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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Summer is for Science! Part 2: Physics and Mathmatics

Posted by Alana T.

If there is anyone in your household with a picogram of testosterone, the following book will be a big hit.  Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices by William Gurstelle.  My husband and I have spent hours of hilarity and amazement working on the projects described here.  Be warned: although there are some simple (and still amazing) things to make, there is a certain element of danger associated with them all.  Read and follow all the safety considerations.  In between episodes of laughter, you will learn a lot about Newtonian physics.  None of the stuff in this book is watered down for kids, so adults will definitely remain engaged.

Sadly, there aren't many math books that are as absorbing as the previous physics selection, but following are a few gems to keep the brain cells active:

How to Cut a Cake: and Other mathematical Conundrums by Ian Stewart.  Any book by Stewart is good for mental math.  He provides you with a problem, digresses into a discussion of it's history or interest, and then provides the solution - often unexpected. 

Between the Folds (DVD).  An inspiring and beautiful documentary about modern orgiami.  If you think origami is about folding paper cranes, prepare to be blown away.  As one of the featured mathematicians points out, origami is all about math (very beautiful math!).  The works shown in this film are complex, amazing, and inspiring.  If you want to practice some fun (and different) origami at home, try Dollar Bill Origami by John Montroll - for once your kids will be happy with only one dollar in thier pocket.

Online resources:
You can't beat Tom and Ray (both MIT grads!) at Car Talk for humour.  But wait!, their weekly puzzler is often mathmatical (and tricky).  Visit the CarTalk website for vintage puzzlers. 

Wired magazine has a DIY page that contains an extensive list of projects.  Many are electronics based, but that's only a short step away from basic physics.  If you (or the kids) have moved beyond reassembling toasters, browse this site for some interesting projects.  Also, the June 2012 issue contained a hefty selection of projects for the geek dad (and kids).

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