Making a Symphony Out of Science and Making Learning Fun

It’s been a while. Summer, weddings, and Caribbean vacations will do that though. But, that’s no excuse. So I’m back! Miss me? Haha.

One of the main reasons that I’ve been MIA for the last month is that I’m on the job hunt, and every time I use my computer I feel that I need to be searching for jobs and not blogging. And every time I think about blogging I feel kind of guilty. But, I feel that I applied for an acceptable number of jobs today, and as I’m bored at the moment, I’m taking some time to pen the blog post that I’ve been thinking about for a couple weeks.

If you haven’t realized, I’m a nerd. I mean, I have a Master’s degree in History for Heaven’s sake. If that doesn’t qualify as one of the pillars of all that is nerdy, I don’t know what does.

Well, actually….I think this post will cement just how nerdy I can be.

History, social studies, grammar, and literature were always my strong suits in school. Math and science — not so much. But, that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t interested in those two subjects. For example, I wanted to be an astronaut for most of my childhood, then amended that to wanting to be an aerospace engineer who designed the next space shuttle. I quickly determined, however, that I could never be either of those things because, like I said, math and science simply didn’t agree with me.

Despite my shortcomings in those subjects, I’ve maintained a hobby-level interest in science — especially in the study of outer space and its proper, related subjects of astronomy and physics. I keep up with the new theories, love Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene, read books on black holes and string theory. But, it’s all very complicated and I would be lying if I said that I completely understand it.

Now, I’m sure this all sounds like pure intellectual insanity. It does even to me. But, there’s something about the subject that enthralls me.

It’s about learning what lies in the wider world beyond us, about how it’s almost impossible to fathom that we are seven billion people living on this one tiny planet, circling this small to average size star, in a solar system, in one small part of a large galaxy, that is an even smaller part of a huge universe.

Our planet, our universe is an amazing place. It is awe-inspiring.

The best thing about it though, is that you don’t even need to be a nerd like me to grasp its awesomeness, or appreciate its beauty.

And you don’t need to be a nerd to learn about the universe, its parts, or the forces that hold it together.

I recently discovered something fascinating on YouTube: a series of videos called the Symphony of Science. The Symphony of Science is not just on YouTube. In reality, it is a musical project created and produced by musician John D. Boswell who aims to “deliver scientific knowledge and philosophy in musical form.

In his videos, Boswell takes clips of well known scientists from various television documentaries and programs and strings them together to present¬† short yet engaging “lessons” on various scientific subjects. But, these aren’t just dry video compilations of interviews. No. Boswell then sets the videos to music and auto tunes all of the clips, creating a musical lesson that leaves you replaying the videos over and over again.

I wish science class had been like this in school.

Up to this point there are 15 music videos, which are available on YouTube or on Boswell’s website. Most are related to outer space, physics or astronomy and heavily feature scientists like Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, and Brian Cox. Others are concerned with the animal kingdom and life on Earth and feature other scientists like David Attenborough and Jane Goodall.

Here’s a sample of some of the videos:

1. “A Glorious Dawn” – the first video in the series and probably the best of them all.

 

2. “The Quantum World” – Morgan Freeman helps explain the forces of the universe.

 

3. “The Unbroken Thread” – the beauty of life on Earth and our interconnectedness.

 

4. “We Are Star Dust” – the universe exists in us.

 

So, what do you think? Do you need to be a nerd to appreciate science? To appreciate the universe around us?

Watch the videos. Learning can be fun.

Besides, it’s okay to be a nerd sometimes.

That way you can say:

DISCLAIMER: All Symphony of Science compilations are owned by John D. Boswell. All clips used within those compilations are the property of the programs from which he collected clips.

Reach for the Stars…Er, the Planets

When I was in grade school, I wanted to be an astronaut. This was followed by a brief desire to be be an aerospace engineer who designed the next space shuttle, which was quickly replaced by a desire to be President of the United States. Needless to say, none of those dreams lasted. I don’t like heights, I’m terrible at math, and being president of College Democrats in college left me so burnt out that I could have screamed.

But, regardless of the fact that my dreams of outer space have waned, I still love the stars.

I mentioned earlier this week that we’ve had some amazing weather in Ohio — it’s been in the low 70s for several days and I’ve been living in my flip flops. Because of this, I haven’t been running from my car to the house because of the cold at night, and I’ve actually had the time to turn my eyes to the sky and take in the stars.

Believe me, I’m no expert on the night sky — I usually rely on my Dad to point constellations and planets out to me. But, over the last couple nights, I’ve noticed something. There are two extremely bright stars located very close to one another in the Western sky. With the rudimentary knowledge that I have, I figured at least one was probably a planet, but which one I didn’t know.

Source: National Geographic online.

After a little Googling, I found my answer:

It’s not one, but two planets!

This week, Jupiter and Venus reached their peak for the year in proximity to each other in the night sky. In the photograph above, taken in France several days ago, Jupiter (on the right) and Venus (on the left) were virtually directly across from one another in the sky.

As of tonight, March 16th, the planets have begun to drift away from one another, but they are still very close together and very bright — particularly Venus which is often the brightest object in the sky.

This is roughly what they looked like tonight:

This photograph, taken by Greg Abbott and appearing on The Guardian website, shows Jupiter on the left and Venus on the right. This is roughly what the two planets looked like in the sky tonight, March 16th.

 

Jupiter and Venus are visible for about 4 hours following sunset. If you are having trouble locating them, look for the brightest object in the sky — Venus. It’s hard to miss. Venus is so bright that it looks like the headlight of a car shining at you from space.

According to Earthsky.org, March 2012 is one of the best months ever to view the five planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury) which are visible to the naked eye.

Next Sunday, March 25th, the Moon will enter into Venus and Jupiter’s dance:

Picture located at Earthsky.org

Take some time this week, look up at the night sky. Consider the immense universe we live in and the beauty it contains.

Plus,¬† it’ll be awhile until this sight comes around so brilliantly again. Although Venus and Jupiter come close to one another in our sky roughly ever 13 months, next year when they appear in May 2013, they’ll only remain visible for 1 hour before setting below the horizon.