction become reality...

OK, so I have been MIA for more than is acceptable, and I apologize.  Over the summer I will be sharing activities that you can do at home, along with information about the science behind them.

In the meantime, on Tuesday night, we lost an important figure in the land of science fiction -- Ray Bradbury.  Speaking personally, his books had an enormous impact on me when I first read them.  In order to find more information about him, you can read his obituary.

Don't let this become a reality -- keep reading, don't let the movie speak for the story, often times, the book is better, trust me.

30 March 2012

Why I love the NSTA Conference in Indianapolis

I will explain a lot more later, once the conference is over, but I will tell you that I have learned a lot of new things, and have new ideas that I will be sharing with you later on.  I also will be explaining my absence (it involves a certain science teacher, and a certain website known as pinterest).

But for now, I leave you with this, a picture of yours truly with one of my childhood heroes.  I got to meet him and hear him speak on why space is fun and incredibly important.

Yes, that is me, and Bill Nye.  Honestly, one of the most exciting moments in my life so far.

12 March 2012

The People Behind the Way We Live

The People Behind The Way We Liveggeeksaresexy.net

OK, so I know that I have been missing for awhile, and I will get into that later on.  But I would like to share one thing that I found on Pinterest.

08 March 2012

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day.  In honor of this, I thought that I would share some information on women in science.   The astronomy program at the University of Alabama has a website that has information about women in science for the past 4000 years.  http://www.astr.ua.edu/4000WS/

29 February 2012

Can you turn that down please?

OK, so Sunday night was when I realized that I am "old."  Let me explain -- I went with a friend to a concert in a small venue, and it was great, a band that I had never seen before.  But my ears hurt so badly when we left.  In fact, they didn't stop ringing until the middle of the day today.  This realization got me thinking about what I tell my students all of the time -- "turn down the volume."  I have lost track of how many times I have asked this of students, because I should not be able to hear your music when you have ear buds in your ears.

The reason that I am bringing this up is that exposure to noise over an extended period of time can damage your hearing.  Below is a chart of typical sound levels.  Now, keep in mind that so far I have not done a lot myself to protect my hearing (other than making sure that the volume on my iPad and in my car is not too loud), but it is something to think about.  So next time, I just might be the cool kid in the back of the concert with ear plugs, but hopefully when I much older, I will still be able to enjoy the music.

22 February 2012

Google honors Hertz

And I don't mean the rental car company, but the other Hertz you hear about (as in Hz).  Check out today's Google homepage in honor of Hertz's 155th birthday.

Hertz was the first person to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves.  In 1930 the unit of frequency was named after him.

21 February 2012

Online genetics labs

Biology students often complain about genetics.  They find it difficult to understand, and are often presented with examples that don't relate to real life (who cares if the pea plant is tall or short, or if the seed coat is smooth or wrinkled, they're still peas).

Since many students are currently learning genetics at this time of the year, I thought that it would be helpful to provide a link to some online labs that can help with this sometimes challenging topic.  They are also kind of fun to do if you have a good grasp of what's going on.

Mendel's Peas
Parts 1 and 2 are reviews of meiosis and fertilization.  Part three is a challenge involving the use of genetics to create the right types of pea plants (using the story of the Princess and the Pea).

Dragon Genetics
This lab lets you test your understanding of genotype and phenotype by having you manipulate the genotypes of the dragons.


20 February 2012

Happy anniversary John Glenn, now let's go chase our dreams

50 years ago today John Glenn made history.  He was not the first person in space, he was not even the second.  He was not the first astronaut in the Mercury program, nor was he the second.  But, he was the first American in outer space.  In a flight that was just shy of five hours, he orbited the Earth three times, and became an instant hero.

Let us think back to what it means to have a hero that inspires us to reach all the way, to go into outer space. Especially now, in a day when the space shuttle program is over, and many people couldn't care less if we went back into space or not.  I remember watching shuttle launches on the television, but I know that many of my peers didn't.  I grew up in a house where flight and space were these magical, mythical things.  Yes, we went to the moon, but where else could we go?  How would we get there?  How could we handle the impossible distances and time involved in making these trips?

On September 12, 1962 President Kennedy outlined his dream for us to go to the moon, by the end of the decade:
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
 Let us live our lives inspired by the bravery of all of our astronauts, and make sure that we continue to do things that challenge us.  Let's push the boundaries of what we know.

You never know, something incredible might just happen.

Who am I?

I thought that I would take a moment to share a little bit of information about myself.

I am a science teacher.  I have taught many different subjects, from Earth Science, to Biology, and Environmental Science.

I absolutely love science.  With a passion.  I think that science gives us the tools we need in order to unlock the world around us:  Why is the sky blue?  How does a ship float?  How come, if I drop a bowling ball and an apple from the same height at the same time will they both hit the ground at the exact same moment?

I think that everyone can understand and get science.  You don't have to become a quantum physicist or the next Dr. Barnard.  No one is asking you to do that.  But you can tell me why the tides go in and out.

As a follow up to the previous statement, I think that science should be available to everyone.  You can't understand or get something if you can't find it.

I don't think that asking for help is a sign of weakness.  All it is is a sign that you need help, that you don't quite understand something.

I think that humor is good.  There is no need for a further explanation, other than the fact that I will try to include a "Friday funny" science joke once a week.  I can't promise that they will all be good.

I am a bit of a procrastinator.  For that, I do apologize.  If I disappear from time to time, it is not that I have forgotten about you, it may just be that I found a new exciting book that I got hooked on, or a project, or someone's tumblr, or a shiny object... However, I can promise you that I will try my best to keep this to a minimum.

This seems to me to be a pretty good list, so I will end it here.  Except for one last thing:  if you think that there is something that you would like me to discuss, or help you to better understand, please, let me know.

Thanks everyone!!!

10 February 2012

Science is Funny

Since today is Friday, and the beginning of a weekend, I thought that I would post a little science humor here.  To be fair, I have borrowed this from one of my friend's posts on Facebook, so I can't take credit for its humor, but it is enjoyable nonetheless.

Now, I will not be the awful person who decides to explain the joke to you if you didn't understand it, because I believe that that will ruin it for those who do, so instead, I will provide you with a link so that you can learn about Schrodinger's Cat yourself.



06 February 2012


Why do we study science?  This is a question that is asked every day by countless people.  Many people view science as “that scary subject,” but it doesn’t have to be that.  Science is more than just a bunch of facts and stuff to memorize, science is a way of thinking, a way of looking at the world in which we live.  My goal is to provide a resource that makes science more accessible to everyone.

Follow me here or on twitter @MsGoldsteinSci