Tags: art, history, holiday, reading, technology, travel
We set up the HO trains under the family Christmas tree this weekend, which is always fun and knocks about twenty years off my apparent age. It’s amazing how enduring a fascination trains can hold, whether they’re models or massive machines, still or belching smoke and whistling like a time machine. Trains even make good bait for getting a small child through an art museum (those luminists and Hudson River types often had creeping inroads of steam power in their paintings, after all, and you can enjoy the brushwork and color while the kiddo bounces around looking for train tunnels).
So it was with great delight that I discovered OurStory, a website hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The site is a family- and teacher- friendly resource for approaching history from the ‘story’ angle. There is a searchable booklist, a great thematic list of activities to do at school or home, and one of their current features on the homepage is a downloadable packet of ideas and activities to explore the world of trains in your own backyard, from the local train station to the nearest rail museum. (And even more book suggestions and activities on the thematic ‘trains’ page.)
The NMAH has, of course, an impressive transportation collection of its own, but I love the fact that they’ve created resources which reflect the geographically wide-spread nature of visitors to a website. “Can’t get to the NMAH? Here’s how to find cool similar stuff near you.” Fabulous. Site specific materials can be fantastic, but accessibility is key.
Tags: earth science, food, humor, math, music, physics, sport, technology, travel, video/animation
*waves* Hello All! I have returned from my trip to Italy and essentially recovered from the Italian cold I brought back with me, and I’m back on track to keep bringing you fresh Brain Popcorn. Today’s post celebrates unusual music.
Music is a great interdisciplinary doorway. Though I ran as far as possible from the calculations necessary for the ‘physics of music’ class they offered in undergrad, the fact remains that music and physics *are* closely linked, and so are music and art, music and history, music and literature, music and myth, music and….you get the refrain. Today we’re going to focus on a few science connections.
Gravity Makes Music!
Gravité from Renaud Hallée: check out some very cleverly edited percussion work with falling tennis balls, forks and knives, televisions, basketballs, and light sticks. It reminds me a lot of the number “Trashing the Camp” by Phil Collins, from Disney’s Tarzan. (Thanks to Rob over on Politics et Alia Sensae for the heads up!)
For a slightly more complicated set of interactions (with some entertaining moments and some real physics –there’s a Newton’s Cradle in there!) check out the Rube-Goldberg-inspired “This Too Shall Pass” by OK Go. Once you’ve watched it once and have stopped laughing, go again and keep your eyes out for levers, weights and counterweights, wedges, and a number of other simple machines.
Vegetables as instruments?
Well, it beats eating them… If you missed my earlier link to the ViennaVegetable Orchestra, here it is. This is a great way to talk about materials engineering (what qualities are they looking for when they pick their vegetables? How do they change those materials to get the sound they want?), and also just to discuss the ways people make noise (beating, blowing through a tube or over a tube, plucking, shaking…how do these veggie instruments resemble or differ from what a regular orchestra/band/jam session uses?).
Did you know? The palm cockatoo is known to beat hollow logs with sticks to make loud drumming sounds. ~courtesy of @AMNH, the American Museum of Natural History’s Twitter feed
Animal Music–apparently not confined to cetaceans and songbirds! (Does anybody else have the lines from Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb running through their heads yet? “Many more monkeys drumming on drums! Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum!”)
Three years/2500 attempts = 37 formations/5 octaves = The Stalacpipe Organ. There are so many cool paths you can take from here, looking at caves and earth science, spelunking, Virginia history, invention of musical instruments, more math and physics of sound, inspiration for creating your own tube-length-instruments. Or just check out the site for Luray Caverns and play the audio clip.
And finally, for sheer amusement value, “Flight of the Bumblebee” played on an iPad. Is this cheating? Having played this piece on the flute, I’m going to say yes. If you’re not out of breath by the end, it doesn’t count.