Many of us have been staying at home and/or sheltering in place for a while now. Maybe you’re in need of some new activities for yourself or for younger people in your life. So I thought a round-up of some neat science you can explore at home might be helpful. Some are online, so if you can read this blog post you probably have everything you need to give them a try. Some are physical if you need a break from the screen. Let me know which ones you try and what you thought.
- Build a Table with No Legs: At least click through to check out the pictures. Words probably don’t do justice to a table that is basically holding itself up by its own bootstraps. And you can make your own; the demo involves LEGO bricks but I imagine you can improvise with all sorts of materials. And as a bonus, there’s some discussion of the physics involved and the math to represent it.
- Music + Math: There are several activities here to explore the relationships between, well, math and music. Some of the materials are specialized, but some activities can be done with pencil and paper. Plus the concert videos are pretty cool even if the hands-on components are not possible. And if you are inclined and able to order a few parts, there’s an activity to build your own inexpensive theremin which sounds fun to me. Related bonus suggestion: make a video of gravity-defying water.
- The Mars Rover Experience: This one is pretty simple, but I thought it was a clever concept. Basically you are replicating the challenges of navigating a Mars rover via laggy communication. And while not discussed, this perhaps could also double as an opportunity to talk about oral history traditions.
- Sourdough: While yeast is in short supply, interest in sourdough has risen. You probably don’t need me to tell you about that trend, but maybe you’d like to learn more about the microbiology of sourdough.
- Quantum Chess: What better time to finally get around to understanding quantum physics? And what better way to do it than with a game? OK, so this won’t provide a full understanding of the behavior of subatomic particles, but it might help you get an intuition for superposition. The site has some puzzles to try solo plus a link to the full game on Steam.
- Fractals and Recursion: I never tire of the possibilities suggested by fractals. And here you have some interactive experiments all set up for you to run right in the page, so you don’t have to program anything yourself. Plus, this might be a good warm-up to…
- Help Stephen Wolfram revolutionize physics: Wolfram, a scientist and the entrepreneur behind Mathematica & Wolfram Alpha, recently announced his latest eponymous project, Wolfram Physics. Starting from a fractal-like recursive process for modifying graphs, Wolfram and colleagues have put together a framework they think may help unify general relativity and quantum physics. Heady stuff to be sure, and also potentially labor intensive, hence an invitation for the wider public to get involved. Specifics are light now, but if you have any interest there’s plenty to dig into to get caught up; there’s even an intro video for kids.
And if you need something with more of a science & faith angle, here’s the recording from the webinar last week on the resurrection. My apologies if you tried to join live and were unable to; the original Zoom link was invalidated for security reasons and then the Facebook stream apparently had technical problems. You can catch up with the whole thing now, and if you have a question feel free to share it in the comments. I can’t make any promises on anyone else’s behalf, but I’m happy to answer and I’m happy to reach out to the other participants if you want to hear from them.
About the author:
Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two teenagers, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. His book Faith across the Multiverse is available from Hendrickson.