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Stumbling towards vaccination...

Humans are born observers. And, while we did not develop the technology to see a virus until an electron microscope was first built less than 100 years ago, for at least a thousand years people have noticed that when people contract -- and survive -- a disease, they build up a resistance to it. And for as long as humans have understood that, they have sought ways to gain that protection with less risk.

Is a vacuum always a vacuum?

When we hear the word vacuum the first thing we usually think of is a vacuum cleaner.  Scientifically, a vacuum is a space that is devoid of matter, including air.  Vacuums create suction because matter, especially air, wants to fill spaces that are empty. The first scientific (literally, in a test tube) vacuum was created in 1640 by Evangelista Torricelli (who wanted to test Galileo's theories about air and matter). 

Ironically, however, the first "vacuum" cleaners did not use vacuums at all.  Instead, they were blowers!  They were literally made of bellows that someone squeezed to blow dirt out of the way. Needless to say, they were not especially effective at controlling dust.  

Who figured out that a quarantine might work?

The first viruses were not actually seen until the invention of the electron microscope in the 1930s.  But for centuries before that discovery, scientists sought ways to contend with epidemics. Some, like Louis Pasteur, sought vaccines for pathogens they could not see but knew existed.  Others, like Carlos Finlay who studied Yellow Fever in Cuba, and speculated about transmission (and how to stop mosquitoes from spreading that illness). But even before that, societies felt the impact of epidemics and learned that they tended to come from ships. Trade ships sailed all over the world, bringing back treasures and silks and spices -- and sometimes the plague. 

Getting to Apply Physics 400 years later!

Physics can be one of the hardest sciences to learn.  Although the math scares off some students, others just get stuck in the fact that so many laws of physics are not observable on Earth.  We learn the law of inertia, which states that objects in motion stay in motion.  But, when we roll a ball, it does not stay in motion.  Rather it stops, sometimes sooner rather than later.  We learn that gravity operates on all objects with the same force, regardless of weight, yet we see that a piece of paper will flutter to the floor much more slowly than a pencil.  So, physics, what gives? 

How's your geography?

At EdBoost, we often find that our students (even our middle school and high school students) have no understanding of geography (when they don't know that the colonists would have had to take a boat to come from English to America, we're in trouble!).

Most American adults learned the 50 states and capitals in grade school, do you still remember them?  Can you locate all of the European countries?  What about all the countries in Africa and South America?  It's no fun to stare at a globe, but it is pretty fun to see how well (or not well) you know your geography online.  Compete against your friends!

This site has a very easy and simple interface that we love (great for states, capitals, and countries and capitals around the world!):

Remembering PEMDAS

As adults, we forget a lot that we learned in our youth.  We can get away with most of it.  But, order of operations are math rules that really will change a math answer.  And, it's nice when math answers are correct. 

So, if the meme is getting to you (click here for the answer). Review our Order of Operations lesssons (embedded videos courtesy of Khan Academy). 

Enjoy the math!

ORDER OF OPERATIONS

Most students learn the acronym PEMDAS to remember the order of operations.  PEMDAS stands for:

The Beauty of Frozen Sugar

Almost any liquid can freeze -- aka: change from a liquid to a solid -- but some of them taste a lot better than others.  The story of the brand "Popsicle" is the story of a kid named Frank Epperson, who accidently invented the frozen treat.  He called it an "Epsicle" (he was 11, so of course he did), but his kids referred to the treats as "Pop's sicles" and the brand Popsicle was born. 

But, how often do we think about freezing as the process of slowing down the movement of atoms?  It all comes down to physics. 

Our next Idongetit Science Tale gets deeper into the atomic details of the states of matter. 

What to Ponder When Choosing Middle Schools & High Schools

Taking a break from test prep to muse a bit about choosing schools.  So many of us who just "went to the local middle school and high school" are now faced with a great deal of school choice when it comes to our own kids' middle school and high school. Given how terrible the middle school years can be, and how critical the high school years can be, how does one make these choices?

The answer, of course, depends a lot on the kid and the school, and a choice that is perfect for one family could be the absolutely wrong choice for another.  So, I have no magic solution here.  But, these are the issues I like to throw out (in no particular order) as families ponder these decisions. 

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