Science and Helping Verbs

I love teaching Einsteinian theory, physics, and non-linear time in my basic writing classes.

non-linear time

 

Oh, it’s called Chapter 10: The Perfect Tenses, but that’s just a cover for what it really is: our language’s ability to describe complicated scientific theories with just a handful of helping verbs.

How wondrous is our language, that with the simple addition of “had” or “have,” “shall” or “will,” we can demonstrate that two things happened in the past, but one was before the other. Or that something began in the past and is still happening. Or that something will be done in the future after something else is done in the future.

I think it’s fascinating that what a scientist must explain with diagrams and long complicated essays and models, any one of us can demonstrate with a helping verb.

Matchbox carsI love the whole concept of ‘time,’ anyway, and for this chapter, I try to remember to take three little Matchbox cars to class with me. I almost always forget, though, and I end up using something else to represent the little cars. Today I used tiny boxes of raisins, and pretended the little maiden on the cover was the driver.

Three cars on the highway, all in different spots, yet close by each other. Each is in a different period of time relative to the other. To the one in the middle, the one in front is in the future because it is where the middle car is going but hasn’t reached yet, and the one in back is in the past because it is where the middle car once was but has passed through.

To the car in back, both the other cars are in the future.

To the car in front, both the other cars are in the past.

To Superman, flying above, all the cars are in the present.

To the hitchhiker standing by the side of the road, each of the cars is in the future as long as they are moving, until which time they whizz past, one at a time, briefly sharing the hitchhiker’s present for a split second before zooming into yet another perspective of the future.

Scientists are still trying to figure out the whole space/time thing.  They haven’t figured out, yet, how to travel to the past or the future.

Writers have known how for years.

Our language makes this complicated concept of time into a relatively simple thing.  A tiny little helping verb can illustrate the past, present, future, and any combination thereof.

Back in the middle school, the students fought for the little cars or whatever substituted for them, after this lesson.

Today, at the college level, I asked if anyone cared to have the tiny boxes of raisins and every hand went up. And because I am ever the cool, level-headed, serious professional, I placed all three little boxes on the floor in the middle of the room and walked out. I heard chaos behind me but it really wasn’t any of my business.

Time. It may not be as linear as you think. I am sometimes more inclined to believe that time is more like a tree, or a spiral, than a flowing river. Yes, a tree that grows upward and at the same time puts out intertwining branches that touch, or don’t touch, or a spiral that coils round and round. . . .

Then again, perhaps I’ve been reading too much Madeleine L’Engle. If there is such a thing as too much Madeleine L’Engle, which there isn’t.

Chapter 10: Non-Linear Time and Its Relation To Tiny Boxes of Einstein, raisinsRaisins Which I Understand Einstein Was Very Fond Of The Perfect Tenses.

It’s the same thing, you know.

Relatively speaking.

 

Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.

The Fresh Prince of Science Fair

“The Fresh Prince of Science Fair”
(To the tune of Will Smith’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”)

Screen Shot 2014-07-18 at 12.17.05 PM

Now these are some lyrics all about when
My board got judged with a pad and a pen.
If you have a few seconds, just hang right there,
I’ll tell you how I got a blue ribbon in the last science fair.

In back of the library, past the stairs,
that’s where my school has our science fairs.
Hypotheses, procedures, results, and conclusions
about weird topics like germs and pollution.

...and bowl cuts...
…and bowl cuts…

But a couple of kids didn’t do what they’re told,
forgot to test their guess with any variables.
All those kids got an “F” and then I got scared,
but I remembered all I learned and that I came prepared.

Poster board feelin’ fresh when the judges came near.
They were quickly impressed and said, “It’s looking so clear.
If there were a science band you’d be sitting first chair,
but for now here’s a ribbon. Good job, at this fair!”

I got back to my house about 3 or 3:30
and I yelled to my mama, “It’s cool to be nerdy!”
She smiled at me and had some ice cream to share.
Life is good, as the Prince of the Fair.

ice-cream
Time to invent a time machine.

© DJ Souza for Steve Spangler Science

Show us your Science Selfie & Win a Science Kit

Gone are the days of searching for a good-willed and trustworthy  passerby to ask to take a photo of you and your friend.  (Which has greatly decreased overall camera theft! )

No more sitting still while your Grandma took your picture. Well, I guess we still have to do that..

Actually, we LOVE this photo, and are so happy this grandma (Diane Gribosky) snapped it!
Actually, we LOVE this photo, and are so happy the kids sat still while this  amazing grandma (Diane Gribosky) snapped it!

Thank you technology, for allowing us to turn the camera face around to our selves and take …YES, you know what I’m talking about… The Selfie.

It seems everywhere you look, someone it taking a Selfie.  If you look over your shoulder, the girl who sits next to you at work is probably taking a selfie right now.

Yup, see…

#OFFICESELFIE
#officeselfie

You find Selfies splashed on Facebook walls and Twitter feeds. They are filling up your Snap Chats, and even being sung about on your radio! Maybe, you even see them on our website?!? (Hint, Hint)

So do you embrace the trend, or run away screaming?

NOT ANOTHER SELFIE

No. Stop that… come back here!  We  want you to embrace the selfie.  Love your selfie.

Why, you ask?  Well, because we’d like to ask a favor.

I see you hesitantly nodding in agreement… you know this will be fun!  Ok, ready for the deets?  Here is what we want you to do:

Grab your favorite Steve Spangler Science experiment.  Did you find the one that makes you smile the biggest? Good! Now, get your trusty smart phone in hand, because…

WE WANT TO SEE YOUR BEST SCIENCE SELFIE!

That’s right! Get colorful, get geyser soaked,  slime it up,  wear growing gators as a mustache or whatever your heart desires.  Just make sure your selfie makes you smile!

Here are some examples:

IMG_47190294276284
Not a selfie!
Selfie!
Yay! Slime Selfie!

 

What do you do with your Science Selfie?  That’s a great question! Send them off to us! Share them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or email them to us. Use #SpanglerSelfie so we don’t miss them.

**Our favorite four selfies will win a science kit from Steve Spangler Science.**

Don’t forget to share your thoughts on Selfies by leaving a comment below!

**Send us your selfie by August 1st. Our team of science selfie experts will choose four favorites and notify the winners by Aug. 5th. Winners will have 24 hours to respond with email, phone and address. If they fail to do so in the time frame, another winner will be chosen in their place. Kits will be sent out after Aug. 6th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Geodes and Diamonds – Backyard Geology

Oh, the memories of geodes!  When I was a little kid, I played a lot in the alley that divided our block in two. All of us kids played in the alley. It gave us access to the back yard of every house in the neighborhood, and it was cool in its own right.

Cracking geodes

Alleys were always lined with sunflowers and hollyhocks. In, among, and around the trash cans were the occasional doghouse and small garden. The Pryors had a strawberry patch, which we kids never dared to bother.  There was one huge tree on the alley that was the meeting place for every bird in the county, just before dark. You could hear that tree all over town, as the sun was going down. It was also the only tree in the neighborhood that we kids never played under.

Any day, a kid could find treasure in the alley. Sometimes there was broken glass, which we were forbidden to touch.  Sometimes there were pennies.  Occasionally, there was a quarter, which meant candy bars for all of us!  And there were always geodes.

I never played in that alley without finding geodes. Where they came from each week I’ll never know, but every few days, after we’d gathered them all up and mined the diamonds out of them, more always appeared.

Here in southern Indiana, geodes are everywhere. You can’t plant open geodesflowers without digging up geodes. Any batch of crushed stone you have dumped in your driveway will have geodes in it. It might also have arrowheads; you have to hire your young children to search for those. (That keeps them busy and in plain sight for HOURS; it’s fantastic.)  We can’t mow the lawns here without dulling the blades on geodes.

Geodes come in all sizes and colors; some are as small as marbles, and others are absolutely immense.  I’ve seen people using huge geodes for seats around an outdoor table.  Geodes the size of basketballs on fence posts are a common sight here.  I’ve seen geodes larger than grown men.  People here – including me – line their flower beds with geodes the size of cauliflower heads.

opengeodeWe kids used to gather a pile apiece and take turns ‘busting’ them open with a hammer. The inside is usually a wonderment of sparkly delight. Look up ‘geodes’ and check out the pictures; no two are alike and all have something enchanting inside. We used to pretend we were finding diamonds and rubies and emeralds; once in a while, there will be real amythyst in there.

Clean them, and polish them, and put them where they catch the light. The jewel-lined cavern inside a geode will enhance your dreams and make your wishes come true.

That’s the story, anyway.

I do love finding the geodes, though. You can’t tell by their outsides, what they’ve got on their insides, but you do know that no two are alike, and they’re all beautiful.

Kind of like people.

 

Jane GoodwinJane Goodwin is a professor of expository writing at Ivy Tech Community College, a hands-on science teacher for College for Kids, a professional speaker and writer, and a social media liaison  for Steve Spangler Science.  She wanted to be a ballerina and an astronaut, but gravity got the better of her.