Category Archives: Science in the News

Boiling Water Turns Into Snow in Subzero Temps a Hoax

As two-thirds of the country is gripped in the clutches of a Polar Vortex, many are spending time outside in the cold trying to create instant snow.

Throwing Hot Water into Freezing Air Does Not Create Instant Snow - It's a Hoax | Steve Spangler Science

Internet videos and stories are telling people to head outdoors in the subzero temps with a pot of boiling water. They claim when you throw the hot water into the freezing air, the result will be instant snowfall.

We hate to burst your frozen bubbles everyone, but this is a hoax. When you throw hot water into cold air, you do get a cool reaction of water vapor and condensation, but you don’t get snowflakes. Only some of the hot water will condensate, but most of it will fall back down to the ground. Many people have been burned after throwing hot water above their head and having it fall down on top of them.

If you want to try this on a safer, smaller scale, you will get the same result from placing a steaming cup of hot coffee in the freezer.

While the reaction of throwing the hot water into the cold air is pretty dramatic, it isn’t creating snowfall. Snowflakes are created when a water droplet attaches to a piece of dirt or dust in a cloud. The hot water droplets don’t have time to attach to anything before they fall back to earth.

If you are in the areas with extreme cold and want to use your scientific skills to experiment and learn, here are a few safe experiments to try. And remember, don’t stay outside very long. It doesn’t take a lot of time for skin to freeze or frostbite to set in. Go out in small bursts and get back where it’s warm.

 Throwing boiling water into freezing air during the Polar Vortex to make instant snow is a HOAX | Steve Spangler Science

Get an Email When the International Space Station is Overhead

The International Space Station is the third brightest object in the sky (after the sun and moon) – it can be seen without a telescope by the naked eye.

The ISS is even visible when spotted over a city and flies over about 90 percent of the Earth’s population.

Backdropped against the Caspian Sea, this full view of the international space station was photographed by a crewmember onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery after the undocking of the two spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

Backdropped against the Caspian Sea, this full view of the international space station was photographed by a crew member onboard the Space Shuttle Discovery after the undocking of the two spacecraft. Image credit: NASA

How do you know when to look up?

NASA is now offering a Spot the Station service. This provides a list of upcoming opportunities to spot the ISS from thousands of world locations. You can also sign up to receive an email or a message on your cell phone when it’s overhead. You will only receive alerts during prime viewing opportune times, like only when the station is high enough over the horizon and in view long enough. NASA believes most will receive alerts a few times a week to a few times a month.

The ISS looks like a fast moving airplane but is much higher and travels thousands of miles an hour faster. It orbits the Earth every 90 minutes.

The station is about the size of a football field and has more livable space than a six-bedroom house, including two bathrooms, a gym and a 360-degree bay window.

ISS Size Compared to a Football Field - Courtesy NASA

ISS Size Compared to a Football Field – Courtesy NASA

Sign up for ISS alerts at NASA

Here are some facts about the ISS, courtesy of NASA

  • The International Space Station marked its 10th anniversary of continuous human occupation on Nov. 2, 2010. Since Expedition 1, which launched Oct. 31, 2000, and docked Nov. 2, the space station has been visited by 204 individuals.
  • At the time of the anniversary, the station’s odometer read more than 1.5 billion statute miles (the equivalent of eight round trips to the Sun), over the course of 57,361 orbits around the Earth.
  • A total of 174 spacewalks have been conducted in support of space station assembly totaling almost 1,100 hours, or nearly 46 days.

The International Space Station is not only an orbiting laboratory, but also a space port for a variety of international spacecraft. As of June 2013, there have been:

  • 89 Russian launches
  • 37 Space Shuttle launches
  • 1 test flight and 2 operational flights by SpaceX’s Dragon
  • 3 Japanese HTVs
  • 3 European ATVs

 

 

 

Move Over 'Selfie' – Merriam-Webster Dictionary Names 'Science' the Word of the Year

Move over ‘selfie,’ there’s a new word of the year in town.

Merriam-Webster, America’s leading dictionary publisher, announced its Top 10 Word of the Year on December 3rd. Their choices weren’t based on the new, hip buzz words, but instead by the lookups on the online dictionary. The words that made their list had the biggest increase in lookups over last year.

Move Over Selfie, Science is the True Word of the Year According to Merriam-Webster | Steve Spangler Science

The words that increased in lookups were not new or headline-worthy, but instead were “words behind the stories in this year’s news.”

‘Science’ saw an increase of 176 percent in lookups in 2013.

Peter Sokolowski, Editor-at-Large at Merriam-Webster believes ‘science’ tops the list because of a wide variety of topics and discussions that came about this year, from climate change to educational policy.

“We saw heated debates about ‘phony’ science, or whether science held all the answers. It’s a topic that has great significance for us. And it fascinates us–enough so that it saw a 176% increase in lookups this year over last, and stayed a top lookup throughout the year,” Sokolowski explained.

Move Over Selfie, Science is the True Word of the Year According to Merriam-Webster | Steve Spangler Science

We decided to have some fun at the recent National Science Teacher Association’s conference in Denver.  Some crazy science teachers took #ScienceSelfies with Steve. Are you a science teacher, science student or science fan? Take your own #ScienceSelfie and share it with us on Twitter using the hashtag. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler Share your #ScienceSelfie with us on Twitter. @SteveSpangler

 

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2013:

  1. science
  2. cognitive
  3. rapport
  4. communication
  5. niche
  6. ethic
  7. paradox
  8. visceral
  9. integrity
  10. metaphor

 

 

 

11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow

Fort Lauderdale, Florida sixth grader Peyton Robertson may revolutionize how we protect ourselves and property from flooding.

Earlier this month, he won the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for his sandless sandbag. The Young Scientist Challenge is sponsored by 3M and the Discovery Channel Education and is open to students in grades 5 – 8. The 2014 challenge opens in late December. Student scientists can win cash prizes and trips.

11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow

Courtesy ABC News

Robertson, who wants to be an inventor when he grows up, has invented a sandbag that doesn’t use sand to stop flooding. His bag is “sandless” and contains a much lighter polymer. Sandbags weigh about 40 pounds each, but the sandless sandbag only weighs only a few pounds.

The sandless bag is filled with a mixture of an “ultra-fluid” polymer and salt. When the bag gets wet, the polymer absorbs water and expands, keeping water from seeping through the cracks between bags. This bag is heavy when expanded and won’t float away either.

11-Year-Old Invents Sandless Sandbags That Use Polymer Similar to Insta-Snow

Courtesy ABC News

The polymer looks very similar to our Water Gel or Insta-Snow, or the polymer found in a baby diaper. Insta-Snow starts out as a fine white powder, but when water is added, the powder absorbs it and quickly expands.

Insta-Snow Powder - Water Absorbing Polymer

Robertson says he came up with the idea after he and his family hid in a closet during Hurricane Wilma in 2005. It was the third hurricane in the 2005 season to reach Category 5 status. Wilma was also the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic and was responsible for 62 deaths. His neighborhood was devastated by the damage, so Robertson set off to find a way to keep the water out.

 

Source: ABC News

 

 

Tragedy in Colorado – The Science Behind a '100 Year Flood'

The Colorado Front Range is still reeling after a major storm dumped more precipitation on areas in 24 to 48 hours than they receive in an entire year. The result was 20-foot walls of water rushing down the sides of mountains, rivers coming over their banks, roads and bridges washed away and houses flooded. Hundreds of roads and bridges washed away across the Front Range. Some places, like the town of Lyons, became islands completely surrounded by water.

The Science Behind 100-Year Floods

Lefthand Canyon washed away Submitted By: Laura
Courtesy 9News, Denver

The flooding has effected 17 Colorado counties with the most devastating in Boulder and Larimer counties. Parts of Jefferson County around Golden and Evergreen and Arapahoe County in Aurora are also affected.

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