Moment of Science: Pi Explains Practically Everything!

Moment of Science: Pi Explains Practically Everything!

by Discovery Cube – March 1, 2018

Pi Explains Practically Everything! On March 14, math fanatics all around the world celebrate pi.  This is because the first three digits of pi are 3.14.

Pi is the ratio between the circumference of a circle (the distance around the circle) and its diameter (the distance across). This means that regardless of the size of the circle, the ratio will always be the same. Pi is also an irrational number, which means the digits never end or follow a set pattern. But why exactly does pi have so much fame?

Well, pi can explain practically everything!

In the natural world, pi can be found everywhere, from the pupil of the eye to the spiral of the DNA double helix. You can also use pi to think about Earth’s rotation. Mathematicians depend on pi to help them figure out the volume and surface area of spheres, as well for determining the rotations of circular objects, such as wheels.

Scientists, such as those at NASA, also commonly use the number pi. Pi is important for learning more about planetary objects. Scientists at NASA also use formulas involving pi to calculate the length of time it takes a spacecraft to orbit Ceres, the dwarf planet that is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars.

Since pi is a never-ending number, computer scientists and even supercomputers do not really know all of pi’s digits. But that should not stop you from experiencing pi! Come check out Bubblefest and be inspired to learn more about pi as you watch giant soap bubble spheres fly through the air. Where else can you find pi? Try this fun project at home.


  • Construction Paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Random Household Items with Circular Shape


Step 1: Using the items found around your house, trace a bunch of circles ranging in size on several different pictures of construction paper.

Step 2: Create a picture using all the circles you have traced and cut out – such as this bear! Can you make a pig, or a dog, or a room full of bubbles?

Moment of Science: Patterns in Nature

by Discovery Cube – February 2, 2018

Patterns in Nature

The patterns found in nature have fascinated scientists for many years. Humans have looked at the stars to find patterns – called constellations. Each day we experience a sunset and a sunrise – patterns caused by the Earth’s rotation around the Sun, which we call time. Patterns help us organize information and make sense of the world around us.

A pattern exists when a set of numbers, colors, shapes, or sound are repeated over and over again. Patterns can be found everywhere: including in animals, plants, and even the solar system!

Some specific patterns are called fractals or spirals. Fractals are patterns that repeat at different scales. This means if you zoom in on a picture, you will see the same pattern replicated, and much smaller, inside the larger image. Broccoli is a great example of a fractal because a small piece of broccoli, when zoomed in, has the same pattern as the larger head of broccoli.

Another pattern found in animals and plants is a spiral. If you take a close look at a pine cone you will see a double set of spirals running clockwise and counterclockwise. Seashells and red cabbage are also organized in a spiral pattern. In fact, mathematicians have been able to create equations using spiral patterns that explain why the world works the way it does.

There are so many reasons why understanding patterns in nature is important. People have built cities and created art based on the patterns they see. We have used patterns, like the alphabet and sign language to help us communicate with one another. But since our world is always changing, so do patterns. Next time you go outside, look around – what are some of the patterns you see?


  • Multiple colors of Tissue Paper
  • Scissors
  • Paper Plate
  • Pencil
  • Glue
  • Green Construction Paper
  • 1 Green Pipe Cleaner
  • 1 Googly Eye (Optional)


Step 1: Cut your colored tissue paper into small squares

Step 2: Arrange the colors in a pattern and then glue them onto the paper plate to form a spiral-like pattern

Step 3: Cut the green construction paper into an oval shape (this will represent the foot, or visible part of the body, of your snail)

Step 4: Glue the green construction paper behind the paper plate

Step 5: Glue the googly eye and the green pipe cleaner to your green construction paper (the pipe cleaner represents the snail’s antennas)

Step 6: Admire your snail’s spiral-patterned shell – and compare it to the spiral pattern on the next snail you encounter!

Moment of Science: Reasons for the Seasons

by Discovery Cube – January 9, 2018

Earth’s seasons do more than help us tell time or determine which fruits and vegetables will be available at the local grocery market. The changes that come with each season are a result of Earth’s tilt. Instead of standing straight up and down, the Earth leans slightly on its axis.

The axis is an imaginary line that helps Earth move around the Sun. It takes 365 days, or an entire year, for the Earth to make a full trip around the Sun. Depending on where Earth is on its journey around the Sun, our exposure to sunlight changes. This means different places in the world experience the seasons at different times.

Earth has four seasons throughout the year: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. Summer happens when the Northern hemisphere, or the part of planet we are on in Southern California, is tilted toward the Sun. The hemisphere tilted towards the Sun has warmer, longer days and shorter nights because the Earth is receiving more sunlight. When a hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun, it is winter. During this time of year, the days are colder and shorter because the Earth receives less sunlight. But when the Earth is partially tilted toward the Sun and partially not, we experience spring and autumn. Both “in-between” seasons are a bit warm and a bit cold.

Each season brings different changes to the Earth, impacting how we go about our day. Most importantly, seasons help many ecosystems stay in balance. So next time you go outside, take in the beauty of the season before it changes.

Materials: Leaf Rubbings 

  • White Copy Paper
  • Crayons
  • Leaves


Step 1: Collect leaves ranging in size and shape

Step 2:  Select one leaf and place the bottom/underside of the leaf face up

Step 3: Place the sheet of paper over the leaf and start rubbing the side of a crayon on the piece of paper

Step 4: Continue rubbing on paper until you have rubbed over the entire leaf

Step 5: Repeat Step 3 and Step 4 using different colors and other leaves

Step 6: Compare and contrast your rubbings – How are the leaves similar? How are they different? (Look at their shapes, sizes, and colors or feel their textures) How might these leaf rubbings compare to leaves you find during another season from the same tree or plant?

Moment of Science: The Science of Gingerbread Houses

by Discovery Cube – November 5, 2017

Kick off this holiday season by creating a gingerbread house with family and friends! Once you’ve designed and built your gingerbread house, enter your creation in Discovery Cube’s annual Science of Gingerbread competition. But how can you ensure your gingerbread house is strong enough to hold a roof-full of candy?

Start with the right choice of dough so you can build the gingerbread house of your dreams!  If you are making your own gingerbread, aim for tough dough with a springy texture to avoid cracked walls.  Since all materials have the ability to resist change, having springy dough can help maintain its original shape.  You can also choose to use a pre-baked gingerbread house kit.

A strong sealant can go a long way as you construct.  Icing is traditionally used as “glue” to hold the gingerbread house together.  What makes the icing dry like glue?  The secret ingredient is egg whites, which create a thick and strong paste. Cement-like textures can also be created by melting caramels, gummies, or marshmallows, making the house sturdier.

Finally, design matters.  In order to avoid cracked or collapsed structures, think about the difference between a flat rooftop versus a narrow A-frame rooftop.  Also, keep in mind how the height of the house influences the stability.

Now that you have carefully thought about your choice of dough, icing, and architectural design – start building. Once you are done building – it is time to decorate! This is a great way to re-use your leftover Halloween candy.

Once you are finished with your creation, enter your gingerbread house in the annual Science of Gingerbread competition. For additional details on the competition and entry form, click on the campus below.

Discovery Cube Orange County                                   Discovery Cube Los Angeles

For more tips on how to best build your gingerbread house, check out the video below.

Moment of Science: Earthquakes

Moment of Science: Earthquakes


The Earth is always moving- even the ground beneath your feet!  Luckily for us, geologists estimate the ground moves as fast as your hair grows, which is why you don’t really feel it. But when you do feel the ground shaking we call that an earthquake.

The Earth is made up of layers. What we commonly think of as the ground is the crust of the Earth – the outermost layer made up of solid rocky material. However, the crust is not one solid piece, but instead it’s broken into several pieces called tectonic plates. These puzzle-like pieces can push against each other, pull away from each other, slide across from each other, or even get stuck.

Sometimes two different plates can’t get past each other, but they keep trying to move. Over time, each movement causes pressure to build up along the fault, the area where two plates meet. Eventually, when the fault can’t hold any more pressure or stress, the plates will move – causing an earthquake.

Earthquakes are natural events that happen inside the Earth, so they have nothing to do with weather. Geologists do not have the science or technology to predict earthquakes, but there are some early warning systems around the world – alerting folks that an earthquake has struck and is on its way to them. In an earthquake-prone region like Southern California, it’s always a good idea to know what to do in case of an earthquake. Join the Discovery Cube and millions of others around the world in an annual earthquake readiness drill called “The Great Shakeout” on October 19, 2017 at 10:19 am.



  • Small Marshmallows (any color)
  • Large Marshmallows
  • Round Toothpicks
  • Regular Wooden Ruler
  • Masking Tape Roll
  • Long Rubber Bands
  • Foam Boards or Binder Covers
  • Whiffle or Rubber Balls
  • Sheet of Bubble Wrap- 8 ½ x 11
  • Gallon Size Zip Bag- (fill with whiffle balls)


Step 1: Use toothpicks and marshmallows to build an earthquake safe tower at least 12 inches tall.

Step 2:  Place a sheet of bubble wrap on top of one of the foam boards or binder covers.

Step 3: Place a bag filled with a few whiffle or rubber balls on top of the second foam board. Make sure the bag stays closed.

Step 4: Use masking tape to secure a ruler on the second foam board.

Step 5: Place a second foam board over the bag of whiffle balls with the ruler facing up.

Step 6: Place a rubber band at each end of the foam boards to keep everything together.

Step 7: Test the strength of your tower using your shake table. Make sure to hold the bottom of the shake table during the testing.

Moment of Science: Solar Eclipse Viewing Device

Moment of Science: Solar Eclipse Viewing Device

For the first time in 99 years America will experience a total solar eclipse from coast to coast! What is a solar eclipse? Watch this short video to find out and then build your own eclipse device to safely watch this rare solar event!

It’s time to get crafty!

Building your eclipse viewer:

  1. Grab a box – any box will do. The longer the box, the larger the image of the sun. If using a box with seams, seal up the box with opaque tape to make the inside dark.
  2.  Cut or poke eye and sun holes.
  3. Tape aluminum foil over sun hole.
  4. Poke hole in foil with a pin.
  5. Tape box shut to block light leaks.

To use your eclipse viewer:

  1. Stand with the sun behind you.
  2. Point the pinhole end of the box toward the sun. Move around until, looking through the viewing opening, you see an image of the sun projected inside the box. An easy way to align with the sun is to make the shadow of the box and your head as small as possible.
  3. Your pinhole projector will show a small image of the sun that is useful during a partial eclipse to see the “bite” the moon takes out of the sun.

Instructions on how to build your own eclipse viewing device can also be watched in the video below.

Moment of Science: Impossible Science

Moment of Science: Impossible Science

As you prepare for Discovery Cube Orange County’s Impossible Science LIVE, test your hand at making impossible science…possible.

Here’s our challenge:

Can you take a single sheet of paper and using only one cut turn it into a letter of the alphabet?  Go ahead – try it!

Have you figured out how to do it?  The answer to this seemingly impossible challenge is math.  The “Fold and Cut Theorem” states that we can create any 2-dimensional shape that is made out of straight lines.  The secret is folding the paper so the lines you want to cut all line up on top of each other.

Follow the instructions below to learn how to spell out the word “LIVE”.


  1. First, fold the bottom right corner up and to the left until the right edge matches up with the left edge of your paper.
  1. Next, cut about 2” in from the bottom left corner all the way to the top of the page.
  1. Finally, unfold the paper and you will have the letter “L”. Notice how the short edge and the long edge were both cut using a single cut because the two inside edges of the “L” were on top of each other.


    1. First, fold the paper in half, width-wise, where the right long edge is now touching the left long edge.
    1. Next, fold the paper in half again, but this time take the bottom edge and fold it upward so it is touching the top edge.
    1. Then take the bottom right corner and fold it up and to the left so that it touches the left edge.
    1. Using your scissors, cut in a straight line about 3” above the bottom left corner of the paper.
    1. Unfold your paper and you will have an “I”. Notice that you lined up the four small cuts that form the inside of the top and bottom of your “I” and the inside long lines of your “I”.


      1. Start by folding the paper in half, width-wise, where the right long edge is now touching the left long edge.
      1. Then take the top right corner and fold it downward so that it sticks over the left edge of the paper by about 2”.
      1. Cut at an angle about 1” in from the bottom right corner, aiming upward so that your cut finishes at the top point where your paper overlaps.
      1. Unfold your paper and you will have a “V”. Notice how you lined up both the inside edges and the outside edges of the “V” and cut them using only one cut.


        1. First, fold the paper in half length-wise, so the bottom edge is now touching the top edge.
        1. Once again take the bottom edge of the paper and fold up. This time you want your edge to stop about 1” below the top edge of the paper.
        1. Now take the top right hand corner and fold it down so the right edge is parallel to the bottom edge of the paper, but several inches lower.
        1. Finally, using your scissors, cut about 1” in from the right hand edge of your paper, making sure to cut in a straight line all the way to the top of your paper.
        1. Unfold your paper and you will have an “E”. Notice that you lined up all of the straight lines inside the “E” and cut them using one single cut.

          Once you have mastered the challenge, show your family and friends.  And remember, “When you ask the right question, everything changes.”

          Now that you know to line up all the straight edges, can you figure out how to form different letters?  Can you spell your name? If you need help figuring out the math, visit:

          September Moment of Science:
          Moon Facts

          Did you know that the Moon does not change size? Nor does it’s orbit change enough to make the moon look bigger or smaller to people on Earth. So why does the moon sometimes look bigger or smaller in the night sky? It’s all an optical illusion!

          moonearthA common misconception about the Moon is its distance from the Earth. The Moon appears to be larger at times, so some people think that the Moon moves substantially closer to the Earth. While it is true that the Moon’s orbit around Earth is not exactly circular, the difference in distance from the Earth is so small that it does not affect how large the Moon appears in the sky. Many people think the phenomenon of the Moon appearing larger at times may be due, perhaps, to some sort of magnification caused by the Earth’s atmosphere.  However, this is strictly an optical illusion ~ the eye is tricked into measuring the Moon against nearby objects such as buildings, trees, and hills.  These types of objects, located on most horizons, create the illusion of increased size.  (The scientific term for this is oculomotor macropsia.)  This optical illusion is known more commonly as the Moon Illusion.

           First, gather your materials:
          – A variety of round cookies/candies (M&Ms, mini Oreos, Lifesavers, Chips Ahoy cookies, Mother’s oatmeal cookies, etc.)


          How big do you think the Moon is in proportion to the Earth?  If you look at the Moon when it’s full, how big does it look? Which of these cookies and candies can be compared to the size of the Moon in the sky when held at arm’s length?

          Use the same cookies and candies and try to determine the approximate comparison of the size of the Earth and Moon.  Have them select the two items that they think represent the relative sizes.

          Once your scientists have made their guesses, tell them that Earth’s moon diameter is about one-fourth the size of the Earth’s diameter.  Therefore the correct selection is the M&M (Moon) and the Chips Ahoy cookie (Earth).

          Next have them place these two items so that they are at a scale distance from one another. The correct distance is approximately 156 cm from each other (the Moon is approximately 30 Earth diameters distance from the Earth). Have them use a ruler to see if they are correct in their approximation by measuring their items and the distance between them.  [Note: the M&M diameter will be about 1.3 cm; the Chips Ahoy diameter will be about 5.2 cm; and the distance between them will be 5.2 cm X 30 = 156.0 cm…. or 62.4 inches]

          After making your guess for which of the treats (when held at arm’s length) is the same apparent size as the Moon, explain that the Moon will fit inside of the hole of the Lifesaver….always! Then, on the next full moon take your Lifesaver candy and head outside and see how perfectly the moon fits inside of the Lifesaver.

          Moment of Science: Impression Fossils

          August Moment of Science:
          Impression Fossils

          play-dough-bug-imprints-for-preschool-Put on your paleontology hat and get ready to make some fossils during this month’s Moment of Science! Scientists categorize fossils into three main groups –  impression fossils, trace fossils, and replacement fossils. Fossils are bits of plants or animals that have been preserved from the past. There are three types of fossils based on how they are formed. The three types of fossils are:

          1. Impression Fossils
          These fossils contain prints, or impressions, of plants or animals from long ago. The plant or animal lands in mud, silt, or sand and makes an impression. Over time, it disappears, but the impression remains. The mud, silt, or sand hardens into rock, and an impression fossil remains.

          2. Trace Fossils
          These types of fossils capture the activities of ancient animals. The animals leave its footprints or scat, which makes an impression in the soft mud, silt, or sand. Just like impression fossils, the soil hardens to form rock, preserving a trace of the animal.

          3. Replacement Fossils
          These fossils are replicas of things that were once alive, such as trees or sea creatures. These living things are trapped, die, and are covered by mineral-rich water. As they rot, the organic parts are replaced by a hard mineral called silica. The minerals fill in the spaces and create a replacement, or replica, fossil of the living thing.

          Now that you know about the different fossils, it’s time to make your own!

          playdough-bug-printing-First, gather your materials:
          1 cutting board
          Plastic dinosaurs/insect toys (the more detail the better!)


          1. Flatten Playdough into small disks or squares, large enough to fit one of the plastic figures or plants you will be fossilize
          2. Firmly press dinosaur/insect figures into the Playdough (you can press your figurine sideways, on its feet/hands, etc.)
          3. Carefully remove plastic figure to preserve the imprint
          4. Repeat steps 1-3 with a different figure or from a different angle

          As each fossil is imprinting talk to your paleontologist about the fossil they are making. Which fossil are they creating, an impression fossil or a trace fossil? If they were looking for fossils, how could they use different parts of the imprint to identify what animal had been there? Can they think of anything else that could turn into a fossil? Try gathering leaves, plants, and flowers from the backyard and see how each one creates a different impression. Once they’ve created multiple fossils, can they pair up the original animal/plant to the fossil? Share photos of your experiment with us on social media by tagging @discoverycubeOC and @discoverycubela.

          Don’t miss the Extreme Dinosaurs exhibit now open through September 5, 2016 at Discovery Cube OC to see real and replica fossils on display!

          This blog post was inspired by and features images from

          Moment of Science: Oobleck

          July Moment of Science:

          Oh Oobleck!

          Bartholomew and the oobleckOobleck is a fun science experiment that involves a substance often referred to as a Non-Newtonian Fluid. When Oobleck is being poured, it acts like a liquid, but it acts like a solid when pressure is applied. Can you think of any other substances that you think might be a Non-Newtonian Fluid? Oh, the science! Oobleck gets its name from the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck where a gooey green substance, Oobleck, falls from the sky and wreaks havoc in the kingdom.

          We recommend reading the book with your children first, however if you want to do the experiment today, you can listen to the story here. Now it’s time to make your own Oobleck!

          First, gather your materials:
          2 Cups Cornstarch
          1 Cup Water
          Food Coloring (can be any color you’d like – please note food coloring may leave color behind on hands, feet, clothes, etc.)


          1. OobleckPour cornstarch into a medium sized bowl.
          2. Slowly add water and stir. (Note: you may not need all of the water, pour slowly and test as needed.)
          3. Pour in drops of food coloring and mix in.

          Once made, there are several things you can do with the Oobleck. If you hit the liquid, it will feel like a wall, but if you touch it gently it will flow like a liquid (Oobleck may splatter a bit, but will wash off with some water). After some experimenting, try having your children create a boat of materials found around the house that won’t sink in the Oobleck. Does weight, size, or shape seem to make an object float or sink? Share photos of your experiment with us on social media by tagging @discoverycubeOC and @discoverycubela.

          To purchase the book online visit