STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books


The Science of Science Fiction

The Science of Science Fiction

by Matthew Brenden Wood; illus by Tom Casteel

128 pages; ages 12 – 15

Nomad Press, 2016

I grew up on Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Heinlein and Star Trek. In the intervening years I have seen: flip phones (Star Trek communicators), voice-activated software, jet packs, robots, and more.

So I loved the timeline at the beginning of this book – a date where an idea was introduced in a sci-fi story, followed by a date when that technology was first used. For example, in 1870 Jules Verne wrote about Captain Nemo piloting an electric sub in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In 1954 the first nuclear sub, appropriately named USS Nautilus, was launched.

Topics in this book include cloning ancient creatures (Jurassic Park, anyone?) robots, androids, artificial intelligence, life on Mars, aliens, faster-than-light travel, and time travel. Text is augmented with cartoons, short sidebars, fast facts, and questions.

What I really like are the hands-on investigations. You can extract your own DNA, calculate the likelihood of intelligent life in the universe, and play around with centripetal force. My favorite, though, is measuring the speed of light using a microwave, a bar of chocolate, a ruler, and a calculator. Who can resist an experiment that involves chocolate?

Review copy provided by publisher.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

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Beastly Brains

Beastly Brains

by Nancy Castaldo

160 pages; ages 12 & up

HMH, 2017

Do animals think? Solve problems? Do math? Understand the concept of fairness?

You bet, says Nancy Castaldo, and she offers up a wealth of examples shoeing how animals think, talk, and feel. In one chapter she describes and experiment in which scientists gave monkeys tokens that they could use to buy treats. The monkeys quickly learned to take advantage of “sales” (when they could get more than the usual item for the same cost). They also stole tokens from others.

Other scientists wanted to know whether dogs feel jealousy. So they tested pairs of dogs. One was asked to “shake” without any reward. Then another dog joined them and when it “shook” paws it was given a treat. Do you think the first dog kept giving her paw when asked to “shake”? No! She went on strike! Unfair!

Castaldo has filled this volume with stories that will amuse you, make you think, and maybe even inspire you to test your own pet’s intelligence. There is a wonderful section at the back (“Inquiring Minds Want to Know”) that outlines how you can do your own animal intelligence studies. There are also tons of other resources: places where your pets can get involved in studies, organizations that advocate for animals, videos and books, plus a glossary and source notes.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

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Caroline’s Comets

carolines-cometsCaroline’s Comets, a true story

by Emily Arnold McCully

40 pages; ages 6-10

Holiday House, 2017

In 1786, Caroline Herschel became the first woman to discover a comet. She was also the first woman to be paid for doing scientific research.

Weaving Caroline’s memoir and correspondence into the text, Emily McCully takes us into the life of an early astronomer.

Caroline’s father was the first to show her the stars; her mother taught her the practical skills she would need. But then, when she was 22 years old, her brother William invited her to join him in England. In addition to helping around the house, he needed some help recording his astronomy observations – and some help building a telescope.

So Caroline became his assistant inventor. She pounded and sifted dried horse manure so her brother could build a mold for making the mirror. Their first telescope magnified things 6,000 times. That might not seem like a lot these days, but back in the 1700s it was astronomic.

They discovered that the Milky way was made of stars. They discovered a new planet (Uranus). And then, as the King’s Astronomer, William began a sweep of the sky.Caroline discovered nebulae and star clusters and two new galaxies – and all the while she did needlework, kept William’s accounts, and cleaned all the equipment.

Then, December 21, 1786, Caroline discovered a comet. McCully fills the pages with wonder, discovery, and comets. She also includes great back matter with a timeline, glossary, and additional notes.

 

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Rise of the Lioness

rise-of-lionessRise of the Lioness: restoring a habitat and its pride on the Liuwa Plains

by Bradley Hague

56 pages; ages 8-12

National Geographic Children’s Books, 2016

The Liuwa Plains are in Western Zambia – a perfect habitat for zebras, wildebeests, and lions. Back in 1972, the plains were declared a national park. But as the 20th century drew to a close, the plains were radically changed by war and poaching.

In less than a single human generation, Liuwa’s ecosystem collapsed and by 2003, when peace finally settled, there was only one lion left: a lioness called Lady.

The thing about animals is that they don’t just live in their environments; they shape them, too. And the Liuwa Plains without its top predators was “the environmental equivalent of tearing down a dam or blowing up a road,” writes Hague. The loss of the lions created a trophic cascade, affecting the behavior of almost every animal in the habitat.

This book follows the scientists who studied Lady and figured out how to rebuild the local ecosystem. That meant reintroducing animals, including lions – easier said than done. But after many years, the Liuwa ecosystem was restored. This is a story of perseverance, patience, and pride.

Head over to Archimedes Notebook for another book focusing on predator-prey interactions.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

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Faraway Fox

faraway-foxFaraway Fox

by Jolene Thompson; illus. by Justin K. Thompson

32 pages; ages 4-7

HMH, 2016

This was the forest where I lived with my family. We used to race through the undergrowth and rest under the great shade trees after playing all day.

Faraway from his family, Fox wanders the same forest he grew up in. He remembers beautiful trees and streams. But the landscape he travels through is unfamiliar, filled with cars and houses, and paved over.

What I like about this book is that is shows wildlife in an urban landscape. It also highlights the challenges a fox – or any other wild animal – faces when trying to return to their familiar habitat. This fox is lucky, because he won’t have to dodge cars while crossing a busy highway. Instead, people have engineered a better solution to help him get home.

In an author’s note, Jolene Thompson discusses human encroachment into wild animal habitats, and some of the things people are doing to minimize the impacts. Wildlife crossings have been built under highways and over highways to ensure that animals aren’t cut off from the resources they need. She provides resources for people who want to learn more.

Beyond-the-book activities over at Archimedes Notebook.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Architect Academy

architect-academyArchitect Academy

by Steve Martin; illust. by Essie Kimpimaki

64 pages; ages 7 & up

Kane Miller, 2016

Part activity book, part “training manual”, this book presents architecture in a fun way. In the first pages you’ll get your trainee architect badge and a peek at what’s in store: you’ll learn about famous buildings, create designs for buildings, develop math skills architects need, and carry out special projects.

The first “assignment” is to design your very own dream home, complete with floor plans and a model. Then it’s off to site plan review and drawing plans to scale. Congratulations! You are now a Qualified Draftsperson and ready for construction. But first, some math.

This is a perfect book for the kid who likes to build. It brings together diverse aspects of architecture and construction, including discussion of materials, climate, and design. You can even build a bridge (punch-out parts on the jacket). Kids will be introduced to eco-architecture, landscape architecture, and naval architecture. At the back is a pull-out game, poster, and lots of stickers you can use to mark your progress through the academy “lessons”.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.


Mission to Pluto

mission-to-pluto-smMission to Pluto: the first visit to an ice dwarf and the Kuiper belt (Scientists in the Field)

by Mary Kay Carson; photos by Tom Uhlman

80 pages; ages 10-12

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017

It takes a lot of work to get to Pluto: teams of scientists and engineers, mission control specialists who keep your vehicle on track, and time. Nearly ten years of time – even if your spacecraft is tiny. That’s why the folks at NASA had to build a craft that was durable and could take care of itself.

In 2005, when they were building the New Horizons spacecraft, engineers knew it would need a power source. Solar panels make electricity for most satellites and space probes, “but a sunny day on Pluto is about as bright as twilight on Earth,” writes Mary Kay Carson. So New Horizons carried its own power source: plutonium.

More about the book, and mission-appropriate theme music over at Archimedes Notebook.

STEM Friday

It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Site Meter Copyright © 2017 Sue Heavenrich All Rights Reserved.