Stories tagged activities


Nano at home!: Forget those super-sterile clean rooms.  The DIY Nano app lets you explore nanoscale science in the comfort of your own home!
Nano at home!: Forget those super-sterile clean rooms. The DIY Nano app lets you explore nanoscale science in the comfort of your own home!Courtesy NISE Network
When things get really really small (nanoscale small), they behave completely differently! For example, gold at the nanoscale can look purple, orange, or red; static electricity has a greater effect on nanoparticles than gravity; and aluminum (the stuff your benign soda cans are made of) is explosive at the nanoscale!

If you want to experience some of these nanoscale phenomena first-hand, check out, or download the DIY Nano app. The website and the app were both created by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net for short), and have videos and activity guides, complete with instructions and material lists, so you can do some nano experiments at home! The app was a Parents' Choice award winner for 2012, and was featured in Wired Magazine's review of apps. Definitely worth a look!

Have fun exploring nanoscale properties!

Just in time for Father's Day, MAKE Magazine has come out with a top-10 list of things for kids under 10 to make with Dad. But let's not rely on stereotypes: these activities are fun and simple and can be done by anyone. On the list: make a vibrobot, make a jellyfish casing for your LED throwie, sculpt some play dough circuits, make a mason jar terrarium or a tabletop biosphere, create stationery from junk mail, learn to fold an origami flying disk, power a toy car with a mousetrap, disrupt peace and quiet everywhere with some trick crackers, and end the experience with a frozen chocolate banana pop. Sounds fun, right? So get making!


Buzzketeers, it's a big problem.

A ginormous, hulking, frozen, messy problem.

See, here in St. Paul, we've had a very snowy winter. (As of today, it has been the seventh snowiest winter on record. And the snow season isn't over yet.) When the City plows the streets, they have to put the snow somewhere. And one of the places they put it is the parking lot of the St. Paul Saints Midway Stadium, on Energy Park Drive.

The result?
Mt. Midway: Looking NNW from the few open parking spaces off Energy Park Drive. See those little bamboo fronds at the peak? Who needs Hawaii?
Mt. Midway: Looking NNW from the few open parking spaces off Energy Park Drive. See those little bamboo fronds at the peak? Who needs Hawaii?Courtesy Liza Pryor

The 550-spot parking lot is completely -- and I mean COMPLETELY -- covered with snow. It's 30, even 50, feet deep. And it goes from Energy Park Drive north to the train tracks, and from the stadium west to the end of the property. It's impressive, peeps.

It goes on...: and on...and on...I'm standing on the snow pile, with the peak with the tree to my left (west) looking north toward the train tracks.
It goes on...: and on...and on...I'm standing on the snow pile, with the peak with the tree to my left (west) looking north toward the train tracks.Courtesy Liza Pryor

And here's the problem, friends: the St. Paul Saints season opener is May 8th. And there's no way all this snow is going to melt before then. Baseball needs its parking lot back.

More pictures of Mt. Midway.

So how can we get rid of the snow? Trucking it away isn't an option, and minimal use of fossil fuels is a good thing. Buzzers, it's time to go all Mythbusters here and submit your ideas. If you've got a good one, you might get to see it in action.

What a great way to while away a summer afternoon, sending giant bubbles wafting through the air. I like how some of the bubbles break down in stages. Very cool. Of course there is science behind how soap bubbles form which you can read here. Want to make your own giant bubbles? You could if your got yourself a Bubble Thing. I hope Science Buzz's Artifactor buys one. Last winter he posted a nifty video of bubbles freezing and bursting in sub-zero temperatures, and I'd like to see him do the same thing next winter with giant bubbles.


Tired of being told over and over again to recycle or to buy compact fluorescent bulbs? Conserving energy and reducing waste is important, but it's not always the most exciting way to help the planet. Or is it...?

This Earth Day you can combat your boredom and reduce your carbon footprint with one of these cool Do-It-Yourself projects from the website Instructables. Some are harder than others, but all of them are possible with a little time and elbow grease.

-Recycle old computer parts and keep them out of the landfill

-Turn an ordinary exercise bike into an energy bike

-Plant a green space required!

-Make a water retaining and filtering 'Rain Garden'

-Collect and reuse water with a rain barrel

-Build a double decker drum composter

-Make a five dollar solar thermal water heater

-Build this quick and easy bike trailer

-Make a boat out of recyclables and trash

-Use heat from your television or computer monitor to dry food

-Recycle water bottles into an algae bioreactor

Got other Earth Day project ideas? Share them here! Or better yet, upload your own instructions to the Instructables website and help other people have a fun and functional Earth Day everyday!


Monarch butterfly: Image courtesy The Divine Miss K.
Monarch butterfly: Image courtesy The Divine Miss K.
As with the earlier post this question comes from the handwritten questions people leave for our featured Scientist on the Spot. Not all the questions fall into the given scientist’s area of expertise, but are still good questions, so I’m taking a stab at answering them.

This question is particularly timely: “How many days does it take for a Monarch butterfly to hatch?” Timely not only because the migration of Monarchs to Mexico begins in August, but also timely for me on a personal level as one of my favorite places to visit with my mom, wife and daughter at the upcoming Minnesota State Fair is the butterfly tent! (Which, devoted fairgoers, has moved to east of the grandstand on the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Underwood Street.)

I am assuming the question is really how long it takes the butterfly to metamorphize from a caterpillar to a butterfly. I ask because the caterpillars themselves hatch from eggs. The whole process, from egg to butterfly, takes four weeks. The eggs hatch after 7-10 days, and the process of hatching from the chrysalis takes around two weeks. The length of these stages is impacted by the temperature – the cooler it is the longer this process takes.

Monarch migration patterns: Image courtesy Monarch Watch.
Monarch migration patterns: Image courtesy Monarch Watch.
Now, here is one of the really cool things about Monarchs, I think. Each adult butterfly lives about 4-5 weeks. But once a year in the autumn there is a "Methuselah generation" which will live 7-8 months – effectively outliving the combined lifespan of their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. It is this generation of butterflies that migrates from Canada and the United States to either Mexico (if they are east of the Rocky Mountains) or to the Southern California cost (if they are west of the Rocky Mountains – though this population seems to be shrinking – see an earlier post on this).

It is incredible to me that these insects can make a migration that they have never made before, that their parents never made, their grand parents never made, as well as their great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. Bryan wrote a post on some recent research that butterflies, “sych UV information up with a natural clock in their brain. By combining these two bits of information, monarchs are able to determine the angle of the sun and always head due south,” which I think is really amazing.

Thanks for the great question!


Princeton University is sponsoring its first Art of Science competition. They have asked scientists in the large Princeton University science community to submit images that were created in process of scientific inquiry. One of my favorite examples is a composite picture of 150 people's faces created as part of a Computer Science study.

Here at the museum we often try to think of unique ways to combine art and science. Try this fun activity making paints out of acid base indicators or this activity making bubble art (our results).