Local science events for families and kids

Of all the science-related events we post on this blog, my favorites are those for families and/or kids. I’m happy to report that two such programs are coming up in the next few days along with some other events.

Ubiquitous chemistry

Kids and their parents are invited to help kick off National Chemistry Week this Saturday when volunteers from the Minnesota Section of the American Chemical Society will stage hands-on chemistry activities. Whole groups — scout troops, teachers with students and kids’ clubs — are welcome too. And everyone will get a chance to earn free prizes.

This year’s theme, “Behind the Scenes with Chemistry,” highlights the fact that we are surrounded by chemistry in our everyday lives whether we know it or not. Chemistry often is tucked behind the scenes. For example, many of the special effects in movies and on stage are not “magic,” but rather rely on common chemical concepts.

When it comes to Harry Potter, though, the presence of chemistry isn’t even subtle. In that spirit, Saturday’s event will feature a special appearance by Professor Sepoc (aka Jane Snell Copes) with experiments from “Harry Potter”.

The event, free and open to the public, is set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, at the Minneapolis Central Public Library, 300 Nicollet Mall.

More information about the event is available here.

And you can learn more about chemistry week on the following websites: National Chemistry Week and Minnesota Section, American Chemical Society.

Whoooo’s scared of ghosts?

Did you know that owls used to be mistaken for ghosts? 

You can hear about this raptor legend, as well as other myths and stories about spooky birds during a special Halloween program at The Raptor Center.

Kids who come in costume will be entered into a drawing for prizes.

There is a charge of $5 per child and $7.50 per adult.

Two programs are scheduled: 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 at the Raptor Center, 1920 Fitch Ave., St. Paul.

The center also is inviting people to help name a bald eagle that has been added to its team of education birds. The three-year-old male eagle has a shoulder injury that prevents him from flying very well. Therefore, he can’t be released.

You can enter your suggestion and see a picture of the eagle here. (Tip: Bald eagles don’t get their white heads until they are about five years old. But this relative youngster has the classic stern look.)

CO2 — Use it or Lose it!

Carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels is widely considered the main culprit behind current global climate change.

As a result, renewable energy sources that emit little to no CO2 hold great promise for slowing down global warming. One such energy source, geothermal energy, involves injecting a fluid into the ground to carry heat to the surface for electricity generation.

Martin Saar, University of Minnesota Professor of Geology and Geophysics, is scheduled to talk about an intriguing twist next week at the Institute on the Environment’s 2010 Frontiers lecture series.

It turns out that CO2 can be used as the working fluid in this process – in fact, it can extract heat with an efficiency roughly twice that of water, all else being equal. At the same time it’s being used in this way, CO2 can be permanently sequestered below ground, reducing the concentration in the atmosphere.

Therefore, rather than “losing CO2” to the atmosphere, we can “use CO2” to produce renewable energy. A geothermal power plant constructed around this concept would have a negative carbon footprint — that is, it would not only not release CO2, but actually sequester CO2 while generating electricity.

The lecture is scheduled for noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the Institute’s Seminar Room, 380 VoTech Building, 1954 Buford Ave., St. Paul. 

It also will air live on the Web.

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