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Presenting 12th Annual Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition

Celebrating the Exemplary Achievements of Local Science Students
April 29 - May 1, 2011

ORLANDO, FL - (April 18, 2011) - Since 1999, Dr. Nelson Ying, local scientist, entrepreneur and philanthropist, has partnered with the Orlando Science Center to celebrate the exemplary achievements of local science students. From April 29- May 1, five finalists from area high schools will compete for the coveted “Ying Prize” during the Dr. Nelson Ying Science Competition. The Grand Prize winner also receives a $5000 scholarship and an award of $1000 for the student’s science teacher or mentor and another $1,000 for the winner’s school.

To compete in the Ying competition, each entrant must perform a research project that has the ultimate goal of benefiting humanity.  Previous entries have investigated treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, faster delivery of mechanisms for medicine, and solutions for beach erosion, just to name a few. Projects reports are submitted and reviewed by a distinguished panel of judges, including current and retired engineers, scientists, educators and Dr. Ying himself.

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The first nationally celebrated Earth Day was held in 1970 and next Saturday, April 23rd, we will continue the tradition of recognizing how humans play an important role in the future of our habitat, the Earth. The Orlando Science Center will be celebrating Earth Day looking at how science can help us to conserve energy and protect our environment.

In honor of Earth Day, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at something very small which has had a big impact on our environment in the last few years: bottled water.

Bottled water can cost anywhere from 1 to 6 cents per ounce, but tap water costs about 5 cents per gallon.  Interestingly enough, many bottling companies get their water from the same place we central Floridians do, the Florida Aquifer. So, what’s the difference between the tap water and bottled water? A bottle.

Some non-Florida natives, like me, will say there is quite a difference and it comes in the form of smell. Florida’s aquifers naturally filter the water so that it is amazingly clean even before it is pumped out. But there are sulfurous mineral deposits which give natural springs a distinctive smell. However OUC, the company which provides water to most of Orlando, has a process specifically designed to remove this sulfur smell by using ozone. Even if there is a little smell left over, it can be easily taken care of with a faucet-attached water filter. This makes it very easy to grab a reusable water bottle and fill it before leaving the house.

So, that leaves us with a plastic bottle. Plastic will takes hundreds of years to biodegrade but can be recycled.  However, even Zephyrhills notes on its packaging that less than 25% of water bottles get recycled. To do our part, the Science Center provides green colored bins outside of each elevator just for recycling.

This Saturday, come celebrate Earth Day with us and learn more about how to reduce, reuse and recycle. And if you’re interested in learning more about bottled water in Florida, check out the original article in the Orlando Sentinel titled “Water Everywhere: Which is for You?” by Kevin Spear.

 

Stephanie is a Science Interpreter at the Science Center and often is found in Dino Digs or Careers for Life. Paleontology, Anthropology and Anatomy are her passion and jumps at every opportunity to talk about it. Stop in and say Hello!


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Terroir is the term used to classify everything that happens to the grape naturally. This includes the geographical region, soil, and the weather. Terroir is a French term meaning land and is a major determining factor is the quality of the wine. For some wines to be in best quality, the grapes must be harvested in what most people might say are harsh environments. This is called the “Struggling Vine Theory”. You might think that growing grapes in cold environments or in limestone gravel wouldn’t be ideal but for some grapes this is the best environment.

The location of the vineyard can affect the whole grape production. The soil composition, exposure to sun, and the climate can change the quality of the wine produced. Sometimes even within the same vineyard, depending on the sun position and other factors, a difference can be seen in the grapes produced.

When looking at grape harvesting it is important to keep in mind that there are many factors that go into even the growing of the grapes. If you want to learn about the difference that terroir makes on growing grapes and making wine, sign up for the Appellations Can you Tell the Difference seminar at the Science of Wine on May 14.  Utilizing Google Earth, the participants will visit four California vineyards and taste the wines that come from those vineyards.

Napa


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Throughout the year the sun appears at different locations at the same time of day. At 6 P.M. in July it's still sunny outside, while at 6 P.M. in January the Sun has already set. These differences are easily seen month by month, but not easily seen by the days or the weeks.

The sun tracking experiment will allow you to see that the sun appears in different locations at same specific time everyday. This is a great outdoor summer activity that will be fun for you and your family!  Here is how it works:

Sun_Track_1

  1. Glue a wooden stick to a cardboard square so that it stands upright at the edge, so the whole shadow can be seen on the square.
  2. Place the cardboard square outside where it can be exposed to the sun on a flat surface. Every day at the same time make a mark on the cardboard where the tip of the shadow is located and write the date. (It is important for the board to be in the exact location, facing the same direction everyday. It may be useful to mark the ground location where you will be putting the cardboard)
  3. Repeat this daily or weekly at the same exact time each day.
  4. Look at the results to discuss with your family about how often the sun moves compared to your expectations.

Sun_Track_2

The tilt of the Earth’s axis which causes the Earth to Face the Sun at an 23 degree angle is what causes the change in the shadow’s location. Depending on where the Earth is located in its orbit around the sun is what determines the length of day. The length of the days changes because the Earth’s location around the sun is contantly changing.


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Smell is our strongest sense and in wine tasting this becomes dominant. The smell can change the whole experience. It is crucial to know what to look for when you smell a good wine and the technique required to do so. Smell is an uncontrollable sense so it is only natural that this can change the taste of anything including wine. Each grape variety has its own distinct smell characteristics. One can also pick up some of the winemakers techniques when they know what they are looking for. For example, if a Chardonnay is fermented using oak chips to add more flavoring, the smell is quite different from a Chardonnay without oak additives.

Smell is something that occurs without training but with a little bit of attention to details one can learn how to master the art of smelling. Before smelling, it is crucial to swirl the glass of wine. This will allow the smells to open up and become more distinct. Try smelling the wine before swirling and try to notice the difference. When you have learned how to smell using these basic techniques you will begin to pick up on the subtle and strong differences between the wine varieties.

Want to see for yourself how much smell effects taste? Try the jelly bean experiment. Take a jelly bean without knowing the color. Plug your nose then put the jelly bean in your mouth. You will be able to tell that it is sweet and know the texture but not much more than that. Then unplug your nose. Did you notice the change in flavor? Now you should be able to tell what flavor the jelly bean is without a doubt. Surprised how much smell goes into the tastes. Now you might see why it is so important to smell the wine before tasting to get the full experience of what you are enjoying.

 

Wine_Glass


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What seems like "monkeying around" is really a valuable lesson for this baby chimp. Chimps are toolmakers just like humans, and just like humans, the first teacher that a baby chimp will have is its mother. Watch this baby chimp learn the do's and dont's of safari ant hunting.

 


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DNA Day at the Orlando Science Center is just a month away, so in honor of this amazing molecule I thought it would be neat to look over some genetics news.

This article is from last year, but the research continues. Neanderthals, or cavemen, have long been thought to be dull, slow and stupid, (thus the whole Geico thing about being so easy a caveman could do it). Ever since the reconstruction of the remains at La Chapelle aux Saints in 1911 by Marcellin Boule, the general public has had the idea that Neanderthals stood hunched-over, with their arms drooping down and that they moved slowly. In fact, this is a mistake. The remains from La Chapelle Aux Saints turn out to be those of an old man who had severe arthritis. Of course he would have walked slowly and been hunched over, but Boule thought this idea applied to all Neanderthals.

Much work had been done since then, but analyzing bones can only get you so far. That’s where this study comes in; a group of researchers from the Max Planck Institute are looking into DNA preserved in different specimens. What can we tell from this? For one, we can see how different Neanderthals really were from modern humans and we can get ideas about why you don’t see more cavemen around today.

If you think this is cool, imagine what it would be like to ask one of these researchers questions about their findings. On May 7, DNA Day, you can have that chance; Dr. Emily Hodges from the research team will be available via Skype for questions!

For more information, click here to view the full article.

Stephanie is a Science Interpreter at the Science Center and often is found in DinoDigs or Careers for Life. Paleontology, Anthropology and Anatomy are her passion and jumps at every opportunity to talk about it. Stop in and say Hello!

 


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