Mathematician of the Month – Fibonacci

I’m doing a series with my family where we learn about an important figure every month and learn about their life and theories. I got stuck with the short end of the straw, which obviously means I got stuck with Math. While all my moaning and groaning and whining fell on deaf ears, I actually found that I was enjoying myself. I thought I’d document little short stories here just in case some of you find it interesting as well.

Fibonacci

Fibonacci c. 1170 – 1240

This month’s mathematician is a handsome young Italian man called Leonardo de Pisa (the same place the famous Leaning Tower is from) who was born to a rich merchant who would take the young boy along during his travels to one of his posts in Algeria. Leonardo, who went by his nickname of Fibonacci by then, started showing a fascination towards the Hindu-Arabic numeral system. Not having to work, owing to his riches, Fibonacci decided to travel around the world to discover math in different cultures. His travels took him to many Arabic and Mediterranean countries where he found that the Hindu-Arabic numerals were simpler and more efficient than the Roman numerals he was taught.

All of his learning and travel led him to write the famous Liber Abaci, spreading word on the new numeral system he had picked up. The book was first published 800 years ago and was full of mathematical puzzles. One of the most famous puzzles was –

If you put a male and a female rabbit in an enclosed space, how many rabbits will you have at the end of a year?

The answer can be found using a mathematical model – a pattern that has now come to be called the Fibonacci sequence.

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, …

What’s fascinating about the sequence is that the numbers appear everywhere in nature. If you could the bumps on pineapples and pine-cones, the family tree of cows etc. It can also be found in renaissance paintings, in the Pyramids of Giza and many other architectural wonders

monalisa3

STEM Apps for Kids

STEM education is seen as essential for kids as it gives them the foundation to explore a variety of careers. While these careers can be directly related to STEM, there are also those that require the skills one develops while learning these subjects. STEM subjects are Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. These subjects train students in skills like problem solving and critical thinking. So it is not necessary that only students interested in becoming scientists and engineers should get acquainted with STEM. Even those who find these subjects dreary can rediscover the subjects in a whole new light with apps that deliver the concepts without taking the skills and fun out of them.

Dibble Dash: In penguin games like this one, kids can practice their math skills like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Math Bingo: Kids can test their math know-how with this game and play through three levels. Questions are related to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Math AppsMathApps” by Kathy Cassidy is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Science360: Older kids will benefit from the latest news, spectacular images and videos that are streamed on this app related to science and engineering.

Bridge Constructor: If building bridges is a passion, this app gives plenty of opportunities for that as it allows kids to choose materials and conduct stress tests.

Cat Physics: In this fun game, kids learn about underlying concepts of physicswhile the ball is passed from one cat to another, while simultaneously getting past obstacles.

New iphoneNew iPhone” by Johan Larsson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Aero: With this app, kids will learn about aerodynamics as they adjust the wings of an albatross to make it fly and simultaneously learn about flight techniques.

Monster Physics: Kids can have fun inventing. Another building app, this one lets you build planes and rockets, and once they are built, kids can operate them.

The Chemical Touch: In this exciting app, kids can learn about the periodic table and the chemical properties of elements.

Math GraffitiMath graffiti @ #SLA” by Chris Lehmann is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spacecraft 3D: As the name suggests, the app helps kids understand space and learn about the earth and solar system.

Bobo Explores Light: Children can learn about scientific concepts like lasers, lightning and bioluminescence under the tutelage of a robot.

Curiosityjsc2013e065175” by NASA_JSC_Photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When STEM is introduced to kids in an engaging way and they learn about the difference these concepts help make to the quality of life, they will become more receptive to learning and practicing these skills.

Candy for a Cause – Science Fair Projects for the Sweet-Toothed

Science is a highly competitive field so if you’re aiming for the top, this is a good time to get your science fair project ideas in order and start planning. Avoid last-minute panic, impress the judges and grab top grades with these three delicious and easy candy-based science fair projects. Ready to start?

Expanding Balloons with Pop Rocks

pop rocks

Pop Rocks” by Carolina Alves Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As all candy lovers know, Pop Rocks RULE! And in case you were wondering, there’s an interesting science angle to these fizzing popping little dudes. Here’s how you can explore it.

You will need

  • Pop Rocks
  • Balloon
  • A 12 oz. bottle of soda
  • Funnel

What to do

  • Dump an entire package of Pop Rocks into a balloon. This is easier said than done, so place a small funnel in the mouth of the balloon to avoid spills.
  • Open the soda bottle and carefully stretch the balloon over its mouth. Make sure the candy doesn’t slip into the bottle before you’re ready.
  • Now, quickly dump the candy into the bottle and watch all the interesting things that happen when soda and candy meet for the very first time.
  • Did the balloon inflate without you doing a thing?

How did it happen?

Pop Rocks contain pressurized carbon dioxide gas that makes the famous popping sound when released from its candy shell prison. But the amount of carbon dioxide present in the candy isn’t enough to inflate a balloon on its own. However, soda also contains pressurized carbon dioxide gas that escapes from the fructose-rich corn syrup when you drop Pop Rocks into it. Because the balloon is tightly clamped over the bottle’s mouth, this gas has no place to go except straight up into the balloon.

Finding Acid in Sour Candy

“_MG_7421” by Chris Short licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

_MG_7421” by Chris Short licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sour foods contain acid and acidic foods produce carbon dioxide bubbles when they react with baking soda. Here’s something you can do to demonstrate that sour candy contains acid.

You will need

  • Sour or fruit candy (Nerds, LemonHeads, Pixy Stix, etc.)
  • Baking soda
  • Measuring cup
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Water

What to do

  • Dissolve the candy in half a cup of water. Try crushing hard candies to make the process faster.
  • Add a spoonful of baking soda to this mixture and blend.
  • If you can see bubbles rising up from the mixture, the candy contains acid.

Lighting up with Lifesavers

“100 k wint-o-green” by Windell Oskay licensed under CC BY 2.0

100 k wint-o-green” by Windell Oskay licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here’s the how (and the why) of producing magical lights with Lifesavers.

You will need

  • A dark room
  • Mirror
  • Wintergreen Lifesavers

What to do

  • Turn off the lights and stand in the dark facing the mirror.
  • Chew on some wintergreen Lifesavers
  • Can you see those blue flashes of light?

How does it happen?

When you chew on the Lifesavers, you break down the chemical bonds between the molecules of the candy. In certain foods, this produces energy, sometimes light energy as in the case of wintergreen Lifesavers. It is the wintergreen oil present in the candy that is responsible for the blue light produced during chewing.

Sweet or sour, candy is one of the best chemistry teachers you’ll ever learn from!

Hiccup and Toothless: The Book Versus the Movie

For those of you who know me, you know what a huge How to Train your Dragon fan I am. I love the movie and the books even more than my kids and for a while, I had to hide how into a “kids” movie I was. In order to expand my style of writing, I thought I’d start doing little review pieces about movies I love, their connections to books, character descriptions, things that stood out in my mind etc. Here’s the first of what will hopefully be a regular series! 

DreamWorks’ blockbusting animated movie ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ is loosely based on the book of the same name by Cressida Cowell. Apart from a few of the main characters and basic elements of the story, there are numerous differences between the book and the movie. A mere look at the main characters Hiccup and Toothless in the book versus their portrayal in the movie reveals the extent to which the movie deviates from the story in the book.

Hiccup and Toothless as Individual Characters

The character and appearance of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III in the movie closely resembles his description in the novel. He is a scrawny Viking from the Hairy Hooligans tribe, unusual because of his physical appearance as well as his intelligence. He is commonly teased and looked down upon by the other Vikings, just as in the beginning of the first movie. However, he owns two dragons, one named Toothless and the other Windwalker.

Toothless the dragon is drastically different in the book and the movie. While the film portrays him as a huge black Night Fury, the rarest and the most intelligent of the dragon species, in the book he is a tiny green and red dragon, believed to be a Common or Garden Dragon. Later on, he is found to be a young Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus. As his name suggests, he does not have teeth.

The Relationship Between Hiccup and Toothless

In the book, Cressida describes Toothless as a disobedient, selfish and ungrateful dragon, but very attached to Hiccup. The film portrays Hiccup and Toothless as best friends, sharing a great rapport and being in tune with each other’s needs and wishes. Toothless is very obedient in the movie, except when he thinks he has a better plan than Hiccup. While Toothless is small enough to sit on Hiccup’s arm in the book, he is a huge dragon that Hiccup loves flying on in the film.

Another important difference is the way that Hiccup and Toothless’ relationship evolves. In the book, the villagers of Berk have a tradition of capturing and training dragons, and Hiccup captures Toothless in order to train him in accordance with the rite of passage. However, Toothless’ disobedience gives Hiccup much trouble, and he finally figures out his own way to train the dragon.

The story of the film is entirely different, as the Vikings of Berk consider the dragons to be their enemies. Hiccup, in an attempt to prove his worth to the village, tries to shoot down a dragon. He successfully manages to strike a Night Fury, and goes looking for the injured creature in order to finish it off. However, when he finally finds the dragon, he is unable to bring himself to kill it. Finally, he sets the dragon free and even designs a makeshift tail for him when he realizes it cannot fly on its own. As Hiccup spends time with the dragon and helps it take to the skies once more, the two become good friends. Eventually, Hiccup manages to convince the rest of the village that Vikings and dragons can co-exist peacefully, and even teaches the others how to befriend and train dragons.