October 15, 2018

STEM + Earth Science: A Match Made On Earth

Celebrating Earth Science Week With Some of Our Favorite Inventors!

By Allison VanNest, Head of Communications at littleBits

In the realm of Science, the Earth and its neighbors have always been able to command a sense of wonder. For centuries, scientists have grappled with the mystery of the Earth, often going toe to toe with behemoths like the Government or the Church to satiate their hunger for truth and discovery.

As a result, we’ve been able to break down the answers to so many interesting questions:

  • Is the Sun a planet?
  • When did life on Earth begin?
  • What happened to the dinosaurs?

But as you can imagine, there’s plenty of questions that still need to be answered — not only to help us make sense of our planet but to help us preserve it.

What is Earth Science?

Earth Science is the study of Earth and its atmosphere. It is an important area of study for many reasons. Earth Science helps us to measure the impact of human activity on Earth and its environment; it helps us to anticipate and prepare for natural disasters such as hurricanes, volcanoes, and earthquakes; and it gives us insight into how we can best preserve the Earth’s resources to be able to sustain life on the planet.

To advance this mission, the American Geosciences Institute has organized Earth Science Week, established in October 1998. Earth Science Week works with a unique theme every year to help promote understanding and appreciation for the Earth Sciences and encourage responsibility towards the Earth. This year, we’ll celebrate Earth as Inspiration from October 14-20, with each day of Earth Science week dedicated to a deeper theme as focus days.

The 4 Major Areas of Earth Science

What better way to embrace Earth as inspiration than to take a look at some STEM inventors who leaned into one of the four major areas of Earth Science and discovered something new?

Geology: It’s the study of solid Earth. If you have been captivated by the dinosaurs of the past or the fascinating rock you collected on the beach shore while on a family holiday, a deeper dive into geology will reveal a lot more about living, thriving planet.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin was an English geologist to whom we owe the understanding of evolution as we know it today. Darwin established that natural selection played a prominent role in the evolution of species and his “survival of the fittest” theory explained that the struggle for existence in the natural world is similar to selective breeding during the process of artificial selection. Darwin’s 1859 book, On the Origin of Species, provides compelling evidence to his theory of evolution and has formed the basis for the study, classification and conservation of several species on the surface of the Earth since then.

Meteorology: Ever wondered how the tornadoes could be calmed? Or wished to work on some magical solution for global warming to be curtailed? Meteorology gives you the thrill of looking into a crystal ball and predicting the future- except that it is backed by solid science.

Heinrich Hertz

In the late 19th century, Heinrich Hertz started some experiments that led to discovering that radio waves were reflected by metallic objects, which was followed up by another series of experiments on electromagnetism by various scientists. Building on the principles known from these experiments, German inventor Christian Hülsmeyer built the first ship detection system, which has since been used to predict weather changes accurately, helping build warning systems and save millions of lives in the event of an impending natural calamity.

Oceanography: If you have gazed in amazement at dolphins dancing to a particular sound frequency or wondered about how the seas and oceans have a whole hidden world within them, Oceanography will never cease to amaze you.

One of the most prominent inventions in oceanography is that of CTD recorders — short for conductivity, temperature and depth recorders. These recorders are lowered into the water bodies through containers called rosettes to record the movement of water masses all over the world. The movement of these water masses makes up the ocean circulation system also technically known as ‘thermohaline conveyor belt’ which influences rainfall patterns, climate, sea life stock, and much more.

Astronomy: If you have gazed at the night sky and wondered how the stars look like they are winking at you, or why the ‘blue’ or the ‘red’ moons are so rare, Astronomy will be your love for life.

Look at the GRACE-FO mission, which was deployed as a partnership between NASA and the German Research centre to track how much water is moving across the planet and where. A very challenging task, given that water can be in any of the three states — solid, liquid and gas. It’s always moving, and it can be visible on the surface or hidden underneath.

Scientists solved the problem by using the principle of gravitational force on the mass of water to track the movement of water on the planet.

STEM is truly inseparable from the Earth Sciences, and learning to integrate Earth Sciences with STEM means preparing to solve some of the most pressing problems surrounding humanity. It could be the ultimate answer that parents and educators are often faced with while dealing with young learners: “When am I ever going to use what I learn?

How does your family dive in to Earth Science at home? Share with us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!

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