Weekly Challenge 8: How Big is Big? The Earth Edition

 Posted by DrJeff on October 16th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

image05292003

This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Driving with Jordi.

Photo caption: the Hawaiian Islands, with the Big Island of Hawai’i at lower right. The Big Island was formed from five volcanoes including Mauna Kea. True color from the NASA Terra satellite, May 27, 2003.

The solution to this Challenge will be posted Monday, October 26, 2009.

It’s a new school year, and I couldn’t wait to get back into the routine of my morning drive with Jordi. I missed our daily conversations about Earth, space and everything else in his known universe while we navigate the fabled Washington, DC, Beltway to his school. Sure, we spent lots of great family time together over the summer at the pool club, and in New York. But there was something magical about taking 30 minutes of dull driving each morning and turning it into a free-for-all ‘Jordi where do you want to take the conversation today?’

To help you picture it, I’m always driving with my cup of coffee, glancing in the rear view mirror—waiting. He’s usually staring forward, transfixed. You’d almost think that my now 7-year-old is just zoning—except that he’s got that slight squint which tells me wheels are turning furiously inside. Then BOOM! He launches our great morning adventure with a simple, elegant, deep thought.

So last week, like always, just out of the blue—

“Daddy, how many Empire State Buildings tall is the tallest mountain?”

Today he wanted daddy to help him conceptualize the height of a really tall mountain. He wanted to use a familiar ruler.

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A Day in the Life of the Earth: Understanding Human-Induced Climate Change

 Posted by DrJeff on June 13th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

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This post is a Driving with Jordi.

This is crossposted at Huffington Post HERE.

Note to reader: click on the links in the text for the real data. This is not a work of fiction.

From Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies concerning this post—

Public understanding of climate change depends on an understanding of time scales. Goldstein [Dr. Jeff] does a brilliant job of making clear the rapidity of the human-made intervention in the climate system, and the correlation of global warming with the appearance of technology powered by fossil fuels.

“Daddy, how long is a billion years?”

As soon as we got in the car this morning, and buckled up, I said “so Jordi, I need some help. I need more material for the blog.” “Daddy, what do you mean by ‘material’?”  “That’s what writers call the stuff they use to create stories”, said daddy.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning, so he started talking about … the Sun. He had lots of questions—where did it come from, what’s burning on it to make it so bright, how old is it, what will happen to Earth when it stops burning? The last one was particularly cool. I asked him if he thought the question “what will happen to the Earth when the Sun dies?” is something lots of kids might ask. He said “yes!!” I asked him who he thought was the first person to actually figure it out. He didn’t know. I told him it was me.

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My Really Long Drive with Jordi

 Posted by DrJeff on June 6th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

sun-earth-test1

 

This post is a Driving with Jordi, and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


“Daddy, how long would it take to drive around the Sun?”


So there we were on the Washington, DC, beltway heading for his elementary school. We were cruising at 60 mph—yes, on the beltway, I know!! (© Craig Ferguson, CBS).  Jordi said, “daddy, how far has this car gone since you and mommy got it?” I looked down at the odometer and read 249,000 and some odd miles. Cool! The ’95 Camry was doing just fine. Besides getting close to the 250,000-mile mark, the space guy in me knew that the Earth’s circumference is about 24,900 miles. “Jordi! This car could just have gone around the entire planet Earth 10 times!” He wasn’t expecting that answer. He thought that was … way cool. Cars aren’t supposed to be able to go around an entire planet are they?


But before we get to the rest of the story, first a detour at a Jeffism


Science Education is about conceptual understanding

at an emotional level.


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THE SOLUTION TO Weekly Challenge 1: A Pound of Ants and the Capabilities of Intelligent Biomass

 Posted by DrJeff on June 1st, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

Read Original ChallengeHERE.

antscrowd3

This post is a solution to a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge.

 

For those of you that read last week’s Weekly Challenge 1 and are now waiting on the edge of your seats for the answers, well here they are. For those of you that haven’t yet read Weekly Challenge 1, DON’T LOOK! Go directly to the challenge and read it first, do not pass go, and do not collect $200.

 

And now the answers—

 

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Weekly Challenge 1: A Pound of Ants and the Capabilities of Intelligent Biomass

 Posted by DrJeff on May 26th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

antscrowd3

This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Driving with Jordi.

A day late because of Memorial Day in the U.S.

 

I’m proud to post my first Driving with Jordi, so here we go!

 

Two weeks ago I was driving Jordi to school. We started down the road with 5 minutes of quiet contemplation, both of us just getting our heads wrapped around the new day, me with a cup of coffee in hand. Then, out of the blue came the question, “daddy, how many ants in a pound of ants?” I had to ask, “where did that come from?” So he explained that the day before he was hanging out in our big vegetable garden (he loves doing that), picked up a rock, and found lots of ants scurrying for cover. They were really small, and there were lots and lots of them. So he came up with this question to help him get a sense of their scale relative to a familiar ‘ruler’. He picked a pound. He came to me for the answer. I had no clue. So I decided to post this as part of this week’s challenge (see below.) You’ll be happy to know that I now have the answer and have already shared it with Jordi. But he promised not to tell.

 

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