o The Frog Blog: April 2010

Friday, 30 April 2010

Recommended Apps - Discovery News

Do you like watching the Discovery Channel? Do you like finding out about news from the world of science? Well if you do, then this brilliant free iPhone and iPod app is for you. The Discovery News app allows instant access to news stories from the Discovery News website, directly on to your iPhone. The articles are written in easy to read language and each story gives a brief bulleted summary first. You can also view videos from the channel on your iPhone. There are some brilliant science news apps but this is the best free app available, in my opinion. You can also share your favourite news stories by email or add them directly to your Twitter page. The app also has a search feature. The only downside is the advertising banner on the bottom of each page. But, hey, it's free! Click here to view in iTunes and download.

Name the Snake - Online Poll

We have short-listed the suggested names and we are now accepting your votes. On your right you will see a list of names, just pick the one you think best suits our new pet snake. It's just a bit of fun!

Save the Frogs Day

Yes, finally a day we can get excited about, it's Save the Frogs Day! Save the Frogs Day tries to create awareness to the threat to amphibian populations worldwide. We featured the Green Eyed Frog yesterday, one of the world's rarest animals, which is being wiped out by a harmful fungus but this is not the only frog facing extinction. In Ireland, our only frog, Rana temporaria, is a protected species but the use of pesticides and herbicides has a negative effect on their populations. According to the Save the Frogs website:
"Frog populations have been declining worldwide at unprecedented rates, and nearly one-third of the world’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Up to 200 species have completely disappeared since 1980, and this is NOT normal: amphibians naturally go extinct at a rate of only about one species every 250 years!!! Frog populations are faced with an onslaught of environmental problems, including pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades. Unless these problems are remedied, amphibian species will continue to disappear, resulting in irreversible consequences to the planet’s ecosystems and to humans."
So what can you do? Well visit the Save the Frog website and sign the petition to save the frogs. You can also enter an essay, poetry or art competition. You can even buy one of their Save the Frogs T-Shirts. The website also contains some lesson material for teachers to help create awareness of the frog's plight. So mention it in your science classes today and help SAVE THE FROGS!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Rarest of the Rare

National Geographic have published a list of the 12 rarest animals on Earth. They include the beautiful Hirola, the mysterious Florida Bonneted Bat, the graceful Grenada Dove and (come on, what did you expect) the elusive Green Eyed Frog. According to their website, the Green Eyed Frog is:
"... a victim of the deadly chytrid fungus, the green-eyed frog (pictured) has plummeted to only a few hundred individuals in Costa Rica and Panama, according to the "Rarest of the Rare" report. Habitat lost to logging and deaths due to agricultural chemicals have dealt additional blows to the 2.5-inch-long (6.5-centimeter-long) frog. Breeding the amphibian in captivity may be the species' last hope, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society."
For more information and to see the complete list (and brilliant photos of the 12 rarest species) click here to visit the National Geographic website. (Photo above from National Geographic)

€25 Million for Science Research

The government, along with Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the national foundation for investment in scientific and engineering research, has pledged more than €25m to fund 27 science research projects over the next five years. Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe made the annoucement saying it will help develop jobs for the "smart economy", his latest buzz word. The funding should benefit nearly 140 third-level researchers across Ireland in research areas ranging from health, energy, agriculture, environmental protection and telecommunications. Any funding in science is graciously welcomed and everyone hopes it will help create jobs, especially in the current economic climate. For more information click here.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Story of Science

I loved the first episode of the BBC's newest series, Story of Science, which aired for the first time last night. The series, presented by Michael Mosley, introduces the fundamental questions and the great forces of history that have shaped the story of science. What is out there? What is the world made of? What is the secret of life? A great watch and I've already set my Sky+ box to record next week. Here's a clip of last night's episode. (By the way, I just received my DVD box set of Wonders of the Solar System - pure genius!)

Natural History Museum Reopens

My favourite museum (maybe even place) in Dublin, the Museum of Natural History, is to reopen to the public tomorrow after three years of locked doors. Affectionately known as the 'Dead Zoo', the museum was forced to close in July 2007 after the collapse of a granite staircase in which 11 people were injured. The newly refurbished premises will include familiar favourites like the skeleton of a 11,000 year old giant elk, Spoticus the giraffe and whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling. I can't wait!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Name the Snake Competition

Some more names have been added to the "suggested" name list for our new pet snake: Hades, Mr. Strangles, Snake the Snake, Severus, Slither, Tiffany, Bob the Boa, Bill and Dave (everything else in the Biology Lab is called Dave in honour of David Attenborough). The list will be shorten to five names and an online poll will be conducted on the Frog Blog from Friday. So, if you haven't got your suggested name in yet - do so by emailing us now! Click here.

The Corn Snake by Tom Crampton

The Corn Snake or Red Rat Snake is a North American species of rat snake that subdue their small prey with constriction. The name corn snake comes from the fact that they have a maize-like pattern on their bellies and because they were found in corn fields. Corn snakes are found throughout the southeastern and central United States. Their docile nature, reluctance to bite, moderate adult size 1.2–1.8 meters, attractive pattern, and comparatively simple care make them popular pet snakes. In the wild, they usually live around 15–20 years, but may live as long as 23 years in captivity. They are non-venomous. The Common Corn Snake lives in the south eastern United States, and is distinguished by having brownish-orange skin with orange/red saddles, the saddles having black borders, and usually a black and white underbelly. The Great Plains Rat Snake or Emory's Rat Snake is found in the United States from Nebraska to Texas, and into northern Mexico.

Monday, 26 April 2010

From DNA to Protein

Embedded below is an excellent video animation of protein synthesis, the process of turning DNA in to proteins in your body (proteins make your muscles, bones, hormones, enzymes etc). The best from the web in my opinion. It details how the genetic code relates to the production of a specific protein and illustrates transcription and translation superbly. This video would be an excellent introduction to protein synthesis for leaving cert biology pupils.

Science Fact of the Week 49 - The Brazilian Pygmy Gecko

The Brazilian Pygmy Gecko (Coleodactylus amazonicus) is a tiny lizard, measuring between just 2 - 4 cm. This little gecko is found in South America, mainly in Brazil, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and Bolivia - and deep in the Amazon Rainforest. It rains constantly there, which is unfortunate because being so small means that being hit by a raindrop could be potentially fatal. But this extraordinary creature has evolved a hydrophobic skin (which repels water just like a waterproof jacket), thus protecting it from rain and potentially dangerous shallow puddles. It is so good that being water proof that it can actually run across the surface of the water and is virtually unsinkable. The little gecko doesn't sink because of water surface tension. Sometimes, the Pygmy Gecko is called the Unsinkable Gecko. Here is a video, taken from BBC's Life series, showing the gecko "float" on water. Amazing!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

SCC English Reaches 1000 Posts

Congratulations to our "long-haired arty poetry-type colleagues" over in the SCC English Blog on reaching their 1000th post - an amazing achievement. The SCC English Blog is an inspiration to many and was the major influence on the formation of the Frog Blog. Well done and we look forward to the next thousand (and their new book).

Name the Snake Competition

So far we have received some great suggestions for our new pet snake and we are still open for entries. Suggested names so far include Fluffy, Mr. Cuddles, Tommy (Boa), Feather (Boa), Monty (Python), Lindsay, Seanie (after Seanie Fitzpatrick), Jake the Snake and Jimmy.

If you have a suggestion, please send it to contact@frogblog.ie or hand it on a piece of paper to Mr. Jones.

Happy Birthday Hubble!

Exactly two decades ago today, the Space Shuttle and crew of STS-31 were launched to deploy the NASA/ESA's now famous space observatory, the Hubble Telescope, into a low-Earth orbit. Hubble's unprecedented capabilities have made it one of the most powerful science instruments ever conceived by humans, and certainly the one most embraced by the public. Its discoveries have revolutionised nearly all areas of current astronomical research, from planetary science to cosmology. At times Hubble's space odyssey has went on with broken equipment, a bleary-eyed primary mirror and even a Space Shuttle rescue/repair mission cancellation.

But the ingenuity and dedication of Hubble scientists, engineers, and NASA and ESA astronauts have allowed the observatory to rebound time and time again. Its crisp vision continues to challenge scientists with exciting new surprises and to enthral the public with ever more evocative colour images.

NASA, ESA and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are celebrating Hubble's journey of exploration with a stunning new picture (above). Another exciting component of the anniversary will be the launch of the revamped European website for Hubble, http://www.spacetelescope.org/.

The brand new Hubble anniversary image highlights a small portion of one of the largest observable regions of starbirth in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. The scene is reminiscent of Hubble's classic Pillars of Creation photo from 1995, but even more striking in appearance. The image captures the top of a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall, which is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The pillar is also being pushed apart from within, as infant stars buried inside it fire off jets of gas that can be seen streaming from towering peaks like arrows sailing through the air. To date, Hubble has looked at over 30 000 celestial targets and amassed over half a million pictures in its archive. It is set to be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope which will be launched in 2013.

YouTube Saturday - Earth's Water

How did the water on Earth get here? Well this excellent video shows how some of Earth's water was created during the planets inception while some originated from comets.

Friday, 23 April 2010

New Guestbook

We have just added a new feature to the Frog Blog - a GUESTBOOK. So, if you enjoy reading the Frog Blog, please click here or on the "Guestbook" icon above, and leave a comment! We appreciate all comments, except the negative ones! Thanks for reading!

The Burmese Python by Lorcan Maule

Members of Form IV are currently studying reptiles, specifically snakes. They recently had to write a piece on a snake of their choice. Here is an essay by Lorcan Maule on the Burmese Python.

The Burmese Python is the 6th largest snake in the world, it is native to tropical areas of southern and south east Asia. They are found near water and they are semi aquatic, but can also be found in trees. They are normally 3.7 meters long, but some have been found to be up to 5.8 meters long. They are light coloured snakes with many brown blotches boarded in black down the back of the snake. The python is an excellent swimmer and needs a permanent source of water but it is normally found in grasslands, swamps, woodlands, jungles, and river valleys. They are excellent climbers and their tail helps them climb as it is prehensile.

Like all snakes, Burmese Pythons are carnivorous. Their diet consists primarily of appropriately-sized birds and mammals. The snake uses its sharp teeth to seize its prey, then wraps its body around the prey, killing the prey by constriction. They are often found near human habitation due to the presence of rats, mice and other vermin as a food source. Large pythons are know to eat pigs and goats.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Borneo Protection Plan

A three year long study in the rainforests of Borneo has unearthed 123 new species of plants and animals. Amongst the newly discovered species are a 50cm long stick insect, a "ninja" slug and new species of orchid. But also amongst the findings are details on the first recorded species of a lungless frog (above, photo from Memo Schilthuizen/WWF), instead absorbing oxygen through its skin and also a colour changing flying frog. Many of these "newly discovered" species have been reported on before (see National Geographic two years ago), in separate reports, but today's collection is being used to highlight the biodiversity of the rainforests of Borneo as a new agreement is signed to protect the wildlife there. The superb science section of the Guardian Newspaper has a great article on the findings and the protection plan (click here) and a brilliant photo gallery of the weird and wonderful creatures discovered, here.

Earth Day - 40 Years On

Today is Earth Day, a day designed to inspire awareness and appreciation for the Earth's environment around the globe, both on a political and public level. The organisers of Earth Day have a number of goals. However, their main goal is to "change the politics not the climate", lobbying politicians around the world to the consider impact on the natural world of their economic, industrial, developmental and environmental policies.

It was actually on this day 40 years ago, that over 20 million Americans took part in the first Earth Day rallies and teach-ins which ultimately led to the passing of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts in the US and creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But it must be asked, how does Earth Day affect political thinking today and will it be as successful as it was in the past. Earth Day 2010 takes place mid recession and the political climate has changed considerable since 1970. With a battered world economy making it harder to build support for policies that could raise prices, cost jobs or slow economic recovery. Are today's issues (global warming, ocean pollution, alternative energies) less relevant to the general public than clean air or clean drinking water - the issues back in 1970?

For more information on Earth Day 2010 and to find out what you can do, visit their website. By the way, Google have changed their logo in support of Earth Day, which is a little pointless and slightly hypocritical as Google is an extremely power hungry operation. It would have made more sense if they had changed their background display to black - thus conserving energy. The Guardian Newspaper reported last May that one Google plant in Oregan can use as much power as the city of Newcastle in one day. Click here to read the article.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Poison Dart Frogs Wrestling

Another classic video clip from David Attenborough - this time from the Life in Cold Blood series. Since we have a new pet snake in the biology lab, our Form IV biologists are currently studying reptiles and amphibians.

Our New Pet!

The Biology Lab in St. Columba's College has a new lodger, a rainbow boa. Unfortunately, however, our new pet snake doesn't have a name yet. So we are launching a "Name the Snake" competition. All you have to do is come up with an imaginative name for the snake and explain (in less than 100 words) why you have chosen that name. Easy! Below, Tom Crampton (Form IV) explains briefly what a rainbow boa is and puts his suggested name forward:

"The rainbow boa's scientific name is Epicrates cenchria. It is known for its attractive iridescent sheen. They are found in South and Central America in countries such as Costa Rica, Venezula, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Paraguay to name a few. Despite requiring very specific humidity and heat conditions, this species is commonly found in the pet trade. During the 1980s and early 1990s, substantial numbers were exported from Surinam. Today, however, far fewer are exported and most offered for sale are captive bred. Younger specimens will often bite, but tend to calm down as they become more used to handling. I think a good name for the snake would be Jimmy."
I think Jimmy the Snake sounds like a serious gangster! If you want to enter, please send your suggestions to this email address: info@sccscience.com or hand it on a piece of paper to Mr. Jones. Good luck. Entries close on Friday 30th April. Of course, readers from outside the school community are also free to suggest a name for our snake.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Volcano Eruption

I've been trying to avoid blogging about the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland but I saw this video and thought it needed to be shown - the best video from the web of the eruption I've seen so far. The ash cloud and the flight disruption it has caused has resulted in a number of staff and pupils being unable to return to school on time (some might say they are the lucky ones - not me though, obviously). Safe trip back everyone!

Controlling Sheep Parasites

There was a great article in the farming section of the Irish Independent last week which pupils studying Agricultural Science might find useful. Written by Michael Gottstein, the article outlines how two parasites, nematodirus and coccidiosis, affect sheep and how they can be controlled. Below is an extract from the article but click here to read in  full.
"In last week's article I outlined some of the nutritional aspects that affect lamb performance. Supplying sheep with adequate nutrients is key to achieving high levels of animal performance. But what if the sheep are unable to digest these nutrients? That's what happens when the sheep are carrying heavy parasite burdens. Once lambs start eating grass (around five weeks of age) they will start to come in contact with various parasites. These parasites live off the nutrients/ tissue in the lamb's digestive tract thereby reducing the amount of nutrients available to the lamb and in some cases causing damage to the digestive system of the lamb.Understanding which parasites cause the damage and how to control them is essential if lamb performance is to be optimised in the coming weeks.Many of this year's lamb crop will come in contact with two parasites that can cause severe illness and in some cases can even lead to the death of young lambs. The parasites that I am talking about are nematodirus and coccidiosis."

Twitter Updates - Easter Holidays

We've been busy over the Easter break, with loads of blog posts and tweets (even an amazing story about a new type of giant frog found in County Mayo). Below is a selection of our best tweets over the last three weeks:

Monday, 19 April 2010

Science Fact of the Week 48 - Gold

Gold is a rare metallic element, with the atomic number 79 and the symbol Au. While the name gold comes from an Old English word meaning yellow, the symbol comes from the Latin aurum, which means “shining dawn.” On the periodic table of elements, gold is found in Group 11, along with silver, copper, and roentgenium, and in Period 6 between platinum and mercury. It is referred to as a “transition metal.” Gold is the most malleable, ductile metal (Gold is so pliable that it can be made into sewing thread. Just 30g of gold can be stretched over 50 miles). Gold is one of the so-called precious metals, along with platinum and silver. Gold has a melting point of 1064.43°C. It can conduct both heat and electricity and it never rusts.

Saturday, 17 April 2010


Image from Scitable
Scitable, by Nature is a new website containing a science library with more than 200 accurate, readable peer reviewed articles on science. The site is just in its infancy and currently focuses on genetics primarily. It contains articles on the core concepts of genetics, a video-based online resource called Essentials of Genetics and a brilliant area called spotlights, which looks at current science issues and emerging sciences. There is an excellent article on solar energy. This excellent website would be suitable for anyone researching a science project or looking to expand their knowledge of genetics. For teachers, Scitable allows you set up an online classroom where you can focus your pupils research over a term - excellent for Transition Year.  Click here to visit this exciting new website.

YouTube Saturday - History Lesson

This brilliant animated video tries the impossible - to present the history of pretty much everything into 3 minutes and 12 seconds (slightly shorter than how long it took me to read Bill Bryson's book). From the Big Bang to landing on the moon - an excellent bit of fun and vintage YouTube.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Why I Love my iPhone ... and its Apps!

I've had my iPhone for a month or so now and it has changed me! Sounds dramatic I know, but I think it has. I must confess - I love my iPhone. My previous phone was a HTC Touch - a powerful Windows mobile with everything I needed - email, Internet, calendar. So I thought I didn't need an iPhone - no one needs an iPhone - but it has made my life so much easier. What makes the iPhone brilliant is the abundant supply of apps - apps for everything. Simple apps like Awesome Note, Calendar, the new Irish Times app, Evernote, Skype and the brilliant Quick Office make everyday easier, especially in work. When I'm bored I play Touch Physics or Angry Birds. When I want to be informed I click on the Guardian app, RTE News, the Telegraph, Treehugger or the ITN app. When I feel like connecting I open up Facebook, Tweetdeck or Blogpress. I'm never off the damn thing. And then there my role as a science teacher - oh yeah nearly forgot that - and the iPhone offers plenty to keep me occupied here too. To be a good science teacher you need to be informed about what's happening in the world of science and there are plenty apps which let me do that. The picture over shows some of the science related apps on my iPhone, I emphasise the "some". NASA has become cool again (at least in my eyes anyway), the Hubble app mesmerises me with wonderful images from deep space, the Planets app has given me a sore neck from looking up at the night sky, Discovery News lets me know when a new frog species has been discovered (I'm kidding), Speed Anatomy makes sure I know my arms from my elbows and Science Dump contains brilliant videos from YouTube of scientific interest - all great. Then there is the amazing Sky+ app, which makes sure I will never forget to record that documentary on the BBC when I'm out again! The iPhone is here and here to stay. But it hasn't arrived empty handed - it has brought loads of wonderful apps to play with. Never to bored, misinformed or disorganised again!

Ireland's Mammals - The Red Squirrel

The red squirrel is one of Ireland's best loved mammals and definitely our best loved rodent. Yes, the red squirrel is a rodent, classified in the same group as mice and rats. Rodents are generally small mammals that have strong sharpened front teeth (incisors) which grow continually throughout the animal’s life. The red squirrel, or Sciurus vulgaris, is a small, reddish, arboreal (tree living) animal with a long bushy tail. It is smaller than the grey squirrel, which can also be found in Ireland. In winter its coat is thick and red, and it has a bushy tail and long ear tufts. The underside is cream or white. In summer, the coat becomes lighter in colour and the ear tufts are small and pale. The red squirrel is native to Ireland but it may have been re-introduced in the early 1900's after numbers had declined. Red squirrels can be difficult to find though, as they spend most of their time in the trees. Ireland also has only about 8% tree coverage – one of the lowest in Europe - so squirrels occur in pockets around the country. Red squirrels are particularly rare along the west and north coasts.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Today's Irish Times contains a couple of great articles on exoplanets, planets beyond our solar system, and the involvement of Irish scientists and institutions in their discovery. The search is on to find an Earth like planet somewhere in our galaxy and, subsequently, studying the possibility of discovering life on these planets. Dick Ahlstrom, and his team, have been publishing some brilliant articles in the science section of the Irish Times lately. Keep it up guys. Below is a short extract from one of the articles, Up Close With the Planet Hunters. Click here to read the article in full or here to read about how Irish scientists are leading the exoplanet race. At least now Captain Kirk will have some places to "boldy go to" during his holidays!

"THE MILKY Way galaxy may be littered with Earth-like planets, according to new research. Far from being a rarity, up to 20 per cent of stars similar to our Sun may be orbited by rocky, watery planets. And where there is water, can we assume there is life? Certainly the more Earth-like planets with water that can be found, the greater the likelihood that we might find one that harbours life. Research findings issued earlier this week at the Royal Astronomical Society’s national astronomy meeting in Glasgow suggest that we will identify endless numbers of potential homes should we ever have to leave Earth – provided of course we develop a way to reach them. The search for exoplanets, planets that orbit stars away from our own solar system, has been a popular subject for astronomers presenting findings at the Society’s 2010 meeting. And exoplanets also feature in research that appears this morning in the journal Nature about a new more sensitive method for finding distant planets. The discovery of new exoplanets has become a near daily occurrence – with 446 found as of last Tuesday – since the first was found in 1995. " Read more .....

Recommended Apps - Touch Physics

I have had so much fun with this brilliant app! Touch Physics is a game where you must use your knowledge of the laws of physics to move a small wheel to a target star. Using your finger, you must draw boulders, levers, ramps and more to complete over 50 levels. It's so addictive, but educational as well. I've certainly revised my law of the lever in preparation for this. There is a free version available to download here (if you want to try it out first) but the full version costs just €1.59 and can be downloaded here. I'm also delighted to hear they have just released a second version (I haven't used it yet but click here to download). Below is a short video showing some of the levels and how to play.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Nano, the Next Dimension

If you're looking for a bit of hardcore science for your Wednesday, then here is an excellent video, produced by the European Commission, showing a glimpse of some of the many activities being carried out in Europe using nanotechnology. Nanotechnology, shortened to "nanotech", is the study of the controlling of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally nanotechnology deals with structures of the size 100 nanometers or smaller in at least one dimension, and involves developing materials or devices within that size. Nanosciences and nanotechnologies represent a formidable challenge for the research community and industry. World-class infrastructure, new fundamental knowledge, novel equipment for characterisation and manufacturing, multi-disciplinary education and training for innovative and creative engineering, and a responsible attitude to societal demands are required.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Discount on Electric Cars

The Government annouced yesterday that is to provide a €5,000 grant to incentivise the public to purchase electric cars, when they go on general sale next year. Energy Minister Eamon Ryan said the grant would make electric vehicles comparable in price to conventional cars, but they would run at 20% of the cost. The Government wants Ireland to become an effective test site for electric cars, with an optimistic goal of 10% of all vehicles running on electricity by 2020. Last year, the Government signed a strategic deal with Nissan Renault, and today Renault is showcasing its new electric vehicle, the Fluence. The first registered electric car arrived in Ireland yesterday - a Nissan Leaf (pictured above). However, there is some controversy over the scheme, particularly with the new cars having a maximum range of 160km. In terms of charging facilities, the ESB has already committed to installing 1,500 charging points across the country before the end of next year. For more information on this story click here to visit the Silicon Republic website or here to visit Motricity, the Irish electric car news blog.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Robert Boyle Tops "Greatest Irish Scientist" Poll

In response to the obvious omission of any scientists from RTÉ's recent list of "Ireland's Greatest", the wonderful Science.ie set up an online poll to find out who was or is Ireland's Greatest Scientist. And the winner is .................. Robert Boyle! According to their website...
"Robert Boyle was your most popular choice, with almost two third (32.2%) of your votes. Next were the mathematician William Rowan Hamilton (21.2%) and Ernest Walton (17.8%), who won the Nobel Prize for smashing the atom."
I didn't make the list, but I'm OK! To find out more visit their website. To find out more about the life and work of Robert Boyle, click here to visit a previous Frog Blog post.

New Giant Lizard Discovered

Last week we reported on our Twitter page the discovery of a strange new lizard found in the Philippines. It has a double penis, is as long as a tall human, and lives in a heavily populated area of the Philippines. Yet somehow the giant lizard, Varanus bitatawa, went undetected by science until now. Long known to Filipino tribal hunters, the monitor lizard was identified as a new species in 2009 via its DNA, scale pattern, size, and peculiar penis, a new study revealed last week. At about two meters long, the new lizard species is closely related to the world's largest living lizard, the Komodo Dragon. Unlike the Komodo, though, Varanus bitatawa has evolved to be a vegetarian!

Recommended Apps - Speed Anatomy

Screenshot from Speed Anatomy
Continuing our series on iPhone and iPod applications for science education (or education in general), the latest app to feature is the excellent Speed Anatomy. This excellent app allows the user quickly revise the various parts and structures of the body. It assesses how quickly you can find the part named on the top of the page - just point at it with your finger. This is a must for any biology student (in second or third level). There are a number of apps in this series including Speed Bones - if you need to revise the various aspects of the skeleton (possibly a bit advanced for second level). To download Speed Anatomy click here. There is also a free "lite" version available to download here. For any further information visit their website by clicking here.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

YouTube Saturday - Bubble Science

This week's featured YouTube video comes from the Discovery Channel's Time Warp program. They learn about the science of bubbles from Keith Johnson of BubbleArtist.com (You can see loads more video on their website).  Fun and educational, right up the Frog Blog's door (I don't think frog's have doors generally, but we do).

Friday, 9 April 2010

Agricultural Science Video

A new blog, Agricultural Science Digital Resources, has been set up by the Frog Blog team to help teachers of agricultural science incorporate video content, from YouTube, into their lessons. The blog contains numerous videos on topics ranging from lambing in sheep to milking machines to liver fluke to farm machinery. It should prove a very useful tool for all agricultural science teachers. The latest post features the video below, an excellent half hour look at the role biotechnology plays in agriculture and medicine. It's is one of the best videos I've ever come across on YouTube and is an essential in terms of teaching genetics in Ag. Science. The video looks at selective breeding, AI, genetic engineering and cloning. Learn about both biomedical and agricultural applications of animal biotechnology and some of the science-based and ethical concerns that are engendered by certain applications.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Oriental Yeti

Times Online report that a strange bald bear like creature, which has been penned the Oriental Yeti has been discovered. Here is the Times Article:

"A bizarre creature, dubbed the “oriental yeti”, has baffled scientists after emerging from ancient woodlands in remote central China. The hairless beast was trapped by hunters in Sichuan province after locals reported spotting what they thought was a bear. One hunter, Lu Chin, said: “It looks a bit like a bear but it doesn’t have any fur and it has a tail like a kangaroo. “It also does not sound like a bear — it has a voice like a cat and it is calling all the time — perhaps it is looking for the rest of its kind or maybe it's the last one. "There are local legends of a bear that used to be a man and some people think that’s what we caught," he added. Now stumped local animal experts have shipped the mystery beast to scientists in Beijing for DNA tests."

It's just weird! But the thoughts of a newly discovered mammal is very intriguing.

Science Photo Competition

To celebrate the re-design of the Communicate Science Blog, our Featured Link this week, they have launched a science photo competition. Anyone can enter and there are no categories other than SCIENCE - once you think the photo has something to do with science, that's good enough for them. Email you entry to this address and include your contact details along with a title and brief description of the photo. Some of the photos will be posted on their blog over the next couple of weeks!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Discovery Mission - Ku-Band Antenna Damaged

It is reported in some US newspapers today that the Ku-Band antenna in the Space Shuttle Discovery was damaged during it launch yesterday. This devise is used to transmit images of the outside of the shuttle (particularly its heat shield) to mission control in Florida. However, NASA reported earlier via Twitter that the astronauts have inspected the heat shield and no damage is reported. The inspection was filmed so mission control can inspect it also when Discovery docks with the ISS. They also report that the damaged antenna won't affect the mission. It must also be noted that there are now more women in space than ever before - the three female astronauts in Discovery will join the one already in the ISS when it docks tomorrow morning!

David Attenborough Sky Bound

No this isn't a story about David Attenborough going to space or anything like that! But, according to the Guardian Newspaper, Sir Dave (close friends like us call him Dave) is on the way to Sky after creating a 3D documentary on pterosaurs, 200 million year old flying dinosaurs. Dave has written and presented Flying Monsters 3D which will be shown in IMAX and other 3D cinemas and will premiere on Sky 3D when it is launched later this year. It is believed the BBC wouldn't allow him make the series in 3D for them. There have been reports that they have been looking for a replacement for Attenborough in the long term (Pick me!!). For more on this story, click here.

Wild Journeys

Wild Journeys, RTÉ's most recent natural history series, promised to show us the remarkable migratory journeys of many of Ireland's native creatures - from the Humpback Whale to the Barnacle Goose. Aired over the past three Sundays, Wild Journeys brought these wonderful feats of nature into our sitting rooms, living up to their promise. Produced by Crossing the Line Films and shot in HD, this wonderful production certainly engaged my imagination. The excellent photography, along with the well structured narration, brought the stories to life (If being very critical, the narrator did not sound as passionate about the migrations as she should have and her voice has quite monotonous). The series was filmed over two years and engaged some of the country's top naturalists - their stories often as interesting as the animals. According to their brilliant website, Wild Journeys

"... features Ireland’s most heroic wildlife travelers and the incredible journeys they carry out every single year. From the 20,000 km flown annually by the Manx Shearwaters to the transatlantic voyages of our eels and salmon, ‘Wild Journeys’ follows these voyagers to the ends of the Earth, showing the extraordinary challenges they meet and the magnificent landscapes they visit en-route."
So well done to all involved. I only wish the series was a little longer - just three episodes seems a little short. I hope I don't have to wait too long for the DVD. If you missed the series you can view all the episodes on their excellent website (I'm not exagerating - up their with the BBC), which also includes information on all the animals featured in the series, some excellent photos, maps showing each animals migration, some video clips (please create a YouTube Channel if you're reading this) and even a kids zone. Click here to visit.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Discovery Launch

Later this morning, the Space Shuttle Discovery will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on the 33rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station (|ISS). This will be the fourth last shuttle mission before their retirement later this year and will last 13 days. NASA are keen to use the shuttle to complete the ISS before that date. Discovery's flight will deliver supplies and equipment to the ISS. Inside the shuttle’s cargo bay is the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), a pressurised "moving van" that will be temporarily installed to the station. The module will deliver supplies, a new crew sleeping quarters and science racks that will be transferred to the station’s laboratories. The 13-day mission will include three spacewalks to switch out a gyroscope on the station’s truss, or backbone, install a spare ammonia storage tank and return a used one, and retrieve a Japanese experiment from the station’s exterior. To find out more about the Space Shuttle, click here.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

YouTube Saturday - Wonders of the Universe

If we were lucky enough to see the brilliant BBC series, Wonders of the Solar System, then you were treated to a fantastic collection of brilliantly structured episodes revealing the real marvels of our galaxy. Professor Brian Cox (the "rock star physicist" who looks as awed as I do when watching it) visits some of the most stunning locations on earth to describe how the laws of nature have carved natural wonders across the solar system. In this clip, he searches for evidence of liquid water on Mars. Why not check out the BBC's excellent guide to the solar system by clicking here. Incidentally, Brian Cox was also working on the ATLAS experiement with CERN. The final episode of the series is on Sunday at 9 on BBC2.

Friday, 2 April 2010

100 Best Websites for Science Teachers

The Forensic Scientist Blog has recently published their list of the 100 Best Websites for Science Teachers. Sadly, the Froggies didn't make it but here is the top five:

1.Exploratorium: Get a virtual museum of science, art, and the human perception here. You can explore straight from the homepage or get webcasts. Be sure and click on the Educate tab for tonnes of teaching tools such as activities, science snacks, and the Iron Science Teacher.

2. How Stuff Works: This leading science website does just what the title promises. It takes everyday subjects such as cars, snowstorms, and loads of others and puts them in an easy to understand context. Choose from subjects such as animals, electronics, geography, and several expert blogs.

3. Discovery Science: Stop here for the website of a leading science channel. There are games, quizzes, and much more. They even have an exclusive interview with the creator of “Avatar” and the science behind it.

4. Extreme Science: Here you’ll find world records in natural science, including earth science and the plant and animal kingdom. There are also challenges, lessons, and loads more.

5. Federal Resources for Educational Excellence: Get free science teaching resources from the U.S. Department of Education. Science tools include those for applied, Earth, life, and physical sciences. There are also options in other subjects.

Click here to see the exhausted list.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

New Running Dinosaur Discovered

Illustration by Matt Van Rooijen
A new species of running dinosaur has been unearthed in China. The new dinosaur belongs to a group called Alvarezsaurs, which are longed legged dinosaurs adapted for running. They are closely related to the ancestors of all modern birds. Nicknamed the roadrunner, the tiny dinosaur is one of the smallest and leggiest Alvarezsaurs ever discovered. Remains of the newly discovered species, Xixianykus zhangi, were found last year by a local farmer in China's Henan Province, around 250 miles south of Beijing. The dinosaur lived about 85 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous period. Scientists believe the little dinosaur was no more than 50cm long with legs around 25cm long. It is also believed "roadrunner" had feathers! National Geographic News have more on this story.

Giant Frog Found in Mayo

John Edwards with the Giant Frog
A new species of giant frog has been found near Lake Conn in County Mayo. The newly discovered species has somehow gone unnoticed for centuries, possibly due to its relatively small catchment area and exceptional camouflage. The frog was found by John Edwards (pictured across with the giant frog), a zoologist from NUI Galway, while carrying a preliminary survey of frog spawn in the area. "I never expected to see such a specimen here", Mr Edwards declared. "It's hair raising stuff". Ironically, Mr Edwards has very little hair. The frog is very similar in size to the Goliath Frog and it has been named Rana biffous, after our Taoiseach Brian "Biffo" Cowen. For more on this story, click here.