Tag Archives: science

Shadow play

Shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling through the use of puppets and light. It began about 2000 years ago in China when an emperor’s wife died, and his court created a shadow version of her so that the emperor could see her again.

Shadow theatres are still used today. Check out these people building a car out of just a few props!

You too can do it at home with just a torch and some paper shapes. Ask an adult to point a torch at a wall a couple of metres away. Then hold paper shapes between the torch and the wall to cast shadows on the wall. Here’s a good guide for making shadow puppets.

From animals to trees and smiley, sad and scary faces, you can make all sorts. Even your hands can create different animals – though some are more complicated than others! Can you guess what each animal is?Image

Shadows are made when an opaque (non see-through) object blocks light. The size and shape of the shadow depends on the distance between the light source and the object casting the shadow as well as the distance between the object and the surface on which the shadow is cast. The closer you move an object to the light source the bigger it gets. Try it – if you hold your hand ten centimetres from the torch it blocks out much more light than if you hold it a metre from the torch.

 Good luck casting shadows – let us know if you get any good ones!

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How to make a paperclip float

One of the forthcoming activities we are creating is about testing things that float, so here’s an experiment of how to make something float that normally sinks.

All you need float is a bowl of water, a paperclip and some tissue paper.

If you try making a paperclip float in water simply by dropping it in, the chances are it will sink to the bottom, as in this photo.

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However, follow these steps and you may find it floats on the water for some time.

1)      Fill a bowl with water

2)      Place a single sheet of tissue paper flat on the surface

3)      Very carefully, lay the paperclip on the tissue

4)      Using a pencil or finger prod the tissue paper into the water

5)      Hopefully, the paperclip should rest on the surface

If the paperclip floats, this is because it is lying on the “skin” of the water. Water particles have a positive and negative static charge. Because opposites attract, they stick together and create the skin effect, known as surface tension. Simply dropping the paperclip into the water can disrupt this balance, but the gentle actions of lowering the tissue and then the clip, then removing the tissue, allow the surface tension to be maintained.

ImageIn this image, you can see the gentle imprint the clip makes in the water. You might see a similar effect with water insects, especially now it’s spring time. In the below picture, see how the pond skaters’ legs gently depress the surface. The skater uses the water’s skin to its advantage, enabling it to travel over the surface of the pond without sinking.

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Let us know if you have any luck with it or capture any good pond skater photos!

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Scientist under the microscope: Marie Curie

We Love Science wishes to commemorate an exciting historical scientist – Marie Curie. She’s a well-known figure (she even has a charity shop named after her!) but what exactly did she do?

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Curie was an admirable scientist for many reasons. Not only was she a woman facing great opposition in the male-dominated world of science, her efforts helped save and treat many injured people in the First World War. Curie was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the only person to win it twice.

Working with her husband, Pierre, she discovered that when nuclei break down they produce radiations. This means that they are radioactive, a term the Curies coined. They discovered two radioactive elements – polonium and radium.

Following Pierre’s death and during the First World War, Marie worked to develop mobile X-ray units that could be used to diagnose injuries at the battlefront. The International Red Cross made her head of its radiological service and she held training courses for doctors.

During their research, the Curies fell sick and physically exhausted. These effects have been retrospectively diagnosed as symptoms of radiation sickness. They nonetheless persevered, often with raw and inflamed hands caused by handling radioactive material. Curie herself died of prolonged exposure to radiation.

Because of her research into x-rays and the treatment of cancer, the charity Marie Curie Cancer Care was named after them.

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Nature notes on an Easter walk

Stuffed with roast lamb and trimmings, we braved the cold for an Easter afternoon walk. It’s amazing what you can find outdoors when you scratch beneath the surface.

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Take this stump. The tree itself was dead – perfect for firewood! – but at its base you can see the decomposition process already at work.

Once a plant or animal dies, bacteria, fungi and worms (decomposers) leap onto the remains and eat them. What they leave behind becomes part of the soil. See how already the decomposing tree resembles soil. Before long, new plants will be using this very soil to grow. And so the cycle continues!

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Just centimetres away was this plant. Don’t let its demure appearance fool you. Its smell is overpowering – even ten metres away! Its name – wild garlic, also named bear leek. It’s a firm favourite of bears and boars, though no sign of those in Dorset (as far as we know).

But humans can eat them too, and we found plenty of delicious recipes, like wild garlic pasta and wild garlic mayonnaise. We’ve got a bunch of leaves waiting in the kitchen. Watch this space. But watch you don’t confuse wild garlic with its poisonous lookalikes: the Lily of the Valley, and other similar-looking plants.

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There are a lot of deer in Dorset. We stumbled across this well-trodden deer track. We’re keeping our eyes peeled for antlers on the ground because it’s primetime shedding season now. Following the mating autumn months, when bucks (male deer) fought each other and competed for the roe (female deer), they have no more use for them. We’ll let you know if we see any!

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Hayfever

Wimbledon’s just finished, the sun has finally come out, the school year is winding down, and here at Storm we’ve even been out on the hammock.

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But summer isn’t all fun, as a lot of people suffer from hay fever. This means runny noses, itchy eyes and a lot of sneezing. Aitchoo!

Although the flowers look lovely at this time of year, they are the cause of this discomfort, along with grasses and some trees. Why? Because spring and summer is the time for pollination. This is where the pollen on the male part of the plant (the stamen) lands on the female part (the stigma) in order to fertilise it. Sometimes plants can pollinate themselves, but stronger plants are produced when the pollen of one plant is transferred to another.

But how does it get there? Well, sometimes bees carry the pollen from one plant to another. So when you spot a bee this summer, it’s possible that it’s off to pollinate a plant. But the wind also carries the pollen, and so the air is full of it in summer.

If someone suffers from hay fever, it’s because they’re allergic to pollen. So when they breathe a load of it in, it can make them sneeze and generally feel rubbish. Luckily, the pollination season doesn’t last very long and sufferers can take medication to help them.

So next time you look out the window this summer, imagine all the tiny pollen in the air. And if you suffer from hayfever, remember it’s not long until summers’s over!

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From Life Cycle of Plants, one of the activities in Science by Storm

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