Destinations by Tim Wyatt / The Dallas Morning News
Friday, July 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
No, this isn't a column on cool ways to escape the awful heat bearing down on us. That's because July is just getting warmed up, people. We felt it was time to revisit the wonders of science that might pull the kids away from chat rooms and reruns this summer long enough to teach them about the world around them. Hey, they might even find they've gotten a head start when school resumes.
Cool Science for Curious Kids
Each of the five sections in Cool Science features detailed, interactive quizzes or projects on subjects such as plants, animals, insects, scientific observations and the environment that may keep kids from dreaded boredom for at least a few hours.
Regular updates from the host make this a good page to check back in on now and then. We were especially pleased with the section on teaching kids how to make "airborne junk collectors" to get a better understanding of all the, er, junk, they can breathe just from walking from one end of the house to the other. Now, if you could only teach them about all the junk they eat from one end of the house to the other ...
Scientific American Explorations
This offshoot of the slightly stuffier Scientific American Web site is a breath of fresh air and shows how its parent magazine is working to interest future generations in science. The online version is a little skimpier than the newsstand version, but the summer projects for the annual family road trip provide some good ideas, such as identifying bugs on the car radiator. The physics of making ice cream sounds pretty cool, too. The site also has a nationwide directory of science learning centers and, when the topics begin to seem too much like child's play, there's a look back to more serious scientific ventures.
World of Discovery
Need more details on this gene-mapping thing that hit the news recently? How about some real-life accounts from those who survived The Perfect Storm? The online namesake of the popular cable TV channel has got these stories and other fascinating entries stored in a top-notch Web site. Many of the features include interactive shows, video and audio clips, and links to even more information than what's jammed into these pages. The site is set up for all ages and interests, so do the whole family a favor and bookmark World of Discovery now so we don't have to brag on it again. It's getting embarrassing.
Pick out a location from this site's huge database and Heavens-Above will plot out route maps for satellites passing overhead, constellation and planet charts, whole sky or solar system charts and a lot more. One of the bright spots is the links and schedules for people to track and watch decaying satellites hitting the Earth's atmosphere. Many of the schedules and routes can stretch days or weeks ahead, so you can plan ahead to get out of the city lights and gaze at the heavens above.
How Stuff Works
Visually, this page doesn't measure up to science sites that capture visitors' attention with slick graphics and automated doodads, but this site could be a great source for parents whose kids have become seasoned pros at asking questions about which Mom and Dad don't have a clue. Learn how chocolate is made or how fast hair grows, how to install multiple monitors for a single computer or exactly what's at work to make a toilet flush. And each topic comes back with as little or as much information as you like.
Brian Walker invents toys for a living. He also wants to shoot himself 30 miles into the sky in a homemade rocket, which means that either Mr. Walker is completely insane or he's telling a big fib to get gullible reporters to write about his Web site.
Whether he pulls this off next April or is hauled off to practice some lip-dribbling in a cushioned room, he is going to great lengths planning and building his EarthStar One hydrogen peroxide-fueled rocket. The site has plenty of photos and computer-animated plans for his flight. Don't worry about Brian, folks. He's taking a backpack parachute so he can bail out at any time.
The Virtual Laboratory
Here's one ugly start page to a great collection of interactive physics games and tutorials where everyone is bound to find something they think is cool. We hope. Brain tricks with mirror-image plotting, spirographs, a digital embryo and how global positioning systems work with satellites are just a few of the things to oooh and aaah over - even if, like us, you're clueless as to how it's done. Be sure to check out a program that illustrates and explains the perspective of a fish looking at an object above the water's surface.