There are lots of fun links on
the web for this great holiday, but here are a few of special interest to scientists and budding
scientists. You may remember many of these sites from last year, but there are lots of new ones
- Why do we like to be frightened? What makes us go to scary
movies, and why do some of us like them more than others? Read about all this at the
Why Files “Things that go bump in the night” website. (http://whyfiles.org/026fear/index.html)
- Everyone’s favorite Halloween flying mammal — the bat!
(Well, all right, the only flying mammal.) There are some terrific bat sites on
the web. Don’t miss the
National Geographic “Creature Feature — Vampire Bat” (http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/kids/animals/creaturefeature/vampire-bat/).
It comes with video, audio, maps, even an e-postcard to send to a friend — and after
all, what bat is more representative of Halloween than this largest of the American bats?
You can also try the
Masters of the Night Bat Quiz (http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/batquiz/)
to see how much you already know about these intriguing creatures. What sounds do bats make?
Hear some samples of bat calls (http://www.sonobat.com/resources_newrefs.html).
You can also
hear bat echo-location sounds and a brief description of how echo-location works (http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/bats/batelocu.asp).
Studying bat echo-location may help us to understand human speech development
as well. Nobuo Suga has done interesting research
in this subject. Tired of mosquitoes in your yard?
Build a bat house (http://www.eparks.org/wildlife_protection/wildlife_facts/bats/bat_house.asp)
to entice these interesting, insect-eating animals to your neighborhood. A bat can catch six
hundred mosquitoes in an hour.
- Your Halloween bats may be accompanied by other creatures of the night, such as
owls. You can visit an
owl webcam site (http://www.owlcam.com/)
and share in the adventures of a pair of Northern Barred Owls (Strix varia varia) as they raise
their family in a nest box in Eastern Massachusetts. Rest assured that all of the pictures and
sounds that you will experience are being obtained through “owl-friendly” methods.
The site also has links to information on rescuing injured owls. The Chicago Museum of Sciences
invites you to solve the “Strange Case of the Mystery Rock”.
Did you know that
owls use their faces to help them hear (http://www.carolina.com/category/teacher+resources/owl+resources/physical+characteristics+of+owls.do)?
Information of all kinds can be found on the
Owl Pages (http://www.owlpages.com/).
- I always thought Stonehenge deserved a
place in Halloween — even though it may have nothing to do with
the holiday, since Stonehenge most certainly predates the Celts
and Druids. It’s just the sort of thing that seems like it
should be. Of course, Stonehenge is the most famous
henge, but certainly not the only one, and all are neat places to
visit. The Canadian Discovery Channel takes you to a Mystic Place — Stonehenge,
or visit some of the
other stone circles and megaliths of Europe (http://www.stonepages.com/).
Did astronomy have its beginnings at places like this? Check out a
“Brief Introduction to Archaeoastronomy” (http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/cfaar_as.html).
And, wow, what a feat of engineering! NOVA provides an
extensive question and answer page (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/stonehenge/qanda/questions.html)
with details of the engineering and building process.
- Before they had pumpkins in Europe they
had to make Jack-O’-Lanterns out of turnips — hard work. But you
grow an Atlantic giant pumpkin (http://www.backyardgardener.com/secert.html)
following these detailed instructions. The world record pumpkin
weighed 1,092 lbs. — hope you have a BIG yard. Be ready for next
of all kinds were one of the most
important crops in the Pre-Columbian new world (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=030904264X&page=203),
and often figured in ceremonies or religion. See the interesting
Squash Kachina, and other Kachinas, of the Hopi (http://www.hopiart.com/kach-exp.htm).
Squash was important to the Hopi — Hopi women even have a ceremonial hairstyle called the squashblossom.
You can learn more about the Hopi at the tribe’s official website,
the website of the
Official Hopi Cultural Preservation Office (http://www.nau.edu/~hcpo-p/)
exhibit on the Hopi from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (http://www.carnegiemnh.org/educators/online/indians/hopi/index.html).
Or try some
pumpkin or squash recipes (http://www.kstrom.net/isk/food/r_squash.html),
based on Native American cooking. This site also has some ordinary pumpkin and squash recipes.
- You might want to stock up on wolf’s bane and garlic
for the holiday. Can’t find any wolf’s bane around the house? Don’t
know what it looks like? Get a
detailed description of wolf’s bane (http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/aconi007.html)
see a photograph of wolf’s bane (http://botany.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/schoepke/aco_al_1.jpg).
It’s good to recognize this plant — not only does it ward off
werewolves (so they say) but it is very poisonous. And
don’t forget the garlic (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MV064).
It may not keep werewolves and vampires away, but it may help
“keep the doctor away” (http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/ART00364).
Actually, there are a lot of herbs connected with Halloween. Some say the
famous witches’ brew from Macbeth (http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth_4_1.html)
is more likely made of various herbs than of animal parts.
Information on the chemistry of some of these types of plants
is intriguing. You can find additional information on these plants
using botany sites on the web, like the ones used for the
wolf’s bane information above (http://botany.csdl.tamu.edu/FLORA/gallery.htm).
[Many of these sites may require the Latin name of the plants; use a
dictionary site (http://www.merriam-webster.com/netdict.htm)
to find the Latin names.]
- What could possibly be spookier than a Halloween forest … and
what kind of trees might be in it? My
favorite is the
contorted filbert tree (http://www.ars-grin.gov/ars/PacWest/Corvallis/ncgr/cool/contorta.html),
also known as Harry Lauder’s walking stick. You might also find the
oldest living thing on earth, the
ancient bristlecone pine (http://www.sonic.net/bristlecone/Images.html),
important uses in tree-ring studies (http://whyfiles.org/021climate/ringers.html)
for anthropology and ecology. See if you don’t agree these
spooky-looking trees belong in every Halloween forest. Are there other
trees that fit into a Halloween forest? How about oaks?
- How can you celebrate Halloween without the eerie sound of a
wolf’s howl (or possibly, a werewolf’s
howl)? And what do different howls mean? Visit the
NOVA Wild Wolves site (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/wolves/)
to hear (and see sonographs of) a lonesome howl, a confrontational
howl, a pup howl, and a chorus howl. More wolf howls (and a few
videos) are available at other websites: WolfsCry
Is a wolf howl different from a coyote howl? You can
track individual wild wolves or packs (http://www.wolf.org/wolves/experience/telemsearch/vtelem/telem_intro.asp)
through the telemetry data provided by the International Wolf Center.
Or use various methods to
track and study the Yellowstone wolf packs (http://www.wolftracker.com/winterstudy/winter.htm).
Learn more about these surprisingly shy animals at
Wild Animal Watch: Wolves (http://teacher.scholastic.com/wolves/index.htm)
International Wolf Center (http://www.wolf.org/wolves/).
how a Red Wolf is different from a Grey Wolf? (http://www.nczooredwolf.org/index.shtml)
Send a wolf e-postcard
to your friends. Do you think that someday you may see a wild wolf?
- Halloween pictures seem to always have a full
moon, but how often does this really
happen on October 31? Will there be a full Halloween moon this
year? Next year? How about a blue moon? You can find the answers
to some of these questions at the
US Naval Observatory Moon Phase (http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO/astronomical-applications/data-services/phases-moon)
site (which lists all the phases for 1990 to 2005) or this
list of full moons from 1900 to 2100 (http://fermi.jhuapl.edu/s1r/amastro/tools/fullmoons.txt).
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Moon (http://www.shallowsky.com/moon/hitchhiker.html)
for other great moon pages. Other than turning into werewolves if
they happen to have been bitten,
do people really behave differently when there is a full moon? (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1218_021218_moon.html)
- Actually, I’m not sure I have ever seen anyone in a
mummy costume at Halloween, but somehow I
can’t imagine a Halloween without mummies. Visit the National Geographic’s Mummy Road Show
to join bioanthropologists as they solve mummy mysteries. Or learn “How to Make a Mummy”.
Medical artists are using new techniques to
discover what these people looked like (http://dsc.discovery.com/news/briefs/20050425/mummy.html)
when they were alive. And, of course, Egypt isn’t the only place with mummies.
visit the Ice Mummies of the Inca (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/peru/)
Mysterious Mummies of China (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/chinamum/),
and the European bog bodies.
Dr. Dig answers a lot of your questions about mummies (http://www.digonsite.com/drdig/mummy/)
and the people who study them. And don’t miss
In 1989, the World Heritage Museum in Illinois acquired a mummy from
an antiquities dealer. Without any background information to draw on,
scientists at the museum painstakingly uncovered the mummy’s history.
This site explains the non-destructive methods they used (including
x-rays, CAT scans, and isotope and DNA analysis) to gather information
without damaging the fragile mummy. Special features here include
several video clips and a program that translates your name into
- Skeletons — you can’t have a Halloween
Get a close look at all the different bones (http://homes.bio.psu.edu/people/faculty/strauss/anatomy/skel/skeletal.htm)
there are in a human body.
Examine human, gorilla and baboon bones (http://www.eskeletons.org/)
in detail. You can build a skeleton from a pile of bones at these two websites:
The Virtual Body (http://www.medtropolis.com/VBody.asp)
Mr. Bones (http://sv.berkeley.edu/showcase/pages/bones.html).
Some skeletons are even older than humans are. Look at the skulls
of some of the ancestors of homo sapiens, for instance, and
see how the skulls have changed through evolutionary time at
The Hall of Human Ancestors (http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-fossils)
Human Evolution in 3D (http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/projects/human/#).
You can watch a brief video about
how our skeletons are adapted for walking on two feet (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/07/1/l_071_02.html.
(You might need the most recent version of
for some of these websites, but don’t worry, you can
download it for free.)
- Of course masks and costumes are
celebrated at many occasions, in many cultures, as well as at
Halloween. You can get a beautiful
Yupik Mask screensaver (http://www.greenland-guide.gl/masks/default.htm)
as freeware. See other stunning
Yupik masks (http://www.mnh.si.edu/arctic/features/yupik/),
fabulous African masks by a
mask artist (http://www.eling.nl/)
and at the
Museum of Ancient and Modern Art (http://www.mama.org/collection/afc/),
shamanic masks from the Himalayas (http://www.asianart.com/articles/murray/),
Huichol beaded masks (http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/180-huichol-artwork-masks).
It takes a lot of work to make most traditional masks.
Masks can be strictly utilitarian, too. Ever wonder
how a gas mask works? (http://www.howstuffworks.com/gas-mask.htm)
Did you know that
wearing a mask on the back of your head might protect you from tiger attacks? (http://www.lairweb.org.nz/tiger/maneating11.html)
- Do black cats cause bad luck? The
eternal question, and one that has rarely been subjected to
rigorous scientific testing. However, Mark Levin has taken it upon
examine the black cat issue (http://petcaretips.net/black_cat_luck.html).
An informative source of cat anatomy can be found at
“Cats: Plans for Perfection” (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/features/97/cats/).
Or you may be interested in why you see those
glowing, scary eyes in the dark (http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/index.html?quid=323).
Did you know that cat species that purr cannot roar, and vice versa?
The secret is in the vocal chord structure.
- There are a lot of warm-blooded animals associated with Halloween
— wolves, black cats, owls, bats — but how about other species?
Every good haunted house has spider
webs and well they might, for these fascinating creatures are everywhere.
Why don’t spiders get caught in their own webs? (http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/art97b/benspid.html)
Different spiders make very different webs, all made uniquely by a
species-specific pattern (http://www.conservation.unibas.ch/team/zschokke/spidergallery.php?lang=en).
Spiders have special organs to make their
special silk (http://www.learner.org/jnorth/spring2001/species/spring/Update050701.html#Spin),
which is the strongest natural fiber known — 5 times stronger than
steel, and elastic on top of it all. You can listen to a
discussion of the protein structure of spider silk (http://www.aip.org/radio/html/spider_silk.html).
Spider web silk is
just plain amazing! (http://www.xs4all.nl/~ednieuw/Spiders/Info/spindraad.htm)
- The history of the era of witch hunts
in Europe and America is a study in the sociology and folklore of
that time and place. But it may be that the witch-hunting histeria
was at least partially caused by the
eating of moldy rye bread (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/case_salem/index.html).
darkly affected the history of mankind (http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/faculty/wong/BOT135/LECT12.HTM)
more than once. What does ergot look like? See pictures from the
American Phytopathological Society (http://www.apsnet.org/edcenter/intropp/lessons/fungi/ascomycetes/Pages/Ergot.aspx)
Home-Grown Cereals Authority (http://www.hgca.com/research/topicsheets/topicsheet56.html).
- Since many of our Halloween customs trace back to
Celtic beliefs, you may want to check
out the mythology and mysticism of that ancient people. You can
find information on
Celtic art and culture (http://www.unc.edu/celtic/index.html),
or general information about these vibrant peoples, including
information about Celtic burial mounds.
- Have a green Halloween! The
Environmental Defense Fund provides us with tips to have an
environmentally friendly Halloween (http://www.edf.org/pressrelease.cfm?contentID=2364).
- Besides green, Halloween is red, orange and yellow — the time for
flaming foliage. Where is the best
display of vibrant colors this week-end? This question and more
can be answered by the
Fall Color Hotline (http://www.fs.fed.us/news/fallcolors/)
operated by the USDA Forest Service. Ever wonder about the
chemistry of fall colors? (http://scifun.chem.wisc.edu/chemweek/fallcolr/fallcolr.html)
why leaves change color? (http://photoscience.la.asu.edu/photosyn/education/colorchange.html)
Red seems to be a particularly
hotly debated leaf color by scientists (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-warm-hues-of-fall-fol).
You can preserve the beauty of these leaves
in several ways.
- Send a Halloween e-postcard from the NASA Kids website!
- Keep your child safe! Consult
Yahoo’s sites on Halloween safety (http://dir.yahoo.com/society_and_culture/holidays_and_observances/halloween/safety/).
- For more traditional Halloween websites, visit:
Halloween Online (http://www.halloween-online.com),
or MindSpring’s Halloween Links,
or sites compiled by the
Librarian’s Index to the Internet (http://www.ipl.org/IPL/Finding?Key=halloween&x=0&y=0).
You needn’t miss the fun because of disabilities. Here are
costume ideas for folks in wheelchairs (http://specialchildren.about.com/od/inthecommunity/qt/costume.htm)
or with crutches or canes.
Stephanie Bianchi, National Science Foundation Library
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this newsletter are those of the
participants (authors), and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the
National Science Foundation.