Tuesday, August 14, 2012


There's nothing more fun than figuring out the answer to this question. "What will happen next?"

To do that you need to be on the lookout for clues, including ones that are not obvious at first glance.  You also need to check for patterns--something that's happening just the way you've experienced in the past.
Then you can imagine all of the possible things that could happen next and predict what's most likely to happen.

So what happens next?  Here are three different problems for you to tackle. As you do you'll also discover some amazing things about animals, the world--you're even likely to discover some surprising things about yourself.

Who's Faster?

Check out this grizzly bear going nose to nose with a salmon. What do you think will happen next.

What could the bear do to catch the fish?

How could the fish escape?

Brainstorm.  Think of at least three things that could happen next based on what you've seen or read about grizzlies and salmon.

When you decide what is most likely to happen next, go down to ANSWER 1. There you'll see what did happen next.

What Change Will This Cause?

See the jet of fire.

It's shooting into the mouth of a huge cloth bag, heating the air that's trapped inside.

Will the heated air sink, blowing out the fire?

Or will the heated air rise, lifting the cloth bag?

You may not know what happens to air when it's heated. If that's the case, you need to observe that to be able to predict what happens next.

Of course, you could ask someone what happens to air when it's heated. Or you could look it up on-line.  It's more fun to see for yourself, though.

So put a rubber balloon over the top of a clean, empty glass soda bottle.  

Set the bottle in a saucepan and add a measuring cup full of water.  

Have an adult partner turn the heat on the stove to medium. 

Watch what happens as the water around the bottle gets hot and the air inside the bottle heats up, too.

The balloon fills and lifts. That's because everything is made up of tiny building blocks called molecules. In cool air, the molecules are slow-moving and close together. As the air warms up, the molecules move faster, bump into each other, and spread apart. As the warm air takes up more room inside the bottle, it rises where it's trapped by the balloon. Then the balloon partly inflates.

Now, use what you've observed to predict what's likely to happen to the huge cloth bag when fire shoots into it.  To check what does happen next, scroll down to ANSWER 2.

What's Likely To Happen?

Mother raccoon walked out on a branch, looking for food in the lake. Her baby stayed on the log. Then eager to grab a tasty treat, the young raccoon leaned forward and stretched out a paw. 

What do you think will happen to the young raccoon? 

A good way to to figure that out is to imagine yourself in a similar situation.  When you decide what is most likely to happen go to ANSWER 3. You'll see what did happen next.

Answer 1--Who's Faster?

Did you figure out that to catch the fish the bear has to open its mouth and thrust it head forward?

To keep from being caught, the fish has to wiggle sideways and dive back into the water.

 This time the bear reacted faster and caught a fish dinner.

So how's your reaction time?

To test it, have a partner hold a ruler at the top with zero end down.

Hold onto the ruler so your thumb is close to the zero.

Next, open your grip so your fingers are no longer touching the ruler and stay alert.

Your partner will suddenly release the ruler.

Grab it.

Then look to see which number is under your thumb. The lower the number, the faster you were able to react.

Repeat this test two more time.

Does your reaction time improve with practice?  Switch and test your partner's reaction time.

Now, design another activity to measure your reaction time. Check with an adult to be sure what you've planned will be safe for you to do.

Answer 2--What's the Result?

When the air inside the big cloth bag heats up and rises, the bag inflates. Now it's a hot air balloon  Because the hot air inside the balloon is lighter than the cool air around it, the balloon floats up into the sky.  The balloon's pilot must keep on firing the jet every few minutes, though.

If the pilot doesn't do this what do you think will happen as the air inside the big cloth bag cools?  If you aren't sure pour some cool water into the pan.  Then watch what happens to the inflated balloon as the air inside the bottle cools.

Answer 3--What's Likely to Happen?

Did remembering your past experience let you guess the young raccoon lost its balance?

Objects, animals, and you stay balanced as long as they can maintain their position without tipping.  When so much of the young raccoon's weight was shifted ahead of the log, it slipped into the lake.

This experience will help the youngster do a better job of tackling similar situations in the future.

So do you have any special body part to help you judge when you're balanced? Yes, you do.

These are the semicircular canals in your inner ear.

When you move or tip your head, the fluid inside the canals moves.  At one point in the tube, there is a gelatin-like dam with tiny sensors. When the moving fluid pushes on the dam, the sensors send signals to your brain. And when your brain figures out these messages--something that happens almost instantly--you realize you're moving.

If, like this girl, you spin around and stop suddenly you feel like you're still spinning. That's because for an instant after you stop, the fluid in the tubes in your ear keeps on moving and sending signals to your brain. That can make you feel unbalanced.



Will the fish be able to gulp in the frog? Or is a frog quick enough in the water to be likely to escape? Take a close look at what's going on in the photo.  Think about patterns of behavior.  What's the fish likely to be capable of doing?  What's the frog likely to be able to do?  What's probably happened in such a situation in the past.  Imagine yourself in the frog's place and think what your next move might be.  Now imagine yourself in the fish's place.  

Predict what's most likely to happen next.  Tell why you made that decision.


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