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mudwatt
mudwatt

Create a Battery From Mud

mudwatt
mudwatt

If you're looking to get your child excited about science, the answer could be right in your backyard. Keegan Cooke and Kevin Rand—a scientist and an engineer, respectively—have created awesome kits to make batteries powered by mud. MudWatt is an innovative approach to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education that can also power your electronics.

The batteries work by harnessing the power of bacteria that live in soil. These microscopic organisms release electrons as they consume and break down sugars. The MudWatt serves as a home for these microbes. As the bacteria expel energy, the battery will capture it and allow it to be reused.

Two discs are placed in the battery: the anode (placed in the mud) and the cathode (placed on top, exposed to air). The microbes will release their electrons into the anode, where they will move up a wire and into the "Hacker Board." From there, they can power small electronics like a thermometer or alarm clock. Afterwards, the electrons make the descent back into through the wire into the cathode. Finally, the electrons mingle with the oxygen and create water. The cycle is continuous, and occurs trillions of times every second.

According to MudWatt, the two most common types of bacteria are Shewanella and Geobacter. Shewanella can be found almost anywhere on earth, and can expel energy to compounds outside its body. Geobacter is most likely to be found where there is no oxygen (like the ocean floor) and can respire iron compounds.

MudWatt currently has a Kickstarter campaign that you can back here. You can also watch the creators explain their product below:

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History
The Queen of Code: Remembering Grace Hopper
By Lynn Gilbert, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer. She coined the term "computer bug" after finding a moth stuck inside Harvard's Mark II computer in 1947 (which in turn led to the term "debug," meaning solving problems in computer code). She did the foundational work that led to the COBOL programming language, used in mission-critical computing systems for decades (including today). She worked in World War II using very early computers to help end the war. When she retired from the U.S. Navy at age 79, she was the oldest active-duty commissioned officer in the service. Hopper, who was born on this day in 1906, is a hero of computing and a brilliant role model, but not many people know her story.

In this short documentary from FiveThirtyEight, directed by Gillian Jacobs, we learned about Grace Hopper from several biographers, archival photographs, and footage of her speaking in her later years. If you've never heard of Grace Hopper, or you're even vaguely interested in the history of computing or women in computing, this is a must-watch:

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science
Why Are Glaciers Blue?
iStock
iStock

The bright azure blue sported by many glaciers is one of nature's most stunning hues. But how does it happen, when the snow we see is usually white? As Joe Hanson of It's Okay to Be Smart explains in the video below, the snow and ice we see mostly looks white, cloudy, or clear because all of the visible light striking its surface is reflected back to us. But glaciers have a totally different structure—their many layers of tightly compressed snow means light has to travel much further, and is scattered many times throughout the depths. As the light bounces around, the light at the red and yellow end of the spectrum gets absorbed thanks to the vibrations of the water molecules inside the ice, leaving only blue and green light behind. For the details of exactly why that happens, check out Hanson's trip to Alaska's beautiful (and endangered) Mendenhall Glacier below.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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