Director's Choice Science Fair Project Ideas (page 2)
From time to time I come up with, or come across, a project idea / concept that I will notate below. These ideas will only be in hypothesis type format, and will not have any hard conclusions available. They are of the substance of ideas that there has been no known or very little research done. Please feel free to take these ideas and "run with them". But keep this in mind - As Director of the Louisiana Region 5 Science and Engineering Fair, I in no way get involved with the Judging, nor do I have any influence on the decision of the Judges. I do not know who the winners of the awards are until I am handed the list at the beginning of the awards ceremony. In other words, don't research any of these ideas just because I suggested them.
- Earth Science - Scientists have not be able to accurately predict when, or where, earthquakes will occur. Believe it or not, there appears to be on the average of 10 recorded tremors throughout the world on any given day. The depths of these disturbances can be anywhere from a few miles to 600+ miles. In 2003 there were several major ( 7+ magnitude ) quakes that took place in various spots of globe. Shortly afterward, there seemed to be a rash of minor to moderate quakes in other areas of the world. Does a major quake set off or trigger other quakes in other quake prone areas? If a major quake takes place at the 300 mile level, and if there is an increase in quake activity in the days following this event, then at what depth do they normally occur? What, if any, is the correlation? I would suggest starting out at the following site: http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/bulletin.html. This link to the USGS has a great database of historical data that could be used. You might want to consider drawing up or designing some type of global 3D model to depict the results of your research. While you are collecting the information, a few other good questions are, "Is there a time of year that the frequency of increase? Is there any comparison to this frequency in regard to the Northern and Southern hemisphere?" Anyway, go for this if you are into doing some fascinating research. Added Note: I recently (Early December) stumbled across an interesting site - http://www.syzygyjob.com/. The scientist here has done a lot of research in earthquake predictions in correlation to tidal activity. He forecast the December quake in California, Oregon, and the 7.0 in the Pacific Ring of Fire. Check out the site and read up on the concept. When someone goes 3 for 3 in a 7 day period, he has my vote of confidence. An added suggestion is to make a graphic 3D model of yearly earthquakes. The model would be based on depth and location (lat / long). You might be able to show that a sizable quake at a certain depth will set off another one at about the same depth. For example, on December 23, 2004, there was a 8.1 North of Macquarie Island at a depth of 10 KM. Three days later there was a 9.0 off West Coast of Northern Sumatra, also at a depth of 10 KM. Maybe design a software program that could be used to download information about recorded quakes (location, strength, depth, etc) and automatically plot each one in 3D. Good luck!
- Earth Science - Here is an idea that would take a good bit of data collection and research. As many of you know, I have been a meteorology enthusiast all of my life. When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in SE Louisiana the reported barometric pressure was 915 mb with reported sustained winds of 145 - 150 mph (Category 4) Relating to the following Category 5 storms that made landfall on the continental US, the Great Labor Day Storm of 1935 (bp - 892 mb with estimated winds of 190 mph), Hurricane Camille 1969 (bp - 909 mb with estimated winds of 200 mph), Hurricane Andrew 1992 (bp - 922 mb with estimated winds of 160 - 165 mph). If you drop down to Hurricane Donna in 1960 - Category 4 - the bp was at 930 mb. Is there a direct relation between hurricane barometric pressure and its wind speed? It is somewhat proportional? An initial look see of data indicates to me that it is. (So why were Katrina's winds reported to be 145 mph when the bp was at 915 mb?) I would suggest collecting public advisory data on as many hurricanes as possible. Chart the bp fall with the wind increase to see if the graphs are proportional. Hurricanes advisories are issued at 6 hour intervals. (3 hour intervals when in close proximity to the US mainland) You might also correlate this data with how far hurricane and tropical force winds extend outward from the center in these storms. (see if you can establish a pattern) As I am typing this, Hurricane Rita - Category 5 - has just been reported to have sustained winds of at least 165 mph with a bp of 914 mb. Was Katrina the storm that did not follow typical trends? You might consider the research. I have a few more thoughts on this so if you decide to give this a try and need some help, drop me an email.
- Earth & Science - One of my hobbies, ever since I was doing science projects in the 4th grade, is weather. (In particular SEVERE weather) It is on my agenda to, some spring, take a Tornado chasing tour in Oklahoma. But in the meantime, I monitor Nexrad Radar, via WeatherTap, in the SW Louisiana area. Over the years I have noticed when a strong front, or area of severe thunderstorms, approaches the Lake Charles area, a great majority of the time the storm cells will either dissipate or deviate off track before striking the metropolitan area. I have noted this most of the time when the weather is coming from the southwest. Base reflectivity is a good monitoring point for what I am talking about. What, in the natural landscape, or man-made landscape, might, if at all, be causing this to take place? Does Big Lake have anything to do with this? To do this type of research would require a long period of weather monitoring. (Over a year's period). There are other weather services out there that are free of charge that have radar loops from which this could be studied. (AccuWeather, Lake Charles Weather Bureau, Intellicast, etc.) You would want to save these animated gif loops to your computer for study and comparison. These would also be used for display data for your project. Don't stop at just Lake Charles. Look at loops in other major metros of the country and see if you can tell if it is happening elsewhere. I am not saying that this always happens. But it happens enough to throw up a red flag. If you are a weather nut like I am, you might start watching this closely. You might end up discovering something of meteorological importance!
Behavioral & Social Sciences
- Behavioral & Social Science - In the December 2003 edition of Discover, I ran across the following article by Alison McCook, entitled "Out With One Sense, In With Another" - The music of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles supports the common belief that loosing one sense can enhance another. Italian researchers have better evidence. They find that after only 90 minutes, blindfolded people can develop a keener sense of touch - a sign that the portion of the brain dedicated to vision can help process other senses. Although such neurological flexibility used to be considered a feature of a developing brain, we know now that, even in adults, it is possible to find plastic interactions. Salvatore Aglioti, a neurologist at the University of Rome La Sapienza asked 28 test subjects to place their fingers on a series of plates marked with grooves of varying sizes, with the width of the grooves equal to the distance between them. Some of the grooves were so fine that the surface of the plate felt smooth. After being blindfolded, however, people were able to feel grooves that were more subtle than the smallest ones that they could discern in a previous test. Repeating the test a couple of hours after the blindfolds were removed, the subjects' sense of touch had reset to normal. - What I would suggest if you would like to tackle this idea is use a larger test group. See if there is any sensory difference between males and females. See if age of the test subject results in any distinct divergencies. I am sure there are a few other angles to this idea that you can come up with, that I haven't. Give it a try.
- Behavioral & Social Science - In the March 2004 issue of Scientific American, I ran across an interesting concept - Perceptual-Blindness. As related in the article - Picture yourself watching a one minute video of two teams of three players each. One team wears white shirts and the other black shirts, and the members move around one another in a small room tossing two basketballs. You task is to count the number of passes made by the white team - not easy given the weaving movement of the players. Unexpectedly, after 35 seconds, a gorilla enters the room, walks directly through the farrago of bodies, thumps his chest and, nine seconds later, exits. Would you see the gorilla? Most of us believe we would. In fact, 50 percent of subjects in the experiment by Daniel Simons of the University of Illinois and Christopher Chabris of Harvard, did not see the gorilla, even when asked if they noticed anything unusual. They have a paper which can be accessed at http://viscog.beckman.uiuc.edu/djs_lab/. These experiments reveal our perceptual vainglory, as well as fundamental misunderstanding of how the brain works. We think of our eyes as video cameras and our brains as blank tapes to be filled with sensory inputs. Much of what passes before our eyes may be invisible to a brain that is focused on something else. Driving is an example. Many accident reports include claims like, "I looked right there and never saw them." Motorcyclists and bicyclists are often the victims in such cases. One explanation is that car drivers expect other cars but not bikes, so even if they look right at the bike, they sometimes do not see it. I would recommend conducting testing of this nature, using homemade videos. See if perceptual blindness is more prevalent in males or females, and old or young. Try to find a trend that will identify who or what test group is more likely to experience this phenomenon. Perceptual blindness, I believe, is also sometimes called Change Blindness and Inattentional Blindness Another site to check out would be - http://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/inattentionalblindness.html This project would have a high probability of coming away with numerous awards if done correctly.
Behavioral & Social Science - Does birth order influence personality? I ran across this concept a while back. It seems some believe that in families with multiple children, the order of their birth predisposes each child to a certain type personality. If you route your browser to the following link you will see the article. http://www.thelouisvillechannel.com/family/3784843/detail.html. Some research indicates that a First Child is: Self-confident and a perfectionist due to the feeling that their parents watch their every move. A Middle Child is: Social, a good negotiator, and may feel left out in the middle position with focus going to the oldest and youngest. The Youngest Child is: Charming and may feel inferior to the older children. There is one more link on this aspect that might help. http://il.essortment.com/birthordersibl_rbay.htm. You could even include in your research a related possibility that birth order affects intelligence. If you go to the following website you will get some more information with which to start. http://www.indiana.edu/~intell/birthOrder.shtml. Add this to your research - Does Birth Order and Demographics affect your personality? http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/nsfall99/FinalArticles/Birthorderanddemographics.html I have not seen a project of this nature so I believe if done properly, with a lot of research using many different families, it would be a winner. Good Luck!
Behavioral & Social - Does birth order affect personality traits? I recently ran across an article that address this issue. If there wasn't so much evidence out there supporting this I would have said no. But there apparently is data that indicates there is a distinct possibility. If you go to the following links you will get more information - (http://inst.santafe.cc.fl.us/~mwehr/genpsyc/FMBirOrd.html) and (http://jrscience.wcp.muohio.edu/nsfall99/FinalArticles/Birthorderanddemographics.html). If you wanted to get really creative and have the resources, apply this same question to dogs or cats.
Reprinted with the permission of the Louisiana Region 5 Science and Engineering Fair. © 2008 Louisiana Region 5 Science and Engineering Fair.
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