Real Amber?

LaurieNby: Laurie Neilsen

Is Your Amber the Real Deal?

Amber is fossilized tree resin which has undergone molecular polymerization over many millions of years. It is highly prized for use in jewelry because of its beautiful color, transparency, and lightness. It is also of great interest to the scientific community, as much of it has been found with ancient insects and plant life encased and preserved within.Real amber with insects

Amber sales skyrocketed after the release of the movie Jurassic Park, which featured scientists resurrecting several dinosaur species by extracting DNA from mosquitoes preserved in amber, to disastrous results. Fortunately for us, scientists have recently discovered that DNA has a 521-year half-life. Dinosaur DNA would simply be too old to clone.

Unfortunately, the popularity of amber has given rise to many imposters and imitations passed off as the real thing. So how do we make sure that the amber we are purchasing is real? We have found a few tests you can do at home (or in the classroom) to verify that what you have is real fossilized amber and not plastic, glass, or copal. Copal is tree resin that has not yet fossilized. (It will, though, if you’re willing to wait a few million years.)

Read the rest of this entry »

The Magnetic Accelerator

janice-cup-picture-ipgby Janice VanCleave

I love the magnetic accelerator. In fact, I met friends at a restaurant yesterday and took the accelerator with me. We had a lot of fun predicting what would happen and testing our predictions. No formal steps….just making cool guesses and then discovering whether we were correct.

Yes! The steel ball shot off the end of the track and hit the floor a couple of times, but that just added to the excitement.  It’s a small town and few are surprised that the eccentric science author is experimenting at the restaurant –again!Magnetic Accelerator

A parent came in with her daughter, a second grader. With the mother’s permission I invited the child to sit with us. The girl had sinus problems and didn’t feel well.  She was a bit sluggish and her eyes looked dull, as one would expect. When I asked the child if she wanted to do some science experiments, her dull eyes brightened. She had not been present during the previous testing of the accelerator, but she was immediately interested.

Read the rest of this entry »