Category Archives: Dr. Chris Kirk

Hot Science and Modern Chemistry in High School

Hooray for Modern Chemistry (and yes, I have a Periodic Table shower curtain)

Hooray for Modern Chemistry (and yes, I have a Periodic Table shower curtain)

I recently started my sophomore year in high school, and my classes have been a lot of fun. As many of you know, I have a great love of biology (and in learning about and battling invasive plant species!), but recently, I found a similar love for chemistry. (I’ll just admit right now that I love science.)

In the first few weeks of my chemistry class, it’s been fascinating learning about the basics of chemistry, including measurements and states of matter.

Volcanoes in Austin, Texas

For our first lab, we mixed acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate and measured the temperature of the mixture. We found that it created an endothermic reaction, which means that the temperature drops as the reaction progresses.

I’ll let you in on a secret. Acetic acid is vinegar, and sodium bicarbonate is baking soda, and this is a common mixture for volcano science fair projects. You just need to add detergent so you can make soap bubbles from the escaping gasses. With a little red food coloring, it looks like lava bubbling!

We’re using a very interesting piece of equipment, the Vernier LabQuest 2. This device is amazing since you can hook up different probes to measure temperature, light, sound, pressure, and even radiation! You can get information on almost everything. It’s a great tool, and one I wish I had at home too.

Modern Chemistry textbook, audiobook, and iBook

Modern Chemistry iBook available from iTunes

Modern Chemistry iBook available from iTunes

We’re using the Modern Chemistry book from Holt, Rinehart and Winston in my class. With my dyslexia, it’s not easy for me to learn from just the printed word. Finding the audio book and iBook for my biology textbook helped me out during my high school freshman year.

I was also able to find the audio version of my current Modern Chemistry book from Learning Ally and a newer version of the Modern Chemistry iBook from iTunes. With Learning Ally, a human reader reads the entire page, including figures. With my iBook version, I can select portions of the text for my Apple MacBook’s or iPad’s electronic voice to read. The iBook version also contains videos, quizzes, and other nice interactive features.

Hot science – Cool Talks – Chemistry

 Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, Dr. Chris Kirk, and Dr. Rebecca Lewis at the 2014 UT ESI Education and Outreach Dinner

Dr. Jay Banner, Commander Ben, Dr. Chris Kirk, and Dr. Rebecca Lewis at the 2014 UT ESI Education and Outreach Dinner

I’ve always loved Hot Science – Cool Talks from the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute (ESI).

Hot Science – Cool Talks are a series of presentations where you can enjoy fun prelecture activities and learn a lot about science during presentations given by distinguished scientists. They’ve become very popular over the years, and I’ve been going to them since I’ve been a little scientist guy.

Thanks to Dr. Jay Banner, UT ESI director, I’ve had the great fortune to interview many of the previous presenting scientists. (Here are some of my video interviews with Dr. Chris Kirk for his Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation, “Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye”.)

With myself and many other Austin-area sophomores learning about chemistry in science this year, what great fortune that the first Hot Science presentation is on chemistry!

Dr. David Laude will give a presentation on How I Learned to Love Chemistry on Friday, September 12, 2014. The fun prelecture activities start at 5:45 p.m., and Dr. Laude’s presentation starts at 7:00 p.m.

I’m counting on his promise that Dr. Laude will blow stuff up! He’ll make liquid nitrogen ice cream for everyone at the end. See! Science can be fascinating and delicious at the same time.

Fall 2014: Hot Science – Cool Talks presentations

Now you know why it's called Hot Science! (Photo credit: UT ESI)

Now you know why it’s called Hot Science! (Photo credit: UT ESI)

I look forward to seeing you at Hot Science this Friday!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Chemistry, David Laude, Dr. Chris Kirk, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Modern Chemistry

Stop Monkeying Around: Primate Social Behavior

Amazonian Primate (Photo credit: UT Austin - Environmental Science Institute.)

Amazonian Primate (Photo credit: UT Austin – Environmental Science Institute.)

Science is my favorite subject, and this spring in my high school freshman biology class, I’ve been learning about plants, the diversity of animals, evolution, and more.

We learned about the common characteristics that all primates share: fingers and toes with nails, not claws; arms that rotate around a shoulder joint; binocular vision; and a well-developed cerebrum, which is helpful for complex thinking.

We’re now studying the different systems of the human body, including the nervous and skeletal systems. (We have 206 bones in our adult human skeleton!)

Primate evolution and the evolution of senses

When I was a young naturalist (younger than I am now), I had the chance to interview Dr. Chris Kirk before his “Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye” presentation. Dr. Kirk is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology, and his talk was part of the Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute.

Primate social behavior

There are more awesome anthropological presentations in store with Hot Science – Cool Talks! You can learn more about primate social behavior with Dr. Anthony Di Fiore during his presentation this Friday, April 4, 2014. A Professor of Biological Anthropology and the Chair of the UT Austin Department of Anthropology, Dr. Di Fiore will talk about the monkeys that he’s studying in the Amazonian Ecuador and how their native ecosystem helps to shape their behavior and society.

His presentation starts at 7:00 pm in Welch Hall on the UT Austin campus, but be sure to arrive early, because the pre-lecture fair, full of fun kids activities and learning, starts at 5:45 pm.

It’s the last Hot Science event of the spring 2014 semester, so don’t monkey around and miss out on this Cool Talk!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Anthony Di Fiore, Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Chris Kirk, Environmental Science Institute, ESI, Hot Science - Cool Talks, My Eye Your Eye and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, Primate social behavior

Awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks presentations coming up in 2012

Happy New Year! And what a great way to start off the year by making plans to learn more about science by attend the upcoming 2012 Hot Science – Cool Talks presentations, hosted by the Environmental Science Institute at UT Austin.

The next one, Dark Energy, Explosions, and Zombie Stars: The Past and Future of our Universe, on Friday, January 13, 2012, looks great! I always wanted to know about dark energy and supernovas.

The speaker is Dr. Andrew Howell, and he’s from the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network. He’s also the host of National Geographic Channel’s third season of Known Universe, and this YouTube video shows a trailer of his program.

Learn more about Hot Science – Cool Talks, and watch my video interviews with Dr. Christopher Kirk on his fantastic December 2011 presentation, “Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye”.


The January 2012 presentation looks really cool. I hope to see you on January 13th (less than two weeks away!), and be sure to get there early. (It’s in the SAC Auditorium instead Welch Hall.) There are lots of fun activities for kids before the talk, so I hope to see you there!

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under Dr. Andrew Howell, Dr. Chris Kirk, Dr. Christopher Kirk, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks

Dr. Chris Kirk and the Kingdom of the Crystal Aye-Aye

Dr. Chris Kirk was an amazing speaker! He’s a physical anthropologist and an Associate Professor with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin, and he brought a lot of fun and energy to his talk. We learned a lot about why our eyes are give us crystal clear vision.

You have to watch the webcast replay when it’s available to get all the incredible details, including a test that you can perform to see if you have binocular vision, why all primates share forward facing eyes, and why we have complex facial muscles for communication.

Pin the tail on the Aye-Aye

As always, you gotta come early to have fun with all the cool games before the presentation. For the activities before Dr. Kirk’s talk, we could choose to wear glasses that simulated mouse, elephant, or dog eyes. Each animal’s eyes were fuzzier and showed less detail than our human eyes.

With the glasses on, we tried to complete different tasks to see how difficult they would be. Here I am trying to catch a ball with dog eyes.

Another activity involved pinning the tail on the Aye-Aye, which we found out from Dr. Kirk’s talk is a cute little lemur with a long middle finger to pull grubs out from trees. (It gets so happy when it has a grub! :-))

I tried both dog and mouse eyes, and the mouse eyes were the most difficult to distinguish details. Thank you, my human ancestors, for giving us such great eyes for depth perception and detail!

Outstanding presentation

Dr. Banner, thanks for the kind shout out in front of the audience before the presentation, and Dr. Kirk, thanks for all your wonderful mentions during your talk. I had an awesome time at your presentation and interviewing you beforehand!

Thanks too to everyone who knew me through my videos and came up afterwards to say hi. I had a surprise from some wonderful fans when my Dad and I were eating at the Noodles & Company after Dr. Kirk’s presentation! (The Japanese Pan Noodles were delicious!)

I can’t wait until the next Hot Science – Cool Talks in January 2012! :-)

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under Dr. Chris Kirk, Hot Science - Cool Talks, My Eye Your Eye and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, University of Texas

All Eyes on Dr. Chris Kirk’s Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation – Pre-talk Video Interviews

I had a great time visiting with Dr. Chris Kirk yesterday for a series of pre-talk interviews for his upcoming Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation, Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the Environmental Science Institute.

Dr. Kirk is an amazing physical anthropologist and an Associate Professor with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. As you’ll see in my video interviews with him, he has incredible energy and knowledge about primate evolution and the evolution of senses. Don’t miss his Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation on Friday, December 2, 7pm at Welch Hall, Room 2.224.  And if you can come early, there be lots of fun pre-lecture activities beginning at 5:30.

Thanks, Dr. Kirk, for the wonderful interview videos! I know everyone will enjoy learning more about primate evolution.

Here are the videos:

#1 A Peek at Dr. Chris Kirk’s Hot Science – Cool Talks Presentation

Find out why depth perception and detailed vision give humans the best eyesight out of any living mammal. (But what about extinct mammals and other living vertebrates?  You’ll find out!) Learn more about Dr. Chris Kirk’s specialty in primate evolution and the evolution of senses.

#2 Visiting Zoo Monkeys: What NOT to Do

Find out the interesting and unusual feature that human eyes have and that anthropoids do not. Oh, and also learn what NOT to do when you visit monkeys at the zoo!

#3 Battle Plan for Vertebrate Eye Evolution

Find out what mammal has the best combination of sensory adaptation and learn about the problem with compound eyes.  Then  discover how what you inherit from your ancestors has a profound affect on what your anatomy can do. Dr. Chris Kirk also describes how his love of anthropology growing up helped him find his niche as a physical anthropologist.

#4 44 million Year Old Invasive Species Revealed

Commander Ben holds a 44 million year old invasive species fossil in his hand. Learn more about the new species of primate, Mescalerolemur horneri, that Dr. Chris Kirk helped discover in West Texas.

Enjoy!

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Chris Kirk, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Mescalerolemur Horneri, My Eye Your Eye and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, University of Texas, Video

44 million year old invasive species revealed

Commander Ben holds a 44 million year old invasive species fossil in his hand. Learn more about the new species of primate, Mescalerolemur horneri, that Dr. Chris Kirk helped discover in West Texas.

Dr. Kirk is an Associate Professor with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas – Austin. His talk, Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, is part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the Environmental Science Institute.  Don’t miss his Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation on Friday, December 2, 7pm at Welch Hall, Room 2.224.  And if you can come early, there be lots of fun pre-lecture activities beginning at 5:30.

This is part four of Commander Ben’s interview with Dr. Kirk.

For more great information from Dr. Kirk, be sure to visit the other videos in this series:

#1 A Peek at Dr. Chris Kirk’s Hot Science – Cool Talks Presentation

Find out why depth perception and detailed vision give humans the best eyesight out of any living mammal. (But what about extinct mammals and other living vertebrates?  You’ll find out!) Learn more about Dr. Chris Kirk’s specialty in primate evolution and the evolution of senses.

#2 Visiting Zoo Monkeys: What NOT to Do

Find out the interesting and unusual feature that human eyes have and that anthropoids do not. Oh, and also learn what NOT to do when you visit monkeys at the zoo!

#3 Battle Plan for Vertebrate Eye Evolution

Find out what mammal has the best combination of sensory adaptation and learn about the problem with compound eyes.  Then discover how what you inherit from your ancestors has a profound affect on what your anatomy can do. Dr. Chris Kirk also describes how his love of anthropology growing up helped him find his niche as a physical anthropologist.

Enjoy!

Commander Ben signing off…

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Filed under Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Chris Kirk, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Mescalerolemur Horneri, My Eye Your Eye and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, University of Texas, Video

Battle Plan for Vertebrate Eye Evolution

Find out which mammal has the best combination of sensory adaptation and learn about the problem with compound eyes.  Then discover how what you inherit from your ancestors has a profound affect on what your anatomy can do.  Dr. Chris Kirk also describes how his love of anthropology growing up helped him find his niche as a physical anthropologist.

Dr. Kirk is an Associate Professor with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas – Austin. His talk, Your Eye, My Eye, and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, is part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the Environmental Science Institute.  Don’t miss his Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation on Friday, December 2, 7pm at Welch Hall, Room 2.224.  And if you can come early, there be lots of fun pre-lecture activities beginning at 5:30.

This is part three of my interview with Dr. Kirk.

For more great information from Dr. Kirk, be sure to visit the other videos in this series:

#1 A Peek at Dr. Chris Kirk’s Hot Science – Cool Talks Presentation

Find out why depth perception and detailed vision give humans the best eyesight out of any living mammal. (But what about extinct mammals and other living vertebrates?  You’ll find out!) Learn more about Dr. Chris Kirk’s specialty in primate evolution and the evolution of senses.

#2 Visiting Zoo Monkeys: What NOT to Do

Find out the interesting and unusual feature that human eyes have and that anthropoids do not. Oh, and also learn what NOT to do when you visit monkeys at the zoo!

#4 44 million Year Old Invasive Species Revealed

Commander Ben holds a 44 million year old invasive species fossil in his hand. Learn more about the new species of primate, Mescalerolemur horneri, that Dr. Chris Kirk helped discover in West Texas.

Enjoy!

Commander Ben signing off…

Leave a comment

Filed under Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Chris Kirk, Environmental Science Institute, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Mescalerolemur Horneri, My Eye Your Eye and the Eye of the Aye-Aye, University of Texas, Video