Stories that Surprise and Inspire
When musicians play a lively tune, they often find themselves spontaneously tapping their toes and moving about to the pulsing beat. But when Ellen Ochoa played her flute at work one day in 1993, she couldn’t be spontaneous at all. If she hadn’t made careful plans, she could have been blown about the room, just by playing one long note on her flute. That’s because she was an astronaut working on the U.S. Space Shuttle as it circled Earth more than a hundred miles out in space.
Gravity is so weak far out in space that astronauts—and any of their gear that isn’t fastened down—will float about inside a space craft. Blowing air into her flute could have created enough force to actually send Ochoa zipping about the space shuttle cabin. So, to keep herself in place as she played, she had to slip her feet into strong loops attached to the floor.
Dr. Ochoa, now the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, was the first U.S. astronaut to bring a flute on a space mission, but she wasn’t the first to make music in space. Nearly thirty years earlier, in December 1965, two astronauts onboard the Gemini 6 space craft played a musical joke on mission control officials down on Earth. Those astronauts—Walter M. Schirra, Jr., and Thomas P. Stafford—told mission control that they saw an unusual object near their spaceship, a satellite perhaps, moving from North to South. They said they would try to pick up some sound from this mysterious object. Then they used the harmonica and bells they had secretly brought with them on that December mission to surprise folks listening down below by playing “Jingle Bells.”
In recent years, other astronauts have brought musical instruments on space missions to help lift their spirits, especially those who spend many months on the International Space Station. Like Dr. Ochoa, these astronaut musicians have to make adjustments, such as using a bungee cord to attach an electronic piano keyboard to a pianist’s leg.
Some astronauts have composed music in space, including Canadian Chris Hadfield. On May 6, 2013, he sang the song he wrote—called “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing)”—in a live TV broadcast from the space station as thousands of Canadian schoolchildren sang along with him down on Earth. Click here for a recording of that space-to-Earth performance
Learning to play an instrument can be fun and, at times, frustrating. Amy Nathan's lively book helps young people cope with the difficulties involved in learning a new instrument and remaining dedicated to playing and practicing. Teens from renowned music programs - including the Juilliard School's Pre-College Program and Boston University's Tanglewood Institute - join pro musicians in offering practical answers to questions from what instrument to play to where the musical road may lead. For more information, click here.
MLA 8 Citation
Nathan, Amy. "Music That's Out of This World." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think
Tank, 11 May 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/
The Master Chef of kids’ hands-on science
Ever notice people wearing headsets to keep out noise? Check out the workers on the tarmac of airports, or gardeners with their leaf blowers, or road workers breaking up blacktop with a pneumatic drill. They wear these headsets to protect their ears from damage caused by persistent loud noise.
Loudness is measured in decibels, dB for short. Complete silence is 0 dB, a whisper is 10 dB, normal conversation is 60 dB or about 10,000 times louder than a whisper. A lawnmower is 90 dB, about 1,000 times louder than a conversation and a jet engine is 120 dB about 1,000,000 times louder than a conversation. Anything over 85 dB does damage to our ears. That’s because sound traveling through air is a force beating against delicate eardrums. Yes, rock concerts damage ears.
Performing musicians often have tiny earpieces in their ears. This way the sound engineers can send them the sounds of their own voices or instruments, so that they can hear themselves over the other musicians. Those pieces are not for protection. So the dB level of rock concerts can affect those musicians’ hearing. There is even a name for it: Noise Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL. Rock musicians are the top profession to suffer NIHL later in life.
But there is a new threat to hearing loss—the earbuds people use to listen to music from their electronic devices. They are fine if you keep the volume down. But if you’re hooked on loudness that invades all your senses so that you can’t “hear yourself think” and you listen for several hours a day, you’ll pay the price down the road.
Your ability to hear high tones is the first to go. Here’s a quick and easy hearing test you can use on yourself and your family: Turn on the TV and hit the “mute” button or turn the volume all the way down. Lean over the back of the set and listen for a very soft, high-pitched whine. If you can hear it, you are listening to the highest sound the human ear can hear. (Dogs, of course, can hear much higher sounds, hence the dog whistle, which people can’t hear but dogs can.) Walk away from the set to find the distance when you can no longer hear it. Do the same test with your parents. Bet your hearing is better than theirs.
Try listening to some old-fashioned, melodic, soft popular music that came before rock and roll. You just might like it.
From School Library Journal--
"Fun!" comes through loud and clear in this energetic exploration of hearing and auditory perception. Cobb gets the anatomy lesson out of the way, then moves on to a series of simple activities to help kids experiment with their own sense of hearing. Students investigate sound conduction, perception of pitch, echolocation, and range of hearing by doing such things as sticking fingers in their ears while they talk."
Available for download at the i-Tunes store -- click here.
Vicki Cobb is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
Cobb, Vicki. "Banging on the Ear Drum." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 30
Apr. 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/Banging-on-the-Ear-Drum.
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