Friday, February 26, 2010

Non-Newtonian Fluids

Question: I am teaching a high school class about non-Newtonian fluids. Could you direct me to some cool facts and experiments on the subject?

Answer: "Interesting Thing of the Day" at provides a background on the discovery and varieties of non-Newtonian fluids . At the bottom you will find a number of useful links. Perhaps the most fun are the YouTube experiment videos. The viscosity chart further clarifies the distinctions between the different types of fluids. Students may be interested in the links to geophysical diagrams and the MIT research group's page on man made and naturally occurring examples.

A step-by-step guide to an easy experiment is found on Instructables at The lesson is directed at elementary kids, but the concept applies to all ages. Non-Newtonian fluid is sometimes referred to as an Oobleck based on Dr. Seuss' book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. This lesson incorporates the book into the experiment.

In addition, videos of reproducible experiments can be found on "" at and "Wonder How To" at

Friday, February 19, 2010

List of Americans Who Have Renounced Citizenship

Question: I would like to see if someone has or has not renounced their US citizenship. I think there is a list published each year. Where are those lists?

Answer: The list is called "Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen To Expatriate" and is published quarterly by the Internal Revenue Service in the Federal Register.

To view all lists published so far, visit and type in "Quarterly Publication of Individuals, Who Have Chosen To Expatriate" into the search box. The list appears to have been first produced in January 1997. As of this writing, the latest list of individuals was published in November 2009.

You may well wonder why this list of individuals who have sworn off allegiance to the United States is published by the Internal Revenue Service and not by the State Department, especially when it is the State Department that issues the "Certificate of Lost Nationality" that results when a person has gone through the difficult process of renouncing their US Citizenship.

The reason for the IRS handling the list is because the 1996 law (PL 104-191, Title V, Sec 512(a)) was passed in an atmosphere where it was assumed that tax evasion was the number one reason for renouncing one's US citizenship.

If you live in Alaska, you can get a flavor of this climate by visiting the Digital Pipeline at and typing in [renounce citizenship taxes].

Friday, February 12, 2010

Appointed Positions in the Federal Government

Question: Where can I locate information about appointed positions within the federal government, specifically whether or not a nominee for a position is confirmed by the U.S. Senate?

Answer: The Plum Book is freely available online at The November 2008 book is the most current issue and the next printing will be in 2012. The legend provides interpretation for the various appointment codes. The appointments are separated out by agency or other government organization. Within each section, you will find details on the position title, geographic location, name of the incumbent, type of appointment, pay information, tenure and appointment expiration date if there is one. A "PAS" code under type of appointment indicates that the position is nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

To research current nominees and appointments under the President Obama’s administration, the White House posted a database at The “find inside” search box is on the top towards the right. The table lists the person's name, position title, federal agency, and the nomination/confirmation dates. You can change the way the table sorts, download the data or even email it to someone.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Marmot Day

Question: I heard that February 2nd is Marmot Day in Alaska. What's up with that? Don't you like groundhogs?

Answer: February 2, 2010 was the first official Marmot Day in Alaska. February 2nd of each year is designated Marmot Day by ch 57 Session Laws of Alaska 2009. The law states:

* Section 1. AS 44.12 is amended by adding a new section to article 2 to read:

Sec. 44.12.110. Marmot Day. Marmot Day is established on February 2 of each year. The day may be observed by suitable observances and exercises by school programs, the Alaska Zoo, civic groups, and the public.

* Sec. 2.
This Act takes effect immediately under AS 01.10.070(c).

Why the Marmot and not the groundhog? Here is the official sponsor statement by Senator Linda Menard taken from the official bill file:
Sponsor Statement for SB 58

Senate Bill 58, an act establishing February 2nd of each year as Marmot Day, will create a localized, Alaska version of Groundhog Day.

While many people in the Lower 48 spend every February 2nd honoring Punxsutawney Phil, or some other incarnation of the famous groundhog, Alaska residents don’t have the same representation.

The Marmot Day bill (SB 58) solves that, giving school children, public institutions and even adults the opportunity to use a local hire (the marmot) as their symbol.

Marmot Day can be celebrated in myriad ways, from special events at the Alaska Zoo to school celebrations with an educational angle so children can learn more about Alaska’s furry ground squirrel.

Already, the Marmot Day bill has received support from the Alaska Zoo and the Mat-Su Borough School District.

I hope you will also support the Marmot Day bill.

The official bill file also contains letters of support from children, school teachers and others interested in having a local alternative to Groundhog day.