Wordless Wednesday: Spring!

Photo: Shala Howell

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What’s The Ten-Year-Old watching this week?

Disneynature’s Born in China 

As you know, The Ten-Year-Old adores tigers and feels passionately about supporting organizations like the World Wildlife Fund that work to help keep tigers around for future generations. So when she learned that part of the ticket proceeds from the opening week of Disneynature’s new movie, Born in China, would go to support the World Wildlife Fund, she asked me to skip the books for one week and tell you about this movie instead.

Narrated by John Krasinski from NBC’s “The Office,” Born in China traces a year in the life of some of the pandas, snow leopards, and monkeys living in the plateau and forest habitats of China.

If you are looking for a fun Earth Day activity, The Ten-Year-Old strongly recommends that you go see Born in China. Disneynature movies always include gorgeous visuals and a compelling storyline. Even better, while you’re absorbed by the challenges of raising a panda cub in that lovely but perilous landscape, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping to preserve those amazing snow leopards, pandas, and hopefully, tigers, you’re watching on-screen.

Born in China opens April 21. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales between April 21 – April 27 will go to support the World Wildlife Fund’s efforts to restore habitats essential to the survival of the wild pandas and snow leopards featured in the film.

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Wordless Wednesday: The Ten-Year-Old met Chewbacca over Spring Break

So of course this happened.

(Photo: Most likely someone who works at Hollywood Studios, although it could have been Michael Howell.)

The Ten-Year-Old and Chewbacca are total BFFs now.

Good thing she didn’t try that with Kylo Ren. Word is that guy doesn’t do hugs.

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“How does a Galileo thermometer work?”

My retro weather center. The storm glass is on the right, making its bold prediction of cloudy skies in Chicago in winter. The glass tube on the left is Galileo's thermometer. We'll talk about how/if that sucker works some other time. (Photo: Shala Howell)

My retro weather center. The storm glass is on the right, making its bold prediction of cloudy skies in Chicago in winter. The glass tube on the left is Galileo’s thermometer. 
(Photo: Shala Howell)

Too many weeks for a toddler to count ago, I promised you that we’d talk about how a Galileo thermometer actually works. I fully intended to answer this question at the time, but somehow kept finding one reason or another to put it off. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been wildly productive in every aspect of my life except Caterpickles.

Since I first taunted you with a Galileo thermometer, I’ve finished my taxes, edited a book on how even artistically challenged parents can use public art to foster a love of art in their children, sent the book and the 100 photographs that populate it to a book designer for layout, gone on Spring Break, created a photo book documenting said Spring Break, and cleaned my entire house. Several times. It was only when I caught myself rolling up my sleeves to organize my pantry this morning that I realized just how much effort I had put into avoiding this post.

There’s only thing to do when that happens. Pick a Quit Date. Today, April 17, is the day I quit allowing my brain to blow this question up into something that feels impossible to answer.

Since this question is a bit overwhelming for me, let’s break it down into manageable parts.

Part 1: “How do you use a Galileo thermometer?”

Yes, I have already answered this question. But when I’ve been beaten into a corner by a hard question, I find it helpful to remember the little bits of it I’ve already conquered.

So, as a refresher, to use a Galileo thermometer, you read the label on the lowest bubble in the cluster at the top of the thermometer. If you live in the United States, you then convert that temperature to Fahrenheit.

Part 2: “Does a Galileo thermometer actually work?”

This one’s easy. I don’t even have to leave my house to answer it. Thanks to the miracle of vintage buildings, my condo has two distinct weather zones: A temperate zone where my office is located and a much colder zone in the back. The temperature differences between these two zones can get pretty extreme in winter. On warm days like today, the two zones are much closer, but the differences are still enough to register on my thermometer.

Let’s try it out.

In the office. (Photo: Shala Howell)

Our Galileo thermometer normally lives in my office, where it’s currently registering a balmy 24°C / 75.2° F.

Sadly the glare on this photo makes it impossible for you to read the numbers on the label for the bubble, so you’ll have to just take my word for it.

In the guest room. (Photo: Shala Howell)

When I moved the thermometer back to the guest room in the Cold Zone, the bubbles inside almost immediately started shifting. Within five minutes, the thermometer was reporting that the Guest Room was a mere 22°C / 71.6°F. Frankly, I was surprised the differences registered so quickly.

But there it was, clear evidence that our Galileo thermometer wasn’t completely broken.

If I were really motivated, I’d repeat the test with a second thermometer that I’m sure works to verify the readings on the Galileo. But sometimes that sort of perfection is just another way of tossing up hurdles between you and the good-enough answer to the big question you’re avoiding, so I’m going to stop here.

Now that my curiosity centers are all warmed up, let’s tackle The Ten-Year-Old’s real question.

Part 3: “How does a Galileo thermometer work?”

When The Ten-Year-Old first asked this question at dinner many moons ago, Daddyo knew the answer right away. Galileo thermometers operate on the principle that the density of a liquid changes with temperature, and that lower density objects float in higher density liquids.

When you heat a liquid, the molecules in it speed up and spread further apart. Increasing the temperature makes a liquid slightly less dense.

The opposite is also true: When you cool a liquid down, the molecules in it slow down and become more compact. The liquid becomes slightly more dense.

Fun Fact: Hot water floats on top of cold water. The ACS Middle School Chemistry page has a simple experiment you can do with your kids to prove this to them this in real life (I know what The Ten-Year-Old and I will be doing on her next day off).

“You know, Shala, this would make an excellent Caterpickle,” Daddyo said without any discernible malice. “You could figure out which liquids they use in each bubble, calculate their relative densities, and that would tell us why each bubble drops at the temperature it does.”

That sounded like a complete slog. So you see, it’s really Daddyo’s fault that it’s taken me this long to answer the question.

However, I should have had more faith in American manufacturing. Naturally, the manufacturers of modern Galileo thermometers would want to streamline the production process as much as possible. According to How Stuff Works, the large tube and the glass bubbles inside it all contain the same liquid — either alcohol or water (with appropriate doses of food coloring to make the bubbles pretty).

The glass bubbles themselves are hand-blown, so they vary a bit in size and shape. Before sealing the bubbles inside the glass tube, the manufacturer adds a slightly different amount of liquid to each bubble. The bubbles are calibrated so that the overall ratio of glass, air, and liquid yields a density that equals the density of the surrounding liquid in the glass tube.

Wait, if the bubbles and the surrounding liquid all have the same density, why do some bubbles float and others sink?

The magic is in the little metal tag. Each tag is precisely calibrated to change the density of the bubbles just enough so that they sink at a particular temperature.

Since cold water is denser than warmer water, the metal tags for the lower temperatures are slightly heavier than the metal tags attached to the bubbles for the higher temperatures.

So how does this play out in real life? 

Let’s look back at Part Two.

In the office, our Galileo thermometer reports a temperature of approximately 75°F. At 75°F, the three lowest temperature bubbles have a density greater than that of the surrounding water, so they drop to the bottom of the tube. The tags on the remaining two bubbles are lighter, giving them a lower overall density than the surrounding water, so they float.

When I moved the thermometer to the guest room, the temperature in the guest room was cool enough to reduce the temperature of the water in the main tube to approximately 71°F. Remember, the density of water increases as the temperature drops. In this case, the density of the water increased just enough to send the middle bubble with its slightly lower density back to the top of the tube.

And that, Dear Reader, is how a Galileo thermometer works. (Whew!)

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What’s The Ten-Year-Old reading this week?

The Secret Knowledge of Grown-ups by David Wisniewski

The Ten-Year-Old doesn’t want me reading this book. Apparently the stash of secret knowledge it gave her about the reasons why grown-ups make up all those rules is too important to share with me. So you’ll just have to take her word for why you should read this book.

Why The Ten-Year-Old thinks kids should read this book: “I liked that it was hilarious and had hilarious explanations for these normal rules. One of the rules doesn’t affect me, but it still made me laugh. I liked the way it described vegetables as gigantic carnivores that ate people, so people had to start killing the veggies and turning them into salad. Then people learned they liked salad, and so now we have to eat it. I also like the rule about the cows, but you’ll have to read that one for yourself.”

Muse Magazine by Cricket Media

This monthly magazine appears to be written by grown-ups nearly as curious about the world as The Ten-Year-Old is. Each issue answers questions like “what’s a gentleman lady bug called?” and “do video games really kill brain cells?”

What The Ten-Year-Old likes about it:

“I really like the cartoons. I also really like the pages where kids can write in about stuff. Most of the time the questions are things like whether mealworms eat styrofoam, which apparently they can do. I also like the news page, where one of the news stories is fake and the rest are true. At the end of it they tell you which one was the fake one. Sometimes I can tell while reading it which one will be fake, but sometimes the write-ups are so good I can’t.”

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Wordless Wednesday: “What kind of tree is that?”

No, seriously. We want to know.

We saw these Monster Pollen Buds while wandering through Hollywood Studios at DisneyWorld last month. None of us knew what kind of tree this was. If you do, please leave a comment or send me an email.

(Photo: Michael Howell)

(Photo: Michael Howell)

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Night Sky Watch: The moon helps Mommyo spot Jupiter, again

Jupiter and the full moon will rise in the east together just after sunset tonight. (Illustration by Andrew Fazekas of SkySafari)

Jupiter and the full moon will rise in the east together just after sunset tonight. (Illustration by Andrew Fazekas of SkySafari)

Just after sunset tonight, glance up at the full moon. That bright star immediately next to it is Jupiter.

Enjoy the view.

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What’s The Ten-Year-Old reading this week?

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This isn’t the actual edition they sent, but I couldn’t find that one on Amazon, so I’m using this one as a stand-in.

For her tenth birthday, The Ten-Year-Old’s aunt and cousins sent her an Alice-in-Wonderland party in a box. When The Ten-Year-Old opened it up, she found two cousin-made chocolate chip cookies labeled “Eat Me,” a shelf-stable container of Horizon Organic Milk labeled “Drink Me,” a little pocket watch necklace labeled “Wear Me,” and of course, a lovely little edition of Alice in Wonderland so that she could learn what all that stuff was about.

Worked like a charm. She’s been reading and laughing her way through Alice in Wonderland all week.

Why The Ten-Year-Old thinks you’ll like it:
 “Totally madcap rant, and it’s so weird. I really like it. If you are looking to laugh, this is the place!”

Bonus: Remember this guy from the 2012 Dedham Public Art Project? SarahJane Cassie designed her white rabbit as a tribute to John Tenniel’s original version in Alice in Wonderland.

Ace the White Rabbit (c) 2012 SarahJane Cassie. (Photo: Michael Howell)

The Book of the Sith by Daniel Wallace

What the book’s about:
The Book of the Sith is a collection of Sith lore written by Sorzus Syn, Darth Malgus, Darth Bane, Mother Talzin, Darth Plagueis, and Darth Sidious. Stolen at some point by Jedi Knights, this edition contains the original Sith stories, along with handwritten notes in the margin by Darth Vader, Yoda, Mace Windu, and Luke Skywalker. The end result is an intriguing exploration of the dark side of the force. The Ten-Year-Old promises me that she is reading it purely for historical research purposes.

Why the Ten-Year-Old recommends it: “This book feels like it really was written by different people. The fonts are excellent. Great for anyone who likes Star Wars and wants little mini-stories. I warn you — you don’t get to see how Darth Malgus’ story begins or ends. You only get a ten-page snippet but those ten pages hold a lot of detail.”

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Wordless Wednesday: That tree has eyes

One of the trees we saw at Hollywood Studios in DisneyWorld over spring break. (Photo: Michael Howell)

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“Cotton Candy: Clothing fiber or food?”

Photo: Shala Howell

Last week, Daddyo introduced The Ten-Year-Old to the faux nutritional miracle that is cotton candy. He got her to try it by casting it as a scientific experiment: “Cotton Candy: Clothing fiber or food?”

They ate most of the bag trying to figure it out.

The Ten-Year-Old’s verdict: “Tastes like pink.”

Meanwhile, my iPhone told me that yes, cotton candy is basically spun sugar, and that you too can make your own cotton candy at home.  You don’t even need a fancy machine, just a candy thermometer and a decapitated whisk.

Don’t tell The Ten-Year-Old. Or her Daddyo.


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