Keeping Current With Science Research

Keeping up with the latest research in science is getting easier – wonderful science blogs and news services can inform and engage both you and your students. Depending on the blog or service, you can have the content delivered to your inbox or show up on your browser homepage. Look for the RSS symbol on the page for directions on how to add the content to your web site or favorite RSS Reader. You can follow many of these on Twitter. Here are some of our favorites – please use the comment box and let us know where you go on the web to stay current with what is happening in science.

Science 360 News Service
Science 360 gathers news from scientists, college and university press offices, popular and peer-reviewed journals, dozens of National Science Foundation science and engineering centers, and funding sources that include government agencies, not-for-profit organizations and private industry. This portal provides links to audio, video, picture of the day, and selected blog posts (What the blogs are saying today). So if you only have time to look at one resource, this is probably the one you want to look at. One news blast each day.

Wired Science
This blog follows in the footsteps of the parent magazine – an eclectic mix of really interesting stories that cover all science disciplines. Lots of cool images and embedded videos. Not a lot of opinion – mostly summaries of the science that is happening now. Usually one post a day – sometimes two. Also covers some mathematics topics – here is a good one: Mathematical Modeling for Surviving a Zombie Attack!

DotEarth: Nine Billion People, One Planet
In this New York Times blog, Andy Revkin explores the climate, sustainability, and other environmental issues facing us as the global population continues to grow. Frequent thoughtful, well-researched posts, interviews, and interactives will keep you up-to-date with the issues facing our planet.

Bad Astronomy
The guy that writes this blog, Phil Plait, the webmaster of Bad Astronomy, worked on Hubble Space Telescope. He is famous for debunking quite a few science myths (he doesn’t believe in alien encounters). This is a personal blog – he fights the misuses of science and praises the wonder of real science. Usually one post a day.

Science Buzz
Science Buzz, a blog from the Science Museum of Minnesota, is a way to dig deeper into science headlines and share questions and concerns with scientists, museum staff, and other visitors. Bloggers focus on science in the news, emerging research, and seasonal science. They encourage readers to be part of the buzzzzz. Two or more posts most days.

Science News – The New York Times
The science page of the NYT brings together all of the science content from the media outlet – articles, video, science blog posts (including DotEarth), letters to the editor and much more. The page is updated each day.

NPR Health Blog
This blog covers news about health and medicine. It is written and reported by NPR’s Science Desk. Two or more posts each day.

Tween Tribune
Many middle school science teachers expect their students to keep up with science news and trends. If you’re looking for a news source aimed at early adolescents, check out TweenTribune, which uses a blog tool to share fresh science news each week. TweenTribune also provides national and world news, entertainment, and a growing list of book reviews written for tweens.

ScienceDaily
ScienceDaily summarizes the top science news stories from the world’s leading universities and research organizations. These stories are selected from among dozens of press releases and other materials submitted to ScienceDaily every day, and then edited to ensure high quality and relevance. Updated several times a day with breaking news and feature articles, seven days a week, the site covers discoveries in all fields of science. A good search tool and readable content make this site very user-friendly.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 10/14/2011.

Can You Turn the Broken Solar Lights Back On?

Recently, a reader asked for ideas on teaching about solar-powered lights. She wrote:

I would like to find an activity that utilizes the solar panels from garden solar lights. I know that I could probably find many broken solar lights and was wondering if anyone has any ideas? Electricity and solar panels are not my best areas. Thanks, Denise, 8th-grade science teacher.

Solar power is becoming increasingly popular as more people realize its environmental advantages. It produces no climate-changing gases and it is relatively cheap. A careful look around and you are likely to spot devices running on solar power, such as a highway alert signs or your neighbor’s landscape lights.

A study of solar panels or photovoltaic (PV) cells aligns well with the National Science Education Standards, which indicate middle-level students should acquire abilities of and understanding about scientific inquiry and technological design. The Physical Science standards suggest students gain knowledge of properties and changes in matter and transfer of energy.

The science of PV cells is more abstract than most middle school students are ready for, since it operates on principles of atomic particles’ properties and distribution. But the issue can be explored from the core concept of transfer of energy. That is, solar energy enters the “black box” of the PV cell and is converted into electric energy. Teachers can also set up a variety of circuits and allow students to “discover” which are most effective and hypothesize why. Lessons can be extended to discussions of the feasibility of solar-powered homes and factories and the pros and cons of converting from coal to solar energy. Those discussions would connect to the Science in Personal and Social Perspectives standards.

The following resources will provide teachers with background knowledge regarding PV cells. When teachers feel comfortable with the science, they can consider modifying the last resource, a comprehensive high school lab activity, for middle school use.

But, one more thing, Denise — If you have broken solar garden lights, you will most likely need to order the replacement parts from the manufacturer to get them to operate as needed.

Solar Landscape Lighting

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/solar-

How Do Photovoltaics Work?

http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2002/solarcells.htm

Spotlight on Photovoltaic Cells

http://www.teachersdomain.org/resource/psu06-e21.sci.photovoltaics/

Investigating Earth Systems – Energy Investigation 6: Solar Energy

http://www.agiweb.org/education/ies/energy/invest6.html

Lesson and Lab Activity with Photovoltaic Cells

http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/modules/documents/PhotovoltaicCells.pdf


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 11/21/2011.

The Science of Sports

Integrating examples from the wide, wide, world of sports into physics or chemistry lessons will really spark students’ interest. These resources take an in-depth look at how chemistry and technology have had a huge impact on all kinds of sports – from golf to paintball and in addition, follow the theme of the annual National Chemistry Week, celebrated in October. Chemistry: Making It Real
The resources selected for this publication from the NSDL Middle School Portal will help your students understand chemistry at work, using examples that will spark their interest. A basic understanding of chemistry concepts and terminology will prepare them for more abstract studies in chemistry in their high school years and beyond.

Sport Science
The Exploratorium explains the science behind cycling, skateboarding, surfing, hockey, and baseball. Articles, interviews, interactive simulations, video clips, and activities for students provide an in-depth look at all these sports.

Golf Balls
Since the late 1800s, chemists have been called on to find ways to produce lighter, faster, and durable golf balls. This site traces the chemistry that has transformed the ball and promises to create a ball that will “soar like a cruise missile, hit the ground at a very shallow angle, and roll for up to 40 yards on hard ground.”

Artificial Snow
Towns that depend on skiing for their income watch the skies for signs of snow. If it doesn’t come in sufficient amounts, they can call on companies that make snow. Sometimes snow is needed on movie sets or other indoor sites. Various methods of making snow for different purposes are described here.

Paintball: Chemistry Hits Its Mark
The first paintballs were fired by foresters and ranchers to mark trees and cattle. In the 1980s, someone got the idea that it would be more fun to fire paintballs at people than at trees and cows. Thus the sport of paintball was born. In this article from ChemMatters, learn how the one billion paintballs manufactured each year are a product of chemistry and engineering.

We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/09/2012.

Brave New World of Physics?

What is the

Largest machine
Fastest racetrack
Coldest place
Emptiest space
Hottest spot

on earth?

It’s the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that is scheduled to be “turned on” September 10, 2008. The LHC is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, Switzerland that is 100m underground. It is a particle accelerator where two beams of subatomic particles called hadrons will travel in opposite directions inside a circular accelerator, gaining energy with every 17-mile lap, and finally collide. Physicists are using the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. The collider is currently cooling down to its final operating temperature of approximately
-271.25 °C (1.9 Kelvin).

There are many hypotheses as to what will result from these collisions (including the end of the world as we know it). Collisions in the LHC will generate temperatures more than 100,000 times hotter than the heart of the sun. Physicists hope that under these conditions, protons and neutrons will ‘melt’, creating a state of matter that probably existed just after the Big Bang when the universe was still extremely hot. Measurements on the particles created in the collisions – their paths, energies, and their identities – will be recorded and analyzed. Physicists are also hoping that the LHC will help them understand why our universe appears to be composed almost entirely of matter, but no antimatter.

The physics behind the LHC is, of course, beyond the understanding of middle school students. However, the LHC is a wonderful example to use when talking about the differences between science and technology and that technology provides tools for investigations, inquiry, and analysis.

Facts and Figures
This fact sheet describes the amazing specifications of this machine.

A Giant Takes on Physics Biggest Questions
This 2007 article from the New York Times describes the history of the project and provides a description of Higgs-boson, aka the God particle.

Doomsday Fears Spark Lawsuit
This March 27, 2008 blog post by MSNBC.com science editor Alan Boyle describes the lawsuit brought against the builders of the LHC “…over fears that the experiment might create globe-gobbling black holes or never-before-seen strains of matter that would destroy the planet.”

Twists in the Doomsday Debate
This August 19, 2008 blog post by Alan Boyle brings us up-to-date with the lawsuit and how the collider is still on schedule.

We Need Your Help

We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School Portal science publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.

Physics Fun at the Fair

Many kids and adults judge an amusement park’s fun factor by the thrill derived from its biggest and fastest roller coaster. What’s behind the thrills and chills? Ride designers use basic physics concepts involving force, motion, friction, direction, and speed to simulate danger as well as make the rides safe. According to the National Science Education Standards, middle school students need a strong foundation in the same basic concepts. The following resources illustrate how physics puts the fun in amusement park rides.

Funderstanding Roller CoasterNSDL Annotation
A Java applet allows students to manipulate their own simple roller coaster. Students can change the height of two hills and a loop, the speed and mass of the car, and the gravity and friction being applied. By experimenting with these variables, students will see how basic physics principles guide the engineering behind the design of real roller coasters.

Amusement Park PhysicsNSDL Annotation
You learn how the laws of physics are applied to many favorite amusement park rides, including roller coasters, bumper cars, carousels, and free fall and pendulum rides. A glossary and related resources are provided.

Centripetal Force: Roller Coaster LoopsNSDL Annotation
What can be learned from a roller coaster ride? This video segment of a real ride explains the difference between centrifugal force and centripetal force and illustrates how roller coasters rely on centripetal force to give you a thrilling ride.

Make Tracks
At this site, you can design a roller coaster and then climb aboard and see how it rides! Watch the ride from right above the car itself or, if your stomach isn’t up to that, from a fixed position away from the track. Students will get a continuous readout of the coaster speed and acceleration. A fun site!

We Need Your Help

We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School PortalNSDL Annotation publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.