Cool Science Projects for Kids: Dragon Lights

Red lanterns lit by candles against a dark backgroundIf you’re looking for a fun crafty science project to do with young kids, the National Science Teaching Association has tons!

Whether you want lights for Halloween or for the winter holidays, making “dragon lights” with kids as young as preschoolers can teach them about engineering and also make a pretty decoration! The instructions are in the above link!

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Short Fiction by Our Alumni

Joachim Heijndermans has a short story entitled “Ride the Lightning” in Deep Space Volume 1, an anthology from Black Hare Press.

Liam Hogan has a piece of microfiction up at The Arcanist entitled “Border Control.”

Jameson Currier has released a collection of his short fiction through Chelsea Station Editions, entitled Why Didn’t Someone Warn You About Prince Charming?, which is out today!

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I Didn’t Break the Lamp Out Today!

Our latest anthology, I Didn’t Break the Lamp, is out today!

“When I was little, I didn’t have an imaginary friend, I had an imaginary bully. She was a little girl of my age, who looked just like me, and took great delight in being cruel. This included doing things to make my parents furious, like punching my little brother. One day, when I was about thirteen, Ludwig showed up and wrapped all two hundred of his copper-bladed arms around this evil version of me. There was a warm light, like a camera flash made of lava, and then she was gone.”
— Sam Fleming, “Ludwig”

Are they in our imagination, or are we in theirs? Mad Scientist Journal has brought together twenty-six tales of people with uncertain existence. These accounts range from cheerful to dark, stopping off at frequent points between. Imaginary friends share space with witches, monsters, nightmares, and maybe a few things that have not yet been dreamed.

Included in this collection are stories from E.D.E. Bell, Jade Black, Die Booth, Maureen Bowden, Veronica Brush, Jacob Budenz, Sam Crane, Matthew R. Davis, Julian Dexter, Sam Fleming, Troy H. Gardner, Kiki Gonglewski, Lucinda Gunnin, Neil James Hudson, Blake Jessop, Vivian Li, Tucker Lieberman, K. K. Llamas, Christine Lucas, M. Lopes da Silva, Ville Meriläinen, Jennifer R. Povey, Lizz-Ayn Shaarawi, Kayleigh Taylor, Jieyan Wang, and E. R. Zhang. Interior art is provided by Errow Collins, America Jones, Leigh Legler, and Ariel Alian Wilson. Cover art by Luke Spooner.

Learn more here!

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Fiction: Noise

An essay by Unnamed Crystalline Sample #1, as provided by John A. McColley
Art by Ariel Alian Wilson


My first awareness in this plane was a buzz, a vibration that ran through my body. At first it was novel, different than anything I’d experienced. As it wore on, it became boring, annoying. When I nudged it, it fluctuated. The pitch rose or fell, but then quickly slid back to the baseline. This was something more than noise, something I could interact with. I practiced prodding the tone, sliding it up and down, learning control, half tones, quarter, creating different patterns. Then, after untold ages of just me and the tone, playing with different adjustments, experimenting with splitting the tone into two parallel vibrations … the tone changed on its own.

I waited, listened. Was it a one off? Some kind of reflection? An echo? Something that happened when my signal returned to me? But then it came again, a singular blip. I waited for another, but after hundreds, thousands of cycles, nothing happened. I sent out a blip like the one I had received. A few hundred cycles, I got another blip, followed by a second a mere hundred cycles later.

I responded with two and heard three, three and heard four.

Could a natural phenomenon add blips? Would an echo do that? I didn’t know. How could I? The tone was all I knew about this world. I sent out a more complex signal, a rising and falling wave. If the blips were natural, background noise of some sort, I would simply get a few of them in return, I reasoned.

The complexity I had been experimenting with had never returned to me before, and hundreds of thousands of cycles had passed. Perhaps there was a delay, some distant object reflecting back, or there was a kind of loop where it went around in a closed shape of some sort to return to me. In either case, the next blips I should hear would be related to the first ones I sent out. Conversely, if I received back the wave as I sent it, perhaps something was trying to communicate. If it was simply backward, I would expect a new reflection was the cause. It was so hard to identify such with a simple blip.

To my shock, none of the above occurred. I received back a highly complex signal that was neither a reflection nor the same signal sent back in the same direction. This was an entirely new signal! There was someone out there! Frantically, I sent a series of other signals, progressing from a blip to a rise and fall, to a fall and rise, stepped signals at what I had determined was a unit of amplitude, then two, three, ten.

Continue reading

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Strange Science: Soft Robotics and Implanted Medical Devices

Inflatable robotic armScientists at MIT have developed a soft robotics device known as a dynamic soft reservoir (DSR) to help human bodies manage their response to implanted medical devices.

Currently, when a human receives an implanted medical device, there’s a strong possibility that their body will respond to what should be a beneficial item by trying to wall it off with fibrosis, or creating a dense fibrous capsule around the device. However, the scientists working with this DSR believe that using it could convince human bodies to not react to foreign objects in this way. It uses oscillation to modulate the reactions of cells, thus keeping the cells from creating the fibrous capsule that can impede the effectiveness of implanted medical devices.

You can read more about this study here!

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I Didn’t Break the Lamp: Interview with Sam Crane

Red farmhouse in the distance, with a snowy path leading toward itToday is our final interview with our I Didn’t Break the Lamp authors. This final interview is with the author who has the first story in the anthology, Sam Crane!

DV: Tell us a bit about yourself!

Sam Crane: The general consensus is that I’m unusually optimistic and cheerful for a human. I love writing, and I’ve been working at it in some form since I was a child. Nowadays I write mostly sci-fi, some fantasy, and light horror. When I’m not writing, I work in the tech industry. I’m also a huge nerd–board games, RPGs, and anime conventions are my jam. Oh, and I play the Pokémon trading card game competitively. Basically, I’m an oddball, but I have a lot of fun!

Currently, I’m lurking around the web on Blogspot or Goodreads: http://sam-crane-writes.blogspot.com or https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18937595.Sam_Crane

DV: What inspired you to write “The Last Cory” for I Didn’t Break the Lamp?

SC: When I first read the submissions call, I spent a couple weeks with it in the back of mind just mulling it over. At first I thought I might do a ghost story, but that idea slowly morphed into the current story. I’m a big fan of curses as plot devices, so I thought it would be interesting to have something like that. The scene where Josephine Cory meets her imaginary companion was actually my starting point and sprang into my mind pretty much as it is in the final version of the story, and then the rest of the details fell into place as I worked through the various drafts.

DV: You mention in your bio that New England is one of your influences. How did an area with such a long history play into this story in particular?

SC: I’ve read a number of New England folktales and short stories where there’s this sense that devils/the Devil are just a matter of fact. Like “yeah Thompson got waylaid by the Devil up on that hill outside town, third time this month.” I’m being slightly facetious, but still. There’s this sense that all of these supernatural occurrences are real and even normal to a point.

I wanted to create a similar kind of feeling but in a more modern setting. In “The Last Cory,” people are like “oh of course the Cory farm is haunted, bedeviled something fierce.” The town gossips about it–it’s part of the local color and superstition, but at the same time, no one’s seen anything in decades, and they don’t really believe it. It’s weirdly isolating for Josephine to have people going around saying her farm is haunted, but if she were to go on about it, they would say she’s mad.

DV: Without giving away too much of your story, how would you characterize the “imaginary” acquaintance in your story? Is she more real than imaginary? Is she more friend than foe?

SC: She’s definitely some kind of real. As for her intentions … let’s say she’s determined to carry out justice. Or vengeance, depending on your perspective.

DV: If you had an imaginary friend growing up, what was their name, and what were they like?

SC: I kind of had several. When I was little, I would pretend Ginger from Black Beauty was my friend and followed me around, like to school. My best friend at the time joined in too except her imaginary friend was Black Beauty.

I also was/am a big fan of the Animorph series, and this became my go-to imaginary world when I was a little older. I would pretend I was an Animorph and getting communications from the Andalite navy or spying on possible Yeerks. I was very into it!

DV: What’s on the horizon for you?

SC: I do have about half a dozen other short stories submitted, and I’m waiting to hear back about them. Besides one superhero shenanigans story, this current crop is more dark fantasy/light horror. I’d say it’s similar in tone to “The Last Cory”–maybe even a bit darker. On the WIP pile, I have more superhero and sci-fi ideas to flesh out.

Besides short stories, I’m also working on a YA fantasy novel tentatively titled The Rabbit God. It’s about a young boy, James, befriending Rabbit, the last remaining guardian animal of a forest that’s been clear-cut. The novel will focus mainly on their friendship and how they help each other grow as people.

Thanks to our authors for participating in these interviews! We hope you’ll enjoy their stories in I Didn’t Break the Lamp, which will be out on Tuesday, October 15th!

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Help Name the New Mars Rover!

While the current Mars rover, Opportunity, has wound down, NASA plans to dispatch another rover to Mars, and they’re looking for help with a name for this rover!

Kids from K-12 can submit an essay with their suggestion for what the rover should be named. The entries will be judged, followed by a poll to pick between the top entries, and then naming the new rover.

If there’s a school-aged kid in your life who would like to help name the Mars rover, you can check out the contest here!

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I Didn’t Break the Lamp: Interview with Veronica Brush

Today’s interview features Veronica Brush, who has a story forthcoming in I Didn’t Break the Lamp!

DV: Tell us a bit about yourself!

Veronica Brush: I don’t take rejection well, so this whole writing thing was a wise career choice. I’m mildly allergic to nickel, so sometimes the metal buttons on jeans will make my belly-button turn pink. I’m not great at thinking of things to say about myself. Also, I like colorful socks.

DV: What inspired you to write “When I Helped” for I Didn’t Break the Lamp?

VB: I actually wanted to write a different story, but these are the characters that presented themselves and told me their story, so that’s what I did–after several hours of arguing with the characters. I’ve learned you just can’t argue with your characters. I still do it a lot. I just never win.

DV: Your story is so brief, but packs so much wonderful storytelling into it. Do you find yourself drawn to the flash fiction length regularly, or is this story unusual for you? Do you have any tips for readers who might want to also write flash fiction?

VB: There is a certain sense of instant gratification with shorter stories in that you can have a rough draft done in a matter of days or even hours (as opposed to novels, which seem to stretch out into eternity before you finally finish a draft). But again, the characters want to do what they want to do, and sometimes they don’t want to do it in the same amount of pages as I was hoping for. My advice is to write the story in whatever size it feels it needs to be, rather than trying to artificially shorten or lengthen it. That’s how you end up with stories that are uncomfortably rushed or watered down. If that means your story ends up the wrong size for the market you originally intended it for, there’s plenty of other markets out there.

DV: What rituals or routines do you have around your writing process?

VB: I have to have background noise or else my inner critic won’t let me get so much as the first word written without laying into me about my impending failure. But put on an epic movie soundtrack and even my inner critic gets swept up the excitement of the story … or at least I can’t hear him complaining anymore.

DV: What’s on the horizon for you?

VB: I just had a short story published in the Do Not Go Quietly anthology and I have another story coming up in Galaxy’s Edge Magazine. I’ve got so many projects going on right now, I really need to pick one to focus on. I don’t know if it’s going to be a short story or novel. Only time will tell.

DV: If you had an imaginary friend growing up, what was their name, and what were they like?

VB: I had a whole ensemble of imaginary friends. This was great because, even back in the days before I could write the letters of the alphabet, my head was still filled with incredible adventures. So my imaginary friends would all take roles in the dramatic reenactments I would play out to entertain myself. We have a lot of fond memories! Sometimes we still get together and reminisce about … I mean … next question.

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Fiction: Professor Robot

An Essay by Professor Clive as provided by Stuart Webb
Art by Leigh Legler


It has been six months since the end of the world, and I am very bored.

Humans think of boredom as an emotion, and I am not supposed to be capable of emotion. But when you have purpose and then a protracted period of nothing, the emptiness is noticeable.

For my own, for want of a better word, amusement, I took a degree on the University database. Several. Physics. History. English literature. Cooking. Though the latter was hypothetical, due to the lack of resources. I now have several titles, but the one I would choose to be called if anyone was here to call me it would be “Professor”. Professor Clive. No surname of course, because Dr. Allen thought calling me Clive was amusing because of the mundane nature of the name.

Humans also think we have no understanding of humour. This is also wrong; the rules of a joke are perfectly logical and sensible, and I can understand why everyone on this floor would call the faculty director, Mr Johnson, “Dick” even though his first name is Charles.

It’s just not very funny.

Continue reading

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Strange Science: Volcanoes and Phyloplankton

The recent eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii had a devastating impact on the island. However, it appears that the lava that reached the Pacific Ocean may have created conditions ideal for a phyloplankton boom in the ocean.

The lava was around 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, far too hot for living things to flourish. But what happened in this case is that as the lava went deeper into the water, it heated nutrient-rich waters and pushed them toward the surface, which provided food for the local phyloplankton populations. When the lava stopped heating the water, the phyloplankton populations shrunk back to their normal size.

Of course, the scientist studying this phenomenon wanted more data, so they attempted to recreate the conditions in their labs. With the help of artists, they melted hardened lava rock and poured it into seawater to see if they could get a similar phyloplankton boom. Though this experiment didn’t create the desired effect, it gave them more ideas on where to look next for answers.

You can read more about this here!

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