Join us at the Barnes and Noble in Littleton for a Steve Spangler Book Signing

Meet Colorado’s Science Guy – our own Steve Spangler. He will be at the Barnes and Noble at 8136 W Bowles Ave. in Littleton, Colorado on Thursday, December 6th between 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. to sign his books, Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes and Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste. Books will be available for purchase at the store.

Unlike our past book signings, Steve will not have a show or hands-on experiments. He will have some fun activities at the book signing table.

Here’s a map to Barnes and Noble in Littleton.

We hope to see you there!

12 Days of Smart Toys Starts Today

Today, we celebrate the march toward the holidays with our 12 Days of Smart Toys.Each weekday, we will offer one of our 12 Educational Toys as the Deal of the Day.

We can’t tell you which item will be offered each day or the amount of the discount ahead of time. Deals start each morning at 12:00 a.m. and are in limited quantities.

To be the early bird who gets the science toy, sign up to receive the Deal of the Day emails.They are sent early each morning with all the details of the day’s sale with a link to the Deal of the Day.

And don’t forget…December 17th is the last guaranteed day you can place an order and get it there by Christmas and pay ground shipping.

 

 

Mad Bubble Scientist – An Indoor Bubble Experiment for All Ages

By Genny Upton from In Lieu of Preschool 

Bubbles!  Who doesn’t love bubbles!?!  We certainly love them at our house, but with the weather getting colder by the day, blowing bubbles outside is NOT at the top of my to-do list!  An easy solution we’ve found to beat the cold is to blow bubbles indoors!  It’s not very messy because we blow the bubbles on a table top.  They are quite spectacular to see and kids as young as 2 or 3 can participate!

We first tried the Mad Bubble Scientist activity printed on the Action Card we picked up from Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh, NC about two months ago. We made our own basic bubble solution per the recipe and had a blast blowing bubbles on the table!  We were able to blow really huge bubbles and then play with them in ways like sticking a straw or our finger into them without popping the bubble, blowing bubble colonies, and even blowing bubbles inside of bubbles.    The Action Card suggested some further experimentation ideas, but we didn’t try any of those suggestions…until today!

The new bubble experimenting we did was even more fun than the first!!  The basic plan was to make the same bubble solution we used before, but alter it by adding additional ingredients.  We wanted to know if the additions would affect the bubbles, and, if so, how.

To set up, I started off by boxing off the kids’ art table into 6 sections using masking tape.  I labeled each section with what was going to be in it – regular bubble solution, honey, salt, food coloring, vegetable oil, and sugar.  Next the kids helped to mix up the basic bubble solution in the kitchen by whisking together 1 cup of water and ¼ cup of dishwashing liquid.

We divided the basic bubble solution evenly into 6 disposable cups which I labeled with a marker – regular, honey, salt, food coloring, vegetable oil, and sugar.  The recipe on the Action Card called for 2 Tablespoons of each addition to be added to the basic solution, but since we divided our recipe into 6 cups, we used only 1 teaspoon of each addition per cup.  To the regular cup we added nothing.  To the honey, salt, food coloring, vegetable oil, and sugar cups we added 1 teaspoon of the listed ingredient.  I stirred them until everything was dissolved, and then placed the cups into the properly labeled box on the kids’ table, along with a plastic straw.  I used a medicine dropper to take a little of each solution and puddle it on the table in the box it belonged.

Then the kids and I dipped the ends of our straws into the cups, placed the dipped end into the little puddle on the table, and blew gently to create bubbles right on the table top.  We had a lot of fun trying and comparing all the different bubble solutions.

 

In the end, my two preschool-aged children made some pretty interesting scientific observations.  Lilah, 3, said her favorite was the honey because it blew the biggest bubbles without popping.  Luke, 4, said he really liked them all, but the food coloring was his most favorite because he really liked the green bubbles.  And we all noticed it was really hard to blow bubbles with the salt solution.

The Mad Bubble Scientist experiment is really such an easy activity to set up and you probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen already.  It’s also simple to clean up; just be sure your table/surface is non-porous, especially when it comes to the food coloring.  If in doubt, always test it first yourself.  Everything we used wiped right off when we were finished experimenting!

Hands-on science is so great for kids and it can start with something as simple as dish detergent, water, and a straw!!  The next time it’s too cold or rainy to go out, stay in and blow some amazing bubbles!!

 

 

Genny Upton is a former elementary and reading teacher turned stay at home mom to two preschool aged children.  She writes the blog, In Lieu of Preschool, where she shares activities she does with her kids at home instead of sending them to preschool.  She regularly posts arts and crafts, early learning activities, free printables, posts on parenting, as well as reviews and recommendations for products, books, and curriculum.  You can connect with In Lieu of Preschool via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (), or Google+.

Creating Unforgettable Learning Experiences

By April Oaks

Growing up, I did not like science.  It was by far my least favorite subject.  I didn’t understand it and it certainly wasn’t fun.  With exception to an amazing physics teacher in high school, I never had any other teachers who helped me see any value in science.  I did have great teachers… just not in science.

 

Now I’m the mother of a science nut!  I have a son that is crazy about science.  He is smart and curious and has a strong desire to learn all he can about science. As his mom, I feel an obligation to teach him all I can, and help encourage the good things he is interested in.  A few years ago this was a problem, because I still didn’t like science.  However, I knew I had to get over that to help encourage my son’s desire to learn.   So, I did what I needed to… I faked it.  I pretended to love science.  I also researched simple science concepts, and found lots of science experiments to do with my kids.   Thank goodness our kids start out small so I didn’t have to know a lot in the beginning.

Soon enough, I didn’t have to fake a love for science; I really did love it!  I began to love it because I found out it could be interesting and fun.  Steve Spangler has been my main resource for everything science because he has such a fun way to present all concepts.  His videos are especially helpful and entertaining to watch.

If you are a teacher or parent who wants to create unforgettable learning experiences, copy Steve’s enthusiasm and have fun with your kids.  Don’t lecture!  It’s easiest to learn when you are having fun.  Make things explode, create a mess, and learn about the things around you.  Science is awesome!

Here are some of my favorite ideas from Steve Spangler.   Don’t just watch the videos, read how things work.  Steve’s explanations are easy to understand and so fascinating!  If you don’t see an explanation for how something works, click on tabs surrounding a video or product until you do.  You are going to feel so smart when you see how simple science concepts help you understand complex principles.

  1. Egg Drop  – Newton’s Law of Inertia is Awesome!  I still can’t believe this worked so easily!
  2. Boo Bubbles - You have to try this!  However, if the Boo Bubble container isn’t in your budget, you could try this experiment to build your own.
  3. Vanishing Jelly Marbles - This is one of my son’s favorites.
  4. Marshmallow Masher  – Just fun… and cheap!
  5. Windbags  – Seriously, incredible.  Such an easy way to understand a complex principle.  Read how it works here.
  6. UV Beads - Quickly see how sunscreen works.
  7. Centripetal Force Board - Crazy Fun!  We love this board.  You could do similar experiments with a bucket of water, or grocery bags filled with food.
  8. Film Canisters - Nothing makes my son happier than making things explode.
  9. Balloon Skewer - For Halloween we gave out tricks instead of treats.  We put a few balloons, a skewer and instructions on how to do this experiment in a plastic bag for each kid who came to the door.
  10. Walking on Eggs - Unbelievable!  Who would guess an egg could be so strong!


I am a mom to two great kids.  My son Luke is a science lover.  He is so passionate about science, that he has gotten the rest of the family excited about it, including his artsy little sister, Megan.  In our house, we are constantly looking for new ways to learn and experiment.  We talk about science every day, and once a week have Luke’s friends over for his “Monkey Mind Science Club”.  Steve Spangler has been our main resource when we want to learn something new.  In the day, when I’m not talking science with my kids, I’m busy selling real estate in Salt Lake City.  Occasionally I have time for my hobbies too, which include skiing, hiking, photography, graphic design and blogging.

 

 

The Science Behind Cooking a Turkey

By Blog Editor Susan Wells

The turkeys are all defrosting (or at least should be) and come bright and early Thursday morning, millions will be cooking in ovens across the United States. The turkey is the star of our Thanksgiving holiday, so we asked the following questions to find out the science behind it. What is the best way to cook a turkey and why? What happens in the oven while the turkey is cooking?

Anatomy of a Thanksgiving Turkey

Most of a turkey consists of water (about 60% or three parts water to one part fat and one part protein). The water is in the cells of the turkey from the skin to the bones to the muscle and the fat. The meat of a turkey is muscle fibers, connective tissues and fats. The muscle fibers consist mostly of two proteins – myosin and actin. As the muscle tissues are cooked, the proteins start to denature, causing the proteins to coil up and contract the muscle.

When the contracting muscle fibers reach 180° F they begin to break up. The bonds within the molecules begin to break down, causing proteins to unravel and the muscle meat becomes more tender. Of course the longer the turkey is cooked, the more the proteins are denatured and the meat gets tougher.

Connective tissues are not digestible and are too tough to bite through before they are cooked. After the cooking process, the collagen tripe helices are destroyed and the collagen becomes soft gelatin.

As you cook the turkey, muscle fibers contract until they begin to break up at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Bonds within the molecules begin to break down, causing proteins to unravel, and the dense muscle meat to become more tender. Collagen in the bird (one of three protein fibers that attaches muscles to the bone) breaks down into softer gelatin molecules as it unwinds.

If a turkey is cooked too long, the muscle proteins coagulate within the meat and cause dryness.

Moisture

In all of our research, we learned that moisture is the most important piece behind cooking the perfect turkey. It’s also the most challenging. A dry turkey can ruin the meal but an undercooked, bleeding turkey can do the same. So how do you cook a moist and delicious turkey?

Liquid evaporates during cooking through a process called moisture migration. Poultry produces inject their birds with broth and other ingredients before selling them to keep as much moisture as possible in the meat.

The broth contains salt, which helps the bird’s ability to hold in liquids. Some turkeys are also injected with sodium phosphate. This shifts the pH of the bird and pushes protein filaments away from each other to leave more space for liquids.

Fresh turkeys will also be more moist. Freezing ruptures cells and allows liquids to escape. To counter act the freezing process, you can inject your defrosted turkey with broth and flavorings or soak it in a salt-water bath (brining) for a couple of days in the fridge. This will restore some of the moisture and add flavor to the bird. Just don’t overdo it. Too much salt can seriously adversely affect the moisture and texture. Salt will also draw out moisture and is used in curing – think bacon and prosciutto. A sprinkle of salt will cause small droplets to form on the meat’s surface.

I have always brined my turkeys the night before Thanksgiving. It does give the turkey extra flavor and moisture. But the brining process can be messy and difficult. I use a plastic cooking bag and fill it with salt, water, seasonings and orange and lemon slices. Then place the turkey inside the bag and the bag inside the roasting pan to hold it all together.

Roasting Pans

Dark roasting pans absorb more heat and will cook a turkey faster. Aluminum foil will deflect heat and slow cooking. A large pan that touches the oven walls blocks the heat waves. Turn the pan while cooking to compensate for issues that may cause variations in cooking temperatures.

Using a lid will raise the temperature inside the roasting pan and will cook the turkey too fast. The lid will also hold in too much moisture and prevent the skin from crisping. The surface of the turkey must reach 300° F to 400° F (149° C to 205° C) to crisp, which is a much higher temperature reached inside the turkey.

Basting

Basting is supposed to help the meat stay moist during cooking. This is a myth. When you shower, water flows over your skin. It doesn’t pass through it and into your body. The skin of a turkey is just as water-repellent.

Basting does work to spread the fat to speed up cooking because fat is a conductor of heat. The water in the juices slows down the cooking the same way your skin cools down when water evaporates off of it. Baste legs and wings with the hot liquid right from the pan, but let the juices cool down before you use them to baste the breast. This will help maintain some moisture, add flavor and keep your turkey cooking correctly.

Scientists have discovered that one of the most beneficial effects of basting comes from opening the oven door and releasing some of the heat. The temps can drop 100 to 150 degrees and it may take the oven 10 to 15 minutes to recover, giving the meat time to rest.

White vs Dark Meat

The preference over white and dark meat is as deeply rooted as decaf or regular and wine or beer.  The two types of meat are as different as well, light and dark and could come from two different animals. Each type also cooks better at different temperatures and times.

White meat is found in the breast muscles of a turkey. It is fine, lean and oversized after centuries of breeding. Turkeys don’t fly, so the breast muscle isn’t used much and doesn’t contain much connective tissue. Turkeys can fly, but usually only use it to escape predators. The muscles produce a lot of power and fatigue quickly. The breast should be cooked at a high temperature to bring out flavor and for a short time to keep it from drying out.

Dark meat found in the legs and wings has a lot of connective tissue and fat. Turkeys spend a lot of time walking on the ground. The leg muscles are made of red muscle fibers that are adapted for regular and continuous use. The protein uses oxygen to relax/contract so this tissue is rich in capillaries, which give it a deep color and rich flavor. Dark meat contains a lot of myoglobin and is rich in mitochondria, which produce energy for the muscle tissue.  For example, a marathon runner would be expected to have a higher percentage of red fibers in his leg muscles compared with the muscles of a sprinter.

The dark meat should be cooked at a lower temperature for a much longer time to allow the connective tissue to break down.

There are a few methods to slow down the breast cooking and even out your turkey.

1. The best is to take apart the turkey and cook the dark and white meats separately.

2. Place aluminum foil over the breast during cooking to slow down the process and allow the dark meat to cook longer. Just remember to take the foil off the breast near the end of the cooking cycle.

3. Insert stuffing in-between the skin and the breast meat to insulate and slow down the cooking. Take the hot stuffing out as soon as the turkey comes out of the oven. The stuffing will continue to cook the meat and overcook the breast.

4. Place an ice pack on the breast for about 30 minutes before cooking. The breast will start out cooking with a temperature difference and should cook slower than the dark meat. Add about 15 to 30 minutes to the cooking time.

When is a Turkey Cooked Fully? 

The recommended temperature for cooking a turkey is 325° F (163° C). A turkey is fully cooked when the meat is 180° F (82° C) and the stuffing 165° F (74° C). Use a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone.

Why Should a Turkey Rest Before Being Served? 

The temperature will rise inside a turkey after it is removed from the oven. Letting the turkey sit for 10 to 20 minutes and rest (cooking is hard work!) will allow the juices to settle and make the meat easier to carve. This gives you time to warm the rest of the meal so it all hits the table hot and at the same time.

Where Does Flavor Come From? 

Aroma is the largest part of flavor. It is dominated by small volatile molecules that come from cooking the proteins. The cooked turkey flavor or aroma begins at 140°C. If the temperature exceeds Meaty aromas are mostly generated through a series of reactions between proteins and sugars known as Maillard reactions.

 

References: Phys.Org, Washington Post, Discovery News, Exploratorium.edu, Physics.About.com 

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