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Kids need Science
Kids Need Science is devoted to demystifying and explaining science, technology, engineering and math words, names, and concepts. Check back often for a science, technology, engineering or math word defined and explained every day.
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Guest Blog for Cwist

I wrote a guest blog for www.cwist.com about how letting student fail at science projects and experiments is a good thing.  You can read it by clicking on the images.

Monday, February 25, 2013
Calling all Etymologers!  Kidsneedscience is looking for talented writers with an interest in word histories and science, technology, engineering and math.  Are you fascinated by science and discovery and love how their discoveries and innovations translate into words and culture?  Are you secretly thrilled to find connections between words you never knew existed?  Consider submitting a sample post-kidsneedscience is looking for contributors to grow this website.  Right now KNS has over 60,000 followers and is growing.  Are you studying molecular biology and want to write about interesting words?  Did you take Latin or Greek in school and wouldn’t mind finding your dictionaries and lexicons on your bookshelf?  Submit a sample post to me via direct message.  Posts can be anywhere from 100-400 words and tell a compelling story about a word or name from science or math.  Students and educators welcome.  
Style guide is short and simple:  third person voice, key word in bold, root words and definitions in italic. If you have rights to a photo or illustration for your word, perfect!  If not we will find one.
Image courtesy the Oxford Universal English Dictionary, published 1937.  Full details here.

Calling all Etymologers!  Kidsneedscience is looking for talented writers with an interest in word histories and science, technology, engineering and math.  Are you fascinated by science and discovery and love how their discoveries and innovations translate into words and culture?  Are you secretly thrilled to find connections between words you never knew existed?  Consider submitting a sample post-kidsneedscience is looking for contributors to grow this website.  Right now KNS has over 60,000 followers and is growing.  Are you studying molecular biology and want to write about interesting words?  Did you take Latin or Greek in school and wouldn’t mind finding your dictionaries and lexicons on your bookshelf?  Submit a sample post to me via direct message.  Posts can be anywhere from 100-400 words and tell a compelling story about a word or name from science or math.  Students and educators welcome.  

Style guide is short and simple:  third person voice, key word in bold, root words and definitions in italic. If you have rights to a photo or illustration for your word, perfect!  If not we will find one.

Image courtesy the Oxford Universal English Dictionary, published 1937.  Full details here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012
On May 10, 1930 America’s first modern planetarium was dedicated:  the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois.  Max Adler created the museum and planetarium after seeing the first projecters in Europe in the 1920s.  The Adler opened two days later on his birthday, May 12.
The word planetarium is a combination of the Late Latin planeta with the Latin suffix -arium meaning a place for.  The word planet comes from the Ancient Greek:  (asteres) planetai meaning wandering (stars). 
While the modern planetarium with electric light projectors date only from the early twentieth century, rudimentary but highly accurate planetariums have existed since antiquity, starting notably with Archimedes. 
Visit the Adler website here.
Image of the Adler Planetarium courtesy Tony the Tiger (Antonio Vernon) under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.

On May 10, 1930 America’s first modern planetarium was dedicated: the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. Max Adler created the museum and planetarium after seeing the first projecters in Europe in the 1920s. The Adler opened two days later on his birthday, May 12.

The word planetarium is a combination of the Late Latin planeta with the Latin suffix -arium meaning a place for. The word planet comes from the Ancient Greek: (asteres) planetai meaning wandering (stars).

While the modern planetarium with electric light projectors date only from the early twentieth century, rudimentary but highly accurate planetariums have existed since antiquity, starting notably with Archimedes.

Visit the Adler website here.

Image of the Adler Planetarium courtesy Tony the Tiger (Antonio Vernon) under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Only one year after the neutron was discovered by Sir James Chadwick, astronomers Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky announced the discovery of the first neutron star.  They had been studying supernova and were looking for a way to understand the life-cycle of a supernova, and proposed that a neutron star was formed from one.  The resulting density then is many many times greater than most stellar objects, with gravities to match.  Composed almost entirely of neutrons, a typical neutron star has a solar mass just slightly larger than our sun: 1.4 to times the solar mass crammed into a diameter of about 12 kilometers!  
Image of the first detected neutron star, now known as RX J 185635-3754.  Image Courtesy NASA/ESA, details on image.

Only one year after the neutron was discovered by Sir James Chadwick, astronomers Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky announced the discovery of the first neutron star.  They had been studying supernova and were looking for a way to understand the life-cycle of a supernova, and proposed that a neutron star was formed from one.  The resulting density then is many many times greater than most stellar objects, with gravities to match.  Composed almost entirely of neutrons, a typical neutron star has a solar mass just slightly larger than our sun: 1.4 to times the solar mass crammed into a diameter of about 12 kilometers!  

Image of the first detected neutron star, now known as RX J 185635-3754.  Image Courtesy NASA/ESA, details on image.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor? Before the first dinosaur was ever named, bones of all kinds were dug out of quarries and bogs and were shown all over Europe and many names were proposed before Megalosaurus stuck. In 1676 the leg bone of a very large animal was discovered in a quarry in Oxfordshire and sent to Robert Plot, Professor at the University of Oxford who published a description in his Natural History of Oxfordshire in 1676. He correctly identified it as the lower part of a femur belonging to what he thought was one of the giants described in the Bible.

Almost a century later, Richard Brookes called it Scrotum humanum, comparing its appearance to a pair of human testicles. The name was not considered to be a proper Linnaean name for an animal, and was not used. The bone was lost and fifty years later William Buckland found more megalosaurus bones in the same quarry and began showing them around. He recognized that the bones resembled those of a modern lizard and called it megalosaurus, combining the Ancient Greek prefix megalo- meaning big, tall or great with sauros meaning lizard.

Parents everywhere are grateful not to be explaining that nomenclature to their dinosaur obsessed children!!!

Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor? Before the first dinosaur was ever named, bones of all kinds were dug out of quarries and bogs and were shown all over Europe and many names were proposed before Megalosaurus stuck. In 1676 the leg bone of a very large animal was discovered in a quarry in Oxfordshire and sent to Robert Plot, Professor at the University of Oxford who published a description in his Natural History of Oxfordshire in 1676. He correctly identified it as the lower part of a femur belonging to what he thought was one of the giants described in the Bible. Almost a century later, Richard Brookes called it Scrotum humanum, comparing its appearance to a pair of human testicles. The name was not considered to be a proper Linnaean name for an animal, and was not used. The bone was lost and fifty years later William Buckland found more megalosaurus bones in the same quarry and began showing them around. He recognized that the bones resembled those of a modern lizard and called it megalosaurus, combining the Ancient Greek prefix megalo- meaning big, tall or great with sauros meaning lizard.

The name Scrotum humanum did not end in the seventeenth century however-due the ‘rules’ governing the discovery, classification and naming of new species of animals, whether alive or extinct, meant that scrotum humanum could legitimately be assigned to the megalosaurus bones. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that W.A.S. Sarjeant submitted a petition to the ICZN to formally suppress the genus name Scrotum in favor of Megalosaurus.

Parents everywhere are grateful not to be explaining that nomenclature to their dinosaur obsessed children!!!

Image of the scrotum humanum in the public domain. Image of the outdated 18th century reconstruction of megalosaurus as a quadruped in the Royal Gardens courtesy C. G. P. Grey. Image of a modern representation of megalosaurus used under CC 3.0 license.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The word amine (and the adjectival form amino) has a long and surprising history-starting with the Ancient Egyptian king of the gods, Amon Ra. But starting a little closer to home, the word amino was coined in 1887 by shortening the word ammonia which itself was a modern Latinization of the Ancient Greek ammoniakos. The word ammoniakos was the Ancient Greek word to denote 'of Amon', from the name of the King of the Egyptian pantheon, Amon-Ra. What is the connection between amines and the King of the Gods? When Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman (1735–1784) coined the word ammonia in 1782, he was thinking of the Roman Temple of Jupiter in Libya, also known to the Greeks as the Temple of Zeus and formerly known as the Temple of Amon-Ra, a source of salt deposits containing ammonium chloride. The building blocks of life and foundation of modern biology, medicine, and genetics are named after the Ancient Egyptian King of the Gods!

Today, amines are defined as organic compounds and functional groups that contain a basic nitrogen atom with a lone pair. Amines are derivatives of ammonia, wherein one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced by a substituent such as an alkyl or aryl group.

Image of Amon-Ra by Dennis Jarvis. Image of Temple of Jupiter by Sebastia Giralt. Image of ammonia molecule by Ben Mills. Image of Amino Acid table by Dan Cojocari, University Health Network, University of Toronto. All images used by permission under CC 3.0 license. Definition of Amines courtesy Wikipedia.

Thursday, November 17, 2011
The word artery comes from the Ancient Greek word arteria which in turn came from aeirein meaning to lift up.  You may remember the recent post on the word aorta-it was coined by Aristotle to describe the function of that artery and utilized the same root word.  The Ancient Greek word arteria meant both artery and windpipe-when Ancient Greek doctors and scientists dissected corpses the blood had all drained out of the major arteries leading some to believe they carried air throughout the body.  An artery carries oxygen rich blood from the lungs to cells in the body.

The word artery comes from the Ancient Greek word arteria which in turn came from aeirein meaning to lift up.  You may remember the recent post on the word aorta-it was coined by Aristotle to describe the function of that artery and utilized the same root word.  The Ancient Greek word arteria meant both artery and windpipe-when Ancient Greek doctors and scientists dissected corpses the blood had all drained out of the major arteries leading some to believe they carried air throughout the body.  An artery carries oxygen rich blood from the lungs to cells in the body.

Monday, November 14, 2011
What is the connection between deep space and human anatomy?  Last week we covered the etymology of meteor, a word largely unchanged from its Ancient Greek roots.  Similarly, the word aorta has changed very little since it was coined by Aristotle to describe the largest artery exiting the heart.  Both used the root aeirein: the Ancient Greek word Aristotle formed was aorte meaning literally what is hung up came from the verb aeirein meaning to lift, heave, raise.  In the case of meteor, it meant after, up, over.  Here, it indicates the both the location and function of the aorta-to lift blood up and away from the heart. 
The human heart from Gray’s Anatomy, image in the public domain. 

What is the connection between deep space and human anatomy?  Last week we covered the etymology of meteor, a word largely unchanged from its Ancient Greek roots.  Similarly, the word aorta has changed very little since it was coined by Aristotle to describe the largest artery exiting the heart.  Both used the root aeirein: the Ancient Greek word Aristotle formed was aorte meaning literally what is hung up came from the verb aeirein meaning to lift, heave, raise.  In the case of meteor, it meant after, up, over.  Here, it indicates the both the location and function of the aorta-to lift blood up and away from the heart. 

The human heart from Gray’s Anatomy, image in the public domain. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011
The Earth’s moon holds a special place in the human heart:  it exists not only as our nearest celestial neighbor, it is also one of the richest sources of metaphor and poetry.  Despite Shakespeare’s denigration that “the moon's an arrant thief, And her pale fire she snatches from the sun,” the moon has a long history in literature, poetry and song.  The word itself comes from O.E. mona, but the etymology is so rich, I’ll quote www.etymonline.com:   from P.Gmc. *mænon- (cf. O.S., O.H.G. mano, O.Fris. mona, O.N. mani, Du. maan, Ger. Mond, Goth. mena “moon”), from PIE *me(n)ses- “moon, month” (cf. Skt. masah “moon, month;” Avestan ma, Pers. mah, Armenian mis “month;” Gk. mene “moon,” men “month;” L. mensis “month;” O.C.S. meseci, Lith. menesis “moon, month;” O.Ir. mi, Welsh mis, Bret. miz “month”), probably from base *me- “to measure,” in reference to the moon's phases as the measure of time. In Greek, Italic, Celtic, Armenian the cognate words now mean only “month.”  First used to describe the satellites of other planet's 1665.
Shakespeare quote from Timon of Athens.
Moon image courtesy www.briancasey.org

The Earth’s moon holds a special place in the human heart:  it exists not only as our nearest celestial neighbor, it is also one of the richest sources of metaphor and poetry.  Despite Shakespeare’s denigration that “the moon's an arrant thief, And her pale fire she snatches from the sun,” the moon has a long history in literature, poetry and song.  The word itself comes from O.E. mona, but the etymology is so rich, I’ll quote www.etymonline.com:   from P.Gmc. *mænon- (cf. O.S., O.H.G. mano, O.Fris. mona, O.N. mani, Du. maan, Ger. Mond, Goth. menamoon”), from PIE *me(n)ses- “moon, month” (cf. Skt. masahmoon, month;” Avestan ma, Pers. mah, Armenian mis “month;” Gk. menemoon,” men “month;” L. mensis “month;” O.C.S. meseci, Lith. menesismoon, month;” O.Ir. mi, Welsh mis, Bret. miz “month”), probably from base *me- “to measure,” in reference to the moon's phases as the measure of time. In Greek, Italic, Celtic, Armenian the cognate words now mean only “month.”  First used to describe the satellites of other planet's 1665.

Shakespeare quote from Timon of Athens.

Moon image courtesy www.briancasey.org

 
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