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Month: January 2014

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.

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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 Amazon.ca for $130:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

juice_07

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.

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 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

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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.

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

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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?

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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”:

humidifier_01

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:

humidifier_04

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

updated

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

updated

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.

Tutorial – Yenka Light and Sound – Ray Diagrams

Tutorial – Yenka Light and Sound – Ray Diagrams

updated

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 – Ray Diagrams

One of the great things about Yenka is its ability to simplify complex demonstrations. A good example of this is the optics bench, which for teachers can be a real hassle to set up, and even more difficult to demonstrate to a whole class. It’s very challenging to show a candle that is in focus to 30 students! Not that you don’t want students to use an optical bench, but it would be great to have an interactive whiteboard friendly tool to be able to easily demonstrate to all your students at once.

In the Yenka Light and Optics module, creating ray diagrams is a simple as dragging and dropping. In this case, all you’ll need is an optical space, and object, a lens or mirror, and a screen:

yenka_ray_diagramOnce you’ve dragged those components onto your workspace, it’s just a matter of “playing” with the position of the object in relation to the lens, and positioning the screen where the image occurs. It’s that simple. Please watch the following tutorial for a complete guide to setting up your own Yenka ray diagrams:

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 – Working With Objects

Tutorial – Yenka – Working With Objects

updated

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:

Working with Objects

Yenka’s greatest strength is making it ridiculously easy to create simulations. In the past, complicated programming languages and skills would be necessary to make objects interact on your computer screen. Not any more! Yenka makes simulation building as simple as dragging and dropping.

For example, suppose you wanted to build a simple circuit. In Yenka, all you need to do is drag your circuit components onto the screen and connect them:

yenka_circuitWant to see this drag and drop manipulation of objects in action? Check out this ScienceMan tutorial video!

sciman_video

 

Questions 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 – Getting Started

Tutorial – Yenka – Getting Started

updated

Welcome to the Yenka Tutorial Series

z_yenka_001

Yenka’s ability to do so much at a very affordable price has the ScienceMan very excited. And in today’s changing classroom where interactive whiteboard technologies are becoming more and more important, Yenka fits in wonderfully with its custom whiteboard features.

Yenka Tutorial – Learning the Yenka Interface

The first thing you need to explore with Yenka is it’s interface – thankfully, it is very intuitive and easy to use. When you start up Yenka, you will be presented with the two parts to the interface – the topic menu and the toolbar (click the following image for a larger view, or better yet, start up your copy of Yenka and follow along!):

yenka_interface

How do you use the topic menu and toolbar? Time for a ScienceMan tutorial video!

sciman_videoYenka Tutorials

I hoped you enjoyed this tutorial! The Yenka.com website also has some terrific tutorials for learning how to use different components of Yenka software. Simply visit the Yenka Training Videos page, and start searching or browsing.

Teaching Idea – Forcing Bulbs

Teaching Idea – Forcing Bulbs

updatedOver Christmas, I had the pleasure of lounging around in a house that is loaded with plants… including blooming ones. Usually I just keep my mouth shut and leave anything associated with plant material to the very capable care of my wife. But I couldn’t resist asking about the hyacinths she had made bloom during the holiday season. I thought that the growing bulbs might be of use to science teachers who want a novel way of studying root systems, especially in the dead of our nasty winter – so even though this isn’t technology related, I’m going to share the technique! Let’s work backwards for a moment; when the whole process is done, this is what you end up with;

bulbs_01Just those clean roots alone would be worth the effort for teachers trying to prepare root tip slides! So how is this accomplished? How do you get a bulb to bloom when it’s not supposed to? Well, it’s pretty simple really – just follow these steps;

  • Put your hyacinth bulb in a glass tumbler that has the rim slightly narrower than the bulb, so that the bulb sits on top. If you can’t find a glass narrow enough, stab the bulb with toothpicks so that you can suspend it. If you can, get a hold of some traditional hyacinth glasses;

bulbs_02

  • Fill with water until it just touches the bottom of the bulb.
  • Put the glass in a cool, dark place, about 10-15 degrees Celcius until roots form and a shoot begins to emerge from the bulb tip.
  • Move the glass into the light and maintain the water level – enjoy the bloom!

You’ll have to be patient. The “cooling time” is general about 10-12 weeks. You can do this with other bulbs as well, but hyacinths are generally the only ones that work well with water only – others such as crocus, daffodils, tulips usually need soil. Narcissus can grown using the same method, just substitute a shallow pebble-filled dish for the glass.Want to buy great bulbs? Visit the Vesey’s site and get them to send you a catalog!

 

 

Teaching Idea – CO2 Powered Cars

Teaching Idea – CO2 Powered Cars

updatedThere’s nothing more fun than racing things at high speed! But how to do it in a safe, semi-controlled, educational manner? One great idea is using CO2 cartridges to propel balsa-wood based vehicles. Here’s some of the the details!

First of all, let’s look at a few of the creative cars. These babies are about a foot long, and the bodies are carved out of raw chunks of balsa. In order for the racing to be fair, wheels and axles can be provided for all the cars, so the emphasis is on body design and aerodynamics.

co2_carsThe secret to these cars is all of them must have a cavity in the back in order to accomodate a COcartridge;

co2_cars2

Then, all of the cars are equipped with small round hooks on the bottom of the body through which some monofilament is theaded. A long chunk of this fishing line is what keeps the cars on track. All that is then needed is a launcher!

You’ll probably have to purchase a launcher – they come in affordable manual models and incredibly expensive electronic versions! The launcher is mounted on a simple wooden frame, and you’re ready to go!

co2_cars3 Wanna build and race your own cars? Here are some great sites to get you started: