The biggest fireworks display you´ll ever see

Ever seen an explosion that is as bright as a million trillion suns? Well, there was one last September, but don´t be too upset if you didn´t see it. It happened twelve billion light years away, so Earth won´t get to see the fireworks for around.. twelve billion years. This is because when you SEE something, you are seeing the LIGHT that bounces off from it. Light is fast. The fastest thing there is, but it still takes time to travel. The distance light travels in one year is called a light year (not very surprising!).

If we can´t see it, how do we know this explosion happened? Well, the guys and girls at NASA are a curious bunch. One science project of theirs was to stick a special telescope onto a rocket. This telescope was built to look for a Gamma-Ray burst. A Gamma-Ray burst is the strongest explosion we know of and scientists LOVE them!

The Earth´s atmostphere blocks our view of Gamma-Ray Bursts. In one way this is a good thing (we might fry if all that energy could reach us). In another way, it´s a bit disappointing: there is NO fireworks display like a deep-space Gamma-Ray burst!

No-one really knows yet what causes Gamma-Ray Bursts. One theory is that the energy is released when a star gets too big and collapses. In other words, when a Black Hole is born! Still, scientists are still guessing. But that´s what science is – finding the answer to a question. Showing HOW you found the answer is what makes a good science project

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What is Science anyway?

It´s Science Fair Season again. Before you decide what you would like to do your Science Project on, you might like to ask yourself exactly what science is all about.

There´s no simple answer to this one, but one idea is: When you look around your world, you will probably have questions. Science is just a word for the ways you find the answers. You don´t need to be super-intelligent to be a good scientist. You don´t really need any special equipment. You don´t even need to give up your religious beliefs. All you need is curiosity – and Ba-Boom! You have yourself a couple of Science Projects.

One of the most famous scientists, Albert Einstein, once said that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” I´ve never spoken to him myself, but I think I understand what he means. He was talking about the creative side of science: without daydreams, there are no ideas and without ideas, there are no hypotheses. (A hypothesis is like a guess answer to a question. A good scientist will first ask “why (does something happen)?” When you have brainstormed some solutions, you pick one idea and test it. That´s called testing your hypothesis. Even the craziest ideas might be right. After all, it was only a few hundred years ago that Copernicus first thought “what if the world was round?” Now that was one of the best ever Science Projects!

There are a few rules you will need to understand when you show other scientists what you have found. Use scientific conditions when you experiment. It will make sure that you are studying the right thing! How you show your results will depend on where you are showing them. Some showcases, like Science Fairs, only allow Science Projects that fit certain rules. As long as your presentation follows these rules, you will be able to share your ideas.

Let your inner scientist out during Science Fair Season. It is one of the few opportunities you will have to take complete control of what you learn and how you learn it. Enjoy!

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Science Fair Project Ideas – How do planes stay up anyway?

 This is a question I ask myself every time I buckle up my belt and watch the flight attendants give their safety talk! The scientist in me understands the answer, but the nervous flyer in me still wants to know how 57,000lbs of steel and plastic stays in the sky.

It´s really easy. An airplane wing is like a ship´s sail – only the wing is lying down instead of standing straight up. Aerodynamics is a popular and reliable field when you are looking for Science Fair project ideas.

There are two ways this works:
but the top is curved. As the propellors move the plane forward, air moves over the wing. The air that pushes over the TOP of the wing moves more quickly than the air moving underneath. Air behaves a bit like liquid and the faster it moves, the thinner it gets. This means you get thinner air on the top of the wing and thicker air underneath. This creates a suction effect that pulls the wing upwards – and the rest of the airplane goes with it. The plane gets sucked into the sky! You can try this with a model wing in a tub of water (experimenting with this can give you some great Science Fair project ideas.)

– Just like moving liquid, rapidly moving air (ok, ok, let´s call it something easy. How about WIND!) likes to move in a curve shape rather than straight down. A wing is curved and the air that ´falls´off it doesn´t fall straight down. It falls in an arc. We know that YOU stay on the ground because your body pushes down with force and the ground pushes back with an equal force. When air is pushed off a wing, the air underneath pushes back with an equal force. When you add this to the Suction Effect, you get a plane that flies!

Now that you know all that, here´s a question for you: When a plane flies upside down, why isn´t it sucked towards the ground?

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How can we deal with space junk?


We all knew that Earth is being polluted with garbage. Now it looks like we are cluttering up space too.

Did you hear about the two satellites crashed into each other 50 miles above the earth!? It´s the first time this has happened- but it won´t be the last. The junk floating around Earth has built up to a dangerous level. Every time two things smash into eachother, a bunch of fragments break off and make MORE space junk.

NASA has scientists working for them whose only job is to make sure a rocket gets through all the space junk (without smashing into anything). That says alot about how much rubbish there is up there! Unlike Earth, space does not belong to any country. That means space belongs to everyone (and no-one!), and no-one has taken the responsibility of cleaning up space. By the way, how to clean up space junk (or building a rocket) can make great Science Fair projects.

Sooner or later, old satellites end up falling out of orbit and back toward the earth, but this can take 10 or 20 years sometimes (Don’t worry, they burn up before they hit the earth. If you were wondering, it’s because they are falling SO fast that friction with the air makes them get hot enough to catch fire).
Rockets are built so that bits fall off them as they climb through the atmosphere and stratosphere. This is to keep them as light as possible. Unfortunately, these discarded parts just stay in orbit – and we´re running out of room up there.

Rocket Science is heaps of fun, but the increase of space junk raises the old question: ´How do we balance Social Responsibility with Science´?

There are some great Science Fair Projects that deal with rocketry. If, however, you are more philosophical in your approach to things, you might like to set a hypothesis that could help deal with the waste from this fascinating arm of science. Good luck!

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