o The Frog Blog: February 2010

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Ireland's Mammals - The Fallow Deer

The Fallow Deer is the most common deer in Ireland, in fact many of them can be seen wandering around the grounds of St. Columba's College. The Common Fallow Deer (the most common type) have a summer coat which is a chestnut colour with white spots on the side. Their winter coat is greyish-brown without spots. Fallow deer have a white rump patch that is completely surrounded by a heart-shaped dark line. The tail, which is black on top and white underneath, is quite long and extends below this rump patch. Adult males (bucks) are generally larger than females (does), standing about 1m at the shoulder and weighing around 100kg. The does are about 80cm tall and only about half the weight of males. The antlers of bucks are quite large - up to about 75cm in length. These are shed in spring after which a new set immediately begins to grow. In comparison to those of the red and sika deer, the antlers of the mature male fallow deer are distinctively flattened (palmate).

Science in Wax

The National Wax Museum, in their new home in Temple Bar, has just launched a new permanent exhibition: Science in Wax. The exhibition features some of Ireland's most prominant scientists and inventors including John Holland (inventor of the submarine, click here for previous post), Henry Ferguson or modern scientists like Aoife McLysaught. According to their website the exhibition features "live and interactive experiments, and displays of some of their greatest achievements. The interactive and touch screen technology helps bring this room to life, with real experiments and figures to examine and play with". I'm very much looking forward to visiting. It's great to see a new museum of scientific interest filling the void of the closed Natural History Museum (please re-open soon), although some of their exhibits are on display in Collin's Barracks in the "Dead Zoo at Large" expo. Finally, you can download a great wall chart, created by the National Wax Museum, on Irish scientists and inventors by clicking here.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Classic David Attenborough Moment

The Longfielder, a new and excellent Irish blog, which focuses on natural history, science and society, recently posted this classic David Attenborough moment. The video features the amazing Lyre Bird of Australia, a bird with a unique way of attracting mates. Thanks Longfielder for reminding me just how good this is. Enjoy.

The Mountain - New RTÉ Science Show

RTÉ and The Den have annouced a new science quiz show for children aged 10 to 12 called The Mountain. The show promises great adventure, explosions and plenty of logical and physical challenges. Each team should consist of 3 people and "should be confident that you can work together as the series is all about team work, strategy, science and action". It must be noted that the team and their guardians may be required to stay on location the night before filming and filming will be for one day. For more information on this new show, which sounds fantastic, click here to visit the RTE ICE website. Closing date for registration is today! Well done RTÉ for promoting the sciences!

New Peanut Allergy Treatment

BBC News reports that doctors in Cambridge believe they may soon have a cure for peanut allergies, outlining how the treatment could be available in two to three years. The news is based on a large randomised controlled trial (RCT) that is about to start. The research follows a successful pilot study of a treatment called peanut oral immunotherapy (OIT), in which allergic children are repeatedly exposed to strictly controlled doses of peanut protein. Its success so far shows that it has good potential and the results from the upcoming RCT are greatly anticipated.

However, it is vitally important that no attempts are made to replicate the treatment at home as severe allergic reactions can be fatal. If the treatment works it will be offered to children with peanut allergies in the safe and controlled manner that will be necessary for its success. It should be noted that this treatment is not a cure, and several unknowns need to be addressed, including whether this treatment works in adults and the nature of its long-term effects in children. Click here to find out more on this story on the BBC News website.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

New Ag. Science Syllabus? Ah, no.

Has the NCCA published a new Agricultural Science syllabus? Well, no. But they have retyped the embarrassing old one and supplied us with a copy as Gaeilge. (Click here for the new one or here to have a laugh and see the old one) Is this in a vain effort to convince the public that they are making progress on replacing the ancient old syllabus, one which was written before Ireland joined the European Union? Probably. But according to the NCCA website "a review of the Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science syllabus has taken place and a revised syllabus has been completed. This revised syllabus, when approved by the NCCA, will be forwarded to the Department of Education and Science for implementation in schools in due course". I know from my sources that a new syllabus was completed over five years ago. So why is it taking so long to implement it?

On a positive note, however, the Second Level Support Service (SLSS), the Irish Agricultural Science Teachers Association (IASTA) and the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL) have recognised that Agricultural Science, one of the fastest growing subjects in Ireland, was ignored over the past decade in terms of support for teachers and the provision of in - service training and that the latter currently being planned in the area. Actually, I attended an excellent in-service on genetics and animal breeding in UCD last night. So, let's hope our esteemed Minister for Education & Science will take action and promptly roll out the new syllabus. After all, agriculture will prove even more important over the coming years and decades as food demand increases worldwide.

Leaving Cert Biology Revision Exercises - Excretory System

Over the next number of weeks and months, as pupils begin the advanced preparation for the Leaving Certificate Biology examination, the Frog Blog will publish a series of self-made interactive revision tools (including multiple choice quizzes, crosswords and more). The first is on the Excretory System and contains 13 questions, which aims to quickly assess your knowledge of the topic after revision. To start the test, click here.

Ted Talks - Richard Dawkins

Ted includes some excellent videos from the Internet in their "Best of the Web" series. The following lecture was recorded at the Royal Institution in 1991, when Richard Dawkins asks us to look at our universe with new eyes. Packed with big questions and illuminating visuals, this memorable journey through the history of life magnifies the splendor of evolution and our place in it. An excellent lecture from the often controversial author. (I'm currently reading his new book, The Greatest Show on Earth and look forward to bringing you a review)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Biology Prize 2010 - Shortlist

The shortlist for this years Biology Prize has just been annouced. The five finalists will present their chosen topics in a 15 minute presentation on Friday 5th March and will be judged by Miranda Krestovnikoff, the presenter of the BBC television programme Coast (Click here to find out more about Miranda). The finalists are Chris Faerber, Rebecca Kuelby, Patrick McGonagle, Dalton Tice & Hannah Wentges. We will post their initial essays over the coming days. Well done to all.

New Dinosaur Fossil - Sauropod Ancestor

Fossils of a previously undiscovered species of dinosaur have been found in slabs of Utah sandstone that were so hard that explosives had to be used to free some of the remains, scientists said on Tuesday. The bones found at Dinosaur National Monument belonged to a type of sauropod — long-necked plant-eaters that are said to be the largest animal ever to roam the land. The discovery included two complete skulls from other types of sauropod — an extremely rare find, scientists said. The fossils offer fresh insight into the lives of dinosaurs some 105 million years ago, including the evolution of sauropod teeth, which reveal eating habits and other information.

The new species is called Abydosaurus mcintoshi. Researchers say it's part of the larger brachiosaurus family; hulking four-legged vegetarians that include sauropods. For more on this story click here.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Nuclear Fusion on the Horizon?

Using the most powerful laser system ever built, scientists have brought us one step closer to nuclear fusion power. The same process that powers our sun and other stars, nuclear fusion, has the potential to be an efficient, carbon-free energy source—with none of the radioactive waste associated with the nuclear fission method used in current nuclear plants.

The new energy concept, penned Laser Inertial Fusion Engine (LIFE), looks at using the power of lasers to stimulate nuclear fusion. Thanks to the new achievement, a prototype nuclear fusion power plant could be operating within a decade, speculated by Siegfried Glenzer, the leader of the project at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Glenzer and colleagues used the world's largest laser array—the Livermore lab's National Ignition Facility—to superheat furl hydrogen, thus forcing two hydrogen atoms together to form a helium atom. This technigue has the potential to created an enormous amount of clean energy. Nuclear fission, by contrast, involves the splitting of atoms, resulting in the formation of nuclear waste products.

The laser demonstration means scientists are now much closer to triggering nuclear fusion in a controlled setting—something that's never been done before and which is necessary if fusion is to be harnessed for energy. Exciting times ahead then ... For more on this story, click here. Below is a YouTube video (an exerpt from BBC's Horizon program) featuring the National Ignition Facility and their quest.

Recommended Apps - Mitosis

Throughout my teaching career, I have always been a huge advocate of using ICT in education, while recognising its limitations too. I tend not to get carried away with the latest technology and spontaneously declare it the new best thing. Therefore, I am not going to get caught up in the debate that the iPhone (and the incumbent iPad), and the numerous applications associated with them, are the best thing to happen to education in years. However, some of the applications on offer do have significant educational potential and can at times be "fun". They will not replace teachers, or indeed teaching, but will provide another type of learning experience to enhance the education process.

Over the next few weeks I will write a short post on a few iPhone applications that I like, starting with Mitosis - a simple program which allows the user learn about the process of cell division by "directly interacting with the cell". The app contains a glossary of relevant definitions at your fingertips, and you can listen to a recording that describes mitosis while you follow along in the text. Best of all, Mitosis is a free app for your iPhone or iPod touch. Users can also assess what they have learned with a simple test. Click here to visit the iTunes Store and download Mitosis.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Science Fact of the Week 44 - DNA

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).

The information in DNA is stored as a code made up of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). Human DNA consists of about 3 billion bases, and more than 99 percent of those bases are the same in all people. The order, or sequence, of these bases determines the information available for building and maintaining an organism, similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet appear in a certain order to form words and sentences.

DNA bases pair up with each other, A with T and C with G, to form units called base pairs. Each base is also attached to a sugar molecule and a phosphate molecule. Together, a base, sugar, and phosphate are called a nucleotide. Nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix. The structure of the double helix is somewhat like a ladder, with the base pairs forming the ladder’s rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming the vertical sidepieces of the ladder.

An important property of DNA is that it can self - replicate, or make copies of itself. Each strand of DNA in the double helix can serve as a pattern for duplicating the sequence of bases. This is critical when cells divide because each new cell needs to have an exact copy of the DNA present in the old cell.

Our Recent Twitter Updates

Here is a selection of our best tweets from over the past few weeks, just to remind you. You can visit our twitter page by clicking here.
Happy "tweeting"!! PS - Sorry Julian for stealing your idea!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Pluto's Birthday

Today in 1930, the planet Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh, the only planet to be found by an American astronomer, after three decades of work at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Before Tombaugh was born, Percival Lowell had searched unsuccessfully for Pluto, a ninth planet whose gravity would explain deviations in the positions of Uranus and Neptune. In his will he decreed that the hunt should continue. That meant using a telescope to photograph tiny pieces of the sky by night, then and sifting through the millions of star images by day for one dim dot that moved. When Lowell Observatory director Vesto Slipher hired him, a Kansas farm boy, Clyde Tombaugh threw himself into the search in Apr 1929. Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet, the second-largest in the Solar System (after Eris), and the tenth-largest body observed directly orbiting the Sun. Pluto is now considered the largest member of a distinct population called the Kuiper belt.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Tutankhamun DNA Reveals King's Secrets

Two years of DNA testing and CT scans on Tutankhamun's 3,300-year-old mummy and 15 others are helping end many of the myths surrounding the boy king. While a comparatively minor ruler, he has captivated the public since the 1922 discovery of his tomb, which was filled with a stunning array of jewels and artefacts, including a golden funeral mask. Egypt's most famous pharaoh, King Tutankhamun, is revealed as a frail boy who suffered from a cleft palate and club foot, according to a study published today that shows he died of complications from a broken leg exacerbated by malaria and his parents were most likely brother and sister.

Tutankhamun, who became pharaoh at age 10 in 1333BC , ruled for just nine years at a pivotal time in Egypt's history. Speculation has long swirled over his death at 19. A hole in his skull fuelled speculation he was murdered, until a 2005 CT scan ruled that out, finding the hole was likely from the mummification process. The scan also uncovered the broken leg.

ISS Gets a Room With a View

Astronauts ventured outside the International Space Station last night to open the shutters on an observation deck that gives a panoramic view of the Earth below. The seven windows of the $27 million lookout, called Tranquillity, were opened one by one as the crews of the station and the shuttle Endeavour carried out their third and final spacewalk of the 14-day mission. The US astronaut Robert Behnken and British astronaut Nicholas Patrick finally removed bolts on the dome-shaped observation deck's biggest window, which sprung open to reveal its first view of the Earth 200 miles below.

The Italian-built dome, which is 5 feet tall and nearly 10 feet in diameter, is designed to offer sweeping 360-degree views of the Earth and outer space, as well as the space station itself.A robotic work station is currently being installed in the central cupola, which will allow the ISS crew to control station activities, including the ISS’s robotic arm, from inside the spacecraft. With the new room in place, the space station is now about 90 percent complete. Endeavour is due to end its mission on February 21.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Half Term Break

Today is the beginning of the February half term, and a well deserved break for teachers and pupils alike. The Frog Blog will also take a break from consistent blogging (we may have a post or two over the week should anything of interest arise - which it most certainly will). Anyway, enjoy your break!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

London Trip - Report

On a chilly morning in January thirty three Columbans from years IV and V accompanied by five members of Staff set off for London to spend the next few days sampling the assorted treasures of one of the most wonderful cities in the world, which just happens to be on our doorstep. The inspiration for this tour came from Mr Humphrey Jones who casually mentioned the possibility of a joint Biology/History trip to me during break back in September.

We aimed to maximise our time in London and having arrived at Gatwick we began our tour with a coach tour of some of the main sights and experienced a flavour of what lay ahead. Many of our party had been before but as Samuel Johnson remarked, '...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford'. However, none of us had visited the recently opened Darwin Centre which really demonstrated the highest standards in the state-of-the-art display of countless specimens of scientific and biological interest. Here in the Darwin Centre cocoon we found incredible specimens displayed in a dramatic new public space. I was interested in the smart card system which enabled the visitor to take home information about the countless exhibits Mr Jackson was in heaven! The Natural History Museum proper was approximately five minutes walk from our hotel and here there was much to absorb our attention from dinosaurs to polar bears.

That evening we went to the show 'Wicked'. It received mixed reviews from our party - I felt the music was rather unmemorable but the staging undeniably impressive. On subsequent evenings we visited the cinema and had a meal in Chinatown after a brief visit to Covent Garden - here Jake Jacobsen made an exhibition of himself (in the nicest possible sense) as he was recruited to participate in a work of street performance.

We visited the Tower of London the following morning and then travelled down the river to Westminster. From there we walked to Whitehall and visited the Cabinet War Rooms and the relatively recently-opened Churchill Museum - both of which have really well-thought out displays and evocative reconstructions of life during the Second World War, warranting far more time than we had at our disposal.

Undaunted by our busy schedule, we visited the Science Museum the following morning where I was amazed by a replica of the module which ws used by the Apollo space programme - it really did not look robust enough to effect such an epic adventure! The exhibition also answered all of those questions about journeys into space which pupils always ask! In the afternoon we had a tour of some of the paintings in the National Gallery and some of us visited the wonderful National Portrait Gallery. Those with energy to spare then went to shop in Sloane Square.

Our penultimate museum was the Imperial War Museum as for many this was a highlight. We had approximately two hours in the Museum and were able to look at the military hardware in the main hall, go to the 'Trench experience' and the 'Blitz experience'. Many of the pupils visited the sensitive and poignant Holocaust exhibition on the top floor.

Finally we arrived at the British Museum and had a 'highlights tour' with our now familiar guide examining the Portland vase, the Elgin marbles and 'Ginger'. I was amused to see that the pupils were quick to locate the portable chairs and were able to look and listen in comfort!

Although it may seem odd to go to London in January, it had the great virtue of being relatively free of other tourists and we were able to move around the marvellous museums and galleries freely. The weather was cold but not wet. We walked miles, sampled many of ~London's wonderful treasures and whetted the appetitie of many for a return visit. It is worth mentioning that many of the guides commented on the interest and manners exhibited by our group and I am pleased to report that our party were worthy ambassadors for the College.

Mrs. Marie Haslett, History Teacher

Meet Inuk

Meet Inuk, a 4000 year old man whose hair, which was preserved in Greenland's permafrost, provided enough DNA for a complete genome analysis. The researchers say the man had brown eyes and thick dark hair, although he would have been prone to baldness. They say the genome also shows that his ancestors migrated from Siberia. The man has been named Inuk, which means "human" in the Greenlandic language. The study also revealed his blood group (A+), his risk of developing certain diseases, that he faced a high likelihood of going bald, and perhaps most improbably, the dry consistency of his earwax. Other tests on the hair suggest the man survived on a marine diet of seals and seabirds.

The researchers say an analysis of the genome shows that Inuk was from the Saqqaq culture. The team now has genetic evidence that Inuk's metabolism and body mass meant he was adapted to living in a cold climate. The Saqqaq hunted seals and seabirds and relied on the sea for most of their food. Archaeological remains show they lived in tiny tents in winter. Click here to see an article in today's Irish Times to find out more about Inuk.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Mission: Science

NASA has just launched a new website aimed at teenagers. Mission: Science contains a huge range of information, activities, multimedia and more. The "NASA Science " section takes a closer look at our solar system, galaxy, our planet and the physics of space flight. There is also an excellent section called "Be a Scientist" where you can carry out a series of experiments, ask experts or look at the various careers within NASA. There are also a whole range of games and activities to get involved in. But my favourite is the multimedia section, which contains images, videos, photo journals, videos and loads more. This is one of the best educational websites I've seen in a while. Check it out! I know we're going a bit astronomy mad of late - but it's just so cool!

London Trip Slideshow

At last, more pictures from the highly successful History and Biology trip to London last month. If you have more pictures from the trip, please email them to: info@sccscience.com.

Endeavour Docks with ISS

The Space Shuttle Endeavour has docked with the International Space Station. The delicate docking maneuver took place while both spacecraft were circling the globe at about 17,500 mph (28,165 km/h). Endeavour lifted off from Kennedy Space Center early Monday.During the two-week mission, the six-member crew will deliver an Italian-built Tranquility node and a seven-windowed cupola to the station, which will be used as a control room for robotics. The mission also will include three spacewalks. The space station will be about 90 percent complete once the node and cupola are added.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Endeavour Launch

Space shuttle Endeavour rocketed into orbit on what is likely to be the last night-time launch for the programme. The shuttle, with six astronauts on board, took flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, before dawn, igniting the sky with a brilliant flash seen for miles around. Thick, low clouds that had delayed a first launch attempt on Sunday returned, but then cleared away just in time. There are just four more missions scheduled this year before the shuttles are retired. Endeavour's destination, the International Space Station, was soaring over Romania at the time of lift-off. The shuttle is set to arrive at the station early on Wednesday. Commander George Zamka and his crew will deliver and install Tranquility, a new room that will eventually house life-support equipment, exercise machines and a toilet, as well as a seven-windowed observation dome which has the biggest window ever sent into space, a circle 79 centimetres across. It will be the last major construction job at the space station. Both the new room and observation dome - together exceeding $400 million - were supplied by the European Space Agency.

Science Fact of the Week 43 - Sequoia

The Giant Redwood or Sequoia is the world's largest tree. It is also the largest living thing on the planet and amongst the oldest living things, with some trees over 2000 years old. It is an evergreen, long-lived, coniferous tree, reaching up to 115.5 m in height and 8 m diameter at breast height (that's equivalent to a 35 storey building). The current tallest tree is Hyperion, measuring at 115.55 m.

Redwoods have a conical crown, with horizontal to slightly drooping branches. The bark is very thick, up to 30 cm, and quite soft, fibrous with a bright red-brown when freshly exposed (hence the name 'redwood'), weathering darker. The root system is composed of shallow, wide-spreading lateral roots. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States. The cool, moist air created by the Pacific Ocean keeps the trees continually damp, even during summer droughts. These conditions have existed for some time, as the redwoods go back 20 million years in their present range.

Exactly why the redwoods grow so tall is a mystery. Theories continue to develop but proof remains elusive. The trees can reach ages of 2,000 years and regularly reach 600 years. Resistance to natural enemies such as insects and fire are built-in features of a coast redwood. Diseases are virtually unknown and insect damage insignificant thanks to the high tannin content of the wood. Thick bark and foliage that rests high above the ground provides protection from all but the hottest fires. The redwoods' unusual ability to regenerate also aids in their survival as a species. They do not rely solely upon sexual reproduction, as many other trees must. New sprouts may come directly from a stump or downed tree's root system as a clone.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The Princess and the Frog

The Frog Blog, along with Walt Disney Animation Studios, present the musical "The Princess and the Frog," an animated comedy set in the great city of New Orleans. From the creators of "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin" comes a modern twist on a classic tale, featuring a beautiful girl named Tiana, a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical bayous of Louisiana. OK, I confess, we might not be responsible for the Oscar nominated animated feature, but we do love it here at the Frog Blog. Below is clip. It's in the cinema's now, so check it out!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

YouTube Saturday - Bull Frog Hunting

The Bull Frog is a large frog native to North America. Below is a video from National Geographic about the well documented eating habits of the Bull Frog, namely that it will eat anything it can overpower and stuff in its mouth.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Breakthrough in Prostate Cancer Research

Published today in the journal Genetic Vaccines and Therapy are details of a breakthrough in prostate cancer research, from an Irish based research laboratory. A DNA-based vaccine which is shown to destroy secondary prostate cancer has been successful in animal trials in Cork. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in Irish men and around 1,900 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually, with 700 patients dying of the disease each year. Localised prostate cancer is currently treated with surgery and radiotherapy, but there are limited options for cures for those with secondary prostate cancer. DNA vaccines activate the immune system against prostate cancer and then seek out any remaining cancer cells that have migrated to other parts of the body and destroy them, after treatment of the original cancer.

Astronomy Lately?

I've just realised that three of the last four posts were on astronomy. The most recent was the 30th post on astronomy on the Frog Blog. I think we need to get back to some raw biological stuff!

NASA Reports Pluto Getting Redder

Reports to day from NASA (which seems to be in the news more these days after their Constellation Program was cut) suggest dwarf planet Pluto is turning brighter and redder as its 248-year-long rotation around the sun changes its seasons. The US space agency released new images taken by the orbiting Hubble space telescope that show Pluto's northern hemisphere growing brighter and the entire planet looking redder. These changes are most likely the consequence of surface ice melting on the sunlit pole and then refreezing on the other pole. Click here to see more pics of Pluto.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Meteorite Fireball Lands in Ireland

A fireball, thought to be a meteorite, has been spotted in the night sky by people from all over the Ireland yesterday evening. Gardaí received reports of sightings from people all over the country, but is believed it may have eventually landed in Cavan. Astronomy Ireland reported on its website that a huge fireball was seen by thousands of people in Ireland on Wednesday evening. This fireball was a large rock - possibly the size of a car - striking our atmosphere and blazing into flames. The meteorite is of significant scientific interest and anyone who finds it is asked to contact Astronomy Ireland. Click here to visit their website.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

RDS McWilliams Young Science Writer Competition

Details have been released about this years RDS McWilliams Young Science Writers competition. The competition is open to anyone aged 12 to 19 and involves writing a report or short story around any area of science. No restrictions are placed on the topic that the student can write about – they decide. Prizes include laptops, iPods and more. Before beginning their work students are advised to check out the list of top tips for writing a prize-winning entry and read the full entry guidelines. To find out more information or to apply online click here. The closing date for receipt of entries is April 23rd 2010. Good luck and get writing.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Obama Ends Moon & Mars Missions

Barack Obama has announced an increase of $6 billion dollars in NASA's budget over the next five years, but has decided to cancelled the "Constellation Program", NASA's mission to send humans back to the moon by 2020 and for a manned mission to Mars by 2050. The news comes as no surprise as the US economy continues to struggle. Constellation had been heavily criticized since it was unveiled in 2005 by President George W. Bush. Even before the plan was announced, some scientists pointed out that manned exploration has drawbacks, such as high costs, extreme safety requirements, and humans’ biological sensitivity to radiation. Obama is also proposing subcontracting some of NASA's future missions to the outer atmosphere to private companies, when the Space Shuttle completes its final mission this year.

Biology Prize 2010

The Frog Blog would like to annouce details of SCC's Annual Biology Prize. This year, pupils (from Forms IV, V or VI) are asked to provide a 300 to 400 word synopsis or summary of any Biology topic of their choice. It may be broad or narrow but must be interesting and unique. Pupils should research the topic thoroughly and include references in their synopses.

The top 5 - 6 proposals will then be asked to prepare a 15 minute PowerPoint Presentation on their topic and be able to answer questions within it. All prize entries must be submitted by e-mail to info@sccscience.com by Monday February 8th 2010. Good luck and get working!!

Monday, 1 February 2010

New Science Books in the Library

The librarian, Mr. Mc Conville has recently added some new science books to the library. Amongst the new books is THE MANGA GUIDE TO PHYSICS by Hideo Nitta and Keita Takatsu, an interesting illustrated introduction to the world of physics that is well worth checking out. Also included is Paul Murdin's SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, a great book detailing the origins and formation of our universe. For full details of the new science books in the library click here.

Science Fact of the Week 42 - Mercury

Mercury is a very strange metal. It is a liquid at room temperature, but it is so dense that cannon balls float in it. With the atomic number 80 in the periodic table and with an atomic weight of 200, this element is more dense than lead. With a melting point of −38.83 °C and boiling point of 356.73 °C, mercury has one of the narrowest ranges of its liquid state of any metal. Mercury is, in fact, the only metal that is liquid at standard conditions for temperature and pressure and one of only six elements that are liquid at room temperature.

Mercury occurs in deposits throughout the world mostly as cinnabar (mercuric sulfide), which is the source of the red pigment vermilion, and is mostly obtained by reduction from cinnabar. Cinnabar is highly toxic by ingestion or inhalation of the dust. Mercury poisoning can also result from exposure to soluble forms of mercury (such as mercuric chloride or methyl-mercury), inhalation of mercury vapour, or eating fish contaminated with mercury. Mercury has many uses though and is used in thermometers, barometers, electrical devices and much more. Interestingly, mercury has a negative coefficient of surface tension, which means that the meniscus on the surface is the other way up from normal.

Penguin Corner - There's Always One!

Why is there always some randomer who sticks their head in front of the camera just when you are taking a great photo!