Top Picks: SiriusXM's 'The Loft,' Maggie Smith on 'Downton Abbey,' and more

Time for Kids' new book shows kids how to solve science mysteries, Karimba's new CD makes listeners want to get up and dance, Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic musical 'Phantom of the Opera' records a performance for its anniversary, and more top picks.

Solving science mysteries

What makes soda bubbly? Can a battery turn a nail into a magnet? How can water bend light? Time For Kids' new Big Book of Science Experiments tackles these and about 100 other everyday mysteries, geared toward kids ages 8 to 12. The book offers step-by-step directions so junior scientists can get their hands dirty with minimal adult supervision – and without a huge kitchen cleanup afterward.

Downton's dowager

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Since the British series "Downton Abbey" premièred, critics and audiences agree that grand dame of acting Maggie Smith runs away with every scene she's in as Violet, the sharp-tongued dowager countess who clings to old ways. So it's only fitting that Georgia Public Broadcasting compiled a video of 10 great quotes from Smith from the first season of the show, including the dowager countess's thoughts on weekends, friendship, and swivel chairs. It can be seen at: youtube.com/watch?v=TVMtffzbAwk

Get up and dance

Karimba, the third full-length release from Peruvian band Novalima, masterfully blends Afro-Peruvian music, dub, and electronica. Combining deep dance-floor techno grooves with ecstatic percussion, call-and-response vocals, and tight horn arrangements, the 12 tracks take listeners on a nonstop propulsive ride. If this doesn't make you want to get up and dance, you might want to check your pulse!

Music of the night

In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the long-running Broadway and West End musical Phantom of the Opera arrives on Blu-ray and DVD as well as an On Demand digital download Feb. 7. This event DVD was recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall in October and includes a "Making of" featurette.

Hang out in 'the loft'

Since the marketing folks wrestled FM radio away from the talented, eclectic DJs of the '60s, radio has been somewhat of a copycat medium. But eclectic is back on The Loft, Channel 30, the best of SiriusXM satellite radio's gazillion music channels, where 24 hours a day DJs with laser-sharp radar present great new and deserving older music in an always entertaining crazy quilt of styles. Live, in-studio, and remote music sessions broadcast weekly, and guest hosts like Lou Reed, David Johansen, and Elton John lyricist Bernie Taupin keep things lively.

Trash cans beware

The varmints are taking over the country – the four-footed masked ones, that is. Tune in to PBS's "Nature" Feb. 8 to find out why we are living in a Raccoon Nation. Turns out all human efforts to thwart the pesky adventuring of these urban critters into human activities may just be accelerating their ability to adapt. Yikes!

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