Saturday, February 21, 2015

Light Speed

Light Speed.
The speed of light: 671 million miles an hour
186 thousand miles per second.

Well, it's been all about th' solar system for us lately.
Both kids have taken to making model solar systems anywhere and everywhere we'll let them.
Our house, however, is only so big, so we headed out to our class room the other day to practice on a larger scale.

Our "Classroom" is a small 2 acre nature area about five minutes away from our house if you're running, which is how we usually get there. There's a half mile section of bike trail that runs through it and that is where Fynn wanted to set up a model of the solar system.

The large yellow ball is the sun- Fynn is setting up Saturn in the photo above.
He used the cracks in the sidewalk to place the planets in this model, with Mercury Venus Earth and Mars all one crack apart, Jupiter and Saturn two cracks apart, and Uranus and Neptune and Pluto four cracks apart. In the photo below He is setting up Pluto.  Like every kid we know, Fynn is not happy about Pluto being kicked out of the solar system- so we use it anyway. Now, we know that Pluto's orbit is more elliptical than the other planets, so his distance is averaged out. There are times when Pluto is actually closer to the sun than Neptune.

Asteroid Belt

Fynn and Uranus

View from Pluto


Now, the speed of light is really fast. Humans know of nothing faster. But how fast is it compared to the solar system? Well, it takes light about eight minutes to go from the sun to earth, which is 93 million miles away. Whew.

It's absolutely amazing how things work out when you're doing the right thing.
This was a very warm day in February, especially for Colorado. There were bugs out. We saw a few spiders running through our solar system. They were comets. And we found a Roly Poly. He became Earth's Moon. But only for a little while. They don't stay a ball forever you know.

Then Fynn had a brilliant idea. Let's see how fast he goes in our solar system. So we took him over to the Sun and waited for him to open up and start walking. We made him a little lane to travel in by placing sticks on either side of him, then moving the ones he passed to the front.

To our delight (and my utter amazement, though i think Fynn just expected it) it took this little guy just over three minutes to get to Mercury. It takes light 3 minutes 13 seconds to get to Mercury.
We gave each other high five and named our little friend "Light Speed," then laughed because, well, who ever heard of a roly poly going light speed? We led this little guy all the way to Earth, and sure enough, it took him just over eight minutes to get there. Light speed didn't seem so fast anymore. Eight minutes is a long time to watch a roly poly walking. And that's just to earth. It takes light over 43 minutes to reach Jupiter. Saturn is almost as far from Jupiter as Jupiter is from the sun. The same with Uranus and Neptune. What!?

We needed a snack.

Later in the day we decided to make an actual scale model. We got a smaller sun, one that would allow us to use 12 inches to represent a million miles. We knew we'd need to use the entire bike trail, so we placed the sun at the beginning. Mercury is 36 million miles from the sun, so we took 36 steps and placed Mercury, a tiny little bead, on the side of the trail. Venus is 67 million miles from the sun. 31 more steps. Earth is 93 million miles away. 26 more steps. Not bad so far. Our planets are all pretty close, but they're tiny at this scale, so we placed our little planets on various lids and plates we brought with us.

Fynn with the Sun in background

Once you get to Jupiter things start looking big. Jupiter is 483 steps, or million miles from the sun. Saturn is almost twice as far at 886 steps, or million miles away. By the time we set up Uranus, 1782 million miles away, we could barely even see our sun. Neptune is 2794 steps from the sun. It takes light over 4 hours to go from the sun to Neptune. If you want to know how far this actually is, use a bowling ball sized sun, then count out 2794 steps. That's where Neptune is. We were almost at the end of our trail, but luckily we had just enough room. Now time for our light speed experiment.

We were going to walk from the sun to the Earth, and make it take eight minutes. We started walking. Of course other people use this bike trail too, but we're always in the middle of an experiment (or filming) when we're out here, so we rarely talk to them. I'm sure we usually look crazy. Especially when it takes you eight minutes to walk 93 steps. One guy jogged past us pushing a baby stroller. He ran to the end of the trail and turned around. I saw him looking at us, and our planets, and on the way back, he just kept looking back and forth between us walking ridiculously slow (light speed you remember) and our little beads on plates. So i said to him "It's a scale model of the solar system. right now we're traveling at the speed of light." You could see the understanding dawn upon him. His face went from quizzical to OK, i get it, And he got a huge smile on his face and said "That's Awesome! I was racking my brains trying to figure out what you were doing!" Then he went up to Fynn and held up his hand and said "High Five!" And of course Fynn jumped up and tried to hang from his hand. 

We finally wrapped up our experiment and went home. But this got me to thinking. Fynn is a true scientist. Everything he does is an experiment. Yet all he is doing is playing. We are out here nearly everyday doing things that  look crazy to those who don't know what's going on. But once you understand, it goes from appearing ridiculous to brilliant. It's not him that's changing, it's us and our understanding. Things, and people, are rarely what they appear on the surface. Suspend judgement, and dig deep.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Animal Speeds and The Cat in the Hat

Well, where do I start? For a few weeks, Rowan was obsessed with Dr. Seuss books and demanded to be read stacks of them multiple times a day...
(And books that look like Dr. Seuss books...)
One after the other...
So we watched The Grinch, Green Eggs and Ham, Sneetches, Horton Hears a Who, and The Cat in the Hat.  
That wasn't enough, so we got The Cat in the Hat movie from 2005 (you know, the really bad one) and the kids fell in love with it 'cause it was "The silliest movie we've ever seen!" I never thought I'd let them watch something like that, but... WHATEVER IT TAKES! (Whatever it takes to make them happy, to make them inspired, to make them laugh...) So now we watch it EVERY DAY. Really, it looks like we do all these amazing educational things but in actuality we watch Cat in the Hat all day! :)

Because Fynn loves whales, we have also been watching a show called Wild Kratts about two brothers who adventure all over the world discovering different animals.  We watched the whale episode, which led us to the cheetah episode, and looking back, I think that's where we learned about cheetahs for the first time; that they can run 76 mph (the fastest runners on land), that their main food is gazelle, et cetera. Fynn became a runner; his goal being to run 76 mph like a cheetah, or at least to run as fast as Usain Bolt, the fastest human runner (top speed 27 mph!). From the cheetah we became curious about other animal speeds and found out that gazelle run 35 mph, Thompson's Gazelle run 48 mph, Pronghorn antelope can run up to 60 mph (the all-around best runner for speed and stamina) and the Peregrine Falcon is the all time fastest animal with a diving speed of 242 mph but would be beat by a pigeon in a horizontal flight race! We made a huge chart of the animals with their speeds and posted it on the wall to add to when needed (not pictured).
Can you see the cheetah running 76 mph? He's practically a blur!

On our road trip to Texas early January, Fynn was into all those speed limit signs. When we got home, he made a bunch of speed limit signs for the balls who were rolling across the floor.
Here's the speed-o-meter at 76 mph.

Gazelle speed!

That gave me the idea to make speed limit signs for all our fast animals.
And then for our Cat in the Hat characters... and Fynn running Light Speed.

What do we do with these speed limit signs? Our house has become a race track, and we race in different animal speeds!
We also made some creature power discs (from Wild Kratts) so we can race with even more animal powers!.
Cat in the Hat balancing act! 

The Cat in the Hat plays piano!

Balancing Act...
Now I have two trivia questions for you. Answer correctly and you win a virtual high five!
1. Which book pictured is not by Dr. Seuss?
2. Which book is this "He went past fast" from?

Happy learning!