Presentation is Everything!

It´s one thing to be a great scientist and another to be able to explain your results. It´s true that a picture says a thousand words. Whenever possible, try to use visual cues to explain things to your audience.

One way to do this is with your science fair project display board. Try to make it clear without being boring. Although you will need to present all of your written work, it is a great idea to break up your written pages into easy-to-understand ´bites´

Did you know that the human brain will only take in three sentences before it gets bored?

Yep, just three. Breaking up sentences with white space is a good idea. You could also try a trick that book-publishers use. It´s called a Pull Quote. You take a small piece of your text and repeat it in big letters to emphasis it. Pull Quotes are a good way to break up slabs of text as well as make your point clearly.

Pull Quotes are a good way to break up slabs of text as well as make your point clearly.

As well as a good display board for your science fair project, you might like to keep a video diary of your experiment. Using the editing tools that come with most PCs, a short movie of your experiments progress is a fun way to share the work you have done. You can also use it to report your results – or if you have done a science fair project on rockets, gooey things, or anything with mess they are often just a good laugh!

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No two sets of fingerprints are the same – right?

You are probably used to hearing about criminals being caught by leaving their fingerprints behind at the scene of the crime. You are also probably used to the idea that your fingerprints are unique.

But what if they AREN´T unique? You could study this (or a bunch of other good questions for your science fair projects at our cool resource site).

In 1892 an Englishman named Sir Francis Galton noticed that the ridge marks in our fingerprints would split in very different ways. He calculated that the chances of having the same pattern in your fingerprints as another person is around one in 64 billion!

Funnily, 64 billion is about how many human fingers are on the planet right now.

Now, I don´t want to disagree with Sir Francis (I bet HE never got stuck on his science fair projects!), but unfortunately it´s never been scientifically PROVEN that all fingerprints are different. Now, proving something is almost impossible in science, but it´s a lot easier to DISPROVE something.

It only has to be wrong once to be disproved.

For example, in 1988 a lady named Nancy Kerry found two identical snowflakes. That means that the old saying ´no two snowflakes are the same´is… WRONG.

A tip for your science fair projects: stick to things you can DISPROVE or at least demonstrate easily! Trying to PROVE something is very very difficult as it must be right every time the experiment is repeated… even if you repeat it an infinite number of times!

Fingerprints evidence has been used to convict 22 people who were actually INNOCENT. And that´s just the people we know about! Fingerprint evidence is very valuable, but because it´s never been proven, it´s a bit dangerous to rely ONLY on fingerprints. If someone you know is ever called for jury duty, you can tell them a thing or two about fingerprints now!

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Aerodynamics and Spiders

Aerodynamics are all around us. Eveytime something moves through the air, aerodynamics play a part.

(If you are interested in the aerodynamics of planes, take a look at our great tips for your science projects)

But aerodynamics are not just for machines. Spiders create webs that have some pretty crazy aerodynamic properties.

Have you ever walked through a spider web? If you have, it´s not the greatest feeling, but it doesn´t hurt. You just bust straight through it. A flying insect doesn´t though – even though it should!

Catching a flying insect with a net whould be like trying to catch a brick with a Kleenex. But the clever spider has a few tricks up it´s er, sleeve. You can recreate some of the aerodynamics involved in your science projects.

An orb web is made up of a few parts that do different things. The strands that radiate out from the center are pretty brittle and rigid. They´re like the posts that hold up your house and only stretch about a fifth of their length before they snap.

But the SPIRAL threads (the ones that make that pretty round-ish shape) are a different story. They´re like sticky elastic and can stretch up to THREE TIMES its original length. They also hold a trapped insect like glue. But the strands are so thin, and the insects are so big (kinda!), so no-one could understand why the web wasn´t getting damaged.

Using the same cameras that record simulated car crashes at high speeds, scientists have solved the mystery. When an insect hits an orb web, the impact is limited by the stiff threads to only three spokes on either side.

This clever design means that only PART of the web takes the impact, leaving the rest of the web undamaged. Clever spiders!

Take a closer look at aerodynamics with our Fun Airplanes ideas for your science projects.

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How a torpedo works

In movies, you always see a torpedo (the long tube-shaped bomb) hit a ship, then there is a big BANG, a lot of fire and the ship starts to sink.

The way you see torpedos sinking ships in the movies might have been right 70 years ago, but that´s not how it is anymore.

Navy ships are designed with lots of different watertight compartments. This means that if something (like a torpedo) hits them, they just seal the damaged bits and the ship stays afloat. It might be leaning to one side like it´s drunk, but it will still float!

If you are interested in these rockets (because that´s what they are, they just go sideways instead of straight up!) you might like to know a few things about them for your science fair project.

So the people who make modern torpedos came up with some clever ideas. Take the Mk48 for instance. It packs a punch (about the same as a half-ton of TNT) but doesn´t need to slam into it´s target. As long as it is close enough, it uses sonar to aim for the centre of the ship. Then it DUCKS UNDER it. When it gets to about 30 feet under the center of the hull – this depth is really important – it explodes. All that explosive power becomes a HUGE gas bubble that rams into the underside of the ship at about 3 miles per second (that´s fast!).

This bubble bends the ship like a banana, but it´s not over yet. When the bubble shrinks again, it sucks the bent ship the opposite way, bending it again. Have you ever tried to break a bendy stick? You know how it works best when you bend it forwards then backwards, to weaken it? The torpedo does this to the ship. The hull gives out and the ship´s ´back´ is broken so now it can sink.

You can recreate all this at the science fair using basic rocketry principles. Just make sure it´s on a smaller scale and remember, SAFETY FIRST!

So once again, the movies are fun to watch, but not very scientific! Oh, and one more thing: There´s no red flames when a torpedo hits a ship… You only see the explosions in the movies because they look cool!

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What question should I ask for my Science Project?

You have to come up with a good idea for a science fair project but are a bit confused about what kind of question you should ask.

There are two really important tips for deciding: First, keep it simple. Trying to find out how the universe began is GREAT, but it is difficult to fit it all on to one science project display board.

You need to be in complete control of all the possible answers to your question. An easier question to answer would be ´What kind of water is best for plants?´

This one is easier as you can set up three of the same kind of plant in the same place. This is important! A good scientist tries to make sure that all their test subjects (the plants) have the same conditions, EXCEPT for the thing you are testing.

The thing you are testing is called your VARIABLE. Then you can water one with tap water, one with microwave water and one with distilled water. Take photos of the plants every day and write down anything you notive about them. After two weeks, see which one is healthiest. Easy!

The second tip is to choose a question that you can answer OBJECTIVELY in your science project.

The difference between OBJECTIVE and SUBJECTIVE is something that bothers scientists all the time. SUBJECTIVE is usually someone´s opinion. It´s difficult to test things like ´which hurts more – a paper cut or a bruise?´ because the only way to know is to ask people how they are feeling. Everyone feels things differently, so it´s hard to measure.

Things that are OBJECTIVE can be measured. For instance, if you are writing up your Plant Water science project, you can talk about how your plants grew X number of inches. This is easy for everyone to see. A good science project question will have only two or three possible answers (simple) and be objective (so everyone can agree on the results).

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You are what you FEED

Ever heard the phrase “You are what you eat?” Well, it turns out that you are actually feeding much more than just yourself. You are made up of microbes!

Only around 1–10 trillion cells in your body actually belong to you. Trust me, that´s a tiny number. in fact, it´s only 10 per cent of your cells.

Yikes! What´s the rest? (By the way, this topic makes good Science Projects, if you write it up the right way.)

Well, although 10–100 trillion cells are microbes (single-celled organisms) that live in your gut, they´re actually there for your own protection. They´re also much much smaller than a human cell (like a basketball next to an apartment building) so they´re nothing to be afraid of.

These tiny helpers break down carbohydrates that we cannot digest and make vitamins to make us healthy. In return, we give them a warm place to live where they can make little copies of themselves (baby microbes) and do whatever it is that microbes like to do. They sound like Science Projects don´t they!

Funnily, in the days when food was scarce, having these microbes was great. They get a lot more energy out of our food for us than we can get alone. NOW though, there is a lot of food for us to eat and we might be a bit skinnier if these tiny helpers would find somewhere else to live

In total, these 10 – 100 trillion microbes only weigh around 3lb. That´s not much for a whole lot of these little guys!

For tips on writing up winning Science Projects, take a look at our other articles

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Are SUVs safe?

You know those big cars called SUVs or 4WDs. They´re a bit like trucks and they´re designed to drive off-road, in mud. We mostly see them being driven on suburban streets though, to pick the kids up from school or shop for groceries.

They feel really safe to be in. You are sitting up high and can see the road. There´s a lot of space around you so you don´t feel crowded by the other cars. You can see everything on your way to the Science Fair!

But are they really safe?

Unfortunately, no.

SUVs have a high center of gravity. This means that a lot of their weight sits higher than other cars. When you take them out of their Stable Equilibrium Zone (when you drive them really fast and try to tip them over), they roll much more often than a normal car. You can demonstrate this principle at your next Science Fair if you like.

They´re also a lot heavier. This increases their braking distance and means they are harder to turn. Try to imagine two animals that are about the same size – but one is much heavier than the other. Like a horse and a rhino. If they were both running and had to turn quickly to avoid something, which one do you think would do better?

The lesson: Don´t drive a rhino!

PS: It´s Science Fair season again and you might like to read the best way to win one!

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Why does a cat always land on its feet?

Or does it?

Well, the answer in almost all cases is YES, cats do land on their feet! They even survive.

The record for the longest fall a cat has survived is 42 floors. Yep, 42 floors. This unfortunate tabby fell out of an apartment window in New York City.

In fact, these falls happen so often that there is a name for it: High Rise Syndrome and vets see around 200 cases every year of cats that have slipped out of their owner´s windows!

By the way, don´t look at your cat if you are looking for science fair project ideas!

But why are they able to land on their feet and why don´t they get hurt?

It´s all in the way they are built. A cat is like a springy universal joint. A slinky, if you know what that spring-type toy is.

When a cat falls, their front and back legs are pointing straight up and they´re stretched straight out. This is from the fright!

While the cat is in mid-air, they pull in their front legs. Then they rotate them (turn them) 60 degrees clockwise. This FORCES their back legs to rotate 30 degrees anticlockwise (in the opposite direction).

Then they straighten out their front legs again and turn them 30 degrees anticlockwise (yep, its all getting like a pretzel, but they´re not finished yet!). This movement makes their BACK legs turn 60 degrees clockwise.

But they´re not finished yet! They repeat this whole twisty-turny process 5 more times.

Why? Because 5 times 30 degrees is 180 degrees… A half-circle. So after 5 twists, they are facing the ground.

After this, they just kind of hang around and wait for the fall to finish.

When they hit the ground, they put their front legs down first. A cat´s body is one of the world´s best shock absorbers. After the front legs have touched the ground, they let the shock ripple through their back and torso. While this is happening, they crouch as low to the ground on their front paws as they can. When their back legs hit the ground, they are already beginning to stand up in the front paws.

It´s kind of like they are shaking water off, only in this case they are shaking off a lot of force.

(Warning: For science fair project ideas, do not try this with any animal, especially a turtle. They don´t bounce)

Kitty stands up and usually walks away unharmed. Applause!

The amazing thing is that all of this does need a lot of time. Not all falls are from great heights. A cat can do all of this in a fall of less than one meter (about 3,3 feet).

And you thought all they did was lie around in the sun!

For great science fair project ideas, be sure to visit our other sites.

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Ever heard of Nikola Tesla?

Probably not, but I bet you´ve heard of Thomas Edison.

Nikola Tesla was as famous in his day as Albert Einstein. Alot of people think that Tesla, not Edison, is the father of electricity. Edison and Tesla spent a lot of time arguing (they were rivals) and some of their time working together.

(Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla both spent a lot of time making Electrical Conductors as Science Experiments)

The biggest problem that Tesla had is that he thought electricity should be free. Yep, free! Unlike Edison, who spent most of his time looking for ways to make money, Tesla was looking for a way to ´broadcast´ electricity. That means that everyone could just take electricity out of the air – the same way we do with mobile internet.

If you like, you can learn how to make your own Electrical Conductors as Science Experiments.

Wanting electicity to be free was not very popular with the people who like to charge for it. Tesla didn´t care about money, and that made him a bit strange to lots of people. In fact, twice when Thomas Edision´s business needed some BIG help, Tesla figured out the answers that Edison wasn´t able to. He didn´t even get mad when Edison refused to pay him!

Tesla is the unsung hero of electricity. He invented the Alternating Current (that´s the ´AC´ bit in AC/DC. You will find out all about that if you make an Electrical Conductor as a Science Experiment.Tesla also told us alot of what we we know about robotics, remote control, radar, ballistics and nuclear physics. And this is all in a time when having a light bulb in your house was a really big deal!

If you like science, you have to like Nikola Tesla.

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Smart People Live Longer

 It´s true! People who have a high IQ live longer than people who have a lower IQ. An IQ is a number you get when take an Intelligence Quotient test. It is supposed to show how smart you are.

It doesn´t matter if you have a high IQ or a low IQ when it comes to dying naturally. Heart disease, cancer and those sort of things affest everyone in basically the same way. But ACCIDENTAL deaths are another story. A study done in Sweden showed that accidental deaths (like poisoning, drowning, falling off tall buildings) happen more often to people with a low IQ. This means that more people with a low IQ die than people with a high IQ! Maybe you could study something like this in a Science Fair Project

It is not a nice thought, but the Swedish scientists think that people with a low IQ you are more likely to get into dangerous situations. This might be because of the work that they have to do. Or It might be because they are not very good at thinking about things before they do them. (Thinking about things before you do them is pretty important in any good Science Fair Project. )

Whatever the reason, I don´t think the Darwin Awards will be going away in a hurry. If you don´t know what the Darwin Awards are: they are awards that are given out every year posthumously (posthumously is when someone is already dead). A Darwin Award is given to people who have died in really dumb ways and have done the human race a favour by taking themselves out of the gene pool. It´s mean, but pretty funny! These award recipients are not going to be putting together this year´s winning Science Fair Project

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