Posts Tagged ‘space’

I recently was asked about the phases of the Moon and why the Moon appears to change in shape in its orbit around the earth. So I thought a good point to start from was to establish what misconceptions people have on this topic and I found this great video by Veritasium (but I would stop it at the end of the interview without revealing the explanation initially).

The most common misconception in the video seems to be that the earth blocks the sunlight reaching the Moon, hence, we see the phases of the Moon when it is behind the earth with respect to the sun. At this point I would slide two circles of card, a white and a black one (with the black one bigger than the white one) past each other (black on top). If the black card is the shadow cast on the Moon by the earth (essentially what happens in a lunar eclipse), the shapes of the Moon due to the light reflected back to earth are considerably different than the shapes we observe from the phases of the Moon. So, we have establish that this model is a misconception.

Now we can introduce a better model and I use the pingpong ball in the image below with the students in the centre of the room. They are the observers on the earth and the light from the sun is coming from the left hand side in the photo.

If you go around the learner in the middle of the class making sure the “lit” face of the pingpong moon is always facing the wall on the left in this case, your students will see the same shapes we observe during the phases of the moon.

To reinforce this demonstration you could show the students this great animation by Keith Gibbs (also available in HTML5 if using an iPad).

Ok, now for the icing on the cake that you’ve all been waiting for! Check out the video below that shows a cresent moon through an infrared camera. You can see the crescent really bright, but you also see the other parts of the side of the moon facing the earth. I believe that is what is emitted by the moon in the infrared spectrum and that gets picked up by the IR camera. It is really awesome.

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It’s been a while since my last post on Android apps for the classroom and I thought the upcoming BETT show 2012 would be a good excuse to write something about a few really interesting apps I have used to create resources about the Solar System. Another reason for blogging about this is to inform you about a series of workshops I will run on the ASUS stand at the BETT Show on the use of Android devices in Education. So, if you are going at BETT and if you are interested in how Android apps can be used in the classroom, join me any day from Tuesday 10th to Friday 13th January 2012. You can download the resources to run some of the activities described in this Blog post from this TES weblink. We will demonstrate other TES resources that can be used with Android devices at ASUS workshops and I will represent TES as the TES Science Lead starting this January, but this gives a good idea of some of the activities we will consider!

The resources in the link above were created with the ASUS Eee Pad tablet in mind, but they would work very well with other Android devices.

Google Sky Map

This app is just great! It lets you point your Android device at the sky in front of you and it shows a map of the stars and planets for that particular place and time of the year. But the most impressive feature it the Time Travel function, which lets you set a particular date and time in the past, or future, to see what the sky would look like. So, for example, you could ask your learners to describe what stars and planets Prince William and Kate would have seen on the night of their wedding. You can also search for a particular object in the sky, so if you want to find the position of Mars, you can can type Mars in the search and an arrow pointing at the planet will appear and you can then follow the arrow with your device until you find the object you searched for!

My Solar System

I have already blogged about this app, but I have added it to this resource because it gives good opportunities to develop Numeracy Skills in your learners by comparing magnitudes, orbital period, etc…

Solar Sizer

This app is even simpler than the previous one, but it is a great way to visualise the size of the planets to scale.

Have a look at the resource I uploaded on the TES website and leave a comment with your thoughts about it, please.

I hope to see many of you at the ASUS stand during the BETT Show.

 

I was really surprised and pleased to receive an invitation from two personal heroes of mine, Tim and Moby, after I pointed @BrainPOP_UK towards my Blog post “Blowing Head“, which generated much discussion and constructive feedback from so many of you who still follow my waffle on this Blog 😉
Apparently BrainPOP UK was looking for some resources to go with their Starship BrainPOP, their space focussed collection of topics, and they asked me to put something together along the lines of my two recent Blog posts about unprotected bodies in space. It was great fun to think about some activities for this task and I have to admit I wouldn’t have made it without the kind contributions of all the people who posted, or emailed comments, links and were willing to share their knowledge and opinions, so thanks to you all.
Anyway, I think the resources came out quite nice and there should be plenty of opportunities for learners to develop thinking and think critically. You can find these resources I made on BrainPOP Talk here.
Please let me know what you think of them.

What great tools are Blogs and Twitter! I twitted about my previous blog post “Blowing Head!” and on the second day, after about 150 people had read the post and left positive comments (not all 150 actually), I get a Tweet back from Ashley Kent (@AshleyKent), who not only too the time to read my post, but also pointed out that NASA research suggests that a human body would not explode, or freeze immediately, in Space. Ashley gave me this link that explains some of these findings and tests made by NASA.

My previous post doesn’t mention exploding bodies actually, it just asks questions, so I could just tell you that of course I knew, but I would be lying. It was an interesting surprise to me to find out what NASA  has discovered and predicted. However, there are some effects of exposure of a human body to vacuum which resemble what happens in tea cake in the vacuum coffee saver, as suggested by this article. An interesting part of the article says:

“When the human body is suddenly exposed to the vacuum of space, a number of injuries begin to occur immediately. Though they are relatively minor at first, they accumulate rapidly into a life-threatening combination. The first effect is the expansion of gases within the lungs and digestive tract due to the reduction of external pressure. A victim of explosive decompression greatly increases their chances of survival simply by exhaling within the first few seconds, otherwise death is likely to occur once the lungs rupture and spill bubbles of air into the circulatory system. Such a life-saving exhalation might be due to a shout of surprise, though it would naturally go unheard where there is no air to carry it.

In the absence of atmospheric pressure water will spontaneously convert into vapor, which would cause the moisture in a victim’s mouth and eyes to quickly boil away. The same effect would cause water in the muscles and soft tissues of the body to evaporate, prompting some parts of the body to swell to twice their usual size after a few moments. This bloating may result in some superficial bruising due to broken capillaries, but it would not be sufficient to break the skin.”

So, it might not be as dramatic as it looks in the demo in my previous blog post, but the demo is certainly a very interesting activity that could be turned into a great investigation of the effects of a vacuum on different materials and tissues. We have the opportunity here to do some real Science with our kids and pose some questions that will really challenge their experience and create a metacognitive conflict, which will make the activity even more interesting and enjoyable for them!

Any suggestions on the things we could stick inside this coffee saver vacuum chamber? What about simulating a lung in vacuum with a balloon? Where is the limitation of this analogy? What would happen if the balloon were filled with water? Please make your suggestions…

This blog post is about a great demonstration I got from David Featonby from the Institute of Physics and a little adaptation I thought about after seeing his version. He tipped us all up on a really cool vacuum container to store coffee which you can find here. Then, he put a teddy bear shaped marshmallow in, closed the lid and sucked the air out. The effect is really dramatic as you see the teddy bear mallow increasing in size and become “huge”. My boys think it is a Humongous Mallow (only avid Ben 10 fans will understand the reference).

Anyway, the advantage of using this container instead of a normal empty bottle of wine is that you can put much bigger things inside and that’s where I thought of this additional demo to do with this device. There are various ways in which you could introduce the demo. For example, you could watch a bit of a scientifically questionable Sci-fi film and ask your kids “Is it possible?” The clip I have in mind is Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Han Solo hides the Millenium Falcon inside an Asteroid cave (which turns to be a giant worm’s belly). In that part of the film the crew goes out of the spaceship wearing their normal clothes and just a tiny breathing mask, as if 🙂

The point here is that if Han Solo and friends were on an asteroid in outer space, they would be surrounded by almost perfect vacuum and their internal body pressure would cause them to pop as soon as they get out of the ship! So, what would your students think? Would they believe it is possible?  Would they think they would just freeze?

At this point you can show your coffee saver and put a tea cake inside. Then, ask the kids what they think would happen if we could take most of the air out!

And see their faces as this happens!

You can now go back and ask the same question from the Star Wars clip. Is it possible? What would happen to Han Solo and his crew?

Please, see my next blog post as there is an interesting update pointed out by Ashley Kent (@AshleyKent) that suggests that your body wouldn’t actually blow up in space! So, the demo is becoming even more interesting and pedagogically really valuable, as we have the opportunity to really confuse our kids up to then let them construct a new and stronger meaning. This is active Constructivism and Metacognitive Conflict brought to its extremes 😉

Thank you Ashley for pointing this out!