Of course, here on Earth, it’s the bowling ball. But why?

The answer is air resistance. Those darn air particles slow down the low mass feathers. They try to slow down the high mass bowling ball, but have little effect. So the feathers take longer to fall.

But what if you could remove those pesky air particles? Well, they did this on one of the later Apollo missions, but you can also do this on Earth. If you have the right equipment. Fortunately, NASA does.

This seems like a very simple question. But as this video from vsauce shows, it’s anything but. This goes into things way past my middle school classroom, including general relativity, spacetime, and geodesics. Things are simplified in middle school, and it’s still a difficult thing for kids to get. More below the video.

In middle school we’re more interested in the Newtonian view rather than the spacetime view. For us, down is towards the center of the Earth. It’s the same for people on the other side of the Earth (say in Australia (I’m in New Jersey, USA)). For them, down is still towards the center of the Earth, but that’s in a different direction. My down and their down point in close to opposite directions. That’s because the concept of “down” is a local direction, not a universal one. My down is different from the down of my friend who lives in New Zeeland. This can be a difficult thing for 13 year olds to understand. It helps to show it on a globe, with little stick figures drawn on a folded up sticky notes.

So it turns out that octopuses (yes, you can say octopi or octopuses) are not solitary creatures. They actually sometimes live in colonies. Here’s a video of one colony called “Octlantis”. One discovered earlier is called “Octopolis”.

So, there’s this total solar eclipse thing happening on August 21st. If you’re not going to be in the 70 mile wide band of totality that crosses the US, then you might want to see it using one of these livestreaming sites. Especially if you’ll be trapped indoors in a cube farm.

Carrie Poppy has a great story about how she went from believing that her home was haunted, to finding out what the danger really was. And yes, it was life threatening. But there’s more, about why skepticism is a good thing.

How much do you know? Really? That much? Are you sure?

It turns out that there are lots of ways to think that you know more than you really do. Here’s a good scischow youtube about it. One of my favorites is the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which I see lots of. Basically, the less you know about something, the more you think you know. As a teacher I see this when students think they understand the topic, but then proceed to bomb the test. It works like this: When you have a beginners knowledge of something, you don’t know the intricacies of it. You don’t know just how much more there is to know.

I teach middle school science, so the material has been simplified—there’s a lot more to it than what I teach. Some students don’t get the simplified version, and they think that what they’ve gotten (the very simplified) is easy. Then they have to take a test on what they should know, and they have trouble with it. And when they get to a question on higher-order thinking skills … watch out!

The thing is, I think they could do much better. But when they’re studying, they think they know it, so they don’t study much. If they understood how much more they need to know, I think they’d realize that they needed to study more.

My parents smoked. They tried to stop a few times, but always started again. Maybe if they knew how quickly the body starts to repair itself after you stop smoking, they would have stuck with it. Here’s a good video from ASAPscience about this.

Everytime math comes into my science class, the students always groan. “Why do we have to do math? We already had math class?” But math and science are linked. In fact, the math has to be there. And it can be really interesting how this happens. A number of years ago, one of my favorite youtubers did a trilogy of videos on this.

The first is on Fibonacci numbers, which seem to pop up all over the place. This then leads to one of my favorite irrational numbers: Phi (Φ). Everyone knows about Pi, but phi is pretty awesome too. Well, actually the golden ratio, which is also used all over the place, and mathematicians use phi as shorthand, kind of like they use pi for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter.

It turns out that when plants want to grow leaves, but not have the upper leaves be right above the lower leaves, they frequently put the leaves phi degrees away from the previous leaf. How do they do that? It’s not like they have protractors know about geometry or anything. It turns out that it’s really simple, as vihart gets to. It’s just growing where there’s more protein that tells the plant where to grow new leaves. This automatically ends up with the leaves being phi degrees apart. It’s really cool!