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What is a Bose-Einstein Condensate?

What is a Bose-Einstein Condensate?


A few weeks ago I watched a great Netflix movie by the name of Spectral. Anything science-fiction-y and scary, I tend to like! But this movie was indeed really cool and had some great special effects involving some other-worldly type creatures that were doing some serious killing. Part of the suspense in these movies is trying to figure out what the weird creatures are, and Spectral didn’t disappoint, it ramped-up some intense suspense, leading to the identity of the killer creatures. So, what were they?

Turns out they were (spoiler alert!) dead people brought back to life as creatures based on Bose-Einstein condensates. They put a lot of effort into the science in the movie, but most of the details were not supported by reality. Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) creatures couldn’t exist for many reasons, the chief one being that BEC only exist near absolute zero.

Anyway, the movie got me thinking more about BEC, but it turns out Scientific Explorer once again beat me to the punch! Understanding such a weird state of matter is a real brain-twister, but thankfully, Scientific Explorer once again works her magic, making an extremely difficult topic understandable. So… what are you waiting for… start learning! Click on the following link to learn everything there is to know about BEC:


New ScienceMan Digital Lesson – Force of Friction

New ScienceMan Digital Lesson – Force of Friction

Hello everyone – long time, no chat!

Sorry of the long absence, ScienceMan has been pretty busy. But recently I found a bit of time to create a video about the force of friction. This video has a bit of a twist though, I’ve also got a short product review of Kahtoola Nanospikes. A great product if you want to run safely on slippery winter surfaces. Here’s the video, I hope you like it!

Speaking of training, the reason I’m doing a lot of trail-running of late is to get ready for a Spartan Beast – I’l’ be doing the Montana Beast on May 7, so if you see me there, make sure you say hi!

Stunning 4K Time-lapse of the Sun

Stunning 4K Time-lapse of the Sun

NASA’s solar dynamics observatory is known for taking spectacular images of the Sun. Someone had the fantastic idea to take the high-resolution images and string them together, resulting in a spectacular animation.

What’s more is that this animation was rendered in 4K, so you can view it full-size on even the largest monitors without any loss in quality. So this would be a good video to “view on YouTube“, and then, if you’ve got the bandwidth to support it, choose “4K” (2160p) from the settings in the lower right part of the YouTube frame. (As an aside, I viewed this animation full-screen on my new 5K Retina iMac, and the quality really blew my mind!)

It should also be noted that this animation shows sunspot AR 2192 – the largest sunspot in the last 22 years.


Chickakoo Nature Area – Perfect for Biodiversity Studies!

Chickakoo Nature Area – Perfect for Biodiversity Studies!

I was recently asked about ideas for biodiversity studies – and at the top of my list if you are in the Edmonton area would be the Chickakoo Lake Recreation Area. Just a few minutes North of Stony Plain, this nature area is a real treasure.


Chickakoo is LOADED with bodies of water – lakes, ponds, sloughs – all easily accessible, safe, and perfect for collecting water samples. The flora is highly varied, your students will have a great time using any type of Alberta flora identification keys. There are also numerous spots perfect for studies of succession.

The nicest part of Chickakoo is the fantastic trail system – if you want to bring students for an hour, a morning, or even a full day, there are plenty of trails that you can follow to add a bit of exercise to your trip while you collect samples or make observations. There are a few great picnic sites too, and ample bus parking.

But pictures speak thousands of words, so check out the following photos, and start planning your biology/science field trip as soon as possible!

chick_23 chick_22 chick_21 chick_20 chick_19 chick_18 chick_17 chick_16 chick_15 chick_14 chick_13 chick_12 chick_11 chick_10 chick_09 chick_08 chick_06 chick_05 chick_04 chick_03 chick_02 chick_01

The Making Of: Surface Area and Reaction Rate

The Making Of: Surface Area and Reaction Rate

My apologies for having neglected the blog for so long, but ScienceMan has been plenty busy with his good friends at ADLC. I’ve been building videos and resources as part of the ADLC team now for awhile and I’m really enjoying it. ADLC has a terrific group of professionals that are dedicated to making quality resources.

Some of my recent projects have been making science videos for elementary and junior high, so that’s been a lot of fun. I’d like to start sharing those with you, and perhaps offer a few tidbits and tips for making your own.

First, let’s start with something fun – chemical reactions! In this case, it’s a video about the relationship of surface area and reaction rate.

Those of us who are older Albertans will remember with fondness the iconic grain elevators that used to be found in almost every prairie community. Farmers brought their grain to the elevators so it could be shipped to market. Times change however, and most grain elevators have disappeared into history.

One thing many people don’t realize about grain elevators is that there was always the lurking danger of explosion. This is because of the explosiveness of grain dust. That’s right – grain dust is actually very explosive. The following video created for our junior high science program explains why.

So after watching the video, you can understand why flour mills go to great lengths to eliminate any source of sparks. As recently as 2011, six people were killed by a flour mill explosion in Kansas. It goes to show, the more you learn about how chemistry works, the safer you will be!

Now, concerning the logistics of making a video like this, I’d like to draw your attention to the split-screen technique that starts at about 1:45 in the video:


Showing a live shot of the actual experiment right next to graphic and digital displays that are tracking the pH of the reaction makes for great visual impact. Accomplishing this is actually pretty easy.

First, what you’ll need is some data collection technology – any will do, but in the video I’m using a Pasco pH probe along with DataStudio software. As you can see in the video I’ve got the software configured to display a graph and digital display. The live video is courtesy of a simple webcam that I have moved to my desk – most webcam software will allow you to do a video preview, and that’s what I’m doing here.

Second, you want your experiment to be video-friendly. For that, you want to think ahead and arrange everything on your desktop into a video-friendly size and aspect ratio. In this case, I arranged the video and displays into a 1600×900 area on my screen. How did I know the size? Easy! There are many ways to properly frame your video – for example, you could use a graphics program to create a 1600×900 document on your screen, then simply place the displays and video preview into that area. Or, you could use a simple browser screen – I often use to get an exact size that I want. Then it’s just a matter of placing your displays and video preview to cover that browser window perfectly.

Third, you’re ready to capture! For that, you need a desktop capture program such as Camtasia or Screenflow – the beauty of using products such as those (or similar) is that later you can add special effects if you want to. Once you’ve got everything captured, you’re good to process your video and upload to YouTube.

I’ve left out little details here and there, so if you run into difficulty making your own experiment videos, don’t hesitate to ask me!

ScienceMan’s Experience with… Juicing?

ScienceMan’s Experience with… Juicing?

Juicing – Introduction… Why Juice?

At one point or another it seems we all consider improving our eating habits. About a year ago, I reached that point myself after many years of bacon addiction and carrying around an extra 30 pounds.

Thanks to a very encouraging and supportive wife, and a great group of “maximum training” friends, I’ve really improved my fitness. At the same time, I’ve made some pretty straightforward and simple changes in diet – minimizing breads, pasta, and simple carbs, avoiding seconds, no snacking, minimizing sweets and alcohol, and increasing my intake of fruits and veggies. These are all pretty “no-brainer” lifestyle changes that I’d recommend to anyone. But I’d like to talk a bit about one more thing I’ve tried in the last few months – something that’s a bit more on the “health food nut” end of things, and that’s juicing.


I first learned about juicing when I watched the documentary “fat, sick, and nearly dead” – it’s worth watching, but that movie is really more entertainment than nuts and bolts info about juicing. About the same time, my fitness instructor also recommended juicing, so I thought I’d give it a try.

When you research juicing on the web, you’re going to find some pretty goofy information and preposterous health claims. In my humble opinion, juicing is not a solution in itself for any dietary or health problem. I really have no interest in maximizing nutrients or “cleansing” – trust me, as you read more about juicing, you’re going to read way more about people’s colons than you would ever want to!  Also, all the stuff about reducing toxins in your body is generally considered by scientists to be nonsense – but hey, to each his own! My only reason for exploring juicing is because I wanted a balanced approach to health and fitness, and I thought it might be able to play a role in that regard. And it turns out it has! I will talk more about how juicing fits into my diet, but first I’d like to explain how juicing works and exactly how you would go about juicing.

The Process of Juicing – The Juicer

You can do a certain degree of juicing with a simple household blender, but if you want to do it effectively with a wide range of fruits and vegetables, you’ll need to invest in a juicer. You can pick them up for as little as $39 now, but I did a lot of research into this, and most recommendations were to spend a little more to get a decent quality machine. You can spend over $300 on a juicer, but I settled on well-rated mid range machine, the “Juice Fountain” from Breville – it has been excellent – I picked it up from for $130:


The Process of Juicing – How Does it Work?

The idea behind these “spinning” juicers is pretty simple – a fast-rotating basket with sharp teeth grinds up whatever you put into it:


Because the basket is a metal screen, the juice goes through the basket and is forced into a collection pot.

Most of the fibre from the fruits and vegetables are spun up and out into a collection basket – and that’s where I have a juicy tip (sorry, couldn’t resist!) for you – you can pick up small biodegradable bags at the grocery store that are meant for compost buckets, but fit the juicer’s collection bin just about perfectly:


That way, when you’re done juicing, there’s no need to clean the bin, just pull out the bag and throw it directly into your compost.


Some people will re-use the fibre in salads and smoothies, but if you do that, you’ll want to be judicious in what you put into the machine – for example, if you throw in whole grapefruit, it’s likely you’re going to have a bunch of seeds in that pile of fibre, which might not be nice ending up in a salad.

juice_06I was surprised how easy clean up is, at least with my Breville juicer. The whole unit is basically only three parts that is held together securely by a metal clamp arm:


Slide that arm off and the unit easily pops apart, and a bit of soap and water later, everything’s clean. About the only thing that’s a bit of a pain to clean is the metal basket, it requires some scrubbing – but Breville includes a nice brush for that, so it’s not too bad. My next juicy tip is to find a tray for the juicer and the other tidbits associated with your juicing – that way, you can easily carry and store the whole setup, and let everything drip-dry at the same time.


 The Process of Juicing – Your Fruits and Vegetables

Here’s where things get fun – now you get to select the foods you want to juice! Let your imagination soar here, but don’t get too carried away! I found out the hard way that strong-tasting veggies like radishes can end up dominating the flavour of your juice… so when you start out, you might want to keep it simple and stick your favourite fruits as a base. Have fun experimenting! My personal top ten list is:

  • Watermelon
  • Pineapple
  • Grapefruit
  • Oranges
  • Cucumber
  • Carrot
  • Spinach
  • Apples
  • Lemons
  • Cantaloupe


I find juicing is really not practical as a daily activity. In fact, if you want enough juice to carry you through the week, you need to give yourself at least an hour (probably closer to 1.5 hours) of time for juicer prep, food prep, juicing, and clean up. That’s why I like to do my juicing on the weekend – I’ll usually save a 4L milk jug and another juice container, and fill those up with juice, which will carry me through a good part of the week (depending on how juice I’m including in my meal routine).

juice_09The actual process consists of removing all citrus rinds (you can’t put those into the juicer), and all other hard outer rinds like you find on pineapple and watermelon.


Then you just need to chop into chunks small enough to fit into the feeder tube at the top of the juicer:


Some items work better with these spinning juicers than others. Soft items such as spinach are a challenge, because even when the juicer is set to low speed, they will get flung out of the juicer as fibre before they can be ground up enough to extract the juice. They actually make a different kind of “masticating” juicer which works better to crush softer items to extract their juice, but that’s a lot of additional expense (not to mention more equipment to store). A good alternative is to use a simple blender to pulverize soft items with a bit of water, and add that directly to your juice.

The Final Product – How Does Your Juice Fit Into Your Diet?


So, how does the delicious juice you’ve made fit into your diet? Really, that’s up to you. I make my own juice for a couple of reasons – first, I like to have it around to supplement my regular meals and in-between meal hydration. Second, I’ll often use my juice as a meal replacement.

There are many juicing advocates on the Internet that have many arguments for why the “natural” juice you make yourself is better that store-bought juice. They may have points regarding preservatives, pasteurization, added sugar and fructose syrups, and general quality. Frankly, those things don’t concern me much, all I know is that the juice I make is quite delicious!

If you’re going to replace meals with juice, there are few things to consider. First, and probably most important, is how frequently you’re going to replace meals. Consuming just juice for an extended period of time qualifies as a “juice fast” – while there are benefits to that approach, you also have to be careful. I find that I can’t juice fast for more than 3 days, but you’ll see people on the Internet recommending much longer periods of time. Also, if you’re going with just juice, you’ll probably need to consume juice more frequently during the day, otherwise you may find yourself getting very weak. But hey, I’m no nutritionist – I would recommend consulting with your doctor, and also listening very carefully to what your body is telling you.

In my case, juicing has been a healthy way to reduce calorie intake, stay hydrated, consume more fruits and vegetables, and introduce some interesting variety into my diet. It’s been a lot of fun, so much so I think it will probably be a regular part of my diet going forward. If you end up trying juicing, I hope you also find it rewarding!

Home Hacks – Furnace Humidifier Pan

Home Hacks – Furnace Humidifier Pan

Those of you with older homes might have an older model of Wait-Skuttle drum-style humidifier attached to your furnace. In my case, I’ve got the 45S model, which was very popular “in the old days”:


Cleaning these humidifiers is always an unpleasant task. Even more so if you have hard water – the evaporation that occurs leaves behind crusts and deposits of calcium that are difficult to remove. The evaporator pad is not worth cleaning – replacement pads are very easy to find at any hardware store, and they are very cheap, around 6 bucks:

humidifier_03If the float assembly is heavily encrusted, that’s pretty easy to deal with too – these are attached with a single screw, so you can just take the float off and give it a good soak in an acidic cleaner. Which brings me to my first tip – check out ZEP cleaners (sold at Home Depot) they are much more affordable than CLR and in my opinion, do an even better job:

humidifier_02Now if your float is in really bad shape, you can find very affordable replacements for that too. And changing out your humidifier float is pretty easy process.

But one thing that I have found very frustrating is the plastic water tray at the bottom of the humidifier. When calcium deposits on plastic, it tends to be very difficult to remove. After many sessions of scrubbing and acid treatments, the plastic tray in my humidifier was in really bad shape. Now you might be lucky enough to find a replacement plastic tray, but for me, it was very difficult to find the 9 inch square replacement for the 45S model humidifier. The other thing that bothered me was having another difficult-to-clean plastic tray… so I came up with an alternate solution.

I realized that metal cake pans are made 9 inch square – so I purchased a “no-stick” heavy-duty one. I found that the pan was the perfect height for the humidifier, but these cake pans do taper a bit upward, so that they are larger at the top (I suspect to make getting cake out easier!) So in order to make it fit perfectly into the humidifier, I had to place the pan vertically on my vise and pound each of the sides inward a bit with a hammer. When you are done, the cake pan will look something like this:


So once you have squared the top of the pan a bit, it will fit beautifully into the humidifier:

humidifier_05The huge advantage to a metal non-stick pan is that is SO much easier to remove calcium deposits. Generally, they can’t attach themselves to the non-stick surface, so it only takes a few minutes of simple rinsing to get a perfectly clean pan.

To finish, I’ll make one more recommendation – you can buy ammonium chloride packets that work well to keep calcium from building up rapidly in the humidifier water.

humidifier_06Due to nature of evaporation, even with the packets, you can’t hold off cleaning your humidifier forever, but if you use my cake-pan hack, your cleaning will be a lot easier!

Scientific Explorer Series on Dark Energy

Scientific Explorer Series on Dark Energy

Scientific ExplorerA stunning series on the Dark Matter from Scientific Explorer has recently been published – this is a 14-part tour-de-force of physics that you really MUST read.

Here are the links to every excellent entry in the series:

Tutorial – Yenka Chemistry – Alkali Metal Reactions

Tutorial – Yenka Chemistry – Alkali Metal Reactions


Welcome to the Yenka Tutorial Series

z_yenka_001ScienceMan’s having a such blast playing and learning with Yenka, I thought, why not put some Yenka ideas online for teachers and students to check out?

So without further any further blabbing, here’s today’s tutorial:

Yenka Chemistry – Alkali Metal Reactions

One of the great things about Yenka is its ability to simulate chemical reactions in a realistic way. This is becoming more and more important as jurisdictions move to ban more and more of the “fun” chemicals from classrooms due to safety concerns.

Falling into this category are the alkali metals. It would be great to drop a big hunk of potassium into water in front of students, but for obvious reasons, that’s not really a good idea!

Well, with Yenka, there’s no need to fret about safety concerns. Simply drop the metals into your beaker, add water, and watch the fun! Yenka does a great job of simulating all aspects of the reaction.

yenka_alkaliAnother great feature of Yenka is the great set of presentation tools that can be used to set up things like chemical reactions. This allows you to prep the reactants in a simulation for your students, and they need only combine the reactants and make their observations. Check out the following ScienceMan tutorial video for an example:

sciman_videoQuestions about Yenka? Feel free to comment on this post. Also, the good people at the Yenka website have also put together their own fantastic collection of tutorials.

Tutorial – Yenka Light and Sound – Eye Problems

Tutorial – Yenka Light and Sound – Eye Problems


Welcome to the Yenka Tutorial Series

z_yenka_001ScienceMan’s having a such blast playing and learning with Yenka, I thought, why not put some Yenka ideas online for teachers and students to check out?

So without further any further blabbing, here’s today’s tutorial:

Yenka Light and Sound – Eye Problems

One of the great things about Yenka is its ability to bring static phenomenon to life. I’m sure you’ve all seen eye cross-section diagrams showing near-sightedness and farsightedness. But without the ability to change the shape of the lens, move the object, shift the position of the retina… how can we learn about how fixing these eye problems?

Yenka to the rescue! With Yenka, it’s easy to simulate the situation of an eyeball. With the help of a convex lens to represent the lens in the eye and a screen to represent the retina, playing “optometrist” is very easy!

yenka_eye_probsOnce you’ve dragged those components onto your workspace, it’s just a matter of “playing” with different thin lenses in front of the “eye” lens to see what corrects the vision problem. It’s that simple! Please watch the following tutorial for a complete guide to setting up your own Yenka eyeball simulation:

sciman_videoQuestions about Yenka? Feel free to comment on this post. Also, the good people at the Yenka website have also put together their own fantastic collection of tutorials.