If you have been considering getting involved in Citizen Science and just haven’t found the time or the right project, then let this annual opportunity pique your interest! The Great Backyard Bird Count is hosted every February by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, and it takes as little as 15 minutes. It’s also fun, free, and perfect for the entire family to do together.
During the four-day event (Friday, February 16 through Monday, February 19, 2018), head out into your backyard and count the birds you observe. Next, simply submit your checklist of observations online or through a mobile app, and your data will be used by researchers for the rest of the year to study how birds are getting along in our environment. This is the 21st year for the GBBC and last year more than 210,000 participants provided bird observations of nearly 6,000 species!
Bird populations shift throughout the United States, and observations of these behaviors are a vital window into environmental trends. For more details, check out the 2017 results and the many great photos sent in along with the observations.
Sign up today to get prepared for your backyard observations and download the free mobile eBird app (iOS | Android) for all of your bird observations.
Let us know if you participate this year and anything interesting you observe, and share your bird photos on our Facebook page!
Join us on Tuesday evening to watch together as the NASA’s New Horizons makes its historic close approach past Pluto. We’ll feature live updates, guides to watching with NASA, and we’ll learn more about what we know and don’t know about our planetary neighbor 3 billion miles away.
For our wrap-up of Plutopalooza from DPR — although New Horizons will be bringing much more for many months! — we’ll share this inspiring sequence of images of Pluto from its discovery by humans on February 18, 1930 through our flyby from 7,750 miles away at 31,000 miles per hour on July 14, 2015. ᔥ NASA
Update 7:59:55 PM 07/14/2015:
New Horizons is locked and data is flowing. “Just like we planned it.” — ‘mom’ from Mission Operations.
Update 7:37:52 PM 07/14/2015:
Earlier today, NASA released this false color image of Pluto and Charon — separation not to scale — taken by one of the instruments on board New Horizons. The coloring helps exaggerate the different features on the surface of the planet and its moon to help more clearly identify the various structures. Read more from NASA…
Update 6:53:01 PM 07/14/2015:
The “phone home” signal from New Horizons is traveling at the speed of light right now… and is over half-home to Earth. We’ll begin streaming the live feed from NASA around 7:15 pm CST right here.
Update 7:21:23 AM07/14/2015:
NASA released a “sneak peak” image this morning of the latest image taken by New Horizons before it entered into its closest approach routine. Resolution at 4 km per pixel.
Update 06:50:51 07/14/2015:
Good luck New Horizons during closest approach!
Update 8:16:25 PM 07/13/2015:
In a little over ten hours from now, New Horizons will make its closest approach through the Pluto system. The many scientific instruments on board will begin a carefully orchestrated “dance” that has been pre-programmed and automated to focus on Pluto and Charon. They will cycle through routines to gather as much scientific evidence before the spacecraft zips by. Watch this simulation from NASA stepping through the data collection and then plan to return right here Tuesday evening at 7:15 pm CST to join us as we listen with NASA as they receive the first batch of data from New Horizons.
Update: 3:33:05 PM 07/11/2015 Welcome to Plutopalooza from DPR! We’ll be posting more details and educational information right here and on our Facebook site before the event begins.
A note to the reader: This article requires following special instructions to watch the videos below. It’s also recommended you be on a desktop computer, but if you are on a mobile device (which won’t let you play two videos simultaneously), simply partner with a friend to play the second video.
There is a long-standing urban legend claiming toilets situated in the Northern Hemisphere flush the draining water with a counter-clockwise rotation, while in the Southern Hemisphere it all spins down clockwise. The Coriolis effect — a real observable effect described by physics — is said to be the culprit. However, if you have experimented with this observation in the past (yes, take a moment to go and check your toilet bowl now), you may have been disappointed to discover just the opposite. You might have tried a different drain and seen even a different rotation in the same house.
Unfortunately, toilet bowls, sink drains and household bathtubs are too small in scale to allow the effects of the rotation of the Earth to be visible for everyday observation. In fact, if you were standing at the equator, you’d be moving over 1,000 miles per hour, and this rotation speed gets slower as you get closer to each of Earth’s poles. It is this constant rotation, which you don’t even notice, that provides a rotating reference frame for any object moving about the surface of the Earth. Since one full rotation takes 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.0916 seconds (called a sideral day, per the full rotation of a single spot at the Earth’s surface, whereas the full 24 hour definition is based on the observation of the Sun returning to approximately the same location in the sky), the effect of this rotating frame of reference is quite small on most objects we might observe in our daily lives, like our flushing toilets. On the other hand, physical events on the scale of cyclones clearly demonstrate the clockwise vs counter-clockwise rotations depending on the hemisphere of the storm.
Hurricanes might be incredible to watch on the news, but they are too frightening to experience directly. So, an at home physics experiment was conducted on each half of the world by Destin Sandlin from Smarter Every Day and Dr. Derek Muller from Veritasium, which were cleverly recorded for simultaneous viewing of the results.
Now, here is where the important instructions come in: If you are on a desktop computer, click play on the upper video (occurring in the Northern Hemisphere) and watch for the count down. At just the right moment, click play in the lower video (occurring in the Southern Hemisphere) and watch both videos simultaneously. If you are on a mobile device, have a friend click play on the second video at the end of the countdown. You might also try expanding your desktop web browser to full screen mode (try hitting the key F11) to make sure you can see both clearly. The videos and music are synchronized, so if you don’t think you have them rolling at the same time, reload this page and try again. It will be worth it.
Discover the truth about toilets and see first hand what it really is like to live in a rotating frame of reference (since you probably didn’t realize it before).
Recently, I enjoyed the opportunity to solve and implement a simple web interface problem. The result would not be considered profound or unique by Internet professionals, but nonetheless, it certainly is a powerful application of basic web technologies that allow the seamless flow of information making each of our lives richer and more efficient. Most importantly, I started from scratch and figured out how to do it.
Now, I will emphasize, once again, that this project was not revolutionary or particularly complex. However, for my personal skills it was an exciting project to learn techniques and scripting technologies that I have not yet had the opportunity to experiment with before. So, for me, it was new. It was interesting.
The development process did not follow a simple trajectory from starting point A to ending point B. Rather, it was a swirling mess of discovery, error-checking, problem solving, more discovery, more problem solving, and even more problem solving. I fell deep into a pool of experimentation and testing without a clear map of what route to follow. I did not know for certain that I would be able to solve the problem within a reasonable time frame or without a more experienced coder handing me the solution. So, my personal morale sank a bit, yet, I tried to stay focused and dedicated to solving the problem on my own.
Then, in a near sudden moment of clarity or luck — or something — my head reached above the surface of the pool and I discovered the one particular bit of code that would solve the problem. It was a rather satisfying moment.
This rather sloppy process which I experienced is not uncommon in the community of research scientists, both professional and amateur, although not necessarily frequently admitted nor acknowledged. It is a process that can be quite debilitating to many, with constant discouragement and setbacks that might cause one to question their own worthiness to be employed in a scientific field. However, it might be this unnerving and irrational path toward discovery that is the very essence of what is required to stumble upon something new in Nature. Recently, Uri Alon of the Weizmann Institute of Science presented an inspiring talk for TED that links the realization of new ideas to the stumbling through a messy path of discovery that he terms “the cloud.”
While one is fumbling around inside this “cloud” of research, the key element is to remain positive and creative. Prof. Alon takes his own experiences from improvisational theatre and music and connects performance tools from these creative arts directly to the creative processes that occurs inside the research cloud. As Dynamic Patterns Research is a proponent of and an active participant in the mixing of science research, education and outreach with the creative arts, the Alon approach of creative cloud scientific research is quite inspiring to our own interests. Even with the simple coding project of creating the Airport Status interface, this experience was a creative opportunity. Here, the developing of the underlying code resulted in a presentation of interactive art: a creative process that other people can play with and respond.
Taking a random walk through any creative process, from science research, code development, performance art to the written word or the integration of all of these expressions — and having the confidence to do so — should not be a scary or disappointing approach to progress, but one that is embraced, encouraged, and even required for discovery.
Dynamic Patterns Research admittedly is not much of a follower of the art forms of hip-hop and rap, so we cannot express any expertise in the artists who work in this genre and their songwriting. However, one of the early hip-hop stars, GZA, or “The Genius,” a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan is currently marketing his latest album Dark Matter being released in early 2014… this album is apparently inspired by science as it makes an exploration of the cosmos through rap.
Now, our efforts here through Dynamic Patterns Research focus primarily on reaching out to a broad public to bring a greater appreciation for our Universe, and we have already experimented with merging physics and live theatrical entertainment through our first “Science at the Theatre” series production from Dynamic Patterns Theatre of QED: A Play, which had successful showings in Springfield, Jacksonville, and Decatur, Illinois.
But here, at a national level, GZA boldly brings physics appreciation to the genre of hip-hop, which we are extremely excited to see as an unexpected approach. Although hip-hop is out of our skill set, it provides a wonderful example of how mixing informal science education (no matter how informal it might be) with popular cultural artistic forms is an exciting and effective method to increase understanding and appreciation of science to our citizens.
“A Rapper Finds His Muse in the Stars” :: Wall Street Journal Online :: May 30, 2012 [ READ ]
On November 15, 2013, GZA visited a lecture hall at the University of Toronto to provide a sneak peek of his new album. It is a rather unique marketing technique for a hip-hop artist, but one that is entirely appropriate for his latest work of art. Watch this amazing clip … and be inspired:
This just might be an album that Dynamic Patterns Research will have to invest in not only for our archives… but for our own inspiration. It is so refreshing to see informal physics appreciation spread further into the arts. This will help excite more people into considering a little more about how our world works, which will only result in better decision makers, smarter consumers, and more knowledgeable voters.
We attended the Third Annual “Science of a Cocktail Party” supporting the Illinois Science Council in Chicago, Illinois on November 9, 2013, and had a great time spending an evening in the city sipping cocktails, performing scientific experiments and supporting the ISC’s efforts for science outreach.
Having started in 2006 by Monica Metzler, the Illinois Science Council (ISC) is a young non-profit organization that is filling a unique niche in our culture that is vital to the growth and success of our society: science education and outreach to the adult public. This mission was designed from the realizations that the kids seem to receive lots of science education and entertainment opportunities and the kids and adults alike have access to so many wonderful programs for the arts, like through the Illinois Arts Council (of course, we do agree that there needs to be more!). But, for busy adults, keeping tabs on the latest developments in science and technology and enriching oneself with new scientific appreciations is something entirely left to the individual.
With this goal mind, the ISC is similarly focused to the long-term efforts of Dynamic Patterns Research of bringing a greater appreciation to science to a broader public, which is why we were so pleased to have the opportunity to participate and support this particular fundraising event. Both ISC and DPR strongly believe that with an increased appreciation of science and technology, we will have a culture of better decision makers, smarter consumers, more knowledgeable voters, and more well-informed citizens who have an enhanced appreciation of ourselves and our Universe. (Read more about the complete mission of ISC.)
We started off the evening watching the creation of a fascinating cocktail — carefully measured in a beaker, of course — that featured shots delivered via syringe and a beaker lined with pop rocks. It was finished off with a the crack of a glow stick that certainly enhanced the taste and effect (psychologically speaking) of this “totally scientific” and tasty mixed drink.
The event was hosted at the incredibly inspiring showcase office center for the engineering company DIRTT (“Doing It Right This Time”), an international company that provides custom prefabricated interiors. Their engineering philosophy focuses on a 21st Century approach that moves beyond conventional construction to use computing power to go from design, to real-time 3D, to specifications, to the production floor. Environmental sustainability is tied to their bottom line. The aesthetics of this showcase space was outstanding and it was a perfect atmosphere to get excited about science.
Throughout the office space, interactive experiments were setup hosted by volunteer graduate students from Northwestern University. We first hooked our biceps up to custom designed electrodes connected to a cute robot rover, and with each flex of a muscle could control the right or left-handed acceleration of the car. The stronger the contraction the faster it moved. Maneuvering around obstacles meant carefully controlling the timing and strength of each muscle contraction. This seemingly simple electric device showed the power that is already being developed for providing extended limb control to amputees.
Next up was a demonstration of an updated version of the Sesame Street classic “which of these two aren’t like the other” where two seemingly identical images projected on big screens were flashed back-and-forth and you had to visually identify what subtle element was different between each image. This was an interesting test of “spacial blindness” where our brains like to average visual information across our field of view, which can make it challenging to identify little changes that might be obviously sitting right in front of our eyes.
Our neurological faculties were continued to be tested as we sat down to train — within only a few seconds — a specialized infrared sensor with computer software (think Kinect) to track our subtle eye movements with great precision. Using this “wireless control” system, we opened up the favorite game app Fruit Ninja and sliced away at various flying fruit by moving the cursor / machete with only our wiggling gaze.
Our two kids are pretty good at this slicing and dicing game using their fingers on a touch screen, and would certainly have been excited and jealous to see their parents concur the game with only their eyes. Needless to say, Michelle beat out Matthew’s score by a few points to rein champion in this fun visual remote control game.
Equilibrium and balance are essential feelings that we certainly take for granted. So, to better appreciate how our inner ear keeps us on our toes, we allowed Northwestern graduate students to connect two electrodes behind our ears (waivers had to be signed with both our printed name and our signature, so we knew it was serious) that were connected to a little black box with a switch. Electrical signals were passed through on one side or the other — a little tickle could be felt — and with eyes closed the body soon started falling without any awareness from the brain until a saving hand was felt on the shoulder to stop the tumble before it was too late.
We next tested our visual system’s interpretation of color as we crowded into a small closet — one which DIRRT likely did not design with the original intent for use by multiple bodies — that was illuminated by only a single wavelength of light somewhere in the green-yellow spectrum. We each inspected a handful of jellybeans only to realize that their individual colors were indiscernible as only a limited number of wavelengths were reflected (or re-radiated) from their surface atoms since they were only being excited by a single incident wavelength.
Our skin tones also made it look like the zombie apocalypse was going to originate from this very closet as a grayish matrix pattern appeared making us look rather un-dead.
The final technical demonstration we enjoyed was the MakerBot 3D printing system, which was creating before our very eyes a detailed three-dimensional model of a mansion with spires, windows, and brick walls. The detail and resolution being swiftly layered on the platform was quite exciting and the efficiency of creating an effective “solid” structure by forming a honeycomb pattern on the inside of the building was ingenious. Since Matthew performs 3D model printing routinely in his professional career of fine jewelry design and manufacturing, which requires much higher resolution than displayed by this MakerBot, it was also interesting to see that the printed material would cool and solidify fast enough to essentially be printed in “mid-air” allowing for overhanging structures to be printed without a supporting material.
A great deal of kudos must be showered down upon Monica Metzler and the ISC organization for not only hosting a wonderfully geeky, interesting, and fun evening in Chicago, but for the great mission and efforts that they have taken on to support science outreach to a broader adult population. Along with the many sponsors of the evening, including American Science & Surplus and the Hogan Marren, Ltd. law firm in Chicago, Dynamic Patterns Research is proud to be an attending supporter of the event, and we do anticipate continued support and interaction with the organization moving forward.
It is groups like the ISC that should become prevalent in every state to help launch new initiatives in science appreciation that will drive — with its effective grass-roots approach — more of our citizens into a higher-level understanding of how our Universe works, with advantages that will trickle down into our every days lives of choices and behaviors.
If you are interested in learning more about the Illinois Science Council and how you can participate and support their efforts, please consider getting involved with the ISC. If you would like to connect more with Dynamic Patterns Research and find out what sort of goals and activities we are working on in Central Illinois, please contact us today with your interests and ideas, and socially connect with us on Facebook.