Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Cow Fart-O-Meter - A Most Excellent Canadian Invention

When I present in schools on science topics, my most popular "bit" is derived from an experiment described in my book, Science in the Loose.

The experiment, conducted by a team of snorfing, giggling Aussies, sought to determine who farts more, boys or girls.

During my presentations, I work with kids to develop an experiment of our own that would get good, accurate results for this problem. Along the way, we usually determine we need to find or build some kind of machine, a "fart-o-meter," that we could use to measure the volume of gas produced by each of our subjects.

So imagine my delight when I came across a news story this morning announcing that a team of Canadians have devised such a machine - expressly for cows! They did so in conjunction with the planet's foremost fart experts, yes, a team of scientists from Australia. The measuring device involves shooting laser beams from above onto a bunch of grazing cattle. The data collected can be analyzed to account for variables such as, ahem, wind.

My only disappointment was in learning that most of cows' gas is emitted via the bovine burp. Only 2% comes out frow the cow-boose. So if you want to be nit-picky about it, the Cow Fart-O-Meter, alas, should really be called a Burp-O-Meter.

Even so, I think the Canadian-Australian collaboration is something to be celebrated. So let one rip and say hip hip hooray for the folks who think farting - and burping - are worthy of scientific research.

To read the full article in the Ottawa Citizen, click here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Welland County Kids' Library Card Drive - Get Yours Today!

I had a lovely piece of news this past week. Next month, the Welland County Public Library System here in Ontario will be doing a promotion to encourage kids to get their own library cards. They'll be hosting classes in the library wherever possible, or going directly into the schools to highlight what the library offers. As part of the program, they are going to be giving out 600 copies of books from my Looney Bay All-Stars series as a way to encourage kids to sign up for a card.

This tickled me pink, I can tell you. I was an avid library user in my youth, and still remember that glorious day when I got my own first card. I read voraciously as a child, and would never have been able to feed my habit without the books from the Plainview-Old Bethpage Public Library. It was that library - and the school libraries too - that made me a writer.

I'm still a big library user, and a huge fan of the Toronto Public Library. I'm there at least three times a week - I think they should give me my own parking spot out back. ;)

So naturally, I'm delighted to be part of a project that will encourage kids to explore and use the library.

I'll be looking forward to finding out how the promo-blitz goes. I've also discussed with the Welland folks about doing some kind of author visit - in person or via Skype - to support their initiative.

And for anyone reading this, if you know a child who does not have a library card, plan an outing with her or him to get one. You'll both have fun and you'll be planting a seed that will grow, and grow and grow.....

Because: Science!