Category Archives: Uncategorized

Eclipse Viewing

Get ready for the eclipse on August 21 and don’t fry your eyes!

Sunlight is dangerous, even if you don’t look right at the Sun. Sunglasses exist to protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation, which can cause permanent damage, and even blindness. People who live in places with a lot of sun bouncing off snow have come up with stylish and effective protective eyewear – and all just to protect the eyes from reflected ambient light off snow and ice. (Snow blindness is effectively a sunburn on your retinas. OUCH.)

man wearing traditional snow goggles made of bone. Stylish!

By Julian Idrobo from Winnipeg, Canada (Inuit Goggles) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

While these snow goggles are stylish, and won’t freeze to your skin in really cold weather, you’ll need different techniques than normal sunglasses to view the Sun.

The sun, producing a Coronal Mass Ejection.

The Sun, our local star, a gravity-driven nuclear fusion reactor. Don’t mess with it.

The reason they say never look at the Sun is that the light that can burn your retinas is invisible to the eye, and also emitted by the corona, which is not blocked during an eclipse. Also, your reflex to close your eyes to protect them from damage is tuned to visible light. So, if you look right at the sun during an eclipse, it would be too dark to trigger the protective reflex to blink, and yet those ultraviolet rays are busy frying your eyeballs. Nice. So: get appropriate viewing glasses.

OR

Make a pinhole projector, and project the image of the sun onto a piece of paper. It’s super easy.

Materials:

A Piece of Heavy Card Stock, or a Cereal Box

Scissors (for cutting the cereal box)

A Push Pin

White Paper

 

Procedure:

Cut the back off a cereal box, or get a piece of card stock. Stab a tiny hole in the middle of the box piece. Go outside in the sunlight with your card stock piece and the piece of white paper. Place the paper on something still and flat, and hold the thin cardboard over it, so that it projects an image of the Sun on the white paper. You can safely look at this image of the sun on the paper all you want. You can even use this to see sun spots, when the sun isn’t being eclipsed. (Yes, studying sun spots like this is a really easy and cool science fair project.)

(And if it’s overcast, you can still watch the eclipse by weather balloon from the edge of space at this link.)

More suggestions for homebrew eclipse viewing devices on NPR’s Skunk Bear YouTube channel.

Happy Eclipse Viewing!

3 of the Coolest Names on Earth

Beyoncé’s Horsefly

Beyonce's horsefly specimen.

By Erick (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name – Scaptia beyonceae – is an excellent example of how species can be discovered after lurking in archives or museum collections for decades or even centuries. Although it was collected in 1981, this Australian horsefly specimen was discovered in 2012 on closer inspection to be unique enough to warrant its own brand new species, and the researcher decided to honor pop icon Beyoncé with the name of this shiny gold diva among horseflies. After some media buzz, the rare fly is now famous enough to bear her name as a common name as well: Beyoncé’s Horsefly.

 

The Destroying Angel

Destroying Angel mushroom.

Destroying Angel mushroom.

Anything whose name has a “The” before it has got to be pretty boss, and this mushroom has just about the most intimidating name of any living thing – and with good reason. If you’ve ever been told (and you ARE being told right now) to NEVER eat wild mushrooms, the Destroying Angel and its relatives are the reason why. Insidiously, at some stages of growth, they are look-alikes for perfectly edible mushrooms. Even worse, if you eat them, symptoms don’t show up for hours afterwards, and then you might feel better the next day – only to die from liver failure. The only hope is prompt medical treatment, which can involve a liver transplant. Even so, most people poisoned by the Destroying Angel (Amanita virosa) and its relatives die of it. Read these case summaries of a poisoning outbreak in California in 2016. And that’s successful treatment. Yikes. (By the way, if you’re struggling with medical jargon, “cerebral edema and permanent neurological impairment” means “skull filled up with fluid squeezing the brain so hard it caused permanent damage.”) For safety’s sake, leave wild mushrooms alone.

Javan Chevrotain

Javan Chevrotain, or mouse deer, male with fangs.

By Sakurai Midori (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

On a much lighter note, this is one of my favorite creatures, purely because its name is so much fun to say. Chevrotain. Shev-ro-tayn. Shev-ro-tayn.  Javan Chevrotain. Sssheeeeevrotayn. It’s the best thing. Chevrotains are also known as mouse-deer, although they’re not mice at all, and are much closer to very small deer, like the size of your cat. None of them have horns or antlers. Oh, and some of them have fangs. Mouse-deer also have some of the best names in general. The Javan Chevrotain’s scientific name is Tragulus javanicus, which sounds like a spell in Harry Potter, but is actual latin. Chevrotains comprise the Family Tragulidae, and are artiodactyl (even-numbered-hooves on each foot) ungulates (mammals with hooves).

The Javan Chevrotain, Tragulus javanicus, an artiodactyl ungulate in the Family Tragulinae. Here’s one browsing in the forest, competing with quail, and at least one junglefowl: the ancestor of chickens. Tiny, fanged jungle deer.

Mathematical!

Romanesco Broccoli: the mascot of awesome mathematical stuff.

Romanesco Broccoli: the mascot of awesome mathematical stuff.

You deserve cool things. Mathematical things, in the Adventure Time sense. All too often math is treated like a chore, but it is, and should be, mind-blowingly awesome. It could be the coolest subject you ever study, but textbooks seem to have the special quality of sucking the joy out of everything.

Let’s start with an episode of Adventure Time as an example, specifically the one where Finn gets glasses that make him super smart, and invents a device for blowing bubbles that have any number of dimensions. It’s possibly the most concise explanation of higher-dimension geometry I’ve ever seen. A shadow falling on a flat surface is a projection of an object in two dimensions. A two dimensional bubble casts a one dimensional shadow. A three dimensional bubble casts a two dimensional shadow. A four dimensional bubble casts a three dimensional shadow into our three dimensional space. Another way to think about it is like this: every object of the next-highest order of dimensions has an object of the previous order as its “face.”

A square has a line for each of its four faces that define it in two dimensional space. A cube has a square for each of its six faces. A tesseract or 4D hypercube – a four dimensional object – has a cube for each of its eight three dimensional faces. Watch this video, which shows a tesseract rotating so you can get a good look at it and understand how it’s put together. It may help to realize that none of the cubes pass through each other during the rotation. When they squash and stretch, it’s not a small cube passing through a bigger one, but rather the bigger faces popping out towards you and the smaller ones passing in the distance behind. The lines are all the same size, and the angles are all 90 degrees. It’s perspective, not changing actual shape. Eventually you’ll get it.

Meditate on the tesseract.

You like what you see? Spend some time on Vi Hart’s youtube channel, or Numberphile.

Or, read a breezily-written book on mathematics. Here’s Looking at Euclid is one of the best introductions to math that I’ve encountered. Also, this won’t be the last about mathematical mathematics on this blog. Here’s a teaser, in case the broccoli wasn’t a tip-off.

Duck Duck Goose

The ducks and geese have paired up for the spring, and you know that this means! Goose attacks are going to be pretty likely. Don’t get Tyrannosaurus rek’d by a goose. They can be very aggressive, especially when nesting.

goslings

If you can see these, the parents aren’t far behind…

An adult goose can weigh 15 lbs, so be careful.

As for the ducks, here’s a fun experiment to try. Go look at some mallard ducks. You can find them in parks with ponds, or other places near water. Usually, the males have green heads. Compare the number of males (drakes) to the females (ducks). Notice anything unusual? I’ll hide what you’ll probably find out in this bracket, in white text. Click and drag between the brackets to reveal the spoilers. [ There will probably be more drakes than ducks, by a pretty large margin. ] Weird, huh. Why do you think that is? Click and drag for the answer.

[ Females sit on the nest and are more vulnerable to predators, which probably leads to to the sex imbalance. Birds have a similar sex determination system to us mammals, so you can assume that there’s an even number of male and female ducklings hatched. ]

And that’s not all the duck weirdness going on. If you saw the ducks at just the right time, in mid-summer, you might not have noticed any drakes at all. Ducks moult completely, losing all their feathers, and, while they grow back in, they’re flightless, and very shy. Right after this, and before growing in their breeding plumage for the fall, the drakes’ feathers come in looking just like a duck. This brief, non-breeding plumage is called eclipse plumage. The only way to tell while the males are in eclipse is that male mallard ducks’ bills are yellowy or olive, not orange-y black.

drake/duck pair

This is a drake/duck pair of ducks. The drake is the one with the green head.

drake in eclipse

This is actually a drake mallard, disguised as a ladytypes duck, which are supposed to be camouflaged against predators anyway.

If you want to take your bird-observing to the next level, check out the Bird Guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Or, check out a handy, portable, and comprehensive identification key from the library. Ducks are really odd, actually. If you want to do more than dabble in a different sort of dabblers, read this book for a deep dive into the wood ducks, the most fabulous of all ducks. Ducks and geese hatch ready to follow the parents around, and start life out with a leap from the nest. Watch hooded merganser ducklings take the plunge.

Happy duck-watching!

Homestuck and Other Forum “Games”

pesterchum interface

Pester your chums about good storytelling!

Homestuck will devour your life. If you’re not already reading it, it’s a mildly interactive (via the comments) webcomic about a computer game (and also… about computer programming). Much, MUCH better than it sounds, and I don’t want to spoil anything. Also, if you’re not already reading this rampaging juggernaut of popular culture, throw away your spare hours and read it already.

Okay, so the rest of you who are still reading this post have clearly already been following Homestuck, and need something else to help you flush your spare minutes down the Toilet of Really Good Interactive Fiction. Never fear, I have your fix right here. If you want your horror fiction to come with lots of heart, and actually lots of hearts (some critters such as earthworms have like ten hearts), then Bogleech has created the immersive storyline for you! Go introduce yourself to Awful Hospital right away.

Or, if you dare, take on the Ultimate Time Sink: TV Tropes, a wiki-style catalog of all of the tropes in fiction. If fiction were a building, then tropes are like bricks and basic building materials. If you want to explore a work of fiction, like Watership Down, it’s got a list of tropes that compose the work. If you want to explore a single trope, like when a character tells the truth but is never believed, you can do that too, and it will list examples of works in which this trope appears. It’ll ruin your life but improve your writing. Needless to say, be careful of spoilers!

By the way, several library branches are hosting fan fiction workshops this Summer, so polish up those drafts and get ready!

Kelly Creagh Presents: Fan Fiction Frenzy

6/22/2017 @ Southwest, 2 – 3 PM

6/24/2017 @ Highlands – Shelby Park, 2 – 3 PM

6/29/2017 @ Shawnee, 4 – 5 PM

7/13/2017 @ Fern Creek, 2 – 3 PM

 

rabbits

Absolutely relevant I swear. Read Watership Down if you haven’t already.

All Things Board Games!

Do you like to play board games? Are you looking for some new titles? I personally really love all things gaming. A few good games that I’ve played and/or learned about recently that are a lot of fun…

Zombie Dice:

zombie-diceIt’s quick, fun, and easy to play. Basically, you play as a zombie, and you have dice that have a brain, an explosion that’s supposed to represent a shotgun, and a set of footprints on each die. Depending on what you roll shows whether or not you a) ate the person’s brain, b) they shot you, or c) they got away. You pick three dice out of a cup, roll them, and then based on what you roll you can either keep going or tally up your score–you get points for how many brains you eat. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins!

If you’re looking for a game with a little more intrigue, perhaps you could try…

Coup:coup

Coup is also very fast paced, and a lot of fun to play. You are the head of an Italian family, and in an intense power struggle with, well, all of the other people you are playing with, who are also heads different Italian families. This game uses cards with different characters on them, and each of the characters have different moves that they can do, all of them pretty much involving whether or not they are going to steal your or another person’s money, which is given to you each round with cardboard coins that come with the game. Each player is given two cards, one face up, and one face down. The fun part is tricking other players into thinking that your face down character is different from the character you may actually have.

You can chose to fake out the other players by using moves that other characters have, even if they aren’t a character you actually possess. But, other players can call you out, and if they are correct, you will lose the character that they call out. If your accuser is incorrect, then they lose a character instead. The last person standing is, of course, the winner.

And, if you’re into really complex games…

Betrayal at the House on the Hill:

betrayal-at-the-house-on-the-hillThis game is pretty complex and involved… It’s almost RPG level as far as board games are concerned. You’re part of a group that is investigating a haunted house. (Think Scooby Doo or even Supernatural.) Each member of your party has different skills and you move around using cards with different scenarios. As you move through the house, you draw board pieces that actually determine the way that the house is put together. At some point there is a betrayal in your party… each time you play, the game goes a different way, and there are a number of scenarios that you can play through. When I played with my family around Christmas, my dad ended up turning evil, and invisible. He stalked through the house and ended up killing off our entire party! It is a really fun game, but I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners. There are a lot of things you have to keep track of, and the game can run really long, depending on the scenario that gets picked.

Do you have any board games you played recently that you really liked? Any you would recommend playing? Let us know in the comments, we at the library would love to hear from you!

– Shannon, Highlands-Shelby Park

Bored? Help People Right NOW

You just don’t know what to do right now, and you have a few minutes to kill? Help somebody out! Here’s some great citizen-science and crowdsourcing projects that you don’t want to miss.

Louisville Leader Transcription Project

Can you read? Can you type what you read? Help the University of Louisville digitize and make machine-readable and searchable its Louisville Leader articles. Read the instructions, and transcribe articles for U of L so that people can use a database to search the contents. You can help make this historic community newspaper accessible to historians and everyone! This project includes everything from wedding announcements to sports reporting. I saw an article just the other day about a Central High School basketball game.

zooniverse.org

This is a platform for helping scientists crowdsource citizen participation in research. Everything from counting birds to sorting drawings to looking for space dust. One-stop shopping for a huge array of citizen-science initiatives.

Building Inspector for NYPL

The New York Public Library wants to make a digital time machine out of their maps. You can help them by playing a series of games that input data while exploring old maps of New York City. Protip: there were drug stores across from drug stores, in the 1850s. I can only conclude everybody was sick literally all the time.

These projects are more than just fun–they make resources available to researchers and the public and help advance our knowledge in history and science!

– Katherine, Young Adult Services, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Movie trailers of books?? What? How? Where?

Many publishers of modern young adult fiction understand that kids are very visually driven. So to market their books to the “teen” population, some have begun creating “Movie trailers” of their books. You get to jump into the story visually and decide if you want to give the book a try. Here are some of my favorites:

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Hit the Road This Summer With Paper Towns

The next John Green phenomenon is here!  If you loved The Fault in Our Stars, check out Paper Towns.

Imagine the guy or girl you’ve been in love with since childhood shows up a month before your high school graduation in your bedroom window with black face paint in the middle of the night. They want you to go on a revenge drive with them.  Would you do it?

Quentin “Q” Jacobsen finds himself in this exact position when Margo Roth Spiegelman recruits him to be her accomplice on an epic night of pranking. Margo has devised a revenge mission on all of the people she feels have hurt her throughout high school.  There are eleven parts to the plot, and Margo needs someone (and more importantly, a car) to help her complete her plan.  However, the next day Margo disappears.  She leaves a trail of mysterious clues for Q and he sets out on hilarious and exhilarating road trip with his friends to find her.

The movie is coming to theaters on July 24th.  Be sure to read the book before you see the movie, so you can see what changes from the book to the movie.  Stop by any library location afterward and let one of our teen or children’s librarians know what YOU think of the changes. We love talking about books!

-Heather, Children and Teen Services, St. Matthews Branch