What do rocks and clocks have in common? Both keep track of time.
Yes, radioactive isotopes present in rocks and other ancient material decay atom by atom at a steady rate, much as clocks tick time away. Geologists use those radioactive isotopes to date volcanic ash or granite formations like the giant Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Anthropologists, archeologists, and paleontologists also use radioactive isotopes to date mummies, pottery, and dinosaur fossils. Does this sound abstract…
Have you ever wondered how it's possible to so accurately date ancient artifacts? Geologists, paleontologists, archeologists, and anthropologists use a statistical process like radioactive isotope decay to date objects through a method called radioactive dating (also known as radiometric dating). To learn more about that method, check out the geology science project
. In that particular Project Idea, radioactive decay of isotopes is modeled by rolling dice. While that procedure is a great way…
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Short (2-5 days)
Familiarity with a programming language and basic programming algorithms
One piece of Play-Doh can make many different shapes. Even though you can change the shape by squishing or stretching the Play-Doh, it is still the same size unless you add or take away some of the dough. Try this experiment to test how these changes in size and shape occur in each dimension.
Using just a single sheet of paper (8.5 x 11 inches) and up to five paper clips, can you build a bridge that will span 20 cm and support the weight of 100 pennies? The area beneath the span must be free (so that boats can pass beneath it). To test your bridge, place two books 20 cm apart, and set the bridge on the books, spanning the gap. Do not fasten the bridge to the book (nor to any other support). Does your bridge hold as much weight as you expected it would? If your bridge fails…
Have you ever set up a line of dominoes and watched them fall? If you wanted to make your line of dominoes fall faster, do you think you should set the dominoes up with more or less space between them? Set your dominoes up in a straight line, using a ruler to keep the spacing between them constant. Try different spacings at 0.5cm increments. Conduct multiple trials at each spacing, and time how long it takes for a fixed total length of dominoes to fall (e.g., a 1.5 or 3.0 meter length of…
You probably know that you can use iron filings to reveal the magnetic field produced by a strong magnet. If you sandwich the iron filings between pieces of waxed paper, you can make a permanent record of your magnetic experiments (Gardner, 2004, 66). Cover the wax paper sandwich with a layer of brown paper (from a roll, or cut open a paper shopping bag), and then (with an adult's help) use a hot, dry iron to seal the waxed paper together. You will have to experiment a little with your iron…
We can't say it any better than he did, so here is Ryan Ponec's capsule description of his excellent project (Ponec, 2002): "At the end of a lesson, a teacher will sometimes have students summarize the information presented by stating, 'Tell me something you learned.' The purpose of this experiment is to determine whether or not this 'lesson summary' significantly enhances the students' ability to later recall the information presented. Students from grade levels fifth through eighth were…
Almost all of the games we play are based on math in some way or another. Card games, board games, and computer games are designed using statistics, probabilities, and algorithms. Begin by reading about games and game theory. Then you can choose your favorite game and investigate the mathematical principles behind how it works. Can combinatorial game theory help you to win two-player games of perfect knowledge such as go, chess, or checkers? (Weisstein, 2006; Watkins, 2004) In a multi-player…
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