Celebrate America’s Independence and Explore the Science of Fireworks

With Independence Day upon us this week, the fireworks stands are popping up all over town.  With the dry weather and heat wave many are experiencing this year, I am confidant many cities will be enforcing strict prohibitions against fireworks.  Why not then take the time to explore the science of fireworks and perhaps try making a few simple ones yourself?

Learn about the science of fireworks with this awesome video. How do fireworks work? Where do the cool colors come from? What makes the big explosions?

Creating firework colors requires considerable art and application of science. Excluding propellants or special effects, the points of light ejected from fireworks, termed ‘stars’, generally require an oxygen-producer, fuel, binder (to keep everything where it needs to be), and a color producer.

The bright colors visible when fireworks explode are a result of pyrotechnic stars —pellets of chemicals that generate certain colors or produce sparking effects when burned. When the bursting charge is ignited, the main fuel explodes first, transferring energy to the colorant chemicals, which prompts these chemicals’ electrons to move into an excited state. Then, moments later, when the colorant chemicals cool and the electrons fall back to their base state, they release the extra energy as colorful radiation when they are flying through the sky. The specific color depends on the chemical:
fireworks
To achieve unusually-shaped fireworks, such as double-rings, hearts or stars, technicians pack the fuel and colorant chemicals inside a tube in different formations. Chemists design fireworks to burn as slowly as possible, rather than explode rapidly – a slower burn means that a visual effect will last longer and cover a greater area of the sky. To achieve this, the fuel and oxidizer chemicals used are relatively large-grained, about the size of a grain of sand. Additionally, chemists avoid mixing the fuel and oxidizer together thoroughly, making it more difficult for them to burn.

Flame Photometry

If you wish to delve into the science of fireworks even further, consider undertaking flame photometry experiments.  Rainbow Fire, is an exciting activity kit that you may wish to consider; it is available for purchase at Science Buddies. The necessary materials and the experimental procedure are outlined for you on their website.  Of course, adult supervision is required.  The four chemicals used in the kit are:

  • Copper sulfate
  • Strontium chloride
  • Boric acid
  • Sodium chloride

Things to Ponder

  • How are the colors produced by a chemical when it burns related to the atomic structure of the chemical?
  • What is flame spectrometry and how is it used by physicists and chemists?
  • How does this science project relate to what astronomers do when they are trying to identify the atomic makeup of a star?
  • What are metal ions? In the chemicals used in this science project, which elements in the compounds are metals?

Black Snake Fireworks

Do you remember watching long carbon worms emerge from growing tablets our parents lit with matches on the 4th of July?  For a simple do-it-yourself recipe, a homemade black snake is sure to delight.

Setting Goals with Your Teen or Pre-teen: 5 Tips for Success

My husband is very successful in his work. He manages time well and has great working relationships with his colleagues and direct reports – evidenced by the many farewell emails, heartfelt inscription in cards, and often tearful good-byes that have been shared with him these past few weeks.

We have both heard friends exclaim, How do you do it all? How do you get so much accomplished? They are often surprised when we reply that we simply set goals and take measureable steps to achieve them.

Goals are critical. They keep you focused on what’s important to you, and allow you to make the best use of your day. When tackled correctly, they force you out of your comfort zone and help you to grow more each day than you would without them. Most importantly, goals put us in the driver’s seat and give us control. By setting a goal, you are taking an active role in driving new and better results in your life. What could be more important than that?

Setting Goals with Your Teen: Five Tips for Success @EvaVarga.netTeaching our pre-teens or teenagers to set goals effectively can be life-changing. However, as we teach goal-setting to our children, we need to make sure we’re showing them how to use goals to have the greatest possible positive impact on their lives.

Specific

The most important thing to remember is that goals are personal. We as parents have experience and should try to impart our wisdom. However, we need to provide guidance around the process of goal-setting. Try not to determine the specific content of the goals. Keep in mind these are their goals, not yours.

Everyone will have different goals. The question is what are you excited about? What do you want to do? What passions drive them? What are their areas of interest? Support their process of self-discovery and encourage them to follow their hearts.

Encourage them to also be as detailed and specific as possible. Saying “I want to be a writer.” or “I want to be a concert pianist.” is too vague and thus more likely to fail.

Answer the questions: What are you going to do? Why do you want to do it? When are you going to do it? I am really interested in ____, so my goal might look like this: ____.  I want to do this to help me ____. 

Measurable

My daughter has aspirations to write a novel. She has several notebooks with pages and pages of stories that are beginning to emerge. She has typed out numerous fan fiction spin offs and has shared them on Wattpad. Most recently, she has asked to be excused from her other lessons in the month of November so that she can participate NaNoWriMo, the annual novel writing project whereby each participant aims to write a 50,000-word rough draft in the 30 days of the month.

A key step in setting goals and achieving the desired result is to make your goal measurable. A number of pages per week or the number of words per month is a measurable goal. You will be able to hold yourself accountable and measure your progress. Remember, it is a numbers game. If you want to be a writer, for example, the best way to get better is to fill more pages.

Attainable

Setting goals can be a double-edged sword. It can drive purposeful action in our lives and allow us to achieve more over a shorter period of time. Setting goals can also be a source of anxiety. They have the potential to create a hyper-focus on future circumstances.

Relatedly, goals need to be attainable. Continuing with my daughter’s goal writing a novel, if she sets out to fill 100 pages a week, she will probably fall short of her goal (at least I would). To assure success, choose a number that you can do but will push you a little outside of your comfort zone.

Setting Goals with Your Teen: Five Tips for Success @EvaVarga.netRealistic

Life is always throwing curve-balls in an attempt to derail us from our path. We may fall short of our goal but that doesn’t mean we throw in the towel and give up. Perhaps you need to be more specific in your goal statement or quantitative measure. If 50,000 words in a month seems far too much, perhaps 25,000 or 10,000 words is more attainable?

Celebrating small milestones and accomplishments along the way can help maintain enthusiasm. Take heart and trust you will get better, just give it time. Do not judge yourself on how pretty a painting is, but attend to what you discovered, or how much richer your memories of the experience have become.

Timely

One of the goals I have had in the past that I look forward to revisiting once we get settled in our new home is to keep a nature journal. I loved documenting my discoveries alongside my children when they were younger. Somewhere along the way, we stopped journaling regularly and I really miss it.

When and how often are we going to open my journal? Every moment of my day is already filled. How can we fit in something new? These are just a couple of the questions that have been going through my head as I begin to formulate my goal.

Another key to successful goal setting is to connect routines you already have in place. For example, when we go birding or hiking, I can bring our journal materials along with me and start to journal on these expeditions. Journal entries need not take hours. We can get out our journals to catch fifteen minutes here and ten minutes there.

~ ~ ~

We all want what’s best for our kids. Teaching them to think in terms of setting and accomplishing goals will help them discover that their best source for fulfillment is within themselves. Experience with setting goals will provide the recognition that they control the outcomes in their lives. Through the process of setting goals, we can give our children the most important gift any parent can give – the ability to thrive in life without us.

The Islands of the Galapagos: Espanola

espanolaThis is the fifth post of a five day hopscotch series. Join me each day this week as I share with you our discoveries in the Galápagos Islands.

Isla Española

The kids and I would agree that Isla Española is our favorite. We spent the entire morning here on our seventh day – walking very slowly as there was so much wildlife to see here, particularly the baby sea lions, Waved Albatross, Nazca boobies, and Blue boobies.

Located in the extreme southeast of the Galápagos archipelago, Isla Española is considered, along with Santa Fe, one of the oldest – and thus the first to which animals arrived. The climate is very dry, like most of the archipelago, but due to the flatness of the island, it is the driest of these islands, with only a few inches of rain per year.

nazcabooby

As one of the oldest islands, Española is slowly becoming a rocky, barren land with little or no vegetation giving way to large bays with sand and soft shingle which attracts a number of Galápagos Sea Lions.

Punta Suárez is of particular interest to birders because of its varied bird life. As it is one of the oldest islands, this island has its own endemic species, amongst them the Española Mockingbird which has a longer and more curved beak than the one on the central islands; the Española lava lizard; the Marine Iguana of the subspecies venustissimus, which has red markings on its back; among others.

espanolaiguanaAs we walked along the trail on the cliff, we observed a surprise at every bend. We were able to watch a male Nazca booby court a female calling her attention and placing “gifts” of stones and sticks on a nest. We also watched a female Blue booby feeding her chick who was as white as snow and fluffy white.

As we returned to the Evolution later that afternoon, and what I later realized was the last time (for the next day we anchored off at Isla San Cristobal for our departure flight back to Guayaquil), we were captivated by a number of small golden rays that circled the panga and stayed with the ship for sometime after.

sallylightfootRead my other posts in The Islands of the Galápagos series:

Baltra & Santa Cruz

Isabela

Fernandina

Santiago & Bartolomé

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The Islands of the Galapagos: Santiago & Bartolome

santiagobartolomeThis is the fourth post of a five day hopscotch series. Join me each day this week as I share with you our discoveries in the Galápagos Islands.

Isla Bartolomé

Isla Bartolomé is a volcanic islet just off the east coast of Isla Santiago. It is one of the “younger” islands in the Galápagos archipelago. This island, and Sulivan Bay on Santiago island, are named after a naturalist and lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who was a lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle.

Bartolomé has a volcanic cone that is easy to climb and provides great views of the other islands. We began our tour here by hiking up this cone in the morning – a relatively easy hike via a raised wooden walkway and stairs.

From the viewpoint we could easily see Pinnacle Rock, the distinctive characteristic for which Bartolomé is famous and the most representative landmark of the Galápagos.

pinnacleThe majority of our group chose to spend the afternoon on the beach (pictured just behind us above) where marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles, flamingos, crabs, dolphins, and sharks can be found. While the flamingos continued to evade us, we did observe a shark playing in the surf, just a few feet from where we stood.

The afternoon was a little windy and cold and thus Patrick and Buddy were the only passengers to join Cristina on a snorkeling outing. They were rewarded handsomely, however. Not only did they see sharks resting on the ocean floor, but they were also able to swim with a pod of dolphins. I was so jealous – I’ve always wanted to swim with wild dolphins!! I am kicking myself for being a wimp and not want to get cold.

Isla Santiago

Isla Santiago consists of two overlapping volcanoes, atop the northwestern shield volcano. The volcano in the island’s southwest erupted along a linear fissure, and is much lower. There are many volcanic fissures and a variety of red, orange, green, and glistening black volcanic formations.

We spent the evening meandering about Sullivan Bay, which is especially fascinating for those who are interested in geology and volcanology. Here you can walk over the un-eroded, black lava flow covered with lava bubbles and tree-trunk molds in the surface.

pahoehoeRead my other posts in The Islands of the Galápagos series:

Baltra & Santa Cruz

Isabella

Fernandina

Española

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The Islands of the Galapagos: Fernandina

fernandina

This is the third post of a five day hopscotch series. Join me each day this week as I share with you our discoveries in the Galápagos Islands.

Fernandina

Isla Fernandina is the third largest, and youngest, island of the Galápagos Islands. It is considered the most pristine of the Galápagos Islands and has had no species of mammals introduced, which sets it apart from most of the other islands in the archipelago.

The westernmost of the islands in the archipelago, it was named in honor of King Ferdinand of Spain, who sponsored the voyage of Christopher Columbus. Like the other islands in the archipelago, it was formed by the hotspot and is an active shield volcano that has been erupting since April 11, 2009.

In 1968, the caldera underwent a collapse when parts of the caldera floor dropped 350 meters.  Since then, a small lake has intermittently occupied the northern caldera floor, most recently in 1988. Due to the active volcano, there is not much plant life on this island and has a mostly rocky surface.

marineiguanasWe landed at Punta Espinoza, a narrow stretch of land where hundreds of marine iguanas gather in large groups on black lava rocks. We had to be careful where we stepped because they literally carpeted the ground and camouflaged so well with the ʻaʻā and  pāhoehoe. 

Most of the lavas on Fernandina are ʻaʻā. Pahoehoe lavas on Fernandina are largely resticted to vents on the coast plain. ʻAʻā  is extremely difficult to walk on, making the climb to the summit a difficult one, however, tourists are kept to the outskirts of the caldera.

A nesting colony of Flightless Cormorant inhabits this island and we were able to get remarkably close.  Other endemic wildlife include Galápagos penguins, pelicans, Galápagos land iguanas, and sea lions. Mangrove forests abound on the fringes of the island.

groupcormorantsRead my other posts in The Islands of the Galápagos series:

Baltra & Santa Cruz

Isabella

Santiago & Bartolomé

Española

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The Islands of the Galapagos: Isabela

isabela

This is the second post of a five day hopscotch series. Join me each day this week as I share with you our discoveries in the Galápagos Islands.

Isabela

The seahorse-shaped Isabela Island is the largest of all the islands, measuring 120 km long and greater in size than all of the other islands combined. One of the younger islands and more volcanically active, it was formed by the joining of six shield volcanoes — from north to south — Ecuador, Wolf, Darwin, Alcedo, Sierra Negra, and Cerro Azul. With the exception of Volcano Ecuador (whose western flanks have collapsed), all are still active.

Wolf Volcano, with an elevation of 1707 m, is the highest point in the Galapagos Archipelago. Isabela provides visitors with excellent examples of the geologic forces that created the Galapagos Islands, including uplifts at Urbina Bay, tuff cones at Tagus Cove, and pumice on Alcedo Volcano.

In 1893, Antonio Gil, a well-known Guayaquileño, arrived in Galapagos and after visiting the other islands, colonized southern Isabela, founding the town of Puerto Villamil on the southern coast and later Santa Tomás in the highlands.

Villamil – named after a freedom fighter from the Guayaquil, José de Villamil – began as a center for a lime production operation where they burned coral collected in the coastal waters. Santa Tomás was the center for a sulfur mine in the caldera and a nearby coffee plantation.

sealionUrbina Bay

Located at the base of Alcedo Volcano on the west coast of the island, this area experienced a major uplift in 1954, causing the land (formerly red mangroves) to rise over 16 feet. The coast expanded half a mile leaving marine life stranded on the new shore.

On the morning of our third day, after a wet-landed from the panga, we walked in land about 1/2 mile and observed sea turtle nests, Giant tortoises, beautiful orange land iguanas, many small marine fossils, and several Galapagos hawks.

After our hike, we spent some time on the beach swimming and snorkeling with the sea turtles, sea lions, rays, and the diverse fish that were near the shore.

penguinsTagus Cove

Tagus Cove on the northwestern side of the island was named for a British naval vessel that moored here in 1814 and provided a sheltered anchorage for pirates, buccaneers, whalers, and others. One can still see the names of their ships carved into the rock, a practice that is now prohibited.

In the afternoon we first chose to snorkel from the panga. We saw many colorful fish but the most exciting were the penguins and sea horses, the latter of which were difficult to see they were so well camouflaged in the Sargassum.

seaturtleAfter returning to the Evolution to get warmed up and a little something to eat, the group split up – several (including Patrick, Jeffrey, and myself) ventured out again for a panga ride along the shore. Geneva chose to join the others for a “power hike” to Darwin Lake (he visited Tagus Cove in 1835).

The panga riders enjoyed many opportunities to observe boobies, penguins, iguanas, cormorants, and noddy birds along the cliffs and shoreline. I most enjoyed seeing the yellow and orange cup coral (just at the water line) in a small cove. They were so brightly colored!

darwinlake

Read my other posts in The Islands of the Galápagos series:

Baltra & Santa Cruz

Fernandina

Santiago & Bartolomé

Española

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