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.
April kicks off what is typically the most active and dangerous three-month period of the year for tornadoes in the United States. It’s a perfect time to pull out the Quirkles book Timothy Tornado to learn more about this strange weather phenomena and discuss safety preparedness. Then learn about vortexes in our fun activity, Timothy Tornado’s Water Race.
Did you know that before 1950, your local weather forecaster would not have warned you of favorable tornado weather conditions or told you to take cover? That’s because from 1887 up until 1950, American weather forecasters were forbidden from attempting to predict tornados. During that time, Roger Edwards of the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center writes, “tornadoes were dark and mysterious menaces of unfathomable power, fast-striking monsters from the sky capable of sudden and unpredictable acts of death and devastation.”
Less than confident in their own predictive powers, and fearful of the responses of a panicked public, “the use of the word ‘tornado’ in forecasts was at times strongly discouraged and at other times forbidden” by the Weather Bureau, Edwards writes, replaced by euphemisms like “severe local storms.”
Of course, a ban on the word “tornado” wouldn’t have been necessary without someone who really wanted to talk about tornadoes. That person was John Park Finley, an officer with the Army Signal Office with a deep interest in severe storms. The U.S. Army Signal Service first opened a weather forecasting office in 1870, and when Finley enlisted in 1877, he joined it immediately.
His hope was to develop a method of tornado prediction so that storms’ arrivals could be broadcast to local communities–possibly he thought through the ringing of church bells.
In 1887, nervous superiors sent him instructions: the word tornado was banned from forecasts. Besides an excitable public, there were commercial concerns; the businessmen of Tornado Alley had “complained that Finley was giving potential investors the idea that their region was twister prone.”
The Signal Office’s forecasting division was eventually transferred to the Department of Agriculture, where it became the U.S. Weather Bureau. Though the Bureau developed warning systems for everything from floods to hurricanes to forest fires, it held fast to its tornado position. Forecasts of tornadoes were prohibited. Meanwhile, throughout the ‘20s and ‘30s, the death toll from tornadoes mounted. There were no warnings, so no time for people to seek shelter.
In 1948, two Air Force meteorologists, Major Ernest J. Fawbush and Captain Robert E. Miller, after scrutinizing tornados in Alabama, Georgia, and Oklahoma, developed their own prediction system. In 1948, after correctly predicting several outbreaks among themselves, they finally announced an upcoming storm publicly.
Miller prepared himself for the worst: “It seemed improbable that anyone would employ, as a weather forecaster, an idiot who issued a tornado forecast for a precise location,” he would later write.
Their forecast turned out to be correct, and when word of the feat got out a couple of years later, the public clamored for warnings. In 1950, the chief of the Weather Bureau removed the ban, writing “the forecaster (district or local) may at his discretion mention tornadoes in the forecast or warning.”
These days, tornado forecasting is still hard to pull off. We still don’t fully understand how these powerful storms work. But thanks to technological advances, changing priorities, and ever-more-detailed science, the average annual tornado death toll has gone down significantly since the 1950s (though some storms, like the 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado killed 161). Hopefully, we’ll continue to learn more. It helps, of course, that forecasters can also say the word.
Don’t you just love the sounds of spring? The soft pitter-patter of drizzling rain, music and laughter as we head outside to enjoy nice weather, and of course, the chirping birds signaling the change of season.
We hear millions of different sounds every day and we tend to take this sense for granted. Sounds are waves which pass through our ears via vibrations and travel by vibrations of molecules. These vibrations occur whenever any object is struck or is made contact with. Every time any of these particle vibrations occur, our ears pick them up and we construe them as sounds. Slow moving particles create low sounds while particles that move fast make high sounds. This month we feature the Quirkles Susie Sound and explore the awesomeness of this sense.
Did you know…
There is no sound in space because there are no molecules there. Here on Earth, we have air molecules which vibrate to our ears.
Sound travels slower through air than by water. In fact, the speed of sound via water is 4.3 times faster than by air. However, sound does travel far faster through steel than both air and water.
The loudest natural sound on Earth is caused by an erupting volcano. (Check out the Quirkles Vinnie Volcano.) In August 1883 the volcano on the island of Krakatoa erupted violently. The sound from this blast took roughly four hours to travel from the erupting volcano across the Indian Ocean. The loudest sound ever recorded, it reverberated around the globe seven times before diminishing. It could be heard 4,000 miles away, and people within 100 miles suffered permanent hearing loss.
Flies are not able to hear any sounds at all.
Most white cats that have blue eyes are often unable to hear sounds and are usually deaf.
Whale voices are able to travel a whopping 479 miles through the waters of the ocean.
Sound travels at a speed of around 767 miles per hour.
The majority of cows which listen to music end up producing more milk than those that do not.
Superior canal dehiscence is a disease that affects the inner ear and amplifies all internal sounds. It gets to the point where the sound of the eyeballs moving in their sockets sounds like “sandpaper on wood.”
The reason why we hate the recorded sound of our voice is because our skull changes the resonance of our voice from within and creates more bass. When we hear a digital recording of our voice, although slightly unfamiliar to ourselves, it’s exactly how other people hear it.
Elephants are so afraid of bees that the mere sound of buzzing is enough to make an entire herd flee. They have even developed a special rumble just to warn each other if bees are nearby.
So now that you have an impressive amount of sound trivia, check out our video where Chloe demonstrates how sound changes depending on how much water is in each of her “musical” glasses. After you’ve finished this fun activity, go outside and enjoy the sounds of the season!
Tornadoes are anything but fun and games. Here are some warning signs: a dark, often greenish, sky, wall clouds, large hail often in the absence of rain, air may become very still, and a loud roar similar to a freight train may be heard.
See how the amount of water makes the sound change. Through this investigation, learn about sound and make beautiful music, too!
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
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