Monthly Archives: August 2015

Engineering Gadgets that Changed the World

Not all inventions are created equal. While most engineers and gadget creators would be happy to create something that made even a little impact on people’s lives, some manage to create something that can confidently be said to change the world. In this list, we’ll take a look at some of the most important inventions that did just that.

Leica I

The Leica I may not seem very impressive in an age where just about any personal phone can also take a high quality picture, but its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. Introduced in 1925, the Leica I (A) was the first mass-produced 35mm camera, making it the first step in the camera becoming a tool available to the general public. While the original model came with a custom fitted lens, the 1930s Leica I (C) introduced interchangeable lenses.

Land Rover

The big, boxy Land Rover may be a luxury vehicle today, but it was an all-purpose utility vehicle when it was first introduced. Created by two brothers in 1948, the Land Rover allowed people to drive where they had never driven before. Originally meant for farmers and military applications, it eventually became loved by the general public, kicking off America’s love of all things 4×4.

Western Electric 400

If you see a Western Electric 400 today, it’s usually because someone is using it as an example of quaint phone technology or old-timey nostalgia, but when this rotary phone was introduced, consumers gobbled it up. In many American homes their first phone was a Western Electric 400.

The Plow

The plow might not be the most glamorous invention in the world, but it’s certainly one of the most important. Food is one of the few things that is absolutely essential to human survival (which can’t exactly be said about any of the previous entries in this list, jokes about needing your phone to live aside), and the plow may be the device that more than any other has kept human beings fed for the millennia since it was first created.

The Wheel

The ultimate example of the obviously simple creation that still managed to change everything, the wheel has been allowing people to transport more, and transport it faster, for thousands upon thousands of years. Before civilizations relied on telecommunications and interstate highways to function, they sprung up based on their use of the wheel to transport goods and people quickly, efficiently, and safely. Think about how many everyday tools rely on the use of the wheel to function, and you realize just how much we still rely on its use.

The Printing Press

Good, old fashioned ink on paper may seem quaint in the age of email and texting, but the positive effect of Guttenberg’s printing press on the development of human civilization cannot be underestimated, or even fully calculated. In its day, it had the same effect that digital communication had on the modern world – it drastically improved people’s abilities to produce written material, allowing it to be printed and shared on a massive scale unseen before its invention.


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Structures Which Appear to Defy the Laws of Gravity

Engineers tend to push the laws of gravity and science by developing structures that appear like they could easily fall over or which look like they are floating in the sky. How do these buildings manage to stay in place and not fall down, injuring people and causing mass destruction? It is largely due to engineers and architects having a firm grasp of scientific principles and utilizing these to develop their one-of-a-kind structures.

Unfortunately, you will not find many of these structures here in the United States. Instead, you have to pack your bags and embark on an international journey to see these unique structures, to truly appreciate the remarkable feats of modern engineering and science.

  1. Cactus House, Netherlands: This structure appears like the engineer built it using blocks from the popular Jenga game. The building was designed to provide maximum sunlight exposure and encourage residents to grow greenery on their balconies.
  2. Sharp Center of Design, Toronto, Ontario: The Ontario College of Art and Design needed a new building and decided to create this structure. It was built directly over the existing main college building and features 12 colored steel support legs, which look like pencils shoved through the square, black and white, crossword-style building.
  3. Krzywy Domek, Sopot, Poland: This structure has the nickname “the crooked house,” as the exterior facing the front looks like it was taken out of a cartoon. The façade curves left and right, and there are unique shapes for the windows. The building is considered one of the strangest buildings in the world.
  4. Cube Houses, Netherlands: Located in Rotterdam and Helmond, these cubic houses were built at a 45 degree angle, to make it appear like they are falling out of the sky and to the ground below. However, the interiors of the homes are not tilted on their sides, but incorporate the unique structure into level floors, while leaving plenty of space open on the ground.
  5. Balancing Barn, England: This barn-like structure appears to be balanced over a ledge with approximately 50% of the structure unsupported. There is even a swing hung at the end of the unsupported section of the home for guests. Located in the English countryside, the home is available as a vacation rental.
  6. CCTV Headquarters, Beijing, China: This unique three-dimensional structure has one main elevated section, 246 feet above the ground, supported on each end by two leaning towers. Engineers developed the main section to be as wide as other skyscrapers are tall.
  7. Niteroi Contemporary Art Museum, Rio de Janerio, Brazil: This bowl-shaped structure looks like it is supported by a small singular cylindrical support. The structure actually gets wider as you go higher up toward the roof. To some people, the building looks like a space ship that landed upside down.

The next time you plan to travel internationally to one of these countries, make sure to allow extra time to explore and see these unique and gravity-defying structures. Remember to take along engineering notebooks from Scientific Notebook Company to sketch drawings of these remarkable structures. Contact us today at 800-537-3028 to order your notebooks.

Laboratory Notebook

Eight Interesting Science Facts Everyone Should Know

Science is filled with interesting facts the majority of people learned at various ages as they attended school. Even if you do not remember the exact details about specific facts or equations developed as part of a theory or principle, you will most likely recall these facts from your educational experiences:

  1. The Law of Gravity  –  Everyone knows the basic principles behind gravity: You toss an object up in the air, and it must come down. Sir Isaac Newton was the one to make the discovery and developed a mathematical equation for calculating the specific gravitational force exerted on objects.
  2. Why the Sky Is Blue  –  If anyone has ever used a prism, you know sunlight consists of a full spectrum of colors. The reason the sky is blue is because the other colors are cancelled out as sunlight passes through the upper atmosphere. In the morning and evening, the sunlight has to travel further, so other colors are able to be seen.
  3. How Rainbows Are Formed  –  While there is an old Irish myth about being able to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, scientifically speaking, rainbows are formed when sunlight is refracted through water droplets, much like a prism. It is the refracted light which makes the rainbow in the sky.
  4. Who Developed the Theory of Relativity  – From teens to adults, while you may not understand the theory of relativity, you should know it was developed by Albert Einstein. It is our perception of time, in relativity to the actual amount of time that has passed, like spending an actual hour doing something, but, to you, it only feels like you have been doing it for a few minutes.
  5. The Uncertainty Principle – Postulated by Werner Heisenberg, this principle stipulates that it is impossible to know two properties of a particle simultaneously. In other words, you might know the relative momentum of the particle, but not the position of an electron, and vice versa.
  6. The Big Bang Theory – This theory postulates the universe was formed from a major expansive event, resulting in the expansion of the universe. Out of all scientific facts, the Big Bang Theory is one of the most widely known ones.
  7. What Clouds Are Made Of and How They Form  –  Even if you do not remember the four different classifications for clouds (cumulus, cirrus, nimbus, and stratus), you should remember clouds consist of water and ice crystals. Clouds are created when moist air rises into the sky and the water droplets cool.
  8. The Buoyancy Principle – Discovered by Archimedes, this principle simply stated that when an object was placed into water, the weight of the object was equal to the weight of the water displaced by the object. In other words, this is why water levels rise when you get into the bathtub or swimming pool.

What are you favorite interesting science facts? You can keep a record of your favorites by using scientific notebooks available from Scientific Notebook Company. Call 800-537-3028 to speak to a representative today.

The Best High School Science Projects

Good ol’ high school science projects. They often end up being some of the most memorable activities one completes during years of education. Giving students a chance to exercise their creativity while engaging in practical learning, a good high school science project combines knowledge, experimentation, and fun activities into one package. While every project should fall within the guidelines provided for each assignment (meaning not all of the assignments listed below will be appropriate in every instance), we’ve put together a list of some of the most fun and creative high school science projects.

Measuring the Reactivity of Alkali Metals in Water

For the student who loved making baking soda volcanoes in grade school, this is a high-school-appropriate project that’s just a little explosive. Or, if you use cesium, VERY explosive! (In other words, DO NOT use cesium for this experiment). Alkali metals tend to have violent reactions when exposed to water, giving students a chance to predict the outcome of different combinations of alkalis in different levels or types of water. Just be sure to check with your science teacher which alkali metals are safe to use, and be sure to take all necessary safety guidelines. Also, see if you can record the reactions and show them to the class; they are bound to be entertained by the different reactions!

Determining the Perfect Proportions for Catalysts

If there’s a particular chemical reaction involving the use of catalysts that a student is interested in, this experiment gives them a chance to perform it multiple times, and to experiment with it in ways that produce different results. It’s simple enough to complete: choose a chemical reaction involving a catalyst, predict how the reaction will be affected when different amounts of catalyst are used, and then test the results. Perform the experiment enough times to come to an accurate conclusion on the perfect proportion of the catalyst to use, and … voila!

Construct a Balsa Wood Tower

If a science project calls for the demonstration of engineering principles, constructing a balsa wood tower is a great way to build impressive looking structures that are within a high school student’s means to build. Depending on the guidelines for the experiment, the project can measure how different construction techniques affect how much weight a structure can support, how high it can be built while still maintaining structural integrity, etc. This is a great project for students who love to build, and who want to show off their creativity and building skills. Draw up an interesting design, or model it after a famous structure, and then see if your design hold up and can survive past being converted from paper to real life.

Looking for other ideas? How about testing color absorption by exposing different metals to flame? Or studying how electromagnets affect plant growth? With a little creativity and guidance, these are all projects that are within an average high school student’s ability, and should be interesting enough to keep them engaged with the learning process.

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