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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Using Cats to Understand Science

 As you can see above, I've switched out the Liquid Nitrogen Gummi Bear video for a new one called "Cats in Sinks: A Science Lesson". I'm sure I can be accused of blatantly manipulating viewers into watching and hopefully learning a little something about science by using a really cute cat in my video. OK, I'm guilty! We all know that cats and the internet are a good combination, but so are cats and science!

Such as here in this spoof on the Scientific American magazine (which I love, by the way). Right here on the cover are six different scientific topics retold in a way your cat will understand.

The idea for my Science of Cats in Sinks is explained in the video. I really wanted to show the process of inspiration (A random musing--I wonder how many cats can fit in my lab sink?) to sorting out the best way to find the answer (Theoretical vs. Experimental) to making a hypothesis, to collecting data, to doing the math to following up with more experimental data using scientific models. I convinced some random and really, really smart kids to help me out! They had to wrangle the cat since I'm allergic, plus they did the math, too!

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Using animals to describe science is not new such as evidenced here by the darling and entertaining book How to Teach Physics to Your Dog by Chad Orzel.

Chad runs a blog called Uncertain Principles: Physics, Politics, Pop Culture and features his dog Emmy, who "...likes treats, walks, chasing bunnies, and quantum physics." Don't we all?


 gummy/4437679996_ea1fd13b6a.jpgThere's a portion of the video where I measure the cat (an irregular object) in three dimensions to calculate his volume. I know full well that the Volume Displacement method would be much more accurate, but I'm not usually into antagonizing cats by immersing them in water. Here is a very cute comic along that line. The comments section underneath the video on youtube has some good suggestions for other ways to accomplish volume measurement as posted by someone calling himself TheHomeScientist.

Here is some "real" cat science, as presented by The National Geographic Society. They're using DNA testing to search for the origin of the first pet cat. Science provides endless possibilities for understanding the world!

Good news! The Biomedical Engineering Society took first place at U of I's Engineering Open House in the Presentation and Exhibit category. These students are fabulous in so many ways and they deserve this honor!

Tonight I am watching Stephen Colbert because awesome science author Rebecca Skloot (Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) will be on there talking about her book (and yes, I had a successful trip up to Northwestern to get it signed by her, thanks for asking!)

Until next time,

Kindly,

Joanne

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