Friday morning we will have one of the biggest lunar eclipses in 100 years


Did you know that just after midnight Friday morning we will have not only a full moon, but an almost full lunar eclipse. And I am so excited about it!

A lunar eclipse is when the Earth passes between the sun and the moon.

The eclipse will start just after midnight Thursday night/Friday morning at 12:02am CST, 5 minutes later the moon will hit it's highest position in the sky (12:07 am) for the night. The full moon will happen at 2:57am and maximum eclipse will be 5 minutes later at 3:02am. When over 97% of the moon will be in the Earth's shadow.

In all, the eclipse will last over 6 hours long, ending at 6:03am, making it the longest eclipse we will have from the years 2001 to 2100.

If you live in any of the areas in the map above (sorry, I couldn't find the website where I found the map), you will be lucky enough to get to see it.

The Leonids Meteor Shower Peak Tomorrow Morning

Big Dipper with Arrows

The Leonids meteor shower will peak just before dawn as the moon is setting on Thursday morning. There should be about 15 meteors an hour, but with the moon almost full, they may be a bit hard to see.

The meteors result from Earth running into the orbital path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Comets litter their orbits with debris which hit the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporize, creating streaks of lights.

The Leonids gets it name from the constellation Leo, which is where you will see them in the sky.

How do you find Leo? Look to the north and find the big dipper and draw a line between this end of the bowl of the big dipper. If you go away from the top of the bowl, you will find Polaris, the north star, and if you go away from the bottom of the bowl, you will find Leo.

I hope you get to see some meteors this week?!

International Women's Day 2021


Did you know that not even 20% of the 1.7 million wikipedia biographies are about women? Women are underrepresented in almost every area you can measure gender equality in.

Women make up almost 51% of the population, but globally only 39% of rural girls attend secondary school. Access to education has wide reaching effects. Every additional year of primary school increases a girl's eventual wages by 10-20%, it also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and makes them less vulnerable to violence.

Here's 1 area where women are over-represented, globally, women and girls make up 60% of chronically hungry people. 

This year's International Women's Day theme is #ChooseToChallenge. Choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. Choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Choose to create an inclusive world.

Here are some ways you can celebrate International Women's Day:

  • Use #ChooseToChallenge to show your support on social media
  • Advocate for gender equality in your workplace or school
  • Read and share a book about educating on women’s issues, empowerment, and achievements
  • Support women owned businesses in your area
  • Donate to a charity that helps women

Today is International Women's Day. Let's choose to do better for all the women in the world.

NASA Perseverance Lands on Mars Today!

Perseverance Rover

I can't wait to watch this! NASA's Perseverance lands on Mars today at 2:55 CST. Live coverage will begin at 1:15 CST. (Note: It will not look anything like the picture, but my yard is snow covered, so that's what I get with the SpacecraftAR app.)

Perseverance launched July 30, 2020 for Mars with the mission to seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock for possible return to Earth. Perseverance will be landing at the site of an ancient river delta in a lake that once filled Jezero Crater. It will spend at least 1 Mars year (2 Earth years) exploring the region.

It has many science instruments onboard to learn more about Mars. From the NASA Mars website the instruments are:

  • Mastcam-Z - An advanced camera system with panoramic and stereoscopic imaging capability with the ability to zoom. The instrument also will determine mineralogy of the Martian surface

  • MEDA (Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer) - sensors that will provide measurements of temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity and dust size and shape.

  • MOXIE (Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment) - exploration technology investigation that will produce oxygen from Martian atmospheric carbon dioxide.

  • PIXL (Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry) - An X-ray fluorescence spectrometer that will determine the fine scale elemental composition of Martian surface materials.

  • RIMFAX (Radar Imager for Mars' Subsurface Experiment) - Ground-penetrating radar that will provide centimeter-scale resolution of the geologic structure of the subsurface.

  • SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) - A spectrometer that will provide fine-scale imaging and uses an ultraviolet (UV) laser to determine fine-scale mineralogy and detect organic compounds.

  • SuperCam - An instrument that can provide imaging, chemical composition analysis, and mineralogy.

For more information, check out this toolkit with links to the live coverage and much more. Alos be sure to follow Perseverance on Twitter to get updates on the mission.

It's International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Encourage Girls Into STEM

Today is International Day of Women and Girls in Science. The day is observed annually by the United Nations and other organizations to encourage the involvement of girls and women into the field of Science and celebrate women in STEM.

As we celebrate women in STEM fields today, I also want to look at how we can encourage more girls to consider STEM careers.

Women are still underrepresented in STEM jobs. Women represent about 35% of STEM degrees, but it varies quite a bit by discipline from about 60% in biological and biomed sciences to about 20% in engineering and computer science. When it comes to the workforce, women represent about 50% in the life sciences and only about 15% in engineering. 

Several studies have shown that girls and boys have the similar abilities in math and science in elementary school and in 4th, 8th, and 12th grades are within 3 points of each other on standardized math tests. So what’s happening that’s making girls turn away from STEM in college and their careers?

Well, a couple things…

Fixed vs Growth Mindset

In a long term study of seventh graders, researchers found that the just fact that the girls outperform boys at a young age, changed the conversations they had with the adults around them. The girls heard that they were smart (fixed mindset) and the boys heard that they needed to focus and try harder (growth mindset). Years later in school, on difficult tasks, the girls gave up on challenging tasks because they didn't think they were smart enough, but the boys tried harder. In fact the smartest of the girls gave up earliest because they were never taught to try harder.

Work by Carol Dweck and others have found that kids with a fixed mindset avoid challenges, give up early when they run into obstacles, see effort as worthless, ignore useful negative feedback, and feel threatened by the successes of others. On the other hand, kids with a growth mindset embrace challenges, persist in the face of obstacles, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find inspiration in the successes of others.  

Social Encouragement

You might think that being good at science or math would be a good indicator of whether a person would pursue a degree or career in STEM. But a study by researchers at the University of Texas and the University of Minnesota found that earning the highest standardized math test scores, accounted for very little of the gender difference in the likelihood of choosing a STEM degree.

It turns out that interest, not achievement, in STEM is more closely related to pursuing a degree and career in STEM. Obviously achievement can contribute to interest, but the biggest factor in determining whether a student would pursue a STEM degree at the end of high school was their interest in STEM at the beginning of high school.

A 2014 survey found that social encouragement from family, friends, and educators was the factor most likely to encourage girl’s interest in STEM careers.

They don’t really know what engineering is

Mechanical and electrical engineering make up the majority of STEM jobs, but these two fields of engineering have lowest percent of women earning degrees at around 12% nationwide. Mechanical and electrical engineering are often associated with building and wiring things, which women don’t typically have much experience in growing up. But to be fair, most boys probably don’t get much experience in that these days either.

I think it has more to do with not knowing what exactly engineering is. Maybe the word mechanical invokes the idea of big machinery. A couple years ago, I met with the leaders of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas at their amazing STEM Center of Excellence. They said that the girls often don’t realize that what they are doing is engineering. 

Engineers work on projects from building to bridges, electric cars to race cars, clothes to chocolate. Every industry needs engineers. We need to get the word out that engineering is everywhere.

Girls need more role models that look like them

Girls also need women role models. A 2012 study by MIT Economist Esther Duflo, focused on young women in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, where a 1993 law required that one-third of village council positions be reserved for women. Having a woman in power had a huge impact on the aspirations of the local teen girls. The gender gap in educational goals was completely erased.

While the study wasn’t specifically about STEM, the important of having women role models is just as important in STEM. Young girls need to have role models that look like them to visualize and realize that they can grow up to be engineers and scientists.

What can you do?

Think about how you talk to the young girls in your life. Are you helping them gain a growth mindset. You may think it’s being supportive when you say, “You don’t have to be good at everything” to a child who didn’t do as well on a math test as they wanted, but what message does that send? Maybe letting them know that they need to study more and try harder if they want to do better is the better message to send.

Help them find role models. If you are a woman in STEM, that’s a no brainer. If you are a man in engineering, ask a female engineer coworker to talk to your daughter or at your kids’ school on career day. I have spoken to many of my friends children about STEM degrees and careers. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

What if you are not in a STEM field or have a STEM background? If you know engineers in your company, you can obviously ask them. Or you can do some research to help find resources in the fields your kids are interested in. I have several posts about people to follow, like  YouTubers with STEM content. Just encourage them to stay interested in STEM.. 

Mother Elephant Teaches Baby How to Cross the River

I thought about discussing how cool it is that mom elephants teach their young how to do things by demonstrating those things, and how intelligent that is. Turn it into a lesson about elephants and teaching.

But in reality, I just love watching this video. I laugh out loud every time I see it and I just want to share it. (Plus now I can find it anytime I need a laugh.)

Here it is for your enjoyment:

Mom shows her baby elephant how to cross the river bank...and he almost nails it

NFC Tags are so cool - Part 2

Start My Walk

In my original post on NFC tags, I talked about how they are so much cooler than voice control (which I still think is really cool too). I didn't go into detail about how I use an NFC tag to trigger am iPhone shortcut to run Strava and play my music when I take my daily walks or how I use IFTTT and a webhook to turn on my kitchen lights, so I want to do that now.

I did a 5 part series on TikTok that shows how I did some of these things with my iPhone and some NFC tags, that I got on Amazon for about $0.35 each, that I want to share here. 

Let's start with the shortcut that I use when I start my daily walks and how I trigger it with an NFC tag on my garage remote keypad. Using the iPhone Shortcuts app, I created a shortcut that started a Strava activity and plays my 80's Favs playlist. The basic steps are this:

  1. First, start the Shortcut app. 
  2. Click the + to add a shortcut.
  3. Search for the app you want to launch, in my case it's Strava. And then play my 80's playlist.
  4. Name the app and now you can say "Siri, start my walk routine" to trigger this shortcut.

It looks like this:

Here's were the NFC comes in. 

  1. You need to set an NFC tag to be the trigger to your shortcut. So let's do that now.
  2. Go to Automations and click the + sign to add a new automation.
  3. Select Create Personal Automation.
  4. Then scroll down and click NFC.
  5. Now click Scan and scan your NFC tag.
  6. Next, name your tag.
  7. Now, add an action and search for Shortcuts. Select Run Shortcut and click "Shortcut" and find the shortcut you want to run, in my case it's "My Walk Routine". 

It looks like this:

Next, I placed the NFC tag in the my remote garage door opener keypad. When I close the garage door, I just tap the cover where the sticker is and it runs Strava and my music. 

I'll do a separate post about turning on the kitchen lights because I want to go over IFTTT first. For now, think of all the things you can do to simplify your life with an NFC tag and go try this out. Let me know how it goes.



Fascinating Fact Friday - Monday Dinosaur Fact Edition

I'm running late on this, but here's your Fascinating Fact Friday, Monday edition. (I actually got it posted on TikTok and Instagram on Friday, but didn't have time until now to write the blog post...)

Did you know that you are closer in time to the T-Rex than the T-Rex was to the Stegosaurus. The Stegosaurus had been extinct for 80-90 millions years before the T-Rex roamed the Earth, about 66 million years ago. So there were no epic battles between the T-Rex and the Stegosaurus. (Sorry Fantasia and Land of the Lost had it wrong.)

Humans have only been on Earth about 6 million years. This is nothing compared to the length of time dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Dinosaurs roamed the Earth for about 165 million years. They went extinct about 65 million years ago, about 1 million years after T-Rex. The Plateosaurus was one of the first large dinosaurs. This puts Stegosaurus somewhere in the middle of their reign at the top of the food chain.

So how do we know how old the dinosaurs were? Well, there's two ways we date dinosaurs. The first way is called relative geologic time. This involves deciding whether one dinosaur fossil is older or younger than another. The second way is absolute geologic time. This involves estimating how many millions of years old a dinosaur fossil is using radioactive decay.

By looking at the rock layers that the dinosaur fossils are found in, scientists can analyze the stuff in the layers, such as ash and minerals, and measure the radioactive decay of the atoms. In radioactive decay, the nucleus undergoes spontaneous transformation into one or more different nuclei. Scientists know the half life of the atoms and can determine how old the samples they are looking at are by looking at proportion of original and decayed atoms present.

Here's an excellent map of the dinosaur time line (scroll down to the bottom of the page) so you can see where your favorite dinosaur fell in the history of the Earth.

Fascinating Fact Friday - Sharks are older than trees


I heard this this week and had to share it. Sharks are older than trees.

Sharks, as a species, have been around 450 million years. Trees have only been around about 370 million years.

In fact, sharks and horseshoe crabs have been around for 450 million years. And jellyfish are estimated to be 700 million years old as a species. These species have survived four of the “big five” mass extinctions making them older than humans (practically babies at 2.4 million years), dinosaurs (from 240 million to 65 million years ago), and Mount Everest (formed 60 million years ago). In fact sharks have been around over 4 times as long as the rings on Saturn, which were "only" formed 10-100 million years ago. Sharks are older than things in space. Mind blown.

Here's a couple more facts about sharks while we are at it...

Sharks continuously lose and grow teeth. A shark can grow up to 35,000 teeth in it's lifetime.

Catsharks can produce a bioluminescent green glow that can be seen by other sharks using molecules that were previously unknown to science. They use this green glow to communicate with other sharks.

There are over 400 species of sharks. The smallest shark, the Spined Pygmy shark, is only 7-8 inches long. The largest shark is the Whale shark, which can be up to 46 ft long. That's about the height of a 4 story building. The Great White shark, which is what most people think of when they thing of sharks, can be up to 23 ft long. 

Sharks are incredibly important to the health of coral reef ecosystems and the ocean in general. We need to respect and protect these beautiful, ancient animals.

Fascinating Fact Friday - Hay Bales Can Spontaneously Combust

Hay at the Farm

I've been out at our family farm this week, so I thought a farm fact would be fitting for this week's fascinating fact friday.

We aren't farming it right now, but a family friend is using it for hay. This week they were cutting the hay when we arrived, but they said it had to dry out before they can bale it so it doesn't catch fire.

Turns out that excessive moisture is the most common reason for hay fires. Excessive moisture... causing fires.. wait what?!?

Here's how it works. Moist hay, especially the inside of the bale, is the perfect environment for microbial growth. As the microbes grow and munch on hay, they produce heat which drys out the surrounding hay. More drying surfaces equals more microbes.

Hay, being a good insulator, keeps this heat inside, so as all of this happens, the internal temperature of the hay bale increases. At 150 degrees F, you reach a kind of point of no return. At this temperature, more heat resistant bacteria, called exothermic bacteria, start a chemical process that rapidly increases temperatures until spontaneous combustion occurs.

From 150 to 180 degrees F, the hay bale is basically just waiting to combust. You may see smoke coming out if the ends or it will feel warm. And if you walk on the top, it could literally collapse into a burning inferno. The bale is at the point where if the burning hay inside is exposed to air, it will become a hay inferno. The fire department should be called at this time. Or maybe drop the bale of hay into your pond if you have one.

Hay with over 20% moisture content is a danger for spontaneous combustion all due to chemical processes of little microbes that you can't eve see. If you have ever heard the saying "Make hay while the sun is shining", now you know why this is true.

FYI - You can see my TikTok about spontaneous combustion of hay here.