o The Frog Blog: December 2008

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Edublog Awards - SCC English Wins Best Group Blog

The Frog Bloggers would like to once again congratulate the members of the English Department, but especially Mr. Julian Girdham, for their wonderful achievement in winning the Best Group Blog at this years Edublog Awards, a prestigious worldwide Education Website Award! This is yet another confirmation of the excellent resource that has been created by the staff and pupils of St. Columba's and collated by the ever hard-working Mr. Girdham. Of course, the Frog Blog would not be here, if not for the influence of the English Department Blog and the fine example they have given us, not to mention technical advice! Well done again to all who have contributed!

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Why, It's Christmas!

It's Christmas Day! And no I am not sad enough to log onto my computer on this the day of days to announce to you Merry Christmas. But I did pre-post this last week and scheduled it to arrive today! Saying that, I did care enough to do it!! Happy Christmas to all in cyber space!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Christmas Holidays!!

Today we are all heading on our Christmas Holidays (Thank Goodness!!) This term has been excellent, especially in terms of the Frog Blog's progress. I would like to thank all involved in the Blog's resurgence, especially the pupils who have contributed projects or essays or ideas for the Frog Blog. So, as a Christmas present I have created a "Santa Frog" for all to enjoy!!! Merry Christmas and we'll see you all in the New Year.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Science Fact of the Week 5 - The Loudest & Biggest Animal is...

The loudest animal in the world is also the largest animal in the world, in fact the largest animal that has ever existed on this planet (yes, bigger than any dinosaur). It is of course the Blue Whale. The blue whale can produce sounds up to 188 decibels. This is the loudest sound produced by a living animal and has been detected as far away as 530 miles. A jet engine creates only 140 decibels! Blue whales grow to be about 80 feet (25 m) long on average, weighing about 120 tons (109 tonnes). The largest specimen found was a female 94 feet (29 m) long weighing more 174 tons (158 tonnes). The females are larger than males, as with all baleen whales. The largest of the blue whales (150 tons) has a heart that weighs about 1,000 pounds (450 kg) and has 14,000 pounds (6,400 kg) of blood circulating in its body. The heart is about the size of a Volkswagon bug car. A human could crawl through the aorta (a major blood vessel). Surely being this size they must eat a hell of a lot. Well, Blue whales (like all baleen whales) are seasonal feeders and carnivores that filter feed tiny crustaceans (krill, copepods, etc.), plankton, and small fish from the water. They are gulpers, filter feeders that alternatively swim then gulp a mouthful of plankton or fish. They can travel up to 30 mph too!!!!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Honda FCX Clarity - The Car of the Future

Why am I talking about cars in the science blog? Well I love cars! But also because the Honda Clarity is the car of the future. Why? Well because it looks like a regular four door saloon and acts like a regular four door saloon,but it is not a regular four door saloon car. It is an electric car but with no battery. Instead of a battery it has a Hydrogen Fuel Cell. Instead of putting petrol or diesel into this car, the car is filled with Hydrogen. The Hydrogen is burned and the energy converted into electricity, which makes the car go! This car can produce around 130 bhp, which makes is comparable to most family cars. But why is Hydrogen power so useful. Well first, unlike oil, Hydrogen will never run out as it is the most abundant element in the universe. It also produces no emissions. All that comes out of the exhaust is Water, H2O! But this is no car of the future, it is available for sale now, but unfortunately not in Ireland. The Clarity is available in Japan and also in California, where a thorough study is being carried out. Hydrogen is available in "Gas Stations" at the same price as petrol, but it will probably come down in price when more cars are produced in the future. I am sure many of the pupils in this school will be driving Hydrogen powered cars in the future! To find out more about how this amazing feat of engineering works click here.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Monticello Dam & "The Glory Hole"

The construction of the Monticello Dam in California started in 1953, and it was completed in 1957. The height of the dam is 304 feet, and its length at the top is 1,023 feet. It's volume is 326,000 cubic yards. The Dam is used for produce hydroelectricity and as a resevoir for the people of Napa. However, the dam is most noted for its spillway (overflow controller) which is commonly called "The Glory Hole".

The glory hole is located about 200 feet from the dam. Water spills over its lip when the lake reaches 1,602,000 acre-feet. The funnel’s largest diameter is 72 feet and narrows to about 28 feet. It is designed to handle a maximum of 362,000 gallons of water per second, which occurs when the lake level rises to 15.5 feet above the level of the funnel.

For obvious reasons, swimming near the glory hole is both prohibited and stupid. There are buoys strung across the lake to discourage boaters and swimmers from approaching the glory hole and the dam. Furthermore, the glory hole is well fenced off from the land. The eerie appearance of the spillway in operation attracts visitors, and when the spillway is dry the outlet downstream is popular with skateboarders .

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Focus science magazine in the Library

The monthly science magazine Focus is produced by the BBC, and is full of well-written and nicely illustrated articles on topical science and technology issues. There is quite a journalistic spin to the way issues are presented, but the underlying science is pretty sound.

Features include a monthly round up of science ‘stories’ from around the world – which is a good way of keeping in touch with what is going on, and always provides an interesting snippet or two. There are always stunning photographs and a range of major articles each month e.g. the effect of eating cooked meat on human evolution, climate change and its implications for temperature and rainfall in the British Isles over the next 70 years (both in the November issue), the story behind an 800 metre high skyscraper planned for Dubai, and a stunning photo-essay on the Libyan desert (both in the June issue). There is also a quirky “your questions answered section”, and many short reports and articles on a whole range of topics.

In SCC current issues are held in the magazine racks (behind the dictionaries in the main Library), and past issues are archived in a box at the end of the general science section (on your right as you enter the Library), just before Physics and Chemistry proper.

The next time you are in the Library with a few minutes to spare – have a quick browse, you’re bound to come across something interesting!


Marie Curie

Today, in 1911, Marie Curie became the first person to be awarded a second Nobel prize at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. She had isolated radium by electrolyzing molten radium chloride. At the negative electrode the radium formed an amalgam with mercury. Heating the amalgam in a silica tube filled with nitrogen at low pressure boiled away the mercury, leaving pure white deposits of radium. The isolation of radium opened the door to deep changes in the way scientists think about matter and energy. She also led the way to a new era for medical science and the treatment of diseases.

This second prize was for her individual achievements in Chemistry, whereas her first prize (1903) was a collaborative effort with her husband, Pierre, and Henri Becquerel in Physics for her contributions in the discovery of radium and polonium. Her early researches were often performed under difficult conditions, laboratory arrangements were poor and both she and her husband had to undertake much teaching to earn a livelihood. She also received, jointly with her husband, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society in 1903 and, in 1921 President Harding of the United States, on behalf of the women of America, presented her with one gram of radium in recognition of her service to science. Mme. Curie died in Savoy, France, after a short illness, on July 4, 1934. To find out more about the life of Marie Curie click here.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

An Early Christmas Present!!

What happens when you mix a frog and a beatle? Classic Christmas song with extra froggage! How could we not?!!??

Science Fact of the Week 4 - Lightning

This week's fact of the week is in fact a series of shocking revelations about lightning!

  • Did you know that a lightning bolt generates temperatures five times hotter than those found at the sun's surface!
  • In addition, lightning strikes somewhere on the surface of the earth about 100 times every second.

  • Each flash contains about one billion volts of electricity. That's enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for three months.
  • In the United States alone, lightning sets 10,000 forest fires and causes $100 million in property damage every year.
  • Between 1940 and 1991, it killed 8,316 people in the U.S.

  • Today the average number of lightning-related deaths in the U.S. is 80 a year.
  • Not everyone who is struck by lightning dies.

To find out more about lightning click here.

Monday, 8 December 2008

John Joly

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the death of John Joly.
John Joly was an Irish geologist, botanist, physicist and inventor whose interests spanned several fields. Using Edmond Halley's method of measuring the degree of salinity of the oceans, and then by examining radioactive decay in rocks, he estimated Earth's age at 80-90 million years (1898). Later, he revised this figure to 100 million years. He published Radioactivity and Geology in 1909, in which he demonstrated that the rate of radioactive decay has been more or less constant through time. He also developed a method for extracting radium (1914) and invented a constant-volume gas thermometer, a photometer, and a differential steam calorimeter for measuring the specific heat capacity of gases at constant volume. He was also involved in pioneering radiation therapy for use in cancer treatment and patented the first method of using colour photography. As for those who study Biology, his name is synonymous with explaining how xylem transports water from root to leaves, as he developed the 'cohesion - tension model' of water transport with his colleague Horatio Dixon. He died on this day, December 8th, in 1933.

Penguin Corner 2

Evolution of the Penguins has resulted in them losing the ability to fly, but they are great underwater swimmers. Or so we thought, until now!!!!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Arctic Fox by Sophie Miller

Here is another example of the excellent projects the IV Form have been carrying out on the mammal of their choice. Sophie Miller chose the Arctic Fox, a beautiful animal with a very interesting life. Click on the image above to download her PowerPoint Presentation. (1.7MB)

Friday, 5 December 2008

Congratulations to the English Blog

Many congratulations to our colleagues in the English Department (and the pupils who have contributed over the past number of years) for receiving nominations for two Edublog Awards. This is an excellent achievement, and fitting recognition for what is a truly excellent educational resource. For information on how to vote for the SCC English Blog, click here. Well done again to all involved on this fine achievement, especially considering the fact that you don't have a catchy title (like The Frog Blog or The Clog) or any obsession with amphibians or penguins (apparently we have graduated to flightless birds, thanks Jeremy).

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Penguin Corner

We are going to kick off a new regular slot on the frog blog entitled “penguin corner”. Simply press play below for the Happy Feet - Since You've Been Gone Remix. Classic Rainbow-inspired rock married seamlessly with excellent penguin related graphics. Crank up the volume and ENJOY!

Crescent Moon

Every once in a while, something appears in the night sky that attracts the attention of even those who normally don't bother looking up. It was that way on Monday evening. A slender crescent moon, just 15 percent illuminated, came in very close proximity to the two brightest planets in our sky, Venus and Jupiter. People who were unaware or had no advance notice almost certainly wondered, as they cast a casual glance toward the moon, what those two "large silvery stars" happened to be? I was lucky enough to look up at the sky, during a clear spell, and caught a glimpse of the event. The picture above isn't mine, but it was taken in Ireland. Venus is seen just under the moon, while Jupiter is just out of shot. It was a beautiful and rare spectacle and won't happen again until 2053!

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

First Heart Transplant

On December 3rd, 1967, in Cape Town, South Africa, Dr. Christiaan Barnard, with his team of 20 surgeons, performed the first human heart transplant on a South African businessman, 54-yr-old Louis Washkansky. His diseased heart was replaced with the healthy heart of a 25-year old woman who had died in a car crash. Washkansky lasted only 18 days before succumbing to double pneumonia, contracted after destruction of his body's immunity mechanism by drugs administered to suppress rejection of the new heart as a foreign protein. However, the next patient, Philip Blaiberg, lived for nearly two years. Since then, many thousands of human heart transplants have been performed.

Almost exactly 15 years later, on December 2nd 1982, Barney Clark became the world's first recipient of a permanent artificial heart. Surgery was performed by Dr. William DeVries in cooperation with the inventor, Dr. Robert Jarvik. In preparation, Clark visited the veterinary laboratory at the University of Utah to see calves that had already received the artificial hearts. Near death, and with his own heart practically useless, Clark agreed to the experiment. He said, "It may not work that well for me, but I'll do it for the next patient." He lived 112 days on the artificial heart. Of the next four implants, the longest survivor was William Schroeder, who lived 620 days.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Cryonics by Emily Plunket (VI Form)

Cryonics (often mistakenly called "cryogenics") is the practice of cryopreserving humans or animals that can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine until resuscitation may be possible in the future. The largest current practitioners are two member-owned, non-profit organizations, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, with 74 cryopreserved patients and the Cryonics Institute in Clinton Township, Michigan with 75. The process is not currently reversible. Cryonics can only be legally performed on humans after clinical death. The idea of cryonics is that the process may be reversible in the future if performed soon enough, and that cryopreserved people may not really be dead by standards of future medicine. Cryonics is viewed with skepticism by many scientists and doctors today. However, there is a high representation of scientists among cryonics supporters. Scientific support for cryonics is based on projections of future technology, especially molecular nanotechnology and nanomedicine. Some scientists believe that future medicine will enable molecular-level repair and regeneration of damaged tissues and organs decades or centuries in the future. Disease and aging are also assumed to be reversible. The central premise of cryonics is that memory, personality, and identity are stored in the structure and chemistry of the brain. While this view is widely accepted in medicine, and brain activity is known to stop and later resume under certain conditions, it is not generally accepted that current methods preserve the brain well enough to permit revival in the future. Cryonics advocates point to studies showing that high concentrations of cryoprotectant circulated through the brain before cooling can largely prevent freezing injury, preserving the fine cell structures of the brain in which memory and identity presumably reside. To its detractors, the justification for the actual practice of cryonics is unclear, given present limitations of preservation technology. Currently cells, tissues, blood vessels, and some small animal organs can be reversibly cryopreserved. Some frogs can survive for a few months in a partially frozen state a few degrees below freezing, but this is not true cryopreservation. Cryonics advocates counter that demonstrably reversible preservation is not necessary to achieve the present-day goal of cryonics, which is preservation of basic brain information that encodes memory and personal identity. Preservation of this information is said to be sufficient to prevent information theoretic death until future repairs might be possible.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Science Fact of the Week 3 - The Sun

Believe it or not, the Sun is just a star, exactly like those we see twinkling at night. The Sun, however, is so much closer to us on Earth that it looks much bigger and much brighter, and we can even feel heat coming from it. Scientists know a great deal about the stars that shine at night. Compared to these other stars, the Sun is actually quite average. Many of the stars that appear so small in the night sky are actually much bigger than our Sun, although others may be quite tiny in comparison. Some are much hotter, and some are so cool and dim we can barely see them. But for us on Earth, the Sun is just right! The Sun is made of hot gases and contains many of the same materials we find here on Earth. These materials include hydrogen, helium, calcium, sodium, magnesium, and iron. In fact, most of the atoms in our bodies were made inside stars! As the famous scientist and educator Carl Sagan says, we are "star stuff." The Sun is HUGE. It looks small because it is 93 million miles away. (That's about 150 million km.) The Earth is very tiny in comparison to the Sun. In fact, if you think of the Sun as a basketball, the Earth would only be the size of the head of a pin -- a mere speck. The Earth is about 13 thousand kilometers (8,000 miles) wide, whereas the Sun is roughly 1.4 million kilometers (900,000 miles) across. This means it would take more than 100 Earths to span the width of the Sun. If the Sun were a hollow ball, you could fit about one million Earths inside it. We will publish some more star facts in a few weeks time!