o The Frog Blog: October 2010

Saturday, 30 October 2010

YouTube Saturday - Galaxy Far Far Away

Recently we reported that scientists have discovered the most distant object ever observed from Earth - a distant galaxy named UDFy-38135539. The galaxy is believed to be 13.1 billion light years away. This week's YouTube Saturday video takes a closer look at the furthest object known.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Half Term

In case you've been wondering where we are - well it's half term and we're taking a well deserved break from blogging, at least for a few days. So we'll catch up with you soon, Saturday to be precise, for another science slice of YouTube action!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

YouTube Saturday - Brian Cox's Guide to Quantum Mechanics

In The Hunt for the Higgs, Cern physicist Professor Brian Cox (presenter of the brilliant Wonders of the Solar System) presents his handy guide to quantum mechanics and the subatomic world, the elusive Higgs boson and the biggest machine on Earth - the Large Hadron Collider or LHC. This is our second YouTube Saturday video featuring everyone's favourite super geek, Brian Cox. Click here to see his Ted.com lecture "What really goes on in the Large Hadron Collider".

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Alfred Nobel

Today in 1833, Alfred Bernhard Nobel was born. The Swedish chemist is probably best known as the inventor of dynamite and other, more powerful explosives and for the annual prizes which bare his name. An explosives expert like his father, Nobel invented a safe and manageable form of nitroglycerin he called dynamite in 1866, and later, smokeless gunpowder and gelignite. He quickly amassed a huge fortune, much of which was left to fund the Nobel Prizes. First awarded in 1901, these prizes were for achievements in the areas of physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, and peace. The sixth prize, for economics, was instituted in his honour in 1969. For a more comprehensive biography click here. For some quotes from the great man, click here.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

New Galaxy is Furthest Object from Earth

Back in April 2009 we reported that scientists had discovered the furthest object from Earth - a gamma ray burst 13 billion light years away, spotted by the NASA Swift 3 satellite. But now astronomers have trumped that finding, discovering a galaxy 13.1 billion light years away. The galaxy (brilliantly named UDFy-38135539) was pictured last year by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3, and was most likely formed a mere 600 million years after the big bang. To measure the distance to the galaxy, the scientists took a spectrum of the object using a spectrograph mounted on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile. By analyzing the spectrum, the researchers determined that the galaxy was a distance of 13.1 billion light-years away from Earth. Simple!

TY Coastwatch Expedition

On Friday October 8th, twelve Transition Year pupils from St. Columba's headed west for Connemara and Dog's Bay to partake in a Coastwatch Survey. The survey involved patrolling a 2.5 km stretch of coastline, analysing the plants and animals of the shore. Hamish Law described the survey as "a mesmerising walk along the coast watching the waves pummelling the rocks". There was also some time for some R & R, with the pupils being treated to a Murder Mystery Tour on the Saturday evening. The event was organised by Mr Sherwood who was accompanied by Mr. Gibbs on the tour. Below is a series of photos, taken by the pupils, of their work on the shore.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Butterflies of St. Columba's - Speckled Wood

Speckled Wood
Speckled Wood (Pararge argeria)  This dark brown butterfly is most often seen in the lower Deerpark flitting among the oak trees, or sitting on a leaf sunning itself. It does not feed on the nectar in flowers as most butterflies do but on the honeydew secreted by aphids as they suck sap from plants. The lines of black dots, with central white dots, along the outer fringes of its wings make it easy to spot. Its caterpillar is green with light green to cream stripes running the length of its body.

Butterflies of St. Columba's - Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io) This is the most colourful butterfly normally seen around the College and it is usually on the wing from June to September. The two large iridescent blue eyes on each of the dark red wings make it very easy to identify. The purpose of these is to startle intending predators when the wings are opened suddenly. The black underwings make it surprisingly difficult to see when at rest. The caterpillar is black with spiny protuberances along its back and orange/brown prolegs: It feeds on nettles which are very common in the Deerpark.

Prezi - Human Evolution

A Prezi is a fancy new type of online presentation tool, one which allows the user zoom in and out, flip 180 degrees and bring their presentations to life. Gone are the days when PowerPoint will forever bore your pupils! We've started to experiment with Prezi's over the last few days and will publish some learning presentations over the coming months. We haven't mastered the free software just yet so please forgive our first attempt - a short presentation, suitable for TY biology, on human evolution. For more information on Prezi click here.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Science Week Lectures

The lecture series for this week's Science Week has been announced. These lectures will take place inside the Science Gallery, are all free but require pre-booking. The lectures look at the moon landing "hoax", at how science can help you attract the opposite sex and if the world will end in 2012. For more informaiton visit Science.ie or the Science Gallery to book tickets.

Science Quotes - Niels Bohr

"A physicist is just an atom's way of looking at itself."

"Einstein, stop telling God what to do!"

"If quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet."

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that it is not crazy enough."

Saturday, 16 October 2010

YouTube Saturday - Homemade Space Program

This week's science related YouTube video documents the father and son team who sent a HD camera and an iPhone to space on the back of a weather baloon. The team from New York sent their space bound device floating up just outside Brooklyn and captured 100 minutes of the epic ascent and descent. Luke Geissbuhler and his son Max were able to recover their make-shift device using the GPS equiped iPhone. Amazing! Homemade science at its very best!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Science Rap Competition

A new competition, open to all pupils in secondary schools in Ireland, gives you an opportunity to win a brilliant iPad. The Science Rap competition asks you to "express yourself and your thoughts about science and technology through rap music and share your musical magic with the world!" To enter this very different competition simply compose your science rap based on this year’s Science Week theme, ‘Our Place in Space’, video it and upload it to YouTube. Once you have uploaded the video to YouTube, send a completed application form to apc@ucc.ie. The closing date for entries is Wednesday, November 3rd 2010. Application forms and further information is available on the Science Week website here. By the way, this year's Science Week takes place from the 7th to the 14th of November and there is loads of information on their excellent website.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Irish Teaching & Learning Festival

The inaugural Irish Teaching & Learning Festival takes place this Friday and Saturday in the Citywest Conference Centre in Dublin. Click here for more information.

National Tree Day

Last Thursday, the 7th October, was National Tree Day. Over the last number of years, Mr Swift (along with his Form III CSPE pupils) have planted a tree to mark the occasion and this year was no exception. This year’s tree was the birch and Mr Swift, along with Form III A, planted the tree in the College grounds as part of their CSPE action project. On National Tree Day itself, the whole school were treated to a talk from Nicolo Carlotti and Michael Higgins about the event, representing the pupils in the set, speaking about the birch tree’s origins. The aim of our action project is to raise awareness about the importance of trees and of the National Tree Council of Ireland

The birch is a tough native Irish tree and can grow in harsh conditions. It has a rapid growth rate in its first twenty years.It matures at forty years and grows to a maximum height of eighty feet. The bark is a bit pinkish in young trees, turning into the whitish silver it is known for, and then the bark darkens with age.

Article and photograph by Josh Mathews and Juliana Huggard

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

New Mammal Discovered in Madagascar

A new cat sized mammal has been discovered in Madagascar, the first new carnivorous mammal to be discovered in over 20 years. Scientists found the creature in the wetlands of Lake Alaotra, the largest lake in Madagascar. Its marsh habitat is under pressure from invasive species and pollution. The animal resembles a mongoose and has been called Durrell's vontsira (Salanoia durrelli) in honour of conservationist Gerald Durrell. It belongs to a family of carnivores called the Eupleridae, only known in Madagascar, and it is likely to be one of the most threatened carnivores in the world.

The animal was first spotted swimming in a lake by a team from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 2004 while they were surveying bamboo lemurs. After briefly examining the animal the team suspected they had found a new species and took photographs of it. Subsequent analysis of specimens of another species, the brown-tailed vontsira, in the Natural History Museum's collections, showed that they had found a new species.

Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands are known as a biodiversity hotspot because of their great richness in species. They have 7 families of plants, and 15 families of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish, which live nowhere else on Earth.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Irish Agricultural Industry by Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi

Agriculture, without doubt, is a key catalyst and drive behind both the economic and social sectors in Ireland. Ireland’s mild weather and rich soil content allows Ireland to devote 6.9 million hectares for agricultural purposes, employing over 10% of the Irish workforce. Although exportation is not wholly relied on, when we take into account the reduction of importation costs, the agri-food sector reports over 25% of net foreign earnings. It is thus clear that agriculture in Ireland holds incredible importance and without such emphasis placed upon it, Ireland would lack culturally, socially and of course economically.

Ireland over the years, although moving towards industrialized developments, has held fast to its connection with the farming industry. This is most likely due to the parallel development of Ireland's exporting farm produce. In contrast to this, other countries may produce only enough in order to be self-sufficient, yet still there are some in Europe that will import needed food. This is not to say that the Irish are consistent in their levels of agricultural involvement. A detrimental drop occurred in the percentage of those that work in the agri-sector, in 1926 the impressive 53% saw a decline in 1990 to just under 13.5%. It is also difficult for Ireland to compete with those farms around the world that produce at a much larger scale, if we can compare that of a sheep farm in New Zealand and a farm in Ireland, averaging at 73 acres. These small farms are incredibly vital to Irish agriculture, as with not many large contractors, Ireland relies on these low sized farms as a driving force. This doesn’t mean that Ireland is in somewhat lacking, it is accountable for over 28% of exports in forest and fishery exports, second to Denmark who sits at 34.3%.

Science Quotes - Plato

"Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another."

“Science is nothing but perception.”

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”

“Man - a being in search of meaning.”

"Knowledge is the food of the soul."

Saturday, 9 October 2010

YouTube Saturday - Disappearing Glass

This week's science related YouTube video is from Head Rush - the Science Channel's weekly science show for "tweens". It looks at how refraction can cause certain objects to disappear in oil and there is a neat little trick science teachers can play on their pupils. For more information on Head Rush, click here to visit their brilliant website with more wacky science experiments and video clips

Friday, 8 October 2010

Science in School Magazine

The latest issue of the brilliant Science in School magazine is out now and available to download on their equally brilliant website. The Science in School initiative aims to "promote inspiring science teaching by encouraging communication between teachers, scientists, and everyone else involved in European science education. The journal addresses science teaching both across Europe and across disciplines: highlighting the best in teaching and cutting-edge research. It covers not only biology, physics and chemistry, but also earth sciences, engineering and medicine, focusing on interdisciplinary work". The 2010 Autumn issue contains a series of brilliant articles aimed specifically at science teachers across Europe. Here are some of the highlights:

For more information on the new issue of Science in School click here or here to download a copy for yourself. To subscribe to the print journal (for free) click here. Well done to all involved in the production of this brilliant resource.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Solanaceae (potatoes and peppers)

As part of the Transition Year Biology course our pupils study various different plant and animal families or groups. This year's look at flowering plants includes the Solanaceae or potato family, and today we are having a 'tongues-on' tasting session in the Biology Lab (having duly considered hygiene, health and safety of course), which includes: potato, aubergine, tomato, chilli peppers, sweet peppers and jalapeno peppers.

The Solanaceae is a very diverse family of flowering plants (of 90+ genera and 2,600 species) which includes mandrakes, tobacco, deadly nightshade and other poisonous and medicinal plants, as well as the food plants listed above. In botanical terms the family is unusual in having the phloem inside the xylem, and flowers usually have 5 fused petals and an ovary which is set at an angle. Fruits are either berries or dehiscent capsules.

From Silly Science to Super Science

Congraulations to Andre Geim, who this year won the 103rd Nobel Prize for Physics with his work on graphene - the thinnest and probably hardest material in the world. But ten years ago, Mr Geim was the proud recipient of an illustrious Ig Nobel Award (see yesterday's post on this year's winners) for his work on levitating frogs - seriously! Yes the flying frogs experiment involved Geim and his team using a popular magnet toy to make a frog float and he succeeded. His research centered around serious ideas about magnetic levitation, a phenomenon best known for its application in Maglev (magnetic levitation) trains, like the Japanese bullet train. Mr Geim became the first person to be award both an Ig Nobel and a Nobel Prize as an individual. Well done!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Ig Nobel Awards 2010 - Silly Science

The Ig Nobel Awards are a humorous alternative to the Nobel Prizes,which are awarded to research that “first makes us laugh and then makes us think”. The awards are given to true scientists who carry out true research but the topic surrounding their research is light, cheerful and a bit silly. Amongst this year’s winners are (adapted from the Guardian):

Medicine prize
Psychologists Simon Rietveld and Ilja van Beest at the University of Amsterdam share the award for discovering that ashtma can be relieved by rollercoasters.

Physics prize
Awarded to Lianne Parkin and her team at the University of Otago in New Zealand for demonstrating that people are less likely to slip over on icy footpaths if they wear their socks outside their shoes instead of inside.

Biology prize
For discovering the unusual sexual antics of the short-nosed fruit bat earned the award for Gareth Jones at Bristol University

Irish Supernova

A Raheny man has discovered a supernova (an exploding star). Dave Grennan, an amateur photography, was about to give up star gazing for the evening when he spotted the 290 million year old explosion using his powerful telescope. Mr Grennan is said to be "over the moon" after the most significant Irish astronomical discovery ever. The supernova has been given the uninspiring name Supernova 2010 IK and is said to be a type 1b supernova. They happen when a huge star shifts material to a smaller nearby star. Eventually the larger star becomes so unstable it blows up in a catastrophic explosion. These events are extremely rare and Mr Grennan was extremely lucky to be the first witness to such a fantastic event.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Recommended Apps- Frog Dissection

Frog Dissection is an excellent and very user-friendly iPad app that helps you learn more about the internal anatomy of the frog, without the need to actually dissect one! Frog Dissection allows you to dissect a mock chloroformed specimen complete with dissection instruments-pins, scalpel, marker, and forceps. The app provides step-by-step instructions for the dissection  and incorporates some excellent 3D imaginery of the frog's internal organs. The app looks incredibly realistic and anatomincally acurate. There is also a section on frog classification and life-cycle, detail on organ function and anatomical comparisons of human body with the frog body explaining the similarities and differences between the two. Click here to visit their website for more information on the app. Definitely worth a purchase at only €3.99. Click here to visit the app store.

Science Quotes - Edward Teller

"A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective."

“Physics is, hopefully, simple. Physicists are not.”

“The science of today is the technology of tomorrow"

“The main purpose of science is simplicity and as we understand more things, everything is becoming simpler.”

Saturday, 2 October 2010

YouTube Saturday - The Particle Physics Song

The Particle Physics Song is performed by CERN Choir within the CERN Control Centre and brings us a little laugh and some brilliant pictures from inside the particle basher! What do they do there? What are the experiments they work on? All the answers are here - put to song! Higgs, Higgs, glorious Higgs!!