Cool science gifts for the cool science kids

Image of child in spacesuit helmet with Dolly the sheep reflected in the backgroundWith the arrival of a Talk Science to Me baby this summer, we’re looking ahead this festive season to nurturing the next generation of science fans with some cool gifts.

Crowdsourced from friends, like a lot of parenting advice these days, here’s our list for keeping the kids (and adults too) fully occupied over the festive season.

(Many) days out with science

First up, from a new mom, our associate editor Roma Ilnyckyj recommends a family membership to a science museum. In Vancouver, BC, we’re spoiled for choice with excellent kid-friendly institutions like Science World, which is filled to the brim with interactive exhibits, as well as the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, which connects us with the natural world, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, to blast us off among the stars. Or you may live close to London’s Natural History Museum or the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, which both allow free

Treasures: The snapping shrimp

The first thing I need to tell you about the snapping shrimp is that I did not make it up. This is science. Really.

 Alpheus bellulus (snapping shrimp) with partner Cryptocentrus cinctus (yellow shrimp goby). A symbiotic relationship where the blind shrimp digs the protective burrow and the keen-eyed goby serves as lookout. Photo and caption © Nick Hobgood, 2009. CC BY-SA 2.0. Retrieved from Wikimedia CommonsThe “snapping” part of this crustacean’s name refers to the action of a special arm it has—just the one. The limb is massively muscular compared with the rest of the body, and it terminates in a crab-like claw. The main purpose of this claw is to snap shut very fast. But not on anything. Instead, the appendage is used as a ranged attack: it snaps shut so hard and fast that it creates a blast of superheated bubbles that can stun

The chimaera with the wheel of teeth

This is a majorly cool piece by Becky Crew on the Scientific American blog network. It details the slow, incremental progress toward a scientific consensus on a truly weird anatomical feature exhibited by some prehistoric chimaeras (fish that share a relatively recent common ancestor with the modern shark). It’s a great scientific problem. “We’ve discovered what looks like a wheel of teeth, and we’re not sure where it goes.” Most scholars chose to locate it in the fish’s mouth, but a few were a little more adventurous.

Helicoprion dental spiral. (Photo © Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0. From Wikimedia Commons.)

The post eventually delivers the latest evidence—still inconclusive, but persuasive. But I love that it takes the time to trace out the slow progression of scientific thinking about this gloriously weird discovery. It’s a good reminder that science is full of strange things like this, where the best the experts can do is make educated guesses while they try to find evidence indicating who (if anyone) is on the right track.

Point being, it’s not a requirement of science that researchers get the answer right the first time: Only that they constantly look