Science is not just interesting, but fun. Here are three great blogs that explain and explore science in a way that everyone will find interesting.
This is the blog of a drug discovery chemist as he describes all the most dangerous and horrible chemicals in existence. From chlorine azide, to hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane, to nearly every variety of fluoride, the author describes in almost poetic detail exactly why he refuses to be in the same building as them all. There are so many chemical compounds that explode, stink, burn, and poison in his gleeful tour of the imaginary bestiary of things he will never see. Many of these compounds are known only from books, when an unfortunate chemist accidentally made it and then warned them never to make them again. An unfortunate chemistry student who lost his sense of smell after smelling a bubble of selenophol “no larger than a pea” remains a cogent warning to us today, though the incident occurred in the 1820s. We may assume selenophol is no less stinky today than it was back then. The author’s hilarious journey through the depths of ancient chemical reports is instructive, delightful, and more than a little sobering. There is more than one reminder that the discoverers of these compounds sometimes made their discoveries the hard way. There are several illustrations of the old cliché that people who work with explosives tend to be missing fingers. There is clear and literate writing that brings these old voices to life. Best of all, the reader can truly sense the author’s sincerity when he says that he will never, ever, work with these compounds.
XKCD is a great webcomic about life and the art of living, and it has always done a great job of making science interesting and accessible to everyone. Their new spin-off series, XKCD What-Ifs, takes a different science problem every Tuesday and explores it with their trademark humor. One particularly witty episode asked the question, “How many shots from a BB gun would it take to stop a runaway freight train?” XKCD is not afraid to do the math it takes to find out. They take the weirdest questions they can find and make finding the answers fun. The illustrations are always excellent. If you want clever, vibrant depictions of tough physics problems, and the inspiration to send students looking for more difficult problems to solve, try XKCD What-Ifs.
The Wind Map is not a blog in the traditional sense, but it certainly presents a constant stream of fascinating and essential information. It is an experimental data project that samples thousands of weather recording stations across the continental United States and assembles them into one large real-time graphic. The result is an understandable, and zoomable, map of the air motion across the USA. Suddenly climatology makes intuitive sense. Large waves of air from Canada stretch across the states, bringing with them chilly days and clear nights, and then hurricanes come in from the east and twist much farther inland than most people probably realize. It is always a pleasure to watch the wind wander through the maze of the Rocky Mountains, then cascade down the valleys of Wyoming and break against the Black Hills of South Dakota. Other places, like the inside edge of the Appalachians, lie in the lee of the wind and barely experience it at all. One look at this map is enough to let anyone sense the weight of the atmosphere that rushes over us and to comprehend the way that weather patterns fit together. It rewards repeated viewings, though, because every look at the wind map is another clue into the way that global movements of air translate into the weather in one town.
About the author: Benjamin Turner is a science teacher with a love for technology and recommends checking out the Top 10 iPhone Apps for Teachers for a more modern approach to teaching.