Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Model Rocket

For those of you that have read Ted's Model Rocketry Q & A for Beginners post, this is what you'll see when you launch your very own rocket.

Within moments of engine ignition, a model rocket is moving at a speed of several hundred miles an hour...so you'd better have a quick trigger finger! Not even a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second can completely "freeze" the motion of the rocket as it surges toward the sky.

Playing with Toads.

Greetings, readers of The Dangerous & Daring Blog for Boys and Girls. I am Mike. You may know me as The Maximum Leader from the blog Naked Villainy. If you happen to read my blog, you will know that I opine (with varying degrees of seriousness) on politics, history, philosophy, culture, and whatever else happens to strike my fancy. I was surprised and pleased that Ted invited me to be a contributor here on The Dangerous and Daring Blog for Boys and Girls. I was surprised because I don't often think of my blogging as being oriented towards young boys and girls. But I was pleased because this outlet will give me an opportunity to write about a whole host of subjects in a way that I would not ordinarially think to do so.

While I have not yet read the book "The Dangerous Book for Boys," I am a father of three children. I am a dad to two girls and a boy. I belive that I was raised in a "traditional American" fashion. Unfortunately, I don't see that many kids are getting the same type of upbringing I got. I hope that my contributions here can help someone out there learn something for themselves and possibly use that knowledge to teach their kids something they might not otherwise learn.

That said, my first post is not actually my own... Almost three years ago my good friend, and fellow blogger at Naked Villainy, Mark -- the Smallholder -- wrote two posts that got us lots of traffic. The subject of the two posts revolved around sexing toads. If you've never played with a toad you've never really been a kid. My friend Mark, through the post he wrote, taught me something I wouldn't have learned before.

Here is revised edition of those posts about Toads...

I once had a pair of toads as pets.

I was playing in the woods one day and I came upon a pair of toads and took them home. I kept them in an terrarium.

I named them Shake and Speare.

Shake and Speare were cool pets. I taught them to jump through hoops. They slurped worms up like spaghetti. If you fed them lightning bugs, the lightning bugs would light up inside their bodies. The bugs would appear as a red glow through the toad's skin. If you fed Shake and Speare several lightning bugs and then let them hop around, the blinking lights would make them look like moving Christmas trees.

I always wanted to have them lay eggs and hatch tadpoles, but over three years never had any luck, even though I had a male and female pair.

Shut up. It’s not that hard to sex toads, you perv.

You just pick up a toad and rub the belly. A female will squirm around. A male will squirm around and squeak.

You see, toad sex occurs when a male wraps his arms around a female and squeezes out her eggs. He then releases his sperm into the water and his sperm fertilize the floating eggs.
During mating season, things get really hectic. “Toad balls” develop as males struggle to be the one closest to a fertile female. As a defense mechanism, the squeak is the way one male toad lets another male toad know: “Get off! I’m not a girl!”

Try it with the next toad you find. Impress your friends.

For those of you who wish to sex toads at home, here is a step-by-step guide:

1) Make sure your toad is a toad. Many people seem to confuse frogs and toads. Frogs are moist, have smooth skin, and are generally found near water. Toads are dry, have bumpy skin, and are terrestrial except when they mate.

2) Pick up the toad gently, but with enough control so that it doesn’t squirm loose and splat itself on the ground. Hold the toad away from your body because they will attempt their standard defense mechanism: peeing on you. Toad pee is very acidic, and if you were a dog or predator, you’d drop the poor guy quickly. As it is, you’ll want to wash your hands after you are done sexing your toad.

3) Turn the toad over in the palm of your hand so it lays with its back down and its head between your thumb and pointer finger. Gently wrap your fingers around it’s body. Maintain enough pressure that it cannot squirm forward, but don’t squeeze it too hard either.

4) Turn your hand so the toad is right-side up in relation to the ground. Use your middle finger to stroke or tickle the toad’s belly. If the toad croaks, you have a male. If it does not, you’ve got a lady.

And there you have it... Now you can go and sex a toad...

Carry on.

Monday, July 30, 2007

There's Old, and Then There's *Old*

In the White Mountains of California you'll find the oldest living things on planet Earth. Bristlecone Pine trees have survived there for thousands of years, including "Methuselah", which is over 4,670 years old! These trees were saplings when the pyramids in Egypt were being built. They were mature trees during the time of Christ, and they still live.

You can learn more about Bristlecone Pines by following the links here and here and there are some cool photos here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Allow Me To Introduce Myself

Greetings, Boys and Girls!

My name is Robert the Llama Butcher (although I often go by Robbo the LB) and I usually post over at http://www.llamabutchers.mu.nu. I'm in my early forties and have three daughters aged nine, seven and five, respectively, so when Ted came along and suggested the idea for this blog o' stuff kids oughta know, I was all for it.

If you've ever spent any time over at my other blog, you'll already know that I delight in posting about history. I do this mainly for two reasons: first, I strongly believe that we as a culture cannot possibly understand what we are now if we don't first understand how we got to be here. If there is a weakness in the American character, it is a tendancy to look only forward, not backward, and while this is fine in terms of general optimism and has undoubtedly done much to power our rise to greatness, it also blinds us and leads to many tedious and spirit-wasting debates. (I'm thinking, just at random, of those smarmy people who think it's clever to point out the hypocracy of the Founding Fathers in that for all their talk of Liberty, many of them were slaveholders. Yes, such talk would be ridiculous in the early 21st Century, but these men lived in the last half of the 18th and must be taken in their own context. You would think this would be pretty obvious, but apparently it isn't to some.)

Second, I am a great believer in what is sometimes called the Kings and Battles view of history, something that is not much emphasized anymore. This simply says that there are key events and people who have shaped history far more than most others, and that it is important for us to know who and what they were. My experience of what I believe is termed "Bottom Up" historical study, with its fashionable emphasis on the day to day drudgery of the downtrodden, the disenfranchised and the oppressed, is that it is generally nothing more than a platform for sociological agitprop and rabble-rousing. So, for example, you probably will not see much here on the sorry lot of the Medieval serf or the Roman slave, but you may see posts on the efforts of the Plantagenets to take the French throne or the consolidation of power in late Republican and early Imperial Rome by the Julian and Claudian families.

I also like to post about artistic matters, mostly musickal. I am a very strong believer in the concept of High Art, that is, a canon of works that have stood the test of time because of their aesthetic excellence and intellectual rigor. I don't pretend for an instant to be any kind of expert on these matters, but instead cheerfully occupy the position of an enthusiastic amateur. I also believe that an exposure to, say, Haydn and Mozart, Shakespeare and Milton, Rembrandt and Michelangelo, to name just a few, is a part of the well-rounded education of any young lady or gentleman. I feel this is particularly so in that the current age is largely devoid of any real artistic achievement, and it is important for children to get a sense of what Man can achieve when he puts his mind to it. There is an enormous difference between Bach and Britney, and all of you young'uns ought to know what it is.

Anyhoo, welcome aboard and enjoy the ride! Yip! Yip!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Spider Houses

People have houses. Dogs have houses. Birds have houses. Even butterflies and bats have houses. Let's learn how to build a spider house.

Why in the world would you build a spider house? Firstly, spiders are fascinating creatures and it's neat to be able to go outside and watch one doing its spider-thing in a frame that you built. Secondly, spiders eat a lot of pesky insects, including some that might be eating the plants in your vegetable or flower garden.

Materials Needed:

Thin wood such as grapestake. What you're looking for is wood about the size of what yardsticks are made out of, something about one to two inches wide and one-quarter inch or less thick. Grapestakes are cheap, come in bundles and are about six feet long. Perfect.

Wood glue. Waterproof or exterior is better, but even hot-melt glue will work.


String or twine. You'll only need this if you want to hang your spider house instead of sticking it into the ground.


Before you begin, cut out four pieces of wood about 12 inches long. Next, cut out two pieces about 3 inches long. A hand saw works fine for this. Save the rest of the grapestake, you'll use it later.

1. Put two of the 12 inch pieces next to each other as shown below. Put a good spot of glue on each end, where the gray circles are on the diagram.

2. Take the other two 12 inch pieces and lay them across the glue spots as shown on the left, to make a square. Clamp the corners or place something heavy on them (make sure to clean up any glue that oozes out!) and let the glue dry.

3. Those two short pieces that you cut will be attached to the square frame so they make a little nook for the spider. This gives the spider protection from the rain and a place to hide when it feels threatened.

4. Time for more spots of glue. The spot shown is where you'll put the glue on each side (front and back) of the frame.

5. Glue the two short pieces to the frame as shown. The front one is sideways and the rear one is on the other side of the frame and runs in the same direction. This creates the little hidey-hole. Clamp or weight down and let dry.

Next, decide how you want to display your spider house. You can glue the remaining length of grapestake to the bottom corner and stick it in the ground in your garden, or you can tie some string or twine through one corner and hang it. Either way, there should be some protection from the wind and elements or spiders will find it unsuitable and look elsewhere to live. Like inside your house.

This makes a fairly large frame, and all of the measurements are flexible. Make smaller ones if you'd like, even popsicle sticks can be used (although you'd likely have smaller spiders take up residence there). If you build something bigger than about three feet square, I don't want to know what decides to live there.

After you place your spider houses, wait a couple of days and you'll see webs being built inside the frames.

Leave a comment and let us know how your spider houses are doing! Or email us at DangerousBlog@gmail.com and send pictures, because we looooove spiders!

Moon Trees

During the Apollo missions that landed on the moon, one member of each crew stayed in orbit while the other two descended to the surface. One of these Command Module Pilots was Stu Roosa, who was a smoke jumper before he became an astronaut. Besides photographing the moon from orbit and performing other scientific experiments, Roosa carried with him 500 tree seeds. The idea was to plant them when he returned to Earth and to watch over time to see what effect the trip into space might have on them.

Over 400 seedlings were grown from the seeds, and they were planted in various places around the US and the world. If you follow this link to the Moon Trees page, you'll find a list at the bottom showing where many of them are planted.

Maybe one is close enough to you to visit. After all, not every tree went around the moon and back!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ghost Stories: The Hook

One of the first ghost stories I ever heard was told to me by an older cousin. She was watching over some of us younger kids as we spent the night in a tent. We begged her to tell us a ghost story, and she told us one that I have remembered ever since. It is a well-known American folktale, and here is one version for those who are brave enough to read on...best told in the dark with a flashlight or campfire...

A teenage girl was listening to the radio as she got ready for her date with her boyfriend. A report came on warning listeners that an insane killer had escaped the nearby asylum. The man could be recognized by the hook that was in place of his hand. The girl didn't pay much attention--she was focused on the fun she was going to have that evening.

The girl's boyfriend came to pick her up and they went with another couple to a dance. They had a great time, and when they left they dropped the other couple off before parking in a secluded spot to kiss.

The radio was on in the car, and another report came over to warn people that the man with the hook was still at large. The girl was suddenly aware of how lonely the road was--there was no one else around. She shivered and asked her boyfriend to take her home, "That hook man sounds dangerous, and we're all alone out here."

Her boyfriend tried to get in another kiss, "Come on, it's nothing to worry about."

The couple argued, but they were interrupted when the car shook. It felt as if something...or someone...had touched it. The girl screamed, "Get us out of here now!"

The boyfriend rolled his eyes but tore out of his parking spot with a screech of the tires. The couple drove home in angry silence, and when they got to the girl's house, she kicked the car door open and went to slam it.

Instead of closing the door, the girl let out a horrible shriek. There, hanging from the door handle, was a bloody hook.

(This is the first in what will be a series of ghost stories. If you'd like to contribute one, please e-mail it to: jenlarson@gmail.com.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

History of The United States Flag

"Old Glory" is a red, white, and blue flag with thirteen alternating red and white stripes, and a blue field with white stars. The earliest explanation for the colors came from Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thompson. He did not explain the flag specifically, but rather the seal of the country:

"The colors of the [stripes of the seal] are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valour, and Blue, the color of [the upper field of the seal] signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."

The original flag had thirteen stripes and thirteen stars signifying the original thirteen states. Those states were Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia. The thirteen stars, it was written in the first Flag Act, "in a blue field [represent] a new Constellation."

When the states of Kentucky and Vermont entered the union, the flag was changed to have fifteen stars and fifteen stripes. This was the only time a United States flag had more than thirteen stripes, and was the flag flying over Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the War of 1812.

In 1818, another Flag Act took away the two new stripes and the United States flag has had thirteen stripes ever since. A new star has been added for each new state, and there are currently fifty stars. This version of the flag has been in place since 1959, when Hawaii became the fiftieth state.

When a flag is folded by the military, it is folded into a triangle that is symbolic of the tricorner hats worn by American soldiers during the American Revolution. The folded flag should show only the blue field and some white stars.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Most Incredible and Fantastic Thing in Human History

Thirty-eight years ago today, for the first time in history, a human being walked on the surface of another world.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Oscarsborg is the name of the fortress protecting the seaward approaches to Oslo, Norway. Her guns have only been involved in one battle, and the two biggest guns only fired once each in anger.

The ship was the German cruiser Blücher. The first hit took out the Blücher's forward fire control station, effectively disabling the ship's forward guns. The second hit took out the aircraft hangar, igniting aviation fuel and infantry munitions stored on deck.
These were the only two rounds Aron and Moses were to ever fire in anger, their inexperienced crews and long reload times effectively taking them out of the battle. If you only get one shot - make it count.

You can read the whole story by clicking on this link.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Model Rocketry Q & A for Beginners

Several years ago I put together a web site devoted strictly to model rocketry. One of the most popular pages was an introduction set up in question and answer format. Looking back on it, I can see that we've come a long way since those early days. I've copied that page below and added links where I could.

Q: Why do you think rockets are such a great thing to do with your kids?
If I sit down to play video games with the kids, or we watch sports together, or read in the same room, we might be spending time together, but it's not necessarily 'together' time. Model Rocketry is more interactive for us, there is a give and take, and an exchange of ideas. It's not just spending time together, it's spending time with each other.
My kids have picked up some very good habits from rocketry; setting goals, planning, following directions, working together, teamwork, and keeping records.
They've also felt satisfaction. Imagine the look on 9 year old Rachaels' face as her rocket, designed, built, and launched all on her own, roared off the pad for a perfect flight. As it drifted down on its pink streamers, everyone was cheering and congratulating her. I don't know who was more proud at that moment, her or me.
And they've learned how to deal with the minor tragedies of life. The lost rockets, and the ones dinged when the parachute didn't deploy (because Dad forgot the baby powder).
Flying rockets teaches about science too. You'll see practical demonstrations of aerodynamics, physics, chemistry, and more. The kids become engineers, meteorologists, photographers, and journalists, without any pain, and possibly without even realizing it.
One thing we've discovered about rocketry is that the only way to get bored with it is to quit dreaming. We've yet to launch anything bigger than a 'C' motor [we have now], but that's ok. We've still got clustered rockets to try, and staged rockets, and 'gap' staging. We haven't done near enough glider or helicopter recovery. How about night launches, how can we make these smaller rockets visible in the dark?
My kids have a million ideas, to go along with my one or two.
I probably should also mention that model rockets are fun.

Q: Isn't model rocketry like launching fireworks?
There are some basic differences between rocketry and fireworks.
To start with, model rockets are never launched by lighting a fuse. The ignition is electrical, with the power supplied by batteries. This lets you stand back a ways from the rocket when it is launched. Much safer.
A second difference is that model rockets are designed to be recovered. This means that you can reuse a rocket over and over. There are various ways of recovering a rocket, such as parachutes, streamers, gliding, and more (there's more about recovery later).
Another difference is the use of a launch rod. This is simply a guide for the rocket to follow for it's first few feet of flight, keeping it straight up until it's going fast enough to be stable on its own. Once again, it's a safety thing.

Q: Is this really safe enough for kids?
Model rocketry is an amazingly safe hobby, provided you follow the Safety Code. When you read it over, you'll find most of it is just common sense. Over the years, there have been literally millions of rocket engines fired safely.
As for kids doing rockets, if you insist on following the safety code, and have adult supervision, it's almost impossible to get hurt. Explain that each and every one of them is responsible for safety when launching rockets.
I have normal kids, they get into their share of mischief. But when we launch, they know what is expected of them, because it's been that way since day one. A brief example that really happened:

My youngest, Rachael, was doing the countdown. When she got to '3', her brother TJ yelled 'STOP' from where he was standing (about 100 feet away). Rachael immediately pulled the safety key and put the launch controller down. Then we saw a mom chasing a toddler, who was running full steam towards the rocket.
After mom corraled her child (he never even got within 20' of the rocket), we made sure the area was clear again, and started the countdown over. It was a perfect launch.

Some rules we use:

The countdown is LOUD.
ANYONE can stop a countdown at any time, for any reason.
When someone yells 'stop', that's it. No exceptions.
The only time the safety key is in the launch controller is during a countdown.
We don't resume a countdown from where it stopped. We start over.
Before a countdown starts, everyone has to give an 'OK', meaning they're in position, ready, and the area is clear.

We have never had anyone hurt, or been even remotely close to having an accident. It's not luck, it's designed to be that way. And by the way, that mom and child stayed and watched us for about an hour that day, and still stop by occasionally when we are launching a few.

Q: What's the easiest way to get started?
I'd suggest an Estes Starter Set. They start around $20.00, and you can get them at stores like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Toys-R-Us, hobby shops, and even some craft stores like Michaels or MJDesigns. The starter set includes almost everything you need, except batteries and glue. There are even some 'Ready To Fly' starter sets out now, where the rocket is pre-built for you. Other sets have a variety of rockets (1 or 2) that you have to build yourself. Rockets like the Alpha 3 and Sabre goes together quick and easy. Other sets have 1 simple rocket, plus another that takes a bit more skill to assemble. Another company, Quest, also makes starter sets, but I've never seen one. I hear they're pretty much the same.

Q: Launch controller, recovery wadding... What's all this stuff really do?
I'm going to assume that you are looking at a starter set, and I'll just run down the assembled parts.

* Launch pad - Usually has 3 or 4 legs, with a blast deflector and launch rod sticking up from it.
The launch pad holds the launch rod and blast deflector. The wide legs keep it from tipping over in a breeze, and you can adjust the pad to tip the rod a few degrees for launching into the wind. The launch rod is what guides the rocket until it's moving fast enough for the fins to keep it stable. In the starter sets, the launch rod is usually sectional, always use both pieces. The blast deflector keeps the engine exhaust from hitting the pad and ground. Safety again. There is also a rod cap included. Put it over the tip of the upright launch rod, and it helps prevent injuries where someone leans over the top of the rod while preparing a rocket for launch. Make sure you remove the rod cap just before the countdown, and replace it immediately after.

* Launch controller - This is where the batteries go, usually 4 AA size. It has a continuity light or buzzer that tells you when the rocket is set up properly for launch and the safety key is inserted. The safety key must be inserted before pushing the 'fire' button has any effect. In other words, keep the safety key with you when you work around the rocket, and no one can accidently launch it when someone could get hurt. Coming out of the launch controller is a long wire (about 15 feet) that ends in two small microclips. These clips connect to the ignitor, explained below. When you launch, the length of the wire makes it easy to stand back at a safe distance.

* Rocket - A simple rocket is 3 or 4 fins and a nose cone. These are connected to each other by the body tube. On the side of the body tube is the launch lug, a small tube or loop which is slipped over the launch rod prior to igniting the engine. Connecting the nosecone to the body tube is the shock cord. This keeps the pieces of the rocket together as it comes down. Inside the rocket is the recovery system, often a parachute (there is a whole section on recovery later on). The recovery wadding protects the parachute from the ejection charge, which is what deploys the recovery system. Finally, at the bottom of the rocket is the motor mount. This is the place where the engine goes, and it transfers the thrust of the engine to the rocket itself.

* Engine - The 'whoosh generator', also called a motor. This small cardboard cylinder is actually quite complex in design and function. That doesn't mean it's complicated to use. First turn the engine upright so the small hole is facing up. That's the nozzle, the business end of the engine. The ignitor is a small U or V shaped piece of wire. Drop the point of the ignitor into the nozzle, and gently make sure it goes in as deep as possible. There will be two wires sticking out of the nozzle quite a bit. Next take an ignitor plug (color coded, check the directions in the set), and gently push it into the nozzle. This holds the ignitor where it needs to be to fire the engine. Insert the engine into the rocket motor mount and you're almost ready to go!
When ready to launch, connect the controller clips to the ignitor. After everyone is away from the rocket, insert the safety key, and the light should light (or buzzer buzz, depending on your controller). This means that the rocket will be launched when you push the button.

Q: What do the motor numbers and letters mean?
This is an easy code to provide complex information. Here's the bare minimum needed to start with.

A sample engine code might be: B6-4

The 'power' range of an engine is indicated by the letter, in this case a 'B'. The codes start with 'A' and keep right on going up the alphabet. So B is twice as powerful as A, C is twice as powerful as B (and 4 times more powerful than A), and so on. This is overly simplified, but you'll absorb the details as you gain experience.
Bigger engines (higher letters) achieve higher altitudes, or lift heavier rockets.

The '6' is the average thrust of the engine. It's measured in 'newtons', but don't worry about it for now. Just keep in mind that a '6' has a higher average thrust than a '4'.

The '-4' is the delay, measured in seconds. This means that 4 seconds (more or less) after the propellant burnout, the ejection charge fires. That deploys your recovery system.

There are '-0' engines. These are booster engines designed for multi-staged rockets. As soon as burnout occurs, the ejection charge fires to ignite the next engine. Don't use these on a single stage rocket. '-P' engines are plugged, and have no ejection charge. They're made for gliders.
Some Estes engines have a 'T' listed after the delay time. This means it's a mini-motor, and has a smaller diameter casing.

Q: Where can I launch a rocket?
This is going to depend on your local laws. In some places you will only be allowed to launch with a rocketry club who have already gotten permission. Besides flying with our local club, we launch at the local middle school (Jr. high) field. This is a football field, a baseball diamond, and 2 soccer fields, all bent around an L shape. The bigger the field, the better your chances of recovering the rocket. We've had a few rockets drift away on the wind into, or over the trees. Be aware that it can be calm on the ground, and fairly windy a couple hundred feet up! Because of the L-shape of our regular launch field, we limit ourselves to A and B engines on most rockets. We've got a few heavier birds that fly normally on C's, and on one spectacularly calm day, we launched our little rockets on C's. Straight up well over 1000', and recovered on a parachute less than 30 yards away. For more information, read about rocket clubs below.

Q: How do the recovery systems work?
You spend time to get your rocket looking good, and to fly well. You hate to lose them! Recovery is one thing that keeps this hobby from being glorified fireworks (I'm not knocking fireworks hobbyists). There are many ways to recover a rocket. Here's the most common:

Featherweight - for the lightest rockets. The have such a high surface area compared to weight that they 'float' to the ground, like the name says.

Tumble - for very light rockets that are too stable for featherweight recovery. Usually the nose cone is ejected (it's all connected by the shock cord, remember), and the whole thing comes down. If something wasn't done to ruin the stability, it might come down like a dart. At best, hitting the ground like that could damage or destroy the rocket. At worst, it could hit and hurt someone. There are terms for rockets that accidently come down hard, they're called Prangs or Lawn-Darts. No fun, and very hard on the rocket.

Streamer - this is a long, thin piece of plastic or crepe paper. It creates enough drag to bring the rocket down gently. These are good for days when the wind causes too much drift in a parachute.

Parachute - these range in size from 8" up to 24" for model rockets. To minimize drift, you can cut a spill hole in the center of the canopy. This will help the rocket come down faster, but it hits harder when it reaches the ground. If you cut a spill hole, cut it large because too small a hole can actually increase the lift the parachute generates as it descends. Estes parachutes have a spill hole marked with dotted lines, just cut it out if needed. Another technique to minimize time in the air is to 'reef' the shroud lines. Take a piece of masking tape and wrap it around all the parachute lines about halfway between the rocket and the canopy. This prevents the chute from opening fully.

Glider - It goes up like a rocket, and comes down like a glider airplane. Really cool.

Helicopter - Ever see a maple seed fall? Spinning on one wing is one method of helicopter recovery. Another is to have rotors deploy at ejection, causing the whole rocket to rotate.

Q: What about rocket clubs?
The National Association of Rocketry (NAR) is America's model rocket organization. Their site can be reached from my links page, and from there you can find a local chapter near you. Flying with a club is a great way to learn from others' experience. The NAR also offers insurance for rocketry activities. Sometimes the deciding factor on whether you can fly in some areas (a public park, for instance) is whether or not you have this insurance. On top of that, you receive the NAR rocketry magazine, full of useful tips, plans, and articles. NAR also offers it's Technical Services division, called NARTS. This is where you can get anything from rocket designs to wind tunnel plans to baseball caps. Check out their site, it's worth it!
Another organization devoted strictly to high power rocketry (HPR) is the Tripoli Rocket Association (TRA). Since this is Q&A for beginners, I'll mention that they're there, and not go into HPR. You can find a link to TRA from Rocketry Online.

Q: Can you recommend a book or something to learn more?
Some very good books:

The Handbook of Model Rocketry by G. Harry Stine.
Model Rocket Design and Construction by Tim Van Milligan.
The Art of Scale Rocketry by Peter Alway. [out of print]

At least the first two can be found in your local library, NARTS also offers these books and more for sale. See my links page for Saturn Press, they have the entire collection of Peter Always' rocket books. There's also a link to Apogee Components, where you can find Tim Van Milligan's books. Apogee has a complete line of educational rocketry publications, including 69 Science Fair Projects with Model Rockets: Aeronautics.
The Rocketry Online webpage has all kinds of links to good sites on the web related to rocketry. See my links page for a link to them.
The Rec.Models.Rockets (RMR) newsgroup is a vast source of experience. I've always found the folks there to be willing to answer questions without talking down at you. A great group of people.
The RMR FAQ (frequently asked questions) file will answer many questions you may have. I keep a copy of this handy by my workbench, because it's that useful.

Q: Couldn't I save money by making my own rocket engines?
No. When you factor in the cost of the chemicals, equipment you'd need, and materials, the store bought motors are actually a pretty good deal. Also consider that a home-made motor is more likely to malfunction, which could destroy your rocket or, worse yet, hurt someone. The commercial motors are reliable and consistant performers, and you'd have to make literally hundreds of motors yourself to even come close to that kind of reliability.
Now let's talk about safety. It's dangerous to deal with some of these chemicals unless you know what you are doing. Even among experienced rocketeers, there is a surprising amount of 'lore' and common knowledge that is just plain wrong. It's not safe to try to make your own motors, please don't do it.
If you absolutely have to make homemade motors, check out the RMR FAQ (links page) where there is information about a course in making rocket motors. The Rec.Pyrotechnics newsgroup has folks that can help too.
Simply put, Model Rocketry means using commercially available motors. To save money on these, you can mail order them (or order from companies on the internet), or buy them in bulk packs at your local store.

Q: I remember these cool rockets I saw as a kid. Are the old companies still around?
Estes is still with us. They absorbed Centuri a while back, and once in a while release an old Centuri design. There are many small companies producing quality rocket kits today, check the Rocketry Online website for links.

Q: I can't believe that white glue is strong enough for rockets. Shouldn't I use model glue or epoxy?
For gluing plastic to plastic, model airplane glue is best. There are some times and places where epoxy is handy. But for Estes kits, white or yellow glue is king (yellow is superior). A bond you make between the cardboard body and the balsa or cardstock fin will be so strong that the tube itself will tear before the glue joint breaks. Two secrets to getting even stronger joints; lightly sand the body tube to remove the glasine coating (the glossy stuff), and use the double glue method. The way to double glue is to apply a small amount to the pieces to be joined and press them together. Pull them back apart, and let the glue dry for a few minutes. Apply a little more glue, then join like normal. This technique results in super strong bonds that will easily handle A-D engines. I've heard of rockets built with just yellow glue that fly on G motors. [I've flown H motors this way.]

Q: It goes up, it comes down. What's next?
If you look at rocketry webpages out there, you will find a hundred people experiencing rocketry in a hundred ways. I mentioned in passing cluster rockets, staging, scratchbuilding, high power rocketry, scale modeling, gliders, and more. I didn't mention payloads, or contests, or arial photography, or altitude records, or... The list just goes on and on, and you can decide what suits you best.

Do it safely, and have fun!

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I think a little alteration is useful...

A human being should be able to change a diaper, repel a home invasion, train a dog, drive a stickshift, design a treehouse, write a limerick, balance a checkbook, build a snowfort, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, change a tire, start a fire without matches or lighters, cook a nutritious and delicious meal, defend themselves, and help others.

...some of these are post-worthy.

Personally, I have a lot of fun reading through WikiHow, and they of course have an entry on starting a fire with sticks. I'll be camping in a couple weeks, so I will experiment and report back.

What are some other things a human should know how to do?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wow, Where to Begin...

I suppose a welcome is in order, along with a standing invitation to return often to see what sort of updates have been made since your last visit.

This blog is a group effort started by a group of friends who've met thanks to this wonderful thing called the internet. One thing we all have in common is a love for the type of information and adventures collected together in "The Dangerous Book for Boys". We highly recommend this book, but again we'll make clear that we have absolutely nothing to do with it in any way, other than that we've read it (most of us, anyway).

We have no agendas nor axes to grind.

Life is inherently dangerous. Please use common sense with the things you read here because yes, some of it can hurt you if you aren't careful. We can't take responsibility for accidents, so have fun, but do it safely.

A couple of details: all times are Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), since the authors hail from all around the world. This just seemed like a good way to do things. An explanation of GMT would probably make a good post too (hint hint).

Each post will be labeled to make it easy to sort and search. For sure there will be "Dangerous" for boy stuff and "Daring" for girl stuff, although I suspect that many posts will have both tags and it would benefit everyone if they read everything anyway. Besides those two, I'm sure there will be many more such as (off the top of my head) "Science", "History", "Things to Make", etc. We'll see how that all sorts itself out as it goes along.

Mainly, we hope you enjoy your visit, learn something interesting, are inspired to go do, and have fun doing it. Tell your friends about us too.