Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 17, 2014

Chemistry for Kids

I was doing some research to answer some of the cool chemistry questions my fifth graders asked today and stumbled onto a wonderful site about CHEMISTRY !!  It has so much information.  I wish I had all day to go through it.

Here’s a sample of what you will find!!  Enjoy!


     Atoms Around Us

You are made of different types of atoms.

Atoms are building blocks. If you want to create a language, you’ll need an alphabet. If you want to build molecules, you will need atoms of different elements. Elements are the alphabet in the language of molecules. Each element is a little bit different from the rest.

Why are we talking about elements when this is the section on atoms? Atoms are the general term used to describe pieces of matter. You have billions of billions of atoms in your body. However, you may only find about 40 elements. You will find billions of hydrogen (H) atoms, billions of oxygen (O) atoms, and a bunch of others. All of the atoms are made of the same basic pieces, but they are organized in different ways to make unique elements.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 13, 2014

San Diego STEAM Maker Festival


Start your engines……….The big STEAM Maker Festival is here.

Saturday, DECEMBER 6th…Del Mar Fairground.

STEAM-Science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics…all rolled together to make for an awesome event. The STEAM Maker Festival is a wonderful science opportunity that will inspire you to create, learn and discover. Don’t miss this amazing hands-on event. The STEAM Maker Festival is a celebration of STEAM Education in schools and the MAKER Entrepreneurs that grow from it. The Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego will host this years STEAM Maker Festival. 120 booths dedicated to students, crafters, makers, venders and small business celebrating a world of creativity.

I would love to hear from all that attend!

Ms. Isom

Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 30, 2014

Halloween Periodic Table

Here’s a new way to view the building blocks of all matter.  Check out the Halloween  Periodic Table of Elements!

Click here for printable poster version available online!!


Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 14, 2014


We are in a drought, but what is a drought? This is a great area of conversation as it affects all aspects of our lives.  Some of the great areas to discuss are water reclamation, desalination, reduce water use, alternative solutions for better water conservation and so much more.  Please enjoy this new water education site.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 14, 2014

Solar System Alert!

As we study the Solar System in 3rd and 5th grade, we are constantly learning about the ongoing addition of new scientific data.  For example, the declassification of Pluto  continues to provide many opportunites for us to discuss changes in scientific thought.  The world of Astronomy just keeps giving us new ideas and concepts to explore.  There are a number of amazing links on this fun site about the Worlds of the Solar System and beyond!! You could spend hours reading.  Hope you can teach me something new from what you discover on this site!

Posted by: tpsciencefun | April 24, 2014

Meet A Real Astronaut!

2014 Space Day Celebration

Saturday, May 3rd 2014, 10am – 2pm (click here for link)

Kids are free with an adult admission. (Adult discount coupon available online.)

The San Diego Air & Space Museum will host its 11th Annual Space Day celebration! Space Day will feature demonstrations, giveaways, and hands-on activities with local and national space experts.

Attendees also have the chance to meet a real astronaut!

Local astronaut Woody Spring, whose ambitious spacewalks from the space shuttle helped prepare for the construction of the International Space Station, is planning to join us and share stories of his dynamic space career.

Tons of great activities including:

  • Touch a Meteorite
  • Build & Fly a Paper Rocket
  • Talk to Space Experts
  • Design Your own Space Patch
  • Coloring
  • Free Posters
  • Giveaways
  • Fun for All Ages!

Kids 17 and under are FREE with a paid adult admission. Discounts on general adult admission are available here.

Ripley’s: Believe It or Not! and simulators are an extra cost.

As an extra bonus, the Museum’s Space Galleries are open for viewing throughout the event, including a flown Apollo spacecraft, moon rocks, and space suits!

Invited Presenters include NASA, JPL, XCOR, SETI, Lockheed Martin, San Diego Astronomy Association, UCSD EarthKAM, The Planetary Society, SPAWAR, Virgin Galactic, Aerospace Legacy Foundation, Sally Ride Science, Astronaut Teacher Alliance, Boeing, and many others.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | March 18, 2014



EXPO Day at PETCO Park

Saturday, March 22, 2014 – 10:00am to 5:00pm

EXPO DAY at PETCO Park is the Festival’s culminating event with more than 130 organizations providing interactive, hands-on activities showcasing STEM from around the San Diego Region.

Parking: $5

With special thanks to the Padres and ACE Parking, the San Diego Festival of Science & Engineering will have discounted $5 parking options in the Lexus Lot, Parcel C Lot and the Parkade Lot.

EXPO Day Parking Map PDF

Kids Meal Packs: $5

PETCO Park will offer a $5 kids pack that will include a hot dog, juice box, and a cookie.

Food Policy

Activity Fee:   Free
Ages:    Pre-K / Grade School / Middle School / High School / College/Beyond
Topics: Animals / Anthropology / Archaeology / Art / Astronomy / Biology / Biotech / Chemistry / Computers / Ecology / Education / Energy / Engineering / Entomology / Environment / Forensics / Geology / Math / Medicine / Oceanography / Performance / Physics / Robotics / Zoology / Other
Region: Central San Diego
Where:  PETCO Park
San Diego, CA 92101
Posted by: tpsciencefun | March 13, 2014

Butterfly Festival

Join the fun April 5, 2012 at Water Conservations Garden, 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West, El Cajon, CA 92019 .

Time: 9 am-3 pm.

Click here for the full schedule!!

What it’s all about———————-

The Butterfly Festival celebrates the opening of the Dorcas E. Utter Memorial Butterfly Pavilion and the important role that butterflies play in our ecosystem. An exciting program of activities will engage all ages with these amazing insects and show how to attract and support butterfly populations at home.


  • $5 (18+ years)
  • $1 (3-17 years)
  • Garden Members Free!

Admission includes free access to most activities throughout the day.
Ample free parking.

Saturday, March 15, 2014 – 9:00am to 12:00pm

FREE Science Fun for Kids 9-99

Family Fun Rain or Shine and It’s Free! Miramar College will present the annual “Science Fun for Kids 9 to 99”. Sat. March 15, 2014. Come anytime between 9 AM-12 Noon to visit our open labs for hands-on activities such as How to Get DNA From Anything, Come to Your Senses, Building with Bones, Alternative Energy, Painting with Marine Critters, Slime/Molecules, Blast off with Diet Coke, Stop the Epidemic and MORE! No registration is required. The event is in the state of the art labs at San Diego Miramar College’s Science and Technology Building ( for map). Come for as long as you like and ‘yes!’ you can bring your 5 year old. For more info or directions contact or call 619-388-7490. Bring your whole family or your class. Wait…did I say it’s free!

CLICK HERE for flyer.

Activity Fee: Free
Ages: Pre-K / Grade School / Middle School / High School / College/Beyond
Topics: Biology / Biotech / Chemistry / Engineering
Region: Central San Diego
Where: San Diego Miramar College
10440 Black Mountain Rd
Science Building S-5
San Diego, CA 92126
Posted by: tpsciencefun | March 4, 2014

K-8 Intro to Computer Science Course

Here’s a fun website that a 3rd grade parent introduced me to.  Please check it out and see if it might work as a fun, interactive site for your family.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 18, 2013

Lunar and Earthly Landforms

What do you know about Earth’s crust that you walk on everyday??  Here you go-everything you ever wanted to know about landforms!

How about the Moon, our naturally occurring satellite? Does it have landforms? Check out the definitions for lunar landforms below.

Also, take a good, close look at the Moon with the naked eye, through binoculars or a telescope can set the stage for a fascinating exploration of our nearest neighbor in space. Bright areas and streaks, dark areas, and circular features can be discerned easily. Photographs taken from lunar orbit give us even closer looks at the Moon’s surface. The fun part is knowing what you’re looking at and that’s what this activity is all about.

Here’s some good lunar landforms vocabulary:

  • Highlands – bright, extensively cratered areas of igneous rocks rich in the mineral plagioclase and breccias (rocks actually made of broken pieces of many rocks smashed back together again).
  • Maria – dark areas covered by lavas of the volcanic rock type called basalt.
  • Impact crater – roughly circular hole created when something struck the surface.
  • Terraced crater walls – steep walls of an impact crater with stair steps created by slumping due to gravity and landslides.
  • Central crater uplift – mountain in the center of large (>40 kilometer diameter) impact craters.
  • Crater ejecta – material thrown out from and deposited around an impact crater.
  • Ray – bright streak of material blasted out from an impact crater.
  • Multi-ringed basin – huge impact crater surrounded by circular mountain chains.
  • Lava flow – a break out of magma from underground onto the surface.
  • Rille – channel in lunar maria formed as an open lava channel aor a collapsed lava tube.
  • Wrinkle ridge – long, narrow, wrinkly, hilly section in maria.
  • Cinder Cone – low, broad, dark, cone-shaped hill formed by explosive volcanic eruption.
  • Dome – low, circular, rounded hill suspected to be a volcanic landform.

From: Hawai’i Space Grant Consortium, Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai’i,

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 18, 2013

Elements Galore

Take advantage of this great opportunity to learn all about the elements found on the Periodic Table.

The Periodic Table of the Elements is one of your best tools for working chemistry problems and making predictions about the properties of the elements. The online periodic table is useful since clicking on a symbol gives detailed element facts that you can’t get on a single printed sheet of paper. However, it’s really nice to be able to print out the table and move it around on your work space or write on it. Here are a few printable periodic tables for you. Each table prints out perfectly on a single 8-1/2″ by 11″ or standard printer paper page. Please feel free to download these to your computer, print them, and use them as hand-outs.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 14, 2013

Test Your Knowledge of the Moon’s Phases

Phases of the Moon, they are always changing!

What is the phase tonight?  Do you know all the phases of the moon and can you explain why they occur?

Test your knowledge and then see if you’re correct.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 14, 2013

What’s The Voyager Up To Now?

Check out Science@NASA Headline News.  There is up to the minute information about anything space.  I loved learning more about the Voyager since it recently left our Solar System.  Here’s a great explanation of the heliosphere which is the final frontier into the Ort Cloud and interstellar space!

The heliosphere is a vast bubble of magnetism that surrounds the sun and planets. It is, essentially, the sun’s magnetic field inflated to enormous proportions by the solar wind. Inside the heliosphere is “home.” Outside lies interstellar space, the realm of the stars.

So, now that Voyager has offically left the heliosphere here’s a bit more about what they have learned as it journeys further into the unknown.

The Sounds of Interstellar Space

Nov. 1, 2013: Scifi movies are sometimes criticized when explosions in the void make noise. As the old saying goes, “in space, no one can hear you scream.” Without air there is no sound.But if that’s true, what was space physicist Don Gurnett talking about when he stated at a NASA press conference in Sept. 2013 that he had heard “the sounds of interstellar space?”It turns out that space can make music … if you know how to listen.

What does deep space sound like? A new ScienceCast video answers this question. Gurnett is the James Van Allen professor of physics at the University of Iowa and the principal investigator for the Plasma Wave Science instrument on Voyager 1. At the press conference, he played some plasma wave data for the audience. The sounds, he explained, were solid evidence that Voyager 1 had left the heliosphere.

For decades, researchers have been on the edge of their seats, waiting for the Voyager probes to leave. Ironically, it took almost a year for NASA to realize the breakthrough had occurred. The reason is due to the slow cadence of transmissions from the distant spacecraft. Data stored on old-fashioned tape recorders are played back at three to six month intervals. Then it takes more time to process the readings.

Gurnett recalls the thrill of discovery when some months-old data from the Plasma Wave Instrument reached his desk in the summer of 2013. The distant tones were conclusive: “Voyager 1 had made the crossing.”

Strictly speaking, the plasma wave instrument does not detect sound. Instead it senses waves of electrons in the ionized gas or “plasma” that Voyager travels through. No human ear could hear these plasma waves. Nevertheless, because they occur at audio frequencies, between a few hundred and a few thousand hertz, “we can play the data through a loudspeaker and listen,” says Gurnett. “The pitch and frequency tell us about the density of gas surrounding the spacecraft.”

Electron plasma oscillations: The evidence that Voyager 1 crossed into interstellar space.

When Voyager 1 was inside the heliosphere, the tones were low, around 300 Hz, typical of plasma waves coursing through the rarified solar wind. Outside, the frequency jumped to a higher pitch, between 2 and 3 kHz, corresponding to denser gas in the interstellar medium. The transition music to Gurnett’s ears.

So far, Voyager 1 has recorded two outbursts of “interstellar plasma music”–one in Oct-Nov. 2012 and a second in April-May 2013. Both were excited by bursts of solar activity.

“We need solar events to trigger plasma oscillations,” says Gurnett.

The key players are CMEs, hot clouds of gas that blast into space when solar magnetic fields erupt. A typical CME takes 2 or 3 days to reach Earth, and a full year or more to reach Voyager. When a CME passes through the plasma, it excites oscillations akin to fingers strumming the strings on a guitar. Voyager’s Plasma Wave Instrument listens … and learns.

“We’re in a totally unexplored region of space,” says Gurnett. “I expect some surprises out there.”

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 13, 2013

Find Out About Current Events in Space!….what an awesome website.

There are amazing comets now visible in our night sky. To learn more about the events in space this November and in the months to come do some sky searching and have fun.    Be sure to check out the changing phases of the moon and see if you know the planets that our in our sky this month too.  Don’t forget your binoculars and telescopes.

COMET NEWS: Observers around the world report that Comet ISON is now visible in binoculars. The comet is brightening as it plunges toward the sun for a perilous pass through the solar atmosphere on Nov. 28th. It is not, however, the brightest comet in the night sky. As November unfolds, there is a rare gathering of four comets rising in the east before dawn. Visit to find out which one is outshining media-favorite ISON.

Apparently, Comet ISON has surged in brightness by approximately 2 magnitudes in little more than 24 hours. If the trend continues, it could be a faint but easy naked-eye object by the end of the week.

The sudden uptick in brightness could be caused by a fresh vein of ice opening up in the comet’s nucleus. Rapid vaporization of ice by solar heat is a sure-fire way to boost a comet’s visibility. But, as NASA’s Comet ISON Observing Campaign states, “we [really] have no idea.” The comet’s nucleus is hidden from view by a hazy green atmosphere, so events in the interior remain a mystery

Comet Lovejoy is one of four comets now rising in the east before dawn. The other three are exploding Comet LINEAR X1, sungrazing Comet ISON, and short-period Comet Encke, and the brightest of them all. All four are easy targets for backyard optics. Dates of special interest include Nov. 15-18 when Comet LINEAR X1 passes by the bright star Arcturus, Nov 17-18 when Comet ISON has a close encounter with Spica, and Nov. 18-20 when Comet Encke buzzes Mercury. These stars and planets make excellent naked-eye guideposts for finding the comets. Meanwhile, bright Comet Lovejoy is approaching the Big Dipper; if you can’t see it with your unaided eye, a quick scan with binoculars will reveal it

(Information from


Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 6, 2013

Community Science Events with San Diego Science Alliance

San Diego Science Alliance continues to live up to their logo statement as, ” The Catalyst for Improving Science Education in San Diego County”.  To see what they have on their calendar for the next few months and learn about their contribution to science learning click below.

Community Events & Contests:

November is Amazing: A New Film, Comets and an Olympian Speaks! NEW

San Diego Mini Maker Faire Dec 7

Association for Women in Science San Diego (AWIS-SD) Open House – Nov 7th

SDSU’s Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education (CRMSE) is pleased to announce the following events

2014 High Tech Fair Date Announced


Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 15, 2013

What Do Pigeons, Penguins and Flamigos Have in Common?

Bird “Milk”

Like mammals, the young of some birds are fed on special secretions from a parent. Unlike mammals, however, both sexes produce it. The best known of these secretions is the “crop milk” that pigeons feed to squabs. The milk is produced by a sloughing of fluid-filled cells from the lining of the crop, a thin-walled, sac-like food-storage chamber that projects outward from the bottom of the esophagus. Crops are presumably a device for permitting birds to gather and store food rapidly, minimizing the time that they are exposed to predators. Crops tend to be especially well developed in pigeons and game birds.

Crop milk is extremely nutritious. In one study, domestic chicks given feed containing pigeon crop milk were 16 percent heavier at the end of the experiment than chicks that did not receive the supplement. The pigeon milk, which contains more protein and fat than does cow or human milk, is the exclusive food of the nestlings for several days after hatching, and both adults feed it to the squabs for more than two weeks. The young pigeons are not fed insects as are the chicks of many seed-eating birds; instead, the crop milk provides the critical ration of protein.

The milk of Greater Flamingos contains much more fat and much less protein than does pigeon milk, and its production is not localized in a crop, but involves glands lining the entire upper digestive tract. Interestingly, the milk contains an abundance of red and white blood cells, which can be seen under the microscope migrating like amoebas through the surface of the glands. Young flamingos feed exclusively on this milk for about two months, while the special filter-feeding apparatus that they will later employ for foraging develops.

Emperor Penguin chicks may also be fed milk in some circumstances. Each male incubates a single egg on his feet, covered with a fold of abdominal skin, for two months of the Antarctic winter, fasting while the female is out at sea feeding. If the female has not returned with food by the time the chick hatches, the male feeds it for a few days on milk secreted by the esophagus. After its brief diet of milk, the chick will be fed by regurgitation alternately by the male and female as they travel one at a time to the sea to hunt.

Thus three very different groups of birds have evolved the capacity to produce milk as solutions to very different problems: the need for protein and fat in the pigeons, which feed very little animal material to the squabs; the need for liquid food consumption during the development of the specialized feeding apparatus of the flamingos (which would make any other form of food difficult for the chicks to ingest); and the need for a convenient food supplement when breeding on the barren Antarctic ice shelf favored by penguins.

Copyright ® 1988 by Paul R. Ehrlich, David S. Dobkin, and Darryl Wheye.

SEE: Flamingo Feeding; Brood Patches; Urban Birds.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 14, 2013

Making “Mock” Sedimentary Rocks

Recipe from the FOSS Earth Materials Fourth Grade Science Kit.

FOSS Earth Materials Module
© The Regents of the University of California
Can be duplicated for classroom or workshop use.

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

250 ml (1 cup) white flour

125 ml (1/2 cup) salt

10 ml (2 tsp.) alum

125 ml (1/2 cup) water

5 drops red food coloring

5 drops blue food coloring

3 drops yellow food coloring

250 ml (1 cup) coarse sand

125 ml (1/2 cup) gravel, 2 colors

30 ml (1/8 cup) oyster-shell pieces


• Bowl or large zip bag

• Stirring spoon

• Measuring utensils

• Tray, cookie sheet, or plates

• Paper towels

(Makes 18 5-cm rocks)

1. Mix the flour, salt, and alum in the bowl or large
zip bag.
2. Add the food coloring to the 1/2 cup of water.
3. Add the colored water to the flour mixture. Knead
the mixture until it is uniform in color and texture
and no longer sticks to the side of the bag or bowl.
(Add a little more water if the dough is crumbly.)
4. Add the sand and the gravel to the mixture and
knead until it is well mixed.
5. Divide the mixture into 18 balls, varying in size.
Hold a rock ball in the palm of your hand, and
with your thumb make a small hole in the center.
Place 10–12 pieces of oyster shell in the hole and
mold the dough around them.
6. Work the ball of dough in your hands, smoothing
its surface. Flatten the rock so that it is 1– 2 cm
thick. (Thinner rocks dry more quickly.) Create a
set of rocks that vary in size and shape by making
each rock a little different.
7. Put the rocks on a plate or tray. Make sure the
rocks do not touch each other. Place them in a
warm area to dry. Turn them each day so they
will dry thoroughly. It takes them about a week
to dry, depending on the humidity.
NOTE: Do not put rocks in a microwave or electric
oven; they get much too hard. Drying time can be
reduced by placing the rocks in a traditional gas
oven. Don’t turn on the oven. The heat from the
pilot light will dry the rocks in 24 hours.
8. Use a paper towel to wipe the sand and gravel
pieces from the utensils so that the solid materials
do not go down the drain.

Break one of the rocks after 6 days to make sure
they are thoroughly dry and hard, but not so hard
that they can’t be broken in half by hand and
taken apart with the nail (the geologist’s pick).

Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 9, 2013

Why Is the Ocean Salty??

I just love it when students asks me great science questions during class.  What do you think the answer to Olivia’s quesiton about ocean salitnity is??  In case you or any one in your family has ever wondering about this, here’s your answer.  What other questions do you have today???  Ask away….never stop asking questions!  They keep life interesting and exciting. 

By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., Guide

The ocean contains a lot of sodium and chloride, which make salt.

Why Is the ocean salty?

Have you ever wondered why the ocean is salty?

Have you wondered why lakes might not be salty?
Here’s a look at what makes the ocean salty and why other bodies of water have a different chemical composition.
Answer: It’s really easy to understand why the ocean is salty. The oceans have been around a very long time, so some of the salts were added to the water at a time when gases and lava were spewing from increased volcanic activity. The carbon dioxide dissolved in water from the atmosphere forms weak carbonic acid which dissolves minerals. When these minerals dissolve, they form ions, which make the water salty. While water evaporates from the ocean, the salt gets left behind. Also, rivers drain into the oceans, bringing in additional ions from rock that was eroded by rainwater and streams.The saltiness of the ocean, or its salinity, is fairly stable at about 35 parts per thousand. To give you a sense of how much salt that is, it is estimated that if you took all the salt out of the ocean and spread it over the land, the salt would form a layer more than 500 feet (166 m) deep! You might think the ocean would become increasingly salty over time, but part of the reason it does not is because many of the ions in the ocean are taken in by the organisms that live in the ocean. Another factor may be the formation of new minerals.So, lakes get water from streams and rivers. Lakes are in contact with the ground. Why aren’t they salty? Well, some are! Think of the Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea. Other lakes, such as the Great Lakes, are filled with water that contains many minerals, yet doesn’t taste salty. Why is this? Partly it is because water tastes salty if it contains sodium ions and chloride ions. If the minerals associated with a lake don’t contain much sodium, the water won’t be very salty. Another reason lakes tend not to be salty is because water often leaves lakes to continue its trip toward the sea. According to an article at Science Daily, a drop of water and its associated ions will remain in one of the Great Lakes for around 200 years. On the other hand, a water droplet and its salts may remain in the ocean for 100-200 million years.
Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 3, 2013

Would You LIke To Drive An Underwater Robot?

Click here to discover what’s new at Scripps Institution of Oceanography!!

What do you imagine scientists do each day? Maybe stand around in a lab coat and pour things into test tubes? Well, that is something scientists might do, but they also get to go on lots of exciting adventures. They explore thousands of feet under the sea, with robots. Researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, will spend months working at sea, going all over the world, visiting places from Antarctica to Iceland and all the warmer locales in between. And every time there’s a big earthquake, scientists fly to the earthquake location as fast as they can and try to predict the sites of the aftershocks, rushing to record as many as they can using their scientific instruments.

Now, these expeditions aren’t just for scientists anymore. You can have your own scientific adventure! A team of scientists, artists, and students at Scripps has found a way to bring these adventures into your living room through video games. The team has developed games for kids to have fun and learn about earthquakes and oceanography. The games require a Windows operating system, and are available for free download at the new SIO Games website.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 1, 2013

Visit The Water Conservation Garden

We have an amazing opportunity to learn all about gardening in San Diego right here in our own backyard   Please click the link below to discover about classes and actiivities at The Water Conservation Garden.

(12122 Cuyamaca  College Drive West, El Cajon, CA 92019 · 619-660-0614 · FAX 619-660-1687)

Posted by: tpsciencefun | September 26, 2013

Gray Whale Migration Vacation

It’s time, it’s time.  I spotted my first pod of gray whales migrating south this past Monday, the second day of fall.  It seems a bit early, but they had a young whale with them and it is a very long way to swim.  In fact, it’s the longest mammal migration on earth. Each year the gray whales swim from the cold Arctic to the warm lagoons in Mexico and back again.  They do this their entire lifetime. Wow, that’s over 10,000 miles per year.

Get out there and see how many spouts you can spy.  Let me know when, where and how many!!

Check out the link at Journey North’s great website:

Posted by: tpsciencefun | September 23, 2013

Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?


Question: Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?
Answer: When leaves appear green, it is because they contain an abundance of chlorophyll. There is so much chlorophyll in an active leaf that the green masks other pigment colors. Light regulates chlorophyll production, so as autumn days grow shorter, less chlorophyll is produced. The decomposition rate of chlorophyll remains constant, so the green color starts to fade from leaves.
To learn even more click this link to for all sorts of information.
Fun factoid: We travel about 1 billion kilometers as we experience the four seasons and orbit the sun one time.
Posted by: tpsciencefun | June 7, 2013

Plasma Alert

What is the most abundant form of matter in the know universe!?  Clue: the answer is not one of the “ordinary” states known as  liquid, solid or gas!!  Our schools still teach that there are only three states of matter, but that is just not the case.  So, what is the fourth state??  Ask a 4th or 5th grade Torrey Pines’ scientist and you will soon learn about the most original form of matter—-PLASMA.  (From Jefferson Lab, “To put it very simply, a plasma is an ionized gas, a gas into which sufficient energy is provided to free electrons from atoms or molecules and to allow both species, ions and electrons, to coexist. The funny thing about that is, that as far as we know, plasmas are the most common state of matter in the universe. They are even common here on earth.”)

A huge thanks  General Atomics for sending out their awesome scientist, Mr. Rick Lee, to teach us all about it and other cool aspects of physics!!





Posted by: tpsciencefun | June 4, 2013

Sand Magnified

Nature’s beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  Check out this amazing example of nature at its finest by clicking here to see sand magnified by 200x.  Another example of how science never ceases to amaze me!

Be on the look out all summer for nature; it’s surprises and changes all  around you.  Think about this, ” When nature takes its course, it leaves a path to follow”. (      Find your path!


sand magnified


Posted by: tpsciencefun | May 30, 2013


luc and friends

There is no other way to explain frog dissection in Awesome Science other than stating the obvious; it’s awesome.

Here are some amazing photos from this year’s amazing group of fifth grade scientists!! I’m not “amphibianing” you!!

Check it out—————

alexa and elle frogs

frogs 2013

frogs ramirez

dj frogs

ellie frogs

hailey frogsjpg

Posted by: tpsciencefun | May 7, 2013

San Diego Humane Society Visits Awesome Science

How exciting to have the SD Humane Society come visit us in Awesome Science.  This week our 2nd and 3rd grade scientists have been learning about adaptations, ecosystems and food chains to tie in with our study of Biology.

Foster Volunteer - slide

Check out all the wonderful learning programs and interactive opportunities they have at the San Diego Humane Society.  They have a number of locations and do amazing work to help rescue and care for domestic animals.  It’s a fun place to visit even if you’re not ready to adopt an animal.

Programs for Kids

Animal Adventure Camp
Spend a week during spring or summer break learning about and interacting with our adoptable animals!

Birthday Parties
Celebrate your birthday the humane way with San Diego Humane Society and SPCA! (Please give us at least two weeks advance notice to schedule a party.)

Looking for a fun program for your child? The San Diego Humane Society has interactive storytimes at our campus.

Scouts & Group Tours
Bring your class, after-school group or your Boy/Girl Scout troop for a behind-the-scenes tour of our campus.  We often work with scout groups on various community service projects.

Home-School Programs
Home-School students can now join us for a California standards based lesson each month in two different locations. Bring your student in today and let them experience the fun, educational learning we have to offer!

Can’t bring your students to us? We can bring our humane lessons to you!  In addition to our programs on-site at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA, we can bring our humane and character education lessons to your educational setting.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | May 2, 2013

Animal Cams Galore

Live animal cams from around the United States.  Amazing coverage.  Don’t miss it. ( and Audubon)

I have choosen the Osprey, a Bird of Prey, to get you started.  Enjoy!!  Click here to see a slide show of the eggs and baby chicks.  Remarkable.

Osprey couple, Rachel and Steve, Now With Eggs.

Egg-laying was complete with 3 eggs on May 1st. “After a winter in South America, our happy osprey pair has found their way back home,” announced Maine Audubon on Friday, April 5th.

Rachel and Steve make their summer home atop a 30-foot tower located at the Audubon Camp in Maine on Hog Island. Osprey are birds of prey that rely almost entirely on fish, so they nest and raise their chicks near water. Last spring, Rachel laid the first of three eggs on April 29th. She does most of the incubation, while Steve often feeds her at the nest. The chicks began to fly in early August. and will take off for fall migration soon. The pair returns to Hog Island each year in early April after wintering in South America.

How do osprey respond to seasonal change? The images and video captured during the nesting season are your springboard to research and discovery.

Captured on Live Cam The Osprey Nest More Live Cams

Video Clips Include: Osprey Babies Debut Family Roles Born to Eat Pecking Order Daily Details

Presented by and Audubon

Posted by: tpsciencefun | April 11, 2013

Blood and The Circulatory System

What is blood? Where is your blood made? How does blood travel all over and around your body?  Why is blood so important to your survival? The more you learn about the cirulatory system the more amazing it becomes.  This system has three main components: heart, blood and blood vessels.  The heart (a muscle) has two main jobs as it pumps your blood around your entire body: carry oxygen and nutrients to your cells and pick you carbon dioxide gas and waste products. It is a big job!

Take the quiz and see what you have learned!!

Posted by: tpsciencefun | April 9, 2013

Strawberry Ah-Ha!!!

I just love that we can continue to learn something new everyday, no matter how old we get.  I had the most remarkable experience in Awesome Science yesterday when a third grade scientist, Jenny Kim, explained to me that the little dots we see on the outside of a strawberry are in fact not the seeds.  The fact is the true seeds are even smaller and are found inside of each little ‘dot.’  Turns out that the little ‘dots’ that we see  are actually little individual fruits called achenes (ah-keens). (Read below and/or click here.)  And, inside each achene is the true seed.  AMAZING.

I am so proud of Jenny.  Not only did I learn something new from her research, but at the beginning of the year she did not even speak English. Way to go Jenny!!

Strawberries are called aggregate fruits which means that the strawberry is formed through many ovaries ripening.  The “seeds” on the outside of the strawberry are actually
individual little “fruits” that have ripened in their own separate
ovaries.  These little “seeds” are called achenes (ah-keens) and inside
each achene is a little seed!!

Posted by: tpsciencefun | February 19, 2013

Meteors and Asteroids: What is the Difference?

Meteors and asteroids: What is the difference?   Los Angeles Times, Feb. 15, 2013 /4:59 p.m.

Feb. 15, 2013 | 4:59 p.m.

An image of the  meteor that streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on Friday morning . (AP Photo / Nasha gazeta,

A meteor brighter than the sun streaked across a portion of Russia on Friday. At the same time, an asteroid the size of half a football field was zipping by Earth, closer than the moon.

But what is the difference between a meteor and an asteroid?

According to NASA, an asteroid is a rocky body that orbits the sun. Some asteroids are the size of small boulders, others can be up to several miles in diameter.

PHOTOS: Meteor streaks over Russia

Larger asteroids are sometimes called planetoids or minor planets. Very small ones are called meteoroids. A meteoroid can be smaller than a marble.

When an asteroid or a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere it burns up and creates a streak of light (a shooting star). That streak of light is called a meteor.

Most meteors burn up entirely as they pass through the atmosphere, but sometimes they don’t. A piece of a meteor that actually hits the Earth’s surface is called a meteorite.

The meteor that caused the streak of light across Russia was an asteroid before it hit the Earth’s atmosphere. NASA scientists estimate it was about 45 feet across, or about the size of a locomotive, before it was smashed to pieces by the force of hitting Earth’s atmosphere.

Asteroid 2012 DA14, which brushed  past Earth on Friday, was 140-feet in diameter. Since it did not enter Earth’s atmosphere, and has continued on its way, it is still an asteroid.

– Deborah Netburn


Asteroid zips safely past Earth

Meteor blasts hundreds in Russia

‘Young’ black hole is nearby, NASA says; doorway to a new universe?

Posted by: tpsciencefun | February 7, 2013

Scripps Oceanography Alert

What’s happening over at Scripps Oceanography these days??  I love to read and explore their site and related articles. I learn something interesting every single time.  Check it out!!

Here’s a little sample———–

Around the Pier: New Year Kicks Off with Jumbo Squid Invasion

On February 1, 2013 · 2 Comments

Boom of mysterious invertebrates the latest in recent string of inexplicable episodes

The most unforgettable memories Linsey Sala will come away with from a recent squid-fishing trip won’t merely include the sheer numbers of the slippery invertebrates pulled aboard during a nighttime excursion: 800 squid captured in a 45-minute span, including several that will be used for scientific examinations. Her remembrances also will include images of seeing the creatures in the wild, how they quickly changed colors out of the water from white to deep red, and the dark ink that splattered from them and coated the fishing vessel’s deck, a byproduct of the frenzied hunt.

The excursion occurred during a massive influx of jumbo squid to Southern California’s coast in January, a winter anomaly that generated news headlines across the nation.

The jumbo, or “Humboldt,” squid was first recorded in Monterey Bay in 1935. Scientists know that newborn jumbo squid, called paralarvae, can be just smaller than a grain of rice. Full-grown jumbo squid, which live a year and a half to two years, can span 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) and tip the scales at 50 kilograms (110 pounds).

For the past 12 years, strange influxes of jumbo squid seem to be occurring more commonly. Although fishing boat fleets and their squid-hunting customers are quite happy with such episodes, scientists don’t yet have a clear grasp on why they keep occurring.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | February 1, 2013

The Story Behind the Switch

You wake up every day and there are yummy cold things to eat in your refrigerator.  How do they stay cold? You turn on the water and it gets hot.  How does your water get hot?  Why does your bread turn into toast? Why does your doorbell ring? I guess by now you are all hollering, electricity, electricity and you are right!!! But, what is electricity and how does it get to your house?  And even more interesting, how does the electricity get converted into heat, cold, motion and sound?

What is electricity?
“Electricity is a form of energy.  Electricity begins with the smallest of all particles, the atom.  Atoms, although too small for our eyes to see, are in everything.  Atoms also contain protons and neutrons in their nucleus (the center of the atom).  Electrons are contained around the protons and neutrons, and move quickly around them.  This quick movement is what makes the energy in electricity.”
 Check these websites out for more information–
We are so used to just turning on the switch (making a closed circuit), and viola…we have light.  But there must be more to the story behind the switch.  Where and how is electric energy made and how does it get from one place to another?  Here’s the story behind that switch–
“Here’s a step-by-step explanation of the process at work to turn raw materials into the power that lights up our homes, heats our schools and brings comfort to our lives.
  1. Trains and trucks deliver coal to power plants. The plants store the coal in huge piles.
  2. Before it can be burned, the coal must be crushed into small piece and sent on a conveyor belt to bins that hold a one- or two-day supply.
  3. The crushed coal goes through a pulverizer, where it gets reduced to a fine powder. Mixed with hot air, the powder is blown through coal burners into the boiler furnace. In the furnace, the mixture is ignited and burned at a high intensity.
  4. Burning produces a heavy ash, which drops into an ash hopper for disposal. It also produces a lightweight ash, called fly ash that is removed by electric precipitators and mechanical dust collectors before the gases discharge through the chimney.
  5. Water flows through thousands of tubes in the boiler furnace. The furnace converts the water to steam, which collects in a steam drum at the top of the boiler. The steam then travels at high pressure through a steam line into the turbines.
  6. The steam expands inside the turbines, pushing against blades attached to a shaft. That shaft then starts to spin. A large electric magnet attached to the other end of the shaft spins inside a coil of heavy copper conductors, generating electricity.
  7. The generated electricity then goes to step-up transformers where the voltage is increased for transmission through cables.”
Now you have read just a chapter in the amazing store of energy generation to energy use at home.  The Energy Story provides 20 Chapters to answer all your electrifying questions, so you don’t have to be in the dark!
Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 29, 2012

Where Is Your Blood Made?

Where is your blood made?  If you said the heart you are not alone thinking that is the correct answer.  HOWEVER, just ask a Torrey Pine’s scientist and you will find out the correct answer!  Of course, you could also read the article below and then teach others what you have learned!!  (FYI-At the bottom of this post are numerous other links all about blood and your body.)

The average adult has about five liters of blood living inside of their body, coursing through their vessels, delivering essential elements, and removing harmful wastes. Without blood, the human body would stop working.

Blood is the fluid of life, transporting oxygen from the lungs to body tissue and carbon dioxide from body tissue to the lungs. Blood is the fluid of growth, transporting nourishment from digestion and hormones from glands throughout the body. Blood is the fluid of health, transporting disease fighting substances to the tissue and waste to the kidneys.

various blood cellsBecause it contains living cells, blood is alive. Red blood cells and white blood cells are responsible for nourishing and cleansing the body. Since the cells are alive, they too need nourishment.

Vitamins and Minerals keep the blood healthy. The blood cells have a definite life cycle, just as all living organisms do. Approximately 55 percent of blood is plasma, a straw-colored clear liquid. The liquid plasma carries the solid cells and theplatelets which help blood clot. Without blood platelets, you would bleed to death.

When the human body loses a little bit of blood through a minor wound, the platelets cause the blood to clot so that the bleeding stops. Because new blood is always being made inside of your bones, the body can replace the lost blood. When the human body loses a lot of blood through a major wound, that blood has to be replaced through a blood transfusion from other people.

But everybody’s blood is not the same. There are four different blood types. Plus, your blood has Rh factors which make it even more unique. Blood received through a transfusion must match your own. Patients who are scheduled to have major surgery make autologous blood donations (donations of their own blood) so that they have a perfect match.


Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 15, 2012

Got Chemistry?

Just in time for the holidays, has some great links for kitchen science and other interesting concoctions.   Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Here’s one for kitchen science. If you run out of buttermilk, you can make it  by causing a simple chemical reaction!

Buttermilk  – 1 cup (240 ml) can be made in a pinch with—–
1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar plus enough milk to make 1 cup (240 ml) (let mixture stand 5-10 minutes)

Here’s another really cool chemical solution for cut holiday trees and flowers

Holiday tree preservatives and cut flower preservatives contain the same ingredients: a food source for the plant, an acidifier (hard water is alkaline – making the water more acidic helps the plant take in water and food), and a disinfectant to prevent mold, fungi, and algae from growing.

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Minutes

Here’s How:

  1. Nothing could be easier… mix the ingredients together and keep the solution in the base for the Christmas tree or vase, for cut flowers. Both trees and flowers will last longer in cooler areas away from direct sunlight.
  2. Make sure the tree or flower always has ‘water’. Regularly refill the vase or the base where the tree sits. In addition, you may wish to spritz the tree or flowers periodicially with water from a spray bottle.
  3. You can store the solution for 4-5 days at room temperature in a closed container, or two weeks refrigerated.


  1. Do Not Drink! If you plan on making enough tree or cut flower preservative to store, label your container and keep it out of reach of children and pets.
  2. Bleach and vinegar produce toxic vapors when mixed. If you add vinegar or lemon juice, add it to the water rather than mix it directly with the bleach.
  3. If you don’t have corn syrup, you can substitute 4 teaspoons of sugar, dissolved in the water. Some people add a penny to a sugar solution, so that the copper can act as a fungicide and acidifier.
  4. Another common option is to substitute a can of acidic soft drink, like Sprite or 7-Up, instead of the corn syrup and lemon juice. Just add a can of (non-diet) soft drink to a gallon of water, with a splash of bleach.
  5. For flowers, you’ll probably want to cut the recipe: 1 quart water, 1/2 c. corn syrup, 1 tsp. bleach, 1 tsp. lemon juice

What You Need

  • 1 gallon water
  • 2 cups light corn syrup
  • 4 teaspoons chlorine bleach
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar (optional)

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 13, 2012

Just About the Best Solar System Site Ever.

So many great questions and opportunities galore.  Once you get there, click on each planet to learn more.

Here’s a sampling of a few questions:

How did the Solar System form?

What takes up most of the Solar System?

What objects make up the Solar System?

How many planets have we sent probes to, to study?

What is the Kepler Belt and where is it located in our Solar System??

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 13, 2012

What’s The Difference Between an Asteroid and a Comet???

We have been having some good discussions about this very question in Awesome Science.  Just what are asteroids and comets? How are they different and/or alike?  See if you come up with the answers and then read below to see if you were correct.
  1. What are asteroids?

    • An artists renditioning of asteroids orbiting around an Earth-type planet.
      An artists renditioning of asteroids orbiting around an Earth-type planet.

      Asteroids are “metallic, rocky bodies without atmospheres that orbit the sun but are too small to be classified as plants,” according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They are known as “minor planets” and number in the tens of thousands in the main asteroid belt of Earth’s solar system. They are suspected of being made up of material remains from the creation of the solar system approximately 4.6 billion years ago. According to NASA, the largest asteroid is called Ceres, at 600 miles in diameter. The smallest are the size of pebbles.

    What are comets?

    • As opposed to their metallic counterparts, comets are composed of gas, rock and dust. Comets, when close to the sun, become heated so that their gases create “heads” that can outsize planets and a stream of gaseous tail. Halley’s Comet is an example of one such comet that passes by Earth every 76 years. Comets can have elliptical orbits and pass by earth on a consistent schedule. They can be the size of a “small town” according to NASA.

Read more: The Difference between an Asteroid and a Comet |

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 7, 2012

How Does Our Garden Grow??

As we launch into a fall/winter garden and soil drive, I wonder if you know what types of crops we can grow here in our coastal La Jolla community??  We are lucky to have the opportunity to grow a huge variety of plants year round  thanks to our ocean influence and mild climate.  Before reading the list of choices below, see if you can name at least 10 great, edible plants we could plant over the next few months!







  1. Root, Stem and Bulb Vegetables
  • Root and stem vegetables are hardy garden choices for San Diego winters just in case the area does freeze or comes close to freezing. San Diego has average lows during January, its coldest month, of 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Root and stem vegetable seeds can germinate at low temperatures. Winter carrots, parsnips, beets, kohlrabi and other turnips, radishes and leeks can be planted from September until the spring. Potatoes and onions have two winter seasons. Potatoes can be planted from mid-August to September and from February to March. San Diego gardens not overlooking coastal waters can take winter potatoes as late as April. Winter onions can go in between October and December or between January and February. Planting onion bulb transplants will save weeks of soil growing time to allow more planting flexibility. Despite being hardy, root and stem vegetables need sustained daily sunshine. Partial shade will not kill them; but they may grow slower without direct sunlight.

Leafy Vegetables

  • Leafy vegetables also do well in San Diego’s cool season–from December to March–when average highs reach 66 degrees F. Seeds for winter spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, cabbage, leaf and head lettuce and celery can be planted in August through December. Nursery transplants of any of these leafy vegetables can save as much as six weeks of soil growth to allow planting dates in September. The cool season has fewer insects; but cabbageworms can be just as prevalent during the winter months as they are during the summer ones. They can cause damage to all the leafy vegetables in the garden. Winter moths and butterflies may try to feed on them, as well. Leafy vegetables need protection as well as moist soil with plenty of compost.

Flowering Vegetables

  • Flowering vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and artichokes also do well in San Diego’s cool season. They can be added to the garden from August to December and have a long harvest period. Broccoli or cauliflower transplants can be planted from September to February. Winter tomatoes can be planted in August. According to The San Diego Reader website, the best varieties for San Diego are glacier, Oregon spring and Siberian. Tomatoes will need more water and sunlight than the other vegetables in the garden. Winter peas can be planted in coastal San Diego gardens from September to March. Gardens inland can accept winter peas from January to March.
Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 7, 2012

What Do A Compass and the North Star Have in Common??

Now, that’s a very interesting question. Let’s start with asking which way does a compass always point? Correct … North, actually Magnetic North.  Now, where is the North Star in the night sky?  Right, as its name indicates, it gives us a point of reference as to which direction is  North no matter where we are in the North Hemisphere.

So, both a compass and the North Star a valuable navigational tools as long as your compass has not become demagnetized and the skies are not cloudy.

So why doesn’t the North Star move and change locations like the other stars and constellations in the night sky.  Why do the  stars appear to move across the night sky and we see different constellations during the year?  The answer is very easy, the sky is not moving, WE ARE.

Now for the 20 point question, why doesn’t the North Star not move??  Well, I must confess, I had to look up the answer and below is what I learned.  Isn’t great to always be learning something new!!

The North Star, (Polaris), is known to stay fixed in our sky. It marks the location of the sky’s North pole, the point around which the whole sky turns. That’s why you can always use Polaris to find north.

The North Star is a special case because it lies almost exactly above Earth’s northern axis (the North Pole), it’s like the hub of a wheel. It doesn’t rise or set. Instead, it appears to stay put in the northern sky.  How cool is that!!!

Posted by: tpsciencefun | November 6, 2012

Geology Galore-FOSS Home and School Connections!

What are the three rock classifications? How many layers does our Earth have? Is there a rock cycle?  What causes Earth’s surface to change?  Check it out!!!

Geology Resources via FOSS

Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 25, 2012

Just How Many Moons Does Jupiter Have?

Jupiter and its moons. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Jupiter and its moons. Image credit: NASA/JPL

Have you ever wondered just how many moons (satellites) the gas giant Jupiter has?  I thought I knew, but then those astronomers  go and change it again……. and again!! That’s the beauty of science; it’s never dull and always changing.  To read about the latest information I could find regarding the planet with the most moons click HERE.  I hope it’s the most up-to-date information, but remember,  the information is subject to change at a moments notice.

Here’s some interesting information regarding the planet with the most moons and why the number is always changing.


How many moons does Jupiter have?

shuttle divider


Lately, this question has had a changing answer! For many years, we knew of 16 moons for the largest planet in our solar system. In the last few years, about two dozen new moons have been announced by astronomers. However, being announced does not mean that these become “official” moons of the planet. To be recognized by the scientific community as a new moon involves a process which may take several years – and some announced objects never get recognized at all! Let’s explain.

When a scientist makes observations which indicate a new moon, they submit their data and analysis to the scientific community. Other scientists then try to confirm the existance of the new moon by additional observations. If it is confirmed, the data are all submitted to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU is the governing body for astronomy. One of their jobs is to decide what is sufficiently proven and what is not, and then to assign names. If sufficiently confirmed, the IAU gives a preliminary name to the new moon. Scientists get time to consider the name. Finally, at one of their meetings, the scientific membership of the IAU votes on whether or not to accept the object and its name as an “official moon” of the planet. This process (from initial announcement to official acceptance) may take several years.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 19, 2012

How Do Space Craft Make It Past The Asteroid Belt?

I was recently speaking with Linden Scheder (5th grade) and his mom, Nadia about all the incredible Mars discoveries and technology advances  scientists from our own community have accomplishments.  Today’s Rovers and amazing technology have opened up a whole new world of discoveries.  Linden even showed me a photo of his uncle and grandfather with the other awesome scientists that have made this space exploration a reality!!

When we started discussing travel beyond Mars and the Asteroid Belt, I began to wonder how on earth do our satellites, space probes and space crafts get to the giant outer gas planets without being bombarded ?? So, in true science fashion I decided to investigate and this is what I discovered on an amazing NASA website.

Ask an Astrophysicist

The Question????

My friend and I were wondering how do scientists get the space probes that search other planets, like Voyager etc. through the asteroid belt? If the probes went through the asteroid belt wouldn’t they get hit by a rock and get damaged?

The Answer…………………

Planetary probes can pass through the asteroid belt without any problem because, unlike in the movies, there is really a LOT of space between asteroids. More than 7000 have been discovered and several hundred new ones are found every year. There are probably millions of asteroids of various size, but those in the asteroid belt are spread over a ring that is more than a billion kilometers in circumference, more than 100 million kilometers wide, and millions of kilometers thick. Thanks for your questions

Eric Christian
for Ask an Astrophysicist

Posted by: tpsciencefun | October 4, 2012

Igneous Rocks, Volcanoes and Islands

Q. How long does it take for a small island to be created? – Holbrooke S., 10, San Diego, Calif  (Question presented  by Scripp Oceanography)

There are thousands of islands throughout all of the oceans and there are many more seamounts that grew upward from the seafloor but do not reach sea level.  How do these features grow, and how long would it take for them to reach the sea surface so they become an island?

Volcanoes make nearly all ocean islands and seamounts, even though some may be capped with a coral reef.  Seafloor volcanoes grow in spurts. When they are in an eruptive phase, they can easily grow about 300 meters (1,000 feet) in a few weeks or months, such as Nafanua Volcano on Vailulu’u seamount near Samoa in the Pacific Ocean.

That growth rate is good enough to form an island on shallow seafloor, but it is not enough to form one on average seafloor with a depth of about 3,600 meters (12,000 feet).  At this depth, volcanoes would have to have many growth pulses to eventually breach the sea surface and that may take thousands to hundreds of thousands of years.  In fact the chances of a seamount becoming an island is very small.  Once islands form, they are very likely to eventually drown, because they subside with the underlying aging seafloor, and because they are worn down by ocean waves.

– Hubert Staudigel, geologist, Geosciences Research Division

Here’s the answer.  To learn more about other facinating science ideas, questions and answers click here Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | September 21, 2012

Why Does Our Moon Keep Changing?

 Do you know the phases of the moon and can you explain why they occur? Test your knowledge and then see if you’re correct.

Posted by: tpsciencefun | September 20, 2012

Weedies, Leafies and Jellies!

Have you ever seen a leafy seadragon, a dancing jellyfish, a striped shrimpfish? If you answered yes to any of these you must be a marine biologist or a member of the Birch Aquarium at Scripps.  If you want to learn endless, fascinating facts about the ocean and all of its amazing living and non-living ingredients, please plan to visit the Birch Aquarium at Scripps right in our own backyard.


Posted by: tpsciencefun | May 21, 2012

Bacteria—Friend, Foe or Both??

By a show of hands, “Who thinks all bacteria are  bad?? Who thinks all bacteria  good?  Who thinks some bacteria are bad and some are good?  Where am I going with this questioning??  I am leading up to the fact that there are vastly more good bacteria than bad.  In fact, in the human body alone,  there are more helpful (friendly/good) bacteria than all of our human body’s cells combined!!

To learn more, please read the preview from an article in Scientific American!!!  Interesting food for thought!!

“How Bacteria in Our Bodies Protect Our Health”[Preview]

“Researchers who study the friendly bacteria that live inside all of us are starting to sort out who is in charge — microbes or people?”


By Jennifer Ackerman

“Biologists once thought that human beings were physiological islands, entirely capable of regulating their own internal workings.  Our bodies made all the enzymes needed for breaking down food and using its nutrients to power and repair our tissues and organs.  The specialized cells of our immune system taught themselves how to recognize and attack dangerous microbes — (bacteria) — while at the same time sparing our own tissues.

“Over the past 10 years or so, however, researchers have demonstrated that the human body is not such a neatly self-sufficient island after all.  It is more like a complex ecosystem — a social network—containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit our skin,  mouth, intestines and more.  In fact, most of the cells in the human body are not human at all.  Bacterial cells in the human body outnumber human cells 10 to one.  Moreover, this mixed community of microbial cells and the genes they contain, collectively known as the microbiome, does not threaten us but offers vital help with basic physiological processes — from digestion to growth to self-defense.”

Posted by: tpsciencefun | May 16, 2012

Night Sky Magic

Are you always asking yourself when star gazing,  “I wonder what star or planet that is”?  I often do.  Do you want to know when the next solar eclipse or full moon will be??  I ofter do. I really thought about this last night as I observed two very bright planets in the late evening sky.  To discover what they were and will be check out the Griffith Observeratory site listed below.    Happy Gazing!

Posted by: tpsciencefun | May 15, 2012

How Do Whales Sleep?

All mammals breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide with their lungs.  Land mammals do not have to think about breathing,  it happens naturally thanks to the part of our brain called the brain stem.  This area handles breathing and the other  involuntary things our amazing body does  for us.

Whales and dolphins, on the other hand,  need to “think” about breathing.   It’s not the intense type of thinking required for a math test, but a thinking that can occur only when the brain is awake/conscious.  Therefore, whales can’t go into a deep sleep like we can.  So, how do they get their sleep!!?   To discover the answer, click  here.

You might also like to read another related article about killer whales. While at this site, be sure to check out other interesting science questions and answers located further down the page on the far right under  ‘ You May Like’.

Sweet Dreams!

Posted by: tpsciencefun | March 19, 2012

Why Has Spring Sprung?

With the start of another spring, one often hears questions such as, ” Why does spring start today” or “What is the Vernal Equinox” ?

The answer to these questions is really quite simple.  The reason spring has sprung is because on the first day of spring there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness at all latitudes.  Those in the Northern Hemisphere will celebrate the first day of spring while those in the Southern Hemisphere will celebrate fall.

The vernal equinox (also known as the spring equinox) marks the beginning of spring and the end of winter, again,  because  at this specific time  the length of day and the length of night are equal.  This only happens twice a  year, on an equinox.  The fall equinox is called the autumnal equinox.


Posted by: tpsciencefun | September 29, 2010

Why Do We Have Seasons?

The reasons for the seasons are really quite clear, starting with a star that’s really, really near.   The other reasons for the seasons are our yearly orbit around the sun and the Earth’s tilt.  Read on to learn more!!

Earth’s Tilt Is the Reason for the Seasons!

During the year, the seasons change depending on the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth as it revolves around the Sun.

The seasons are caused as the Earth, tilted on its axis, travels in a loop around the Sun each year. Summer happens in the hemisphere tilted towards the Sun, and winter happens in the hemisphere tilted away from the Sun. As the Earth travels around the Sun, the hemisphere that is tilted towards or away from the Sun changes.

The hemisphere that is tilted towards the Sun is warmer because sunlight travels more directly to the Earth’s surface so less gets scattered in the atmosphere. That means that when it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter in the Southern Hemisphere. The hemisphere tilted towards the Sun has longer days and shorter nights. That’s why days are longer during the summer than during the winter.

In general, the further away from the equator you travel, the cooler summer and winter temperatures become. At the equator there are no seasons because each day the Sun strikes at about the same angle. Every day of the year the equator receives about 12 hours of sunlight. The poles remain cool because they are never tilted in a direct path of sunlight. Much light is scattered by the atmosphere before reaching the Earth surface at the poles. During midwinter, when a pole is tilted away from the Sun, there is no daylight at all. The sun never rises! However, during the summer, a pole receives sunlight all the time and there is no night!

Last modified October 31, 2006 by Travis Metcalfe.

Older Posts »