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Life on Mars: How Close Are We?

It’s quite likely that right now in some classroom, there is a student who will one day travel to Mars… 

Is There Life On Mars?

Could humans live on Mars? Is there life there already? Since David Bowie posed these questions, our quest to answer them has gained momentum. Breakthroughs in astrophysics and other sciences have furthered the bounds of our ability to understand and travel through space.

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Astronauts of the Future

It’s quite likely that right now in some classroom, there is a student who will one day travel to Mars, and in knowing such, the ability to understand space travel and the planet Mars for our future has become the focus of many organizations and companies. Programs to pique students interests have multiplied.

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Bus Ride on Mars

One such program is The Mars Experience developed as a part of Lockhead Martin’s Generation Beyond initiative. This program makes the passengers of a school bus feel like they’re on Mars. Now for some, the summer months can already make an ordinary school bus feel as hot and dry as the planet Mars, but in the program they have transformed a normal school bus into a virtual Martian Tourbus; its windows replaced by high definition displays that show 200 square miles of the Martian landscape with perfect scientific accuracy. The images are shown in real time with the most advanced virtual reality software available to create the illusion of driving across the surface of Mars. This program and others like it will hopefully help to inspire today’s youth to learn and work towards making this virtual reality into an actual reality.

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How Long Could You Last on Mars?

The film “The Martian” takes place in the not-so-distant future where programs like similar to The Mars Experience have succeeded, where NASA has excelled and advanced its space program and has developed manned missions to Mars. Of course, it the missions are still full of faults and errors, as unexpected and unanticipated events force Matt Damon to stretch the limits of his ingenuity to succeed and survive. He is able to grow food on Mars by finding new uses for what little materials and resources he has. In the film a human being is able to live on Mars (with a little help of futuristic sci-fi devices) but it is not easy. In this lesson you’ll ask yourself how long you could last on Mars.

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The Future is Here Pt. 1 of 3: Virtual Reality, The Beginning or the End of Society as We Know It?

 

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“Whoa!” That was the famous word Keanu Reeves said when he discovered the alternate reality of The Matrix back in 1999. Of course, as we learned in the movie, Keanu was stuck in a false reality. His senses were tricked into believing he was on Earth, when in reality an alien planet was living off his body and sending false signals to his brain through some creepy cord connected to his head. It was an apocalyptic, futuristic take on virtual reality, a concept that has been featured in many science fiction films.

The origins of virtual reality date back to 1968 when Ivan Sutherland created a wearable headset  to simulate being in a wireframe polygon room at the University of Utah. Starting in 1966, Thomas Furness spent over two decades at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base developing the virtual reality environments for pilots to train in. In the 1990s, movies like Lawnmower Man and Disclosure, made Virtual Reality look like it was about to enter the mainstream. By the mid-1990s gaming companies Sega, Atari and Nintendo had all invested heavily in Virtual Reality focused games, but the Virtual Reality hype quickly fizzled when all of their prototypes failed. Nintendo managed to get two of its products in the marketplace, the Power Glove and Virtual Boy, but they had awful sales and caused a virtual reality bust.

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The possibilities of virtual reality have only reemerged recently with Oculus Rift, a VR headset company that Facebook bought for $2 billion in 2014. LucasFilms is currently marketing Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a Google Cardboard virtual reality experience called Jakku Spy and even the New York Times is embracing it. But what is it? How does it ‘trick’ our brains? How can it be used for social good? In this lesson make your own VR headset and get in on the ground floor in figuring out how VR can change the world.

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Sound Properties and Careers in Music

Courtesy of April Galloway and Christine Scott. Edited by Julie McCann. Provided by CareerStart.

This lesson is intended for grade six and uses a hands-on lab to help students understand key concepts in the properties of sound and how they can be applied to careers in music.

Objectives
1. Students will explore concepts of sound, including frequency, amplitude, loudness, and how sound travels through different materials.
2. Students will conduct investigations to build an understanding of the nature and properties of sound.
3. Students will learn how these concepts can be applied to careers in music.

Time Required For Lesson
Approximately 80 to 90 minutes. 
The time needed for this lesson is relatively flexible. Preparing each lab station ahead of time will save 10 to 15 minutes of student work. See Lab Procedure below for more detailed information. Homework time may also be added to reduce classroom time.

Advance Preparation
Students should have prior knowledge of the properties of sound and how it relates to musical instruments. Critical vocabulary (defined on the handout Student Study Guide: Nature of Sound, Properties of Sound, and Combining Sound Waves) should be discussed prior to this lesson. This handout can be used as a review just before the lab or used earlier in the week as an introduction to a unit on the properties of sound.

Chemical Reactions Are Everywhere!

This lesson provides an introduction to chemical reactions and how they occur by using Bill Nye the Science Guy’s “Chemical Reactions.”

What is Science? The Poetry of Reality

This is a great lesson to start off a school year as it uses a music video to explain what science is, how people can benefit from studying it, and what it has done for the human species as a whole.

The Science of the Mockingjay

Students learn about genetically modified organisms and the danger this type of research poses by looking at the Mockingjay in The Hunger Games and drawing connections to the real world.

The Science of Google Glass: An introduction to prisms and augmented reality

The unveiling of the Google Glass still seems more sci-fi than reality to many. Like any new technological advancement, we should understand the science behind these futuristic specs and their pending impact on our society.

Google Glass is simply a wearable CPU that includes a camera, mic, speakers and a visual lens called a prism. This prism makes use of the electromagnetic spectrum, focusing on visible light. All light travels as waves, and that wavelength defines the various regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. The prism uses a mini projector to transmit light or visuals to your eye’s retina, fovea and optic nerve. This visual layer is projected onto your eye, allowing you to see a digital image layered on top of your actual eye sight.

Some users have complained of eye soreness and a tendency to get headaches coming from their right temple. These symptoms are believed to be related to motion sickness. While there is no evidence of health hazards associated with the use of the Google Glass, some lawmakers are trying to outlaw the use of the glasses while driving, claiming that the additional images being sent to your brain will cause a distraction and can lead to disastrous results.

Naturally, this leads us to more questions than answers. Society will change drastically the more popular and widely used Glass will become. Soon we will need to ask ourselves where do we draw the line between socially acceptable and unacceptable behavior with new technology? What will be the new rules? And more importantly, what will be next?