A Hodge-Podge of Recommended Books

Okay, so the first recommendation isn’t a book, it’s a dvd.

But it’s the perfect compliment to books.

Over the holidays, we read about various Portuguese explorers

who went sailing off into the unknown looking for a sea route

to the islands where spices could be found.

At school, I was led to believe that all those maritime explorers

were just off searching for new land,

but it seems that they were just out shopping for spices

and trying to figure out how best to get to the super-spice-market.

It all makes sense now that the explorers have been linked together by a common thread.

So, after all that reading, I found this dvd at our library – “The Spice Trail”.

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I was a little hesitant at first, thinking it could be dead boring,

but it was excellent.

I never knew that spices could be so interesting.

The documentary twines a little history with the cultivation and harvesting of various spices.

We thoroughly enjoyed it and it gave us a better appreciation of spices.

My sons even stopped in front of the spice section at the supermarket

and checked out the various spices they learned about.

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The next recommendation is a book.

It’s a book I chose to read to myself

after hearing others recommend it as their favourite children’s book.

Well, I didn’t think it was ‘that’ good but it was a good book,

especially if you are looking for a book about the issue of poverty and homelessness.

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The story is cleverly crafted for children (probably in upper primary school years)

by placing a giant invisible cat (that’s Crenshaw) in the midst of the story.

Having Crenshaw in the story, makes a deeply emotional issue

a little less scary for a younger audience.

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“Straw into Gold” is my next recommendation

and it’s a BRILLIANTLY written book.

(I’m now on a frantic hunt for all things Schmidt).

The language in this book is superb!

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And discussion starters!  Oh boy!

There are so many discussions that could be had,

centred around the ideas in this little book.

Initially, I picked up the book because I liked the idea of the story –

it’s a follow-on from the story of Rumpelstiltskin

(or, more accurately, “The Miller’s Daughter”).

And, yes, I loved the story,

but what most impressed me was the skill of the author.

This book is gold!

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The last book is an Esolen book.

We’re just starting this book for our bookclub

but I know it will be excellent.

I mean, it’s written by Esolen.  How could we go wrong.

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Don’t panic.  The author isn’t actually hoping to destroy the humanity of children.

The author is pointing out how modern society is leading parents to unconsciously destroy the humanity of their children.

It’s a wake-up call type of book,

just as the author’s book, “Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child”,

was a reminder that our parenting, or lack of it, has very serious consequences.

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Oh, and if you are a fellow ‘Esolen-lover’,

did you know that he has a new book out?

“Out of the Ashes – Rebuilding American Culture”.

It’s already on my shelves and begging me to read it.

But there are these pesky children,

who demand to be educated,

getting in the way of simply dropping everything and binge reading.

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Speaking of children demanding to be educated,

I best go and start our afternoon reading session.

Actually, my students are being very quiet,

hoping that I’ll forget that our lunch break is over.

No such luck kiddos.

It’s read aloud time and I never forget that.

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Posted by on February 14, 2017 in My Library


My Book Bag

Check out my new book bag!

Well, it’s not completely new.

I’ve had it since Christmas.

My Mum made it for me.

And it’s soooo me!

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The outside has ‘textbook’ material.

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And the inside has ‘subject’ material.

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It even has a little pocket for do-dads.

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But my favourite thing about this bag is the quote,

“I cannont live without books”.

Oh how true.


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Posted by on February 13, 2017 in My Library


The Aussie Lego Store

Last week we went to visit the new Lego store at Dreamworld.

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Yes, I have a Lego lover living at our house

(the child, who, while in the US last year,

was bemoaning the fact that Australia doesn’t have any Lego stores,

and who came home to Australia to find out that Dreamworld was building a Lego store).

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Oh and if you don’t have a Dreamworld ticket or pass, don’t worry.

You can access the store from the outside without a ticket or pass.

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Inside the store is all the Lego your little (and big) Lego Lovers could desire.

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It’s a pretty decent sized store.

(And we’re seen a few

– our Lego Lover dragged us into every Lego store he found in the US

on the east and west coast).

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All around the store, there are Lego creations.

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Some with an Aussie flavour,

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and one to remind shoppers that you need a ticket to go beyond the store into Dreamworld

(at least that what we thought it was doing).

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There was even a miniature ‘Lego’ Lego store!

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Of course, there is the famous Lego Pick-a-Brick Wall

(If you plan on filling a cup with bricks, make sure you check out youtube

for the best methods of stacking those bricks to get the most bricks for you money).

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There’s also “Build a Minifigure” stations,

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where you get to mix and match different minifigure parts to create your own combination.

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Of course, we didn’t leave the Lego store empty handed.

Lego Lover left so much drool on one of the new Lego Batman sets,

that I relented and purchased it for him.

Thankfully, the prices were pretty reasonable.

Some of the prices were a bit more than the department stores,

many were the same,

and some were even cheaper (but only by a smidge).

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My little Lego Lover is over the moon about the new Lego store,

especially since it’s just up the highway from our house.

I’m not sure if my wallet is excited about that though.  😦

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Posted by on February 12, 2017 in Field Trips, Technology


Hadron Collider Exhibition

This weekend we went to the museum’s Hadron Collider Exhibition.

Have you visited yet?  Are you planning on visiting?

Do you have any idea of what the Hardon Collider is or does?

Initially, I didn’t.

I think I have a basic understanding of it now.

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Firstly, a hadron is a particle which is made up of quarks.

Protons and neutrons are hadrons.

So, a Large Hadron Collider collides hadrons.

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The Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, does these collisions within a 27km circular tunnel,

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which is 100 metres below Switzerland and France.

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Within this tunnel are beam pipes.

These pipes contain protons (remember, they are a hadron) in a vacuum.

One pipe send protons in a clockwise direction and the other sends them in an anti-clockwise directions.

These protons are accelerated around the 27km circular path at incredible speeds.

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Most of the LHC ring is made of incredibly powerful magnets.

These magnets steer the protons around the circle.

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Liquid helium flows through these magnets keeping them at an incredible -271.3 degrees Celcius,

which is only 1.9 degrees above the lowest possible temperature, absolute zero.

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When you cool metal it shrinks, and these pipes shrink about 30 metres when they are cooled.

To compensate for these compressions and expansions,

thousands of flexible connectors are positioned throughout the circuit.

Interestingly, when they first turned on the LHC in 2008,

one of these connectors failed to operate properly,

causing a breech in the circuit,

which led to liquid helium violently venting out and damaging 750 metres of the collider.

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This caused massive delays.

It was 2010 before it was ready to begin collisions again.

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Within the collider, there are also magnets that squeeze the proton beams together

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so they can collide inside one of the 4 large detectors.

(There are also 3 smaller detectors).

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The largest detector is over 25 metres tall,

which is huge compared to the size of the objects being collided,

objects we can’t even see because they are so small..

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When they collide, the protons are smashed into their smaller components.

These collisions create temperatures that are much hotter than the sun.

(Recent collisions have created temperatures 100 000 times hotter than the centre of the sun!)

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Physicists then analyse the data to see what the collision has created.

With 40 million collisions every second, the physicists rely on computer analysis to deal with all the data.

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It was the Higgs Boson that the physicists were looking for in their first experiments at the LHC

and, in 2012, they announced that they had found it.

(Watch the dvd “Particle Fever”, if you want to see what excited physicists look like).

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The Higgs Boson was the final piece of the Standard Model puzzle that physicists had been working on.

This is the model physicists currently use to explain all the basic ‘ingredients’ that they believe make up the universe.

(Nope, it’s not the proton, neutron and electron anymore.)

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Oh and don’t worry.

Just because they’ve found the Higgs Boson, doesn’t mean that all their questions are answered.

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So that’s what I learned at the Hadron Collider exhibition.

It’s very well presented.

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The experience starts with a short video

(but make sure you arrive 15 minutes before your time so you have time to look at the exhibits leading up to the auditorium)

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After the video, you begin your walk through the simulated LHC tunnel and offices.

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There are artifacts from the LHC to see

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and plenty of videos and audios to listen to.

(I really appreciated the subtitles and printed texts on all the audio components).

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As you walk through the simulated halls, pay attention to all the little details.

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On the physicists’ noticeboards, we found this treasure…

(If you can’t read the catchline it says, “Fun Fact: Ex-particle-physicists make the worst biologists.)

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Our favourite funny was this Schrodinger’s Cat one.

(You’ll have to look up “Schorodinger’s Cat” if you don’t find it funny.)

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Within the simulated office, you had to take your time and look around properly.

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There were lots of little details that you could miss if you were in a hurry.

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This was the simulated office of one of the people who were analysing the Higgs Boson data.

Make sure you stay to watch her reaction when she realises they have found the Higgs Boson.

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This exhibit was a visually spectacular one,

with lots of details

and stacks of reading.

We highly recommend it… with a couple of restrictions.

Firstly, I wouldn’t bother taking young children or younger students to see this exhibition.

It is not geared towards younger learners who can’t grasp what is happening at the LHC.

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And secondly, to get the most out of the experience, I would prepare your students before going.

My family read this new release book, “Smash:  Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider”

(It’s a graphic novel but beggars can’t be choosers when there’s so little written about the LHC and particle physics for younger audiences)

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We also watched “Particle Fever” which was an excellent documentary

and, if you can only do one thing in preparation, I would watch this dvd.


With the right audience, who is fully prepared to engage with the information, the Hadron Collider exhibition at the Brisbane Museum is well-worth a visit.


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Posted by on February 5, 2017 in Field Trips, Science