Category: Biology

Things of Science #256 — Seeds

Things of Science unit from February, 1962 on seeds. Interesting — the unit appears to be complete with original seeds.

Here is the booklet:

Things of Science #256 — Seeds

More Things of Science scanned here.

The things:


Things of Science #255 — Sea Shell

ShellsThings of Science unit from January, 1962 on sea shells. With the illustration from the booklet to the one side here and the photo of the “things” below, it took me but a few seconds to identify each shell below. (I wish now I had placed them to match the illustration when I imaged them.)

Here is the booklet:

Things of Science #255 — Sea Shell

More Things of Science scanned here.

The things:

Sea Shell

Things of Science #230 — Butterflies

Things of Science unit from December, 1959. This came in a collection off eBay with no description — I sort of bought them on faith. And here is one titled “Butterflies”. Please, don’t tell me there are butterflies in the unit.


Here is the booklet:

Things of Science #230 — Butterflies

More Things of Science scanned here.

The “things”:



Things of Science #327 — Touch

Things of Science #327 Touch.7An early Things of Science unit on the sense of touch. Later units will cover the other senses.

Here is the booklet:

Things of Science #327 — Touch

More Things of Science scanned here.

Things of Science

Things of Science LogoI am scanning a lot of Things of Science lately. As a way to keep a handy, sorted reference to the scanned booklets, I created this post. I will update it as I add new units.












Things of Science #232 — Herb Seeds

Things of Science 232.1Here is another Things of Science from the 1960’s. If Things of Science is  unknown to you see this post. This unit is called herb seeds and seems to have originally contained seeds for six different herbs (the one I purchased from eBay contained only the booklet).

As usual Things of Science is stuffed with short, concise experiments. This unit additionally covers history of the various herbs, talks about plant classification and taxonomy, describes what a perennial is, discusses how the various herbs are used in cooking, etc. A very enjoyable unit.

I’m inclined to pick up packets of these seeds from the local hardware/nursery and grow some herbs. I think there is something magical about watching a plant grow from a seed. It is a valuable thing especially for children because it can also introduce them to the virtue of patience.

If you would like to re-create this Things of Science unit you will need packets of these seeds:

  • Anise
  • Chives
  • Coriander (also called Cilantro)
  • Summer Savory
  • Sweet Basil
  • True Lavender

Also, some small pots and soil to grow them in.

I tried to find the items at my local hardware store and then nursery and was able to find all but the Summer Savory and Anise. I was able to get both online however. It may be a regional thing though (I’m in California) or even seasonal, so your mileage may vary….

The booklet is here for you to enjoy:

Things of Science #232 — Herb Seeds

Jenny Haniver

Jenny_Haniver1216When I was a teenager I had a friend who showed me one of the oddest things I had seen. In a drawer, he revealed this frightening looking thing that you see to the right. His older brother was in the U.S. Navy and, my friend said, his older brother had come back from some distant port with this oddity — some sort of sea devil.

I thought I was witnessing  some sort of real-life Ripley’s Believe It Or Not side-show in his bedroom that afternoon. What the hell was I looking at?

Years later, when I recalled that bizarre brush with cryptozoology, I set about searching the Web, trying to find out what it was I had seen. And that is when, at last, I came to find that these mer-creatures are referred to as “Jenny Hanivers“.

There’s a long discussion of the lexical origin of the name on Wikipedia if you are interested.

If you have a penchant for the unusual, search eBay for “Jenny Haniver” and pick one of these monsters up for yourself.

Jenny Haniver on Wikipedia

Spider Eyes


Retroreflector Diagram

Probably at some point you have seen the way some animal’s eyes sort of light up when a car’s headlights have swept past. Perhaps it was a neighborhood cat in the night or maybe a coyote, but when the light shined in their face you saw a bright glow from their eyes.

That glow is of course the light of the headlights reflecting back at you. A thing that has that reflective characteristic is called a retroreflector. In this case the retroreflector is the animal’s eyes.

Another retroreflector you’re familiar with is the bicycle reflector. If you’ve ever looked at one very closely you will see the surface of the reflector is composed of many, many small pyramid shapes. These are positioned and angled such that they bounce any light shone at them straight back at its source.

A retroreflector you may not have heard of is one that went with the astronauts to the moon on an Apollo mission. It was left on the surface of the moon pointing earthward. In this way, engineers on Earth were able to shine a laser at it from these thousand of miles away and have that laser reflected directly back. By timing very precisely the length of time it took the laser to travel to the moon and back, we now know the distance to the moon to within a few centimeters.

But now here’s where it gets maybe a little creepy. Did you know that spiders have remarkably retroreflective eyes? If you take a flashlight and go out at night in an area known to have spiders you will see their eyes reflecting very brightly back at you. The only trick to doing this is to make sure the flashlight is held as closely to in-line with your eyes as you can. That is, you want your eyes right behind the flashlight so that you see the light from the spider’s eyes that is being reflected straight back at the flashlight.

Below: Some folks showing you how to find spiders in the night with a flashlight.

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