Friday, October 15, 2010

Blog Action Day 2010

Today is Blog Action Day 2010 and the topic at hand is water. When I think about the many issues surrounding water, it's hard for me to pick just one to write about.

In James McBride's memoir / family retrospective The Color of Water, the author asks his mother, "What color is God's spirit?" She replies, "It doesn't have a color ... God is the color of water."

I like that quote. It seems fitting, somehow, since "up to 60% of the human body is water" (source: USGS). We live on a planet where 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by water (source: NASA). Water is integral to our daily lives. Regardless of race, class, gender, income, or other dividing lines, every person on earth depends upon water. It is our lowest common denominator. We all need water to survive.

Yet, only 3% of the Earth's water is available as fresh water suitable for drinking (source: NASA). According to the UN, "[one] billion people lack access to [an] improved water supply." Worse, "2.6 billion people lack access to improved sanitation" and "[i]f the 1990-2002 trend continues, it is thought that some 2.4 billion people will be without improved sanitation in 2015 - almost as many as are without today" (source: UN).

What can be done? Blog Action Day is calling upon people to sign a petition supporting the UN's efforts to bring clean water and sanitation to the developing world. The hope is that Blog Action Day will bring attention to this growing, glaring problem and, hopefully, will spur positive change. The United States Fund for UNICEF is sponsoring this petition.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy National Fossil Day!

October 13, 2010 has been designed as the very first National Fossil Day in the United States.

"National Fossil Day is a celebration organized by the National Park Service to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational values." - National Park Service website

So, what is a fossil? "Fossils are the remains or traces of organisms that were once alive," as per the National Fossil Day FAQs page. A fossil could have occurred when a seashell left an impression in ancient mud, or you might find a fossil bone from a prehistoric animal. Fossils can be large or small. More than 230 National Park Service locations work on the preservation of fossils.

I like to collect fossils. I have some fossilized seashells that I found in California and Utah. Some are impressions, or trace fossils, and some are the actual shells, or body fossils. It's always fun to look at the rocks and imagine what prehistoric life must have been like. Remember that some locations - like national parks - prohibit the collection of fossils and other natural resources.

The NPS has a Junior Paleontologist Program for kids ages 5-12. Check out these educational opportunities. You can make your own fossils! National Fossil Day even has its own song. And if that's not enough fossil goodness, visit this list of additional resources about fossils and paleontology compiled by the NPS.


Photo credit: Kevin Walsh, via flickr // CC BY 2.0

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Earth Science Week 2010

In the United States, October 10 - 16, 2010 is Earth Science Week. This year's theme is "Exploring Energy."

An online toolkit, containing an Introduction to Earth Science is available in both English and Spanish from the American Geological Institute.

NASA has also set up a special page for Climate Change: Earth Science Week 2010, where you can test your "energy I.Q.", view Energy Essentials like the image below, and more.

Human use of artificial lights at night in the western hemisphere.

Data courtesy of Marc Imhoff (NASA/GSFC) and Christopher Elvidge (NOAA/NGDC).
Image by Craig Mayhew (NASA/GSFC) and Robert Simmon (NASA/GSFC).

If you live in the US, folks of any age can enter AGI's photography contest for Earth Science Week. The theme is "We Depend on Energy." Photographs may be submitted electronically.

For little US residents, AGI is also hosting a poster contest for kids in grades K-5 on the topic of "Energy on Earth." Entries must be mailed. Older kids can enter AGI's essay contest for US students in grades 6-9. The typed essay must contain no more than 300 words on the topic of "How Energy Powers the Planet."

The winner of each contest will receive $300 and a copy of AGI's Faces of Earth DVD. The deadline for all three contests is this Friday, October 15, 2010. Please visit AGI's contest page for more details.

Want to keep Earth Science Week going throughout the year? Check out AGI's Earth Science Activity Calendar for the 2010-2011 school year. Each month focuses on a different topic and includes some special dates in earth science. You can even sign up for a free monthly E-newsletter - Earth Science Week Update - from AGI.

Good luck with the contests and have fun celebrating!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A New Website for Rocket Lovers

During World Space Week, it seems only fitting to talk about NASA's newly launched Rocketry page. I received this blurb in an Email this week:

"NASA Education is launching a new website to get students and educators off the launch pad and on their way to becoming rocket scientists."

NASA - Rocketry has sets of articles designed for kids in grades K-4 and 5-8 on topics like What is a Rocket? (this is the K-4 version) and What is the Space Shuttle? (this is the 5-8 version). You can compare the designs of model rockets and their full-size counterparts. (I've got to admit, the interactive flash version of this article is more fun!) You can even build your own rocket, but, alas, it's only online. Through NASA Kids' Club, you can build an entire fleet of online rockets with Rocket Builder.

Thinking of a career in rocketry? Read the bios of these engineers and scientists. Learn about educational opportunities like Rocketry Workshops for grades K-12 and the Team America Rocketry Challenge.

The NASA-Rocketry website has also compiled a wonderful collection of podcasts, videos, images, and simulations at their Robotics-Multimedia page. That's where I found this:

Apollo 11 Launch from the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969
Photo credit: NASA

Monday, October 4, 2010

It's World Space Week!

World Space Week is celebrated each year from October 4-10. According to NASA, World Space Week was designated by the United Nations in 1999. The week was chosen, in part, to commemorate the October 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik 1, the first human-made satellite to be launched into outer space.

Search for a special event near you on the World Space Week 2010 Calendar. This year, over 20 countries, from Afghanistan to the United States, are joining in.

Help the European Space Agency and play The Space Game to find a trajectory to Jupiter.

Or, if you are under the age of 15, create art about the moon and send a photo of your artwork to ESA's Space Gallery Competition by October 31, 2010. You could win prizes!

Take some time this week to browse the photos and video on Discovery Space. Visit the space site of the Science Channel to learn which planet matches your personality. (Oh dear. I'm Pluto, the tiny cold planet recently demoted to "dwarf planet.")

Photo credit: Anindo Ghosh, via flickr //CC BY 2.0