For a complete introduction and to get to know each Quirkle, work your way across the main menu bar above. Have fun exploring, and please contact us with any questions you may have!

But that's not all. Check out the introductory video that explains why we created the Quirkles, or take a look at the sample book Gilbert Gas below.

 


Recent News

As summer winds down, maybe you plan one more trip. If you’re like many, that get-away might be to an ocean. Despite being beautiful and soothing to the soul, oceans are awesome in many other incredible ways, too. Here are six surprising facts you maybe didn’t know.

*About 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, yet the oceans largely remain a mystery for scientists. More is known about the Moon's surface than the depths of the ocean. In fact, 12 people have stepped foot on the Moon, but only three have been to the Mariana Trench—the deepest part of the ocean, roughly seven miles deep.

*Though 94 percent of life on Earth is aquatic, about two-thirds of all ocean life is still unidentified. New species are constantly being discovered. Recently a red species of sea dragon that lives in shallow waters off the western coast of Australia was discovered. Other new finds have included what may be the world’s ugliest fish, as well as a ghostly octopod and a “ninja” shark with a dimly glowing head.

*It's not just the sea life of the oceans that remain mysterious to scientists; there are also sounds that scientists cannot explain with any certainty, either. “The Bloop” may be the most famous underwater sound, captured in 1997 by hydrophones set out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is one of the loudest ocean sounds ever recorded, and while the noise is consistent with a large iceberg fracturing, no one knows for sure what made the sound.

*There are waterfalls in the ocean. Technically the Earth's largest known waterfall lies between Greenland and Iceland — underwater. The Denmark Strait cataract is more than three times the height of Angel Falls in Venezuela, which is considered Earth’s highest aboveground uninterrupted waterfall. The Denmark Straight cataract carries almost 2,000 times the amount of water of Niagara Falls at peak flow.

*The oceans are rich with more than just marine life. Undissolved gold is in and on the seafloor. Mining for this gold — located at least a mile or two underwater and encased in rock — may not be worthwhile, as there currently isn’t a cost-effective way to mine or extract gold from the ocean. NOAA estimates that if all of the gold were extracted from the world's oceans, each person on Earth could have nine pounds of the precious metal.

*More historical artifacts lie in the ocean than in all of the world's museums combined, says National Geographic. Whether it's a Viking sundial or a jeweled gift to the ancient gods, a lot of the world's history can be found at the bottom of the seas. That's not to mention the vast number of shipwrecks lying on the ocean floor; one estimate by James Delgado, director of NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program, puts the number at one million, with the majority of the wrecks still undiscovered.

Now that you know a little more about our oceans, take time to read the Quirkles book, Underwater Utley, and learn how sea life adapts to marine habitat. On a sobering note, also conduct Underwater Utley’s Oil Spill Investigation to learn how oil spills and pollution affect sea life. Watch our video to learn more.

 

 

It’s hot outside! It seems fitting to feature our Quirkles book Hallie Heat and a cool (no pun intended) activity that illustrates properties of heat. Then on a less serious note, we ponder an issue that plagues many of us who work in offices in the summer. How do you dress for July temperatures outside but also deal with freezing temps from an overzealous AC system inside? Finally, we’ll explore some research that suggests that maybe a little discomfort from the cool AC might not be so bad after all.

There are actually several reasons why office buildings seem to have been modeled after the frozen tundra of Siberia. For one thing, scientists have argued that office thermostat settings are still influenced by what an “average suit and tie male” would find comfortable in the 1960s and '70’s.  

While it’s a bit more complicated than this, it is true women tend to feel chilled more quickly than men and seem to be particularly vulnerable to wintry working conditions in warmer weather. That’s partly because on average, women carry around a little more body fat. “Fat is a great insulator and because of that, the skin temperature can actually get a little bit lower in women than men,” says John Castellani, a research physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.

Women’s generally lower metabolism also contributes to the problem, says Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, a physiologist at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands. “Current indoor climate standards may misrepresent thermal demand of the female and senior subpopulations,” his team wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change. They also noted that women may prefer an average room temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, while men are most comfortable at around 72 degrees.

It’s worth keeping in mind it’s not all about gender. Individual physiology, height, weight, body mass, how much you are clothed, and the type of activity you do all affect your thermal comfort, too.

The air conditioning unit itself might also be partly to blame for over-chilled offices.  Air conditioning systems often struggle to find the right balance of air temperature and humidity. These systems are also generally designed for offices with 100 percent occupancy. If that’s not the case, they are blasting us with more cool air than we actually need, compensating for imaginary heat created by electronics and human bodies that aren't present.

Finally, most office heating and cooling systems are designed for old school electronics which gave off more heat — so if your office has switched to more energy-efficient and cooler LED lights, odds are, the AC system wasn’t adjusted for it.

Don’t despair. If you're doomed to be uncomfortable in the office all summer, there may still be a bright side. Scientists actually think there are some benefits to being a bit chilly. Maybe we think better.

Although the idea that our decisions are swayed by the temperature of our surroundings may seem far-fetched, consider this: our brains are organs. Just like all other organs, it needs energy to function. Almost everything we do uses the same energy source: glucose. We use glucose as we walk, talk, breathe, and perform other physical functions. We also use glucose to think, make decisions, etc. Furthermore, glucose is a limited resource.

One of the body’s most important tasks is temperature regulation. When the temperature is unusually hot or cold, we must use energy to maintain a healthy internal temperature; we shiver and sweat, seeking to avoid hypothermia and heat stroke. These two processes—correcting for excessive heat and unwanted cold—are not equally taxing, however. Cooling down the body seems to require more energy than warming it up. Warm temperatures, then, are more likely to deplete our resources and excessive warmth reduces our capacity for cognitive functioning argue some scientists.

Despite minimal deviation in temperatures, researchers have found significant differences in cognitive functioning. In one lab study, participants were asked to proofread an article while they were in either a warm (77°) or a cool (67°) room. Participants in warm rooms performed significantly worse than those in cool rooms, failing to identify almost half of the spelling and grammatical errors (those in cool rooms, on the hand, only missed a quarter of the mistakes).

In a second study, the researchers showed similar effects for more complex cognitive calculations. In this study, another group of participants were asked to choose between two cell phone plans, again in either a warm or a cool room. One plan looked more attractive on the surface but was actually more expensive. Simple patterns of decision-making would lead participants to choose the more expensive plan, whereas more complex analyses would lead participants to correctly choose the more cost-effective plan. Participants in the cool room made the correct choice more than half the time; those in the warm room made the correct choice only a quarter of the time.

Taken together, these studies suggest that higher temperatures change our patterns of decision-making. As our bodies struggle to maintain a healthy internal temperature, they use up resources that would otherwise be available for mental processes. As a result, we are less able to make complex decisions—we give up early, make mistakes, and even shy away from making these decisions in the first place.

So too cool or too warm?  It’s going to be awhile before we figure out the healthiest and most energy-efficient temperatures for office buildings. If your office is determined to do its finest impression of winter in Antarctica in July, the best you can do for now is probably get up and take a walk outside. It will warm you up, plus it’s healthier than staring at a computer screen all day!

Resources

What’s that floating in the ocean? Here’s a sobering statistic: scientists estimate more than 706 million gallons of waste oil enter the ocean every year.

Is it magic or science that makes the water move?

What People Are Saying

I really appreciate your ideas and support!!! I am amazed at the Quirkles series that you have created and know you all must be FABULOUS teachers!!!

Cindy, Lower School Science Coordinator, Suffolk, VA

What People Are Saying

It is very hard to put into words exactly how much I love the Quirkles. They totally changed my attitude about teaching science to kindergarten and first graders as an enrichment class in my school.

Lynn, Gifted Teacher, Springdale, AR