Monthly Archives: November 2003

Powers of Ten

The Molecular Expressions Web site at Florida State University has a really cool interactive java tutorial to help get across the concept of orders of magnitude in relation to the relative size of objects in our world and universe:

View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

In addition, this site has a plethora of information on microscopy, including a microscopy primer, a miscroscopy museum, a photo gallery and even a list of web resources. You an even try virtual microscopy with interactive java tutorials. For example, you can use scanning electron microscopy to get an up close look at a jellyfish or a gecko’s foot under the microscope.

What makes a scientist?

A recent survey in The Scientist “some 425 readers told [the magazine] about the influences that guided them to become scientists; they cited an average of three influential factors.” The results are published in the most recent issue of The Scientist, Volume 17, Issue 21, Nov. 3, 2003. (Free Registration is required to access the article on-line.) These influential factors are as follows:

Innate curiosity – 70%
Teacher at secondary school – 46%
Parents – 46%
Teacher at university of college – 45%
Book(s) that I read – 39%
TV or radio program(s) – 18%
Other family member – 12%
Other person – 9%
Other influence 9%
Teacher in early life – 8%

“The Secret Garden”

The image to the left is an x-ray image of a columbine. The “secret garden” is a collection of x-ray images of flowers have been taken by Albert Richards, a University of Michigan Professor Emeritus, over the past forty years. Check out the rest of his images at his on-line photo gallery.

Dr. Richards describes his collection as follows:

“Flowers speak for us in many ways. On happy occasions we send flowers to express our joy and on sad occasions to express our sorrow. Almost everyone is fond of flowers, but they may never see the secret beauty that lies hidden within the blossoms. When we close our eyes, we cannot see the beautiful flowers around us. Even with our eyes wide open, we see only that portion of the flower that is nearest us, the same portion that would be recorded by a camera.”

Math and Science Across Cultures

I discovered a relatively new publication while exploring the Exploratorium web site. Maurice Bazin, Modesto Tamez and the Exploratorium Teacher Institute have written a book that allows you to:

“Explore math- and science-related concepts and techniques drawn from everyday life around the world. Using simple, inexpensive materials, teachers join students in making and using information-gathering tools, identifying patterns, interpreting data, and using logic to unravel puzzles.” (description taken from the Exploratorium store web site)

I haven’t actually seen a copy of the book, but you can view the table of contents and a sample activity at the Exploratorium store site. It sounds like a really great way to help make science and math more accessible to students! I can’t wait to get myself a copy…

This book is also available through as well as (for those of you interested in finding used copies).

The Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge

Recently, the 2003 winners of the Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge (DCYSC) were announced:

1st place – Joseph Stunzi, age 13, of Watkinsville, Georgia for his project entitled “The Effects of Cell Phones on Pacemaker Patients’ Hearts.”

2nd place – Elizabeth Monier, age 15, of Boerne, Texas for her project titled, “A Comparison of the Antimicrobial Capabilities of Raw Honey with Raw Honey Treated with Heat, Ethanol, or Ultraviolet Radiation.”

3rd place – Elena Ovaitt, age 14, of Weston, Missouri for her project titled, “Purification by Ozonation: The Effects of Ozonation on Ascorbic Acid and Bacteria Colonies in Unpasteurized Apple Cider.”

Find out more about the DCYSC:

  • The 2003 Winners
  • Projects and profiles of the forty 2003 finalists
  • Details of the competition
  • How to get yourself nominated
  • “Science Fair Central” has ideas for student projects as well as information for teachers.