Mars? Again? Why?

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I was driving my 6-year-old to school a few days ago, and we had the following conversation:

– Hey, I’ve just learned that NASA is sending yet another spacecraft to Mars. And we can put your name on it! How cool is that?
– Mars?
– Yes.
– Why is it always Mars? Aren’t they bored already? Mars, Mars, Mars… but there are so many other planets, dad!
– Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because close to us, and not that hot. And logistics, you know. So many things to discover.
– Always Mars. Why? I don’t understand!

Apparently he was a bit disappointed that it’s not another planet to which we’ll be sending his name. Sorry kid, but for now, we’ll have to make do with Mars. So here we go:

For the curious reader, this is about the the Insight Mars Lander mission of NASA, and “Another Chance to Put Your Name on Mars“. If you want to send your name, or your child’s, you can visit https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/insight.  There are already more than 1 million names registered! According to Frequently Asked Questions, you can see the photograph of the microchip on which your name will be etched at the following web addresses: https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/insight/learn/.

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A kid has to know his radio telescope

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A few weeks ago, in August of 2017, we made a short trip to Germany to visit Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Bad Münstereifel for a few days. There were two highlights of our short visit: The first one was a great culinary experience at Brasserie “1806” at Düsseldorf (thanks to a recommendation by Vedat Milor, see his Turkish article here, and an automatic English translation here). The second one was a scientific inspiration that led to this blog entry, a visit to the second largest radio telescope in the world, the Effelsberg 100-m Radio Telescope. The only downside was that we didn’t have time to visit the other, smaller radio telescope nearby, that is the historical Stockert Radio Telescope, nowadays used for educational purpose.

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I can easily recommend to science enthusiasts, geeks, and nerds a visit to Effelsberg radio telescope, not only because of the awe-inspiring view, as well as its scientific and engineering value, but also because of the wonderful nature surrounding it. We were also glad to see a lot of people, young and old, visiting the telescope even on that rainy day (well, they were mostly Germans, and we weren’t surprised). I tried to explain my six-year-old son the meaning of a radio telescope, but I don’t know how successful I was (how would you describe electromagnetic waves and radio telescopes to a 6-year-old, any useful ideas? Feel free to comment!). Nevertheless, I was able to arouse a bit of enthusiasm in him, enough to motivate him to take a rather long walk for him on a rainy day. I think the result and his excited cries were worth our efforts. I hope that one day he will learn more about electromagnetism, radio telescopes, and the fascinating world of human ingenuity that enabled us to ‘see and hear’ parts of the universe that we couldn’t perceive normally otherwise. Until that day, I’ll try to kindle his curiosity, even on a rainy day!

 

Multilingual children: when worlds and words collide

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It is one thing reading academic papers and books about multilingual children, and a very different thing experiencing it yourself when having a conversation with your 4-year-old son.

For example, after a few years of exposure to Turkish and Dutch, he comes up with a sentence such as

Dinozor is nog büyüker dan kamyon.

Thinking about how he combines Dutch and Turkish grammar, it is not difficult at all to see how he arrives at such a funny-sounding but constrained-by-both-languages-therefore-predictable result:

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Space Expo @ Brussels

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We had a great time at Space Expo in Brussels this weekend. I wish I was a kid again and run from one space artifact and simulator to another for hours (though I’ll never understand his being scared of Space Shuttle landing simulator (I had so much fun 🙂 )). We also considered going to German Aerospace Day at Cologne, but considering the tempo of a 4-year-old, decided to postpone it to his 6th year, that is 2017. But taking into account his enthusiasm, maybe our next stop will be Euro Space Center.

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Book review: “Bilingual: Life and Reality”

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A brief and very nice read on one of the wonders of the human mind

When a retired bilingual professor who knows his field very well takes the reader on a short and friendly tour, the result is a pleasure in many aspBilingual_Cover1ects. For me, two major aspects of “Bilingual: Life and Reality” were its explaining and debunking of myths related to bilingualism (and never forgetting the fact that experiencing a new language means experiencing a new culture and way of thinking at the same time), as well as having a dedicated chapter on the bilingualism of children.

The readers who did not know much about bilingualism will gain a lot from this book without having forced to struggle with heavy academic linguistics terminology. Parents who are concerned about the bilingualism of their children will be relieved as Prof. Grosjean explains why many of the myths are problematic or plainly false.

From the beginning to the end, the personal tone of the book made me feel like as if I was in a conversation with an old friend who knew a lot about bilingualism and shared this, as well as his personal experiences, without never intimidating.

If you want a good, non-academic starter for all matters related bilingualism, this book is one of the few I can sincerely recommend.

Space Expo at Noordwijk, Netherlands: A wonderful space center for children

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the ESA center at Noordwijk. The biggest ESA site, namely ESTEC , is also very close to Space Expo, a great place where families can take their children to introduce them many interesting and exciting aspects of space research. My colleagues were kind enough to show me some parts of it and I was surprised by the things I have learned.

I definitely plan to take my son there, but I think I’ll have to wait a few years more.

If you are interested about similar activities for your children you should check out these, too:

SpaceExpoNL

Yet another Scratch programming workshop for kids – TEDxYouth@Flanders 2012

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Long story short: The children were excited but I was probably more excited than them during the “Programming and creativity using Scratch” workshop series that took place at Koninklijk Atheneum Antwerpen as part of the TEDxYouth@Flanders 2012. Both the morning and the afternoon sessions went very well, and it was a unique experience exploring the fundamentals of computational thinking with children while helping them take their first steps into programming using Scratch. After this event, I have decied to publish my “Scratch Workshop Agenda” document under a Creative Commons license so that other people who would like to organize similar events could be able to take this as a starting point. It is also very nice to see that the previous version of this document had been used at the Devoxx4Kids events (held in Dutch and then French).

Programming and creativity using Scratch - 1

Programming and creativity using Scratch – 1

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