3 Rs




Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas Star

The Star of Bethlehem

Have you ever wondered about the Star of Bethlehem, the star the wise men followed to locate the Christ-child?

As we get older, some of us tend to get more logical, more analytical and possibly more critical. We tend to dismiss such things as the Star of Bethlehem into the realm of fantasy. If we were theological historians, we would never make such an assumption.

The three wise men: Who were they? Matthew 2:1 says they came from the East (east of Judea). Judea was the buffer state between the Roman Empire to the west and the Persian Empire to the east. Matthew used the word Magoi to describe the wise men. This means that they were king-makers and were held in very high regard in Persia. The gifts they brought of gold, frankincense and myrrh were the very best of the trade route at that time. It was prophesied in the Persian Calendar that a magi would be born and the date was somewhere between 3 and 2 BC. According to Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Persians at that time, there was to come upon the Jewish people a messiah. A sign of his coming would be shown in the constellation Virgo.

The word star meant many things at that time: anything that shone brightly was considered a star, but it has to move across the sky. Planets are the likely candidates to fit this description. Jupiter shone brightly and over a six week period headed toward Judea to an observer on the ground. The star spoken of by the Zend Avesta (sacred texts of Zoroastrianism) was Jupiter that appeared 65 degrees above the Southern Horizon directly over Jerusalem and Jupiter was in the constellation Virgo.

Regarding December 25th as the date for Christmas, December 25th in ancient times was the date of the Roman Festival of Saturnalia. Gifts were exchanged and houses were decorated. Early Christians may have adopted this date for the birth of Jesus, to avoid persecution by Roman authorizes for their celebrations. It was Constantine in the 4th century who declared December 25th as the date for Christmas.1

The miracle is that God said He would deliver a Messiah and He did. Science attempts to explain in this article one aspect of the miraculous, the Star of Bethlehem. Science does not minimalize the event: it simply tries to explain one aspect of it.

Have a very Merry Christmas.


1. See http://www.space.com/14036-christmas-star-bethlehem-comet-planet-theories.html?utm_content=SPACEdotcom&utm_campaign=seo%2Bblitz&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social%2Bmedia for more theories about the Star of Bethlehem and the date for Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Best Christmas Gift

He was new to New Brunswick. He was new to the Parish of Prince William and Dumfries cum Queensbury and Southampton. He was the new Anglican Deacon and this was his parish. He arrived mid- June, 1968 with his new bride, Karen. During his first 5 months, he had performed 18 baptisms, 4 marriages and 4 funerals.

In December, 1968, his wife started getting pains in her side. She had had these pains before when she lived in Windsor, Ontario. When she went to her doctor there, he found nothing wrong with her. He took his wife to a doctor in Fredericton who examined her, took some x-rays and discovered the problem. There was a blockage in the uretur tube that runs from the kidney to the bladder and she would require immediate surgery. The operation was scheduled for December 23rd. The young deacon had to make quick plans. He arranged to have Anglican priests handle the Christmas Service at each of the four churches in his parish, both on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. And now, he prayed: “Your will be done….”

On December 24th, the major surgery was completed and his wife was recovering beautifully. The young Deacon felt humbled. On the Eve of the birth of the Christ-child, God had given the young Deacon the best Christmas gift ever: the life of his wife. This would be the beginning of 44 years together and still counting. He was and is most thankful.

The He is me.

Stan Taylor

The above article was first published in the Uxbridge COSMOS, December, 2010.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Will Beetlejuice go Supernova in 2012?

The doom and gloom theorists think so. Such theorists have proposed that the gamma radiation could damage biological life of Earth. And don’t forget the theory of two suns visible in the sky in the daytime.

Fact: Beetlejuice is located on the right shoulder of the constellation Orion the Hunter.

Speculation: No one can accurately predict when a star will go supernova.

Fact: To quote Phil Plait, creator of Bad Astronomy: “…if Beetlejuice explodes, we’re in no danger at all.” (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2010/06/01/is-betelgeuse-about-to-blow/)

Fact: Beetlejuice is about 640 Light Years (L.Y.) away from Earth. Jeff Adkins says:

“Let’s suppose just for the sake of rough argument that when Betelguese goes it will be 100 billion times brighter than the sun. That’s not an unusual brightness for a supernova; they can often rival an entire galaxy.

On the other hand, Betelguese is a lot farther away. At the speed of light, the sun is 8 minutes away. At the speed of light, Betelguese is 640 light years away. The intensity of light falls off as the square of the distance. Betelguese will, therefore be much dimmer than the sun as seen from earth. “

Speculation: It may be possible to see it in the daylight, much like we can sometimes see the moon in the daylight. I don’t think it will rival the sun in brightness. See http://space.about.com/b/2011/01/24/will-betelgeuse-go-supernova-in-2012.htm

Read http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/20/two-suns-twin-stars_n_811864.html  about one astronomers point of view and how it got twisted. There are hints of a doom and gloom scenario. A few news agencies got the story and blew it way out of proportion. Over the next few days, you will hear about the supernova being so bright, therte will be no night for a few months; there will be two suns in the sky; the solar radiation emitted will seriously damage the biological realm on Earth (us, plants and anything else that grows).

Beetlejuice has been dying for thousands of years. It is a super red giant. If you were to put Beetlejuice into our Solar System, it would take up the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars.

I was immediately suspicious of this article where the distance to Beetlejuice is 600 to 640 Light Years (L.Y.) from Earth, not 1300 L.Y.s like the article states. Further research on my part has resulted in just another 'end-of-the-world scenario' now that the Mayan Myth scare has been debunked.

You be the judge.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

STAO 2012 Followup

What a terrific conference. Attendance was only down about 10% compared to last year. This is insignificant in light of the fact that many of Ontario's teachers are on 'work to rule' while others were in a legal strike position. What that means is that extra-curricular activities get slashed. Our conference is co-curricular and not extra-curricular and this is why many came.

I had seven teachers at my "Building Balsawood Gliders to Scale" workshop. The teachers followed my instructions, put the control surfaces on the various parts and we flew them in the room. Some of the teachers went out into the hallway to fly their newly created gliders. We built the standard glider with a main wing, horizontal an verical stabilizer. We added control surfaces to control roll, pitch and yaw.

Our second glider was a delta wing with a canard.  And the third one we made using paper towel rolls for those on a tight budget.

The second workshop was called "Taylor's Pneumatic Toys." I'm humble; I named it after me. I started off with an experiment demonstrating the multiplication of force. Following this I taught the educators how to build a pneumatically controlled Canadarm.  I am a visual learner and this is how I teach. I explain a point then show my audience what to do. What I learned about doing this workshop was that I needed more models to show each of the steps. I had a finished model. This wasn't working so well. I gave them the booklet with the plans in it. I was reluctant to give out the plans earlier because they would have just built it without realizing there are steps that must be followed in the assembling process if the arm is supposed to work. I'll definitely have more visual pieces for my workshop in Houston.

We didn't have time to make what I call the McDigger. The McDigger is a front-end loader using a medium McDonalds ® French fries' container for the loader section.  I gave each of the 25 in attendancea a McDigger kit to take home.

I get such joy out of watching teachers get excited about flying planes and making Canadarm's work. I am confident that they will take this excitment back to their classrooms and get their students excited about science.

Alfterall, it is really about the kids.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

STAO 2012 Recapture the Wonder

I’m leaving today for the Doubletree Hotel on Dixon Road by Pearson International Airport for the Science Teachers Association of Ontario (STAO) Annual Conference. Educators from all over Canada usually attend. Jeremy Hanson (Canadian Astronaut) will be speaking on Saturday morning. I can’t wait to hear him. I’ll try to line up an interview with him. The conference runs from Nov 15 – 17, 2012.

I am doing two presentations. The first is “Building Balsawood Gliders to Scale” primarily for Grade 6 teachers. The second is entitled, “Taylor’s Toys” which is also the title of my book. I am currently working on the second draft. My second workshop will have educators doing an experiment on the multiplication of force. This will be followed by me teaching them how to build a pneumatically controlled Canadarm. And if there’s time, we’ll build a McDigger. The McDigger is a front-end loader using a medium sized McDonalds® French fries container. The construction of both of these toys appears in my book.

When I am not presenting, I’ll take in a couple of speakers, but most of my free time will be spent at the Web Site Booth. It is here that we show educators how to find resources of interest to them and how to navigate through our web site.

An attention-getter is the iron balls. We wrap one of the balls in aluminum foil and we strike the balls past each other. The result is a huge spark and a very loud noise. It’s an exothermic reaction and loads of fun.

I’ll post again following the conference.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Balloon Powered Hovercraft

Balloon Powered Hovercraft

Using the materials listed, make a hovercraft and try to make it travel as far as possible.


1 old CD

1 wooden spool

1 12” party balloon

4 pscs 10 cm x 2 cm piece of duct tape

Thin card (if needed)


1. Take 1 piece of tape and attach half of it lengthwise to the base of the spool.

2. Centre the spool over the hole of the CD and tape the spool to the CD.

3. Repeat Step 2 with each piece of tape making two strips parallel on opposite sides of the spool and the other 2 parallell at 90 degrees to the first pair so that the base of the spool in securely taped to the cd with no air leaks.

4. Inflate the balloon to stretch it somewhat. Let the air out. Attach it over the wooden spool.


1. Inflate the balloon by blowing through the base of the cd. Squeeze the base of the balloon to hold the air in while you inhale before blowing more air into the balloon.

2. Gently push it along a smooth surface.


How far did it go in cm (m)? (Intent: To demonstrate Newton’s 3rd Law of Action (air coming out of the balloon in a downward motion) and Reaction (the cd moving up in the opposite direction). Newton said that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.  The distance the disc travels is related to thrust and friction.


1. How can you make the balloon cover a greater distance? (Possible Answers: Use larger balloons, use smoother surfaces, cut a straw the length of the spool and put it inside to make the hole narrower and possibly increase the thrust).

2. How can you prevent the balloon from dragging behind once its air is expended? (Possible Answer: Place a thin card around the neck of the balloon to elevate the upper part of the balloon when the air is expended to prevent it from dragging).

Updated by

Stan Taylor

September, 2012 (originally created September, 1998)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Flyby Cancelled

I arrived at Capt. Michael VandenBos School in Whitby today and was extended a warm greeting from Principal Karen Schmidlechner. She introduced me to Capt. Robert Gagnon, Advance and Safety Snowbird Pilot. He informed me that for a flypast over the school, the planes would need 1500 feet. They need a minimum of 500 feet above the flying altitude of 1000 feet for a flyby. Unfortunately the clouds were below 1500 feet and severe weather was heading eastward out of Toronto. The flyby got cancelled.

The day was not lost. Capt. Gagnon and two of his fellow pilots,  went into the classrooms to speak with the students. They also posed with the students for a school picture. Why do they come to the school every year?

They come to honour one of their own, Capt. Michael J. VandenBos, who died in a training exercise in 1998 and for whom the school was named in 2001.

Why do I come to this school? The pilots are facinating and I learn a great deal simply speaking with them.

This is the first time in 10 years that a flyby was cancelled. Here’s hoping for blue skies next year.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Vicky Hipkin, Curiosity

For those of you following Curiosity's progress as it prepared to land on Mars at 1:31 am, Aug. 6th for those of us in Southern Ontario, listen to Vicky Hipkin (CSA) explain Canada's involvement at

Also learn about Vicky's involvement in the Phoenix Mission to Mars in my published interview with her in Crucible, March, 2011 (www.stao.ca, Resources, Crucible Archives, March, 2011).

For those of you who are not members of STAO, I'll post my interview with her on my blog and and only with Vicky's permission.

Friday, May 25, 2012

National Pride

The Canadian Air and Space Museum housed some of the planes that made our country great. The Avro Arrow, Lancaster Bomber, Big Flapper and the CT-114 Tutor Jet (plane of our famous Snowbirds) are a few of my favourites that were on display. When I visited the museum four years ago and first saw the Avro Arrow, I was struck with awe. It was larger than the pictures of it depict. I asked one of the staff to take a picture of me in front of the Arrow. He did and I've used this picture in my science presentations showing it to about 6000 students to date. Young students did not know that in 1958, Canada had the fastest airplane in the world.

A couple of years ago in December, I taught children how to make balsawood gliders as part of the Museums outreach program. I felt priviledged to be part of the history of this great building.

I wrote to our Prime Minister and our Ontario Premier, only to have my letters passed onto someone else with the promise that someone would get back to me. No one did. The pleas and signatures of so very many Canadians fell upon deaf ears. Our veterans hearts were once again saddened by a government that has its own agenda (4 hockey rinks) instead of preserving our Canadian Aviation History.

When the building that gave birth to so many planes that were flown to buy our freedom against an oppressor is demolished under the wrecking ball, another piece of Canadian history will be lost forever.

The Canadian Air and Space Museum demonstrated Canada in its finest hour. It deserved a better treatment and the kind of respect we Canadians hold dear regarding our national pride.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Science Rendezvous

Yesterday, my grandson Nickolas and I were at the Northumberland Mall in Colbourg, ON as part of the "Malls of Science" for "Science Rendezvous." We used balsawood gliders provided by the Canadian Airforce. On these gliders, using pre-cut 110 lb. card stock, we showed the children to place the ailerons toward the end of the main wing, the elevators mounted on the back of the horizontal stabilizer and closer to near the vertical stabilizer, and the rudder placed at the mid-point of the vertical stabilizer. We taught them roll, pitch and yaw, respectively. We also taught the children who were visiting the mall accompanied by their parents how to make balloon-powered hovercrafts. My grandson learned why I get such joy doing these workshops. He watched the children's eyes open wide when that "WOW" moment occurred. Nick was hooked. He wants to go with me again.

On June 9th, I'll be at at the Oshawa Airport in the terminal building teaching control surfaces on balsawood gliders and we'll have the students also make the balloon hovercrafts.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Science Is Fun

I just love giving science workshops. Each class of students is unique.

This past week was just a blast. On Monday, April 30th I was in Penetanguishene doing a Structures workshop aptly named: "May the Force Be With You." The round trip to the school and home was 299 km. On Tues and Wednesday I did two more workshops on structures. The students do build amazing structures. On Thursday and Friday I was a little closer to home and did two astronomy workshops. Grade 6 students are facinated with anything to do with outer space. What made these two workshops unique was the fact that several students asked for my autograph. It kinda makes you feel important, but more importantly, its a real joy to inspire so many students about the wonders of space.

Science is fun.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pigeons in Flight

When scientists do experiments in the laboratory, they use rats. If they want to study flight, they use pigeons. The following video clearly explains how pigeons make sharp turns at low speeds. It is an amazing video of flight. embed allowfullscreen="true" height="334" width="560" src="http://www.sciencefriday.com/embed/video/10417.swf" /