There are lots of fun links
on the web for this great holiday, but here are a few of special interest to scientists and
budding scientists. You may remember many of these sites from last year, but there are lots
of new ones as well.
- Why do we like to be frightened? What makes us go to scary
movies, and why do some of us like them more than others of us do? Read about all this
at the Why Files
“Things that go bump in the night” website (http://whyfiles.org/026fear/index.html).
New: What causes goosebumps?
New: More than just Halloween can be frightening.
Listen to kids talk about their fears, and how they handle them (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1006604).
While you are at the Why Files, take their “Horror of Science Quiz” (http://whyfiles.org/097halloween/7.html).
It will lead you to all sorts of really spooky science information. How do movies make
those scary special effects that give us such shivers? Check it out at the
NOVA special effects site (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/specialfx/sfxhome.html).
But maybe, just maybe,
haunted places really do exist (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3044607.stm) …
- Everyone’s favorite Halloween flying mammal — the bat!
(Well, all right, the only flying mammal.) There are some terrific bat sites on
the web. Don’t miss the National Geographic
“Creature Feature — Vampire Bat” (http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/vampire-bat/).
It comes with video, audio, maps, even an e-postcard to send to a friend — and after
all, what bat is more representative of Halloween than this largest of the American bats? The
BBC has a great bat website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/order/Bat).
Learn about bats on
Science Friday (http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/2003/Oct/hour2_103103.html)
New: How do bats fly? How do they use sound to navigate? What are
they good for? You can find out at
“How Bats Work” (http://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/bat.htm).
New: What’s so bad about bats? As a matter of fact, mostly bats are good.
New: Did you know bats spend most of their time just hanging upside
down? Ever wonder why the blood doesn’t rush to their heads, like it does when you
hang upside down? Find out from “We’re Science”.
You can also try the
Bat Quiz (http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/batquiz/)
to see how much you already know about these intriguing creatures. What sounds do bats
make? Hear some samples of bat calls at these websites: www.batcalls.org,
ILoveWavs.com (http://www.ilovewavs.com/Effects/Animals/Sound%20Effect%20-%20Bats.wav) (wav file),
You can also
hear bat echo-location sounds and a brief description of how echo-location works (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/bats/batelocu.asp).
Tired of mosquitoes in your yard?
Build a bat house (http://www.batcon.org/index.php/get-involved/install-a-bat-house.html)
to entice these interesting, insect-eating animals to your neighborhood. A bat can
catch six hundred mosquitoes in an hour.
New: National Geographic gives you
directions to make a bat mobile (http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/activities/crafts/batty-witch-mobile/)
(not the same as a Batmobile!) and other neat Halloween crafts, too.
New: You can make an origami bat with instructions from
Origami Club (http://en.origami-club.com/halloween/bat/bat/index.html)
Activity Village (http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/origami_bat.htm).
- Your Halloween bats may be accompanied by other creatures of the night, such as
owls. There are so many different kinds of owls.
See and hear different species of North American owls (http://www.owling.com/).
The Chicago Museum of Sciences invites you to solve the “Strange Case of the Mystery Rock”.
Did you know that owls use their faces to help them hear?
Information of all kinds can be found on the
Owl Pages (http://www.owlpages.com/).
The Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife had a LiveCam for both a burrowing owl and
a barn owl’s nest. The season is over and the owls are gone now, but you can
watch some fascinating archived footage (http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildwatch/owlcam/)
of owls eating, grooming, and just generally being owls. Listen to owl cries as well.
Did you know that another name for Barn owls is “Ghost owls”? They are
silent and deadly, and
they cry a haunting screech (http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/sounds/Tyto_alba.html)
instead of a quiet “who”. You can build nest boxes to entice Barn owls to
live near you. Find out more about these ghostly birds.
Print off a
gorgeous owl mask (http://www.janbrett.com/mitten_masks4.htm).
Ravens (and their cousins, crows) are another Halloween bird.
Although they aren’t night creatures, like owls, they have a spooky reputation.
For one thing, they look so sleek and dark. See pictures from Carl Cook
Animal Diversity Web (http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/classification/Corvus.html).
For another, they have
a raucus call (http://www.shades-of-night.com/aviary/sounds/sounds.html).
New: Ravens and crows
make lots of other sounds, too (http://www.pulseplanet.com/dailyprogram/dailies.php?POP=3741).
And they can also eerily mimic human speech — perhaps better than parrots. Put this
together with their association with death (these omnivorous birds will eat almost any
food, including carrion — but they also help us by eating lots of grubs and harmful
insects), and you have a perfect Halloween bird.
New: A talking raven features prominently in one of
Edgar Allen Poe’s spookiest poems (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1066033).
Ravens and crows are intricately associated with folktales and mythology
in many cultures. But actually these highly intelligent birds (see stories from
National Geographic (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/12/1209_041209_crows_apes.html)
very adaptable (http://www.jcrows.com/crow.html),
and folks who have rehabilitated injured birds have
nothing but kind words for them (http://www.shades-of-night.com/aviary/birdpet.html).
[Remember, wild birds should NOT be kept as pets, and it is illegal to do so with crows!]
Is there a
difference between crows and ravens (http://www.angelfire.com/id/ravensknowledge/ravensvscrows.html)?
Learn more about these interesting birds from the
Crow and Raven FAQ (http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/crowfaq.htm).
- For a spooky spin on physical science, just in time for
Halloween, stop by the
Atom’s Family website (http://www.miamisci.org/af/sln/)!
Come tour the mummy’s tomb, where you’ll learn about energy conservation
and the different forms of energy; or you can check out the phantom’s portrait
parlor, which hits the highlights of atoms and matter. Wherever you choose to go,
you’ll find plenty of lesson plans and background info to keep you coming back
for more. (Thanks to ENC)
- Inventors love Halloween, too. The US Patent and Trademark
“The Little Shop of Halloween Patent & Trademark Horrors” (http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/ahrpa/opa/kids/themes/halloween.htm),
inventions with a Halloween theme that have been patented through the years.
- I always thought Stonehenge deserved a place in Halloween — even
though it may have nothing to do with the holiday, since Stonehenge most certainly
predates the Celts and Druids. It’s just the sort of thing that seems like it
should be so. Of course, Stonehenge is the most famous henge, but certainly
not the only one, and all are neat places to visit. The Canadian Discovery Channel
takes you to a Mystic Place — Stonehenge,
or visit some of the
other stone circles and megaliths of Europe (http://www.stonepages.com/).
Was Stonehenge a place of
ritual sacrifice or murder (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_stonehenge/index.html)?
Did astronomy have its beginnings at places like this? Check out a
“Brief Introduction to Archaeoastronomy” (http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/cfaar_as.html).
And, wow, what a feat of engineering! NOVA provides an extensive
question and answer page (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/stonehenge/qanda/questions.html)
with details of the engineering and building process.
- Before they had pumpkins in Europe they had to
make Jack-O’-Lanterns out of turnips or beets — and it’s not easy to
carve a turnip! Read about the history of Jack-O’-Lanterns at
and the Journal Sentinel.
Learn all about pumpkins (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/pumpkins/),
how to grow them, their history, and get some neat craft ideas from the University of
Illinois. Carving jack-o-lanterns, like any other human activity, can inspire people to
invent ways to do it better (http://www.engineerguy.com/comm/3118.htm),
differently, like Paul Bardeen did (http://inventors.about.com/od/pstartinventions/a/PumpkinCarving.htm).
watch a fun contest video (http://www.exploratorium.edu/iron_science//iron991030.ram)
of science teachers competing for the title of “Iron Science Teacher” by
developing activities involving pumpkins.
New: Here is an
easy jack-o-lantern box you can fold (http://www.tammyyee.com/printpumpkin_box.html).
New: Or if you are good at origami, you can make a pumpkin.
world record pumpkin (http://www.exploratorium.edu/gardening/control/pumpkins/index.html)
weighed 1,092 lbs.—hope you have a BIG yard if you
decide to grow one (http://urbanext.illinois.edu/pumpkins/growing.cfm)!
Be ready for next Halloween!
Before Columbus, the old world didn’t have any squash, or corn, or vanilla,
or chocolate, or potatoes, or … the
peoples of the Americas gave us all these good foods to eat (http://www.accessexcellence.org/RC/Ethnobotany/page5.php),
and more … Squash (of which pumpkins are one) was so important it often figured
in ceremonies or religion. Learn about the interesting
Squash Kachina (http://www.ancientnations.com/Gallery%20HTML/watson_namoki_squash.html),
other Kachinas (http://22.214.171.124/katsina/default.html),
of the Hopi. Squash was important to the Hopi — young Hopi women even have a special hairstyle called the squashblossom.
You can learn more about the Hopi at the tribe’s official website,
the website of the
Official Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (http://www.nau.edu/~hcpo-p/)
or an exhibit on the Hopi from the
Carnegie Museum of Natural History (http://www.carnegiemnh.org/educators/online/indians/hopi/index.html).
Or try some pumpkin or squash recipes, based on Native American cooking.
This site has several of these recipes (http://www.kstrom.net/isk/food/r_squash.html)
as well as some ordinary pumpkin and squash recipes.
- You might want to stock up on wolf’s bane and
garlic for the holiday. Can’t find any wolf’s bane
around the house? Don’t know what it looks like?
Get a detailed description (http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/aconi007.html)
see a photograph (http://botany.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/schoepke/aco_al_1.jpg).
It’s good to recognize this plant — not only does it ward off werewolves (so they
say) but it is very poisonous. Don’t forget to avoid the
deadly nightshade (http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/n/nighde05.html)
as well. And
don’t forget the garlic (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MV064).
It may not keep werewolves and vampires away, but it may help
“keep the doctor away” (http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/ART00364).
Actually, there are a lot of herbs connected with Halloween. Some say the
famous witches’ brew from Macbeth (http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth_4_1.html) (pdf)
is more likely made of various herbs than of animal parts.
New: In the early middle ages,
people used many herbs for their healing properties (http://irelandsown.net/hildegard.html),
but later such knowledge became dangerous for social reasons — you could be accused of witchcraft …
New: In fact, many of our modern medicines are based on plants and herbs.
Here is a list of some commonly used medicinal plants.
You can find additional information on these and other plants using
botany sites on the web (http://botany.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/gallery.htm),
like the ones used for the wolf’s bane information above. [Many of these sites may
require the Latin name of the plants, use a
dictionary site (http://www.merriam-webster.com/netdict.htm)
to find the Latin names.]
- What could possibly be spookier than a Halloween forest …
and what kind of trees might be in it? My favorite is the
contorted filbert tree (http://www.paghat.com/hazelcatkins.html),
also known as Harry Lauder’s walking stick. You might also find the oldest living
thing on earth, the
ancient bristlecone pine (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/methuselah/),
which has important uses in
tree-ring studies (http://whyfiles.org/021climate/ringers.html)
for anthropology and ecology. See if you don’t agree these spooky-looking trees belong
in every Halloween forest.
New: Want to know more detail about this tree? Try
“Tales Trees Tell” (http://www.ltrr.arizona.edu/~hal/tancient.pdf) (pdf).
Are there other trees that fit into a Halloween forest? How about oaks
mythology and folklore (http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/tfl.mythoak.html)?
Trees and groves were
special or sacred to a lot of ancient peoples (http://witcombe.sbc.edu/sacredplaces/trees.html).
The Celts of Ireland even
based their alphabet on the names of trees (http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/ogham/ogh-tree.html).
In these modern times, special trees still impact people’s lives,
like this Live oak in Georgia (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1550483).
- How can you celebrate Halloween without the eerie sound of a wolf’s howl
(or possibly, a werewolf’s howl)? And what do different howls mean? Visit the
NOVA Wild Wolves site (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/wolves/)
to hear (and see sonographs of) a lonesome howl, a confrontational howl, a pup howl,
and a chorus howl. More wolf howls (and a few videos) are available at the
International Wolf Center wolf watch cam (http://www.elyminnesota.com/cams/wolfcam/index.php)
World of the Wolf (http://www.naturalworlds.org/wolf/multimedia/multimedia.htm).
Is a wolf howl different from a coyote howl? You can
track individual wild wolves or packs (http://www.wolf.org/wolves/experience/telemsearch/vtelem/telem_intro.asp)
through the telemetry data provided by the International Wolf Center. Or use various
track and study the Yellowstone wolf packs (http://www.wolftracker.com/winterstudy/winter.htm).
Find out about these
surprisingly shy animals (http://teacher.scholastic.com/wolves/index.htm).
New: In fairytales, wolves are always bad, but are wolves
really dangerous? Any wild animal can be dangerous, but in fact you are
much more likely to be struck by lightning than to be hurt by a wolf.
New: The biggest problem wolves pose to people is that
they sometimes kill livestock (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5584866).
New: One of the first attempts to reintroduce wolves to the
wild was the Alligator River project.
Take a virtual field trip (http://www.fieldtripearth.org/div_index.xml?id=2)
to see pictures, interview a field researcher, and see a slide show.
wolf mask (http://www.wolf.org/wolves/learn/justkids/mask/wolfmask.asp),
wolf e-postcard to your friends (http://online.nwf.org/site/Ecard?ecard_id=1967),
or take a
wolf quiz to see how much you know (http://animal.discovery.com/convergence/wolves/quiz/quiz.html).
Not all wolves look alike. The
endangered Ethiopian wolf (http://www.arkive.org/ethiopian-wolf/canis-simensis/),
for example, is quite different from the Timber wolf.
New: There are wolves in
many places around the world (http://www.cosmosmith.com/wolfpage.html).
Do you think that someday you may
see a wild wolf? We all know there are no such things as
werewolves, but there are a lot of theories as to how these legends began, including
several interesting medical conditions (http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-5130-the-curse-of-the-werewolf.html).
However it began, the
belief in werewolves (http://www.answers.com/topic/werewolf),
and other were animals, goes way back into the history of many cultures around the world.
- Halloween pictures seem to always have a full moon, but how
often does this really happen on October 31? Will there be a full Halloween moon this
year? Next year? How about a blue moon? You can find the answers to some of these questions
at the US Naval Observatory
Moon Phase (http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services/phases-moon)
site (which lists all the phases for 1990 to 2005) or this list of
full moons (http://fermi.jhuapl.edu/s1r/amastro/tools/fullmoons.txt)
from 1900 to 2100. NASA tells you about the
phases of the moon (http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/questions/question3.html)
how the moon was made (http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/StarChild/questions/question38.html).
read about the moon’s origin on the Why Files (http://whyfiles.org/shorties/091moon_origin/index.html).
Explore the moon with
Google Moon (http://www.google.com/moon/)
or get details about sights you might see on specific nights at
Inconstant Moon (http://www.inconstantmoon.com/).
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Moon (http://www.shallowsky.com/moon/hitchhiker.html)
for other great moon pages. Other than turning into werewolves if they happen to have
been bitten, do people really
behave differently when there is a full moon (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1218_021218_moon.html)?
- Actually, I’m not sure I have ever seen anyone in a mummy
costume at Halloween, but somehow I can’t imagine a Halloween without mummies.
Visit the National Geographic’s Mummy Road Show
to join bioanthropologists as they solve mummy mysteries.
New: National Geographic also offers
“Unwrapping Mummies” (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/activities/17/mummies.html).
Or learn “How to Make a Mummy”.
Peel through the layers of Inca mummies (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/inca/).
Of course, Egypt isn’t the only place with mummies. For instance, visit the
Ice Mummies of the Inca (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/peru/)
Mysterious Mummies of China (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/chinamum/),
and the European bog bodies.
answers a lot of your questions about mummies (http://www.digonsite.com/drdig/mummy/)
and the people who study them. The Exploratorium provides you with
instructions of how to make your own mummy (http://www.exploratorium.edu/bodies/webcast_activity.html)
— of a fish!
- Skeletons — you can’t have a Halloween without them!
Get a close look at all the
different bones there are in a human body (http://homes.bio.psu.edu/people/faculty/strauss/anatomy/skel/skeletal.htm).
human, gorilla and baboon bones in detail (http://www.eskeletons.org/).
You can build a skeleton from a pile of bones at
Lawrence Hall of Science (http://sv.berkeley.edu/showcase/pages/bones.html).
Some skeletons are much older than humans are. Look at the skulls of some of the ancestors
and relatives of homo sapiens, for instance, and see how the skulls have changed through
evolutionary time at
Human Evolution at the Smithsonian Museum (http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils)
UCSB’s Human Evolution (http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/projects/human/).
You can watch a
brief video about how our skeletons are adapted for walking on two feet (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/07/1/l_071_02.html).
The Smithsonian digitized a Triceratops skeleton. You can
watch it move to see how the animal walked (http://www.mnh.si.edu/exhibits/triceratops/Triceratopsdigital.htm).
[You might need the most recent version of QuickTime for some of these websites, but
don’t worry, you can
download it for free (http://www.apple.com/quicktime/).]
New: If you are good at origami, you can make a bone.
- Hey, if you have vampires, you have to have … blood …
lots of it. Vampires
can’t live without it (http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/strange-creatures/vampire.htm)
and neither, of course, can you. If you want the low down on blood, check out the
“Red Gold” website (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/redgold/).
And have some fun while you
learn about blood from Billy Blood Drop (http://www.blood.co.uk/funzone/).
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute offers an
animation of the “visible heart” (http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/cardiovascular/animations.html),
so you can watch how blood is pumped to circulate round your body. Visit their
“vertebrate Circulatorium” (http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive/cardiovascular/click.html)
to see how blood flows around the bodies of other beasts.
- Monsters come in all shapes and sizes and kinds. What about the
Loch Ness Monster (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/lochness/)?
Although some feel “Nessie” is just a hoax,
some folks still look for it (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/1288293.stm).
Some of the most interesting
real monsters live deep in the ocean (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/abyss/life/bestiary.html).
And once, before there even were people, all kinds of
giant monsters roamed the earth (http://animal.discovery.com/convergence/giantmonsters/giantmonsters.html).
what about Bigfoot (http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/strange-creatures/bigfoot.htm)?
- And how about ghosts? The BBC has some interesting things to say
about ghosts, and why we may “feel” their presence in
Ghosts ‘all in the mind’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3044607.stm)
Ghostly magnetism explained (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3046179.stm).
Whether ghosts are real or not, they inspire invention. There are a host of
items invented for or used for detecting ghosts (http://inventors.about.com/od/gstartinventions/a/Ghost_Detectors.htm)
and other paranormal things. Maybe you can invent something that will change the way people
do things or think about things.
- Halloween Science: Folk remedies, old wives’ tales, and
Frankenstein’s monster. It’s
Halloween on Science Friday (http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/1997/Oct/hour2_103197.html),
let’s look at the science (http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/1995/Oct/hour2_102795.html)
behind Frankenstein’s monster, physician’s
findings on folk remedies, and maybe a ghastly topic or two. These programs date from 1997
and 1995, but still raise both interest and goose bumps! You can
learn more about the use of creepy crawlies in medicine (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/10/1024_031024_maggotmedicine.html),
and if you get over the yuckiness of it, it is
pretty interesting stuff (http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4820).
interview with a leech (http://yucky.discovery.com/noflash/worm/pg000219.html)
or hear about
using leeches for arthritis relief (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4817273).
Learn more about leeches from the
leech fact sheet (http://australianmuseum.net.au/Leeches).
catch and care for leeches (http://www.accessexcellence.org/LC/SS/leechlove.php)
… if you want to … Not a very cuddly pet …
- Of course masks and costumes are
at many occasions, in many cultures (http://gallery.sjsu.edu/masks/menu.html),
as well as at Halloween. You can get a beautiful
Yupik Mask screensaver (http://www.greenland-guide.gl/masks/default.htm)
as freeware. See
other stunning Yupik masks (http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/features/yupik/),
fabulous African masks from
Siebe Eling Boersma (http://www.eling.nl/),
Museum of Ancient and Modern Art (http://www.mama.org/collection/afc/),
shamanic masks from the Himalayas (http://www.asianart.com/articles/murray/),
Javanese masks (http://www.fieldmuseum.org/exhibits/exhibit_sites/javamask/javamask.htm),
masks from the Potlatch collection (http://www.umista.ca/collections/collection.php),
Huichol beaded masks (http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/180-huichol-artwork-masks).
make an African animal mask (http://pbskids.org/africa/mask/)
using this site from PBS, or
more elaborate animal masks with these directions (http://www.allspecies.org/edu/maskmaking.htm).
Read a short story written by an Apache
which tells of a great warrior who wanted a mask. Masks can be strictly utilitarian, too.
how a gas mask works (http://www.howstuffworks.com/gas-mask.htm)?
In many times and cultures masks have been considered magical, for good reason. Did you know
that wearing a mask on the back of your head might
protect you from tiger attacks (http://www.lairweb.org.nz/tiger/maneating11.html)?
Check the web for any of dozens of excellent instructions
on making masks.
This one is particularly well illustrated (http://www.hgtv.com/crafting/wearable-papier-mache-masks/index.html).
- Do black cats cause bad luck? The eternal question, and one
that has rarely been subjected to rigorous scientific testing. However, Mark Levin has
taken it upon himself to
examine this issue (http://petcaretips.net/black_cat_luck.html).
An informative source of cat anatomy can be found at
“Cats: Plans for Perfection” (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/97/cats/)
In fact, it is a cat that is the
fastest of all land animals — the cheetah (http://www.pbs.org/saf/transcripts/transcript704.htm#4).
If you watch this video clip, you can see how its flexible back helps the cheetah run so fast.
You may be interested in why you see those
glowing, scary cat eyes in the dark (http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/agarman/bco/fact4.htm).
animals see in the dark (http://www.ebiomedia.com/Eyes/How-do-animals-see-in-the-dark.html),
anyway? Did you know that cat species that purr cannot roar, and vice versa? The secret is in the vocal chord structure.
where pet cats came from (http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/species/Wildcat)?
From wildcats, of course!
- There are a lot of warm-blooded animals associated with Halloween — wolves, black
cats, owls, bats — but how about other species? Every good haunted house has a few
spider webs, and well they might, for these fascinating
creatures are everywhere. Why don’t spiders
get caught in their own webs (http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art97b/benspid.html)?
Different spiders make very different webs, all
made uniquely by a species-specific pattern (http://www.conservation.unibas.ch/team/zschokke/spidergallery.php?lang=en).
special organs to make their special silk (http://www.learner.org/jnorth/spring2001/species/spring/Update050701.html#Spin),
which is the
strongest natural fiber known (http://animals.howstuffworks.com/arachnids/spider2.htm)
— 5 times stronger than steel, and elastic
on top of it all. You can listen to a discussion of the
protein structure of spider silk (http://www.aip.org/radio/html/spider_silk.html).
Spider web silk is
just plain amazing (http://www.xs4all.nl/~ednieuw/Spiders/Info/spindraad.htm)!
A lot of what you think you know about spiders probably
isn’t true at all (http://www.washington.edu/burkemuseum/spidermyth/).
Get under the spell of spiders! These creatures have
interesting physical features & unusual habits (http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/educators/lesson_plans/under_spell_spiders/)
— two main body parts, unusual eyes, senses, sensitivity to vibrations,
silk webs, how they catch & eat their prey, & how they reproduce.
- The history of the era of witch hunts in Europe and America
is a study in the sociology and folklore of that time and place. Might
you have been on trial in Salem (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/salem/)?
But it may be that the witch-hunting hysteria was at least partially caused by the
eating of moldy rye bread. PBS explores this possibility in one of its
“Secrets of the Dead” (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_salem/index.html)
programs. Ergot has
darkly affected the history of mankind (http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/LECT12.HTM)
more than once. Ergot-caused hallucinations may also be one of the bases for belief in
werewolves. What does ergot look like? See pictures from the
American Phytopathological Society (http://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/intropp/lessons/fungi/ascomycetes/Pages/Ergot.aspx)
Home-Grown Cereals Authority (http://www.hgca.com/research/topicsheets/topicsheet56.html)
- Since many of our Halloween customs trace back to Celtic
beliefs you may want to check out the
mythology and mysticism (http://ecuip.lib.uchicago.edu/diglib/science/cultural_astronomy/cultures_druids-1.html)
of that ancient people and about
how their customs and beliefs shaped Halloween (http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/halloween.htm).
You can find
information on their art and culture (http://www.unc.edu/celtic/),
or general information about these vibrant peoples, including information about celtic burial mounds.
Learn how to
build an Iron Age round house with these instructions (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/launch_ani_roundhouse.shtml).
The BBC offers a number of
interesting Celtic games and activities (http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/celts/).
make a “green man” costume (http://www.ehow.com/how_6949_create-green-man.html).
- Have a green Halloween! The Environmental Defense Fund provides
tips to have an environmentally friendly Halloween (http://www.edf.org/pressrelease.cfm?contentID=2364).
- Besides green, Halloween is red, orange and yellow — the time for flaming
foliage. Where is the best display of vibrant colors this week-end?
This question and more can be answered by the
Fall Color Hotline (http://www.fs.fed.us/news/fallcolors/)
operated by the USDA Forest Service, but since the (New)
colors peak in waves there isn’t an exact perfect time (http://www.bugwood.org/fall/for97-031.pdf) (pdf).
You can find information on the best places to see fall foliage in your state.
Ever wonder about the
chemistry of fall colors (http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/fallcolr/fallcolr.html)?
why leaves change color (http://www.sciencemadesimple.com/leaves.html)?
movie about this process (http://www.state.me.us/doc/foliage/kids/movie.html).
New: Here is an experiment you can do to
find the colors hidden in green leaves (http://www.eduref.org/cgi-bin/printlessons.cgi/Virtual/Lessons/Science/Botany/BOT0204.html).
Red seems to be a particularly
hotly debated leaf color by scientists (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-warm-hues-of-fall-fol).
You can preserve the beauty of these leaves
in several ways.
Some of the brightest leaves belong to the maples (http://landscaping.about.com/cs/fallfoliagetrees/a/fall_foliage7.htm).
Did you know you can
learn a lot of physics from making maple syrup (http://www.goshen.edu/merrylea/sugar/physics.htm)?
What kind of tree is that? You can also
use fall color (http://ncnatural.com/wildflwr/fall/idguide.html)
identify tree species (http://forestry.about.com/od/treeidentification/tp/tree_key_id_hardwood.htm).
Find out more about fall color at
NC Natural (http://ncnatural.com/fall-color/index.html).
- How about Halloween in the stars?
Astronomy can be pretty spooky …(http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/27oct_halloween/)
There are scary looking things out there. How about the
Ghost Head Nebula (http://apod.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap011031.html),
for instance, is that spooky enough for you? Or how about
weird space-generated sounds (http://www-pw.physics.uiowa.edu/space-audio/)?
Don’t go trick or treating without knowing how to
navigate by the stars (http://www.kidsastronomy.com/academy/lesson110_assignment4.htm)!
The most important one for those of us in the northern hemisphere is, of course,
Polaris. You might want a “sky map”
for October, and NASA shows you
how to make your own starfinder (http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/en/kids/st6starfinder/st6starfinder.shtml).
Before GPS was around, folks used lots of methods to find their way. Stars, migrating birds, even songs.
You wouldn’t want to get lost on a spooky night like Halloween! Would Halloween be an
especially good date for a spooky space invasion? Orson Welles thought so in 1938, when he
broadcast the science-fiction radio program
“War of the Worlds” (http://www.mercurytheatre.info/).
What does Mars look like (http://apod.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap951031.html)?
Could there really be
life on Mars (http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/marslife.html)?
How do we search for alien life in the universe?
aliens teach ancient humans how to make things (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/alienactivity/)?
Did aliens crash in New Mexico? (http://www.pbs.org/safarchive/4_class/45_pguides/pguide_802/4482_aliens.html)
- Keep your child safe! Consult these
sites on Halloween safety (http://dir.yahoo.com/Society_and_Culture/Holidays_and_Observances/Halloween/Safety).
- For more traditional Halloween websites, visit
Halloween Online (http://www.halloween-online.com/).
You needn’t miss the fun because of disabilities. Here are really neat
costume ideas for folks in wheelchairs (http://www.bridgeschool.org/activities/halloween/index.php).
Stephanie Bianchi, National Science Foundation Library.
Webpage last updated October 2006.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this
newsletter are those of the participants (authors), and do not necessarily represent the
official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.