Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Kid's Astronomy: Sun Part 3

I almost forgot!

Or, if you prefer to be more precise:

Although, to be honest, since plasma is just an ionized gas (gas with the electrons stripped away), I prefer the first song. Mostly because it's catchier.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Big Trip: G'Day Australia!

We ended up flying from Hawaii into Melbourne instead of Brisbane on Friday, and we're glad we did!  We got there in the afternoon and got settled into our hotel before evening, which meant we had time to get to Prince Phillip Island for the penguins.  Choclo and Oob were over the moon!

The next day, we rented a van and visited  the Healesville Sanctuary, a fantastic zoo for all Australian wildlife, but with a special emphasis on platypuses.  We love platypuses!  And koalas, and wombats, and lorrikeets, and all the Australian animals, really!  

Late in the afternoon, we started the drive to the Elvis family.  We stopped for the night in Wadonga and went to Mass there at Sacred Heart Wadonga on Sunday morning.  Then we spent most of the rest of the day traveling, getting to Sue's house in time for tea and scrumptious scones by Gemma-Rose!

We are hoping to stay and relax with them on Monday, maybe run with them and ask about all their trees.  Mostly it will be nice to sit and chat and have tea together!  Then on Tuesday, we are planning to return the van at Canberra and fly off to camp at Uluru.

We brought them each imaginary cowboy hats from America!  And some fossil shark teeth, and Old Bay.

Total so far: Plane tickets: $19,000, Other expenses $3800.

And a big thank you to Bill, who loaned us his souvenirs from his actual trip to Australia which helped immensely with the planning!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Poem of the Week

Still celebrating Easter, and now, Divine Mercy Sunday!


by R.S. Thomas

As I had always known
he would come, unannounced,
remarkable merely for the absence
of clamour. So truth must appear
to the thinker; so, at a stage
of the experiment, the answer
must quietly emerge. I looked
at him, not with the eye
only, but with the whole
of my being, overflowing with
him as a chalice would
with the sea. Yet was he
no more there than before,
his area occupied
by the unhaloed presences.
You could put your hand
in him without consciousness
of his wounds. The gamblers
at the foot of the unnoticed
cross went on with
their dicing; yet the invisible
garment for which they played
was no longer at stake, but worn
by him in this risen existence.

HT: Anita Matthias and the team at Godzdogz
Still Celebrating!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kids' Astronomy: The Sun and Other Stars, Part 2

We left off with the life cycle of our middle sized star, Sol.  But what if Sol had been a large star?

For one thing, we wouldn't be here.  If you have a really massive star, planets in the "Goldilocks zone" (where you have liquid water) tend to get tidally locked so that one side of the planet always faces the sun.

For another, massive stars (with their massive gravity), squish hydrogen much faster, so they live less long. They live brighter and hotter, but shorter lives.

Incidentally, the color of the stars is directly related to their temperature.  What do you think the
blue where it's hottest
hottest color is?  Most of the kids thought, "red hot," but if you look at a candle flame, you can see this is not so.   The outermost (coolest) edge of the flame is red, the innermost (hottest) heart of the flame is blue.

And so it is with stars: the coolest stars are red - only about 3000 degrees.  Medium hot stars (like the sun) are yellow, about 6000 degrees.  The really hot stars are blue and white, and they can be 30,000 degrees!  These are all surface temperatures, of course.  The core of the star, where the fusion takes place, is much hotter.  Our sun had a core temperature of 14 million degrees!

Back to those massive stars, after their hydrogen is helium and their helium is carbon and oxygen, they can go right on squishing!  Carbon and oxygen become neon, which gets squished into magnesium, then silicon, then iron.  Then the star can't "squish" anymore.  It explodes into a supernova!

The explosion tosses off gas and dust into an interstellar nebula... Which then begins to condense into new stars.

Meanwhile, what is left of the star becomes either a neutron star or a black hole!

I don't know if you've see the wonderful You Tube going around about gravity/ black hole models, but I really wanted one!  The best I could do on my budget was to put the stretchiest material I could find over a hula hoop.  It's gathered fairly loosely with a rubber band under the hoop.

A small mass (a marble) dented the material in the same way that a small object (like a moon or a planet) bends space around itself.  A large mass, like the rock (or star), bent the fabric enough that the smaller mass would orbit around it!

So.  We have all these stars, in all these stages of the star cycle, scattered throughout the universe and clumped into galaxies.  Most of them are millions of light years away, so how do we study them?

We study their light!  With things we want to study here on earth, we put them under a microscope to see their parts.  With light from space, we use a telescope with a spectrometer.  Believe it or not, building four working spectrometers was in the budget!

You take a paper towel roll and cut a slit near one end at a 45 degree angle.  That slit is where you will put an old CD, or part of a CD (I cut mine into fourths to make four instruments).  The CD is going to spread out your light into a spectrum.  You also need to cut a rectangular viewing hole above the CD so that you can see that spectrum.

On the other side of the roll, cover the open end with foil.  Cut a slit in the foil so that it lines up with the CD.  That slit will allow a narrow beam of light into the tube and onto the CD, the CD will spread the light by wavelength, and you will view a column of separated light through the viewing hole on the top.  More detailed instructions here (HT: Aurora Lipper)

Solar spectrum from a professional!
You point the slit at the light source you are interested in.  We looked at a number of florescent lights first, because these lights only emit certain wavelengths, so you get bright bands of widely separated colors.  We looked at warm tone, cool tone, yellow, and "black" florescents, as well as an incandescent bulb (which gives a much fuller spectrum) and then, of course the sun!

Amazingly, even our home made spectrometers, we were able to see the black lines in the sun's spectrum!   These lines are the elements in the sun itself that absorb certain wavelengths of light.  Each star has a pattern of these lines which tell us exactly what it is made of!

We finished up with a brief discussion of constellations.  I showed them some flashlight constellations (you put foil over the flashlight, prick the pattern of holes in it, then shine it on the ceiling), how to use a star chart, and lastly, the constellation illusion.

Not so lined up!
Essentially, the only place the constellations exist is on earth.  At other points in the universe, the stars just don't line up that way.  I used my lab assistants as the stars and had them line up as a straight line "constellation."  This is how the constellations look to us: as if the stars are lined up at the same distance.

Then I moved my assistants so that they were at varying distances.  From one spot, they still looked like they were all in a straight line, but from every other vantage, they were in a different pattern.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The Big Trip: Aloha Hawaii!

Aloha, and a big thank you, Annabelle!  We are leaving Hawaii today and on the plane to Australia, but what a great time we had in Hawaii!

On Wednesday morning we went whale watching, and saw the last of the humpbacks leaving for the north.

In the afternoon, we took a volcano tour to see Kilauea erupting!

Thursday we hiked up to Makapu'u point, toured the pineapple plantation, and attended a luau with fire dancers!  So fun!

And, since Annabelle and her family went with us, we got the kama'aina ("child of the land") discount wherever we went!  Thanks again! And thanks Annabelle and Judy for all of the ideas of what to see and do!

Total so far: Plane tickets: $19,000, Other expenses $2500.

Kid's Astronomy: The Sun and Other Stars Part 1

 We all know that the closest star is the sun, but what is the sun's name?  It's Sol, as in the solar system!

What does our star do for us?  It provides most of the energy on the earth!  Heat and light are obvious, of course, as is solar energy, but really, almost everything is solar energy.

The energy our bodies use to stay alive comes from the sun via plants (and the animals that eat plants).

The energy in the gas that powers our cars comes from ancient plants, and so does the coal that powers our electric plants.

Even wind energy comes mostly from the heat from the sun causing changes in our atmosphere.  Really, only nuclear energy and geothermal energy create energy that does not come from the sun - even tides are partially caused by the sun!

But where does the sun get it's energy?  To answer that, we had to look at how stars are formed.  I used the kid model.

We started out with kids scattered across the yard the way dust and gas are scattered in a nebula.  As the kids moved around, whenever they touched, they stuck together.  As the clump of kids got bigger, they were able to pull more and more kids in.

To no one's surprise, as the mass of kids got larger and larger, the kids in the middle started getting more and more squished.  I took two little girls of equal size and squished them together until.. POOF!  They turned into Mxyl!!  (OK, actually, they ducked out of the way and a previously unnoticed Mxyl popped up in the huddle).

This is very much like hydrogen getting squished into helium: it not only changes size, it changes it's characteristics into a whole new element!  The interesting thing is that the mass of the girls did not equal the mass of Mxyl: where did the extra mass go?

Sure, everyone knows it now.
You've heard of  e=mc2, right?  That extra tiny bit of mass is released as energy.  Energy that is equal to that tiny mass, times the speed of light squared.  Everyone knows that.

Except most people don't realize that when you square the speed of light, that number is fantastically high - like 35 billion!  A little mass makes a lot of energy!

And the sun actually converts 4 million tons of it's own mass into energy every second!

We only receive a tiny fraction of that energy here on earth, of course.  And we don't have to worry about the sun losing too much mass, either.
 We are in the sun's main sequence, the main part of a star's life which it spends fusing hydrogen into helium.  The sun has been doing this for 4.5 billion years, and is expected to continue for another 5.4 billion years.

After that, the hydrogen will be used up, and the sun will fuse helium into carbon and oxygen.  I asked the older kids: carbon and oxygen, where have we heard that before?

Us!  We're made out of stars!  Yep.

Now the sun, while fusing helium, will expand into a red giant, and by "expand" we mean it's size will encompass earth's current orbit.  (Not to worry, humans will be gone from the planet one way or another by then!)

 Then the sun will throw off a great deal of it's mass into a planetary nebula.  The rest will remain as a white dwarf until it burns out.

That's all because the sun is a small star. If it were a BIG star, that's another story!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Movie Time!

Mxyl and Klenda took a computer animation course this semester!

Besides the animation, they composed and performed all of the music.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Big Trip! Hawaii!

Aloha!  We came into a giant pile of imaginary money a while back, and we are using it to take an imaginary trip around the world. Keep in mind, our experiences are imaginary... which means you can come along, too!

We are starting with a visit to our friend and long time blog reader Annabelle, who happens to be living in Hawaii just now!

We arrived about 3 pm local time after a 14 hour trip, and have had time to see the blooming plumeria trees and a quick dip at the beach.  Hawaii really is amazingly beautiful!

In the morning, Annabelle is taking us whale watching!  It's the very end of the whale watching season, but I hope we see some!

We brought Annabelle and her family a pretty scarf, some shark tooth fossils, and a tin of Old Bay (a seafood spice from Maryland).

 Thanks, Annabelle! 

What else should we do in Hawaii? 

Total so far: Plane tickets: $4500, Other expenses $450.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Desserts

After 40 days of no desserts (more or less), Easter is the time for what Oob calls Dessert Dessert Dessert.

So.  After finding the Easter baskets and finding the candy filled eggs, we had our extended family over for a traditional ham dinner.

We kept it simple:  ham, potatoes, asparagus, rolls, strawberry spinach salad, and three desserts.

My young cousin made a delicious custard cake.

Klenda made her fabulous chocolate butter cream pie(s).

Choclo and Oob made nests of Chinese noodles, melted butterscotch chips and jelly beans.

And I made jello. Lots of jello.

Have you seen the 17 Cooking Projects Ain't Nobody Got Time For?

I've never been good and making jello layers.  In a fit of insanity Somehow, seeing that shimmering jello rainbow made me think that now was the time to learn.

Lo and behold, I did learn! I actually messed up quite a bit on the first few layers, but, over the course of a lifetime the 12 layers of this project, I learned how to pour perfect layers!

Here's the deal: you have to pour the liquid layer onto a layer that is a bit firm, but still sticky.  The way to do that without the stream of liquid piercing the bottom layer is to pour it over the back of a spoon.

Also, I followed the link from the 17 projects, and it turned out that the original was from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.

I followed their directions pretty exactly except I used water instead of three cups of vodka!

My jello came out quite firm.  I think that I did not need to add the extra unflavored gelatin she uses.  My theory is that alcohol weakens the gelling power and she needs the extra gelatin in a way that I do not.

But it was a fun dessert!  Not something I want to do every week, but fun for a special occasion!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

We completed our Lenten walk with Jesus!

The tomb is empty!

Our scripture cross is complete.

Our branches are filled with fruit.
Our sacrifice beans turned into jelly beans, made sweet by Jesus' sacrifice.

Following tradition, in the rush to get to Mass I forgot to take a picture of the kids in their Easter clothes.

He is Risen!


Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Have a blessed Good Friday

Update by Mxyl and Klenda: our pictures
Minnasan, ohayou.  For contemplation, we drew some pictures of our own.  Here they are:
The first one is Angel's Tears (Tenshi no Namida) by Klenda.  Depicting the terrible events of the Second Sorrowful Mystery from more than one point of view, this not only shows (even aside from the angel) a soldier, a jeering onlooker and Jesus but also Mary, John and a head in the middle--as if uncertain where to go, Klenda tells me.  She also says that the core message is that the head represents us--are we jeering with the bystander, or praying and joining with Jesus's suffering with Mary and John? 
This one is おわり?(Owari?) by me, Mxyl.  It describes the event perhaps moments after Jesus's horrifying death--the loss of His last three drops of Blood.  At the bottom left, the verse Isiah 53:5 shows (but He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity...).  I personally like the name (highlight field below for translation); I find that it seems to imply hope. 
The end...?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gospel Dessert: Palm Sundae?

 My idea was to make these palms out of turnover dough (dyed green).

Then I would use the palms as the base for an ice cream sundae: a palm sundae!

Except my freezer melted down and ruined all my ice cream!

So... Plan B: strawberry palmcakes!

That worked pretty well!

Today is Holy Thursday.  Almost there!

 If your Lent didn't go as you hoped (or even if it did), now's your big chance to prepare your heart as we follow Jesus through these final days!!

Praying that we can all enter deeply into Christ's suffering and rise with Him in Glory.