Sci-Tech Library Newsletter

Newsletter archive > Halloween 2007

Ghoulish Science Fun This Halloween Season!

Scientists and budding scientists — dare yourself to begin the ghoulish journey through these exciting Halloween haunted links. Symbols of Halloween are all around, but many of these symbols are waiting for you to unlock their deeper mysteries. Maybe along the way you’ll uncover a mysterious project that brings the science of Halloween to life for you! Get ready … masks on … lights out … let the journey begin!

  1. 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 of us do? Read about all this at the Why Files “Things that go bump in the night” website. After you understand why, take time to pop some popcorn and sit back as you enjoy a spooky space invasion brought to life in 1938 when Orson Welles first broadcast “War of the Worlds”. Scroll down far enough so you can listen! And then explore the site in New Mexico where some believe aliens have landed — even Buster takes us to visit and shares a song to remember!
  2. What colors do you associate with Halloween? Most would answer orange and black as traditional Halloween colors. But more and more people are celebrating a green Halloween! The Environmental Defense Fund reminds us annually of tips for celebrating an eco-friendly Halloween. And beyond these tips, parents and students will find wonderfully engaging “green” activities to bring life to any celebration. And we can’t forget the “green” influence on our candy choice!
  3. Halloween is one night you don’t want to get lost, so don’t go trick or treating without knowing how to navigate by the stars. You will probably also want to make sure you check out your October sky map — maybe while you are gazing skyward you will spot the spooky Ghost Head Nebula or be in awe of the eerie space sounds. But just know that using the stars to guide one’s way has been around for some time. Check out a song that reminds us of this, then read NASA’s explanation of the words.
  4. What causes goosebumps? How do movies make those scary special effects that give us such shivers? Check it out at the NOVA special effects site. But maybe, just maybe, haunted places really do exist.
  5. Haunted places are just where you are likely to find spiders. Imagine the creepy feeling you have passing through their webs! Ever wonder why spiders don’t get caught in their own webs? Watch the precision and grace that this spider possesses as it weaves its unique web. Spiders have special organs to make their special silk which is the strongest natural fiber known — five times stronger than silk. Check out more information relating to the protein nature of these webs. Maybe as you learn more about spiders you’ll begin to see how intriguing they really are!
  6. What’s Halloween without some reference to witches? So get crafty and make your own Halloween decorative accessories — hang a witch mobile or create your own witch splatting into the tree! Continue with witch fun by exploring the witchy animals of Shakespeare’s MacBeth. After the fun and games, take time to learn the history of witch hunts in Europe and America especially dominated by the history of the Salem witch trials. You can even catch some of the testimony! Jump the first broom back to today to see what some have to say about witchcraft — how is it still celebrated?
  7. Black cats are always nearby as Halloween approaches. But do they really cause bad luck? While it would be difficult to test with scientific rigor, Mark Levin has tried to examine the issue. Now if you are willing to test your luck, take time to play the black cat treasure hunt game! Then step back and explore the mythical link between black cats and witches. Just a little understanding of their mythical link is enough to remind us that cats have really been around for years. And if you watch the graceful moves of its anatomy, it doesn’t surprise one that cats of all sizes become fascinating to study. Yet, have you ever wondered why the cat’s eyes shine so well? Or even known about the healing potential of the cat’s purr?
  8. Masks and clever disguises have become a custom at Halloween. Interestingly, masks have become celebrated as part of cultural life around the world. After taking a trip around the world, take time to rest and enjoy mask jigsaw puzzles. Just playing with the mask puzzles may lead you to try your own hand at mask-making — here’s a project that can bring realism to the mask design! Who knows what fear your mask may incite, but kids have definitely given their opinion about the masks that scare them. Take the scare out of masks and monsters by completing the monster mad lib — humor does wonders to calm the fears! Now we are ready to meet one of nature’s master of disguises, the chameleon. Now, test your knowledge with a chameleon quiz. Chameleons are doing their best to hide in their disguises, but maybe you can find some through NASA’s tools. Scroll down to find the riches of this site!
  9. Monsters — real or not? Some aspects of science have looked closely at one of the literary world’s most famous monsters — Frankenstein’s monster. The science connection and medical connection to our Frankenstein fascination are worthy to explore. Monsters often become part of folklore whether through written or oral storytelling traditions and quickly become entwined with our culture. There are at least three monsters that some are still hunting in an effort to disprove the belief that they are only imagined — Bigfoot, Loch Ness, and the Hobbit. Just the thought of Loch Ness, reminds us that giant monsters used to roam the earth and sea. And even today it is interesting to explore some of the deep sea monsters which stake claim to the dark, murky depths of our seas! Check out how much you know about these present-day deep sea monsters by closing this exploration with a short quiz.
  10. Halloween is more than just black cats and monsters … Halloween sets the stage for an often a flamboyant display of fall colors! Where is the best display of vibrant colors this weekend? This question and more can be answered by the Fall Color Hotline operated by the USDA Forest Service. Just remember there is really no perfect time, because the colors peak in waves, though there is information on the best places to see fall foliage so that you can make your travel plans. Equally amazing as the colors are learning about the chemistry behind these fall colors and learning how leaves change colors. Check out this movie for further explanation. Now take time to experiment and find the colors that are hidden in green leaves — if there are any left!
  11. For a spooky spin on physical science, just in time for Halloween, stop by the Atom’s Family website. Enter Dracula’s library to experiment with properties of light critical to protecting him from the impact of morning light. Or visit the Wolf Man’s ghostly graveyard to explore facets of energy. Many other rooms await taking you to lesson plans and background information that will make you howl!
  12. Inventors love Halloween, too. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office offers “The Little Shop of Halloween Patent & Trademark Horrors” highlighting actual inventions with a Halloween theme that have been invented over the years. And speaking of inventions, don’t forget to read about the inventive history behind Halloween traditions like candy corn. Did you realize candy corn has been around since the 19th century?
  13. Everyone’s favorite Halloween flying mammal — the bat — wins its top position as it is the only flying mammal. To enjoy a close-up video of a bat check out this video of a flying fox bat enjoying a bite to eat. There are many terrific bat sites on the web. For instance, don’t miss the National Geographic “Creature Feature — Vampire Bat”. This site comes with video, audio, maps, even a postcard to send to a friend. The BBC also has a great bat website or you can learn more about bats on Science Friday. Bats really can cause one to stop and think — how do bats fly? how do they use sound to navigate? what are they good for? To find out some answers check out How Bats Work. And if you are really curious, listen for some more fun bat facts. After all this information on bats, you should be ready to take the bat quiz! Or maybe you are ready to build a bat house … or a simpler endeavor would be to build a bat mobile! Have fun!
  14. Skeletons — you can’t celebrate Halloween without them! Get a close look at all the different bones there are in the human body. You can also examine human, gorilla and baboon bones in more detail with the use of the E-Skeletons Project website. And for a little fun, you can build a skeleton from a pile of bones at Medtropolis or the Lawrence Hall of Science. Some skeletons are much older than humans are. Look at the skulls of some of the ancestors and relatives of Homo sapiens, for instance, and see how the skulls have changed through evolutionary time at Human Evolution at the Smithsonian Museum or UCSB’s Human Evolution. Skeleton finds are a researchers’ treasure chest! The Lucy skeleton is proably one of the best known skeleton finds. But wait until you hear this NPR story on a hominid skeleton find believed to be even older! And if you want to read more about this find check out Discovery Channel’s report. Now that you are so familiar with skeletons, it is time to try your hand at making a pasta skeleton!
  15. Safety should be foremost in our minds whether we are kids or adults! Red Cross reminds us of this with some kid-friendly safety tips that kids of all ages should read! And don’t forget some of these rules (pdf) come in handy even before the trick-or-treating begins. Sometimes it is easier to hear or view the Halloween safety tips including the tips impacting costume design! A discussion on safety can’t leave out pumpkin carving techniques and guides. And when you think you have mastered pumpkin carving check out this video of “extreme” pumpkin carving! But what do you do with those pumpkins once Halloween is over? Ever hear of a trebuchet — check out this video!?

Happy Halloween!

Patti Sanner and Stephanie Bianchi, National Science Foundation Library.
Webpage last updated October 2008.