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Boop vs. the Silent Auction

Hello! It’s me, Boop! I was so excited to see all of you at Sci-Fi Family Day! Thank you! Your costumes were amazing! We hope you had fun.

I have a very exciting announcement. I will be attending the 2020 Ignite the Spark Gala! It’s true! I was invited and everything! Hilary, the General Aquarium Curator here at Discovery World and my BEST HUMAN FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD, told me so! I’m her +1 or something.

Are you going? I hope you’re going. I’m super excited! It’s my first gala ever. And I’m kind of going out of my mind because I have NOTHING TO WEAR! These parties are always so fancy (or so I’ve heard), and I can’t find a tuxedo in my size.

“Boop,” you might say. “You’re a fancy turtle who lives in a science center. You should have eight or nine tuxedos tailored just for you because of your many public appearances.”

You are absolutely right. I am a fancy turtle, but I don’t have a single tuxedo. THIS IS SCANDALOUS. What’s even more scandalous is that I don’t make as many public appearances as a wildly adorable turtle that blogs probably should.

Sure, there was the time I got to christen a cruise ship. That was fun. And one year I got to dance and lip synch on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That was interesting.

Once I got to throw out the first pitch at Miller Park. You might be surprised to learn that I do not have a cannon for an arm. Instead of making it all the way to home plate, the ball rolled down the pitcher’s mound a little ways before it came to a humiliating stop. I THREW IT AS HARD AS I COULD. The crowd booed. THEY BOOED A TURTLE! They were probably Cubs’ fans.

And once I got shoved into a groundhog costume and had to pretend to be whatever the Lodi version of Punxsutawney Phil is. I still don’t know what that was about.

Anyway, it’s all good. Mostly because none of those things happened. Also, I’m going to the Gala! And I was poking around Discovery World’s annual Ignite the Spark Gala Silent Auction looking for a tuxedo in my size (either extra-super-duper small is not a size or they didn’t have one), when I came across something incredibly strange.

Did you know that there are many exciting items with no bids? I KNOW! No bids at all. That’s so sad. All those incredible prizes and experiences with no bids just sitting there like, I don’t know, a puppy… lost and alone, shivering and whimpering in the cold, grey autumn rain. Is that one Sarah McLachlan song playing in your head now? Good! It was playing in mine, too! I nearly started crying.

“Pull it together, Boop,” I said to myself. “This is not a time for sadness. This is a moment of opportunity. Sure, other people can ignore those incredible items and experiences, the ones with the big, sad, adorable eyes yearning for a warm home and someone to love them. You will not ignore them. You will take them in. You will love them. You will give them a home.”

This a great opportunity for me (and possibly you) to support Discovery World and win fantastic prizes on the cheap. Everyone is so busy outbidding each other on that awesome golf package and the tasty beer and beef jerky package that they’ll miss out on some really cool experiences! And if you are bidding on that awesome golf package and the tasty beer and beef jerky package, don’t stop bidding! Keep going! Someone is going to win those, and it really should be you!

What would I bid on and win?

I have always wanted to learn a martial art like Taekwondo, and I would begin my Taekwondo journey at J.K. Lee. The kicking! The fitness! The self-confidence! The courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit! The breaking of boards with my feet! SO MUCH FUN! J.K. Lee Taekwondo is awesome! (UPDATE! THIS HAS A BID NOW, BUT ONLY ONE!)

I would learn self-defense at J.K. Lee, too. I mean, turtles are already pretty good at self-defense what with the whole retreat-into-our-shells thing we do. BUT THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO KNOW!

I could win this gorgeous Gibson Les Paul Studio guitar because I love music, even though I don’t play, and I can’t hear all the notes. Turtles don’t hear like humans do. That’s why I really like jazz. The great Miles Davis even said, “The notes you don’t hear are as important as the ones you do.” He said something like that. Anyway, I would bid on this guitar, win this guitar, learn to play this guitar, and then go on tour with Genesis or the Jonas Brothers or maybe even a K-Pop group! What? K-Pop totally shreds. Not all the time. It shreds when it wants to.

I would go sailing aboard the S/V Denis Sullivan with Beep and all of my Discovery World turtle friends. The wind! The waves! The sun! The excitement! The exploration! BRING IT ON!

I WOULD TAKE SPIN CLASSES, assuming my turtle feet could reach the pedals! (UPDATE! I HAVE LEARNED THAT MY FEET WILL NOT REACH THE PEDALS, WHICH IS GOOD BECAUSE THIS ITEM HAS A BID ON IT NOW.)

I WOULD LEARN TO DANCE!

I WOULD HANG OUT WITH SANTA! The real Santa. The definite article.

Because I am only five-years old, I would NOT bid on and win a virtual wine tasting (with real wine). I am way too young and way too much of a turtle to try a variety of delicious wines from small, independent winemakers that you simply can’t find in stores. (UPDATE! SOMEONE HAS BID ON THIS. DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY WITH IT! THIS VIRTUAL WINE TASTING IS YOURS. ALSO, THANK YOU TO THE WONDERFUL PERSON THAT BID ON THIS.)

I would consult with Susan J Designs – Designs is probably not her actual last name – and come up with a plan to redecorate the inside of my tank. I want to transform it into multi-use space with layered, contrasting décor. Oh, and I want shiplap everywhere. I LOVE SHIPLAP! Looking at her portfolio, Susan J doesn’t seem to use much shiplap. Beep and I can fix that.

AND I WOULD ABSOLUTELY BID ON AND WIN THIS TLC AND SWAG FOR YOUR PUP PACKAGE. It comes with a bandana for my dog and a hat for me. Wait. I don’t have a dog. I know! I’ll get a dog. I mean, maybe the Aquarists will let me have a dog. That seems like a reasonable request. I’ll feed it and take it for walks and play with it, I promise. THIS IS A VERY EXCELLENT PLAN!

(YET ANOTHER UPDATE. I WANT A DOG. I WANT TO PUT A BANDANA ON THAT DOG. YOU ARE STOMPING ALL OVER MY DREAMS, WHOEVER BID ON THIS. ALSO, THANK YOU FOR BIDDING ON THIS. ALSO, THE AQUARISTS WON’T LET ME GET A DOG. THIS IS PROBABLY FOR THE BEST.)

Anyway, THERE IS SO MUCH EXCITING STUFF TO BID ON AND WIN! You should bid on and win all these things before I do.

Support Discovery World and help us light the spark of wonder and curiosity in thousands of children in Milwaukee and beyond.

Be well,

Boop!

Join Boop for Sci-Fi Family Day. There Will Be Droids!

Here are the answers to my Sci-Fi Trivia Quiz designed to get you super-excited for Sci-Fi Family Day! I mean, you probably are already super-excited for Sci-Fi Family Day, but just in case.

QUESTION #1

Which TV cartoon robot said, “We’ll soon stage an attack on technology worthy of being chronicled in an anthem by Rush!” He also said, “I don’t remember ever fighting Godzilla. But that is so what I would have done!”

Bender. The Aquarists tell me that I am too young to watch Futurama.

QUESTION #2

What kind of droids are BB-8, R2-D2, and C1-10P?

They are astromech droids! They are also adorable. Except for Chopper. He’s adorable and cantankerous!

QUESTION #3

What kind of droid is a Gonk Droid?

  1. A protocol droid
  2. The droid that repaired Luke’s hand at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.
  3. A power droid
  4. A football droid that played tight end for the Patriots before signing with the Buccaneers. Wait, no. That’s the Gronk Droid. Never mind.

The Gonk Droid is a power droid that appeared in A New Hope with the Jawas.

QUESTION #4

In Rise of Skywalker, Finn and Jannah ride “space horses” on the deck of a star destroyer. What are those “space horses” called?

A. Ooblecks
B. Ubiks
C. Orbachs
D. Orbaks

They are called Orbaks. Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid made of cornstarch and water. Ubik is the title of a Philip K. Dick novel. Jerry Orbach was an actor.

QUESTION #5

True or False: Baby Yoda is Yoda.

False. Baby Yoda is not Yoda. The Mandalorian takes place after Return of the Jedi. SPOILER ALERT! Yoda, uh, becomes a Force Ghost during Return of the Jedi.

QUESTION #6

True or False: Baby Yoda is a Yoda

False. Baby Yoda is the same species as Yoda, but no one knows what that species is called. I suppose they could be called Yodas, but that’s definitely not canon.

QUESTION #7

Which robot from a British book series, radio series, TV series, and a movie said, “The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million: they were the worst, too. The third ten million I didn’t enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline.”

A. Kryten
B. Marvin
C. K-9
D. Timely Corporation Security Drone

Marvin from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy”.

QUESTION #8

What must the Spice do?

The Spice must flow.

QUESTION #9

On which planet is the Spice found?

Arrakis

QUESTION #10

Match the spaceship to the movie, novel, or series:

A. Rocinante
B. USS Defiant
C. A Series Of Unlikely Explanations
D. NSEA Protector

The Rocinante is from the Expanse series. The USS Defiant is from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. A Series Of Unlikely Explanations is from the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. The NSEA Protector, by Grabthar’s Hammer, was the ship from Galaxy Quest.

QUESTION #11

“One does not simply _____ into Mordor.”

A. Saunter
B. Dance
C. Fly
D. Walk

One does not simply walk into Mordor. One also presumably does not dance or saunter into Mordor. One doesn’t fly into Mordor either, because apparently the eagles have better things to do than save all of Middle Earth from Sauron.

QUESTION #12

Though she died in 2006, Octavia Butler finally reached the New York Times Best Seller List with which 1993 dystopian novel?

A. Parable of the Sower
B. Parable of the Talents
C. Mind of My Mind
D. Kindred

Octavia Butler reached the New York Times Best Seller List this year with The Parable of the Sower.

QUESTION #13

This actress has starred or appeared in many science-fiction films including Chappie, Avatar, WALL•E, Ghostbusters, and Galaxy Quest.

Sigourney Weaver

QUESTION #14

This actress has also appeared in a variety of science fiction films including Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: EndgameStar Trek: Into DarknessAvatar, and I Kill Giants.

Zoe Saldana

How many did you get right?

Join me and Beep and everyone here for Sci-Fi Family Day!

Be well,

Boop!

Boop vs. the Quantum Realm

Hi! It’s me, Boop! I’m back! Did you miss me? I missed me. I accidentally fell into Discovery World’s matter transporter. Something went wrong, and I got stuck in the Quantum Realm. Yes, that’s a real place, though the words “real” and “place” are entirely subjective in… the Quantum Realm. Time is meaningless. Cause and effect are meaningless. Meaning has no meaning in… the Quantum Realm.  Fortunately, the Aquarists were able to repair the matter transporter and bring me back. They’re so great.

The Quantum Realm is very strange. Did you know that there are no mealworms in the Quantum Realm? That was incredibly weird. There is no food of any kind in the Quantum Realm. There is only weirdness. I can’t eat weirdness, so I was very hungry when I got back.

My experience in the Quantum Realm got me thinking. If you’re like me, you’ve spent entire minutes – maybe even hours – pondering things like subatomic particles, quantum mechanics, and the fundamental nature of reality. Maybe you’ve wondered what it would be like to travel to the Quantum Realm like the Avengers and I did. (To be fair, the Avengers are fictional characters whereas I am a totally real turtle who blogs about my totally real and not-at-all-made-up adventures.)

Maybe you’ve picked up books like Something Deeply Hidden by Sean Carroll or How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog, by Chad Orzel. Maybe you’ve read Beyond Weird: Why Everything You Thought You Knew About Quantum Physics Is Different, by Philip Ball.

Maybe you’ve wondered whether the Copenhagen or Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct or what electrons really are or how the Higgs field works or what empty space is made of. There are so many things to wonder about!

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks trying to understand what I saw while I was trapped in the Quantum Realm. I understand it now. I UNDERSTAND THE FUNDAMENTAL NATURE OF REALITY! I promise that by the time we’re done here, you’ll understand everything, too. You’ll understand how our reality emerges from quantum field interactions. You’ll understand things like the Hamiltonian, anti-de Sitter space, Hilbert space, the wave function, octonions, superposition, Schrodinger’s Cat, and what an electron really is. I am even going to explain (because I totally get it now) quantum gravity.

Ha! Just kidding. I am completely and utterly baffled. I’m even more baffled than when I started. I mean, I thought I knew things, but I now I’m not even sure that I know what I know, you know? My hope is that by the end of this, you’ll be baffled, too! Maybe your bafflement and my bafflement will become entangled until we observe it and our wave functions collapse.

Or maybe you won’t be baffled. Maybe you’ll be simultaneously baffled and un-baffled. Maybe you’ll be baffled in this universe but completely un-baffled in an entirely other universe. Anything is possible. Except when you measure it. Then only one thing is possible. Or maybe that’s not even true. I HAVE NO IDEA!

Also, and I mean this with complete humility (an odd feeling for me), it is entirely possible that everything here is wrong. I AM OKAY WITH THIS. It just means that I have more to learn, and that’s exciting! It’s also sort of fun being this confused. I remain undaunted, of course. Turtles are never daunted.

Let’s start with the word quantum. I didn’t know this, but quantum doesn’t mean “really small” or “subatomic”. It means a discrete quantity of something. So a Quantum of Solace is a discrete quantity of solace. A Quantum Leap is a discrete quantity of leap.

I didn’t know this either – at least I think I didn’t know this – but turtles like me are made of atoms. Humans are made of atoms, too. What else is made of atoms? Trees, rocks, air, hamburgers, and water. And that’s probably it. I’m kidding! It turns out that atoms make up everything, which is why you should never trust them. Ha! I love that joke. It’s funny because it’s true. I know because I have traveled to… the Quantum Realm. Sorry, I’m trying to turn my adventure into an award-winning HBO series about a turtle who accidentally falls into a matter transporter and travels to… the Quantum Realm. I need a show runner. Anyone know a show runner?

Anyway, atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons (except for hydrogen atoms, which don’t have any neutrons).

Here’s something fun that I didn’t know. Remember how we learned that matter is mostly empty space? Well, THAT IS ALL LIES! EMPTY SPACE IS NOT EMPTY!

Take a small bit of so-called “empty space” – a cubic centimeter or cubic millimeter – and zoom in. Further. Further than that. Even further. Keep going. You’re almost there. Wait, no. I lied. You’re not even close. Keep zooming in. A bit more. Keep going. Whoa, was that a stray hydrogen atom? What’s that doing here? It’s huge! And… keep going. Zoom in. Further. Even further. Keep going. A little bit more. Keep going. A bit more. Even more. And… stop. You’ve zoomed in a lot. A lot a lot. You are looking at an incredibly tiny chunk of space called the Planck length.

A Planck length is the distance that light travels in one unit of Planck time. As definitions go, THIS IS NOT HELPFUL. One unit of Planck time is incredibly short, so a Planck length is incredibly small. It’s the smallest distance of space that we can meaningfully measure.

Instead of nothing, which is what you’d expect to see while looking at something called empty space, you see weird bits of things that seem to bubble up out of nowhere and transform and disappear into nowhere over and over again. I found out later that these bubbling weird bits of things that change and disappear are called virtual particles. They’re real, but they’re called virtual particles.

The next thing I discovered is that subatomic particles like electrons are not what you think they are. Actually, I have no idea what you think electrons are. You might think electrons are negatively-charged, strawberry-scented, orange unicorns. I mean, you probably don’t think that. I don’t think that either. I didn’t think that before, and that’s not what I saw in my journey through… the Quantum Realm. (Last one, I promise.) Honestly, I’m not sure what I saw. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if electrons turned out to be negatively-charged, strawberry-scented, orange unicorns. I mean, they’re probably not, but I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S REAL ANYMORE!

I used to think that electrons were those negatively-charged particles that orbited the nuclei of atoms. They don’t orbit. They exist as clouds of probably located somewhere around atoms. There are plenty of free electrons, too.

As you probably know, electrons are elementary particles. They’re not made of other things. Protons are not fundamental particles. They’re made of smaller particles called quarks. Protons are made of three quarks (two up, one down) that are held together by gluons. Gluons are particles that “mediate the strong force between quarks”.

Electrons are also fermions, a group of subatomic particles that have mass (Hello, Higgs field!) and, generally speaking, make up stuff. Some particles are bosons, which don’t have mass. Gauge bosons (a special type of boson) carry or mediate different forces. Gluons are gauge bosons. Photons are gauge bosons, too, and they mediate the electromagnetic force (light). Light is emitted by vibrating electrons.

Subatomic particles like electrons are not at all like the macroscale particles – specks of dust, grains of sand, baseballs, etc. – that you and I encounter every day. A baseball has properties like mass, size, and shape that we can easily measure. If we throw a ball, we can measure its trajectory. We know where it is and how fast it is going. We can calculate its velocity, kinetic energy, and its momentum. We can make an incredibly accurate prediction about where it will land.

Electrons are not like that. Electrons don’t even have a size. They have a tiny bit of mass, but no size. They’re a zero-dimensional bit of negatively charged fuzzy stuff that is neither fuzzy nor stuff. And this description is probably at least mostly wrong.

Sometimes electrons act like particles. Sometimes they act like waves. It depends on if you look. It does not, or might not, depend on when you look.

Is it a Particle? Is it a Wave? It’s it Both? 

There is a very famous experiment called the double-slit experiment. You’ve probably heard of it. The first version of it was conducted in 1801 by Thomas Young. For a long time before that, scientists thought that light was made of tiny, tiny particles. Young’s experiment demonstrated that light is made of different waves. Leonhard Euler worked out some of the math to verify that light was waves, and his work was expanded on by Fresnel (the lens guy) and Poisson (the distribution guy). One challenge was that unlike sound waves, light waves don’t need to travel through a medium, but scientists back then didn’t know that. See “aether, luminiferous”. Then Faraday and Maxwell did their thing, and the “light is particles” idea was pretty much over. Until it wasn’t.

In the early 1900s, Max Planck was experimenting with electromagnetic radiation (light), and he noticed that his math only made sense if he treated the light waves as discrete packets or chunks. At first, this was just a kind of mathematical fudge. But Einstein took it seriously and incorporated into his description of the photoelectric effect.

So light was a particle. Then it was a wave. Then it was a particle again. Scientists were confused. Scientists love a big, juicy conundrum, so they designed new and better versions of the double-slit experiment. It works with photons. It works with electrons.  Scientists are still designing new and better versions of the double-slit experiment!

If you fire a beam of electrons at a barrier with very narrow slit cut in it, some of those electrons will bounce off the barrier. Some will go through the slit. Now let’s say you put a special, coated screen at the back. Every time an electron smacks into the screen, it leaves a bright little dot.

After a lot of electrons strike the screen, you get a clumpy, bright line on the screen. One clumpy line from a whole lot of electrons slamming into the screen. With one slit, the electrons absolutely behave like particles.

Now you cut a second slit in the barrier. When you fire the beam of electrons, you don’t get two clumpy lines on the screen, which is what you would expect if electrons were particles. Instead, you get five or seven or more clumpy lines interrupted by dark bands of, well, nothing. You get the signature interference pattern of a wave. What seems to happen is that some of the electron waves combined to become stronger (constructive interference). Those are the bright clumpy lines you see. Some of the electron waves canceled each other out (destructive interference). Those are the dark bands in between.

Okay. Maybe the electrons weren’t really acting like waves. Maybe they interfered with each other. Maybe they collided and bounced around or something. So you try the experiment again. This time you fire electrons at the screen one at a time. You give an electron time to hit the screen before you fire the next one. At the end of the experiment you still get the five or seven or more bright lines that indicate the interference pattern of waves.

An interference pattern would not happen if you did the double-slit experiment with macroscopic particles like paintballs or spherical turtles in a vacuum or something. Paintballs would not leave an interference pattern on the screen. I was going to try this with Beep and the other Discovery World turtles, but they refused to let me cover them in paint and fire them through a slit onto a screen.

But electrons are not turtles or paintballs, and they do create an interference pattern. Here’s where it gets a slightly weird.

You do some math, and you figure out that the wavy electrons seem to go through one slit, the other slit, both slits, and none of the slits all at the same time. That doesn’t make any sense, so you run the experiment again.

This time you place a detector in front of one of the slits. The detector’s job is to, well, detect which slit an electron passes through. You run the experiment again. This time you don’t get an interference pattern. You get two lines of impressions, a clumping pattern. This time the electrons acted like particles, and the only difference is that you were watching. It’s almost as if the electrons “knew” that you were watching, so they chose to act like particles. Their wave behavior or wave function disappeared.

So if you don’t measure or observe the electrons, they act like waves. If you do measure or observe the electrons, they act like particles. But what does measuring or observing or any kind of interaction have to do with anything? How can subatomic particles “know” they’re being watched? How can subatomic particles make choices? I HAVE NO IDEA! For even more on wave-particle duality see: “delayed-choice quantum eraser, the”. It’s a wildly complicated and clever version of the double-slit experiment that seems to imply retrocausality, but probably doesn’t, though maybe it does. It depends on who you ask.

The Wave Function

Electrons and other particles like photons have what is called a wave function. Everything has a wave function. You have a wave function, but your wave function is incredibly tiny because you are a large object. Wait, was that rude? Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. What I mean is that you are bigger than an electron.

The wave function is a mathematical description of the probabilities of what you can know about a quantum system. I think that last sentence is at least somewhat true.

What’s In the Box?

An electron. You put it there. Electrons move around a lot, so you don’t know precisely where the electron is. It has to be somewhere. The problem is that at any given moment, the electron could be anywhere. It might even be outside the box. You’d think it would be in the box because you put it in the box, but it might not be in the box. It’s more likely to be in some places (the box) than others (outside of the box). There’s even a small but non-zero chance that it’s on the other side of the Universe. The point is that you can’t predict where it is. You can only calculate (using the Schrödinger equation) where it might be. For all intents and purposes (or intensive porpoises), your electron is everywhere until you make a measurement.

Once you make a measurement and find out where the electron is, the wave function collapses. The probability of it being anywhere becomes 0, while the probability of it being where you found it is 1.

Entanglement

Electrons and other particles can also become entangled, which means that their quantum states are connected and they share a wave function.

With the right equipment, you can produce an entangled pair of electrons. Let’s say you have two entangled electrons. Their total spin needs to equal zero because of the Law of Conservation of Momentum.

(Electrons don’t really spin. Electrons have something called “intrinsic angular momentum”, which isn’t spin, but it is enough like spin that scientists call it spin even though it’s not like the spinning we normally associate with actual spinning things like wheels and gyroscopes and the Earth.)

If Electron A is in a state called spin down, Electron B will be in a state of spin up. Of course, the opposite could be true. You don’t know unless you make a measurement. And until you make a measurement, your entangled electrons don’t know either. They are in a state of being both spin up and spin down at the same time. This is called superposition. For more on superposition, see: “Cat, Schrödinger’s”. Physicists have also demonstrated superposition on things that are larger than electrons, including, I think, viruses.

After you make a measurement to determine the spin of Electron A, you know the spin of Electron B. This information is shared instantaneously by the entangled particles no matter how far apart Electrons A and B are. They could be on opposite sides of a lab, the Earth, the solar system, or the Universe. This is a bit of a head-scratcher because information isn’t supposed to travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum.

Some physicists don’t think there’s anything all that puzzling about any of this. Two entangled particles share a wave function. Measurement affects that wave function. Entangled particles don’t contain any hidden information. Everything is fine. Entangled particles do seem to communicate faster than light, but nothing violates Einstein’s Special Relativity because we cannot use entanglement to send information faster than light.

Let’s say you entangle a pair of electrons. Before you make a measurement, you send one of the entangled particles to a scientist friend in Japan. Then you make a measurement on the other. Remember that you don’t know what the measurement of your particle will be. It could be spin up. It could be spin down. It’s something of a coin flip. Your scientist friend in Japan doesn’t know either. You make your measurement. Your particle is spin up. You call and tell your scientist friend. She makes her measurement and confirms that her particle is spin down. She calls you back and tells you. The particles “chose” their state the instant you made your measurement, but the information about their state took a lot longer to get from you to your friend and back. Even if you had a detector that would send an automatic electronic “spin up” signal all the way to your friend’s lab in Japan, it would still take a little bit of time to get there. So even though the entangled particles “know” their state instantaneously, you don’t.

“Okay,” you might reasonably ask, “entanglement is neat and all, but how is this remotely useful?” Well, quantum computers rely on the entanglement and superposition of quantum bits or qubits.

And recently-ish (and this is cool), a group of researchers led by Dr. Gabriela Barreto Lemos in Anton Zeilinger’s laboratory at the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology took a photograph of an object using entangled photons as the source of light.

That doesn’t sound terribly amazing. You point a camera at an object, something adorable like a three-toed box turtle. Photons (light from a source like the sun or a light bulb or whatever) bounce off the object. You press the button, the electronic shutter opens, and some of that light finds its way into the camera. You get an image of the object. It all sounds perfectly ordinary, right?

Here’s the amazing part. Lemos and her team took an image using entangled photons. Let’s say for the sake of oversimplification that the team produced two groups of photons – an ‘A’ group and a ‘B’ group. Each photon in the ‘A’ group was entangled with a photon in the ‘B’ group. The researchers bounced all the ‘A’ photons off an object. The actual image of the object, however, was produced with the ‘B’ photons. The ‘B’ photons didn’t go anywhere near the object. Lemos and her team took a photograph of an object with light that hadn’t touched the object, hadn’t even been near the object. However, this light was entangled with other light that did. And that is a least slightly bananas.

Speaking of bananas, did you know that bananas sometimes emit anti-matter? It’s true. Bananas emit a positron (the positively charged anti-particle of the electron) every hour and fifteen minutes or so. All bananas have a small amount of radioactive potassium-40 in them. An incredibly small amount. (Bananas are safe. I love bananas. Beep and I eat bananas all the time. We don’t glow in the dark or anything.) As the potassium-40 decays, it releases a positron. Not all the time, but once in a while. The positron is immediately annihilated when it comes into contact with an ordinary electron. Where was I going with this? Oh! The point is that all subatomic particles have their own antiparticle. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Photons are their own anti-particle.

Ernst Stueckelberg and Richard Feynman took a look at something called the negative-energy solutions of the Dirac equation and figured out that if you squinted a bit (mathematically speaking), you could see that electrons would have a positive charge if they were moving backward through time.

I didn’t see that when I was in the Quantum Realm, though I’m not sure how to tell if something like a subatomic particle is moving forward or backward through time. Especially because I wasn’t sure what I was looking at to begin with. Anyway, Stueckelberg and Feynman concluded that positrons might just be electrons moving backward in time. Don’t worry, it gets weirder.

Archibald Wheeler thought that because all electrons are identical (and apparently they are really, really identical), all electrons are just the same electron everywhere all at once. If I didn’t know better, and I don’t, I’d say that sounds more like a field (electromagnetic, gravitational, Higgs, etc.) than a particle. That’s just a guess. I’m a turtle, not a scientist. I have no idea what I’m talking about.

So all electrons might be the same electron that is somehow everywhere at every moment. And all positrons could be that same electron everywhere at every moment, but moving backward in time. Wheee!

Okay, my brain hurts now. It could be a side effect of my journey through the Quantum Realm. Or maybe I’m not used to thinking this much. And all of this so much more wonderful and interesting and complicated than I’ve turtlesplained here.

My apologies, but you’ll still have to wonder whether the Copenhagen or Many Worlds interpretation (or one of the many other interpretations) of quantum mechanics is correct. I have no idea. The good news is that a lot of physicists, at least the ones who care about these kinds of things, aren’t quite sure either.

I think the thing that impresses me most about all of this is the math. The math works really, really well. It’s creative and complicated – often mind-bendingly complicated – and I don’t understand any of it yet, but it works.

Anyway, it’s great to be back. I’m going to stay away from Discovery World’s matter transporter for a while. And when I finally go to turtle school, I will pay extra attention in math class!

Be well,

Boop

Boop Versus the Creamsicle

Hi! It’s me, Boop! How are you? I’m great, thanks! I’ve been chilling (not literally, turtles are cold blooded, though we prefer the words ectotherms and ectothermic) in my tank, hanging out with BEEP MY BEST TURTLE FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD. If you’ve been to Discovery World since we reopened, awesome! It’s been great to see you! Thank you!

Tomorrow is National Creamsicle Day! Beep and I are excited! Just in case you don’t know what a Creamsicle is, it’s a Popsicle made of ice cream covered in orange sherbet. Creamsicles are delicious! Or so I’ve heard. Beep and I have never eaten a Creamsicle because we are turtles. According to the Aquarists, turtles don’t eat ice cream. We have tried explaining to the Aquarists that Beep and I are omnivores. We eat pretty much anything. By definition, “pretty much anything” includes Creamsicles, right? Of course it does.

Well, the Aquarists think they “know better” because they “went to school” to “learn” all about biology and have “years of experience” “taking care” of aquatic and semi-aquatic creatures. So they’re the “experts”. Well, thppppt! I WANT A CREAMSICLE!

By the way, ice cream and related frozen treats have a whole lot of National Days. Like a lot a lot. There’s National Vanilla Milkshake Day, National Ice Cream Soda Day, National Bomb Pop Day, National Ice Cream Day, National Strawberry Sundae Day, National Peach Ice Cream Day, National Vanilla Ice Cream Day, National Hot Fudge Sundae Day, National Milkshake Day, National Root Beer Float Day, National Creamsicle Day, National Banana Split Day, National Chocolate Milkshake Day, and National Sundae Day. To be fair, none of these are quite as silly as National Candied Orange Peel Day. May 4, 2021. Go pound sand (it’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere), Star Wars Day. It’s National Candied Orange Peel Day. Mark your calendars!

To be even fairer, candied orange peels probably need a day to remind everyone that they exist. I bet you can’t even remember the last time you thought to yourself, “Gosh, I really could go for some candied orange peels right about now.” Ice cream, however, needs to chill. Ha! The average American eats 5.5 gallons of ice cream each year. No one forgets about ice cream.

Anyway, Beep and I were undaunted (turtles are never daunted!), so we decided to make our own Creamsicles. Obviously, we couldn’t call them Creamsicles, and obviously we would add chopped up mealworms. Like bacon, mealworms make everything better.

Don’t ask me how (turtles never reveals their sources), but we were able to secure heavy cream, milk, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, vanilla, orange juice (for the sherbet), and mealworms.

There was only one thing standing in our way. Heat. Ice cream is cold. We had no way to make cold happen. To make cold happen you have to move heat somewhere else. We didn’t have a way to do that. We didn’t have a freezer. Ice is also cold, but we didn’t have a way to make ice. Sure, we could sneak out and find ice somewhere, but where’s the fun in that? I mean, there’s fun in everything we do, but Beep and I wanted a different kind of challenge. How could we make ice without electricity?

So this one time, Beep and I watched a movie about ice. It was a small, indie film that came out a few years ago called Frozen. You’ve probably never heard of it. Anyway, one of the main characters was able to make ice with her magical ice powers. She made a lot of ice. She sang about the ice. And then [SPOILER ALERT] she made the ice go away. It was a pretty good movie.

Beep and I don’t have magical ice powers, but we did remember that at the beginning of the film, there were guys with big saws and other tools that they used to cut huge blocks of ice off the top of a river (or lake, maybe?). Then they hauled the ice away on sleds that were pulled by reindeer. I assume they stored the ice in insulated buildings or underground or whatever to keep until summer. It takes a lot of energy to melt ice, so it’s entirely possible that you could store ice for a long time in an insulated, underground cellar.

Beep and I did not have a frozen river, nor did we know where to find one. We did not have big, dangerous tools. We did not have sleds. We did not have reindeer. We did not have a singing snowman. EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE A SINGING SNOWMAN FRIEND. How could we possibly make ice?

How did anyone make ice back before refrigeration? Could we even make ice?

If you lived in a place that had mountains nearby, you could head off into the hills in search of snow. You could then pack the snow into containers and store it in underground cellars that were lined with straw. That’s what a lot of ancient (and probably not so ancient) people did. Milwaukee is not very mountainous, and it’s not winter yet. We had no snow to work with. And if there was snow on the ground, it would be too cold for us turtles to function (we’re ectotherms). So snow was right out.

Then Beep and I discovered that some ancient peoples were actually able to make their own ice. We did not know this, but by around 400 BCE, ancient Persians had mastered the science of evaporative cooling, which works really well in a dry climate.

(Trees cool the air through an evaporative cooling process called transpiration. You experience evaporative cooling when you sweat, assuming that it’s not too humid out. It takes a lot of heat energy to evaporate water, so as the water evaporates, the heat leaves you. Turtles don’t sweat, so if we get too hot we have to slip into a pond or find some shade.)

The Persians engineered incredibly sophisticated, insulated, domed towers called Yakhchāls. Water came in from an underground aqueduct and ran down the sides to a pit where it froze at night. At the same time, warmer air was continuously vented out the top. It’s a little more complicated than that, but everything is. Persians generally made ice in the Yakhchāls in winter, but the ice would remain frozen the entire year. This was in the desert, where it gets really hot during the day! That’s incredible!

I’ll spare you the details (because there aren’t any), but Beep and I built our very own Yakhchāl. It took a bit of doing to build the underground aqueduct and find the right combination of sand, clay, egg whites, lime, goat hair, and ash to make the waterproof, insulating mortar. Goat hair was probably the hardest to find, but we have our sources.

Our Yakhchāl worked beautifully. We had ice! And then we hit another snag. Ice isn’t cold enough to turn cream into ice cream. We needed a way to lower the freezing point of water in order to get the ice water cold enough to freeze cream. You already know what Beep and I needed to do next. Beep and I didn’t know, though. We were stuck.

We were about to abandon our lifelong dream of making Creamsicles from scratch, but then Beep remembered that you humans put salt on the roads in winter. At 32°F, water molecules link up and form crystals. Salt lowers the freezing point of water by gumming that process up. And because you’ve lowered the freezing point of water, the ice that is still ice will begin to melt. In order to melt, ice must absorb energy from the surrounding water, which lowers the water’s temperature to around 15°F. That’s cold enough to freeze cream!

The endothermic effect of adding salt to ice and water to get to temperatures below 32°F was known at least as far back as the 13th century in Syria, and possibly earlier in India. Ancient humans were smart!

Anyway, Beep and I were home and dry! Okay, we had to sneak into one of the labs and 3D print Creamsicle molds and “borrow” some Popsicle sticks from another lab. Then we were home and dry.

We combined our ingredients. We prepared our ice, water, and salt solution. We stirred, we churned, we mixed. We added mealworms. We poured the ice cream into the molds. We put the molds into the salt water. We added more ice. We added more salt. We waited. And we waited.

And then the Aquarists discovered that we were making ice cream. They made us take down our Yakhchāl (take my word for it, our Yakhchāl was pretty cool). And they took our ice cream away from us. Turtles don’t eat ice cream, they said. I know they are right. They are the experts, after all. Still, Beep and I were very sad. And we still don’t know what a Creamsicle tastes like. We don’t know what ice cream tastes like. Or sherbet or ice pops, sorbet, halo-halo, ais kacang, snow cones, shave ice, pragua, granita, faloodeh… there are so many that I want to try!

Be well,

Boop!

Turtle Trivia Time – the Answers!

Hi there. It’s me, Boop! What kind of Turtle-Knower are you? Here are the Turtle Trivia answers! Remember that you get ten points for each correct answer. Let us know how you did! Ready? Here we go!

Question #1

My shell is part of my skeleton. About how many bones does my shell have?

a. 4
b. 11
c. 43
d. 50

The answer is D. Turtles like me have over 50 bones in our shells. Who knew turtle shells were so complicated? You did! If you got this one right.

Question #2

What are the top and bottom parts of my shell called?

a. Carapace and Plastron
b. Keratin and Scute
c. Orpheus and Eurydice
d. Gamera and Guiron

It’s A. The top part of my shell is called the carapace, and the bottom part is called the plastron. My shell is covered in scutes (tough scale-like things) that are made of keratin, and keratin is the protein that your fingernails are made of. Rhinoceros horns are made of keratin, too. Gamera is the big kaiju turtle who battled Guiron in the 1969 movie Gamera vs. Guiron.

Question #3

The largest turtle in the world is the…

a. three-toed box turtle (lol, I wish)
b. alligator snapping turtle
c. leatherback turtle
d. Zambezi flapshell turtle

The answer is C. Leatherback sea turtles can grow over seven feet long and weigh over 1,500 pounds! Alligator snapping turtles can grow to nearly three-feet long and weigh nearly 250 pounds. Zambezi flapshell turtles can grow to just under two-feet long and weigh around 30 pounds.

Question #4

The smallest turtle in the world is the…

a diamondback terrapin
b. bog turtle
c. speckled padloper
d. spotted turtle

Okay, so it depends. The critically endangered (yikes!) bog turtle is considered to be the smallest turtle in North America. It typically grows to around 3.5 inches. The speckled padloper from South Africa is a tortoise. The males grow to around three inches while the females grow to around four inches. The spotted turtle is also found in North America, and it grows to between 3.5 inches and five inches. Male diamondback terrapins grow to around seven inches while female diamondback terrapins can grow to around nine inches. So give yourself ten points no matter which turtle, tortoise, or terrapin you picked.

What’s the difference between a turtle and a terrapin? That depends. In the UK, a turtle lives in the sea, a terrapin lives on land and in fresh water, and a tortoise lives completely on land. This definition generally works (sort of, mostly) in other parts of the world. Also in the UK, a lift is an elevator, a lorry is a truck, a jumper is a sweater, and a queue is a line.

In the US, a turtle can live in either salt water (sea turtles) or in fresh water (turtles like me). Terrapins live in fresh or brackish water but spend more time on land than turtles do. Tortoises only live on land. We don’t use the word terrapin a whole lot here in the US. Unless you attended the University of Maryland. Then you use or have used the word terrapin more.

Question #5

The largest turtle that ever lived was the…

a. Notochelone
b. Protostega
c. Archelon

It’s C. The Archelon was the largest turtle ever. It lived in the Late Cretaceous period (roughly 70-100 million years ago). The largest Archelon ever found was 15 feet long and probably weighed almost 5,000 pounds!

Question #6 

Blanding’s Turtle, endemic to the Great Lakes region, never seems to…

a. eat
b. sleep
c. have fun
d. get old

D. Blanding’s turtles have lots of fun! They never seem to age, though. They’re like the Paul Rudd of the turtle world. They don’t live forever (80-90 years), but they don’t seem to experience aging the way other creatures do. Blanding’s turtles are, and it pains me to say this because I am a turtle, endangered.

Question #7

Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, lead singers of the 1960s rock band The Turtles (“Happy Together”), have also…

a. worked with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
b. recorded with Bruce Springsteen
c. written soundtracks for the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons
d. recorded with the band T. Rex
e. all of the above

This question has nothing to do with actual turtles. These two have lived pretty interesting lives, though.

Question #8

The concept of a World Turtle (a turtle that holds up the world) can be found in…

a. Hindu mythology
b. Chinese mythology
c. the mythologies of various Indigenous Peoples of the Northeastern Woodlands, including the Huron and Iroquois
d. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series
e. all of the above

Yep, it’s E. The idea of a World Turtle is found in lots of different mythologies. Turtles are pretty awesome after all.

Question #9

Why did the turtle cross the road?

a. The chicken was on vacation.
b. The turtle was busy doing turtle stuff like traveling to its nesting ground, looking for food, or searching for a mate.

It’s B! If you happen to see a turtle crossing the road, you can help get it across safely.

  1. Make sure you are safe! Put on your hazard lights. Watch for traffic. Be safe.
  2. Never pick a turtle up by its tail. A turtle’s spinal column runs from its head down its back (it’s actually fused to our carapaces) and through its tail.
  3. Pick the turtle up by the back of its top shell – one hand on each side of its tail – and carry it across. If you are helping a snapping turtle, keep your fingers away from its mouth. They have surprisingly long necks. And they’re fast. Place the turtle on a car mat or something you can slide. Turn it around and slide it backwards (so it can’t bite you) across the road.
  4. Once you get to the other side, point the turtle in the direction it was going. They were going that way for a reason.

Oh! Speaking of chickens… why does a chicken coop have two doors? If it had four doors, it would be a chicken sedan. I love that joke.

Question #10

Turtles have excellent eyesight. In fact, we can see at least one color better than humans can. What is it?

a. Purple
b. Blue
c. Red
d. Green

It’s C! Turtles have a gene that allows us to see the color red better than humans do.

Question #11

True or False: Turtles are adorable!

It’s true, but you already knew that.

How did you do? What was your score?

0-40 Points – You are a Beginning Turtle-Knower. That’s great! There’s so much more to know about turtles. Keep on exploring!

50-70 Points – You are an Advanced Turtle-Knower. Awesome! Keep on knowing things about turtles.

80-110 Points – You are a Master of Knowing Things About Turtles. The world of turtles is amazing, and you know a lot about it! Yay, you!

Science of Sound: Boop Learns to Play the Piano

Hello! It’s me, Boop! I’m the Discovery World spokesturtle! Beep and I are doing well. We hope you are well as well.

Good news, everyone! We are working on a plan to reopen! And by “we”, I mean the people here who make these kinds of plans and decisions, not Beep and me. If it were up to us turtles, we’d open Discovery World tomorrow. Beep and I really miss you!

It’s probably better that decisions like this are not up to us turtles. Turtles make plans and decisions all the time of course, but they’re typically more about which pieces of lettuce to eat first. Those kinds of decisions don’t exactly, uh, scale up? Sure. Regardless, Discovery World is not opening tomorrow.

(Did you fill out the survey? Please fill out the survey, and let us know what you’re thinking. Your thoughts and ideas will help us figure out the best way to reopen.)

Last week, Beep and I made a Time Machine. It went okay. This week, Beep and I are taking piano lessons! It’s super fun. We’re not taking formal lessons. Beep and I sneak up to the Pilot House whenever we can and bang around on the piano up there. That’s almost the same as formal lessons, probably.

The first time that Beep and I discovered the piano, we thought that it was broken. The middle of the keyboard worked great, but there was no sound on the left or right sides of the keyboard. We were banging and pounding and wailing away on those keys as hard as we could, but we couldn’t hear anything.

Then the Aquarists found us. We couldn’t figure out how they found us because we were being super quiet. It turns that we were not being super quiet (or any kind of quiet), and the piano works just fine. Turtle’s don’t have very good hearing. I did not know that. Other animals have really great hearing. Turtles not so much.

Did you know that elephants can hear clouds forming? That’s amazing. I can’t hear clouds forming. I didn’t even know that clouds made noise. I wonder what else makes a noise that I don’t know about. I don’t even know what I can’t hear, because how would I know, you know?

It’s like trying to smell with your knees, maybe. If your knees could smell a few things but not most things. Can you smell with your knees? I can’t smell with my knees. Catfish can taste stuff with their skin and stingrays can sense electrical fields, so it’s not an entirely silly question. Also, I don’t know all there is to know about humans. Where was I? Oh, right.

Noise. Sound. Hearing. As you already know, sound is mechanical energy, pressure waves that travel through the air and into your ears. I assume those big sticky-out things on the sides of your head are ears. Those are your ears, right? Sorry, was that rude? And did I say big? I meant adorable. Turtles have ears, too! You can’t see my ears. Turtle have internal ears.

Turtle ears transform the mechanical energy of sounds waves into electrical signals. Our brains interpret those electrical signals as noises and sounds. Your ears transform mechanical energy into electrical signals, and your brain interprets those electrical signals as noises and sounds and language and music and all the other wonderful things that you can hear.

Sound waves have amplitudes and frequencies. The greater the amplitude, the louder the sound.

The frequency of a sound is the number of vibrations or cycles per second. The greater the frequency, the higher the pitch. The lower the frequency, the lower the pitch. Frequency is measured in something called Hertz (Hz). On a piano, Middle C (C4) has a frequency of 261.6 Hz. Concert A (A4) has a frequency of 440 Hz. That’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that turtles can only hear frequencies from around 200 Hz to 750 Hz. That’s a range of less than two octaves. I can hear Middle C and Concert A, but I can’t hear most of the piano keys. The lowest note on a piano with 88 keys is A0. It has a frequency of 25.7 Hz. I can’t hear that at all. I can feel the vibrations, but I can’t hear it. The highest note on a piano is C8 at 4186 Hz. That’s way beyond what I can hear.

That’s why Beep and I thought the piano was broken! It’s also how the Aquarists found us. We thought we were being stealthy, but instead we were being really loud. We had no idea!

You humans can hear sounds with a frequency from 20 Hz (lower than the lowest note on a piano) all the way to 20,000 Hz. You have a hearing range of around 10 octaves! What does the world even sound like to you? I can’t even imagine!

Elephants can hear sounds as low as 12 cycles per second and as high as 12,000 cycles per second. That’s around 10 octaves. Your dog has a hearing range of roughly 67 Hz to 45,000 Hz. That’s just under ten octaves.

Your dog has pretty much the same range of hearing as you do, but your dog can hear ultrasonic frequencies. You can’t. Of course, the only reason you call those frequencies ultrasonic is that they’re above the threshold of what you can hear. Infrasonic frequencies are below what you can hear. What’s ultrasonic to you is plain old sonic to your dog. And what’s infrasonic to you is regular sonic to an elephant.

A lot of what’s sonic to you is ultrasonic to me. And a lot of what’s sonic to you is infrasonic to me. That’s okay. I smell better than you do. I mean, I have a better sense of smell than you do, not that I smell better than you. I don’t know how you smell. You probably smell very nice.

Your hearing is pretty great, though. Porpoise hearing is even better. They can hear from 75 Hz (D2 on the piano) all the way to 153,000 Hz. That’s around 11 octaves!

Bats (though it varies a lot by species) can hear sounds from around 9,000 Hz to 250,000 Hz.

Some moths can hear the high-frequency echolocation chirps of bats. That seems pretty useful, especially if you spend a good deal of your evening trying not to get eaten by bats. Some moths send out their own high-frequency chirps that disrupt bat echolocation. I had no idea moths were so clever.

There are so many sounds out there that I’ve never heard, that I don’t even know about. What’s your favorite sound? What sound would you most like to hear, if you could?

Anyway, the wonderful Aquarists here are super-supportive of my piano playing. My first recital next week, and I’ll be performing John Cage’s 4’33”. The Aquarists are making sure that I practice it a lot! Over and over and over again, in fact. I’m a little nervous, but I’m sure I’ll do great.

Be well,

Boop!

Boop’s First Rule of Time Travel

Hello! It’s me, Boop! I’m the Discovery World spokesturtle. How are you? Beep and I were a little bored this week.

This was not the kind of bored you get on a rainy, Saturday afternoon where you read a book and then spend a good hour staring out the window. This was a different kind of bored. It was the kind of bored you get after like three months of rainy Saturday afternoons. Sure, you know that at some point that it will stop raining and the sun will come out. Maybe it’ll be even sooner than you hoped, but no one can say for sure. But it won’t be today, and it probably won’t be tomorrow. Sigh. Beep and I were that kind of bored.

We needed to get into mischief! Turtles are excellent at getting into mischief. Constructive mischief. Creative mischief. The good kind of mischief.

We thought about making one of those inspirational song videos and posting it on Twitter. You know, like all those celebrities did a few weeks or a million years ago. They sang “Imagine” by John Lennon. We wanted to do that, but better. Beep wanted to sing “Groove is in the Heart”. I told Beep that “Groove is in the Heart” is not sufficiently inspirational. Yes, I was wrong. I know that now. The fish wanted to sing “Rolling in the Deep” because they’re huge fans of Adele. Also, they’re fish and rolling in the deep is what they do. The jellyfish wanted to sing “Shoop” by Salt-N-Peppa. I wanted to sing “Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige. It is inspirational, and it slaps. Anyway, none of us could agree on a song, so Beep and I had to find something else to do.

Then we realized that we had an entire science center to ourselves (though we would very much rather not have the entire place to ourselves). Luckily, Discovery World is filled with exactly the right kind of stuff we needed to get into exactly the right kind of mischief. We had exhibits we could “borrow”. We had labs. We had microscopes, electronics, tools, and design supplies. All we needed was a plan.

Our first thought was to build a matter transporter. Press a button and travel instantly from one point to another. A matter transporter would be awesome. It takes almost forever to get anywhere when you’re a turtle. With a matter transporter we could “beam” ourselves to the Domes, the City Hall Bell Tower, Lake Emily underneath the old Northwestern Mutual Building, the flame on top of the Wisconsin Gas building, that bronze statue of zombie Henry Winkler, or anywhere in Milwaukee we wanted to go!

So we built one. It worked! We managed to transport a half-eaten piece of melon from my mouth to about three feet away from my mouth. But then Beep and I hit a snag. Well, I hit a snag. Beep was the snag. Beep didn’t want to be the test pilot turtle. Especially after I explained

that the matter transporter scans you, stores your pattern in a computer, dismantles you atom by atom, and then creates a new you, a copy of you, somewhere else. The you that you used to be is dead, and there’s a nearly-identical new you in a new place. Anyway, Beep was afraid of the matter transporter! Lol. That ended our promising matter transporter experiments.

What else could we build? Beep and I thought about it. We thought about it some more. Beep and I decided that it would be fun to see what Milwaukee was like over a hundred years ago. So we decided to build a time machine. Yes, traveling backwards in time is “impossible”. For humans. Turtles have a whole different kind of theoretical physics that is, um, a lot more theoretical.

Boop’s First Law of Time Machines is that they spin really fast. So Beep and I dismantled the huge DNA sculpture in the Technology Building because we needed a powerful motor. Boop’s Second Law of Time Machines is that a proper time machine needs a Steampunk aesthetic. So we borrowed some of the gears and other spinning things in the Milwaukee Muscle exhibit. Boop’s Third Law of Time Machines is that they need a safe and comfortable place to sit. So we took the chair and pneumatics from Discovery World’s driving simulator.

Finally our time machine was complete. We were ready to travel through time! We set the dial to 1910. We pressed the big red button and pulled the big shiny lever.

We spun and spun and spun until we were dizzy. We wobbled out of the time machine and… into the future! Thirty-two seconds into the future, the exact same amount of time we had been spinning. We had built a spinning machine, not a time machine.

Undaunted (turtles are never daunted!), we found a better way to travel back to the past. We found digital Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Library website. Check them out!

Fire insurance maps are detailed maps of a city that were drawn up for fire insurance companies. All the streets are labeled. Lots of them are still there and have the same names. Lots of businesses are labeled, too, so you can discover what kinds of businesses operated back then. Beep and I found tanneries and manufacturers and machine shops and plasterworks and coal stations and pumping stations and schools and hospitals and all kinds of interesting stuff. And you can see what the buildings were made of. Pink buildings were brick or stone. Yellow buildings were made of wood.

There are fire insurance maps from 1910 and 1894, so you can see how the city has grown over time! The 1910 maps are arranged sort of like Google Maps, which makes it super easy to explore. The 1894 maps are a little harder to dig through. Click on a numbered area of the city. That will take you to the corresponding volume. The Index is a list of all the businesses, churches, hospitals, schools, and other things in that volume. Each page in the volume is numbered section of the city map. This will make more sense once you start exploring.

So Beep and I explored the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, and we got to travel back to the past, sort of. And we have a fun new spinning machine, which is awesome. I suppose we’ll have to take it apart and put everything back together before we reopen. That’s okay. We’d much rather have an open Discovery World than a spinning machine.

When will we reopen? Soon. We don’t know for sure. We’re going to take it slowly and carefully. And that’s good, because it gives Beep and I more time to put the moving DNA sculpture back together. Putting complicated things back together is complicated. Who knew?

Be well,

Boop!

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,

Boop!

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?

SCIENCE TIME!

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.

ONE MORE FUN FACT! WELL, TWO, BUT THESE FACTS ARE SO FUN WE’RE NOT STOPPING TO COUNT THEM!

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,

Boop!

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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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