Learn about hiccups, human evolution and outer space
DC Science Cafe, May 21; Human Origins Today, May 31; Northern Virginia Astronomy Club, June 9

Ever wonder why people hiccup? Want to engage in a debate about the intersection of science and religion? Or learn more about the X-ray telescope orbiting Earth? A host of upcoming events are meant for science buffs like you.

On Tuesday, neuroscientist and author Robert Provine will discuss how such instinctive human acts as yawning, laughing, coughing, sneezing and hiccuping provide insight into the workings of the brain and human evolution. The DC Science Cafe event, “Curious Behavior,” will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Busboys and Poets, 1025 5th Street NW.

On May 31, the National Museum of Natural History will host an informal discussion on scientific and religious perspectives on human evolution. Experts will discuss the topic and invite comments from members of the audience. The event, part of the “HOT (Human Origins Today) Topic” series, will be held from 3 to 4 p.m. in the museum’s Hall of Human Origins.

On June 9, Will Marchant, who was part of the crew that put NASA’s NuSTAR telescope into orbit last year, will speak at the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club. Marchant will talk about the mission, which will allow astronomers to study the universe with high-energy X-rays. NuSTAR is expected to produce a census of black holes and map radioactive material in young supernova remnants. The event starts at 7 p.m. at George Mason University’s Research Hall, Room 163, in Fairfax.

Explore nature without getting your hands dirty
“Mudbuddy,” $1.99 for iPad

Teaching your kids about environmental issues can be tedious. But what if the lesson were animated by a talking glob of mud with an identity crisis?

“Mudbuddy,” a new iPad app, tells the story of just such a character who worries that he isn’t special because he’s not as colorful as flowers and not as talented as birds. With the help of his friend, Worm, Mudbuddy goes on a journey through a fantastical back yard, meeting insects, gophers and even talking rocks. Mudbuddy’s story is meant to highlight the importance of each of these creatures and teach the value of seemingly purposeless bits of dirt.

The interactive app, designed for kids in kindergarten through second grade, combines text, voice narration, animation and games that allow children to read, listen, watch and play throughout the story.

It may seem incongruous to explore nature without, well, going out into nature, but Mudbuddy’s creators say the app is meant to inspire children to go outside and explore. And if they’re squeamish about dirt or don’t have access to a back yard or park, they can just use clean fingers to swipe and learn.