The Science of Disney

May 31, 2008, 2:04 pm


The World Science Festival:

Behind Disney’s Magic


Disney teamed up with the World Science Festival on Saturday with a show about the science that goes into that old Disney magic. Like most Disney productions, it was very professional and very kid-friendly.

There was science — physics, chemistry, biology, computer science and environmental science. The imagineers (imagination + engineers, get it?) brought out a roller coaster simulator to show how G-force works to put the thrills into the ride and keep the rider in his seat, even when hanging upside down.

Liquid nitrogen and a giant air blaster pushed out fog. The creepy atmosphere was aided by dark lighting, a cemetery scene and eerie music, helping to illustrate how a blend of science and art goes into all the special effects.

N.Y.U.’s Skirball Center auditorium was too small for real fireworks, but the imagineers were able to demonstrate how they get different colors into the shooting explosions by adding various elements like copper and strontium.

Audience members could also see how live human beings provide the movements and gestures for animated characters like skeleton pirates. Other volunteers took an elephant-sized G.P.S. tracking device and trekked out to Washington Square Park, while the audience tracked their movements via satellite.

What was great about these demonstrations is that they showed kids that sometimes science can be used to produce the things they love — wild rides, engaging stories, beautiful art and more.


From NASA Kids Club – What is Mars?

What Is Mars?


Mars is the fourth planet from the sun. Image Credit: NASA
What Is Mars?
Mars is a planet. It is the fourth planet from the sun. It is the next planet beyond Earth. Mars is more than 142 million miles from the sun. The planet is about one-sixth the size of Earth. Mars is known as the Red Planet. It gets its red color from the iron in its soil. Mars has two small moons. Their names are Phobos and Deimos.

What Is Mars Like?
Mars is very cold. The average temperature on Mars is minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit — way below freezing! It is rocky with canyons, volcanoes and craters all over it. Red dust covers almost all of Mars. Mars has clouds and wind, just as Earth does. Sometimes the wind blows the red dust into a dust storm. The dust storms can look like tornados. Mars has about one-third the gravity of Earth. A rock dropped on Mars would fall more slowly than a rock dropped on Earth. Things weigh less on Mars than they weigh on Earth. A person who weighs 100 pounds on Earth would only weigh about 37 pounds on Mars because of less gravity.

A rover on Mars

A computer drawing shows a rover on Mars. Image Credit: NASA

What Has NASA Learned About Mars?
NASA has used both spacecraft and robots to learn more about Mars. In 1965, Mariner 4 was the first NASA spacecraft to get a close look at the planet. In 1976, Viking 1 and Viking 2 were the first NASA spacecraft to land on Mars. They took pictures and explored the planet’s surface. Since then, more spacecraft have flown near or landed on Mars. Scientists want to know if there is, or has ever been, water on Mars. Living things need water to survive. So, any sign of water on Mars would mean that there could be, or could have been, life on the planet.

How Is NASA Exploring Mars Today?
Today, three spacecraft are flying around, or orbiting, Mars. The spacecraft are using scientific tools to measure the temperature and the kinds of minerals on Mars. They are also taking pictures and searching for water.

Two robots that move, called rovers, are on Mars’ surface. Their names are Spirit and Opportunity. The rovers travel around taking pictures and looking at the planet’s soil and rocks. NASA uses pictures and information from the spacecraft and the rovers to learn more about Mars. It will send this information back to scientists on Earth.

Phoenix landing

A computer drawing shows the Phoenix robot landing on Mars. Image Credit: NASA

How Will NASA Explore Mars in the Future?
NASA plans to send more robots to Mars. It wants robots to one day collect Martian soil and rocks and bring them back to Earth to be studied. A robot named Phoenix is supposed to land on Mars in 2008. Phoenix will dig holes in Mars’ surface and study what it finds in the holes.

NASA also wants to send astronauts to Mars someday. To get ready to send humans to Mars, NASA is studying new kinds of homes where astronauts can live.

Scientists are studying how people in space could grow plants for food. By watching what happens to astronauts on the International Space Station, they are finding out how living in space affects humans.


Roller Coaster – SPARK!

Have you seen the Roller Coaster Website (it rhymes with Toaster)?

It is part of the ABC and has a special page called “SPARK” especially dedicated to science and nature. On this page you will find information on ABC shows like The Einstein Factor and Creature Features. There are links to The Lab, Get Inventive, Smelly Science, The Experimentals, The Surfing Scientist and National Science Week. There is also a Science Blog called “SPARK Blog” and a Fun and Games section, full of fun (and games…)
There are cool experiments too…

Click on The Science of >Experiments link (on the top left hand side of the page, in an orange bubble), the site opens a new page with heaps of cool experiments you can try at home and some neat videos to watch too.

The web address is:

Have fun!!!

Secrets of the Platypus Revealed!


Scientists seeking to solve the riddle of the platypus have proved it is the first animal to have evolved from reptile to mammal and has the characteristics of both.

One of the oddest creatures in nature, the semi-aquatic platypus is an egg-laying mammal which produces milk and has fur, has a bill like a duck and venom like a snake, flowing from a spur under its hind feet.

It is so strange that when the first stuffed specimens arrived in Europe at the end of the 18th century, biologists believed they were looking at a taxidermist’s hoax, a composite stitched together from the body of a beaver and the snout of a giant duck.

But now, in what is considered a milestone for Australian genetics, an international team of 100 researchers, including 26 from Australia, have mapped out the full set of chromosomes of the platypus.

It helps explain the platypus’s odd mix of body features.

In an article published in Nature magazine, the authors write: “The mixture of reptilian, mammalian and unique characteristics of the platypus genome (full set of chromosomes) provides many clues to the function and evolution of all mammalian genomes.”
The study is part of a larger study of how mammals developed, by the US-based National Human Genome Research Institute.

“We’ve probably learnt more during this study about platypuses than we have in decades and decades,” Dr Belov said.

Native to eastern Australia and Tasmania, the platypus is thought to have split off from a common ancestor shared with humans approximately 170 million years ago.

Source: May 8, 2008

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Have a look at the Blogroll on the right hand side of the screen. You will see a link to the Astromony Picture of the Day. Click the link to have a look at an amazing picture taken of one of the wonders of the universe and read about what the picture is, written by a real expert! There is a new one every day. The universe really is a wonderful place. Brought to you by the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA.