Archive for August, 2007

Sharks with fingers?

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

It’s scary to imagine sharks having more than just teeth to grab ya with … what would it be like if they had fingers? University of Florida scientists discovered that sharks actually have the genes in their DNA for making fingers, but the developmental time devoted to those genes is too short to actually allow the fingers to appear (Hopefully, I understood that correctly). This discovery apparently surprised the researchers as they didn’t think the “finger genes” would be present at all in sharks. Having learned about the role of small developmental time in not allowing fingers to grow, the understanding could help scientists treat human birth defects involving such digits. Read here for more. The actual paper can be found here.

Florida students make semifinalists cut in science competition

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

The 2007 Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge has narrowed their search down to 400 students for their annual science fair competition. Essentially, students nationwide apply for the Challenge through their local science fairs. Judges review the entries and pick semifinalists based on the entrants’ use and understanding of sound science, and their communication skills. The 400 are then further whittled down to 40 finalists who get to take a trip to Washington D.C. for the real excitement of live science competition. Sounds fun!

Here is the list of Florida students who made the semifinalist 400:

Gainesville — Abraham Lincoln Middle School
Jennifer Frances Kizza (Grade 7)
The Lime Requirements of Soils from the Sub-tropics (Florida)
and the Tropics (Brazil and Uganda)

Gainesville — Howard Bishop Middle School
Kim Cynthia Belanger-Giguere (Grade 6)
The Comparison of Five Types of Cat Litter

Cocoa — McNair Magnet Middle School
Joseph Michael VerValin (Grade 8 )
The Effects of Ginger on Escherichia coli Bacteria

Cocoa Beach — Cocoa Beach Junior/Senior High School
Collin Northcott McAliley (Grade 8 )
Red Tide Triggers, Year Three: Do Land-based Nutrients, Introduced by Humans Play a Role in Stimulating a Karenia brevis Bloom?

Satellite Beach — DeLaura Middle School
Jenna Lynne Pappalardo (Grade 8 )
Helioplex in Sunscreen: Does It Work?

Satellite Beach — DeLaura Middle School
Kayla Nicole Zappone (Grade 8 )
Can Beta-carotene Prevent Agrobacterium Tumefaciens in Helianthus annuus?

Rockledge — Kennedy Middle School
Anthony James Laiuppa (Grade 8 )
Can a Model Rocket’s Aerodynamic Form Be Improved Upon?

Rockledge — Kennedy Middle School
David Alan Sotelo (Grade 8 )
Can the “Bell” Curve of Normal Distribution Be Produced by Plotting the Mass in Grams of Granny Smith Apples?

Titusville — Jackson Middle School
Molli Elizabeth Forbes (Grade 8 )
Is the E. coli in the Indian River Lagoon Antibiotic Resistant?

Lecanto — Lecanto Primary School
Jacqueline Jeanette Dixon (Grade 8 )
Tsunami: Could It Happen Here?

Lecanto — Pope John Paul II School
Bryce Edward De Vine Uzzolino (Grade 7)
Voracious Vermicomposting: Does Nutritive Profile and/or Bedding Temperature Affect Food Preference and/or Rate of Food Consumption for Elsenia foetida?

Parkland — Westglades Middle School
Joshua Michael Feinzig (Grade 7)
Which Bioremediation Agent or Chemical Dispersant Biodegrades the Most Crude During an Oil Spill?

Plantation — American Heritage Middle School
Lindsey L. Precht (Grade 8 )
Feeding Preferences of Echinometra virdis Using Seagrass and Algal Assays

Panama City — Jinks Middle School
Sarah Victoria Warkander (Grade 7)
A Study of Environmental Factors on the Tropic Responses of Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Okeechobee — Yearling Middle School
Kelsey Kay Burnham (Grade 8 )
How Does the Silicon-Rich Soil Amendment, Enviro-Cal CS, Compare to Lime and Dolomite? A Third Year Study

Tampa — Benito Middle School
Kyle Dennis Brackman (Grade 6)
R.A.I.L.–Regression Analysis in Launch

Tampa — Stewart Middle Magnet School
Michael William Goodman (Grade 7)
Which Bridge Would You Truss(t)?

Vero Beach — Dodgertown Elementary School
Matthew Alexander Ten Eyck (Grade 5)
Stain Zapper

Vero Beach — St. Edwards Lower School
Mitchelson Ivar Brooks (Grade 5)
Minor Miners

Stuart — Murray Middle School
Zachery James Egerton (Grade 8 )
Going Barnacles

Stuart — The Pine School
Spencer McNeel Ballantyne (Grade 5)
Oysters and Clams – Not Just for Dinner

Jacksonville — Arlington Country Day School
Anna Irena Pawlowicz (Grade 6)
Are Tenebrio Larvae Friends of the Dark?

Jacksonville — Episcopal High School
Morgan McKay Monroe (Grade 8 )
Essential Oils as an Alternate Energy Source: Comparing the Oil Yield vs. the Heat Value of Plant Oils

Fort Walton Beach — Liza Jackson Preparatory School
Katherine Marie Stone (Grade 7)
Harvesting Light Two: A Study of the Effects of Ascorbic Acid and Tocopheryl Acetate on Free Radical Formation on Genetically Identical Pothos Subjected to Ultra-Violet Light

St. Cloud — St. Thomas Aquinas School
Erin Nicole Lewis (Grade 8 )
Can the Speed of Sound Waves Be Used to Detect Changes in Water Temperature?

Dade City — Centennial Middle School
Joshua Wayne Hammer (Grade 8 )
Effect of Magnetism on T-cell Development

Clearwater — St. Paul’s School
Colleen Siobahn Cambier (Grade 7)
Energy Drinks in Teenagers: Performance, Peril or Placebo? A Blinded, Crossover Clinical Study

Safety Harbor — Espiritu Santo Catholic School
Brendan Patrick Klovekorn (Grade 7)
Friction: “Fact or Fiction”

Oviedo — Jackson Heights Middle School
Neel Sanjay Patel (Grade 7)
ESSAI – Expert Software System Assisted Improvement for FCAT Essays

Winter Springs — Indian Trails Middle School
Danielle Elizabeth Hugh Sam (Grade 6)
String Zing

Melbourne — Ascension Catholic School
Robert Andrew Batista (Grade 8 )
Pykrete: An Analysis of Its Ballistic Integrity

Jacksonville — James Weldon Johnson Middle School
Rick Schinco Schaffer (Grade 8 )
A Comparison of the Activity Levels of Different Age Cohorts of the Asian Giant Tortoise, Manouria emys by Photoperiod

Alva — Alva Middle School
Sarah Catharine Clewell (Grade 8 )
Shock Therapy for Plants 3.0, A Third Year Study

Ft. Myers — Ft. Myers Christian School
Andrew Lee Newman and Bradley James Schneider (Grade 8 )
Natural Methane

Ft. Myers — St. Michael Lutheran School
Samantha Renee Prabakaran (Grade 6)
The “NOISE” About Noise: Effect of MP3 Players on Hearing

Holley-Navarre — Holley-Navarre Middle School
Amber Louise Contant (Grade 7)
Speed of Light in Different Materials

Star gazing

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

The recent lunar eclipse isn’t the only news in the night sky lately. Here is a good summary of celestial observations for the coming weeks.

Every year, on the first weekend in September – Labor Day Weekend in the United States – three bright stars make a wonderful triangle shining overhead.

At 9 p.m. local time any night over this first weekend, look straight up almost overhead and you’ll see three bright stars which, if you connect with imaginary lines, make a huge cosmic triangle that stargazers have traditionally called the Summer Triangle. Every year, these stars can be seen rising over the eastern horizon in early evening announcing the beginning of summer.

Additionally, UCF has a new telescope to play with.

The University of Central Florida will publicly unveil its new, custom-built 20-inch telescope on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

The cutting-edge Ritchey-Chretien telescope allows professors and students to conduct astronomical research that previously had not been possible on campus. The telescope, housed in the Robinson Observatory, gives researchers access to observations either at the dome or via the Internet. Only a few universities have working observatories on campus; the presence of one at UCF provides students and the general public with a rare opportunity.

Lunar eclipse

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

Did you catch the lunar eclipse this morning? Here are some photos in case you missed it. Some info from a short article on the event:

One or two lunar eclipses take place each year. This month’s eclipse was the second in 2007. The last one was on March 3 and 4 and the next one won’t occur until Feb. 21, 2008.

Some eclipse links:

NASA eclipse page.

Wonderful animations at Shadow and Substance.

Mr. Eclipse: Lunar eclipses for beginners.

Everything I needed to know about physics I learned from Hollywood

Monday, August 27th, 2007

No, not really. But that does seem to be the case for many people. Of course, there are plenty of areas where audiences can draw a clear line between entertainment and reality. Superman shooting heat rays from his eyes? I think everyone would agree that is fantasy.

But there is a subtle level right below the surface that people swallow without thinking, and then go through life accepting as fuzzy fact. The speeding bus did clear the gaping chasm, didn’t it? That’s possible, right? Even that might not be a good example for what I’m talking about. This newspaper article describes a scene from a Spiderman movie that better illustrates the point. The audience probably isn’t even remotely thinking about how the bad guy is holding everything, but that right there is the point. It doesn’t strike anyone as odd. Thus Costas Efthimiou’s class at the University of Central Florida about movie physics. I’m not sure about the point in the newspaper story concerning people having a “fear” of science, but I do agree that movies featuring bad science do contribute to the dumbing down of the public.

Apparently, Efthimiou has even tangled with vampires. Brave, isn’t he? I’m not sure if he has anything to do with this movie physics website, but he has written papers about his courses here and here. I love the idea and wish I had an opportunity to sit in on one of his classes.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s a writeup about movie monster biology.

Good shuttle story

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Here is a good story about the recent shuttle landing and a recap of the overall mission. I like how the media is taken to task for putting so much focus on the heat shield tile damage rather than on the mission itself. Astronauts just can’t get any respect, can they? I also like Morgan’s interest in promoting science and math education.

Christa McAuliffe’s backup in the original Teacher-in-Space program, Morgan waited 21 years to fulfill the legacy of the fallen Challenger astronauts. While she did not teach any lessons from space as McAuliffe once planned, she chatted with school kids during two modest educational events and plans a busy schedule of post-flight appearances to promote science and math education.

“What I really want to do is take what this experience was and figure out how we can do a better job to help serve our students and our teachers in a way they want that will be more helpful to them,” Morgan said. “And I would love to figure out how we can make more and more of these opportunities available for more and more of our teachers.”

Google Sky

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

Google Earth now includes a feature called Google Sky. This looks like a cool tool to play with and learn from!

List now down to 7; Yecke made the cut

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

We are now down to seven people in the running for the Florida Education Commissioner job. The next step will be interviews with the candidates in mid-September. 

•William Harner, deputy of the chief executive office, school district of Philadelphia

•Earl Lennard, adjunct professor, University of South Florida; former Hillsborough County schools superintendent

•Joseph Marinelli, superintendent, New York Supervisory District of Ontario, Seneca, Cayuga, Wayne and Yates counties; chief executive officer, Board of Cooperative Educational Services

•William Moloney, former Colorado commissioner of education

•Eric Smith, senior vice president for College Readiness, College Board in New York City; former superintendent, Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Annapolis, Md.

•James Warford, executive director, Florida Association of School Administrators, Tallahassee

•Cheri Pierson Yecke, chancellor of K-12 Public Schools, Florida Department of Education

For anyone just now joining us, please feel free to learn a little bit more about Cheri Yecke: here, here, here, here, and here. That should give you some idea as to why we here at Florida Citizens for Science aren’t excited about Yecke being on this list. There were a handful of stories about the list of candidates narrowing recently. Most of them focused on some late applications being rejected, but one story threw in a nice little tidbit when listing the seven remaining candidates:

Cheri Pierson Yecke, the current K-12 chancellor appointed by Bush. Her conservative views expressed as a political candidate in Minnesota have been rumored to be a hurdle to her appointment under the more moderate Crist.

We can only hope so.