Twelve Days of Popcorn (Day 1): Seasonal Papercraft

In recognition of the holiday season, I have decided to celebrate with twelve posts of things that make me happy, inspire me, make me think, or otherwise stick alluringly in my brain.  (Expect a bit more humor and a bit less curriculum!)

Today’s Topic: Seasonal Papercraft, with a highlight on origami and snowflake making

Photos from the Origami Resource Center

Round Up of Origami Snowflakes and Snowmen directions from the Origami Resource Center.  Very cool stuff.  I love the idea of using wax paper or patty paper so that you get the layered translucent snow-like effect.

Decorating the Origami Tree at the American Museum of Natural History:

Photo by snowflake designer, see link for details

How to Make Star Wars Paper Snowflakes

Robert Sabuda’s Winter’s Tale, a pop up book that makes me happy every time I open it.  His site has templates for creating all kinds of cool pop ups as well.

A page from Robert Sabuda's Winter's Tale

 

On the first day of popcorn, this idea gave me glee–a pop-up folding snow-bedecked tree…

 

Star Wars Ice and Scientific Mermaid Song: Exploring Sound

My anonymous tipmaster sent me a very cool video earlier this week showcasing the universality of the pentatonic scale.  (Bear with me: it means that anywhere in the world, people watching Bobby McFerrin jump around a stage can actually sing on pitch and together with almost no instruction).  This incredibly cool exploration of sound, music, and the way we think  reminded me that I’d been collecting some very fun sound-related links to share with you here on Brain Popcorn.

A Not So ‘Silent World’

Diving in New England is a relatively quiet business.  Most of the time, it’s your air bubbles, your dive buddy’s air bubbles, and the occasional scrape of gear on rock that accompanies you in the deep.  But not always, and not elsewhere.  Diving in the USVI a few years ago I was thrilled and startled to be surrounded by what seemed like a chorus of marine Morse code, and was informed that there were ‘very talkative shrimp’ on that particular reef.  A recent report highlighted by the Smithsonian suggests “A Noisy Reef is a Healthy Reef,” which is a fascinating new look at ways to measure the health of communities in endangered waters.

For most of us, the ‘sound of ice’ is skates carving up the surface, or possibly that sharp pop you get when you drop an ice cube into a glass of lukewarm juice.  If you’ve been lucky enough to visit the land of glaciers and icebergs, maybe you also think of the great rumble and splash of a calving glacier.  But what about a lake in winter?  Thoreau certainly noticed interesting sounds at his spot by Walden Pond:

The cracking and booming of the ice indicate a change of temperature. One pleasant morning after a
cold night, February 24th, 1850, having gone to Flint’s Pond to spend the day, I noticed with surprise, that when I struck the ice with the head of my axe, it resounded like a gong for many rods
around, or as if I had struck on a tight drum-head. The pond began to boom about an hour after sunrise, when it felt the influence of the sun’s rays slanted upon it from over the hills; it stretched
itself and yawned like a waking man with a gradually increasing tumult, which was kept up three or four hours. It took a short siesta at noon, and boomed once more toward night, as the sun was
withdrawing his influence. In the right stage of the weather a pond fires its evening gun with great regularity.

Read more from Thoreau’s Walden here.

If you can’t make it out to a pond when the weather is perfect, then listen to some amazing ice sounds from the warmth of your own desk, with sound artist Andreas Bick’s recordings, or check out compositions played on instruments made of ice by Terje Isungset.

Sounds Like a Fairytale

The Voice of the Little Mermaid — How might the Little Mermaid have sounded under water?  If, like certain people who shall remain nameless, you’ve ever tried humming in the swimming pool to find out, here’s a way to explore a little further.  An opera singer has actually performed most of an opera, singing underwater, and discusses her technique and the changes in the sound at the link above.  Very cool–but hard on the costumes, I should think!

Ladle Rat Rotten Hut – Did you ever notice that when listening to the radio or the TV in the background, you could still get a sense of the meaning even without catching all the words?  Try reading this intro to “Little Red Riding Hood” aloud with a ‘storytelling voice’ and see how far you get.  Listen to the narrator on the Exploratorium’s page if you’re stumped, and find the rest of the story there too.

Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage, honor itch offer lodge dock florist. Disk ladle gull orphan worry ladle cluck wetter putty ladle rat hut, an fur disk raisin pimple colder Ladle Rat Rotten Hut.


Two Weeks to National Fossil Day

Every time I look at my inbox and start thinking that I really need to try to cut down on the amount that lands there on a daily or weekly basis, something cool invariably arrives to change my mind.  Case in point, this morning’s email from the National Park Service announcing the upcoming arrival of the very first National Fossil Day(TM) on October 13, 2010.

I like fossils.  I like love the National Park Service.  I had my career-epiphany-moment directly after taking a fossil hike on the rim of the Grand Canyon.

I opened the email.

So what is National Fossil Day?  Part of the 2010 Earth Science Week celebrations sponsored by the American Geological Institute, National Fossil Day  is “a celebration organized to promote public awareness and stewardship of fossils, as well as to foster a greater appreciation of their scientific and educational value.”

(In other words, a really good excuse to play in the dirt.  I always like those.)

The NPS website is a wealth of interesting information, a “rockin'” interdisciplinary list of activities, and other fascinating and fun stuff.  A few highlights include a map of the 230 national parks containing fossils (including ones in Guam and the US Virgin Islands) and fossil highlights from many of those parks,  a list of the official state fossils, and a list of events in your area.

If, like me, you take a look at all the amazing activity which is going to be on the National Mall in DC and want to cry into your Pleistocene soup from sheer envy, here are a handful of fun fossil-related activities and articles you can enjoy from the comfort of your desk chair.

Geology for Fossil Hunters, courtesy of the Exploratorium’s very cool site “Evidence: How do we know what we know? Human Origins”. Also including cool videos on virtual fossil reconstruction and other nifty topics.

Professor Allister McFragilis, Dinosaur Geo-Detective.  No, seriously. It’s an electronic field trip, or EFT put together by Bryce Canyon National Park, and has both online games and then downloadable lesson plans about geology and specifically fossils.

Dinosaur True Colors Revealed for First Time by pigments remaining in fossilized dino fuzz.

Pterosaur Ornithopter videos.  Which are apparently flying vehicles which mimic bird- or bird-like flight, specifically in this case, dino-bird-like-flight.  The key to this seems to be that the wings flap, as opposed to fixed-wing aircraft like normal planes.  Intrigued?  There is actually someone who has built and tested a successful human-powered ornithopter called the Snowbird, with a record setting 19.3 second flight, achieved just last week on September 22nd.

And, of course, more fossil fun activities and links at my previous post, “Dinosaurs, Art Photography, and Toddlers?

Holograms, Impossible Objects, and Floating Furniture

An impossible shape, the Penrose triangle, in Gotschuchen, Austria, erected in 2008 by the "physics meeting" association as part of the project "Physics on Spielplatz" Used with a creative commons license. Click for source.

Impossible Objects

In one of my recent posts I mentioned that studies have shown that we start recognizing impossible objects when very young.  Fortunately, they continue to be fascinating, and have led to amazing art, interior design, and stories like DB Johnson’s Escher-inspired Palazzo Inverso.  (I’m still holding out for a closet that’s either Narnia or a TARDIS, but while they are working on making tractor beams a reality, pocket dimensions to increase the size of my apartment are not on next year’s Christmas list.)

…Though I might want to talk to this guy: Jerry Andrus’s Illusions.  The warping clouds are enough to give you a headache, but the bolt-through-the-impossible-nuts is pretty impressive.  Even after seeing it repeatedly my brain still gets tricked.

Check out other life-sized impossible sculptures like the one above from Austria here.  Almost all of them are the sort that require you to look at them from one particular perfect vantage point: if you’re feeling inspired, there are directions on creating your own impossible triangle sculpture at Cool Optical Illusions: Penrose Triangle.

Holograms

If they’re working on tractor beams, surely holodecks aren’t far behind.  Eye Spy featured artist Betsy Connors is a holographer here in Boston, and likes to work with whole-room holographic installations, though her works currently showing at the Peabody Essex Museum are discrete elements instead of a single larger piece.  Her route to holographic creations includes lasers, a giant sand table, mirrors, film, and a multi-step developing process (see the PEM interview with her here).

If you’d like to try a similar effect without the heavy-duty equipment, William Beatty’s got detailed instructions and a lot of related links on creating what he calls a “Scratch” or “Abrasion” hologram.

Through the Looking Glass

Optical illusions are a great inspiration for unusual decoration.  These designers have gone beyond painting the roses red, however, to create chairs and couches that seem to (or maybe even will) float, exploding bureaus, room-lengthening curtains (aha!  there’s my pocket dimension after all!) and invisible tables.

Still here? After all those cool ideas?  Fine, have a book trailer for the aforementioned Palazzo Inverso, a very entertaining story you read front to back, and then upside down back to front.  And when you’re done with that, go read Mirror Mirror, which is a set of fairy tale poetry from two points of view, read down the page and then up it again.

Happy International Literacy Day

International Literacy Day, according to the calendar hanging in my office, was technically September 8th, but as I have been having inexplicable glitches attempting to access WordPress, I’m a little behind.  (But the Salem LitFest isn’t for another week, so I’m still in the running!)

Therefore, in the name of celebrating cool stuff, which today is reading (who am I kidding?  We celebrate reading all the time in my world), I bring you neat thoughts about literacy, and a handful of reading-related activities.

First of all, good news for those of us who have more books than shelves to put them on: Book owners have smarter kids from Salon.com

And next, hear about how educators at the Eric Carle Museum focus on ‘reading the pictures’ in their storytimes as much as reading the words, improving comprehension and engaging kids and adults in the art of illustration: Noggin video

Looking for good books to read?  Ask your local librarian or check out some useful lists on Reading Rockets, helpfully organized by theme.

Also, don’t forget to check out the awesome interdisciplinary lesson plans available at the Kennedy Center’s ArtsEdge–many of them have literacy themes.  One of my favorites is the Adjective Monster, a ‘paper sculpture’ art and geometry project built around Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley.

Illustration from Wiesner's Flotsam

Inspired by the ‘reading pictures’ video?  Everyone loves a good wordless book, and David Wiesner has created several.  Try out this very cool classroom photography project featured in School Library Journal and inspired by Flotsam, with neat tie-ins to science and history.  Kudos to my Anonymous Tip-Master for pointing this one out! I love how crazy and beautiful his illustrations are, and part of a long tradition of fish-exaggerations.  In 1719, the first full-color illustrated book of fish was published, including several fish that were figments of the illustrator’s imagination!  (See The Fantasy Fish of Samuel Fallours for the scoop.)

For more science tie-ins, read Flotsam paired with Tracking Trash, a very cool book about ocean currents and the problem of the ocean as ‘plastic soup’ [National Geographic].  Sector 7 is also a personal favorite, and great for teaching story-boarding or introducing a unit on clouds.

And lest we think all literacy only has to do with kids old enough for words, a neat article about visual literacy that begins developing in infancy: Escher-Themed Nurseries?  Even 4 month olds can recognize impossible objects from Cognitive Daily.  (You thought I’d manage not to include a reference to Eye Spy in this post, didn’t you?  Tune in next time for more cool stuff to do with impossible objects and how to create your own scratch holograms!)

Ideabox: Water Balloons

Today may see a brief break in the previously unremitting gross weather of the last two weeks, but there are surely more scorching days in our future.  To that end, I present a post about water balloons.   (Because if they’re good enough for NASA they’re good enough for me…)

ideabox water balloons

Watch a Water Balloon Break in Slow-Motion

People Study This Stuff?

How does a water balloon pop in low or no gravity?  NASA wanted to know, and not just because it looks cool.  Think about delivering water to a colony on Mars, or to the International Space Station.   Think about taking a bath in orbit.  Check out the awesome video results of the Symphony of Spheres and other experiments.

If you’re looking for other cool water droplets and bursting balloons, look no further!  Doc Harold Edgerton was a pioneer of stroboscopic photography, and dozens of his videos and photographs are available from the online MIT museum collections.

But they’re mostly about fun, right?

There may be a creativity crisis in America, but these two kids have come up with 27 ways to play with water balloons…how many can you think of?

Or don’t use a traditional water balloon at all–this family documented their experiment with the amazing 120 foot water balloon using latex tubing.  (And these folks built an air-pressure-powered water balloon cannon…but if you make one of these, don’t tell me–and don’t blame me if your cannon explodes, as is mentioned as a possibility in the comments.)

Recommendation: Playing to Learn

I’m always interested in what other people have to say about the connections between learning and play, and I really enjoyed this presentation (designed as if on a game board) which talks about ways to keep learning fun without being entirely lame lost in the maze of a good idea poorly executed.

Do make time to watch the section on Bloom’s Taxonomy as explained by the Pirates of the Caribbean. I laughed a lot.

Level 4: Analysis. "Me, I'm dishonest. And a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest. It's the honest ones you've got to watch out for."

“Children love to learn, but at some point they lose that and become adults that don’t like formal learning. Let’s explore why “play” has gotten such a bad rap and figure out how to get it back in education.” ~Maria Andersen, Playing to Learn? on Prezi