Fun With the Periodic Table of Elements

Few things could be more geek-centric than finding amusement in playing with the Periodic Table of the Elements. There are tons of ways to take what some might see as a boring part of chemistry class and make it into something fun, interesting, and perhaps even artistic.

A chemistry teacher named Scott Byrum decided to put the entire Periodic Table of the Elements on the ceiling of his classroom. He did this as a way to get the attention of students, fearing that if he didn’t do something to make things more interesting that he would lose their attention to “Xboxes and Nintendos”.

Each element sits on its own acoustic ceiling tile. Each is color coded to represent the element’s state at standard temperature and pressure. He had a company that was local to him cut the vinyl letters for him. It is probably the largest Periodic Table of the Elements that his students have ever seen.

ThinkGeek has put the Periodic Table on everything from t-shirts, to beer glasses, and from shower curtains to refrigerator magnets. Personally, I think that the Periodic Table Building Blocks would be the most fun to play around with. The blocks are solid wood, and designed for use by geeks who are at least 2 years of age.

Have you heard Tom Leher’s song called “The Elements”? A YouTube user by the name of TimwiTerby made a video that animated the lyrics of this song in 2008. He used Visual C# Express, AviSynth, and Virtual Dub in order to make the video.

It is also fun to take the standard Periodic Table of the Elements and alter it to make new ones based on other geek related topics. Check out the Periodic Table of Rock Music, or the Periodic Table of Heavy Metals (that resembles the familiar hand sign so many Metal bands, and Metal fans, use). There is a Periodic Table of Anime Characters. Someone even created a Periodic Table of SEO Ranking!

Image: Periodic table by BigStock

GNC-2012-05-08 #763 Show Notes are Back!

As you can see there is a link below that has a no-follow tag on it that takes you to the new show notes page. I explain in the show tonight the reason for the change. There may yet be a software solution here at GNC. But we have to do some more investigating on how to implement it. But one thing I am pretty sure of the list of links to all of the articles I cover are forever gone from within the show notes blog post.

Tonight I take you on a tech journey that covers a wide range of topics including some cool stuff happening here at Geek News Central. I want you to pull up a chair or watch the show from your lazy boy as I break down the latest tech news. You have a great chance to win a cool prize in today’s show so listen to win.

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Innovators in e-Learning from Michigan Virtual University
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Can We Just Talk: Science and Communication

CommunicationThere were two article that came across my RSS reading list the past week. The first was an article about a meeting of the NSF Science & Engineering Messengers in New Mexico and the second was an article in the April 23 issue of Ars Technica How Science failed during the Gulf oil disaster . The two articles have one thing in common the inability of scientist to communicate to the general public and the especially the media.

In the case of the meeting in New Mexico the issue was how the inability of scientist to communicate scientific principals to the general public through the media, will affect the future of the US. An electorate that is more educated in the sciences is better able to make an informed decision concerning issues like water usage, the environment and infrastructure among other. In other words smarter people equal smarter policies. In 2009 the US students K–12 ranked 17th out of 34 countries in science and 25th in math. In 2008 51 percent of all patents issued by the US patent office were to non US companies. These are just a few indicators that the US maybe going in the wrong direction and that scientist are doing a poor job of communicating the importance of science to the general public.

The Ars Technica article discussed the inability of scientist to communicate during a crisis. The crisis in this case being the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientist wanted to help with the crisis, however they had trouble communicating through the media. Scientist find it difficult to explain issues in terms of black in white, to them there is always a grey area. In other words they don’t deal in 30 minute sound bites. The media on the other hand relies on the headline or the soundbite. Scientist often work slowly and deliberately while the media is looking for quick and precise answers. For example one of the unexplained events that occurred during the Deepwater Horizon spill was the plumes that flowed sideways from the source of the leaks instead of up to the surface. The media began to describe them as a river of oil, it took another month before scientist were able to explain what the plumes actually were, by that time the media had lost interest and had moved was on to the next crisis.

It is not all bad news though there is some good news coming out of both the meeting in New Mexico and the Deepwater Horizon crisis. The first is that scientist are beginning to recognize the problem. The second is that scientist are starting  to communicate with people outside the scientific community on a more regular basis.

Better communication between the scientific community and the general public through the media is important to our future. As Thomas Jefferson said “If a nation expects to be ignorant & free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was & never will be.”

Rocket Launched With Secret Payload

Vandenburg Air Force Base, which is located 130 miles from Los Angeles, California, launched a rocket at 4:12 in the afternoon, PDT, on April 3, 2012. Originally, this rocket was planned to be launched on March 29, 2012. It was delayed because engineers needed to fix an issue with the upper stage engine of the rocket.

The rocket is a Delta IV. It was launched on a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. This is the agency that monitors the United States’ network of spy satellites. It is known that the rocket was carrying a secret payload. The details of that mission are classified, but it has been said that the mission “will help various government agencies improve national security by monitoring other parts of the world”.

My husband and I live in California, but we were too far away from Vandenburg Air Force Base for it to be convenient for us to drive over there in the hopes of being able to watch the rocket when it was launched. However, we were able to walk outside our home, look up into the sky, and see the long, white, vapor trail that the rocket left behind.

We were just coming back from picking up some take-out for a late lunch when we noticed the mark that the rocket temporarily left in the sky as it exited the planet. It isn’t something we get to see every day, and both my husband and I thought it was really cool that the vapor trail was visible from where we live. It is one thing to know that a rocket was launched. It is quite a different experience to actually see the evidence of the launch, floating in the sky, before one’s very eyes.

There is a really good video that was taken of this rocket when it was launched. It is a raw video replay that you can watch right now. Off it goes!

Image: Rocket Tail by BigStock

Teen Sends Lego Space Shuttle Into Space

An eighteen year old named Raul Oaida, who is from Romania, is a big fan of NASA’s Space Shuttle program. When he learned that the program had ended, he decided to see if he could manage to launch a replica of the Space Shuttle, made out of Legos, into the upper atmosphere of Earth. Surprisingly, he managed to actually succeed at doing it!

Who doesn’t love Legos? I have several fond memories of building things out of Legos with my younger brothers. We managed to put together some creative and interesting things with the little colorful blocks, but nothing that compares to what Raul Oaida created.

The teen used LinkedIn to make contact. with Steve Sammartino, a venture capitalist from Melbourne, Australia. Raul Oaida was looking for an investor who could help him to finance his project.

The two eventually ended up talking on Skype, where Raul Oaida kept asking questions of Steve Sammartino. The result was that the venture capitalist became inspired by how earnest, and excited, the teenager was about this project. He agreed to manage the funding aspects that were necessary in order to make the project happen.

Raul Oaida put together a small model of a Space Shuttle that was made from Lego bricks that he glued together. The glue was to help the little plastic blocks to stay connected so that the model would survive the 124mph atmospheric winds it would be exposed to during its flight. The Lego Space Shuttle had a large weather balloon attached to it. There also was a styrofoam box that contained a camera and some tracking equipment attached to the model.

The launch of the Lego Space Shuttle happened on December 31, 2011. It took place in Germany, in part because it seems that Romania has laws that do not allow people to just go ahead and launch things into space whenever they want to. The Lego Space Shuttle ascended to 130,000 feet. An impressive video was taken during the launch, which can be viewed on YouTube. I highly recommend you check it out!

Image: Space Shuttle Flying Left on White Stock Photo by BigStock

GNC-2012-02-13 #741 Back from Windy City

No show last Thursday as my stand in had a family emergency. Back in the saddle here, no travel planned for about the next month. Look forward to an extended time here in Hawaii.

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GNC-2011-12-22 #731 Happy Holidays

I talk about the GoDaddy SOPA controversy in detail. I have a lot of fun on today’s show, and for those watching the video of the show I try out some new camera angles. We still need to raise about $2500.00 to meet our fund raising goals for our Support Staff. I hope you will help us out see the links at the bottom of the page.

Note: I am hiring 4 writers email me geeknews@gmail.com

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Curiosity Is On It’s Way To Mars

The big one we have all been waiting for is on it’s way.  The Mars Science Laboratory, better known as the Curiosity rover, lifted off yesterday from Florida and began it’s 8 and half month journey to the red planet.  Curiosity carries with it the hopes and dreams of, not just a lot of scientists and NASA engineers, but also a lot of average Americans who can only dream of this trip and what can be discovered there.

Carried into space on an Atlas 5 rocket, Curiosity, a rover the size of a car, will touch down in the Gale Crater and begin it’s systematic experiments in search of the building blocks of life on Mars.  Gale Crater is described by Universe Today as “one of the most scientifically interesting locations on the Red Planet because it exhibits exposures of clay minerals that formed in the presence of neutral liquid water that could be conducive to the genesis of life.”

The launch yesterday went off without a hitch and the rover is now on it’s way to the red planet.  Before you get too excited, Curiosity won’t discover life (if any), but only find if the necessary conditions are present.  Finding actual life will have to wait for the next mission.  As with all things this complicated, expensive, and time-consuming the scale of time is much greater than we all would like it to be.

You can watch a video of yesterday’s launch below.

60 Years of BBC’s Reith Lectures as Podcasts

Sixty years of the BBC’s Reith Lectures archive have been made available as downloadable .mp3s, a fantastic resource for Renaissance geeks and lovers of 20th century history. The Reith Lectures are an annual short series of lectures on issues of the day pitched to the general public and given by respected individuals. They cover a wide range of topics but are touched by the era in which they were recorded. There’s usually four or five lectures in a series.

They’re named after Lord Reith, the first Director General of the BBC and started in 1948, continuing to this day. This year’s lectures on “Securing Freedom” will be given by Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese pro-democracy leader and Baroness Manningham-Buller, Director General of MI5 from 2002 to 2007. Last year’s were on “Scientific Horizons” and were presented by Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society. As you can see, these aren’t irrelevant boring lectures by dull academics.

Until now, if you didn’t catch the lectures when they were broadcast through the RSS feed, you had to use iPlayer to listen to the lectures and the on-line archive has been expanded right back to the start in 1948. Currently, they appear as three tranches, 1948-1975, 1976-2010 and this year’s, 2011.

Hopefully, the downloads aren’t restricted to the UK as there’s some very interesting content that’s worth listening to, some still relevant to today and other material that will help you in understanding previous decades and the impact they’ve had on today.

I think my broadband’s going to take a hammering this month…

Scientists Need To Stand Up

If you were to draw a Venn diagram of the whole of science, I’d like to think that us geeks fit in there as a subset. Many of us come from a scientific background and appreciate science, scientific method and the benefits it brings to humanity. This isn’t to say that we don’t value art, but rather we have critical approach to life that uses evidence and method rather than doubt and misinformation. Theories aren’t always right but we value the outcome when they are disproved.

Regrettably science and scientists have often failed to engage with public, either retreating into academia or else becoming the boffins in the backrooms of organisations that capitalise on their work. The Internet has given plenty of space for pseudo-science to become widespread and thought of as fact. Validated research and evidence rarely gets the weight it deserves.

The New Statesman has published an excellent article on how the scientific community needs to take a look and learn from other social groups such as gays and blacks which have managed to get the respect that they deserve. Scientists need to stand up and speak out against pseudo-science and misinformation.

The UK’s Government Chief  Scientific Adviser John Beddington said, “We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of racism. We are grossly intolerant, and properly so, of people who [are] anti-homosexuality… We are not – and I genuinely think we should think about how we do this – grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the building up of what purports to be science by the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and the failure to use scientific method.