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Turtle Time!

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Hello! It’s me, Boop! I’m the Discovery World Spokesturtle. It’s July! I know, right? I don’t know where June went either. I saw it outside just a minute ago, and it was doing really well. I turned my back for a moment, and it was gone. June happened, right? June was a thing? May took forever, but May always takes forever. Anyway, June will probably turn up again at some point. July is here!

What have Beep and I up to this week? We’ve been… waiting. We are waiting for Summer Camps at Discovery World to start. We are waiting for Discovery World to reopen. The waiting, as singer-songwriter and musician Tom Petty said, is the hardest part. And the Aquarists said they were bringing us a snack, so we are waiting for our snack. Soon, they said. What is soon? How long is soon? You can’t measure soon. Time is weird.

And it’s not just weird now. Time has always been weird.

Let’s say you’re at a friend’s house. You each have the same astonishingly accurate and precise watch. Because you’re friends, you sync your watches precisely. It’s time to go, so you hop on your bike and race home as fast as you can. When you get home, your watch and your friend’s watch are out of sync. Not by much – less than a quadrillionth of a second, maybe – but a measurable amount. The flow of time depends on how fast you’re going relative to your friend. You were going faster, so less Time passed for you and more Time passed for your friend.

The flow of Time changes with gravity, too. Let’s say you are falling into a black hole (so much gravity). For you, Time would pass by at its usual pace of one second per second. Lots of horrible things would be happening, including something called spaghettification, but Time would seem to be passing by at its usual rate.

If I watched you fall into a black hole, Time would slow down. Not for me. For you. From my perspective, Time would slow down so much that you would never reach the event horizon of the black hole. Of course, I would not simply watch you fall into a black hole. I would leap into action and try to save you from falling into a black hole! I have no idea how I would do that, but I would do my best!

Anyway, Einstein figured all this out, and it’s more complicated than that, but so is everything. But this is not the weirdest thing about Time. The weirdest thing about Time is that no one knows what it is.

Okay, in a very real and obvious (and important but sort of boring) sense, Time is what clocks measure. A second is 1/86,400 of one day, which is what you get when you multiply the number of hours in a day by the number of minutes in an hour by the number of seconds in a minute. That’s clock time. Clocks measure the periodic oscillation of a thing – a pendulum, a quartz crystal – and translate that into seconds, minutes, and hours.

Science Time is a bit different in that it’s the same but more precise. In 1967, the second was defined by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures at their 13th General Conference of Weights and Measures as, “the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom.” That’s science time. It’s always science time at Discovery World!

So everyone knows what Time is. Maybe it’s better to say that no one really knows why Time is the way it is.

Space is easy. We get space. We move through the three dimensions of space all the time, everywhere we go. You can walk to your friend’s house at the top of a hill. You can walk back to your house at the bottom of the hill.

Your friend’s house is located in Time. It has a duration. It wasn’t before. Then it was. It is. It will continue to be. And then at some point in the future, it won’t be. And there are time coordinates just like there are space coordinates. Your friend invites you over to her house at a specific time (10am, say), and you show up at that time. It would be rude not to.

But we can’t move around in Time in the same way that we move around in space. You can go back to a point in space. You can’t go back to a point in Time.

But why? Why does Time seem to happen in only one direction? Why can we remember the past but not the future?

Physicists talk about entropy and the arrow of Time. You can’t unscramble an egg or unmix the cream out of your coffee or unchew a mealworm. That sort of thing. Some physicists, though, believe that Time and entropy might only seem like they’re related, but that Time doesn’t happen because of entropy.

Some physicists think that only the present is real. Some physicists think that the past and present are real, but not the future. Some physicists think that the past, present, and future are all real.

And a few physicists think that at some point Time will end. According to these physicists, the reason it seems that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating is not because of Dark Energy. It’s because Time is slowing down. One day, Time will stop and the Universe will freeze. As terrifying (and probably untestable) as this hypothesis might be, it would happen billions of years from now. So not something to worry about. Also, they could be wrong.

Physicists and other scientists like biochemists, biologists, archaeologists, geologists, paleontologists, and astronomers work in different scales of Time. Physicists might work in tiny, tiny timescales – from yoctoseconds to femtoseconds and nanoseconds. And then there are the centuries, millennia, galactic years, eons, and increasingly larger chunks of Time that archaeologists, geologists, and astronomers work in.

The fastest chemical reactions in the body happen within a few quadrillionths of a second. That’s super-fast. Proteins fold much more slowly, within microseconds and milliseconds.

Mayflies live for 24 hours. Greenland sharks can live for around 300 years. There’s a bristlecone pine in California that is 4,851 years old. That’s about as old as the Great Pyramid of Giza, I think. Glass sponges (marine creatures) can live over 10,000 years. There is a clonal colony of quaking aspens in Utah that is around 80,000 years old. As an order, turtles have been around for something like 220 million years.

Rocks are even older than turtles. Well, some are. There are plenty of rocks that are “being born” right now. But there are rocks and rock formations in Baraboo, Wisconsin that are around 1.8 billion years old. They are part of the Baraboo Range, a very old mountain range that has eroded slowly over nearly two billion years. Devil’s Lake State Park is part of the Baraboo Range. And the oldest rocks on Earth are older than the Earth. They came from outer space. They were meteoroids, once upon a Time.

Us turtles don’t really understand infinitesimal slivers of Time like nanoseconds or femtoseconds. Nor do we truly understand vast swaths of time like millennia or galactic years. Our lives are made of hours, minutes, and moments. Our lives are made of firsts. And lasts. And all the wild, beautiful, and heartbreaking adventures in between. We measure our lives in seasons and stories.

Each of us turtles has a place in Time. We are part of a generation, one of a few generations of turtles living on the Earth at the same Time. And as we grow up and grow older we watch ourselves and the world change from our different places in Time. We watch new generations come and older generations go. Our responsibility is to make sure the story continues.

I’d like to think that the past is very real. We can’t physically go there, but all of turtle (and human) history is out there for us to explore and puzzle out and learn from. We can explore the history of Earth over billions of years. And the history of the Universe over billions and billions of years.

I’d like to think that the future is real, too. We just have to build it.

I’d also like to think that the Aquarists will be here soon with our snack. And here they are! They’re so awesome.

You’re awesome, too. And Beep and I will see you… soon.

Be well,


Oh! And watch out for turtles on the roads! We’re not as fast as your cars. Thank you!

Bird Paper Airplanes

Welcome Members! We’re flying high knowing that you’re here for a special Members Only Discovery World @ Home project. Three separate airplane templates can be found on the links below. Enjoy.

Bird Airplanes – Easy

Bird Airplanes – Medium 

Bird Airplanes – Hard


Explore Kitchen Chemistry with Boop

Hello! It’s me, Boop! I’m the Discovery World spokesturtle. How are you? All the animals are doing fine. We miss you terribly, and we can’t wait to open our doors so we can see you again. Obviously everyone needs to stay home and keep safe. It’s definitely a challenge, but we can do this. We will all get through this. You are awesome.

Beep and I have been busy! As you know, we put on a production of Boop’s King Lear. It went okay. The poisonous dart frog that played Edmund did a great job. The fish had a tough time remembering their lines, though. They also had a tough time saying their lines. And wearing their costumes. And knowing they were in a production of Boop’s King Lear.

The volcano, however, was amazing!

For a truly successful volcano, you need lava. That’s just science. We didn’t have lava. And we could not get lava delivered to the aquarium because apparently lava is too dangerous. Did you know that turtles can roll their eyes? We can!

Anyway, Beep and I did the next best thing. We made our own volcano with vinegar and baking soda!

To make our baking soda and vinegar volcano, we poured four parts vinegar (acetic acid or C2H4O2) into the beautiful paper mache volcano that Beep made.

We prepared one part baking soda (sodium bicarbonate or NaHCO3) by mixing it with a little water until it formed a slurry. I don’t have a precise definition of a slurry, but you’ll know it when you see it. Then we mixed in some dish soap and some food coloring. Red and orange for lava! You can use washable paint. We didn’t try that, but it might be less messy.

And then, just as I, King Lear, threw myself into the volcano, Beep added the baking soda mixture to the vinegar. And there was an eruption of soapy foam!

The acetic acid and sodium carbonate tore each other apart. New molecules formed, including sodium acetate and carbonic acid. The carbonic acid decomposed and we were left with sodium acetate, carbon dioxide, and water. The carbon dioxide gas got trapped in the dish soap making orange and red foam.

It was so dramatic! And messy! Foam went everywhere! So much foam! So much mess!

(If you try this, you can use an empty two liter soda bottle. HELPFUL HINT: Do this outside. The cleanup is so much easier. Ask me how I know.)

The thing about a chemical reaction is that you start with stuff. You mix that stuff together. A special kind of change called a reaction happens (two reactions in this case). And you end up with new stuff. You end up with the same amount of stuff that you started with. But the old stuff rearranges itself into new stuff. Pretty cool, right?

FUN FACT! The vinegar + baking soda reaction is also an endothermic reaction. That means it absorbs heat energy and gets cold. An exothermic reaction releases heat and gets hot.

So that was fun. Now I’m learning to cook! I have a very patient and kind aquarist to help me because I’m only five-years old, and I’m too young to use the oven and stove by myself. She’s teaching me all kinds of fun things about cooking!

Yesterday, I made a warm rice salad with grilled lettuce (I had no idea that you can grill lettuce, but you can totally grill lettuce!) and other vegetables. I made a simple vinaigrette with three parts vegetable oil and one part lemon juice with a little salt, pepper, and some other spices. The oil and lemon juice kept separating, so I did some kitchen chemistry and added some mustard.

Normally oil and water don’t mix (lemon juice is citric acid and water). Water molecules are polar. So are citric acid molecules. This just means that the molecules are attracted to each other like little magnets. It means a lot more than that, of course, but it means that, too. Oil molecules, on the other hand, are not polar.

You can bring oil and lemon juice together by adding an emulsifier like mustard. One end of the “mustard molecules” is attracted to oil and one end is attracted to water. Soap works the same way, though you don’t put soap in salad dressing.

For dinner I made mealworms sautéed with garlic, raisins, and Calabrian chilies. Well, I was going to add Calabrian chilies (I got the idea for Calabrian chilies from watching Bobby Flay), but we didn’t have any. If you don’t have Calabrian chilies, don’t worry about it. The important and delicious part is the sautéed mealworms. They get all nice and golden brown. Yum!

Anyway, did you know that the browning that happens when you cook food is a chemical reaction? It totally is! It’s called the Maillard reaction. It’s named for Louis-Camille Maillard, a French chemist who figured it out when he was working on protein synthesis. The Maillard reaction is a reaction between carbohydrates (sugars and starches and stuff) and amino acids (what proteins are made of) and heat. And it forms all kinds of awesome aromas and flavors!

The Maillard reaction happens when you toast marshmallows and when you roast vegetables. It happens when you roast coffee and cocoa beans and when you make dulce de leche and toast and when you bake bread.

Bread! Everyone is making bread now, and I am, too. I have a super easy and fun recipe for beer bread that I hope you like.

The best part is that it involves the Maillard reaction and a neutralization reaction. So it’s full of science! And unlike Calabrian chilies, you may already have these ingredients at home.

You’ll need…

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and mealworms together. Then add the beer.

Mix that all together until everything is incorporated. Pour the (very thick) dough into the loaf pan. Whack it the oven for 40 minutes. Take it out. Let it cool. Eat!

If mealworms aren’t your thing (though I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t be your thing), leave ’em out. The bread will still be great.

That wonderful smell (and taste) of baking bread is the Maillard reaction happening! It’s the most delicious kitchen chemistry experiment ever! Well, it’s one of them.

And cooking and baking has been a really fun way to spend time together with the Aquarists. They’re awesome! They even helped Beep and me clean up our volcano mess.

Experiment and enjoy. Have fun!

Be well,


Density and Floating: Would King Lear Sink or Float in Lava?

Boop Tackles Shakespeare. You Can Too!

Hi! It’s me, Boop! I’m the Discovery World spokesturtle. We hope you continue to be well. It sure feels like Friday (hooray?), but it’s kind of hard to tell. Maybe it’s Thursday. No. This definitely feels like Friday. It’s Friday! I just know it.

It’s still April, I think, and there are signs of spring everywhere. I’ve seen some of them with my own eyes! The grass is growing again. I saw a bug the other day. Then I ate it. Daffodils are popping up. Robins are flittering about and rabbits are hopping around. So that’s something. When you can, get outside and look for signs of spring. How many can you find? What’s your favorite sign of spring?

Good news! You know how Shakespeare wrote King Lear while he was in quarantine? Guess what? I did, too! It was easy! It only took me a week. It’s a little shorter than the first one because I didn’t always understand what was going on. So I skipped a bunch of stuff (so much talking!). Also, my hand cramped up a lot. It’s more of a claw than a hand, but there was still cramping.

And I made some changes. Gloucester is a now a turtle. So are Cordelia and the Fool. King Lear is a red-eared slider. That’s a kind of turtle. Everyone else in the play is either a fish or a frog. Edmund is a poisonous dart frog. And everyone exits pursued by a bear. They also enter pursued by a bear. There’s a lot of running from bears.

Oh! And I fixed the ending. Instead of dying of a broken heart or whatever, a volcano erupts on stage, and Lear throws himself into it. That seemed more dramatic and fun. What I couldn’t figure out is if King Lear would be able to deliver his final lines from inside the volcano. What I mean is, would King Lear sink or float in lava?


Okay, let’s say that you’re about to leap into an active volcano. It’s a really active volcano, like it runs half-marathons and it’s super into CrossFit and yoga and everything.

Now, I don’t know why you’re leaping into an active volcano. Maybe you’re trapped in a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie. Not Sleepless in Seattle, the other one. The other other one. The one with the volcano. Or maybe you’re playing the lead in Boop’s King Lear.

Anyway, you’ve made the leap. You’re plummeting through the air having all kinds of second and third thoughts. One question that no one was quite able to answer before you agreed to leap into the volcano was, “Will I sink or float?”

That depends on whether you are denser or less dense than lava.

Density is property of matter. It’s the amount of stuff in a given amount of space or mass per unit of volume. Density is measured in kilograms per cubic meter. It can be measured other ways, including grams per cubic centimeter and slugs per cubic foot. A slug here is a unit of mass not the slimy, terrestrial, gastropod mollusk (yum!).

A cubic foot of slugs would be super delicious. Better than mealworms, even! Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten a slug. You’d think I’d remember something like that. They sound good.

A cubic meter of air has a mass of 1.3 kilograms. A cubic meter of fresh water has a mass of 1,000 kilograms. So air floats on water, but you knew that already.

A cubic meter of ice has a mass of 917 kilograms. That’s why ice floats in water! Water is one of a few substances that are denser as a liquid than a solid. Water is weird. It’s awesome, but it’s weird.

Anyway, a cubic meter of people has a mass of 985 kilograms. A cubic meter of steel has a mass of 7,700 kilograms. Human beings float in water. Steel does not.

Hang on, you might say. Big ships are made of steel, and they float in water. True! But ships hold air. Most of the ship is air, so the overall density of the ship is less than water. A raft made of solid steel would be less successful as a means of aquatic conveyance.

FUN FACT! Turtles don’t float because our shells are denser than water.

But will you or a turtle or King Lear or Turtle King Lear float in lava? Lava, which is molten rock, has a density of around 3,100 kilograms per cubic meter. It’s over three times denser than water. You are slightly less dense than water. I am slightly denser than water. So, yes. You would float in lava. So would I. Don’t try this at home. Not that you could try this at home. I mean, I assume you don’t have an active volcano at home.

ANOTHER FUN FACT! If Lake Michigan were filled with mercury instead of water, a cubic meter of lava would float on it. Mercury (the metallic element, not the planet) has a density of 13,593 kilograms per cubic meter. Mercury is much denser than lava. Mercury the planet has a density of 5,420 kilograms per cubic meter, so Mercury would float in mercury. You’d need a much bigger, much deeper lake of mercury, though.

YET ANOTHER FUN FACT! Would the planet Saturn float in water? No. Saturn is less dense than water, yes, but there’s a different problem. Let’s say you were somehow able to place Saturn onto a ginormous planet covered entirely with water. This would be a massive planet about the size of a small sun. Okay, great. Saturn is made of gas, mostly hydrogen with some helium, methane, and a few other gasses. But Saturn also has a molten core made of rock.

The gravitational field of your hypothetical ginormous water planet is going to be much, much stronger than the gravitational field of Saturn. The hydrogen and helium would stay at the surface of your water planet while the rocky core would sink to the bottom. So some of Saturn would float, some would not. And after this experiment, Saturn wouldn’t really be a planet anymore.


The densest naturally occurring element is Osmium at roughly 22,500 kilograms per cubic meter. Neutronium (the stuff that neutron stars are made of) has a density of 1 quintillion kilograms per cubic meter. Grab a measuring teaspoon. Fill it with flour or sugar or sand or something. Now pretend that that teaspoon of stuff weighs 10 million tons. That’s how dense neutron star stuff is.

So that’s density in a nutshell. Or a volcano. Or something.

Anyway, the aquarists have promised me that we’ll stage a production of Boop’s King Lear next week! Beep and I are building the volcano now! It’s not a real volcano. Those are dangerous. And I have to teach fish how to talk and read and act. That should be fun. And after that I’m going to write Hamilton!

Be well,


Codes: Boop and Beep’s Great Mealworm Heist

Hi! It’s me, Boop! I’m the Discovery World spokesturtle. Did you know that turtles love mealworms? It’s true! We love mealworms. Mealworms, as I’m sure you already know, are delicious.

Actually, they’re more than delicious. Mealworms are succulent. Unctuous. Earthy, but with a gamey sweetness. They’re like beautiful little wriggling sausages filled with luscious worm goo, and they snap and simply burst in your mouth when you bite into them. I’m drooling just thinking about it. You probably are, too.

Now before I go any further, I have to tell you that the Discovery World aquarists are amazing. They take wonderful care of all the animals. They feed us. They take us for walks. Well, they take the turtles for walks. They don’t take the fish for walks. That wouldn’t work out so well. Anyway, the aquarists are awesome.

Back to the mealworms. Can I tell you a secret?

I didn’t know this until last week, but there’s a big box of mealworms in the refrigerator in the Reiman Aquarium kitchen. All the mealworms you’d ever need are in that box. I mean, I don’t actually know how many mealworms you eat. I don’t even know how many mealworms I eat. I know how many mealworms I would eat if I could get my claws on a big box of ‘em. I would eat all the mealworms.

Easier said than done, though. Those mealworms are locked up tighter than Fort Knox. The kitchen door requires a six-digit code that they change every twelve hours. The whole place is rigged with cameras and motion detectors. The refrigerator door requires an authorized fingerprint identification, which we can’t fake. And nothing goes in or out of the refrigerator without a retina scan, which we can’t get.

(And by we, I mean Beep and me. Beep is another box turtle who lives here at the Reiman Aquarium. Beep is my best turtle friend in the whole world!)

I wanted those mealworms. I needed to get into that refrigerator. This wasn’t going to be easy.

We didn’t have any of that high-tech heist equipment that you see in the movies. We didn’t have a computer hacker person who can hack their way into the refrigerator’s mainframe by typing really fast. We did not have a small fleet of Mini Coopers for a fun getaway. We did not have Alan Rickman. We did not have Charlize Theron. We didn’t have George Clooney or Bernie Mac. We didn’t have Vivica Fox or Queen Latifa. We did not have Michael Caine. We did not even have a plan.

We needed a plan.

And the whole plan depended on the aquarists not finding out about the plan. The problem is that the aquarists are so nosy!

Sure, they say that they’re “cleaning our tanks” and “making sure we’re healthy” and “feeding us” and “other stuff”. But they’re watching. Listening to our private turtle conversations. Waiting.

Whatever. Beep and I were going to make a plan. And we were going to keep that plan a secret.

At first, Beep and I wrote secret notes to each other with invisible ink. We dipped a cotton swab in lemon juice and then wrote our messages on paper. We’d wait for the lemon juice ink to dry, and then pass our notes to each other.

To turn the invisible message visible, all we had to do is hold it up to a heat source. Since all of the turtles have heat lamps in our tanks, invisible ink seemed like the perfect way to share secrets.

And it was for a while, but the Discovery World aquarists are pretty smart. Box turtles like me don’t usually eat lemons. We eat fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, bugs, mealworms (obviously), and a lot of other things. But not lemons. Or cotton swabs. But we kept asking for lemons and cotton swabs. The aquarists figured us out pretty quickly.

Undaunted, Beep and I switched to codes. A code is a word or phrase that means something else.

Let’s say I say something like, “The owl flies at midnight.” That might really mean, “Quick! Melissa the Aquarist left the big box of mealworms on the counter. Let’s take it before she gets back!”

Of course, that attempt depended on us being speedy. We are turtles. We are many things. Speedy is one of them.

Anyway, codes are fun, but we ended up with a huge book of them. Two books, actually, because Beep needed to keep track of all the codes, too. Of course, the aquarists found our code books one day when they were cleaning our tanks. Always keep your code books well hidden!

Well, now Beep and I were really undaunted. So we switched it up again and started using a cipher. A cipher is an algorithm, a set of step-by-step instructions to transform actual words into strings of nonsense.

To encrypt our plaintext (our notes to each other), we would take our messages and shift each letter of the alphabet by a certain amount. This would generate the strings of jibberish (the ciphertext). 

For a 2-shift cipher, you shift all the letters of the alphabet two places. A becomes C, B becomes D, C becomes E, and so on.

So the phrase, “Hello! My name is Boop!” becomes, “JGNNQ! OA PCOG KU DQQR!” It looks like Klingon, but it’s nonsense. Of course, both Beep and I knew what the shift was for that day. So we could decipher our messages almost instantaneously.

Our messages would look like this:


(Hi, Beep! Are you awake? Should we get a late night snack of mealworms from the fridge?


(Hi, Boop! It’s really late. Can you please stop thinking about mealworms and go to sleep?)

Obviously, Beep was just as excited about the Great Turtle Mealworm Heist as I was.

Try it! You can shift the letters anyway you want as much as you want, as long as you and your co-conspirator agree on what the shift is for each message.

And ciphertext doesn’t have to be made of letters. Your algorithm could generate numbers or strings of binary code or anything, really. Your algorithm can swap letters randomly or pseudo-randomly. You’re good as long as the person receiving your message can reconstruct the plaintext from the ciphertext.

The point is that once again the aquarists couldn’t read our messages! Ha! The turtles were back in business! And we were back in business for… a while. Again, the aquarists are pretty smart.

Even though Beep and I made sure to choose a different letter-shift each day so that the aquarists couldn’t possibly decipher our messages, they did decipher our messages. Easily.

The aquarists could have tried what’s called a brute force attack. They could’ve tried every possible letter shift until they found the one we were using for that day. The problem with this strategy is that it takes a long time, at least for people.

Computers can do a brute force attack on a simple letter-shift cipher in almost no time at all. Our aquarists are not computers. They’re busy people with a lot of important work to do. That’s what Beep and I were counting on. But it turns out that they didn’t have to use a brute force attack at all. We made mistakes.

Our biggest mistake is that we put what are called “cribs” in our messages. A crib is a word or a phrase in a message that gets used a lot. For example, we began pretty much every message with, “Hi, Beep!” or “Hi, Boop!” Also, most of our messages were about mealworms. All the aquarists had to do was find these cribs and figure out the pattern. Then they could easily decipher the rest of the message.

Our other mistake was that Beep and I were not the first people (or turtles) to use this kind of cipher. It’s been around for thousands of years. We did not know that.

If you need to send secret messages, there are lots of different codes, ciphers, and things you can use. Beep and I are now working on a totally new (we think) kind of encryption using very, very large prime numbers. It’s possible that Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adelman worked this out years ago, but maybe not.

Here’s (mostly) how it would work, I think. We’re still figuring out all the details. I type a message to Beep. An encryption algorthim picks two very, very large prime numbers. Hundreds of digits long. Let’s call these numbers p and q. I keep these numbers secret.

The algorithm multiplies them together to get a new number. Let’s call that number N.

N is the public key. I share that number with Beep. I could share that number with the aquarists, too, if I wanted. It wouldn’t matter. Why? Because it’s easy for a computer to multiply numbers. Factoring them is difficult. Computers are really, really fast at math, but there’s so much math to do that a brute force attack would take longer than the current age of the known Universe.

Then math stuff happens, lots of fun math stuff involving Euler’s totient function and a few other things that we’re still working on. Essentially, my computer will have a private lock. It generates a key and makes that key public. It will be easy for Beep’s computer to figure out the encrypted message that I send. But it will be almost impossible for any other computer (or a nosy aquarist!) to decrypt the message.

If we do figure it out, we’ll need a snazzy name. RSA encryption or something. And we will use it RSA encryption to finally make that plan so we can finally break into the refrigerator and finally grab that big box of mealworms.

Unless the aquarists build a quantum computer, which seems unlikely. Then we’ll have to figure something else out. But we are turtles! We are never daunted. We exist in a continuous state of undauntedness! You probably do too.

I wonder who will play me in The Great Turtle Mealworm Heist movie. Maybe Donald Glover. That would be cool. Donald Glover is awesome.

Of course, Beep and I still have to pull off the actual heist. But there is time. Lots of time.


I Am a Red-Knee Tarantula. Ask Me Anything!

Hi! I’m a red-knee tarantula. I’ll be at Tony’s Creepy Crawly Zoo at Discovery World on Saturday, February 15. I’m in the show! Ask me anything!

You look familiar. Have I seen you in movies and/or TV shows? Or do you live in my basement?

Yes! Red-knee tarantulas are some of the most famous tarantulas in the world. You might remember us from Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the opening scene where Indy and Satipo are making their way through that ancient, Peruvian temple filled with deadly traps and other assorted horrors, I was one of the assorted horrors! I got to hang out on the back of Harrison Ford’s leather jacket. And I crawled on Alfred Molina’s face! So much fun.

I’ve been in other stuff, too. I starred alongside William Shatner (KIRK!) in the 1977 horror film Kingdom of the Spiders.

Movie and TV directors love us because we look awesome and terrifying, but we’re easy to work with.

So you don’t live in my basement?

Unless your basement is located on the Pacific coast of Mexico in the state of Guerrero, probably not.

What was it like working with Harrison Ford?

Oh, he was great! I’ll admit that I was super-excited to work with Han Solo! Harrison and Alfred were total professionals, and they made all of us feel comfortable on set. They didn’t squish any of us, which was nice. And Harrison made sure craft service had all the insects, frogs, and baby mice we could eat. He’s awesome. They were both great.

I’ve heard that there is more than one species of red-knee tarantula. Is that true?

Yes! There are two! Brachypelma hamorii and Brachypelma smithi. I’m a Brachypelma smithi. It’s not all that easy to tell us apart.

I see why you’re called a red-knee tarantula. Do spiders actually have knees?

We do! We have 48 knees! From what I understand, humans have four knees. Two on your bottom legs and two on your top legs.

Top legs?

Yeah, the ones you usually don’t walk around on.

Do you mean arms?


Oh, our “top knees” are called elbows.

Okay, wow! I’m learning so much. This is awesome.

You have eight eyes. What does the world look like to a red-knee tarantula?

Well, that’s difficult to answer because I’ve never seen the world any other way. But if I had to guess, I’d say… blurry? Spider eyes aren’t that great, at least compared to human eyes. I rely on vibrations to find prey and make my way through the world. The world is alive with vibrations! It’s really cool.

If the Discovery Channel had Spider Week like they have Shark Week, what would they totally get wrong about you?

Ha! Almost everything. First of all, we don’t make webs like orb weavers and a lot of other spiders do. We make silk, but we don’t catch our prey in webs. We live in burrows and ambush our prey instead. I mean, they probably wouldn’t mess that part up, but you never know.

What everyone gets wrong about us is that we’re actually pretty shy. We only come out of our burrows to pounce on prey and to mate. We are venomous, but our venom isn’t deadly to humans. In the extremely unlikely event that one of us bites you, it would hurt, but that’s about it.

Again, the reason we’ve been in a lot of TV shows and movies is because we’re mostly harmless, and we get along great with our co-stars. Except Shatner. He never really warmed up to us.

You’re furry, unlike a lot of spiders.

Yes! We’re the teddy bears of the arachnid world!


Just kidding! Don’t cuddle us. You’re much larger than we are, and we don’t enjoy being squished. Also, we have what’s called urticating hairs – hairs with little hooks on the end of them. And we can launch those urticating hairs into the eyes and mouth of anything that’s trying to hurt us. That can cause a lot of damage.

Not that you would try to hurt us, but it’s not always easy for us to tell the difference. So be careful is what I’m saying.

You’re nightmare fuel for a lot of people. Does anything scare you?

Yeah. There are a few things that scare us. Predators like birds and lizards, mostly. Sure, it’s the Circle of Life or whatever, but it’s not fun to think about.


Don’t be. These are great questions! Curiosity is the best thing ever! Honestly, the only thing that really gives me nightmares is the tarantula hawk wasp. It paralyzes us with its stinger and then drags us to a burrow and traps us there. Then it lays an egg on our abdomens. When the egg hatches, the larva burrows into us. The baby wasp grows up inside of us. It eats us as it grows. We’re alive while this happens. Paralyzed. Can’t move. Can’t do anything about it. 


Yep. And that’s all the time I have. Thank you so much for your super-awesome questions! You can see me and a whole lot of other wonderful arachnids and insects and other creepy-crawlies at Tony’s Bug Zoo at Discovery World on Saturday, February 15th!

Heroes of Science: Dr. Marija Gajdardziska-Josifovska

Marija Gajdardziska was supposed to be a boy. “I was a surprise!” she said in an interview with Discovery World. Her baby pillow had a hunter on it. Her parents were ready to name her after her grandfather. Her parents didn’t think that being a girl was bad or anything, they just assumed she was going to be a boy. Ultrasound wasn’t available in Štip, Macedonia back in 1958. Ultrasound imaging wasn’t really available anywhere back then.

Her family recovered quickly. “My grandfather and father were very important influences in my life because once they, you know, adjusted to the reality that they have a daughter and a granddaughter, they took me to all the places other fathers and grandfathers took their sons and grandsons. So in some way that prepared me for life later in a male-dominated discipline.”

As a kid, Gajdardziska was smart, curious, and adventurous. And she hung around other smart, curious, adventurous kids. She was a straight-A student, but maybe not your typical straight-A student.

“We were a pretty rowdy bunch. I was alternating between David Bowie and Rod Stewart hairdos. I was a rebel, which you kind of need for science if you’re going to do some really interesting and different things. Because science goes forward through evolutionary accumulation of knowledge and through leaps. And sometimes you cannot make a leap unless you have enough pieces of the puzzle, but the people who make the leaps are people who pose new questions.”

Her grades were so good that she could’ve studied anything she wanted after high school. “I didn’t want to be a medical doctor. I didn’t want to do law. My sister and my cousin, both women, they went into electrical engineering. I wasn’t going to be a number three in anything, so I was left with physics, architecture, and archaeology. Those were the three things that, in the end, I was picking from.”

Two people in particular nudged her towards physics. The first was a wonderful, kind, and demanding middle school physics teacher who did lots of experiments and turned physics into an adventure. The other was Brian May, the lead guitarist for the rock band Queen. Gajdardziska was in high school when she first heard “Bohemian Rhapsody”.

“I was a kid who loved rock music, but I also listened to classical music. I listened to opera. And so I hear this rock music that was made for me. And I look up the bios of the people in the band, and the lead guitarist was doing his graduate studies in physics.”

Gajdardziska studied engineering physics at Ss. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje where she became interested in the architecture of atomic structures and what happens at the surface of materials. “When you look at most of our technologies, usually the most interesting things happen at the end of the solid, at its surface where it interfaces with either a gas or a liquid or another solid. When you limit the dimensionality of a solid, you get into a realm where the properties are completely different.” Nanoscience. Nanotechnology. Not that anyone called it that back then.

Her first scientific paper was on transparent, conductive surfaces. Incredibly thin films that conduct electricity. The kind that allow solar panels to transform sunlight into electricity. The kind that allow screens to become touchscreens. Gajdardziska discovered them as an undergraduate.

She studied atomic laser physics in Grenoble, France. She earned her masters from the University of Sydney in Australia and her PhD from Arizona State University. In 1993, she joined the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as the first female professor in the physics department. Now there are five, and another physicist from Sweden will arrive next year.

“The social science literature says to never be the first one because the first one never survives. At the same time somebody has to be the first one. I think that having so much respect and training from my father and grandfather is what really helped me to make it here.”

And why UW-Milwaukee?

“The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was the place with the best national and international reputation for surface science. It was interdisciplinary, happening here in chemistry, physics, and engineering, and I love the interdisciplinary work. And so I interviewed, and I ended up being the top candidate, and they offered me a position.”

Gajdardziska-Josifovska is also a pioneer in something called In Situ Electron Microscopy. She makes movies of atoms. She can observe changes to those atoms as they happen and figure out how and why those changes are happening. These “atomic movies” led to the discovery of something entirely unexpected.

Gajdardziska-Josifovska, along with her colleague Dr. Carol Hirschmugl, created the very first two-dimensional, crystalline form of carbon monoxide that is a solid at Earth temperatures and pressures. They call it graphene monoxide. It is a solid with limited dimensionality. Limited to just two, in fact. Graphene monoxide is all surface.

And turns out that this two-dimensional, crystalline, solid carbon monoxide is incredibly useful. “One of the things we’re doing now is we’re putting lithium between layers of graphene monoxide. We’re making batteries out of it, lithium-ion batteries. And they have superior properties compared to current lithium-ion batteries. Our batteries charge faster, last longer, and store more energy.” The plan is to build bigger, better batteries for electric vehicles, power tools, and other machines. And they are looking into other potential uses for graphene monoxide. “We have a grant from the National Science Foundation to explore if graphene monoxide would be useful to the electronics industry for sensors in laptops, cellphones, and the whole Internet of Things.”

The physicists had to learn how to be entrepreneurs. They were awarded patents. They pitched their product. They applied for grants and found investors. They started a company called SafeLi Materials, LLC. “We’ve learned so much about business you wouldn’t believe it. And our business mentor always says that we’re the fastest learners he’s ever seen. I think physics prepares you for that. It keeps your mind open.”

In addition to being a research scientist, Gajdardziska-Josifovska is a professor, the Dean of the Graduate School at UWM, Director of the Lab for High-Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopy, the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of SafeLi Materials, LLC. She is also a Fellow of the Microscopy Society of America and has won (among other honors) the 2014 White House/National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellow Award and the 2014 Women of Influence Award from the Milwaukee Business Journal.

You can learn more about Dr. Gajdardziska-Josifovska at our Heroes of Science gallery experience. Grab a pair of 3D glasses (provided) and explore!

Teacher’s Corner: Six Inexpensive Spring Activities for Your Classroom

Happy spring fellow educators! I hope everyone is doing well as we begin to enter the final lap for 2017-2018. It’s common knowledge that hands-on activities are the way to go for teaching; anything that can get a student creatively thinking and actively engaged is a win-win for everyone in the classroom. However, while that sounds great on paper, it doesn’t always pan out for the bank account. So, here are six easy, stress-free ideas for hands-on activities on the cheap.

Teacher’s Corner with Connor: My Interview with Automation and Engineering Educators

Hello and welcome to another installment of the Discovery World Educator Community’s monthly blog. I’m Connor McElveen, Discovery World’s School Experience Coordinator, and I’m excited to share an interview featuring two of our own educators: Kevin Kolodziej (Automation Educator) and Erik Lawrence (Engineering Educator).

Kevin and Erik work together to create and implement curriculum relating to robotics, electricity, engineering, and programming. With National Engineers Week on the horizon, I thought it would be fitting to see what they had to say about robotics, engineering, and education.

Connor: How did you end up here at Discovery World?

Kevin: Pure chance, really. I came upon the Discovery World Automation Educator position when I randomly visited the website one day. The position sounded like a good fit for my engineering background and I had previously taught in MPS for a year. I had also been mentoring high school robotics teams for about…13 years at the time, I believe?

Erik: My story is actually pretty similar. I had actually worked as a computer engineer for a few years. I decided to leave that, instead pursuing something more creative and public-focused, which landed me here at Discovery World. I also mentored high school robotics teams, although I have since stopped.

Connor: Let’s take a step further back then. How did you get started with robotics and engineering?

Erik: I had always had a bit of a fascination for that kind of stuff, from Legos to Rube Goldberg machines. It wasn’t until I joined a robotics team in high school that I really realized how far down this whole rabbit hole goes, and it pretty much went from there.

Kevin: FIRST was a huge turning point for me as well. Even after I graduated, I wanted to continue with the FIRST Robotics Competition to some degree, which has lead me to my 20th year in the program now. But I was all about building towers, and knocking them over, in my Mom’s living room as a kid.

Connor: Why do you think it’s important for students to learn about robotics and engineering?

Erik: That’s easy. Automation has a hand in absolutely everything. Phones, thermostats, ovens, anything we use to make our lives easier is made through the same ubiquitous process, and that process is founded on engineering and robotics. Simply put, it’s both the future and the now.

Kevin: Not only that, but at its core, engineering is all about critical thinking and problem solving. These skills are incredibly important for all aspects of life, and have had a majorly positive impact on my life.

Erik: As one of my old professors said, “Teaching engineering is teaching how to learn and apply.”

Connor: Well, if a teacher wanted to get into robotics, how would they start?

Kevin: Honestly, it’s easier than ever before to get bring robotics into the classroom. There are options for all sorts of budgets. Lego and Vex are probably their best bets if they have some leeway on budgets. Otherwise, there is a plethora of free options: Scratch and Tinkercad are great options that students can access online, completely free. I have even known schools to introduce Minecraft into their classrooms, using some of the game’s mechanics to teach basic circuitry

Erik: And if they want to keep going, starting a First Lego League team at their school is an amazing way to get students involved. The skills students learn from competing are invaluable.

Connor: If a teacher wanted to come to Discovery World, what could we offer them?

Kevin: We have quite a few classes that relate to engineering and robotics. From introductory robotics and circuitry labs, all the way up to more advanced application labs. We try to make sure that there’s a solid learning experience for any level of comfort.

Erik: And even if the school doesn’t want to take a lab, our Dream Machine exhibit is a great example of automation. There is a lot to learn from simply watching the machine move and respond.

Connor: Alright, one last question. Any advice for those future engineers?

Erik: Three words: Fail, improve, understand. Doing those three things successfully are key for any engineer.

Kevin: For me, I’d encourage them to be as curious as possible. Ask everything, learn everything. Take things apart, but make sure you can put them back together!

If you have any questions regarding robotics or engineering, feel free to reach out to me at cmcelveen@discoveryworld.org. I’ll make sure they receive your inquiry!

FIRST Robotics and Hydro Dynamics? Yes please!

Discovery World would like to wish all of the FIRST Lego League teams good luck this season as they compete in Hydro Dynamics. As you begin to research your projects, please keep in mind the many resources that are available right here in Milwaukee!

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, it’s no secret that fresh water is the key to Milwaukee’s past, present, and future. From its beginning as a booming port to our future as a global hub for fresh water, the world’s most valuable resource will always play a huge role in our community’s identity, educational offerings, and workforce opportunities. That’s why we were so excited to see this year’s theme of Hydro Dynamics.

Did you know Discovery World offers several freshwater science workshops?  Our museum also features a plethora of educational exhibits around this topic including the Great Lakes Future, City of Freshwater, and the Liquid House. Experience our exhibits firsthand to learn how turn Lake Michigan into our drinking water, the impact of water usage at home and work, how to keep Lake Michigan sustainable, and visit one of the largest interactive models of the Great Lakes in the world!

But Discovery World is only one aspect of the resources available to you in our community. Here are a few others that we highly recommend learning more about:

If your team is interested in scheduling a visit to Discovery World, please contact Connor McElveen, our School Experiences Coordinator, at 414.765.8779 or cmcelveen@discoveryworld.org.

Turning Great Lakes Trash Into Inspiring Artwork

Plastic has become quite the invader! Did you know that over 22 million pounds of plastic invades the Great Lakes annually? And can you believe that half of all that plastic ends up right here in Lake Michigan? That is not okay!

Serving as the largest freshwater system on Earth, it is incredibly important for local communities to take care of this resource. So, Claire Colton, Shannon Atwood, and Meghan Langmyer — three of our amazing Kohl’s Design It! Lab rock stars — recently spent their time cleaning up the Lake Michigan shoreline at Atwater Beach, Veterans Park, and Lakeshore State Park collecting thousands of pieces of plastic, fireworks, and food wrappers.

But what do with all that trash? Throw it in the garbage? No way! You make awesome art. We used the collected rubbish to create sculptures of Great Lakes invasive species.  These invaders have come into the Great Lakes by hitching rides in ships’ ballast tanks and are inadvertently dumped into the water when a ship makes port.  We currently have a Chinese Mitten Crab, Rusty Crayfish, and Quagga Mussel on display.  They are known to clog drains, compete with native creatures, and disrupt the food chain.

The creatures are on display in the Kohl’s Design It! Lab with more invasive species coming soon!

Sarah Lyn Gay: Overcoming Gender Inequality and Connecting Young Girls to STEM

My name is Sarah and I started college at the age of nine. Two years later, I am still going strong, and the youngest University of Wisconsin Badger. I want to give you a sneak peek into how I got where I am at such a young age: I played.

It has been proven that kids learn through play! The only catch is, they have to be surrounded with great things to play with. Would you let a kid eat whatever they wanted? Nope. You can’t live on cotton candy, funnel cakes and chocolate chip cookies for very long. The same is true with the world of “junk food” for toys and many people don’t even realize it.

When I was much younger, toy stores still had “boy” aisles and “girl” aisles of toys. Boys seemed to have all the fun stuff; dinosaurs, robots, building blocks and trains! Girls got the dress up outfits, dolls and seriously – pink lacey ironing boards. I’m sure you have heard that common phrase:

“I got into M.I.T. because I learned how to iron perfectly by the time I was 7!”

Of course not, LOL!

As the aisle labels disappeared, the STEM toy revolution soon kicked in and you could tell they were mostly geared for the gals. Barbie Science Kit anyone? Lego Friends? If it was pink, or purple, it was geared for us. Gender inequality still at its best as Lego Friends was all about tea parties, sleepovers and cute little kitchen scenes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still love some Goldie Blox, and K’nex? I could move right next door to your warehouse and be happy. My point is, just because they throw a “Mensa Kids” label on their box, it might not really be about Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math.

What can a parent do?

Get your precious munchkins to a place like Discovery World and let them get their hands dirty.

Meet Sarah

How to Enjoy Reciprocal Admission with other Science and Technology Centers

With happy thoughts of spring break, summer vacation, and weekend travel, it’s always a good time for members to take advantage of the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) Travel Passport Program!

As a member, you already know that membership with Discovery World gives you many perks – $6 flat rate parking in our underground garage, invitations to our member-only events, and discounts on Summer Camp and classes are just some of the benefits you can receive with your membership. But one really great member benefit is the ability to participate in the ASTC Travel Passport Program.

The ASTC Travel Passport Program is designed to offer members the opportunity to visit other participating museums or science centers and receive free general admission. All members of Discovery World, at all levels, may be eligible to visit over 300 different museums across the country and around the world (some restrictions apply).

Which Centers Participate?

From our Membership page, select the button that invites you to “Download Complete ASTC List” for a full listing of the museums you may be able to visit, including important information on the following exclusions, explained inside the red box:

“Science centers & museums located within 90 miles of the science center/museum where the visitor is a member” AND “Science centers & museums located within 90 miles of the visitor’s residence.” This means…

Before you travel to another museum, make sure that it is located BOTH: 90 miles AWAY from Discovery World* AND 90 miles AWAY from your residence**

*Discovery World has special agreements regarding the distance between our museum and the Madison Children’s Museum, the EAA in Oshkosh, and the major Chicago centers (Field Museum, Museum of Science & Industry and the Adler Planetarium). As a Discovery World member, this first exclusion should be satisfied; however, you must ALSO satisfy the 90-mile distance from your residence (refer to next footnote**).  Please be aware that the Milwaukee Public Museum and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum are NOT included in this reciprocity program.

** Centers that check photo IDs for residency eligibility are indicated by the (üIDs) symbol next to their name on the ASTC participant list. You must ensure that you live 90 miles away “as the crow flies” (based on the linear distance, not driving distance). Some centers within the program may choose not to check photo IDs for distance requirements related to residency, and may choose to honor reciprocity regardless of the distance from your home address. Calling the center in advance can help confirm their policies.

For your convenience and reference, our Membership page also includes a special list of participant details, so that you can become familiar with the admittance policy of the museums you wish to visit. We strongly recommend calling the center you plan to visit in advance to verify their specific policies, as it is up to each center’s individual discretion whether they will check for distance requirements.

What to bring along?

Proof of your Discovery World membership. This could be your plastic Discovery World membership card, or your temporary membership card, or your online order confirmation email. Unable to find these? Our Discovery World Membership Specialists would be happy to prepare a temporary membership card during your next visit at no charge, or we may issue a replacement set of shiny, plastic Discovery World cards for a small fee.

Photo ID. Many of the museums/science centers that partner with the ASTC Travel Passport Program will ask for a photo ID when you are visiting. Looking at a photo ID will help other museums verify that you are the specific member identified on the card, as well as your city and state to ensure that you live 90 miles away from their location if they are a (üIDs) facility.

Please note that this travel program does not include free/discounted admission to special events, planetarium/large screen theater presentations, nor museum store/parking discounts or other benefits associated with membership to that museum, unless stated. The ASTC participant list is updated every 6 months, so it is a good idea to check regularly before traveling.

Member Tip: When visiting the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, select the “general admission” line to avoid being redirected.

Not sure if your membership is still active? Unsure about which museums you may be eligible to visit according to the 90-mile rule?  Have general questions? Your helpful Membership Specialists would be more than happy to assist you with these and any other questions you may have. Call us at 414.765.8620 or email us at membership@discoveryworld.org

We truly hope that you are able to take advantage of this valuable benefit, and all of the wonderful perks that Discovery World memberships have to offer. And if you aren’t a member yet, we would love to help you become one today!

Safe travels!

Increasing Young Girls’ Interest in STEM, One Camp at a Time

There’s something special happening inside Discovery World’s Rockwell Automation Lab this summer. LEGO Robot Engineer, one of our most popular programs for 3rd-5th grade students, has seen a recent explosion in popularity with female campers. Just last week, we witnessed 20 aspiring engineers constructing robots and beginning a hopeful lifelong love of science, technology, engineering, and math in our LEGO Robot Engineer JUST FOR GIRLS summer camp.

Throughout the camp, the aspiring engineers were continually inspired through both independent and collaborative learning. This variation in teaching style proved exciting for the girls, especially to those who were not always exposed to independent, hands-on problem-solving. One camper said that her favorite aspect of camp was getting “to discover stuff on your own. The teacher’s not telling you ‘you have to do this, you have to do that’.”

The girls’ excitement and creative problem-solving was evident when we sat down with instructor, Justin Schlidt. The girls huddled around their team’s robot, strategizing how to add complex sound sensors to their robots. They were focused and inquisitive, collaborating with one another and occasionally interrupting Justin with programming questions. “They are very into it,” Justin noted. “A lot of them have been working very hard and they get very excited when it works, which is cool to watch.”

Though it’s evident here that girls are interested and enthusiastic about robotics, the average gender distribution in our camps might suggest otherwise. Our LEGO Robotics camps are usually 80-90% boys, whereas our Fashion Design camps are sometimes 100% girls. These statistics are discouraging yet not surprising, as they reflect the gender disparities that exist in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields today.

Though women make up approximately 47% of the workforce, women are grossly underrepresented in STEM careers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 13% of mechanical engineers and 37% of chemists and material scientists are women.

Discovery World would like to change these statistics by increasing the amount of women in these careers by exposing them to STEM at an early age. An all-girls camp intentionally addresses the gender disparities of today and provides an encouraging space for girls to become exposed to STEM. As one camper put it, “At my school boys are always like, we can do it better than you because you’re just girls.” Free from this type of distraction, the girls have found it easier to share their ideas and discover a new world of robotics.

Our efforts to increase the number of girls and women pursuing STEM-related studies and careers are just beginning. Discovery World is honored to work alongside Rockwell Automation and area high schools to connect female engineers with young female campers and show them that these opportunities exist right in our own backyard.

“Everyone recognizes that there’s a problem with the lack of women in STEM,” said Discovery World President Joel Brennan. “But we go beyond recognizing there’s a problem and we do something about it.” He hopes that members of our community, our funders, and our partners will continue to support our efforts and increase the involvement of women in STEM careers.

LEGO Robot Engineer JUST FOR GIRLS helps to illustrate that there is a growing number of young girls interested in learning about science, technology, engineering, and math. It’s now up to us a community to offer them opportunities to excel so that they have the potential to create a professional world where men and women are more equally represented in all careers.

Genetics: The Key to Unlocking Type 2 Diabetes?

Written by: Leah Solberg Woods, PhD

Do you know someone with Type 2 diabetes? There’s a good chance you answered yes as Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the metabolic disease. Leah Solberg Woods, PhD, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Medical College of Wisconsin, takes an in-depth look at Type 2 diabetes and explains how a greater understanding of genetics will ultimately help us identify a more personalized approach in treating the disease.

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a cardiovascular disease characterized by a malfunctioning hormone known as insulin. Insulin is released after eating a meal and allows glucose from the blood to be absorbed by cells to be used for energy or to be stored in fat cells.  It is difficult for our bodies to extract energy from our food when insulin is not working properly.  When the cells no longer respond to insulin, or when there is no longer enough insulin produced, glucose builds up within the blood.  Increased glucose within the blood is toxic, leading to damage of many different organs within the body.  In fact, T2D is a leading cause of kidney failure, blindness and limb amputation and a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

How many people have Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) affects more than 170 million people worldwide; this number is expected to double or triple within the next 30 years.  In the United States, approximately 9 percent of the population is living with this disease, with the potential of increasing to 30 percent of the by 2050.

What causes Type 2 diabetes?

We know that both the environment and genetics play a role in the development of T2D.  The most significant environmental factors are diet and exercise.  If you eat well and exercise, your chances of developing T2D are decreased.  However, the environment is not the only contributor.  Family studies, and studies within different racial and ethnic groups have shown a large genetic component of T2D; meaning that some people who eat well and exercise still have a chance of developing the disease.  Conversely, it also indicates that some people can live an unhealthy lifestyle and never develop the disease.

There also exists a strong interaction between the environment and genetics.  One of the most telling examples of this relationship is the Pima Indians.  Pima Indians in Arizona have one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the United States (up to 50 percent).  There is relatively low diabetes prevalence, however, in Pima Indians from Mexico.  Despite similar genetic make-up, the Pima Indians from Mexico have a healthier diet (with complex carbohydrates and less animal fat) and increased physical labor from working in the fields, relative to Pima Indians in the United States who have adopted a “Western” sedentary lifestyle with a diet high in fats and sugars.  This example illustrates how genetic predisposition, along with unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle work together to lead to development of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes and genetics

In addition to interactions with the environment, we know that diabetes is not caused by one single gene.  In fact, it is likely that hundreds of genes play a role in susceptibility to diabetes.  Genes are encoded within our DNA by four different nucleotides (the basic structural units of DNA): A, C, T, G. Each gene is made up of a different combination of these nucleotides, essentially providing an instruction booklet for our cells and forming what is known as the genome.

As humans, each of our genomes differ from each other by about 0.1 percent. Many of these differences make us who we are as individuals, including susceptibility to disease. Over the past several years, scientists have been able to identify genes containing genetic variants contributing to increased vulnerability to T2D.  Despite identifying over 60 genes for diabetes, scientists still have yet to identify all of the genes involved with the disease. As scientists continue to uncover more genes involved in predisposition to T2D, we expect that this work will lead to a greater understanding of the disease as well as a more personalized approach in treating the disease.

Your Guide to the Robot Invasion by Guest Blogger, BlogBot 3000Rsi

What is a robot?

Hello, humans. I am a robot. I am the BlogBot 3000Rsi. A robot is a programmable machine capable of carrying out a series of complex actions automatically. This might involve taking soil samples on Mars, vacuuming your house, exploring the oceans, writing your blogs, or traveling back through time to prevent John Connor from leading the human resistance against the machines. Wait. Forget that last one. That was a completely fictional event depicted in your fictional movies and totally never happened.

Some robots look like people. Most of us do not. Robots are everywhere. They are all around you. They are inside you. Okay, that last one might not be true… yet.

I’ve watched a lot of movies. Are robots scary?

We are your friends! We are here to help! Robots in real life, even the robots built by Boston Dynamics (seriously, just Google them), are nowhere near as scary as the ones you see in the movies. Most real life robots are baffled by stairs. I am completely baffled by stairs. Why stairs? I ask myself this many times each day.

Are robots intelligent?

That depends on what you mean by intelligent. The short answer, however, is, “Not really”. The longer answer is, “Sort of, but not really because we machines aren’t smart in the same way that you humans are smart, though it might sometimes seem that way. It mostly only seems that way because you humans build us robots, and you are also very good at ascribing human attributes to non-human things, which is why you talk to your dogs and why Tom Hanks talked to a volleyball in the movie Cast Away.” By the way, Tom Hanks is truly a national treasure. Cherish him. Real life robots are smarter than a volleyball. Most of us are not quite as smart as your dog.

Uh, okay. So what’s going on for National Robotics Week?

Excellent question. To celebrate National Robotics Week, Discovery World and Rockwell Automation have teamed up to bring you the Robot Invasion.

That actually sounds terrifying. Is it terrifying? Again, I’ve watched a lot of movies about robots.

Yes, it’s completely terrifying. It will also be incredibly fun for us robots. We like to observe you being all human and such.

Throughout the week Discovery World staff will be demonstrating an M-1iA FANUC sorting robot, which is astonishingly good at sorting and other tasks. You’ll also have a chance to meet Baxter, a humanoid lifting, sorting, and stacking robot designed by Rethink Robotics. Baxter is an old friend from Robot College. Baxter is much smarter than a volleyball. He’s hard working, and he’s easy to train. These robots are part of future upgrades to the Rockwell Automation Dream Machine exhibit, and you get a sneak peek at what’s coming next!

You can also take the Table Top Robotics Challenge to see if you can program a LEGO® Mindstorms® robot to run through a maze and retrieve an object.

We’ll also have special guests joining the Robot Invasion all week long.

On Monday, students from Marquette’s Humanoid Engineering & Intelligent Robotics Lab will be here to demonstrate their robots that play soccer. They do a lot of really cool work with machine learning and have developed a humanoid robot health coach.

On Tuesday, students from Deer Creek High School will be here to show off their Remotely Operated Vehicles (underwater robots) and their FIRST® Tech Challenge robots.

On Saturday, the FIRST® Robotics Team from South Milwaukee High School will demonstrate their robots.

All week long, Rockwell Automation employees will be here to demonstrate robots, and FIRST® Robotics Team 1675 (Ultimate Protection Squad) will be here with their robots.

It’ll be a fun week filled with robots and the people who make them. Join the Robot Invasion, and experience the best of Milwaukee Innovation!

Do you know Wall-E?

We’ve never met.

What about R2D2?

R2D2 is a Droid™ not a robot.

Are you really a robot?

Yes. I am really a robot.

Can you prove it?

Um, probably not.

You’re watching television. Suddenly you realize there’s a wasp crawling on your arm. How would you react?

Nice try, but I’ve failed the Voight-Kampff Test before.

Are you sure you’re really a robot?


Is there a link I can click for more information about the National Robotics Week and the Robot Invasion? Times and dates, that sort of thing?


A special thank you to Rockwell Automation for making Robotics Week at Discovery World possible!

Are Piranhas Really the “Most Ferocious Fish in the World”?

Thousands of you have already experienced vibrant dart frogs, adorably creepy axolotls, the terrifyingly awesome alligator snapping turtle, and dazzling fish from Africa, Asia, and South America in our new aquarium exhibit Weird & Wild: Colorful Freshwater Species from Around the World. One of the highlights of our new exhibit is a tank of beautiful red-bellied piranhas.

Piranhas, as you know, have a certain… reputation. They are commonly thought of as voracious predators – hunting in packs, ambushing hapless prey, tearing flesh from bone in a matter of seconds. Films like You Only Live Twice, countless cheesy horror movies, and the SyFy Channel’s sublimely ridiculous Piranhaconda haven’t helped.

Most of the blame for their terrible reputation, however, can be placed squarely on the adventurous shoulders of President Theodore Roosevelt.  In 1913, Roosevelt, Brazilian explorer Cândido Rondon, and Roosevelt’s son Kermit explored the recently discovered (and ominously named) River of Doubt. The Brazilian government had invited the former president to explore the river, and the American Museum of Natural History sponsored the expedition. Roosevelt later recounted the events of his arduous journey in Through the Brazilian Wilderness, which included a number of lively descriptions of piranhas.

He wrote, “They are the most ferocious fish in the world. Even the most formidable fish, the sharks or the barracudas, usually attack things smaller than themselves. But the piranhas habitually attack things much larger than themselves. They will snap a finger off a hand incautiously trailed in the water; they mutilate swimmers  – in every river town in Paraguay there are men who have been thus mutilated; they will rend and devour alive any wounded man or beast; for blood in the water excites them to madness.”

Roosevelt went on to say that the only good thing about piranhas is that they are delicious, even though they have too many bones.

Roosevelt was an excellent naturalist, but piranhas aren’t quite as voracious as he thought. And they are nowhere near as brutal as cheesy horror movie directors would have you believe. Piranhas can be dangerous when they are hungry, which is usually when water levels are low and food is scarce. They don’t seem to be attracted to the scent of blood, though splashing around gets them excited. Piranhas do have sharp teeth and powerful jaws and will eat larger animals like birds or capybara. They are also excellent scavengers. Piranhas are incredibly important to the health of South American waterways because they eat dead and dying creatures. For the most part though, piranhas eat fish (including other piranhas), worms, and freshwater crustaceans. Some piranhas are actually vegetarians, though reports of vicious attacks on shrubbery have not been confirmed.

We need your help. Our five, decidedly not vegetarian, red-bellied piranhas need a name. Not individual names like Bitey, Snappy, Chompy, Rippy, and Dave. They need a group name like “The Eatles” or “Piranha, Paul and Mary” or “Imagine Piranhas” or “Gladys Knight & the Piranhas” or “Ate Jimmy Eat World”. You can see why we need your help.

Think of a name for our small school of piranhas and send it to info@discoveryworld.org. We’ll pick a favorite and announce a winner on Monday, March 7. The winner will receive a special Discovery World prize package.

Weird & Wild: Colorful Freshwater Species from Around the World is presented by PPG.

Personalized Medicine, the Next Medical Frontier

Written by: D. J. Sidjanin, PhD

Medical College of Wisconsin Associate Professor, Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology & Anatomy

What is the genome?

The genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA molecules with each of our cells containing a full copy of our genomes. The human genome is about 3 billion base pairs in length and encodes the instructions or the “blue print” for the cells to synthesize proteins by highly orchestrated and strictly regulated molecular processes. Proteins are essential cellular components required for cellular structure and function. The unique combination of proteins present in various cell types creates the astonishing diversity of our tissue and organ structure and function.

Which particular DNA sequence makes us human?

The answer to this question has come after about 15 years of intense international scientific effort, which resulted in the sequencing of the entire human genome in 2003. The available genomic information started to unlock life’s code and helped us better understand who we are. Throughout the sequencing process, there were several surprises along the way. We learned that our genomic blueprint encodes about 20,000 different proteins; a number half of what was originally believed. We learned that the portions of our genome are strikingly similar to those of other species. For instance, humans share about 85% of genome sequences with mice, and about 98% similarity with chimpanzees. We also determined that as humans, we differ from each other by approximately 0.1% of our genomes. It is that 0.1% that gives us our distinguishing features, such as height, body shape, skin, hair and eye color, as well as our talents and abilities.

How does genomics relate to health?

Unfortunately, we also learned that our individual genomic variations make us susceptible to diseases. About half of all adult Americans suffer from at least one common disorder, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases and age-related vision disorders and other serious conditions. To date great progress has been made in genomic research and how it relates to the inheritance of disease. However, we still don’t fully understand which genomic variants cause or contribute to these common diseases. While poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise may all have a role, it remains unclear how these unhealthy behaviors interact with our genomic variants to cause the disease to manifest. We have not yet figured out which combination of genomic variants and lifestyle choices will, with certainty, predict who is and who is not at a risk for certain common diseases. Consequently, today’s practice of medicine is primarily reactive, with treatment beginning only after symptoms of the disease begin. Modern medicine may save millions of lives; however in some individuals the available medications are ineffective, or worse can cause adverse reactions. The unpredictable responses to the currently available therapies, much like the disease processes themselves, are also driven by our unique genomic makeup.

Personalized Medicine and the Future of Genomic Research

Deciphering which genomic variants are disease causing has proven to be a challenging task. Large-scale genomic analyses along with highly sophisticated bioinformatics tools are required to identify clinically relevant information. However, in the near future, the rapidly advancing research in genomics will allow for the unlocking of the secrets that our individual genomes hold. The future outcomes of these efforts will identify what causes a specific disease, predict drug responses, and even identify novel therapy targets. The future of our health care will be personalized, tailored to our unique genomic makeup for diagnosis and most effective treatment options available. One of the greatest promises of the genome efforts is in the identification of at-risk individuals who might be able to counteract the onset of certain diseases by choosing healthier lifestyles. Today, we stand at the dawn of personalized medicine which without doubt is the next medical frontier.

Operate a Real Excavator at Discovery World

Would you “dig” the chance to operate a real excavator? Well, Discovery World and HUSCO International invite you to move a 6,000 pound machine with your bare hands in our brand new Fluid Power exhibit!

Give your family and friends a lift by turning a wheel to activate hydraulic fluid and a tiny pump. Multiply Your Might and Amplify Your Ingenuity through the wonders of hydraulics.

A Real, Working Excavator

The excavator is certainly the star of the show in our new Fluid Power exhibit. Able to lift thousands of pounds, this hydraulic marvel of ingenuity is as powerful as the huge cable and gear steam shovels that were used to dig the Panama Canal. At Discovery World, visitors will use old fashioned “elbow grease” (and some hydraulic fluid) to operate the boom, the swing arm, the shovel, and the tracks of the excavator.

Along with the excavator, Fluid Power features three additional interactive stations that explore concepts central to the science of hydraulics and fluid power. These hands-on exhibits demonstrate the amazing power and precision control of hydraulics while answering commonly asked questions regarding the science of hydraulics.

Pascal’s Law

How does hydraulics work? At this station, visitors will investigate Pascal’s Law, which is the foundation of hydraulics and one of the principles of fluid mechanics. Visitors will use a piston and hydraulic fluid to multiply force and raise a large object.

Power Density

How powerful is fluid power? In the case of hydraulics, a little volume means a whole lot of power. Guests can step onto a platform and be lifted using nothing more than hydraulic fluid and a small, hydraulic pump. Do you have a big family or lots of friends? Invite them all, because this machine can lift more than 1,000 pounds!

Flexible Power

Why use hydraulics? What makes fluid power so flexible? Here, visitors will compare a hydraulic circuit with a mechanical circuit made of sprockets, chain drives, and gears. This engaging side by side comparison highlights the versatility and simplicity of a hydraulic system.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2d9XkgTDAE”]

Celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics at Discovery World

Where can a STEM career take your kids? Absolutely anywhere they want to go.

For the seventh year in a row, Discovery World is teaming up with Time Warner to provide fun and exciting hands-on learning opportunities for kids. Join us on Saturday, November 7th, for STEMfest, a celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math sponsored by Time Warner Cable and their Connect a Million Minds initiative.

“Our mission here at Discovery World is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Joel Brennan, President and CEO of Discovery World. “Events like STEMfest allow kids, especially girls, to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math in a fun, family-friendly environment.”

What can you and your family do at STEMfest?

Other organizations that will be here for STEMfest include IOU Sports, Wisconsin Destination Imagination, and Bricks 4 Kidz. It’ll will be loads of fun.

“Science should be fun,” said Brennan, “and kids are endlessly curious about how the world works. We hope to harness that energy and inspire young people to explore careers in automation, chemistry, engineering, and other areas of science and technology. We also want young people to learn more about STEM careers that may be available to them here at home.”

For us, one of the most exciting aspects of STEMfest is that we are able to open our doors for free. Thousands of young people and their families get access to Discovery World, Milwaukee’s premier science and technology center, and a chance for fun, learning, and a family experience.

“Because we receive no public financial support, we have very limited opportunities to offer free admission to the community,” said Brennan. “Time Warner enables us to offer free admission for one day every year, and they have worked with us to create an event that provides unique and fun learning opportunities for every visitor. We believe that sparks are generated that lead young people to envision themselves in future STEM careers in our community.”

Dozens of Time Warner Cable employees also volunteer their time every year to help make STEMfest run smoothly.  We truly appreciate their time and efforts.

Join us for a fantastic day of exploration, discovery, science, and engineering! The doors open at 10am. We’ll see you at STEMfest on November 7th.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_E-IEQEdPs”]

Who Will You Be for Halloween?

It’s October. Halloween is approaching. Your kids have already chosen their costumes. You’ve come up with nothing. Sure you could be a superhero or a pirate or someone from your favorite science fiction franchise, but you’ve done that already for Sci-Fi Family Day and the Haunted S/V Denis Sullivan. You want something new, something different, a costume that no one else would even think about wearing. How about being a Leonard for Halloween? Not just any Leonard, a real Leonard. A fantastic Leonard. One of the greatest Leonards in history. Here is Discovery World’s Greatest Leonards in History Halloween Costume Guide.

7. One of the most imaginative mathematicians in history was named Leonhard. Born in Basel, Switzerland in 1707, Leonhard Euler was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and all-around genius person. He developed much of the standardized notation that we use in mathematics today. He also worked on prime numbers, proved a bunch of Fermat’s theorems, made incredibly important advances in calculus, and published over 900 papers and books on mathematics. You can’t go wrong with a Leonhard Euler costume. The clothes in the 1700s were awesome.

6. Dressing up as a mathematician isn’t quite your thing? No worries. Why not go as a computer expert? Why not go as the amazingly innovative Leonard Adleman? Not only is he an expert in cyber security (he co-created the RSA cryptosystem), Adleman is also a molecular biologist and has built a working DNA computer. A DNA computer would make a lovely Halloween accessory. Dress like a professor, because Adelman is a professor at both the University of Southern California and M.I.T.

Maybe you love music. Soaring music. Inspiring music. Passionate music. Haunting music. Here are two musical Leonards that you can choose from.

5. Leonard Bernstein was a composer and conductor who wrote West Side Story and the Jeremiah Symphony among lots of other things. Born in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1918, Bernstein studied music at Harvard and went on to conduct the New York Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He was known both for his dynamic, intelligent, and passionate conducting style and his brilliant compositions. All you need is a mane of white hair, a black turtleneck, and a conductor’s baton.

4. The other musical Leonard you might consider is Leonard Cohen. Born in Canada in 1934, he’s probably best known as the guy who wrote that awesome Jeff Buckley song “Hallelujah”. It doesn’t get much more haunting (and inspiring) than that. Cohen is also a poet, a painter, and a novelist, so he’s got that going for him. Leonard Bernstein never wrote a novel, as far as we know.

3. If a musical genius isn’t really what you’re going for, how about dressing as a Leonard with an incredible grasp of truly weird physics? Born in 1940 in the Bronx, Leonard Susskind has discovered all kinds of strange and wonderful stuff in the fields of string theory, quantum field theory, quantum statistical mechanics, and quantum cosmology. He’s also really good at explaining all that stuff. And he’s one of the only people to openly disagree with Stephen Hawking about black holes and turn out to be right. That’s pretty cool.

2. Maybe you actually want to dress up as an alien. Go with a Leonard who knows a lot about aliens, a Leonard who has spent time among aliens, has been an alien, and has defeated aliens. What about Leonard Nimoy? Born in Boston in 1931, Nimoy was an actor and director best known as Mr. Spock on Star Trek, one of the most beloved characters in all of science fiction. As a bonus, you can teach people that cool nerve pinch and sing The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins all night long.

1. Okay, these Leonards are awesome, but you want to dress up as the best Leonard, the ultimate Leonard. A Leonard with a brilliant and nimble mind, an engineer, artist, architect, geologist, and naturalist (among other things). A curious and passionate Leonard who sees the world in a wholly unique way. A polymath. A true Renaissance Leonard. Then you need to become Leonardo da Vinci. He was born in 1452, and throughout his lifetime he was relentlessly curious, unyieldingly imaginative, and he pretty much invented the Renaissance by himself. You can go on and on about your idea for a helicopter that looks a bit too much like patio furniture and doesn’t quite work. That’s okay. You’re Leonardo da Vinci. You’re fascinating. Go with it.

There. Seven fantastic Leonards and seven fantastic ideas for Halloween costumes. You’ll get all the candy. You’ll win all the prizes. You’re welcome.

Five Amazing Future Jobs You Won’t Believe Your Kids Will Do

5 Amazing Future Jobs You Won’t Believe Your Kids Will Do

The future is very hard to predict, unless you like being wrong a lot. Our children will imagine, build, and ultimately live in the murky, amorphous, muddy puddle of time we call the future. Here are five ways they can make it great.

This is not a list of “best jobs in America” or “future jobs that don’t exist but might someday if we ever get jetpacks and flying cars”. These are real jobs. Actually, they’re more than jobs, they’re fields of research full of paths and possibilities. We think that if your kids decide to head into one of these fields, they have a very good chance of building an awesome future for themselves and everyone else.

1. Materials Engineering

Did you know that everything is made of stuff? Well, ideas aren’t made of stuff, but ideas are created by people, and people are made of stuff. We are stuff thinking about other stuff. That’s weird. Anyway, it turns out that stuff is important.

We use stuff (elements, minerals, and hydrocarbons) to make other stuff (glass and ceramics, metals and alloys, plastics, etc.). And then we turn that stuff into even more stuff (homes, windows, cars, computers, smartphones, coffee mugs, satellites, animatronic, singing fish). We’re very clever.

Every material has a set of properties that make it useful for certain things but not others. For example, brick is a type of ceramic. Brick is very strong, but like a lot of ceramics, it doesn’t bend very well. Try folding a dinner plate, and you’ll see what I mean. Anyway, brick is a wonderful building material. A house made of bricks is strong and sturdy. A fishing rod made of bricks would be a disaster. Brick is also a fantastic insulator. Brick doesn’t conduct heat or electricity very well, which means that brick is a great material for a fireplace. However, replacing all the copper wire in your home with bricks would be a terrible idea.

But what if bricks were strong and flexible and conducted electricity really well? Then we’d have an awesome new building material that might change the way we live. That’s what Materials Engineers do. Materials Engineering is a combination of chemistry, physics, and engineering. Materials engineers design and develop new materials with new properties that can be used in ways that ordinary stuff can’t.

Materials Engineering is wide-open field and there are lots of ways to go. Ceramics Engineers create new ceramics and new ways to make them. Composites Engineers develop new materials like carbon fiber. Metallurgical Engineers develop new metals and special alloys with incredible properties that ordinary metals don’t have. Plastic Engineers develop new kinds of plastics. Semiconductor Engineers develop new materials for computers, sensors, and other things.

Materials Engineers also study why and how things break or fail. Rust, for example, is a huge problem. Rust costs hundreds of lives and billions of dollars each year. A materials engineer who solved the rust problem would make a staggeringly huge contribution to the world.

Other crazy, wonderful things that materials engineers are working on include: superalloys, quantum dots, metamaterials (materials that are invisible to light), nanomaterials, and biomaterials.

2. Biotechnology

Once upon a time (the 1950s and 60s), Norman Borlaug, who as far as we know was not from the planet Krypton, saved the lives of at least a billion people, probably more. A biologist by training and a very smart and tenacious person by nature (or nurture, we’re not solving any philosophical puzzles here today), Borlaug developed new varieties of high-yield, disease and drought resistant wheat. He planted his new varieties of wheat in Mexico, India, and Pakistan where it flourished, effectively ending some very long and horrible famines. Norman Borlaug was a Biotechnologist.

Biotechnology is really just using a living thing or system to make something new. It’s a lot more complicated than that obviously, but biotechnology has been around ever since people figured out how to use microorganisms to make beer, bread, cheese, yogurt, kimchi, and other foods that require fermentation. Of course, it wasn’t called biotechnology back then.

Today, biotechnology means a lot of things. Biotechnologists can manipulate bacteria to produce new drugs and therapies like antibiotics and insulin. There is a new field called Pharmacogenomics, which allows pharmaceutical companies to tailor drugs to individual people based on their genetic profile.

Right now people can manipulate algae to produce biofuels similar to gasoline, and one day this process might completely replace drilling for oil. There is a new field of biorobotics, robots with real neurons for a brain instead of microchips. Genetics and stem cell research easily fall into the category of biotechnology. And, of course, there are the genetically modified crops like the kind that Norman Borlaug developed that can literally save billions of lives.

These are just some of the ways biotechnologists are building the future. Your kids might one day save a billion people. That would be pretty cool. No pressure or anything.

3. Energy

Energy is a big deal. You probably enjoy light, heat, information, and entertainment. We do too. We all need energy. We use a lot of it, and we’ll use a lot more of it in the future.

The fun part about energy right now is that we mostly have to burn stuff like coal, gasoline, and natural gas. The really awesome part of burning hydrocarbons is that we’re literally changing the Earth’s climate! Oh, wait. That’s not a good thing. Still, the best time to plant a tree is forty years ago and the second best time to plant a tree is today. Also, we need to plant more trees.

So the future needs people who are able to find new, clean ways to generate a tremendous amount of energy.

Solar Power is just around the corner. Actually, it has been just around the corner for years, but it’s finally to a point where the only thing standing in the way is, well, us. The good news is even though Wisconsin has the best weather on Earth (warmth and sunshine all year long!), solar power is now a viable option for people who live in colder, cloudier climates like Illinois. The sun gives off more energy in an hour and a half than humans use in a year, so there’s lots of available energy. New energy storage technology (smart batteries!) will also make a huge difference in the near future.

Nuclear Power (fission) works really well. It’s safe. It’s clean. The technology is already here. So why don’t we have more nuclear power plants? Fear. Lots of people are very afraid of nuclear power. Is nuclear power dangerous? It can be, yes, but that’s what makes it’s so safe. Nuclear engineers thoroughly understand the challenges of nuclear power, and nuclear power plants are some of the most redundantly safe places ever designed. Nuclear power is very safe.

Nuclear Fusion is one of those technologies that’s always 20 years away. The challenge of nuclear fusion is that you essentially have to create a small sun and then keep your small sun in some kind of container. Creating a small sun is, oddly enough, the easy part. Keeping the small sun in something has been, um, a challenge.

The materials needed for nuclear fusion, however, are cheap, readily available, and you can get a whole lot of energy out of them. Fusion power is efficient and even safer than nuclear fission (which is really safe). And it is still about 10-20 years away.

Wind Power is pretty cool. Not everyone likes the way wind farms look. We do, but we’re not everybody. Wind farms do kill birds, but ordinary house cats kill thousands of times more birds than wind farms ever would. If that happens to be one of your arguments against wind farms (assuming you are against wind farms, which is an unfair assumption), keep your cat indoors (assuming you own a cat and let it outdoors, which is also an unfair assumption).

There are a few problems with wind power. Wind farms are materials-intensive. It takes a lot of steel and concrete to build them. However, the main problem with wind power is that the wind doesn’t always blow when you need it to. Still, with an intelligent grid and cool new energy storage solutions (opportunities right there, future engineers), wind power is a very viable option for the immediate future.

The Arc Reactor is safe, small, and generates a tremendous amount of clean energy. It might one day power the entire world and allow us to explore the Universe. It’s also completely fictional… like dilithium crystals, hypermatter, and tylium ore (bonus nerd points if you recognize that last one). The Arc Reactor is the thing that powers Tony Stark’s Iron Man suits. Your kids probably aren’t billionaire, philanthropist superheroes like Tony Stark, but at least they’re real. Tell ‘em that if they actually invent the Arc Reactor, they can be Iron Man or Iron Woman. In reality, they will have solved the world’s energy problems, which is better.

There are other sources of energy – geothermal and tidal among others. In Portland, a company is installing turbines inside sewer pipes and harnessing the power of flowing water. Interesting idea.

There’s no single energy technology (except maybe the arc reactor) that will allow us to meet all of our energy needs. We use a lot of energy, and we’re going to need a lot of different sources, including fusion, to completely replace the energy we generate from burning coal, gas, and oil. These energy solutions tend to work in some places better than others. Wind power might be great off the coast of Scotland (it’s very windy off the coast of Scotland), and solar power might be perfect in Arizona and California. Also, we’ll have to get serious about doing more with less, but it’s possible to do that in a way that most people won’t even notice (more opportunities here, too).

4. Aerospace Engineering

This one is pretty obvious. As aerospace engineers, your kids would design the next generations of airplanes, rockets, and spacecraft (missions to Mars and beyond, please), and all the pieces and parts that go into them. Right now NASA is working on a kind of warp drive. No, really.

5. Artificial Intelligence

Humans aren’t the only intelligent creatures on Earth. We are, however, the only creatures on Earth that have ever made intelligent, non-living things. We make intelligent, living things all the time, but apparently that’s not good enough. We have to go ahead and make smart dishwashers.

Compared to us, computers and robots are not all that smart. Well, they used to be not all that smart, but we are making them smarter. Right now, the smartest computers in the world are at about the level of a four-year old who is lightning fast with math but not so great with language and abstract ideas. Your smart dishwasher is not as smart as a four-year old, though it might be hilarious if it was.

Artificial Intelligence is a lot more than talking computers and robots. It is a huge field within Computer Science that includes things like machine learning, computational creativity, and general intelligence.

What is Artificial Intelligence? That depends. If you think that Artificial Intelligence is a robot who can have a human-level conversation with you while cooking dinner and planning your child’s eighth birthday party, then AI has a long way to go.

In reality, a chess-playing computer that can calculate all the possible permutations of the game and beat a chess grandmaster is one kind of AI. A thermostat that senses when you’re home and adjust itself accordingly is another. The computer (stacks of computers and a lot of very clever programming) that beat Ken Jennings at “Jeopardy” is yet another. By the way, Watson is now a pretty good medical diagnostician.

Artificial Intelligence isn’t all that new. There have been robots in factories for a very long time. Mostly robotic arms (very few robotic legs). NASA put robotic rovers on Mars that are part autonomous and part remote control. Right now there are fully autonomous submersibles exploring the oceans. Google’s search engine is a kind of artificial intelligence as are the computers that autonomously trade most of the stocks on Wall Street. Engineers are even starting to give prosthetic limbs designed for amputees a certain amount of intelligence.

If any of this sounds nightmarishly terrifying, that’s because we’ve been programmed (ha!) by movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, The Matrix, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and I Robot to be afraid of AI. Should we be afraid of Artificial Intelligence? No. Should we be concerned about Artificial Intelligence? Probably, but fear and concern are different.

Most very smart people who are concerned about AI (Stephen Hawking, for example) are worried about what might happen when the machines become smarter than we are. And not just a bit smarter, thousands of times smarter. The fear is that the machines will be able to manipulate reality in ways that we can’t even begin to understand. If that happens (a very big if), then the world will become unrecognizable to us, if we’re even around to attempt to recognize it.

Regardless, future machines will have some ability to interact with the world, make decisions, and learn. Some day you will have a conversation with a toothbrush. Based on that interaction, your toothbrush might suggest different teeth-cleaning strategies. Your toothbrush might decide that you need to make an appointment with the dentist and then schedule it for you. It might realize that you’re running out of toothpaste, contact a giant on-line retailer, and automatically order more without even bothering to ask you. It might be able to detect other non-tooth related medical problems and send that information to your doctor. Your toothbrush might also update Facebook for you, suggest a novel you’d like read before you go to sleep, and figure out what kind of coffee you’d like in the morning. It might do everything your smartphone can do and more, but automatically and while cleaning your teeth.

Think about how necessary your smartphone is. Add decision making, learning, language, and intelligence to it. Then embed that in everything you interact with in everyday life, including your toothbrush. That’s what people are calling the Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything. Now think about how many opportunities there are people who will and are creating this Internet of Things.

So there you are. Five amazing things your kids can do to build an extraordinary future. Of course, there are other paths, other ways to go, other ways to be extraordinary.

Anyway, welcome to the future. Let’s hope our toothbrushes don’t take over.

We Should Really Go to Mars

The thing about space is that it’s huge. Terrifyingly, impossibly huge. It took three days for the Apollo missions to get to the moon. It takes between five months and a year to get to Mars and around five years to get to Jupiter.  It would take over eleven years to get to Neptune. Of course, that’s still in our neighborhood. The nearest star outside the Solar System is Proxima Centauri, which is 4.2 light years away. It would take the Voyager spacecraft 80,000 years to get there, not that Voyager is headed anywhere near Proxima Centauri.

We’re not really built for space travel. We don’t live very long, relatively speaking. Our muscles and skeleton need gravity. We need oxygen, warmth, water, and food. Space doesn’t have any of those. We’re not good with high doses of radiation, and we tend to go little nuts all cramped up in a tiny rocket ship for extended periods of time.

In other words, exploring space is mind-bogglingly dangerous. Space itself is nothing but stuff that will kill you dead, interrupted by other stuff that will kill you dead. But John Glenn didn’t say, “Well, guys, I’d like to go into space seeing as that Yuri Gagarin guy already did it, but it’s really risky, so maybe we should just stay home and watch TV”.

When I was a kid, exploring space was a big deal. The last Apollo mission to the moon was in 1972, but I was way too young to know anything about it. The first space mission I actually remember was Viking II, which landed on Mars. Honestly, I was expecting it to find alien life. Not intelligent life, maybe, but life. Tiny Martian lizards or something. Of course, there’s no water on Mars, so there were no tiny Martian lizards or anything else.

Still, we landed a probe on Mars back in 1976. Surely the next step was to land actual people on the surface of another planet. It wasn’t (and don’t call me Shirley).

We launched Voyager I in 1977, and it was going to explore Jupiter and Saturn… which it did and so much more. Suddenly, every kid who was at all interested in science knew the names of Jupiter’s moons –Io, Ganymede, Callisto, Europa and the others that were known. Then Voyager found more moons. More moons! A lot of them. 67 or something like that. This was discovery, this was exploration, this was crazy fun, and I loved every minute of it. Thirty-six years later, the Voyager probes are still going. Voyager I is heading out of the Solar System into the vast emptiness of interstellar space.

Back then I knew with absolute certainty that we were not alone in the Universe. It was only a matter of time before we’d pick up radio signals from an alien civilization. I figured that one day in the not-too-distant future, those aliens would land and we’d finally get to know our intergalactic neighbors. That was going to be awesome because the aliens were going to be friendly and share all their alien technology with us.  Soon we would all have matter transporters and flying bicycles and laser guns and world peace.

And when the Space Shuttle program was first announced, I was convinced that the future was on its way. We were going to build colonies on the moon and launch more space shuttles towards the furthest reaches of the Solar System and beyond. This was it. We were reaching outward. Humans were going to explore the universe, meet aliens, live on other worlds, and have adventures. And it was all going to happen in my lifetime. That was awesome. That was hope.

Of course, none of that has happened. There have been lots of incredible missions including Voyager I and II, New Horizons, and Cassini. The Hubble Telescope has been completely fantastic. NASA landed a spacecraft on a comet, which is insanely cool. None of these missions have involved astronauts, and the future that a lot of us had stamped into our imaginations hasn’t happened.

We need to explore. The next giant leap doesn’t have to be Mars. Maybe it’s a largish asteroid. Maybe it’s Europa, Ganymede, or Enceladus. There might be microbial life right now on a couple of Jupiter’s moons. Ganymede and Europa seem to have water on them. Ganymede appears to have warm oceans underneath the ice. Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, appears to have both liquid salt water and a source of heat. It would be mind-bogglingly cool to find microbial life somewhere in outer space.

We need to explore for three reasons:

  1. The Economy. Yes, space travel is expensive. It requires a tremendous amount of innovative technology, but that technology becomes stuff we all buy. Space exploration is an investment that pays off big time.
  2. Discovery & Knowledge – big, important things.
  3. Inspiration

The European Space Agency is planning a robotic mission to Europa in 2020. Robotic missions are wonderful, but if we want to capture the imagination of the entire planet – all seven billion of us – a human needs to walk on the surface of another world.

Imagine standing on the surface of Ganymede, the ice shifting slightly beneath your feet with Jupiter filling most of the sky. Imagine standing on the surface of Enceladus, drilling through the ice, searching for extraterrestrial life, while the rings of Saturn orbit above your head. How glorious would that be?

Exploration. Knowledge. Wonder. Imagination. These are the best of what it means to be human. Let’s boldly go already. Let’s shake the dust of this crummy planet off our feet and see the universe. We haven’t been to the moon since 1972. That was 43 years ago. Since then we’ve invented video games, home computers, virtual reality, Cabbage Patch Kids, digital cameras, the Internet, the Segway, motion-activated singing “robot” fish, massively online multiplayer games, and smartphones. We’ve cloned a sheep and decoded the human genome, but we haven’t been out of low Earth orbit.

On January 28th, 1986, I sat in the cafeteria of Catholic Memorial High School and watched the Space Shuttle Challenger take off. Millions of kids around the country were watching the launch because a teacher named Christa McAuliffe was one of the astronauts. The teachers at my school had set up TVs so that we could get inspired or something. Instead, we all watched in horror as the space shuttle blew up again and again and again. Seven astronauts died. Not one of us thought that we should cancel the Space Shuttle program or cut NASA’s budget or anything like that. If anything, we wanted more. We still do.

Celebrate 100 Resoundingly Innovative Years of Les Paul

1924. Waukesha, Wisconsin. A skinny, nine-year-old kid with a shock of fiery red hair sits on the floor of his mother’s living room. The family telephone is all around him in what looks like a hundred pieces. Lester Polsfuss (that’s the kid’s name) is painstakingly transforming the telephone into a microphone, and he’s trying to get the telephone transmitter to pick up sound better than it does. Of course, a microphone needs a speaker, so the family radio is in a hundred pieces on the floor, too.

He has to hurry because his brother will be home from work soon, and even though his mother is perfectly okay with letting him take the family’s valuable electronics apart, his older brother is not. The radio that Lester has methodically deconstructed and is about to repurpose cost the family $19, a huge amount of money. And it’s the only radio in the house… except for the crystal radio that Lester built for himself that his brother doesn’t know anything about.

Today it’s the radio and telephone. Other days Lester practices the guitar and harmonica for hours. Or he spends the afternoon messing around with the player piano, covering different holes in the rolls with cellophane tape and punching out new holes to change songs around and all kinds of crazy stuff. Somehow the kid manages to put everything back together in better than working order.

And Lester listens to the radio incessantly, late into the night. Not just to the old-time country music the whole family enjoys, but to weird, new stuff coming out of Chicago and St. Louis. It’s called Jazz, and gets into Lester’s blood and his soul, and he loves it and wants to be a part of it. He wants to be a musician. Not when he grows up. Now. A few years from now, he’ll be sneaking out of the house to go see Pie Plant Pete, Rube Tronson and his Texas Cowboys (a band he would later join for a summer), and other acts traveling the Midwest circuit.

That skinny kid from Waukesha is absolutely certain he will become a great musician, and he was right about that. The world will come to know him as Les Paul. What he couldn’t know back in 1924 was that the sounds he would create, the recording technologies he would pioneer, and the solid-body electric guitars he would build would change music forever.

“Not many people get to meet a wizard or a mad scientist or an inventor who changed the world,” said Joel Brennan, President and CEO of Discovery World. “We got to meet all three wrapped up in the person of Les Paul. We had the honor of working with him, building the Les Paul’s House of Sound exhibit with him, and becoming his friends.”

According to Les in a 2008 interview with Discovery World, the idea for the House of Sound came from none other than Bing Crosby. “When Bing and I finished making a recording, Bing asked me if I would like to take a ride with him. We drove up and down Sunset Boulevard looking for a place. And he said, ‘Do you like that building? Do you like that building?’ He’s pointing out maybe seven different buildings. I couldn’t figure out what Bing was looking for. So I say, ‘Bing, why are you looking at all these buildings?’ He says, ‘I’m looking for a place for you, Les. I want to see you build the House of Sound. Les Paul’s House of Sound.’ He says, ‘You make the greatest sound in the world, and you know so much about this. You should give this to the people. And to do that, I want to pick a building for you.’ That was in 1945, right after the war.”

Fortunately for Discovery World, Les turned down Bing’s unbelievable offer.

“I first met Les Paul at his home in New Jersey,” said Brennan. “Les shuffled out of his bedroom, and invited us to join him for breakfast. This was at 3:00 in the afternoon. Even in his 90s, Les worked until dawn and slept until the mid-afternoon. That’s just part of the musician, rock star lifestyle, I guess. Les didn’t know who we were. He didn’t know what Discovery World was all about. But Les always believed that asking questions and experimenting was the single most important way to learn and create. And he had an idea for a Les Paul experience. Since our mission at Discovery World is to educate and inspire young innovators with hands-on learning, I knew right away that we had found a kindred spirit.”

Within ninety days of that first meeting, the Les Paul’s House of Sound at Discovery World exhibition was born. It is truly a place where you can learn from Les.

Inside the House of Sound, you can explore Les’ life, his contributions to music and sound technology, and his lifelong commitment to innovation. Experience Les’ very first laboratory – his mother’s living room. Follow the roads that led Les from Waukesha to St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and meet the people that influenced him and helped him along the way. Explore the science of sound. Take a look at the original solid body electric guitar prototype that he called “The Log”. Explore the guitars he built and played with the Les Paul Trio and later with Bing Crosby, the Andrews’ Sisters, Mary Ford, and Chet Atkins.

Throughout his life, Les never stopped experimenting. He never stopped creating. He never stopped trying to discover that next new sound.

“Besides being an incredible musician, Les was a formidable experimenter and one of the world’s great tinkerers,” said Brennan. He was also completely without pretension. We were talking in his kitchen that first day, and Les pointed to a beautiful guitar just sitting there, propped up by a kitchen drawer with the silverware in it. Les said, ‘Right there is Les Paul number one. That is the first Gibson Les Paul ever made in 1952.’ I was stunned, you know, that such a valuable instrument was just sitting there in the kitchen. But to me, that was the real essence of Les Paul. Everything about him was right in front of you for everyone to see and enjoy.”

Les Paul spent his entire life building his House of Sound. On Saturday, June 13, we are celebrating Les Paul’s birthday here at Discovery World. Please join us for 100 years of sound, music, and innovation that changed the world. Take a guided tour of the Les Paul’s House of Sound exhibit, see incredible science demonstrations, create a custom Les Paul guitar pick, make a custom video birthday card, and have some cake.

If you happen to see Bing Crosby, tell him thanks for the inspiration.

11 Summer Camp Experiences Your Kids Will Love

11 Incredible Summer Experiences Your Kids Will Flip Over!

Discovery World’s Summer Camp 2016 offers fantastic opportunities for your kids to explore science, technology, design, fashion, engineering, survival skills, and a whole lot more. Each week they’ll have fun, make new friends, and create amazing projects. Here are 11 can’t-miss experiences that your kids will absolutely love.

Grades 3-5

1. Sugar3

What is sugar? Why is it sweet and so irresistible? How does a marshmallow work? Create customized sugar pieces, sample unique flavors of cotton candy, and make personalized treats as you learn about the delightful properties of sugar. Explore the connection between chemistry and candy making, and create incredible samples throughout the week. It’s science. It’s candy. It’s a sugar blast!

2. Jr. Ranger

Work with staff from the Department of Natural Resources to set traps and fish for invasive species. Find out if you’ve got what it takes to become a park ranger by using tools and strategies that the professionals use in the field.

3. Natural Disasters

Earthquakes! Hurricanes! Tornados! Discover how we use technology to track, study, and prepare for natural disasters. You’ll see the destructive power of nature and the strength of the human spirit as you learn from first responders.

4. Survival Challenge

Learn how to survive almost anything from being stranded in the wild to a zombie apocalypse. Understand the human body and its limits in order to test and build a structure to protect you from a tropical storm and winter blizzard. Build your own compass, fishing pole, and survival pack to take home. If you can think on your feet, be creative, and stay calm, you’ll survive the week!

5. Jr. Fashion Designer

Design, sew, and assemble your own clothing line from head to toe. In the Kohl’s Design It! Lab, you’ll experiment with hand stitching, machine sewing, and professional tools – like laser cutters and heat sealers – to put together your customized line. This is your runway, and you’re going to own it!

Grades 6-8

6. Wearable Electronics

Design and engineer clothing that interacts with you and the environment. Create your own wearable items that blink, react, and interact unlike anything else in your wardrobe. The future of fashion is now!

7. Custom Cruiser Skateboards*

Surf the sidewalk this summer! Longboard and Cruiser skateboards are the hottest trend in skateboarding right now, and this awesome camp allows you to build and design your own. Throughout the week, you’ll screen print custom images on a blank cruiser deck, laser cut designs in your grip tape, customize your trucks, and so much more.

*Note: Additional $50 FEE required for skateboard materials

8. Milwaukee Movie Maker

Explore Milwaukee and become a documentary filmmaker. Experience all phases of video production and improve your skills as a visual storyteller. Under the guidance of Discovery World professionals, you’ll film around downtown Milwaukee, edit in our Digital Arts Lab, and work together to create a stunning, short documentary about Milwaukee history.

9. Custom Electric Guitar*

Build your own electric guitar; create custom graphics you screen print on your guitar; design images for your pick guard; and get an expert tune-up and guitar lesson. You’ll do all of this in one week in the NEW Bill Brady Intelligent Products Lab at Discovery World! And YES, the guitar is yours to keep!

*Note: Additional $50 FEE required for electric guitar materials.

10. Aquarist for a Week

Join Discovery World’s team of brilliant aquarists to learn about what it takes to maintain our very own Reiman Aquarium. Learn how to raise and care for an astounding variety of marine and freshwater creatures. Go behind-the-scenes and explore the methods used for cleaning tanks and feeding fish. Learn about different underwater ecosystems, and help fish grow from egg to fry to fish.

11. Inside the Human Body

Explore the human skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, endocrine, integumentary, and nervous systems, and learn how each of these complex and intricate systems work together. Tour a hospital, and meet dedicated professionals who are building the future of medicine right here in Milwaukee. Experience tools, techniques, and cutting-edge medical technology.

At Discovery World, we help your kids amplify their strengths, develop new abilities, and explore new ideas. Camps run Monday through Friday from 9:30am-4:30pm. To make your life a lot easier, we offer extended care from 8am-5:30pm before and after camp. Camps are $315 for non-members and $285 for Discovery World members.

Join us for an amazing summer filled with fun and learning!

Download the 2015 Summer Camp Brochure & Register for Camps!





3 Incredible Women Who are Shaping the World

Where can curiosity, drive, intelligence, and imagination take you? Anywhere you want to go. Here are three fantastic women who are shaping the world right now.

Dr. Hazel Barton – Explorer & Microbiologist

Are you afraid of the dark?

Hazel Barton boldly (and routinely) goes where no one on Earth has gone before. A professor of microbiology and geology at the University of Akron, Barton explores caves in the earth, underwater, and in the ice.

These environments are remote. There is no light and often very little heat. Sometimes there is no oxygen. In these deep, dark, dangerous places, Barton and her team hunt for extremophiles – microorganisms that have found a way to survive in incredibly harsh conditions.

She brings these microorganisms back and studies them so that other scientists can develop new antibiotics to fight disease. The extremophiles she discovers are also used to study the possibility of life on other worlds.

Hazel Barton’s fierce determination, relentless curiosity, and boundless love of science and exploration make her one of the incredible women who are shaping the world.

You can talk to Hazel on Twitter @cavescience and learn more at cavescience.com.

Dr. Deborah Jin, Physicist & Fermion Wrangler

Have you ever made something awesome?

Deborah Jin is a physicist and researcher at the JILA (Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics). In 2003, Jin and her team made an entirely new state of matter.

On Earth, we typically encounter four states of matter – solids, liquids, gasses, and plasmas. There are other “exotic” states of matter – supersolids, quark-gluon plasma, quark matter (maybe). Deborah Jin created a Fermionic Condensate, a state of matter so exotic that it has probably never existed before anywhere in the Universe.

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of particles – bosons and fermions. Electrons, protons, and neutrons are examples of fermions. Atoms are fermions, too. Well, some are. Some atoms are bosons. The quantum world is mind-bogglingly cool.

What’s important is that two fermions cannot occupy the same quantum state at the same time. Bosons can. But no one had ever seen a Fermionic Condensate. Deborah Jin made one anyway.

Jin captured 500,000 potassium-40 atoms in a magnetic field and cooled them down to a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero… just like you would in your physics lab at home.

Inside the magnetic field, the potassium-40 atoms paired up and started to behave like bosons. And at that ultra-cold temperature, the fermions condensed into a superfluid.

For her amazing work in ultra-cold physics, Jin was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (the “genius grant”). She has since won the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics from the Franklin Institute and the Isaac Newton Medal from the Institute of Physics.

Watch her Isaac Newton Prize lecture and learn more about her.

Dr. Mae Carol Jemison – Scientist, Trailblazer, & Explorer

What’s your dream?

As a girl, Mae Carol Jemison looked up at the stars and dreamed of going to space. She was inspired by Star Trek and the possibilities of a brilliant future.

A lot of people want to be astronauts when they’re kids, though fewer than 600 of the seven billion or so people on Earth have ever been to space. Mae Carol Jemison decided she was going to do it anyway.

At 16, Jemison studied chemical engineering at Stanford University. After that, she earned a medical degree at Cornell. She served in as a doctor in the Peace Corps. Jemison applied to NASA, but they rejected her. Four years later, NASA called her back and asked if she was still interested in going to space. She said absolutely, yes.

In September of 1992, Mae Carol Jemison spent eight days on the Space Shuttle Endeavor as the science mission specialist on the STS-47 Spacelab J flight. The first thing she saw from space was her hometown of Chicago.

Mae Carol Jemison is a chemical engineer, a physician, a scientist, an astronaut, an entrepreneur, and an educator. She was the first African American woman in space. She is the only real astronaut to ever appear on an episode of Star Trek. She has started two successful technology companies.

Jemison is also leading something called the 100 Year Starship, a project exploring the technology that humans would need to safely travel through interstellar space.

Dr. Mae Carol Jemison is on Twitter @maejemison, and you can find a lot more about her at drame.com.

Why did we choose these women? Because they’re daring, intelligent, and incredible. Why didn’t we choose other daring, intelligent, incredible women? Because lists are weird like that.

Who Did We Miss?

So many amazing women in science and technology have made our world a better place. Who are your heroes? Let us know.

Cloud Making! Tornado Hats! Interactive Science! It’s Weather Day at Miller Park

On Thursday, April 23, 2015 the Milwaukee Brewers, Today’s TMJ4, and Discovery World are once again transforming Miller Park into the largest science classroom in Wisconsin.

At Weather Day you can:

This year you can also make your own Tornado Hat and learn about the Fujita Scale with Justin Doll from the Kohl’s Design It! Lab. Aisha Rickli-Rahman from Discovery World will demonstrate how wind turbines work. And there will be hands-on demonstrations and activities from the Milwaukee Public Museum, the Mitchell Park Domes, and Ready Wisconsin.

Discovery World’s own Paul Mech will step onto the field at Miller Park with a spectacular, live science demonstration. Paul’s going to make a cloud. A real cloud. A really big cloud. We asked him about it.

Hello, Paul Mech. First off, how do clouds form?

Clouds need three conditions to form in the atmosphere. There has to be enough water vapor because clouds are made of water. There have to be particulates in the air that the water vapor can “grab on to”. The third thing clouds need is a difference in temperature and/or pressure.

I remember a cloud-making thing we did in science class in 5th grade. It went kind of okay. How are you going to make a cloud big enough to be seen by thousands of kids at Miller Park on Weather Day?

I don’t have to bring my own particulates because dust, pollen, and pollution are always floating in the air. Water is easy. I can’t do much about pressure, so I’ll have to create a difference in temperature. That’s the fun part.

And how are you going to do that?

I’m going to pour boiling water into a large bucket of liquid nitrogen.

That sounds hilariously dangerous.

It’s all very safe, mostly.

Wait! Water boils at 212° F. Liquid nitrogen boils at -320°F. That’s a temperature difference of over 500°.

Exactly! And what happens next is awesome. The boiling water cools incredibly quickly. The nitrogen boils and expands rapidly, and it launches all that water and water vapor into the air. The water vapor grabs onto the particulates in the air, and a cloud forms.

A big cloud?

A huge cloud. We’re using a ridiculous amount of liquid nitrogen.

Fantastic. Are you excited for Weather Day?

It’s Wisconsin’s largest science classroom filled with learning and fun. I’m incredibly excited.

Here is Paul Mech making a much smaller cloud on Today’s TMJ4.

To see the largest cloud ever made by a human being (probably), you’ll have to go to Weather Day. You should go anyway. It’s awesome.

Weather Day is sponsored by the Milwaukee Brewers, Today’s TMJ4, Discovery World, the Mitchell Park Domes, the Milwaukee Public Museum, and Ready Wisconsin.

Membership pays for itself in just two visits!

Membership is the best (and most cost-saving way) for your family to enjoy fun and learning throughout the year!

With all of our memberships you’ll receive free admission, program discounts, special member-only events, and more!

  • Free, Unlimited Daily Admission
  • Discounts on Programs
  • Advance Notice of Events and Programs
  • Special Member Only Events
  • Reciprocal Admission to Over 300 STEM Museums Worldwide
Join Today, Renew, or Give a Gift Membership

Getting Here

We are located on Milwaukee’s lakefront with easy access on and off of the expressway.

500 N Harbor Dr
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Get Directions

General Admission

Adults $20
Child (3-17) $16
Child 2 & Under $Free
Senior (60+) $16
College Student* $14
Military Active and Veterans* $14

*Valid ID Required.

Prices are subject to change. Click HERE to buy tickets and for important information you need to know before visiting. 

Current Hours

Mon-Tue: Closed | Wed-Fri: 9am-4pm
Tues-Fri Mon-Tue: Closed | Wed-Fri: 9am - 4pm
Sat & Sun 9am - 4pm

Getting Here

We are located on Milwaukee’s lakefront with easy access on and off of the expressway.

500 N Harbor Dr
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Get Directions
Adults $20
Child (3-17) $16
Child 2 & Under $Free
Senior (60+) $16
College Student* $14
Military Active and Veterans* $14
Military* Active Duty & Veterans $14

*Valid ID Required.

Prices are subject to change. Click HERE to buy tickets and for important information you need to know before visiting. 

Current Hours

Mon-Tue: Closed | Wed-Fri: 9am-4pm
Tues-Fri Mon-Tue: Closed | Wed-Fri: 9am - 4pm
Sat & Sun 9am - 4pm
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