The Kid Should See This Smart videos for curious minds of all ages: Science, art, nature, animals, space, technology, DIY, food, music, animation, and more Fri, 29 May 2015 20:19:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Celebrating Sally Ride, the first American woman in space Fri, 29 May 2015 17:23:42 +0000 On June 18th, 1983, NASA physicist Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman astronaut to fly in space. Orbiting Earth on Space Shuttle Challenger, she inspired an entire generation to follow their interests in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) as she operated the shuttle’s robotic arm to deploy two communications satellites.

She flew on Challenger again in 1984, and in 2001, she continued her mission on the ground by cofounding Sally Ride Science, an organization dedicated to helping students stick with STEM as they go through school.

On May 26th, 2015, what would have been her 64th birthday, Google celebrated Dr. Ride with the short video above, giving a behind-the-scenes peek at Google animator Olivia Huynh’s Google Doodles:


Related watching: An ABC News report of Dr. Ride’s 1983 Challenger launch.

Related reading: Though Dr. Ride was the first American woman in space, she was the third woman from Earth, joining cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova (1963) and Svetlana Savitskaya (1982) in the history books.

Watch this next: Dr. Mae Jemison, NASA Astronaut.

h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart. ]]> 0 This mini origami robot self-folds, performs tasks, & can be dissolved Fri, 29 May 2015 15:32:59 +0000 Researchers from MIT and TU Munich have debuted an insect-like, miniature, self-assembling origami robot at ICRA 2015. The tiny bot is 1.7cm by 1.7cm and is made of a neodymium magnet, PVC, and polystyrene or paper. When placed on a heating element, the PVC contracts, folding the bot at its pre-defined creases.


It moves thanks to a magnetic field that turns on and off quickly, making the robot oscillate in a forward direction to walk. From IEEE Spectrum:

…from a flat sheet with a magnet on it, their robot folds itself up in just a few seconds, is immediately ready to zip around on land or water driven by magnetic fields, and then when you’ve run out of things to do with it, drive it into a tank of acetone and it’ll dissolve. This is the first time that a robot has been able to demonstrate a complete life cycle like this…

Imagine having a fleet of tiny bots that can perform tasks and then can disappear almost without a trace. Read more (and see diagrams) of the mini origami robot at

Next: Self-Folding Crawler – Harvard’s Transformer-style Origami Robot.

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How Do Greenhouse Gases Actually Work? Thu, 28 May 2015 18:44:18 +0000 The Earth and the Moon are essentially the same distance from the sun, yet the two rocks have very different surfaces thanks to our Earth’s atmosphere. It shields us during the day, and at night, it traps enough heat to keep the planet’s surface from freezing. What exactly is going on with the gas molecules in our atmosphere? This explainer from Minute Earth and KurzGesagt illustrates how greenhouse gases actually work.

Plus, further reading on Greenhouse Gas at Wikipedia and The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. An introduction:

The Goldilocks Principle can be summed up neatly as “Venus is too hot, Mars is too cold, and Earth is just right.” The fact that Earth has an average surface temperature comfortably between the boiling point and freezing point of water, and thus is suitable for our sort of life, cannot be explained by simply suggesting that our planet orbits at just the right distance from the sun to absorb just the right amount of solar radiation. Our moderate temperatures are also the result of having just the right kind of atmosphere. A Venus-type atmosphere would produce hellish, Venus-like conditions on our planet; a Mars atmosphere would leave us shivering in a Martian-type deep freeze.

Instead, parts of our atmosphere act as an insulating blanket of just the right thickness, trapping sufficient solar energy to keep the global average temperature in a pleasant range. The Martian blanket is too thin, and the Venusian blanket is way too thick! The ‘blanket’ here is a collection of atmospheric gases called ‘greenhouse gases’ based on the idea that the gases also ‘trap’ heat like the glass walls of a greenhouse do.

These gases, mainly water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), all act as effective global insulators.

Watch this next: The Four Spheres (Geo, Bio, Hydro, & Atmo). Plus more excellence from Minute Earth and KurzGesagt on this site. ]]> 0
The Growing Cycles of Vegetables – Farm foods grow in time lapse Thu, 28 May 2015 15:44:40 +0000 Through this series of time lapse films, artist and fourth generation farmer Matthew Moore chronicled the food that he grows — radishes, kale, crookneck squash, and broccoli — over the course of their growing cycles.

In 2010, he began working on a project called the Digital Farm Collective to document agricultural knowledge, scientific agricultural data, and stories from farmers, as well as to better connect the public to how our food is grown. In this video, he asks, “If you knew that it took 140 days to grow just one single carrot, could that change the way you think about the produce that you eat?”

We love seeing the seeds first, how the shadows indicate the sun’s movement across the sky, and how the plants almost seem to be breathing, movement corresponding to the light and heat that we can’t see as well without time lapse.

In the archives: From seed to sapling: Time lapse of an oak tree, Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) time lapse of growth, and growing wheatgrass sprouts.

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An illuminated visualization of Bach’s The Well Tempered Clavier Thu, 28 May 2015 07:44:03 +0000 Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well Tempered Clavier, with music performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard in a film by Alan Warburton.

Before starting work on our Well-Tempered Clavier animation, director and visual artist Alan Warburton immersed himself in Bach’s music by boarding a ‘random’ bus and listening to the first prelude and fugue for over two hours. ‘By the time I’d found my way back home,’ he says, ‘I had digested how complex the music was – especially the Fugue. I realised I needed to keep the animation simple so the viewer could focus on the music.’

But if the animation itself was going to be simple, producing it would be anything but. Alan’s incredible design incorporated many thousands of separate CGI lights, every one of which had to be tailored to the precise duration of Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s note strikes…

Read more about the project at Sinfini Music.

Watch these next: Boomwhacker Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach Piano Visualizations, and Andy Fillebrown’s Audiosculptures. ]]> 0
DIY Cloud Chamber – How to build your own particle detector Wed, 27 May 2015 18:54:20 +0000 There’s an easy way to build a particle detector for around $40. Yes, you can make your own particle detector to see invisible cosmic rays from space.

In this video from US LHC at CERN — LHC stands for Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle colliderSarah Charley explains how to make a cloud chamber that will reveal white vapor trails from the subatomic particles. From Wired:

In that custom-created fog, you’ll see mysterious trails appear. Those are cosmic rays, invisible bits of matter—often atomic nuclei—that collide with the atmosphere when they come crashing in from space. The smash lets loose a scatter of less massive particles: muons (an unstable subatomic particle that is a sort of sumo-version of an electron), electrons, and positrons (electron’s anti-matter partner). You may even see particle decays, in the form of tracks that suddenly fork in two.

To make your own particle detecting cloud chamber, you’ll need a fish tank, a piece of felt, dry ice, isopropyl alcohol, a flashlight, and safety gear. Next, follow these step by step instructions at Symmetry Magazine, which also has examples of the different tracks you might observe around 15 minutes after setting it all up.

Related reading via Joe Hanson: Make a Cosmic Ray Detector at Home and Test Relativity. Related watching: It’s Okay To Be Smart‘s How to See Time Travel.

Related experiments: dry ice and Kari Byron makes a cloud in a bottle. Bonus: TED Ed’s The beginning of the universe, for beginners.

via Wired. Thanks, Khoi.

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Beatboxing Masterclass with Shlomo Tue, 26 May 2015 08:22:31 +0000 A jazz drummer from the age of eight, British beatboxer and composer Schlomo began vocalizing rhythms when he was a kid as a way to practice drums. In these Musical Futures videos, he demonstrates how to beatbox. Above, learn how to make the basic sounds: P, T, K.


Below, learn how to use the three sounds to create rhythms:

Check out his hints and tips video to learn more, and watch more beatboxing videos in the archives, including Taylor and Bobby McFerrin and Reggie Watts’ Improvised Deconstruction. ]]> 0
SpaceX Crew Dragon Spacecraft – Pad Abort Test POV video Mon, 25 May 2015 07:25:53 +0000 Blast off from zero to 100 mph in 1.2 seconds on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during its May 6th Pad Abort Test. The test reached a maximum velocity of 345 mph before the trunk separated, the spacecraft’s heat shield pointed downward, and the two sets of parachutes deployed. This point-of-view (POV) footage shows us what it might look like to be an astronaut on board.

During today’s test, Crew Dragon carried a test dummy equipped with sensors in order to gather all the data necessary to help ensure a safe environment for future crew. Had humans been on board today, they would have been in great shape.

This test will provide valuable data for future flight testing of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, including a high-altitude abort test and an uncrewed mission to the Space Station.


This graphic highlights each step of the two minute test. Pair the POV video with this view from afar:

A human crew onboard is planned for sometime in 2017. For a play-by-play of the test, visit

Watch this next: The Chemistry of Rockets – How do rockets work? ]]> 0
Flying a drone over Sudan’s 3,000 year old Nubian Pyramids Mon, 25 May 2015 05:56:16 +0000 Present-day Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt does, smaller structures known as Nubian pyramids that were built by the rulers of the ancient Kushite kingdoms. The first site of these royal tombs was in El-Kurru in northern Sudan.

National Geographic engineer Alan Turchik recently flew a mini-helicopter over the 3,000 year old royal cemeteries at El-Kurru as a part of archaeologist Geoff Emberling’s expedition. Above, he narrates the flight.

Watch this next: The Great Pyramid of Giza was bright white & highly polished.

via Gizmodo. ]]> 0 Marion Deuchars’ Let’s Make some Great Fingerprint Art Fri, 22 May 2015 14:36:54 +0000 Not only do we love this short promo by for Marion Deuchars’ book Let’s Make Some Great Fingerprint Art, but we like the book, too. In the tradition of Ed Emberley, Deuchars inspires kids (and adults) to invent their own creatures using inky and imaginative fingertips.

Enjoy a few more of their animated commercials:

Find Let’s Make some Great Fingerprint Art in your local book store or on Amazon, and if you don’t yet have some ink pads, Deuchars’ site includes a few treats, including online Fingerprint Art and Tangram activites.

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How do batteries work? Fri, 22 May 2015 01:16:36 +0000 If you’ve ever used a flashlight, or changed the channel with a remote control, if you’ve ever recharged your electric car, or if you’re reading this on a smart device, then you know how useful batteries can be. But how do batteries work?

In this TED Ed by Adam Jacobson, we travel back to the late 1700s where a professional disagreement between Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta eventually led Volta to invent an early version of an electric battery.

Of course, today you might know Volta’s name from the words volt and voltage. Galvani is also honored for his contributions.

Watch this next: Circuit Playground: B is for Battery. ]]> 0
The first 21 days of a bee’s life, a time lapse in 64 seconds Wed, 20 May 2015 17:59:00 +0000 Honey bees are such an integral part of our ecosystem — they pollenate 1/3 of our food crops — yet we don’t understand all that we should about their life cycle, or what has been threatening them in the last few years.

To explore the recent problems experienced by these bees, photographer Anand Varma worked with National Geographic and UC Davis’ Bee Lab to raise and document bees in his Berkeley, California backyard. One of the results: This video that shares the first 21 days of a worker bee’s life in 64 seconds, from bee egg, to larva, to emerging adult. (Updated video, now with narration.)

Varma talks more about his experience in the TED Talk below, and discusses some current research being done to combat another big threat to hive health — mite that preys on baby bees in those first 21 days.

Related reading: For a Biologist-Turned-Photographer, a Beehive Becomes a Living Lab, more about the honey bee life cycle, and at The New York Times, read Teaching Children to Love Bees, Not Fear Them.

Related watching: Wild bees might also pollinate our plants & crops, The Hidden Beauty of Pollination, and why do honeybees love hexagons?

via Colossal. Thanks, @mamagotcha. ]]> 0 The Octobass – What does this huge instrument sound like? Wed, 20 May 2015 09:11:33 +0000 Want a low-end rumble in your orchestra? You need an octobass, a bowed-string instrument that’s so massive, it requires a platform and a series levers to play. Only three were originally made by their inventor Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume. Two of those still exist in the world, but there are also two replicas. One replica is in this video from The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Curator Colin Pearson demonstrates what it sounds like.

Also: Human ears can only hear some of the notes played on it. Listen. Then see the other replica being played at Cité de la musique in Paris:

Update: Listen to this newly-built octobass, played and explained by Norway’s Guro S. Moe. This huge instrument will make its debut at Oslo’s Only Connect Festival of Sound in June 2015:

Watch this next: This may be The World’s Largest Tuba.

via Kottke. ]]> 0 ROV footage of deep sea creatures from the coast of Puerto Rico Wed, 20 May 2015 08:32:03 +0000 Real-time science collaboration is much easier thanks to today’s streaming video technology. During dives made by a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) off the coast of Puerto Rico, a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-supported scientists consulted in real time with experts all over the globe. As deep sea creatures floated in and out of the camera’s view, information and observations were crowdsourced. From Quartz:

“There will be a starfish expert or a jellyfish expert or a coral expert and so they’re all working with us together, which is very unique,” said Andrea Quattrini, the science co-lead for the expedition. “On other research expeditions you only have a certain number of bunks on the ship and so only say 12 or 15 scientists can go at once”…

In a total of twelve dives, they saw 100 species of fish, 50 species of deepwater corals and hundreds of other invertebrates, many of which had never been seen in their natural habitat. They’re still analyzing the data they collected, but have already identified two new species: a jellyfish-like animal called a ctenophore and a new type of fish.

The beautiful footage above is a sample of what they observed.

Next: Collecting the deep sea animals of Monterey Submarine Canyon. ]]> 0
A mother blackbird feeds brand new baby birds in their nest Wed, 20 May 2015 07:45:39 +0000 Four eggs sat in a nest for three weeks. When they hatched, Harvey Young put a camera above the nest to capture video the brand new baby blackbirds. Watch them open their mouths and swing their heads around for food as their mother arrives at the nest to feed them and keep them warm.

Related reading: Cornell Lab’s Bird Nesting Information and what to do if you find baby birds.

Related watching: A Kiwi chick hatches from an egg, Mandarin ducklings dive from unbelievably high heights, and cliff swallows build their mud pellet nests.

via Boing Boing. ]]> 0