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Day 125: The Earth’s Story – Day 2 March 8, 2007

Posted by Admin in Geology, Homework, Links.
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After discussing the definitions of uniformitarianism and catastrophism in class yesterday, today we compared and contrasted these two mutually exclusive theories. Remember – we can’t put these in a venn diagram because these would signify two seperate circles that do not overlap.

Additionally, we discussed what the primary tenets of a debate are. These include evidence being presented from opposing viewpoints, equal time, and other controls being placed on the discussion. The project that will be constructed for this unit is to complete an 8.5″x11″ poster advertising a (fictitious) debate between a catastrophist and a uniformitarianist. Check out the Geology Debate Poster Rubric for full details. In a nutshell: the poster should be visually stimulating, eye-catching, and include all of the following components:

  • Content – details on each theory
  • Examples – multiple examples of the geologic change resulting from each theory
  • Images – images of the examples or of the players

See the Earth’s Story Notes for the full info from today’s class. Also, for some inspiration on the format that can be employed in creating a debate poster, check out these images available online – all controversial, all eye-catching, and all well-produced:

Remember:  The poster should only be on 8.5×11″ paper (no larger) and can be done by hand or on a computer.  All images MUST be sourced!  This project is due on Monday at the start of class.


Day 115: Geology in the News February 22, 2007

Posted by Admin in Geology, Links, Science in the News.
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1. Will dropping clumps of cement into an Indonesian volcano make it stop oozing mud which is inundating entire villages below? This attempt at correcting a man-made problem seems fairly weak. The effort will probably not work, in the expert view of scientists:

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian plans to plug a mud volcano that has displaced more than 10,000 people by dropping clusters of concrete balls into it is unlikely to stop the flow, a Japanese scientist said on Tuesday.

The mud eruption that has inundated entire villages since May followed an oil drilling accident in Sidoarjo, an industrial suburb on the eastern part of Java island.

Numerous efforts to cap the flow have failed and it has become a political and environmental issue, with the government and the drilling company under fire from critics for what they say were lax safety standards behind the accident.

In the latest effort to brake the flow of hot liquid mud, the government has announced plans to drop 1,500 concrete balls in clusters linked by metal chains and weighing around 400-500 kilograms (800-1,000 lbs) each into the mouth of the volcano.

… Two towers are being built to launch the 375 chains of balls into a 50-meter hole from where the mud has been gushing, with each chained cluster consisting of four balls, he said.

2. A great analysis of fulgurites – natural glass made from lightning strikes in sand – is available from Science News Online:

Stroke of Good Fortune: A wealth of data from petrified lightning
Sid PerkinsThe lumps of glass created when lightning strikes sandy ground can preserve information about ancient climate, new research indicates.

Worldwide, lightning flashes occur about 65 times per second. Each bolt releases as much energy as is stored in a quarter-ton of TNT. The flash heats the air to about 30,000°C, about five times the temperature of the surface of the sun. If that electrical discharge strikes sandy ground, it can melt and then fuse sand and other materials into masses of glass called fulgurites, says Rafael Navarro-González, a geochemist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City. Those masses take their name from fulgur, the Latin word for lightning.

A current event write-up (Write a total of 5 paragraphs, one each for the who, what, when, where, and why of the article) for one of the articles above (your choice) is due tomorrow (Friday, 02/23) in class. Be sure to click the link for the story of your choice so you can read the entire article before completing your write-up.

Day 91: Stellar Life Cycle, Day 2 January 18, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Links, Science in the News.
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How do stars die?  That was the big question today as we completed the notes and discussion on the Stellar Life Cycle – Part II. Included in this second half of the stellar life cycle are the phases of the White Dwarf, Supernova, Neutron Star, and Black Hole.  Keep your notes – we’ll be using these in a project that we’ll begin on Monday.  First though, we must more thoroughly explain/discuss the implications of Black Holes.  To accomplish this, we’ll view a portion of a video (NOVA:  The Monster of the Milky Way) tomorrow.

Have you seen the photographs of Comet McNaught snapped from the Southern Hemisphere?  As promised, McNaught is much brighter as seen from the Southern Hemisphere than it was when it was located in our viewing range.  The photographs will likely get even more spectacular in coming days.  Check out Page 11 in particular of the SpaceWeather.com Comet McNaught Gallery for some incredible snapshots!  If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, check out the write-up that our very own Tonganoxie Mirror has done regarding our studying of Comet McNaught.

Day 88: Goodbye, McNaught! January 12, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Links, Quiz, Science in the News.
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Comet McNaught is on its way to a close encounter with the sun. Currently, McNaught is visible even during the daylight hours, but unfortunately, we will be shrouded in clouds (a significant winter storm?) throughout the weekend.


Click map for a larger view of skymap from spaceweather.com

How to find McNaught in the daytime sky: If you’re going to be someplace where the sky is clear over the weekend or early this coming week, be sure to look for McNaught around noon – local time. McNaught will be found approximately 5 degrees to the left of the sun. Check out the sky map. The best way to measure 5 degrees in the sky? Your closed fist, stretched at arm’s length, is approximately equal to 5 degrees. Be careful though – the sun is a formidable foe when it comes to trying to view objects in the daytime sky! Also, do not ever aim binoculars, telescopes, or cameras at or even near the sun – the risk of eye damage is too great! Be sure to look around online to get daily updates on the location, intensity, and projected path of the comet. Below I’ve included some links to help you out.

Friday’s class included a brief discussion of Comet McNaught, as well as a quiz over the green “Scale of the Universe” activity that we completed this week. I will have the quiz graded and online grades updated by Tuesday. Next week we will continue our exploration of the Big Bang, including a lab on the expansion of the universe. Following the lab, the rest of the week will see us exploring the life cycle of stars. Enjoy the long weekend and the wintery weather!

Day 84: Comet McNaught January 8, 2007

Posted by Admin in Astronomy, Links.
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***UPDATE (01/15/07): Comet position has changed since this post. Click here and here see the latest post on this topic***

Today started with large group activity in which students lined up around the room ordering some objects from small to large – everything from the radius of a proton to the height of Mount Everest to the radius of the observable universe. We will continue working with the concept of the Scale of the Universe over the next few days.


Also today we discussed an exciting astronomical sighting that is ongoing this week: Comet McNaught. After discussing the definition of a comet together in class, we viewed a few sky maps and directions (see below) on how to spot the comet. After a fruitless attempt last night, I was able to spot it on the western horizon this evening and encourage all of you to try the same. I will show some photos tomorrow in class and online.

The sky maps (1, 2, and morning map) and directions for viewing available online were lacking the kind of detail that my amateur astronomer tracking experience called for. As such, I’ll detail my experience with a few practical tips that may help you find Comet McNaught from your location.

  • First, Use the Sky and Telescope Comet McNaught Sky Map to narrow in on the proper location.
  • I went out after the sun was below the horizon for about a half an hour. Tonight’s sunset was technically at 5:15pm CDT with the end of Civil Twilight at 5:44pm. This was about the time that I went out and set up.
  • The first object to become visible in the western sky this week (after the sun has set) is Venus. This is an important feature that you can use to find Comet McNaught.
  • The comet first became visible about 3 or 4 degrees above the horizon around 5:55pm. I found it by taking several “scanning” shots of the sky at about 100mm and zooming in on the image on the on-camera LCD. It may very well have been visible earlier, but I was still busy scanning a big portion of the western sky trying to find it.
  • I had along an inexpensive pair of 8 x 21 binoculars, but they weren’t very helpful until after I had already located the comet.
  • The horizontal distance between the comet and Venus was approximately two fists when my arms were extended in front of me.
  • The comet never became visible to my naked eye (my vision is not bad).
  • The comet dropped below the horizon at about 6:05pm.

More on this comet tomorrow, along with some work time on an individual “Scale of the Universe” project.

More photos and comet information on my own page.

Day 59: Radium Dials Project November 10, 2006

Posted by Admin in Chemistry, Homework, Links.
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Image showing a radium watch dial on the right and a second image on the left showing the areas of the watch that are the most radioactive (dark shading). Image source

Today we began the “Radium Dials” project. This project started with research from the Radium Dials Reading handout that focused on the Radium Girls of the early 20th century. This handout should be used to write at least one full page (double sided, or two single-sided pages) of notes on the topic. While you are working on the notes, keep in mind which type of project you’d like to do. You can read about the full details for each project type on the Radium Dials Projects List.

If there are other project types that you would like to complete instead of the five I have listed (such as a persuasive speech or a PowerPoint presentation), run the idea past me and I am likely to approve it. If you would like, I’d also like to set aside some class time for you to present the project to the class. Note you must get prior approval before straying from the 5 listed projects though.

Below are some links to some examples of each type of project.

More links to information about the Radium Girls:

Day 16: Branches of Science Resources September 8, 2006

Posted by Admin in Experimental Design, Homework, Links.

As an additional resource in completing the Branches of Science Graphic Organizer (due Monday!), I have compiled a list of links that should help you find information on the definition, jobs, tools, and technology that is used in each of the five branches of Earth Science. Email me or comment below with any questions or additional resources you may have located.





  • Astronomy.com – all things astronomy
  • NASA – the main webpage for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Wikipedia (online encyclopedia) page on Astronomy

Environmental Science: