Archive for January, 2012

Using the Internet to get data

No matter what you pick up as your science fair project there is likely to be mountains of data on the topic online. So when you sit down to get what data  you can use from the internet you need to be careful about where you get that data from.

A number of sites can provide incorrect data that may cause your project more harm than good. So stick to sites that have a good reputation of giving honest and correct information. Some of these sites include Discovery, National Geographic, Popular Science, and Popular Mechanics. All of these sites have reputed writers providing correct and substantiated information on the website.

The websites like Wikipedia or Cheat Sheets need to be checked before the data on them can be used. This is because anybody can write and edit this site. This leave so much more room for incorrect information to creep in. So watch out what data you use from them and try to have it collaborated from a more reliable source if you must use their data.

The internet is the gateway to the highway of information. However like all highways you need to get on the right one to take you to your destination. So pick the information from online sources with care when you sit down to work on your science fair project.

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How ethical is it to use a robot?

Robotics is a fast developing science discipline. Each week we hear about one more robotics based science project which is enthralling the world. Be it a team of robots playing football or a robot singing to a karaoke song. Robots are slowly but surely learning to do what humans can do.

Soon there may come a day when robots are independent of their human masters. They may no longer be remote controlled the way they are today, but be self regulated with some fancy algorithm in their computer chip brain. This is why it is important to think today about how ethical it is to use a robot.

Ethics have always been open to interpretation by the person talking about them. None of us would have a problem with a robot being used as a primary care giver to an invalid patient. However would it be correct to give the robot control over the human being? Can a robot understand the human emotions behind a frustrated statement that a bed bound patient would make?

It is easy to think that robots will make the world a better place for humans by taking on their work, but is that really going to happen? All the time saving gadgets that humans have come up with so far have only managed to add another layer of stress to their lives. Will robots be the same? Only time and science will tell.

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What will power the future?

The fossil fuels are going to run out and the world will need alternative means of power generation. There have been countless number of science projects dealing with possible successors to fossil fuels including solar, wind and biomass fuels. And yet there is no clear sign as to what will power the future.

The sure shot answer at one time seemed to be nuclear fuel. It was compact, generated great quantities of power and could be used to generate power over large areas. Unfortunately it is very unstable and difficult to handle. This was driven home very vividly in the Fukushima disaster.

So if nuclear fuel is not the answer to the future, what is? Solar energy has been harvested but it does not still have the technology required to power large areas indefinitely. Wind and water turbine power also have their own technological limitations besides availability limitations.

Can the power of the future come from another source altogether? Perhaps from plants? Like the character, Doc, manages to power his car in the movie “Back to the Future” with some banana peels and a device that looked suspiciously like a blender? It may not be so funny when you think about it. Only future science projects will tell.

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Direct to the Brain

Since medieval times students have wished that it was easier to learn their lessons. There have been all kinds of memory cramming gimmicks that they have used to do their home work. Yet science projects to date have yet to come up with the ideal memory booster.

The Germans were keen on mastering the concept of the “Nuremberg Funnel”, by which the teacher could literally pour knowledge into the brain of a student. This would need little or no effort on the part of the student, but he would be able to use the knowledge on his own.

The Indians speak of “Yognindra” where in the student is made to hear an audio version of whatever lesson it is that he needs to learn, just as he falls asleep at night. It is believed that knowledge that is gained at this point of time gets embedded permanently in the brain.

And if all that fails, put your trust in the researchers of the University of California who want to bring in knowledge direct to the brain by implanting microchips there. Of course as of now the chips are being put into the brains of mice that are part of the science experiment and it will be a while before students can give up their books.

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Staying afloat forever?

Based on basic principles of science we expect everything that flies in the skies to eventually come down to earth. However the new science project called the Albatross may be trying to defy this assumption. Australian scientists are trying to work on a glider which can stay in the air for as long as you need without landing.

At the Australian Center for Field Robotics in Sydney, Salah Sukkarieh is part of the project. The device is to use sensors to tell its auto pilot about changes in the wind speed and direction so that the best possible path can be worked out for the glider.

The glider can also alternate between the high speed air currents above and the slower winds below to generate kinetic energy which will increase its lift. A working prototype of the device is already in existence and improvements are being constantly made and tested on the glider.

Soon it may be possible for the glider to stay in the air for as long as possible. Probably stay in the sky for ever. It may seem like an impossible dream, or some kind of science fiction gadget, but it is in truth just another interesting science project.

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