STEM Friday Roundup For January 27, 2012

Welcome to the January 27, 2012 edition of STEM Friday.

Are you looking for Science, Technology, Engineering or Math children’s books? Then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered some of our recent  favorites to share.

For my contribution, I am featuring a book that would be an excellent tool for a discussion on the pros and cons of advancements in technology. Becoming Invisible: From Camouflage to Cloaks by Carla Mooney is a detailed look at what is happening in the high tech world of cloaking.

Camouflage and invisibility are fascinating topics. Everyone who has read the Harry Potter books probably wished they could have an invisibility cloak, too. Can you imagine how much fun it would be to be able to hide in plain sight?

Mooney explains the differences between camouflage and invisibility. With camouflage, the colors and patterns help the wearer blend in with the environment, but you can still see them if you know where to look. The idea of camouflage was proposed by an artist who studied the markings of animals in the late 1800’s. During World War I, the armies and navies of many countries tested camouflage patterns to hide both equipment and people, leading to the camouflage uniforms used by military personnel today.

“Optical camouflage” is another form of camouflage which uses projectors to display scenes of the moving background onto special reflective cloaks. From the right angle, it is impossible to tell where the cloaked person (or object) is standing because he or she seems to be part of the background images. If the viewer isn’t in line with the projectors, however, the illusion doesn’t work.

On the other hand, when something is truly invisible, our eyes can not see it. To attempt to produce true invisibility, scientists have trying to bend light to go around objects. Researchers have been able to bend types electromagnetic waves that are near relatives of visible light with special man-made materials called metamaterials. Using metamaterials made of metal and fiberglass, scientists have been able to develop “cloaks” that bend either microwaves or infrared light around an object, hiding it from detection. Both microwaves and infrared radiation have longer wavelengths than visible light, so the metamaterials will have to get smaller to be able to bend visible light. The possibility, however, seems more likely than ever before.

In Chapter 4, Mooney gives some ideas how invisibility cloaks could change the world if engineers and scientists succeed. She suggests several positive uses for the technology, but points out that it could be dangerous, as well. Can you imagine if criminals could become invisible? What about if enemy armies could cloak themselves and then suddenly appear well inside our borders? Other worry that invisible agents could spy on our every move without our knowledge or consent.

Becoming Invisible: From Camouflage to Cloaks gives the reader a lot to think about. I definitely recommend it to students who are considering physics or engineering as careers.

Be sure to check out the Camouflage and invisibility activities at Growing With Science that were inspired by the book.

Today’s STEM Friday recommended books:

(Links take you to the review of each title.)

Jeff at NC Teacher Stuff has Open Wide! by Catherine Ham
Shirley at Simply Science has the lovely A Leaf Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas
Precious at Rourke Publishing Blog highlights Fossils, Uncovering the Past by Tom Greve
Anastasia has Freaky-Strange Buildings by Michael Sandler at Booktalking.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to Booktalking blog and click on STEM Friday for more information.

You Just Can’t Help It! Your Guide to the Wild and Wacky World of Human Behavior

You Just Can’t Help It! Your Guide to the Wild and Wacky World of Human Behavior by Jeff Szpirglas and illustrated by Josh Holinaty is a zany science book that delves into human senses, emotion, communication and interactions with others in a lighthearted way that is sure to appeal to young readers. It was nominated for a 2011 Cybils award in the MG/YA nonfiction category.

Jeff Szpirglas is a grade school teacher, so you can bet he has personally encountered some “wild and wacky” actions. He explains in a friendly introduction that he got his ideas of studying human behavior when he read The Naked Ape by animal behaviorist Desmond Morris as a kid. He realized he hadn’t seen a book about human behavior like that for children, so he started doing some research. The result is a book just might inspire future scientists.

Written in an easy and fresh conversational style, the layout consists of two-page spreads of each topic, with plenty of sidebars. The illustrations are modern-looking combos of cartoons/drawings and photographs of kids.

Don’t be fooled by the relaxed look, however. The content is full of solid research and suggestions for experiments. Did you know that people speaking different languages use different disfluencies, or filler words like “uh” and “er”? Or that a mom finds her own baby’s smelly diaper less revolting than that of an unfamiliar baby? (Now, that explains how we mothers make it through our children’s early years!)

It is too bad the publishers found room to advertize Jeff’s other books, but not to include any source notes or places to find more information. From the long list of acknowledgements to specialists, the source notes would have been interesting and useful.

You Just Can’t Help It! is a serious look at human behavior in an easy-to-read package. It will definitely appeal to middle grade readers who want to know more about themselves and their classmates.

Reading level: Ages 9 and up
Hardcover: 64 pages
Publisher: Maple Tree Press (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1926818075
ISBN-13: 978-1926818078

A .pdf copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Laurie Thompson is hosting the STEM Friday meme this week. Be sure to visit for links to more excellent STEM books.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to Booktalking blog for more information.

An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors

Let’s put the T for Technology in STEM Friday this week with An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors by Kremena T. Spengler and illustrated by Rick Morgan.

“Did you know that people used needles and thread to sew together clothes before the first clay pot was made? Bet you didn’t know that…” I hear these words a lot when children read this book. Not only is the book full of discoveries about inventions and inventors, but it is also full of revelations about when these inventions came about. It’s exciting, entertaining and fun to find out when things were first made.

Seeing inventions unfold page by page as a timeline really does put things in perspective. For the first 1000 years AD the Chinese dominated the invention scene. Things then moved to Europe during the Renaissance, The reader can see the Industrial Revolution take off as major new inventions are made every few years rather than over centuries or decades. Children also begin to see that inventions they take for granted came about in their parents’ lifetime, and some even within their own lifetimes!

Of course not every invention can be included, but the author did a fine job of picking interesting as well as important ones. I like that she included a number of inventions by women.

An Illustrated Timeline of Inventions and Inventors is a resource book that appears to be deceptively simple and yet can be used in a multitude of ways, and will be picked up again and again. It is sure to spark an interest in the reader to find out more.

You can see sample pages at Google Books.

Related activities:

Reading level: Ages 7 and up
Paperback: 32 pages
Publisher: Picture Window Books (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1404870172
ISBN-13: 978-1404870178

This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Capstone Connect is hosting the Stem Friday meme this week. Be sure to visit for links to more excellent STEM books.

If you would like to participate in STEM Friday in the future, go to Booktalking blog for more information.