The Quantum Classroom

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Quick! What’s behind you right now? Did you peek over to see desks, the wallpaper, students, books, or toys? Were those objects there even before you looked at them? Are they there now, even though you’re reading this instead of seeing them? As strange as it sounds, some scientists believe that nothing exists definitely until someone measures it, such as you did with your eyes and ears. These scientists work in a field of science called Quantum Mechanics.

In the early 1900s, smarty-pants scientists like Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and Werner Heisenberg studied, experimented and argued over the question of what light was made of. Light was very mysterious to scientists at the time, because in some experiments it acted like a wave, similar to the invisible radio and magnetic waves all around us. In other experiments though, light acted like a particle, a solid object like a Pop Tart, a textbook, a penny, a skyscraper… Anything that’s in one place and that weighs something is a particle. It didn’t seem to make sense for something to be an invisible wave and a solid particle at the same time, but in test after test, light was both! You might think it was time for these scientists to turn in their labcoats and get new jobs… this was too hard to figure out! Instead of giving up though, the scientists continued experimenting and studying the subject until they found a solution: light is a wave until it gets observed, then it becomes a solid particle!

This was huge news for scientists. If light acts like this, then other solid objects may not be so solid after all too. The scientists studying Quantum Mechanics presented this thought-provoking possibility: that that the world is actually a wave of possibilities until we observe it, then it becomes the solid place we can feel, touch, taste and smell. It’s a bit like hiding trash under your bed: if you can’t see it, it’s not there!

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Facebook Contest…Enter to Win!

Don’t pass this up guys! It’s easy and fun, and you could win your own personal elibrary. Starting now through December 31, check out our facebook page and post on our wall.  All you have to do is write your favorite thing about reading or the holidays.  And hey, you could “Like” us while you’re at it!

For example my favorite thing about Christmas is the hot Russian tea at my hometown tree farm, and the smell of my favorite Christmas tree candle. 

If you are in the holiday spirit to share your favorite thing about the holidays, or your favorite thing about reading, do it now while you still have a chance to win! We will be giving out 5 free personal elibraries between now and the end of December.

With one click, these eBooks read aloud to the children and page-flip from the beginning of a story to the end. Put a child in front of this eLibrary, and they will “play” for hours on end reading and listening to wonderful, award-winning picture books. We encourage parents to take this excitement and discuss the “For Creative Minds” section at the end of each ebook with their child. Each book homepage also has 40-60 pages of cross-curricular Teaching Activities plus 3 Interactive Reading Comprehension and Math Quizzes.

And since I’m in such a holiday spirit, I can’t help but share the recipe to the best hot winter drink EVER!

  • 1 cup of instant tea
  • 2 cups of tang
  • 1 tsp of cloves
  • 1 package of Wylers lemonade mix
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar (or less depending on taste)

Directions: Mix all of this together and keep it in a tightly sealed jar. Use 2 heaping teaspoons for one cup of tea.

And Wha Lah! There you have it…the best winter drink of all time!

What is a Synesthete?

So I came across a new word today: Synesthete. What in the world is that?  As I hope you know, reading can bring all sorts of new experiences and knowledge.  Here’s what I learned today through taking a few minutes to read something new and interesting:

A Synesthete is a person with a sensory image condition called Synesthesia.  For a long time, scientists didn’t bother to study these patients because they claim that they can hear colors and taste words!  How unusual is that? 

There was never any way to prove if these people were making it up, thus causing the condition to be widely misunderstood for many years. Also, Synesthetes tend to describe the things they see and feel in extreme detail, which has prompted scientists to link them to schizophrenics and other people with mental incapacities. 

Now, however, scientists are starting to learn that this condition is not an incapacity at all.  In fact, they are trying to prove that all humans are wired with the potential for Synesthesia…that it is just suppressed from us for some unknown reason. 

I hate calling this strange phenomenon a condition because it offers people certain benefits to creative thinking.  What if we can find a way in the future to unblock the neural path to Synesthesia?  If studies indicate that Synesthesia is about seven times more common in artists, poets, and novelists than in the rest of the population, does this mean that we can all have the maximum potential for creativitiy?

We can all be writers and artists! As Synesthetes are better at linking unrelated ideas, would we be able to find connections and hidden links to many of the mysteries we are investigating today?  You wait and see…I wouldn’t be surprised if a Synesthete discovered the cure to cancer!   

Also, some Synesthetes have been known to perform amazing feats of memorization, such as remembering the value of pi to 22,514 digits, while others are able to distinguish between very similar colors or have a heightened sense of touch.  Whatever the condition heightens, a math genius, or an artist could be born.

Now, just because we don’t all have Synesthesia, or access to it, this doesn’t mean we can’t be whatever we want to be.  Anyone can write a story, and anyone can be an author.  Sylvan Dell Publishing is proof of this, as we ourselves are a small, but quickly growing company.  Many of the books we publish are written by first time authors.  Habitat Spy, Hey Diddle DiddleThe Penguin Lady, and Gopher to the Rescue! are only a few.  

Take a look at these books, read them with your kids, and make sure to tell them that any time they choose, they could be a first time author too!

Let’s Celebrate Antarctic Day!

Tomorrow, November 22nd, is Antarctic Day! This is a day to celebrate our neighbors way way south where the penguins and icicles play. This may be a nice place to visit, if you can handle the extreme cold, but I think it’s safe to say that none of us would want to live there.  Since we won’t be unpacking for good any time soon in the Antarctic, how about we give it its own special day and celebrate!

Here are some interesting and fun facts to get you and your kids excited about the Antarctic:

  • To avoid confusion, the Antarctic is the region around our Earth’s South Pole, while the Arctic region opposite it is around Earth’s North Pole.  Now which one does Santa fly from again? 
  • Did you know that that there are no polar bears in this southern region?  They only live in the Northern Hemisphere.  Penguins, on the other hand, are abundant in the Antarctic. 
  • The very first human to be born in the Antarctic was named Solveig Gunbjørg Jacobsen (have fun pronouncing that one!).  He was born on October 8 of 1913.
  • This region had no indigenous people living in it when it was first discovered
  • There are more tourists that visit the Antarctic each year than people who actually live there!

Well there you go! To find out more about the Antarctic, keep an eye out for our new title coming in February of 2012, called “The Penguin Lady,”by Carol A. Cole. In this picture book, Penelope Parker lives with penguins!  Short ones, tall ones; young and old—the penguins are from all over the Southern Hemisphere including some that live near the equator! Do the penguin antics prove too much for her to handle? Children count and then compare and contrast the different penguin species as they learn geography.

In the meantime, however, you can learn all about the Antarctic’s rival region, the Arctic, by checking out our wonderful title, “In Arctic Waters,” by Laura Crawford.  While reading this book, you and your child can follow polar bears, walruses, seals, narwhals, and beluga whales while they chase each other around the ice in the Arctic waters!  It is a pure delight to read aloud, and the “For Creative Minds” section helps children learn how these animals live in the cold, icy arctic region. 

For our Beloved Book Lovers

Today, November 7th, is National Bookstore Day.  It is also Book Lover’s Day.  What better time could there be to make a trip to your closest bookstore and buy that book you have been itching to get your hands on.  I know that I have my own growing list that alternates between my purse and back pocket.  Go buy a book today, or buy several…the holiday season is here after all.  You may not think it, but I can assure you, books do in fact fit in Christmas stockings!

Better yet, take a hunt around our website.  To those of you with younger children, we have many fun to read books that you can order today.  As you may know, Sylvan Dell has grown to include more than 75 authors and illustrators in the United States and Canada, and 65 titles – honored as finalists or winners of over 70 book awards. Our Science and Math Through Literature Program integrates reading, science, math, geography, character skills, and language learning through fun, cross-curricular activities. Sylvan Dell also provides more online educator resources than any other publisher in the United States.

And on a random note…here’s some interesting facts about Daylight Savings Time…that wonderful mock holiday of ours that bewilders us all:

  • According to computer scientist, David Prerau, Ben Franklin—of “early to bed and early to rise” fame—was the first person to suggest the concept of daylight savings.
  • Franklin noted that the sun would rise far earlier than he usually did.  He determined that resources would be saved if he and others rose before noon and burned less midnight oil.
  • Germany was the first place to adopt these time changes, thereby saving coal for the war effort during WWI.
  • In the USA, a federal law standardized the yearly start and end of daylight saving time in 1918…during WWII, it was made mandatory, in order to save wartime resources.  It was even enforced year-round during this time…essentially making it the new standard time for a few years.
  • During the 1973-74 Arab oil embargo, the USA again extended daylight saving time through the winter.  This caused a 1% decrease in the country’s electrical load. 

Halloween Games for Kids!

Nervous about how to deal with the increased levels of sugar intake your children will be getting this time of year? Well, here are some ways to help them stay active and burn the energy off.

The Monster Mash, as we all know, is a classic Halloween tune.  As it has been around since 1962, what would be better than to keep it alive and kicking?  You can turn this song into your own Halloween version of freeze tag.  We’ll call it Monster Mash Freeze Dance.  Kids can dance while the song is being played, but when the music is stopped at random intervals, participants must freeze in place or be out.  The last one standing is the winner!

How about Pumpkin bowling?  This is one of those games that will keep children on their feet.  You can use standard plastic bowling pins and a mini pumpkin as the ball.  Kids compete to see who can knock down the most pins.  This game can even be incorporated into your very own obstacle course

Do you remember the egg and spoon race?  Turn it into the eyeball and spoon race!  You can use an egg, or if you’re looking for less mess, a ping pong ball.  Paint it to look like an eyeball and have kids race to the finish line without dropping the eye.  To make it more fun and creative, kids canpaint their own eye before competing in the race. 

Conduct your very own Skeleton Scavenger Hunt!  You can cut different bone shapes from paper or even buy plastic ones from a toy store or craft shop.  Have the kids roam around in search of these different parts.  You can even see if the little party guests can reassemble their bony treasures into a complete skeleton set.

Play Musical Pumpkins!  You can set up an arrangement of differently painted or carved pumpkins and have kids move between them while music plays…just like in musical chairs.  A pumpkin is removed after each round.  By the end of the game, kids are running around trying to squeeze into one spot.  For variety, you can used spider webs, tombstones, or even witchy cauldrons as your targets. 

I bet you haven’t heard of this one: The Witch’s Stew game. Cut ten Halloween shapes, such as ghosts, bats, and pumpkins from construction paper.  Each shape should be about the size of a silver dollar.  Using a straw as a vacuum, each contestant can try to pick up a shape and place it in the bowl to create Witch’s Stew.  You can time the players to see who gets all ten of the shapes into the bowl the fastest.  Even cut out several sets of shape and set up differentcauldrons.  This way kids can have some fun with head to head races.

And lastly…play Wrap the Mummy.  It’s always a hit. Divide the children into groups of three to five kids. Select one child in each group to be a mummy. Then give the other children a roll of toilet paper or crepe paper. Instruct them to wrap the mummy with the paper, leaving the eyes, nose and mouth uncovered. The first group to be done with their roll of paper,wins!

The Many Facets of Halloween!

Our celebration of Halloween today is but a pale representation of its actual rich and multicultural history.  It was once a celebration marking the end of the growing season, and a heralding of the coming winter months.  It is told that this day, of all days in the year, is the one in which the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest.  It is the day that ghouls and ghosts can walk among the living.  While costumes today are for entertainment and fun, they were once used to confuse the dead and keep the living safe on this supernatural night.  Blended from several origins, including the Celts, Romans, and Catholic tradition, Halloween came to be it’s own special celebration.  Today, however, it has become a nationally commercial holiday, supported by a consumer based economy. 

Back in the old days…with the history of the Celts, Druid priests were believed to have the ability to commune with the dead.  It was rumored that their powers were the most powerful on the last day of the year: Samhain (sow-en) according to the Celtic calendar.  On this day, the Celtic people would extinguish their hearth fires and gather in front of a bonfire for the evening instead.  A celebration of singing, dancing, and listening to stories would ensue.  At the end of the evening, each family would take some of the bonfire home and relight it in their hearths in hopes of good fortune for their home and family in the coming year.  If it did not light, misfortune or death would come to someone in the house that year. The celebration of Halloween does not come directly from this day, however, for credit can also be given to the practice of several other cultures.

For instance, in the New World, Halloween was largely disallowed.  In Maryland, however, it was encouraged, and people would attend parties with singing and dancing and ghost stories.  Children would dress in costumes and try to scare one another.  The actual tradition of trick-or-treating from door to door, did not begin until the Irish immigrants brought it with them when they came fleeing from the Potato Famine. 

In relation to Pagan tradtion, this night was determined to be the night that a young woman would find out her future husband.  This would be done by looking into a mirror in a dark room or by peeling an apple and casting the peel over her shoulder.  Many Christian churches, who believed such paganistic rituals would lead to witchcraft and Satanism, created “Hell Houses” (haunted houses to us today), which were meant to scare children and young adults away from ever tampering with such damning traditions.

As you can see, this now famous American holiday is due to the old practices of many cultures throughout the centuries.  There is so much more to learn about the history of Halloween as well all the other holidays we celebrate with our friends and loved ones.  The best part is that ALL of the learning can be done through the simply wonderful act of reading!

Tomorrow, Nov. 1, is the start of National Family Literacy Month.  Take advantage of this time to spark a budding love of reading in your child.  Read to them about interesting facts they don’t know, and let them read with you.  Sylvan Dell Publishing has a whole slew of options that can help aid you in educating your little one on a parent-child basis.  Check out our homepage, and from there you can read about every book we have to offer you and your child!