Understanding Echolocation

Nature and the world around us are filled with all kinds of amazing phenomena. In fact, scientific study provides parents, researchers, and educators with a means by which your kids can learn to understand it. In the case of bats, has your curiosity for knowledge given you reason to wonder how bats communicate while in flight? Join your kids at the Math Blaster blog to learn more about Echolocation and its role in the happenings of the night sky in areas where bats are common.



What is Echolocation? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Echolocation in it’s simplest form is, “a physiological process for locating distant or invisible objects (as prey) by sound waves reflected back to the emitter (as a bat) from the objects.” This is especially useful to creatures like bats as their nocturnal lifestyle makes it important for them to be able to navigate the night sky. Through echolocation, they are able to locate prey and also estimate distance as they fly from “point a” to “point b.”

The sound of the echo reflections are emitted back to the bat’s ears to allow them to process basic spatial information without the use of their eyes and light. Isn’t that neat? Can you imagine flying blindly, depending completely on the use of echolocation to navigate through life? This natural phenomenon gives new meaning to that common saying, “blind as a bat!”

Linking Icequakes and Earthquakes

How much do you know about icequakes? The terminology is not nearly as common to hear as ‘earthquakes,’ but in fact the two have some undeniable links. In its most basic form, icequakes or frost quakes are the breaking up on large frozen masses like ice sheets, glaciers and the like. So what does this all mean and how are these things linked? Read on to learn more!

Recent studies have linked the high impact 2010 Chilean earthquakes to noticeable changes in Antarctica in the form of these ice quakes. What makes the link between this case of earthquakes and subsequent icequakes is the 3,000 mile between the two areas. Not Studies since the 8.8 earthquake in 2010 have revealed that the ice in Antarctica is vulnerable to seismic waves even originating from remote locations.

This ripple effect can be explained to young learners through basic cause and affect principles. Learning about links like these can help them understand how science and the environment work through interlocking systems. Ultimately when one major even like high magnitude earth quakes occur, they can still have repercussions thousands of miles away.

Share this bit of knowledge with your kids to spark their interest in science!

Understanding the Origin of Stars

Stars light up the night sky on a daily basis and are for both kids and adults tiny twinkling specimens that are full of mystery. After all how much do you little ones really know about where stars come from and how they illuminate the skies? Scientific study has revealed stars to be collections of atoms floating in space that form carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Under the right conditions stars and even small planets form as a result.

Photo by: epSos.de

To dive deeper into the study of stars and their formation, NASA has just recently sent a flight into a star nursery to properly observe the inner workings of star formations. This will give researchers and scientists the opportunity to see the step by step process of how a star comes to be. The payload sent into space is known as the Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, or CHESS.

This all new technology is allowing us to record details such as the timeline breakdown for the forming of the clouds in space. Sending the CHESS into space also allows NASA to test for sending future satellites into space.

Impressive Strength: The Peacock Mantis Shrimp

The ocean dwelling Peacock Mantis Shrimp is tougher than its name implies. Do not let this pretty little guy fool you—this creature’s front appendages can strike with an underwater acceleration that equates to the same velocity of a speeding bullet from 22-calibur rifle! So why are researchers willing to go face to face with such a menacing little crustacean? Researchers have designed a structure for composite materials that can resist impacts tougher than airplane standard materials. All of this is inspired by the stomatopod’s impressive strength that seems out of this world!

Photo by Craig D

Photo by Craig D

With raptorial appendages that fold under its body, similar to that of a Praying Mantis, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp can deliver a hard hitting blow. They can wield their fist-like clubs to strike prey with great force at speeds up to 50 miles per hour in milliseconds—we can blink and miss this shrimp’s punch! Their appendages move so fast that the water that surrounds these limbs start to boil and create cavitation bubbles. When these bubbles collapse, they produce an underwater shock wave that is strong enough to affect their prey even if the Mantis Shrimp misses its target.

What is most impressive about this species is that is can punch up to 50,000 times with out damaging its clubs before molting. This unbelievable strength of such a tiny animal is what makes them one of the more interesting species to scientists in the animal kingdom. Studying the Mantis Shrimp’s fist-like clubs, will allow researchers to identify the key components to its structure and applying that knowledge to creating improvements with everyday objects, including advanced body armor for combat troops.

Flying Snakes

Snakes—scaly, slithering, hissing reptiles that fly? If you disagree, don’t let their lack of wings fool you into believing they can’t! There are some snakes that can glide through the air as far as 100 feet! How do they do it with out wings? Scientists are interested in their ability to glide as it may answer mechanical and aerospace questions.


There are five recognized species of flying snakes that are found in western India and Indonesia. These snakes are thought to be strictly tree dwellers and are rarely seen coming down from their comfy canopy homes. Scientists aren’t quite sure why or how often flying snakes fly, but it’s likely they do to move from tree to tree with out having to slither down just to climb back up another one or to escape predators and even hunt for food.

These flying snakes have the ability to rotate their ribs which allow them to flatten their bodies. The term “flying” isn’t necessarily what they do since they don’t gain altitude, but instead they are able to glide and they are very good at it. From high up on tree branches, flying snakes can fling themselves out of the tree then flattening their bodies into a concave C shape to trap air beneath them to seemingly slither through the air!

New research is investigating how the snake’s technique of gliding works and if their findings can be applied to mechanical problems with identifying the best air flow for smaller wind turbines.

The Earth and Moon

In our night sky, there is one celestial body that is easy spot – the moon. Like a large, natural satellite, the moon orbits around our Earth and is brighter than any regular nighttime cosmic object. So what is the difference between our Earth and the moon? Here are some characteristics that distinguish these differences along with some similarities that you can share with your Cadets at home.

Photo by Blatant World

Photo by Blatant World

The first major difference is our atmosphere here on Earth. It holds in the essential gasses we need to breath and helps to distribute thermal energy so that our planet does not get too hot or too cold. It is an important part of what makes Earth livable. The moon has a very thin atmosphere, which causes wild temperatures. On the moon during the day it can exceed 200°F and can drop to as low as -280°F at night! That’s too hot and too cold for any human, plant or animal from Earth to live comfortably.

Gazing at the moon in the night sky, it is hard to tell how big it really is. It is actually only a little over a quarter the size of our Earth, which is smaller than all of the planets in our solar system, with the exception of the dwarf planet, Pluto. But, compared to its counterpart during the day, why does the moon seem about the same size as the sun? Not only is the moon 400 times smaller, but also it is also 400 times closer to the Earth than the sun is! This explains why they look similar in size in our sky.

Believe it or not, the moon wasn’t always a fixture that orbited the Earth. So how did it get there? Scientists believe that the moon was formed from a huge collision that blasted a chunk off of the Earth. The debris was caught in orbit and eventually formed the moon.
It is true that the moon brightens up our night sky, but that is not the only thing it helps Earth with. Acting along with the sun, the moon’s gravitational forces are responsible for our ocean’s high and low tides.

The Earth and the moon are very different in size, atmosphere, temperature, and even terrain. The Earth is a unique planet that supports life and the moon helps the Earth support that life. So although very different, the moon serves a beneficial purpose as it orbits the Earth.

Nothing but Red Skies

A red sky in our atmosphere here on Earth is a beautiful sight at sunrise or sunset and it is also indicative of the weather changing. But on other planets and stars, a red sky may not seem as glamorous or simple. An example of a strange celestial body, called a brown dwarf, with unusually red skies was discovered recently by a team of astronomers.

Photo by JanetR3

Brown dwarfs are actually not planets or stars. They fall in a category in between the two because they are too big to be called planets, but they do not possess the right properties to fully transform into stars either. A Brown dwarf’s size is in between a star, like the Sun, and a big planet, like Jupiter. Sometimes they can be referred to as “failed stars” since they lack the energy source a star has making them cold and not as visible in our night skies.

A particular brown dwarf caught the eye of astronomers recently because of its very red appearance in comparison to others. Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) located in Chile, astronomers were able to observe this peculiar sight. They found that a thick layer of clouds in the brown dwarf’s atmosphere was causing it to look red. But these clouds aren’t the same as the ones we are used to here on Earth—these clouds are made mostly of mineral dust and the size of these dust grains are what makes the brown dwarf appear red.

The Astronomers found that the brown dwarf’s atmosphere is very hot and extreme, containing gases not suitable for us here on Earth to breath. Not only is the brown dwarf too hot for us to survive there, but it also has very large particles that dominate its atmosphere. Ouch!

Observing these celestial bodies, along with other planets and stars, will give us great insight as to how these extreme atmospheres work. Scientists can also better understand the range of the many atmospheres that can exist in our galaxy.