o The Frog Blog: November 2009

Monday, 30 November 2009

Science Fact of the Week 37 - Largest Reptile

The largest living reptile on Earth is the Saltwater or Estuarine Crocodile. Males are an average of 5 meters in length and weigh over 450 kilograms, but specimens 7 meters long and weighing 1,000 kilograms are not uncommon. Saltwater crocodiles, or "salties," as Australians affectionately refer to them, have an enormous range, populating the brackish and freshwater regions of eastern India, Southeast Asia, and northern Australia. They are excellent swimmers and have often been spotted far out at sea. Classic opportunistic predators, they lurk patiently beneath the surface near water's edge waiting for potential prey to stop for a sip of water. They’ll feed on anything they can get their jaws on, including water buffalo, monkeys, wild boar, and even sharks. Without warning, they explode from the water with a thrash of their powerful tails, grasp their victim, and drag it back in, holding it under until the animal drowns.

Population estimates range from 200,000 to 300,000 worldwide, and they are considered at low risk for extinction. But saltwater crocodiles hides are valued above all other crocodilians, and illegal hunting, habitat loss, and antipathy toward the species because of its reputation as a man-eater continue to put pressure on the population. They reproduce in the wet season, with the female crocodile laying up to 60 eggs at a time. When the crocodiles are born, only a very small number of these survive in the wild and grow to be adult crocodiles. Amazingly, the temperature of the egg determines the sex of the offspring.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Atlantis Touches Down

Rather unusually we didn't follow NASA's latest shuttle mission this week. The fact that it is exam week didn't help. Well anyway, here is photo from the NASA website of Atlantis touching down in Florida after completing mission STS - 129, a delivery of spare parts to the International Space Station. Only five shuttle flights remain, all to the space station next year. Station construction will essentially end at that point, so NASA used the trip to send up as many hefty spare parts as possible. None of the other visiting spacecraft — from Russia, Japan and Europe — can carry so much in a single load. Atlantis, which delivered nearly 15 tonnes of gear, left the space station 86% complete. The shuttle is due to be replaced by the Ares I rocket and Orion capsule. For more information on the space shuttle, click here. To watch a video of the touch down, click here.

Diagram Maker

Diagram Maker is a drawing resource for producing neat, accurate diagrams of experimental apparatus. Students who struggle to draw neat diagrams for assessments can be encouraged to use this resource to produce high quality results independently. Teachers may wish to use it to draw diagrams that can be used on worksheets. This is similar to computer packages for drawing, with the bonus of including the main pieces of science experimental equipment as versatile line diagrams, that can be selected and positioned. Click here to use Diagram Maker.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Hammerhead Shark Vision

New research has revealed the reason for the oddly shaped cranium of the hammerhead shark. Scientists in the US have discovered that the odd shape of the head allows the sharks, which can grow up to 20 ft long, to have a 360 degree field of vision in all directions. Not only do they have front, back and side vision they can also see vertically and judge depths, claims the study. The evolution of the odd shaped head has been a mystery to scientists for many years, and many reasons such as manoeuvrability, smell and inbuilt "sonar" have been hypothesised. But this is the first time it has been proved that the odd shape improves their eyesight. The researchers used a machine called an "electroretinogram" to test the field of vision - firing a tiny beam of light at the shark in a darkened tank from all directions. Electrodes embedded in the shark then picked up any signals sent from the eye to the brain. Comparing them with pointy nosed species, the team found that the scalloped hammerheads had the largest visual field for each eye. Both eyes together offer all round vision and even overlap at the front, creating an effect like binoculars. Fascinating stuff. For more information click here.

National Geographic's Weekly Space Photos

National Geographic publish newly released photos of our universe each week on their brilliant website. This week's publication includes photos of the Crab Nebula (shown above), a solar sunami, the Earth from the ISS, dust from Centaurus and an artist's depiction of the birth of a star. The Crab Nebula is described as "the remnant of a stellar explosion 6,000 light-years from Earth that was so powerful people saw the burst in A.D. 1054, according to NASA". Click here to see more.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Science Essay Competition Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our Science Week Essay Competition. The winner in the senior section is Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi (Form IV) for her excellent essay on “Time”. The junior prize is won by Ben Richardson (Form II) for his essay on “Stars”. They both will receive a €50 voucher for HMV. Well done.

To read Ben's essay click here and for Aoise's click here.

Famous Irish Scientists - William Hayes (OC)

William Hayes (FRS) was a physician, microbiologist and geneticist who made significant contributions to modern genetics and molecular biology. William Hayes established the research field of bacterial genetics, when he discovered the processes of genetic transfer during cell reproduction. He will also be remembered for his superb classic textbook: The Genetics of Bacteria and Their Viruses (1964).

He was born on the 18th January 1913, in Edmondstown and attended school here in St. Columba's College from 1927. He is reported to have done extremely well in his entrance exam. His formal schooling did not include science but, as was the custom of the day, focused on the classics. In 1929, he won the Lord Pembroke Prize for Mathematics. Bill particularly appreciated the efforts of one master, Dr Sandham Willis (after whom a classroom is named in St. Columba's), who encouraged William to read beyond the school curriculum.

After his time in St. Columba's, Hayes attended Trinity College studying medicine. There he started to learn bacteriology and immunology under Professor J.W. Bigger, which stimulated his interest to the point that he enrolled to take an extra year to read for an Honours Degree in Natural Science in which he could specialize in bacteriology. After completing this degree, he continued to work with Bigger as his assistant. In 1941, Hayes joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and spent time in India during the Second World War. On his return from the war, he took up a post in Trinity College Dublin as a Lecturer in Bacteriology. In 1949 he used his presidential address to the pathology section of the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland to explain the recent developments in bacterial genetics and their significance for medicine. He submitted his accumulated published work for the degree of Doctor of Science and this degree was duly conferred by Dublin University in 1948. Subsequently, he accepted a post as Senior Lecturer in Bacteriology at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith in London in 1950. Here he continued to carry out research in the area of bacteriology and genetics. In 1964 he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS). This led the way to a change of scenery for William and in 1968 he moved to Edinburgh and was appointed as Professor of Molecular Genetics in Edinburgh University. However, in Edinburgh he had little time for research as his teaching commitments were high.

In 1974 he moved to Australia and was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Genetics, Research School of Biological Sciences, Australian National University where he stayed for four years. He continued his research there, most notably on E. coli. He retired from teaching in 1979, but was a visiting fellow of the Botany Department of ANU until 1986.

He died on the 7th January 1994 from heart problems. He will be remembered as one of Ireland's great modern scientists but also as a great Columban. A plague in his honour is on view in the Science Building of St. Columba's College.

St. Columba's on Twitter

The school is now on Twitter! The tweets are available on the News page on the main website, with up to date news on events and the school schedule. You can also visit the main twitter page by clicking here. SCC English are also on twitter! It has been a great twittery week in all!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Our NetVibes Page

Do you want to see and read what we like to see and read? Well now you can by visiting the Frog Blog's NetVibes page. Netvibes is a personalised start page or personal web portal, organised by tabs, which allows you to keep up to date with your favourite websites, blogs, twitter pages, facebook and more. There are also loads of games and widgets to play with. The Frog Blog Netvibes page contains feeds from the best in science and education websites, both nationally and internationally. Click here to visit now!

Penguin Wallpapers

Penguin Corner has been a little neglected of late, and we haven't provided any new wallpapers for a while. So, let's kill two (flightless) birds with the one stone.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

On the Origin of Species Anniversary

Today, November 24th, marks the 150th anniversary of the first publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. It was met with significant resistance at the time, especially from the church, but remains a seminal work of literature. If you are wondering what all the fuss is about, why not check the book out of the library today (there are several copies). It is well worth a read and is easy to follow, if a little long winded. Since then, there has been enormous debate as to whether Darwin's theory of Natural Selection is without flaw.

National Geographic today publish a series of six articles looking at some difficult to explain phenomena in the story of evolution. They then outline the evolutionist argument. A great article and worth checking out. Click here.

Edublog Awards Nomination

The Frog Blog's nominations for the 2009 Edublog Awards are as follows:

Good luck to one and all!

Library Staff Selection

Our school librarian, Mr. Tom McConville has recently launched a new display in the library. This will showcase the books that have influenced selected teachers in St. Columba’s College, both professionally and personally. The first such display is from Mr. Peter Jackson, a chemistry and biology teacher in St. Columba's (who incidentally celebrates his birthday tomorrow). He has written a short piece on each book also. All of these books are great reads and definitely worth checking out.

Peter Jackson Book Selection A

Monday, 23 November 2009

Science Fact of the Week 36 - Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, flammable gas that is the simplest of all chemical elements. The hydrogen atom has a nucleus consisting of one proton and one electron. Although on Earth hydrogen ranks ninth among the elements in abundance, making 0.9% of the mass of the planet, it is by far the most abundant element in the universe, accounting for about 75% of the mass of all matter. Collected by gravitational forces of stars, hydrogen is converted into helium by nuclear fusion, a process that supplies the energy of the stars, including the sun.

Hydrogen is present in all animal and plant tissues in the form of compounds in which it is combined with carbon and other elements. In the form of hydrocarbons, it is a constituent of petroleum and coal. It also constitutes nearly 11 percent of the mass of seawater. The hydrogen content of the Earth's atmosphere remains low because of the continual escape of the gas into space.

Annual Geogrpahy Lecture - Dr. Neil Stronach (OC)

Last night in the BSR, scientist Dr Neil Stronach, Old Columban, cheered us all up in this gloomy November weather with a fine illustrated talk about his time working in national parks in Tanzania, as the Annual Geography Lecture. He showed many slides of wildlife in places such as Serengeti. He also spoke about how he had been inspired while at SCC to pursue a science career by his biology teacher, Bud McMullen, who returned yesterday evening to hear the lecture. Neil Stronach now lives in Cork, and for twelve years was director of Fota Wildlife Park; he is now a consultant in Biodiversity and Wildlife Conservation Management. (From St. Columba's News)

Interview with Charles Darwin

Rowan Hopper, from New Scientist, asks the questions. Charles Darwin delivers the answers? Well, this seemingly impossible interview is now brought to life. Using Darwin's words, Hopper recreates the questions which nobody had a chance to ask. Below is an extract from the article, but click here for the full "transcript".

Hopper: What was it like, coming up with the idea that changed the world?

Darwin: Like confessing a murder.

Hopper: The emotional and physical struggle you went through must have taken its toll.

Darwin: I have suffered from almost incessant vomiting for nine months, & that has so weakened my brain, that any excitement brings on whizzing & fainting feelings.

Hopper: You would clearly rather I didn't excite you further, but I must say that when I grasped your idea that life has been changing, evolving, for billions of years, I was captivated.

Darwin: You cannot imagine how pleased I am that the notion of Natural Selection has acted as a purgative on your bowels of immutability. Whenever naturalists can look at species changing as certain, what a magnificent field will be open.

Hopper: Quite so. Now I must put to you the question that authors are inevitably asked: how did you get your ideas?

Darwin: It seemed to me probable that allied species were descended from a common parent. But for some years I could not conceive how each form became so excellently adapted to its habits of life. I then began systematically to study domestic productions, & after a time saw clearly that man's selective power was the most important agent. I was prepared from having studied the habits of animals to appreciate the struggle for existence, & my work in geology gave me some idea of the lapse of past time. Therefore when I happened to read "Malthus on population" the idea of Natural selection flashed on me.

Saturday, 21 November 2009


We're now on Twitter! Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are much shorter than convenetional blog posts, only 140 characters. We hope to use twitter to update you, the reader, on our daily activities and thoughts on the Frog Blog. To follow us on twitter click here to visit our twitter page. Our most recent tweets are available on the right of the page, just scroll down a tad. While you're at it, why not become a friend of the Frog Blog on Facebook by clicking here.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Golden Spider Awards - Results

OK, so we didn't win. But it was an honour being shortlisted, so they say. Many congratulations to the worthy winner within the Best Blog category, Ronan Lyons, for his excellent blog which focuses on the Irish economy, world economy and the property market. His site is very well designed, presented and very much relevant to today's blog reader. Well done.

But science education websites were not left out in the cold last night. Discover Primary Science took home the spider for Best Education, Research & Training Website. The primary science site is an excellent resources for both primary and secondary teachers of science. Well done to one and all. Oh yeah, we're back as the Frog Blog again!

Science Spin Article

In this month's Science Spin, Ireland's top science magazine, Tom Kennedy writes about plans to create a complete encyclopaedia of all earth's living things. Below is an extract from the article. Click here for the complete article or here to find our more about the Encyclopaedia of Life.

"Biologists have joined together in an ambitious project to create an encyclopaedia of all the world's known species, plant and animal. This is the first time that a comprehensive description of the world's diversity has been attempted. The venture is called the EOL (or Encyclopaedia of Life) Project. The number of known species is close to 2 million, and biologists estimate that there could be in the region of 10 million different forms of life on Earth.The actual number of different species depends on how strictly we define the term, and while we all know the difference between a horse, a dog and a cat, it can take the keen eye of a birdwatcher to distinguish between one type of crow and another. Even so, a jackdaw is a lot different from a rook. Apart from a significant difference in size, a jackdaw is not going to become matey with a rook, or indeed any other type of crow, and this is one of the ways that scientists can tell one species from another. About thirty types of crow inhabit the world, and each of these species could be regarded as a distinct gene pool."

Science Spin has a great website, blog and radio show (podcasts available by clicking here). Check them out. To view this month's web issue of Science Spin, click here.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

The Toad Blog (Just for Today)

Today, in solidarity with the Republic of Ireland soccer team, and in particular reflecting our sense of disquiet with Thierry Henry, the Frog Blog will temporarily change its name to the Toad Blog. We do not want to be associated with anything Frenchy today! Allez les verde, oh I mean, come on Ireland!

Please wish us luck in the Golden Spider Awards tonight in the Burlington Hotel. We are up for Best Blog along with our SCC English comrades!

Darwin & Evolution

The Irish Times Science Daily supplement (which we are loving these days, keep it up guys) features two excellent articles today. The first is a look at Charles Darwin's evolution as a scientist, particularly as a geologist (click here), while the second looks at how fifteen recent scientific studies (all of which were published in Nature) are providing powerful "evolving evidence" for the theory (click here). Featured below is number one, the origin of feathers. We published a long series of posts on Darwin's bicentenary earlier this year. Click here to see.

The Origin of Feathers

The fossil record is one of the main pillars of evidence on which the theory of evolution stands. But critics claim the fossil record is fatally flawed because of the lack of “transitional forms” that illustrate intermediates in the transition of one major group of animals to another. The critics are wrong, and the first two cases I will cite describe examples of transitional forms. Evolutionists tell us that modern birds are descended from dinosaurs. A famous fossil that provides evidence for this was discovered in Bavaria in 1861. The fossil is called Archaeopteryx . The creature displays reptilian features, such as teeth and a long, bony tail, but it also has wings and flight feathers like a bird. It is commonly interpreted as a fossil of the earliest known bird. But has the fossil record thrown up any dinosaurs with feathers – unambiguous transitional forms?

Yes. Fossils found in China in the 1980s showed a variety of dinosaurs with feathers and feathery plumage. Many of these feathered dinosaurs could not have flown, which means that feathers evolved for reasons other than flight (heat insulation, for example). Flight was an extra opportunity that was exploited by creatures already carrying feathers.

New Lungless Amphibian Found

A new amphibian species, which looks like a giant worm, has been discovered in Guyana. The newly discovered species can survive on land with no nostrils, lungs, or legs. The creature is part of the wormlike group of amphibians known as caecilians (one of which is pictured above). Only one other caecilian species is known to live without lungs. In general, the presence of lungs is among the key characteristics that make amphibians different from fish, but this species breathes through its skin.

Until recently, scientists thought salamanders were the only amphibians that lack lungs. But in 1995 researchers found the first known lungless caecilian, and in 2008 another team reported a tiny, land-dwelling, lungless frog (click here to see a National Geographic story on the lungless frog). The new species is even more of a surprise because the animal, Caecilita iwokramae, is strikingly different from the other known lungless caecilian. Caecilita lives on land and is just 11 cm long, while its lungless relative is fully aquatic and reaches 70 cm in length.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009


WHO-POOP-ED is a great website allowing you discover how scientists use animals' poo or dung to find out more about them, especially their diet. It's a fun game, where you have to match up the poo with the animal. You'll learn about how the poo is influenced by the kinds of food the animal eats and the structure of its digestive system. One of the animals included is the ostrich, featured in this week's Science Fact of the Week. It's great fun, so check it out by clicking here. Thanks to SCC English for the link. Who knows how they found that one?

Ireland’s Mammals – The Grey Seal


The Grey Seal, or Halichoerus grypus, is one of two types of seals in Irish waters, the other being the Common Seal. The Grey Seal occurs in greatest numbers on the western seaboard of Ireland although Grey Seals are found in Dublin Bay and at the Saltee Islands, Co Wexford. In fact half of the world’s population are found around the British Isles. It is a medium sized seal, with the bulls reaching 2.5–3.3 m in length and weighing up to 300 kg; the cows are much smaller, typically 1.6–2.0 m long and 100–150 kg weight. It differs from the Common Seal by its straight head profile with nostrils that are well apart, and fewer spots on its body. The body is streamlined to allow easy swimming and both the fore and hind limbs have been modified into flippers used to propel the seal through the water. These seals, whilst quite large, are very well adapted to swimming and the marine environment. They have a lifespan of between 26 and 38 years old.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Cell Size & Scale

Here is a link to a brilliant web flash animation showing how cell and organelle sizes compare across the living kingdoms. The animation allows you to slide a cursor to zoom in, slowly revealing smaller and smaller objects. From coffee bean to ameoba to skin cell to X chromosome to lysosome to HIV virus to carbon atom. An excellent animation suitable for all age groups. Click on the image above or here to see the animation. There is also a great flash animation looking inside plant and animal cells. Click here to see. Thanks to Piero for the links!

Parasitic Mind Controlling Flies

Phorid flies are parasitizing on fire ants, a new scientific study has revealed. Details of the flies gruesome reproductive habits are truly fascinating. It has been disclosed that the flies lay their eggs in fire ants. The egg develops into a maggot, which then seems to be able to control the movement and behaviour of the ants. The maggot "directs" the ant to a moist, leafy place—phorid larvae are vulnerable to drying out—a safe distance from other fire ants. The maggot then eats the energy rich brain of the fire ant, causes the head to fall off (see picture above) and then hatches around 40 days later. Nice?

For more information on this grisly and fascinating act, click here. Thanks to Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi (Form IV) for leading us to this great story!

Monday, 16 November 2009

ICT in Education Smokescreen?

The Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, and Minister for Education, Batt O'Keeffe, have announced plans for a €150 million investment in ICT in education. The government promises that every school classroom in the country will have a laptop and a projector within three years. Details have not been released on how the project, penned Smart Economy, Smart Schools, will be implemented and rolled out or what training and staff support will be on offer. However, any investment in ICT in education is a good thing, and we at the Frog Blog welcome the development. However, it has emerged that the money for this project will be channelled out of current funds available for school buildings. Is this just a smokescreen? We also have doubts about whether the resources will be put fully into use, and wonder why there was no mention of interactive whiteboards in the proposal.

Science Fact of the Week 35 - The Biggest Living Bird

The largest and strongest living bird is the ostrich, or Struthio camelus. The ostrich is a flightless bird native to Africa. It is the only living species of its family. Males can be up to 9 feet (3 m) tall and weigh over 150 kg, but are typically about 8 feet (2.5m) tall and about 100 kg. Although ostriches cannot fly, they are very fast runners, reaching speeds over 40 mph. They may use their wings as "rudders" to help them change direction while running. An ostrich's powerful, long legs can cover 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters) in a single stride. These legs can also be formidable weapons. Each two-toed foot has a long, sharp claw. Their small, flat heads and long necks are almost bare and the rest of their body is covered with longer feathers. The plumage of adult males is glossy black, and the wings and tail feathers are white. The females and young males are greyish-brown. A flock is usually made up of one male and two to six females.

Each female lays two to five eggs in the communal nest. Consequently, the clutch will range from 12 to 16 eggs. Each egg will weigh about 1.5 kg. The nest is simply a cavity scooped from the ground. The dominant pair (male and female) take turns sitting on the nest. If threatened while sitting on the nest, the hen will press her long neck flat along the ground, blending with the background. Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. In the wild, they are found in dry and sandy regions of Africa, and are very well adapted to desert life. Ostriches typically eat plants, roots, and seeds but will also eat insects, lizards, or other creatures available in their sometimes harsh habitat. When fully grown they have one of the most advanced immune systems of any animal. The ostrich has the largest eye of any land animal - measuring almost five centimeters across. Ostriches have been raised in captivity as a source of food.

The biggest bird ever to live was another flightless bird, the Giant Moa, native to New Zealand, which went extinct in the late 1700's or early 1800's. They were over 13 feet tall! However, the extinct Elephant Birds of Madagascar would have been the heaviest birds, weighting over a tonne each.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Journey of Oil

They say a picture tells a thousand words. Well that is certainly the case in this presentation, from Ted.com, as Edward Burtynsky follows the path of oil through modern society. Using stunning large-format photographs, oil is followed from wellhead to pipeline to car engine and beyond. This short but excellent presentation is a real insight into the world of oil manufacture and the landscape created by it. For more information and to see the photos in more detail, click here.

Friday, 13 November 2009

New Dinosaur Fossil - Sauropod Ancestor

A new dinosaur fossil has been uncovered in South Africa which may reveal the secrets of how some of the giant dinosaurs of the Jurassic Period got so big. Sauropods, the largest of the dinosaurs, were giant plant eaters which walked on all fours and had long necks and tails. This newly discovered dinosaur, Aardonyx celestae, appears to be a close relative of the sauropods that would have walked on two legs for most of the time yet would have walked on four legs when eating. Palaeontologists also believe that this animal would have eaten in the same way as a sauropod, gulping food with its gaping mouth. In Aardonyx, this binge-eating adaptation probably paved the way for sauropods to evolve their titanic sizes, the researchers say. For more information on this story, click here.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

ESA Mars Express

Mars Express is a space exploration mission being conducted by the European Space Agency (ESA). The Mars Express mission is exploring the planet Mars, and is the first planetary mission attempted by the agency. Mars Express consists of two parts, the Mars Express Orbiter and the Beagle 2, a lander designed to perform exobiology (searching for extra-terrestrial life) and geochemistry (chemistry of the planet's crust) research. Although the lander failed to land safely on the Martian surface, the Orbiter has been successfully performing scientific measurements since early 2004, in particular high-resolution imaging of the surface. New high definition pictures taken by the Mars Express Orbiter have just been released (one is shown above). The picture shows an ancient, 22 mile wide (35 km) impact crater, most likely eroded by flowing water. Click here to visit the ESA website to see more pictures and find out more information.

Rebecca Feeney Barry Receives Physics Award

Congratulations to Rebecca Feeney Barry, our Senior Prefect last year, who is to be awarded a medal from the Institute of Physics in recognition of the highest level of achievement in last year's Leaving Certificate Physics examination. Rebecca is to presented with the medal at a ceremony later in the year. In all, Rebecca attained 7 A1's and an A2 in her Leaving Certificate last June.

Congratulations also to Dr. Mary Singleton and Ms Sheila Flynn who presided over Rebecca's physics lessons last year. Well done to all, on this excellent achievement.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Teenage Kicks in Mind

Below is an extract from a brilliant article by Sheila Wayman in yesterday's Health Supplement of the Irish Times about new research that suggests physical changes in the brains of teenagers are the cause of some teenage behaviours, such behaviours that have traditionally been attributed to hormanal changes.

If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, as author John Gray suggested in his mega- selling book, then what planet are teenagers from?

Mercury perhaps? That would be an apt choice, more for the properties of its namesake element, than of the planet. “Volatile”, “unpredictable”, “fickle”, “flighty”, “temperamental” are just some of the descriptions of people with a “mercurial” nature. Certainly, teenagers inhabit a world of their own. It can be upsetting for parents as they watch their cute, chatty little children morph into sullen and defiant mini-adults.

Traditionally, this transformation has been put down to “hormones”. But in recent years, neuroscientists have discovered that physical changes in teenagers’ brains may have much to do with it – changes probably greater than at any time since they were two years old and the likes of which they will never experience again.

Easy Grade Pro

Easy Grade Pro is a suite of software, from Orbis Software designed for educators at all levels and institutions who want powerful but easy to use tools to manage their student results, homework, attendance, efforts and other information. This suite consists of software for desktop and handheld computers. There is now a new web version which means you can access your information from anywhere. I have been using the desktop version on my laptop for the last five years, and honestly would be lost without it. I can easily record attendance and homework / test performance and create both written and web reports for parents. It isn't freeware, but a single licence costs just €34. This can be used year after year, without needing to buy bulky teacher journals. You can find out more information or download an evaluation copy by clicking here.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Gideon Algernon Mantell

Gideon Algernon Mantell, English geologist and palaeontologist, was born in 1790 at Lewes, Sussex. The son of a shoemaker, he was educated for the medical profession, but found time to carry out research on the palaeontology of 'secondary' rocks (Mesozoic), particularly in Sussex. His hobby quickly became an obsession and Mantell soon became known as a competent geological investigator. His most remarkable discoveries were made in the Wealden formations. He demonstrated the fresh-water origin of the strata, and from them he brought to light and described the remarkable Dinosaurian reptiles known as Iguanodon (shown below), Hylaeosaurus, Pelorosaurus and Regnosaurus. For these researches he was awarded the Wollaston medal by the Geological Society and a Royal medal by the Royal Society. He was elected F.R.S. in 1825. Among his other contributions to the literature of palaeontology was his description of the Triassic reptile Telerpeton elginense. Towards the end of his life Dr Mantell retired to London, where he died on this day, November 10th, 1852.

A SCC English Limerick

Our impromptu poetry slot continues with something a little less "high brow". (This has to stop soon!)

An SCC English Limerick, by Humphrey Jones, Frog Blogger

There once was a man named Girdham,
Poor spelling and frog spiel did rile him,
A frog poem he did write,
A poetic delight,
Still, the Frog Bloggers surely out did him!

Life by David Attenborough

David Attenborough's new nature documentary series Life, which began airing on the BBC in October, will be available to purchase at the end of the month on DVD and BlueRay. The series, which took four years to make and cost £10 million to produce, is a film masterpiece. Shot completely in high definition, Life aimed to show to the diversity of the natural world and unusual animal behaviour which has enabled species to survive. The episodes, of which there are ten, examine the various groups of living things on the planet. Dare I say it, this would make an excellent Christmas present, even for your favourite biology teacher.

I particularly love David Attenborough's brilliant opening narrative in the series is "Our planet may be home to 30 million different kinds of animals and plants, each individual locked in its own lifelong fight for survival. Everywhere you look, on land or in the ocean, there are extraordinary examples of the lengths living things go to to stay alive." Vintage Dave!

Available for pre-order now on Amazon.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Frog by Stephanie Doig (Old Columban)

Many thanks to our SCC Art colleagues for dedicating a post in our honour yesterday and especially for publishing the wonderful watercolour painting by Stephanie Doig (Old Columban), shown above. Good job guys!

Frogcast 1 - Blogging in Schools

The first Frog Blog Podcast (or Frogcast) is a joint effort with our SCC English colleague Julian Girdham. Frog Bloggers, Humphrey Jones & Jeremy Stone, speak with Julian about blogging in schools. In this episode, the three of us discuss the value and purpose of blogging and what motivates us to continue blogging. The relevance of blogging to our subjects is also discussed and in particular how blogging has allowed us to promote enthusiasm amongst our pupils in relation to our specific subject areas. This podcast may be of particular interest to teachers who may be interested in using blogs as means of encouraging and promoting their subjects.

The Frog Blog and the SCC English blog have both been shortlisted in the Best Blog Category of this year's Eircom Golden Spider Awards.

Listen via the player here.

Science Fact of the Week 34 – The Space Shuttle


NASA’s Space Shuttle is the world’s first reusable space craft. It was first conceived during the years of the Apollo lunar program and was intended to service space stations, lower the costs of space travel and make access to the moon and beyond more routine. After numerous delays, the first of five orbiters, Columbia, lifted off on the 12th April 1981.

The shuttle is composed of three parts: the orbiter (the aeroplane-like crew and cargo carrying craft that most people think of as the shuttle); a large external tank (ET) that holds the liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel; and two solid rocket boosters (SRBs) packed with powdered aluminium and rubber fuel. The SRBs provide 6 million pounds of thrust at takeoff, before being jettisoned to parachute into the ocean, where they are recovered for re-use. The ET is jettisoned soon after, and burns up during atmospheric re-entry. The orbiter is over 37 metres long, has a wing span of nearly 24 metres and weighs 78 tonnes when empty. The re-entry of the orbiter is controlled by computers.

Science Week Essay Competition

This week is Science Week and to mark it we are holding a Science Essay Competition in the College. Pupils are asked to submit an essay on a science topic of their choice. There are two categories; Junior (Forms Primary-III) and Senior (Forms IV-VI). The winner of each category will win a €50 voucher for HMV. The essay will be judged on interest, originality, scientific accuracy and writing style. Junior entries are to be no more than 500 words, while Senior entries are to be no more than 1000 words. We will publish some of the essays over the coming weeks. Entries are to be submitted by email to info@sccscience.com by Saturday November 14th. Good luck!

Click here to see the various activities happening around the country for Science Week and to find out about great science photo and science rap competitions.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

New SCC Art Blog

The Art Department at St. Columba's have just announced the launch of their own blog. SCC Art will enable you see ongoing pupil work (such as photos, paintings, sculture and more) as well as news of art events in the school and beyond. We would like to congratulate the Art Department and hope their new venture goes well. I for one am looking forward to seeing the art produced by the pupils posted online. Click here to visit the SCC Art Blog. Today's post is an account of the recent trip to the Hugh Lane Gallery to see an exhibition of the work of Francis Bacon, shown opposite.

YouTube Saturday - Megalodon Video

As a follow up to our Science Fact of the Week 33 (one that has stirred considerable debate in class) on megalodon, the giant prehistoric shark, here is a link to a YouTube video on this impressive monster. Unfortunately, embedding has been disabled on this video so click here to view. Thanks to Robbie Hollis, Form V, for pointing us in the right direction!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Ode to an English Teacher (€ 2-50)

Ode to an English Teacher (€2-50)
by Jeremy Stone, Frog Blogger

The Chapel tolls th' arrival of dawning day,
presaging chalk-face action/reaction for our English pedagogue,
a book to read, essays to mark, perchance to perform a play,
and for recompense there is 'the Bard', and the College English blog.

Starfish Washed Up on Sligo Beach

In what can only be described as a freak of nature, nearly 50,000 starfish have been washed ashore on Lissadell Beach in Co. Sligo. The majority of the starfish are now thought to be dead after freak weather rushed them ashore while they were feeding on mussels. This is the second such event in less than a year after a similar mass beaching in Cork. The starfish are all adults, ranging in size from 7cm to 20cm in diameter.

SCC English Frog Poem - A Critique

Thanks to our colleagues in SCC English for your kind words in yesterday's post and for spending some time searching for frog inspired literature and poetry. However, in terms of your specially penned poem (see below), we here at Frog Blog control feel that, while you made a spirited effort, you just fall short of an A grade! All in all, Sinead Kilgarriff of Our Lady's Bower (click here to see her poem in Teaching English magazine on the SCC English Blog) wins The Frog Blog Annual Frog Themed Poetry Competition (newly established of course).

Frog by Julian Girdham, SCC English

A most intellectual frog
Was sitting astride a log.
"I'm tapping away,"
He said, "Every day,
On my amphibian blog"

By the way, this isn't the first time the Frog Blog has talked poetry. Click here to see a previous post containing a poem by John Updike called "Cosmic Gall".

1st Form Science Trip - Photo Collage

Below is a specially produced collage of photos from this year's Form I Science trip, which took place last month in the Stangford Lough area of Northern Ireland. Click here or here to find out more about what the pupils got into or click on the image to enlarge!