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Turning any question into a science-fair-ready topic

You know those people who like to interrupt and go “Well actually…“?

Me: “My dog ran so fast you could hear his ears flapping in the wind!”
That guy: Well actually, your dog couldn’t have possibly been running that fast because …”

Ugh, yeah, that guy. However, I think they might be able to help us out. Think about what they’re doing when they’re saying this: they’re pointing out that something either factually inaccurate or not very precise was said. These are two things we want to avoid in our science fair topics; that is, statements that are wrong or might be understood differently by different people.

Lets try this against some potential questions we might have.

Insert question here

🤔 Why is my dog’s breath so bad?
Well actually, it’s not really that bad.
🤔 Why does my dog’s breath smell the way it does?
Like what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.
🤔 What influences how a dog’s breath smells?
… (I’m not sure what the “Well actually” reply is here, so I think we’ve got it!)

I think the question “What influences how a dog’s breath smells?” is a better question. The big reason for this is that “bad,” which was in the original question, is subjective, or, a matter of opinion or taste. The beginning and ending questions might sound very different, but, we still get to investigate why that smell is coming out of my dog’s mouth.

🤔 Why does my dad keep losing the TV remote?
Well actually… I think this is a good science question, unless the Dad in question doesn’t agree he’s losing the remote. In this case you could just ask “Why do some people lose TV remotes more often than others?”

🤔 Why does my sister have such bad taste in music?
Well actually, her favourite band has sold millions of songs, so are you saying all those people have bad taste in music?
🤔 Why doesn’t my sister like the same music as me?
No one is interested in you or your sister’s taste in music!
🤔 How does music preference develop in children and young adults?

We might not be able to use this last question to convince anyone to change their music listening habits, but it’s a question that can be observed and analyzed. It’s also relevant to a large number of people, not just you and your (my) sister.

🤔 Why shouldn’t I put rocks in my snowballs?
Well actually, I didn’t tell you not to.

Hmm.. The “Well actually” guy might be letting us down here. As far as a “good science fair question” goes, the problem with this question is that it’s touching on a moral issue – I guess I called it a “philosophical” question yesterday. To be fair, we could experiment, observe, and analyze… but we shouldn’t. Don’t worry though, we can still turn this into a science-fair-ready topic. Some ideas:

🤔 How does force applied by sharp objects differ from blunt objects when their weight is the same?
🤔 How much less likely are school-aged kids to play with a peer who breaks social norms? (You’ll want to run this by the science fair ethics committee!)
🤔 Are snowballs with foreign objects more likely to break apart when thrown than snowballs made of pure snow?

About this turkey...

I promised yesterday that we would try to work out whether my question of “Why can’t I microwave a 20lbs. turkey” was a good question for a science fair. Bad news! We’ll have to wait until Monday (maybe I should have used the microwave?).

But, from yesterday, we do know that science is good at answering questions that can be investigated by measuring, observing, experimenting, and analyzing. Can you imagine how any of those 4 things might work with my question? I think I might hear the “Well actually” guy coming…

See you Monday!

Chris