FINDING YOUR ANCESTORS ONLINE

Topics in this column include: Finding Your Ancestry Online, Brain Teasers and other interesting websites, Getting a hacked Gmail account back, Fun Projects from Maker Lab’s new book, Sending birthday greetings online, Tips and Tricks for your cell phone.

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BLUETOOTH MYSTERIES

We heard from a reader who wasn’t sure what Bluetooth was and why she needed it on her new iPad Mini. The answer is (the envelope, please): It’s a short-range radio transmitter and receiver, and she doesn’t need it.

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CHEMICAL OF THE DAY

ChemicalOfTheDay.squarespace.com gives you info on thousands of chemicals in the products we use. Joy switched her “natural” skin lotion after finding out it has phenoxyethanol, an aromatic form of ethanol that has raised some issues. Whole Foods and other stores have a variety of lotions without harmful chemicals. NOTE: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are approximately 75,000-80,000 chemicals in daily use, of which only a few hundred have been tested for toxicity.  The European Union equivalent agency says the number is 140,000. A Canadian agency says about 30,000 are in common use.

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LINKING CHILDREN TO SCIENCE PROJECTS WORLDWIDE

GlobalSchoolNet.org links children worldwide for science projects and cultural experiences. A current project looks at the problem of plastic in the oceans.

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27 SCIENCE FICTION IDEAS THAT BECAME SCIENCE FACTS

“27 Science Fiction ideas that Became Science Facts in 2012.  Click to find descriptions of an invisibility cloak, a computer controlled by thought, a photo of DNA, genetically-modified silk stronger than steel, spray-on skin and genetically modified mice that lived three times longer than normal — the equivalent of a 200 year-old human being.

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THE COOLEST REACTIONS YOUR SCIENCE TEACHER NEVER SHOWED YOU

ViralNova.com has an article entitled “The Coolest Reactions Your Science Teacher Never Showed You.” Watch a solid object floating on a gas. See gallium melt in the palm of someone’s hand. Watch some explosive dirt.

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WHY BABIES ARE POWERED BY ROCKET FUEL

YouTube.com/user/RoyalInstitution has lectures from Britain’s 216 year old Royal Institution, an organization founded for research and teaching in the sciences. Of particular note are their famous Christmas lectures. We recently watched “What a Wonderful World: One Man’s Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff,” by Marcus Chown. He spoke on  “why babies are powered by rocket fuel, why slime molds have 13 sexes, and why 98% of the Universe is invisible.”

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CURIOSITY STREAM

CuriosityStream.com claims to have the world’s best documentaries from the BBC and other channels around the world, plus original programming. The first month is free, then it’s $3 a month if you want to continue. But you have to give them a credit card for the free trial — and we never like that.

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STUFF IN SPACE

Stuffin.Space has a “3D Interactive Map of Absolutely Every Object Orbiting Earth.” Put together by incoming Texas college freshman James Yoder, it includes rockets, satellites and 20,000 pieces of junk. Blue objects are rocket bodies, red is for satellites, gray is debris. You also get the launch date, velocity and other details. (A few years ago, a deep hole in one of windows of the space station was found to have been caused by a collision with a tiny paint chip.)

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SMARTER EVERY DAY

“Smarter Every Day” is a YouTube channel for practical experiments. In one, a guy changed a bicycle’s handlebars  so that steering left made it go right and vice versa. It took him eight months to learn how to ride again. Switching the handlebar directions on a child’s bicycle took the child only two weeks to readjust.  Go to YouTube.com and search on “smarter every day.”

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