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Science Ornaments for Your Christmas Tree

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glasssculpture.org

A traditionally-decorated Christmas tree is nice, but you have a world of opportunities to personalize yours. If you are a scientist, or you just love science, you’re going to covet these specialty ornaments that show off your geeky side. They are destined to be heirlooms.

Biology

Michelle Banks renders visions of cell division, bacteria, and other microscopic biology subjects in watercolors. Her prints grace many a laboratory, although she also does fabric scarves and paintings in petri dishes. And she has smaller works for sale, in little petri dishes made into Christmas ornaments! You can see them at her Etsy shop. Some are faithful representations of microscopic images, such as the single pyramidal neuron on the left. Others are whimsical, like the fluffy bird flu viruses on the right.

Glass artist Mark Kemp offers an amoeba for your Christmas tree. It’s made of solid glass, and should be recognizable to anyone who’s peered through a microscope at a drop of swamp water. Perfect for a scientist’s tree!

A perfect pre-Christmas gift for any biology geek, medical doctor, or molecular geneticist would be a strip of DNA for the Christmas tree. This DNA pillow ornament is hand-made and for sale through the Etsy shop reggieana. There’s only one, though. If you miss out, you might catch the science lab pillow ornament from the same seller. 

I adore these Wet Specimen Holiday Ornaments from Forgotten Boneyard. They are heavy duty glass globes filled with water and your choice of spiders, leeches, sheep eyeballs, or insects. Too bad they are sold out. If the demand is there, the artist may have more next year.

Chemistry

Etsy seller NeuronsNotIncluded offers a handsome Christmas tree ornament that takes advantage of the element Holmium as it appears on the Periodic Table of Elements, in triplicate. If that’s not nerdy enough for you, the ornament on the right can be found at the same store.

The American Chemical Society has a list of a half-dozen or so recipes for making Christmas ornaments with chemistry, in the form of experiments. The snowflakes shown here were covered with homegrown borax crystals, starting with a pipe cleaner matrix or a matrix cut from a coffee filter.

Geology

Rocks on a Christmas tree? You Bet! Beautiful brightly-colored polished crystal agate slices make lovely Christmas tree ornaments. They aren’t diamonds; they are bigger and less expensive. This agate ornament comes from Etsy seller YDBT.

Psychology/Psychiatry

The father of psychoanalysis can be featured front and center on your Christmas tree -or possibly off to the side, where he can observe your behavior and obsessions. The 6” Sigmund Freud ornament is for sale at the Etsy store named SigmundFreud. Imagine that.

Astronomy

Nothing is more traditional than glass balls on your Christmas tree. Artists B.J. Johnson and Joy Alyssa Day offer hand blown glass ornaments that represent all the planets in our solar system (plus Pluto) in their collection called Gimme Some Space! The sizes are different, although not quite proportional to the real planets, and they can be purchased separately or as a set that includes the sun. The price is …astronomical.

Paleontology

There are many dinosaur Christmas ornaments, considering how kids love dinosaurs, and they aren’t hard to find. Cosmogorilla has a selection of science-related ornaments, including these cute renderings of long-extinct non-dinosaur species. Shown here are Anomalocaris (purple), Trilobite (orange) and Opabinia (blue).

If you want a real fossil, Etsy seller YDBT offers a Elrath Kingi trilobite fossil embedded in a Christmas ornament. On the right is a matching ornament featuring a 665 million-year-old ammonite fossil

Various Disciplines

The Women Heroes of Science Ornaments comes in a set of six wooden ornaments, featuring

Rosalind Franklin (genetics)
Marie Curie (radiation/chemistry)
Jane Goodall (primatology)
Rachel Carson (ecology)
Elizabeth Blackwell (first U.S. female physician)
Ada Lovelace (considered the first programmer)

Each one will be a conversation starter, so be sure you know how to explain who they are and what they did. They are also a great reminder for our children of what women have done and can do in science. There’s also a larger set with both men and women scientists.

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The Chinese City That Makes More Than Half of the World's Christmas Accessories
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Santa’s workshop isn’t actually in the North Pole—it’s in Yiwu, China, where 60 percent of the world’s Christmas items are produced. As The Guardian reports, the city just outside of Shanghai is home to 600 factories, which assemble mass quantities of festive baubles, fuzzy Santa hats, and every other imaginable Yuletide decoration or accessory.

The items are sold in the local Yiwu International Trade Market, which is the “world’s largest small commodity wholesale market,” and the market exports the holiday goods across the world. Eventually, some of them land on the shelves of local retailers near you.

Over the past few years, Yiwu International Trade Market has faced competition from online retailers like Alibaba and Made In China, and the e-commerce giants now have the upper hand. Still, the demand for Yiwu’s Christmas merchandise remains high domestically. According to The Guardian, Chinese residents are starting to celebrate the holiday.

[h/t The Guardian]

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16 Innovative Origins of Holiday Traditions

Don't miss an episode—subscribe today! Images and footage provided by Shutterstock. Here's a transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria Wiki.

1. Hi, I'm John Green, welcome to my salon, this is Mental Floss on YouTube, and did you know that artificial snow dates back to 1950? That's when three engineers from Milford, Connecticut attached a garden hose to a compressor and used a spray nozzle to cover a hill in 20 inches of snow. Before that, ski slope owners used ice. In 1949, for instance, the owner of Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut spent $3500 on 500 tons of ice, which he broke up with a pick, then spread the chips over a slope.

And that's just one of many origins of holiday traditions that I'm gonna share with you in this video today brought to you by Intel.

2. The Christmas tree in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center is 65 feet tall, 555 pounds, contains 30,000 LED lights, and costs the city of New York over $1.5 million. To find the perfect tree every year, the city sends out helicopter crews on surveying flights all over New England.

3. In 1851, Mark Carr because the first logger ever to set up a Christmas tree stand on a New York City sidewalk. He paid $1 to rent the space for that season. He was so successful that the next year, his rent was up to $100.

4. Christmas trees in 18th century Germany were often lit with candles fixed to the branches with wax, making them fire hazards. In 1882, Edward Johnson, vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company made the first electric Christmas lights for his family tree. The 80 walnut-sized electrical individual bulbs were red, white, and blue. Oh, so they looked kinda like our Nutcracker, red, white, and blue ... and Picard.

5. Holiday lights went commercial in 1901, but you had to plug each light in—meaning you probably couldn't have more than a couple on your tree. Ever-Ready solved that problem two years later, selling strings of lights with up to eight little bulbs in a row.

6. While mistletoe has been linked to fertility in lots of ancient cultures, the practice of kissing under it really took off in Victorian England, where some jerks circulated the myth that girls who refused to kiss under the mistletoe wouldn't receive any marriage proposals in the following year.

7. Speaking of mistletoe, it isn't native to the United States, but unwilling to let the tradition die, American entrepreneurs sourced the plants from France and began shipping the clippings over by steamship in the 19th century.

8. The most popular place to eat on December 25 in Japan is KFC. It's so common that you have to make reservations months in advance, despite the fact that only 1 percent of the population even celebrates Christmas. The tradition goes back to 1974, when the fast-food chain launched a commercial offering foreign visitors their next best thing to a traditional turkey, but instead, it unexpectedly caught on with locals.

9. Festivus from Seinfeld actually existed long before the TV show. The holiday, which features traditions like using a stark aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree, and the Feats of Strength, where someone had to wrestle the head of the household, is credited to staff writer Dan O'Keefe. But O'Keefe's father actually invented it when he began researching obscure European holidays and bundled them together as an excuse to gripe about his magazine job he worked for, Reader's Digest. According to Dan, the family was forced to attend the celebration for years and it was much stranger than anything he could write about for the sitcom.

10. The first Christmas cards were designed by the Englishman John Callcott Horsley in 1843. He printed up a thousand cards with three little drawings side by side, none of which were, like, Santa or reindeer—instead, his cards featured a family sitting together at a table in the middle with two images of them helping the poor on either side.

That's lovely, but I don't understand what it has to do with holidays. Where was the Xbox?

11. Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas is loosely based on Seuss himself. The day after Christmas in 1956, Seuss (a.k.a. Theodore Geisel) realized he never enjoyed the holidays. So he wrote the book in an attempt to remind himself about the true spirit of the season. According to his stepdaughter, there's a little Seuss in all of his characters. As she put it: "I always thought that the cat was Ted on his good days, and the Grinch was Ted on his bad days."

12. Christmas pickles are not supposed to be a thing. The idea comes from a German tradition where families hide a dill in their Tannenbaum's branches—the lucky child who finds it the next morning gets an extra gift from Saint Nick. But the story is actually completely untrue! Before F.W. Woolworth, Americans used to trim trees with candy and fruit and paper, but on a trip to a little town in Germany, Woolworth noticed an opportunity— people had started to make and use glass ornaments. Once he started importing the glass trinkets, Woolworth's team concocted the idea of Christmas pickles, along with the fake tradition story to boost sales of their new line at department stores.

Huh, can I start a Christmas tradition of playing Nintendo games all day?

13. Advent calendars first took off in America when a picture of President Eisenhower opening one up with his grandkids showed up in newspapers across the nation. But unlike the Christmas pickle, this tradition actually is German! The calendars were first produced by the German printer Gerhard Lang was inspired to recreate the handcrafted calendars his mother had made for him in the early 1900s. Before Lang, most Germans used to mark the advent by lighting candles or hanging pictures on advent clocks.

14. Now obviously, American customers want the postal service to make holiday stamps, right, because that's the only time we ever send mail anymore. But the service always struggled to figure out how to make a stamp that pleased everyone without offending anyone. In 1962, Jim Crawford came up with a simple design that worked, featuring two candles and a wreath. It was very popular. The postal office sold out its first run of 50 million stamps in no time. By the end of 1962, it had distributed over 1 billion of the stamps.

15. In 2007, the sport Major League Dreidel was formed in New York City. The tournaments occurred during Hanukkah, and the winner is the Dreideler with the longest time of spin.

16. And finally, I return to my salon to tell you that in 1951, artificial trees started outselling natural trees in the United States. But artificial trees aren't new. In fact, the first ones came from Germany in 1913 as a way to lessen deforestation. They were originally made out of goose feathers dyed green and fixed to a wooden pole. But goose feathers are messy and shed all over people's houses, so the toilet brush company Addis Brush Company stepped in, and using the exact same technology as brings toilet brushes into the world, made artificial Christmas trees.

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