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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:

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  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.

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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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Mecury_Messenger_Pic_1

On August 3, 2004 NASA launched the MESSENGER discovery mission, an unmanned spacecraft set to send back pictures of  the entire planet of Mercury.  This mission  is monumental because this is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury and the first pictures of Mercury we will have from a spacecraft since Mariner 10 in 1974. The magnetic pull of the sun coupled with the intense heat have made it very difficult to obtain any images of the sunny side of Mercury. Until now we have only had recorded images of 45 percent of the planet‘s surface. Scientists researched and found  the best way around this dilemma is through the inner solar system.

When MESSENGER launched from Earth  in 2004 it began an eight year path into Mercury’s orbit. First it flew by Earth once, then by Venus twice, and took a flyby of Mercury. In 2008 the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) craft made its initial approach and took pictures of regions of Mercury that have never been seen before by the human eye.  Last month on March 17, 2011 the MESSENGER craft successfully entered the orbit of Mercury.  On March 29th we got the first pictures back of Mercury from orbit and they are spectacular! The MESSENGER mission will continue collecting data for another year.

Scientists hope that from this mission we will gain more insight into the mysteries of Mercury including its geologic features, its core and density, its thin atmosphere yet presence of a magnetic field, the unusual materials at the poles, and possibly clues to the evolution of the solar system itself.

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 Find out more about Mercury and the other planets in our solar system by visiting The Orlando Science Center and exploring our permanent exhibit on astronomy and Earth Science, Our Planet, Our Universe.

Two articles from National Geographic Website:

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/03/14/nasa_mercury_messenger_enter_orbit/

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/03/pictures/110330-messenger-mercury-from-orbit-nasa-space-first-pictures-science/?source=link_tw20110330news-mercury

Keep up with The MESSENGER:

http://messenger.jhuapl.edu

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/messenger/main/


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Here's a great spotlight on the Energize Video Game we helped develop!



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Orlando Science Center • 777 E. Princeton Street • Orlando, Florida 32803 • Phone: 407.514.2000 • Toll Free: 888.OSC.4FUN • Email: [email protected]
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