Archimedes’ Principle

It was only in the last blog that I had spoken about my feud with time hoping the problems would be ironed out, but here I am after another break. I had finished buoyancy with a promise to continue with Archimedes’ Principle – here we go.

The Archimedes Principle states that the upward force on an object in a fluid is equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by the object. This principle is named after Archimedes of Syracuse, who first discovered it while taking a bath. He realized that the more water his body displaced, the greater the buoyant force on him.

The Archimedes Principle explains why objects float or sink in a fluid. When an object is placed in a fluid, it displaces some of the fluid. The displaced fluid exerts an upward force on the object, which is equal to the weight of the displaced fluid. If the upward force is greater than the weight of the object, the object will float. If the upward force is less than the weight of the object, the object will sink.

Photo by Georg Eiermann on Unsplash

The Archimedes Principle can be used to determine the density of an object. The density of an object is its mass divided by its volume. The displaced fluid is equal to the volume of the object. The weight of the displaced fluid is equal to the density of the object times the volume of the fluid displaced. Thus, the density of an object can be determined by measuring its mass and volume and then dividing its mass by its volume.

The Archimedes Principle finds its application in engineering. It is used to calculate the buoyant force on an object in a fluid.

The Archimedes Principle is used to design ships and submarines. The principle is used to determine the shape of the hull. The hull must be designed so that it displaces enough water to support the weight of the ship.

The Archimedes Principle is also used in aircraft design. The principle is used to calculate the lift on an airplane wing. The lift on an airplane wing is equal to the weight of the air displaced by the wing. The shape of the wing is designed so that it displaces a large amount of air.

Buoyancy

I’ll resume this blog post with a couple of concepts I’d addressed in the previous. First is my feud with time – yes. How extreme is the passage of time? Especially when the realization is only through the date of the recent blog post. Else, it feels like time has come to a standstill. A feeling lingering since March 2020 with the pandemic restrictions, covid waves, and variants – the designs of the clocks change, but time remains unmoved. Anyways, time out!

The second concept is about floating. Isn’t it fascinating how simple curiosities are foundations towards understanding higher-level concepts? Simple questions like Why does ice float in water, and why is saltwater denser than plain water, are the bedrocks to a term I’ll be introducing today – buoyancy.

Image Credit: Andrew Dapper from Unsplash

Buoyancy is the ability of an object to float in water or fluids. The floating of eggs on saltwater has a direct relation with buoyancy. As eggs are less denser than saltwater, they float. For the eggs to float, saltwater exerts an upward force called the buoyant force to prevent the egg from sinking. As the object(eggs) is less dense than the fluid(saltwater) it displaces, there is a positive buoyancy. In the case of plain water, eggs have more density hence they sink in plain water. As the object(eggs) is denser than the fluid(plain water) it displaces, there is a negative buoyancy.

Comprehending buoyancy and buoyant force would be important to understand my next blog post on a fundamental principle in Physics, the Archimedes’ Principle.

3 Simple STEM Activities for Younger Kids

It has been a while since I posted an article. Sometimes life goes by so fast that the passage of time is a blur. Anyways, we had friends visiting with their young daughter. We kept her entertained with simple STEM activities, that I would love to share.

What makes objects float? What is a rainbow? Where does the sun go at night? Little learners are bursting with questions about the world and can’t get enough of it. This enthusiasm and curiosity tend to fade as they grow older. But in the age of information,
technological fluency, the ability to innovate, as well as the capacity to understand how and why things work together are valuable skills that need to be nurtured.

Photo by Alan Rodriguez on Unsplash

Here are 3 easy STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities for kids that will reinforce important concepts and might even spark a lifelong interest in this field.

  1. Demonstrating Salinity Through Floating Egg Experiment
    This experiment proves that salty water is denser than plain water. Dense enough, in fact, to support the weight of heavier objects.
    Materials:
     2 half-full clear glasses of water
     2 eggs
     Salt
     Spoon

Duration
10 minutes
Method
Step 1 – Stir the salt into one glass until it dissolves.
Step 2 – Gently lower an egg in each glass and observe the results.
Do they both behave the same way? Which one sinks and which
one floats?
Step 3 – The egg placed in plain water will sink to the bottom while
the one in salty water will float because of higher density.

2. Learning about Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable Materials
This simple and fun activity teaches children the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials and demonstrates the process of decomposition. Here’s how you can do it:

Step 1 – Take your child for a walk in the park or a nature trail.

Step 2 – Look for leaves that demonstrate the different stages of decomposition and arrange them in order of decay.

Step 3 – Discuss how these leaves are biodegradable because they decay through the activity of living organisms.

Step 4 – Look for sticks that are biodegradable. Again, arrange them in order of decay.

Step 5 – Ask your child questions about what would make a leaf or stick biodegrade faster. (Hint – the weather, bugs, worms, fungi, etc.) Ask them to observe if the leaf and stick show evidence of activity by these agents of biodegradation.

More resources.


Non-biodegradable Materials

Step 1 – At home, look for items that aren’t biodegradable, or those that take a long time to decay.

Step 2 – Discuss plastic and why, unlike organic matter, it is not biodegradable.

Step 3 – Ask your child to find four biodegradable and four non-biodegradable materials around the house and yard.

Step 4 – Talk about waste and how it affects the environment, ways to reduce waste around the house and substitute biodegradable items for non-biodegradable ones where possible.

3. Making a Cloud – Condensation Activity

Children love looking at clouds in the sky and often wonder how they get there.

Clouds are formed when water vapor condenses into water droplets that adhere to tiny particles of smoke, dust, or pollen in the air. Billions of water droplets join together to make a cloud.

This experiment involves manufacturing a cloud in a jar using hairspray as the particle source.

Materials:

  • A jar with a lid
  • Hot water
  • Ice
  • Hairspray

Duration:

5 minutes

Method:

Step 1 – Pour hot water into the jar and swirl it around a bit to warm up the sides.

Step 2 – Turn the lid upside down and place it on top of the jar.

Step 3 – Place a few ice cubes onto the lid and let it rest on top of the jar for 20 seconds.

Step 4 – Remove the lid and quickly spray some hairspray into the jar.

Step 5 – Replace the lid with the ice still on top.

Step 6 – Observe the condensation form inside the jar.

Step 7 – When a sizable amount of condensation builds up, remove the lid and let the ‘cloud’ escape.

How did that happen?

When warm water enters the jar, some if it evaporates, that is, it turns into water vapor. This water vapor rises to the top of the jar where it comes into contact with the cold air released from the ice cubes. Water vapor condenses, that is, it turns into liquid water when it cools down. However, a cloud needs a particle source (pollen, dust, volcanic ash, etc.) to condense on. In this activity, the hairspray functions as the particle source.

Were you able to try any of these activities? If your child has a favorite science experiment, I’d love to know about it.

“Investing in Young People Is Investing in the Future”: 5 Youth Leaders Talk Social Change — National Geographic Education Blog

So exciting to listen to these young voices!

This year’s summer intern class brings rich insights and experiences to the National Geographic Society. We gathered five of its members to discuss their passion for social change and share lessons for other young people seeking to make a positive impact in their communities. 22 more words

“Investing in Young People Is Investing in the Future”: 5 Youth Leaders Talk Social Change — National Geographic Education Blog

Kids Eat More Fruit and Vegetables With Longer Seated Lunch Time — Neuroscience News

The more time a child is allowed to sit at the lunch table, the more likely they are to eat healthier foods like fruits and vegetables. Researchers say extending eating times at school could help promote healthier diet choices in children.

Kids Eat More Fruit and Vegetables With Longer Seated Lunch Time — Neuroscience News

A Place I Really Like – The Internet Archive

I came across the Internet Archive, home to digital media some years ago. They have this on their homepage – ‘Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.’

From the wonderful Persepolis, one of my favorite graphic novels to Women At Nasa, that I have used for research, it’s a place where I like being lost. Every turn finds me a new treasure; just when I think I am lost and get ready to return to the Homepage, I find new vistas to explore.

In this day when we have so much tech at our fingertips, the Internet Archive is a porthole to enter a time and world when it was not so. We use tech to read about a place where there was no such tech. The archived content of this digital library has been available to the public only since 2001.

Digital Libraries in Covid Times

Be it outdoor classes in covid times or online classes during lockdowns, these archives and many others like this have been an invaluable resource for millions around the world with access to the Web.

So who started all this?

Brewster Kahle

A computer engineer and an advocate of universal access to all knowledge, he founded the Internet Archive and Alexa. He even has an ambitious plan to collect one copy of every book ever printed, and this he started after being inspired by the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Wrapping Up

Preserving knowledge has been a challenge taken up by generations of human beings. In spite of this, a lot has been lost, but then a lost has also been kept. The challenges are many, but then such journeys have never been easy.

For now, I am enjoying the fruits of his and his team’s labor. Check it out!

Outdoor Classes in the Times of Covid-19

Sometimes a side effect can be a good thing.

As the Coronavirus school closures gathered momentum, few imagined that the world would almost come to a standstill as it did. Businesses shut. People lost jobs. Seniors in nursing homes could not even hug their loved ones, even as many families lost their loved ones to Covid-19.

Many lucky parents kept their jobs and worked from homes; millions of school going kids moved to online classes or dropped out of schools in poorer countries. Internet connectivity was tested to its limit, as was patience, with devices were shared between family members.

Photo by Atoms on Unsplash

The Hardest Hit

When the closures began, many enjoyed it, especially young parents who got to spend time at home with the kids. As the work from home period and online classes were extended, frustrations mounted. Kids were the hardest hit. Parents were short of ideas and kids needed fun things to do in times of social distancing. Teachers found it hard to manage fidgety and disinterested kids. They could not run around and play as before.

They weren’t allowed to play long on devices, but they had to stare hard and long for class!

The Return to Outdoor Classes

Virtual learning was really tested in 2020, and it was not very successful in many instances due to low internet speeds, poor attention spans, tech inhibitions among teachers, and a bunch of other problems.

As the probability of getting infected was higher in a closed classroom, parents, schools and colleges started exploring outdoor classrooms. There had been precedence.

During the Spanish flu, schools had moved outdoors. You just have to go on google and search ‘fresh air class NYC images’ and you can see old black and white images of kids sitting outdoors on benches and even some of kids huddled under blankets!

By Nationaal Archief – Openluchtschool in de vrieskou / Open-air school in the freezing coldUploaded by France3470, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19576333

With an emphasis on fresh air and ventilation, many schools opted to have their classrooms outdoors, even in the freezing cold! In resource hungry countries with good weather, classrooms were frequently held under a tree with a chalkboard as a teaching aid. Forest schools have kids spend time in the outdoors for large parts of their day. So outdoor classes are not really that new.

Current Experiments

Here are three which are breaking out to make outdoor classes a viable option for their students:

  1. Rice University: The University has given the go ahead to have classes in large spacious outdoor tents, the ‘tent project‘ as its called complete with electricity for heating, cooling and tech, internet etc. It did initially remind me of some X-files project tents, but then I surfaced into reality.
  2. Eckerd College: They have readied outdoor spaces where everyone in class sits 6ft apart. They have even set up a Geographic Visualization System, where faculty can see which spaces are free for use.
  3. NYC’s in-person pods: These were one of the earliest in-person small group classes which started up in NYC. Parents of kids who could not have in-person classes came together and set up these ‘pod schools‘ in open spaces with a tutor. Although expensive, these were the experiments, which actually got a great many minds thinking outdoors.

Will This Change Continue Post Covid

The advantages of spending time outdoors are many – physical, emotional and cognitive. There is something about the outdoors, that makes learning more fun and joyful. It also improves immunity and mental health. In Covid-19 times, it helps with having in-person classes even as the risk of infection is reduced considerably when compared to indoor classrooms.

As classrooms have gone from open low level schools with large spaces, to high rises with little space around, with rooms occasionally having no windows, it was a time to introspect and bring change. This pandemic has just hurtled us towards that change and we need to land on our feet. It can be done as people come together to create broad guidelines like the National Covid-19 Outdoor Learning Initiative.

How To Make Teaching Fun?

“In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.”
― Phil Collins

Teachers are a special class. Throughout history a teacher has held an esteemed position. Even in the modern education system, a teacher is very important. Frequently students credit their teachers with their success. Although most teachers are trained to teach, there are some who are head and shoulders above the rest.

Children in a Classroom

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Teachers, whether in an actual class or teaching an online class become experts at multitasking, as they juggle various students, their requests, teaching material; all while ensuring that every student has a fair share of attention.

What Makes a Good Teacher

A good teacher is clear about her objectives be it for a particular class or even a particular child. Although teaching can have mundane moments, a good teacher uses these objectives to get a class or a child from point A to point B in the learning journey. A lot in teaching depends on how something is conveyed, and how a child is guided. The learning then happens naturally. Frequently teachers might even use online resources like the internet public library kidspace.

Humor can play a key role in easing the tension in a child who is finding it hard to grasp a concept. In fact a good teacher can read feedback from a child’s demeanour and course correct to teach successfully. Although consistency is an important trait, frequently a leap of faith is required while handling children who do not fit the standard mould.

A teacher might have to find the way to get a child to learn after much experimentation. While a lack of progress might bring about a sense of dejection in the child, a good teacher will have the broadmindedness to communicate with the parents and have them on her side while getting the child onto the path of learning. Frequently they might learn from how their own mentors might handle a situation.

In fact in the uncertain schooling ecosystem of the last many months teachers and students have had it really tough. Online classes, social distancing, outdoor classes, staying indoors, masks in public spaces, sanitizing frequently, fear of an invisible virus, all these have defined a new ‘normal’. Although things have returned to a more regular ‘normal’, in many places, the Covid-19 story will occupy space for some time to come.

Making Teaching Fun

Teaching can be made fun. In fact a lot of students remember their teachers who made learning an interesting activity. Here are a few ways to make class fun:

  1. Use interesting material: Kids enjoy new material, be it audio, video or images. Lots of sites like NatGeoKids or the Smithsonian, have well curated material which can be used. While using such material, kids can even learn how it’s wrong to use other’s material without giving them credit.
  2. Take the kids outside: Going outside for a class can be super exciting. It could be a trip for fun or learning or a bit of both. Many schools moved their classes outdoors during the Coronavirus closures. While outside, kids get a healthy dose of fresh air even as they learn about all creatures great and small. Nature is a great teacher about interactions and interdependencies, helping kids understand the importance of cooperation.
  3. Make a class interactive: Kids can get distracted if a teacher drones on in class. Making a class interactive is good for both the student and the teacher. A teacher can get quick feedback about what the students are grasping if a class is interactive. It also indicates that students are comfortable enough in class to ask questions and get clarifications. Encourage kids to bring in interesting information into class.
  4. Stay Approachable: Having respect for a teacher is good, but fearing a teacher might not do the student any good. Fear is not conducive to learning, for a student might never work up the courage to get clarifications. Also, a class without fear is free to share their learning and communicate effectively.

These are just a few suggestions. A good teacher comes up with her own unique ways to make a classroom fun and interactive. Kids remember these classes even when they move on. Frequently they come back as adults to meet those teachers who made learning a fun activity.

The Sixth Mass Extinction?

Climate change as a topic has been discussed time and again on various platforms for a while now. But, it seems like the ones who are aware of it keep updating themselves, while the vast majority overlook the pressing dangers to the environment and, in turn, themselves.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Nature matters, and that is an unarguable fact.

Some Background

A recent report by the conservationist group WWF highlights a 68% average decline of birds, amphibians, mammals, fish, and reptiles since 1970. The reasons attributed to the rapid decline are the burning of forests, over-fishing in seas and oceans, and the destruction of wildlife habitat. 

The reports add further impetus to some scientific claims of the Earth on the verge of its sixth mass extinction. Mass extinction is the loss of about three-quarters of all wildlife species in existence across the entire Earth over a geological period (<2.8 million years).

While the five previous mass extinctions were natural phenomenon that took place before the arrival of the first humans, the present catastrophe is induced, experienced, and recorded by humans. This human-induced destruction of the environment and wildlife has gradual yet long-lasting effects on the ecosystems and the humans who are a part of it. The ecosystem is a complex network of interacting organisms formed over millions of years of evolution, and a loss of interaction among species could create imbalances in the system.

A classic example is the hunting of wolves in the Yellowstone National Park. Hunting the wolves to extinction by 1930 dramatically increased the elk and deer population. The increase in their population led to unsustainable grazing of the streamline aspens and willows, in turn leading to soil erosion and affecting the songbirds. The decline in songbirds increased the mosquitoes and other insects. However, the reintroduction of wolves in 1995 balanced the elk and deer populations and restored the plant and animal life in Yellowstone. 

Why We All Should Be Concerned?

The extinction of wildlife and plant vegetation does not only affect the floral and faunal ecosystem. It also has a negative cascading effect on humans. 

  • Three-quarters of the world’s food crops depend (partially or completely) on pollination and seed dispersals by insects and animals. Fruits and vegetables, vital to human consumption, depends on this natural process. However, the significant drop in the population of bees, fruit bats, and elephants has resulted in the extinction of various plant species and a reduction in food crops and fruits.
  • Forests act as climate regulators by absorbing carbon dioxide, thus facilitating carbon sequestration. The destruction of forests results in increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, perpetrating climatic changes, and global warming.   
  • The destruction of habitat reduces the plant diversity and aids monoculture, resulting in increased pests and fungal plants.

Climate change and biodiversity loss are a stinging reality that has been depreciating at a faster rate than imagined. While the loss of wildlife and the environment seems irreversible, hope remains. Nature has shown marvelous recovery rates in the absence of human interference and diligent conservation efforts. The Chernobyl nuclear plant, uninhabitable to humans due to the radioactive atmosphere, has thrived with plants, trees, deers, and wolves. The conservation efforts to save tigers and rhinos in India has raised awareness and witnessed a massive rise in the population of these endangered animals. 

While civil society and conservation groups have helped the environment from the bottom-up, the realm of environment requires measures from a top-down political approach. It is necessary to mainstream environmental issues and politically securitize them. However, it would depend on the general population to rise beyond the petty politics of hatred and look beyond the non-existent security threat to coerce governments to adopt a green stance.

The Ideas of Multitasking vs Serial tasking

The Ideas of Multitasking & Serial Tasking

Tasks reside in many spaces- in our to-do lists, on our mind and on neatly marked off columns in our google calendar invites. A modern life is characterized by carrying out tasks in a successive manner. The clear distinction of time and space between professional tasks and personal tasks are half crumbling at a time where most of us are working from home. This makes home a place where we fulfill all our professional and personal roles (and if you are from a Covid-affected family, the role includes that of  a caregiver). 

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

Blogs and information are widely available about reframing of the space ‘home’ to accommodate smooth transitions between these roles and effective management of both. However, I opine that there is a need to also take a step back and reframe our understanding of ‘task completion’ and therefore, productivity. This blog post is first in this attempt to explore the understanding of two of the most popularly known ways of working- multitasking and serial tasking. 

Multitasking

A metaphorical image is conjured up when we hear this word. A superhuman figure with multiple limbs which are all doing their own thing and completing tasks in no time. A magical time and space-bending creature that ticks off things on their to-do list faster than even one can count down from ten to one. This has also contributed to a widespread myth that multitasking is a superior modality to achieve a higher level of productivity. 

Many studies, however, point out that multitasking can be quite a myth unless one of the tasks is so well learnt that one does not engage fully, while engaging with the simultaneous task more closely. Psychology Today states “The fact is that multitasking, as most people understand it, is a myth that has been promulgated by the “technological-industrial complex” to make overly scheduled and stressed-out people feel productive and efficient.” This would mean that it is time for us to re-look at what we understand as multitasking. 

Serial Tasking

The literature also states that what folks understand as multitasking could actually be really quick serial tasking. Serial tasking is the process of succeeding one task with another and while it is not a popular champion like its counterpart, serial tasking is known to be more effective and efficient. 

The evidence suggests that the most important part of doing a good job of anything- from a low stress activity like listening to and appreciating music to solving technological problems is the possibility of being present. Being present is the virtuous quality of being able to give complete attention to the task at hand. This often not only leads to better productivity but also helps an individual catch details that might be incorrect or unhelpful much earlier in any of the processes. 

Overall, it is important to decide on the mode of working dependent on the task at hand, the amount of time the task would take, the number of revisions one is allowed of the same and the importance/ significance of the work that needs to be done.