o The Frog Blog: January 2010

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Orville Wright

Todays marks the anniversary of the death of Orville Wright, the American pioneer aviator, who with his brother, Wilbur, invented the first powered airplane, Flyer, capable of sustained, controlled flight. At Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville made the first ever manned powered flight, airborn for 12-sec. By 1905, they had improved the design, built and and made several long flights in Flyer III, which was the first fully practical airplane (1905), able to fly up to 38-min and travel 24 miles (39-km). Their Model A was produced in 1908, capable of flight for over two hours of flight. They sold considerable numbers, but European designers became strong competitors. After Wilbur died of typhoid in 1912, Orville sold his interest in the Wright Company in 1915. He died on January 30th 1948.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Dinosaur Colour Revealed

A group of scienists, some based in Univeristy College Dublin, have revealed the lost colours of feathered dinosaurs. The first solid proof of pigmentation has been spotted in the fossils of dinosaur tail feathers of a relatively small meat-eating dinosaur found in China and named Sinosauropteryx. It was a red ginger colour, with an unusually stripped tail. The finding also provides further conclusive evidence that some dinosaurs had feathers, further linking them to birds, say some analysts. For more information on this study, click here to see an article from yesterday's Irish Times.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The First Automobile

Today in 1886, German engineer Karl Benz received the world’s first patent for a practical internal combustion engine powered automobile, a carriage-like three-wheeler with tubular framework, mounted on a Benz-designed, one-horsepower, one-cylinder engine with tiller steering and a buggy-like seat for two. The engine was a refinement of the four-stroke engine designed by Nikolaus Otto (another German), who had refined his from Lenoir's two-stroke engine. Though the motorwagen was awkward and frail, it incorporated some essential elements that would characterize the modern vehicle: electrical ignition, differential, mechanical valves, carburetor, engine cooling system, oil and grease cups for lubrication, and a braking system.

The iPad is Coming

Wow. The iPad is on its way and it looks like the next big gadget on the Frog Blog wish list. The iPad is a touch screen device, somewhere between a laptop and a smart phone. It will have a high-resolution, 9.7-inch LED-backlit IPS display which will make it perfect for web browsing, watching movies, or viewing photos. It is also only a half inch thin and weighs less than 1kg. It will be able to use most of the applications already designed for the iPhone and more. While you will be able to use an updated version of iWorks, Apple's equivalent to Microsoft Office, the iPad will more likely be for home and personal use rather than business. So is it just a large iPhone. Well according to reports, it's much more. I for one can't wait. For more information on the iPad visit Apple's website by clicking here.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

London Trip Group Photo

Last weekend's tour to London was a great success with a great time had by all. The pupils were kept extremely busy, with a full schedule of events. For many the highlight was the Imperial War Museum, which was packed with a whole array of wonderful exhibitions, the most interesting yet humbling was the holocaust exhibition. Reports of the trip will follow over the next few days and a photo slideshow is also to some. In the mean time, above is a group photo (minus a couple of teachers) taken just after our visit to the Tower of London, with Tower Bridge in the background.

Trinity College Helps Illuminate the Sun

Scientists in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) were celebrating today after the first images of the Sun from the new satellite, Proba 2, were beamed back to Earth. The team of physicists from TCD, led by Dr Peter Gallagher, were responsible for developing novel image processing techniques to enhance and analyse these spectacular new images. The satellite will beam down images of the sun every minute for the next four years in an effort to understand more about solar storms. The images are taken using different wavelengths of light and therefore appear different colour. For more information click here or click here for a recent press release from TCD's physics department.

Apple Tablet

Apple are set to announce a new produce later this evening and it is widely believe to be a touch screen tablet computer. The speculation is that the new device will resemble a large iPhone but have the same power capabilities of a Macbook or laptop. Analysts expect the new device to be a 10-inch touch-screen tablet that delivers music, videos, games, webpages, books and other content. Users will be able to download apps just like an iPhone. We still don't know the name of the device or indeed what it will look like (the picture above is an artists representation) but we are all very excited here in the Frog Blog. I'll have two please!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Port-au-Prince from the ISS

A new photo, taken from the International Space Station, has just been released by NASA showing the devastation caused by the major earthquake which hit Haiti a few weeks ago. An Expedition 22 crew member onboard the ISS took this image of the 260-year-old city Port-au-Prince on Jan. 18, 2010 when they could view the area. This was a few days after the major Haitian earthquake occurred and brought devastation to Port-au-Prince, Carrefour, and the surrounding region. The Toussaint Louverture International Airport, clearly visible on the north side of Port-au-Prince, is the central focal point of incoming international aid. Click on the image for a larger resolution.

Melting Glaciers

Reports over the past number of days from the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) indicate that the rate at which the world's glaciers are melting is continuing to rise. The WGMS records data for 96 of the world's approximately 160,000 glaciers. The latest preliminary figures for 2007-08 show the average reduction in thickness across all the 96 glaciers was nearly half a metre, and since 1980 they have collectively lost an average of 13m thickness. During that year 30 of the 96 glaciers gained in mass. Some reports last week from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that all the Himalayan glaciers could melt completely by 2025. However, this statement has now been retracted after the IPCC claimed the statement was not based on any "facts". They have since apologised for the unsubstantiated assertion.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Science Fact of the Week 41 - Argentinosaurus

There is some debate as to what the largest dinosaur that ever existed is, but most now believe it to be Argentinosaurus, a long necked dinosaur from a group known as the Sauropods. As you can guess from its name, the remains of Argentinosaurus were dug up in present-day Argentina, in South America. The dinosaur lived on the then island continent of South America somewhere between 97 and 94 million years ago, during the mid Cretaceous Period. So far, researchers haven't found an entire skeleton, but what they have found, four-foot long vertebrae and five-foot-long tibias, indicate that Argentinosaurus was a truly titanic sauropod. So what are sauropods? Well, palaeontologists use the term to describe large, four-legged, plant-eating dinosaurs with bulky bodies, long necks and tails, and tiny heads with small brains (in fact, sauropods are believed to have been the least intelligent of all the dinosaurs). The name "sauropod" itself is Greek for "lizard foot," which oddly enough was among these dinosaurs' least distinctive traits!

Interestingly, the remains of Argentinosaurus were dug up near the fossils of another huge dinosaur - the carnivorous Giganotosaurus. This has led palaeontologists to speculate that giganotosauruses may have hunted argentinosauruses in packs - a chase that would have been deadly for any smaller creatures that got in the way! In the BBC series, Chased by Dinosaurs, Nigel Marvin "travels back in time" to witness such a hunt. Click here to see an extract from this episode.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Cnfosienug Elsgnih Lnagugae!!!!

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. If you can raed tihs, psot it to yuor fbceoosk pgae or on titwetr. Olny 55% of plepoe can raed tihs. Waht do you tihnk? Deos it wrok for ohetr lngauaegs aslo? Eamil us now!

Famous Irish Scientists - John Phillip Holland

John Phillip Holland was born in 1841 in Liscannor, Co.Clare. It was John Holland who developed, in America, the first modern submarine which could travel 800km on the surface of the sea and 40km submerged.

John was a teacher in Ireland until 1872, when he emigrated to the USA, where he taught in Paterson, New Jersey, until 1879. He drew up plans of submarines and, in 1879, with funds by the Fenians, built a small submarine which successfully operated submerged. He formed a company in 1895 and was awarded a contract to build a submarine for the US Navy. His first boat was a failure, but his second passed Navy tests. It had a gasoline engine for surface propulsion and an electric motor fed by storage batteries power when submerged. The arrangement of tanks to be flooded to submerge the boat was similar to that used in modern submarines. His submarine was purchased by the US Navy in 1900.

It was not until after his death that Holland became widely recognised and renowned as the inventor of the modern submarine. In 1964 a plaque was erected in Liscannor to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his death.

Friday, 22 January 2010

London Trip

Thirty three pupils and five staff set off for London early this morning on the first combined history and biology trip to London. The group will spend four busy days in the English capital, visiting a range of educational and cultural attractions. The group will visit the Natural History Museum and the Darwin Centre later today as well as a west end show this evening. Other attractions include the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum, the Science Museum, the Tower of London and the National Portrait Gallery to name but a few. The touring party will return on Monday night after what will surely be a great trip.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Why Your Sofa Could Harm Your Health.

This is an extract from today's Guardian newspaper.

A common household chemical found in everything from sofas and carpets to pots and pans has been linked to an increased risk of thyroid disease, in the first major study carried out on its effect upon health. The substance, used to make nonstick cookware, stain-resistant furnishings and greaseproof wrappers, is believed to get into the body through contaminated food or household dust. Once in the body it accumulates in organs and other tissues. People with high levels of the chemical in their blood were found to be twice as likely to have thyroid problems as those with the lowest levels, according to a survey of medical records of nearly 4,000 otherwise healthy US adults. The study is published in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. Click here to read the remainder of this article.

Pupil Report - 4th Generation iPhone on the Way?

In our second iPhone related post in 2 days, Jack Dunne, Form IV, brings us news of the newest iPhone release.

Foxconn the makers of all Apple iPhones has reportedly received orders for the next iPhone. Omnivision the makers of the current 3.2 MP image sensor in the current iPhone, has apparently also received orders for 5MP image sensors. Also details regarding 32 GB memory and a ‘Digital Compass’ and ‘Touch Sensitive Case’ have been leaked. Unfortunately no details have been released by Apple for their latest offering so all that we can do is speculate. Members of the Mac forums suggest a 1GHz processor, larger resolution screen, 32 GB and 64GB memory, a front facing camera, an OLED screen similar to the new iMac one and maybe a full hardware QWERTY keyboard.

But all we can hope for is a breakthrough device unlike the 3G and 3GS models which were simply revised versions of the original iPhone. Speculated release date is Summer 2010.

Penguin Awareness Day

It's Penguin Awareness Day, a day when we should, I suppose, become more aware of penguins. But of course the Frog Blog is already well aware of penguins and have been bringing you the penguin corner for quite a while. But just in case you need more, here is a link to 8 wonderful videos about our flightless feathered friends! Click here. We are also keenly looking forward to April 25th and World Penguin Day!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Happy Birthday Buzz!

Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, turns 80 today. Although the famous Apollo 11 mission was over four decades ago (July 20, 1969 in fact) when NASA was in its infancy, Buzz continues to be very vocal in matters of human spaceflight. He is an outspoken critic of spaceflight policy and an expert in communicating all things space to the public. Well anyway, happy buzz-day!

Recommended Apps - Pocket Heart

Pocket Heart is a brilliant application, available to download now for your Apple iPhone, which allows you explore the workings of the human heart. The programme provides a useful and practical 3D display of the heart, complete with interactive quizzes and videos. There is also a Heart Facts section which looks at the wider structures of the circulatory system and your heart's health. It is available to download on either your PC / Mac or directly to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Click here to visit their site or here to view in iTunes and to download.

Pocket Heart is produced by eMedia, a Galway based software company and costs just €1.59. Well worth downloading.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Pupil Report - Artificial Blood

The quest to create artificial blood is big business, with more than £1 billion being spent over the last 20 years in an attempt to create a true alternative to blood. Among those around the globe seeking a viable blood alternative are scientists at the University of Essex who have just submitted a worldwide patent for their engineered hemoglobin. Over 75 million units of donated blood are given to people worldwide for use in hospitals. However, there are growing concerns about its use in routine operations. A true blood substitute would be very useful as it could have a long shelf life, be stored away from hospitals, need not be matched for blood group and be guaranteed free of contamination by any present or future viruses.

The starting materials for blood substitutes have included chemicals used to help make atom bombs, cow blood and blood grown in bacteria. However, to date the world's scientists have failed to produce a safe alternative to blood. The reason for this failure, according to Professor Chris Cooper, a biochemist and blood substitute expert at the University of Essex, lies in hemoglobin, the red molecule inside blood cells that carries oxygen around the body. "Basically, hemoglobin produces free radicals that can damage the heart and kidneys," explained Professor Cooper. "The trick with artificial blood is to modify the molecule to be less toxic, but still perform the vital role of carrying oxygen around the body. No one has managed this yet." What makes Professor Cooper's group engineered hemoglobin so special is that it is less toxic. Professor Cooper's work on blood substitutes is funded by UK government research councils in Biotechnology and Biological Sciences (BBSRC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPSRC).

By Natalia Izquierdo Garcia, Form IV

Monday, 18 January 2010

Science Fact of the Week 40 - Sleep

Sleep is a physical and mental resting state in which a person becomes relatively inactive and unaware of the environment. In essence, sleep is a partial detachment from the world, where most external stimuli are blocked from the senses.

Normal sleep is characterized by a general decrease in body temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and most other bodily functions. In contrast, the human brain never decreases in activity. Studies have shown that the brain is as active during sleep as it is when awake. Throughout an eight-hour sleep cycle, a normal adult alternates between two very different states, non-REM and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Non-REM sleep consists of four stages that range from light dozing to deep sleep. Throughout this state of sleep, muscle activity is still functional, breathing is low, and brain activity is minimal. Approximately 75% of the sleep cycle is spent in non-REM sleep.

Most dreaming takes place during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Periodic eyelid fluttering, muscle paralysis, and irregular breathing, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure distinguish REM from non-REM sleep stages. REM sleep is also called "paradoxical" sleep because brain wave activity is similar to an awakened state. It is during REM sleep that the brain blocks signals to the muscles to remain immobile so dreams will not be acted out. Adults spend about 20 - 25% of their sleep cycle in REM sleep.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Pupil Report - Leaves on Mars?

NASA scientists have apparently discovered some sort of “tree” like images on mars. This encounter seems to have had some sort of an impact on this the on-going talk of life on mars and has sparked a few worried faces. “Trees” have turned out not actually to be “Trees!” Pictures of mars, which is known to be just over 62 miles away actually showed images of trails of displaced sand. This is due to the winter months causing the carbon dioxide ice to cloak the sand dunes, during the spring this ice melts causing the dark black streaks to run down the side; Thus, causing an amazing effect on the sand…a “tree-like” effect. Or not? This again shows that Mars is quite similar to earth, and its climatic effects, as both planets have both undergone a massive amount of climate change in the last million years. To read more, please click here.

By Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi, Form IV

Pupil Report - Platypus Venom Explored

Duck-billed platupus are one of the few venomous mammals. The male can deliver a sting that causes immediate, excruciating pain, like hundreds of hornet stings. Scientists are making progress into what is actually in its deadly cocktail. Scientists previously showed that the venom triggers certain chemical changes in cultured human nerve cells that can lead to the sensation of pain. Until now, however, scientists did not know the exact components of the venom responsible for this effect. Recently, scientists collected samples of platypus venom and used high-tech instruments to separate and characterize its components. They identified 11 new 'peptides', or protein subunits, in the venom. Studies using nerve cells suggest that one of these substances, called 'Heptapeptide 1', is the main agent responsible for triggering pain.

By Tom Gibbs, Form IV

Agricultural Science Notes - Potatoes

Mr. Jones has updated his notes on Potatoes for Leaving Certificate Agricultural Science. See below:


Friday, 15 January 2010

Frog Blog Twitter Page

We've just made our 100th tweet! Yippee!! Go to www.twitter.com/thefrogblog to follow our tweets!

30 New Frog Species Found

A team of scientists working in a ­threatened rainforest in Ecuador have discovered a species of snail sucking snake, 30 varieties of frog, and a gecko so small it can perch on top of a pencil. Of the 30 frog species, a new glass frog was discovered. You can actually see the frog's heart beating within. For more information, click here.

Pupil Report - New Way to Salt Roads

Everyone knows that when it snows and it is icy, the government make the choice of spreading salt, to give grip and help melt and weaken the icy layer. Ireland has found three home- grown experts on the subject. These three young students were found and recognised at the BT YOUNG SCIENTIST AND TECHNOLOGY EXHIBITION being held at the RDS now. These students have found and made a new road salt mix that works better than the salt used during the period of snow, it would have also cost less. The three students and inventors are Emily Long (16), Fionnuala Kennedy (15) and Julianne O’Connell (15) from Presentation Secondary School, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

This new salt mix was designed especially for Irish conditions and would have been more environmentally friendly. It also would be able to melt the ice just as quick, and able to keep irish road surfaces from freezing again from - 18 degrees. Each of the students carried out a detailed study on the various salts, learning that molasses is sometimes used along with salts to decrease icy roads in Canada. However they decided to look at salt formations better suited for Ireland. Their final result was a mixture that could de-ice faster, cause less damage and keep roads clear at the temperatures experienced in the country last week.

By Zuleika O’Malley, Form IV

Ted Talks - Exploring the Invisible

Nick Veasey shows outsized X-ray images that reveal the otherworldly inner workings of familiar objects -- from the geometry of a wildflower to the anatomy of a Boeing 747. Producing these photos is dangerous and painstaking, but the reward is a superpower: looking at what the human eye can't see.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Haiti Earthquake Relief

A major humanitarian effort is underway to secure the safety of hundreds of thousands after a major earthquake in Haiti yesterday. Homes have been destroyed and some estimate the number of dead to be over 100,000. Efforts are still underway to find more survivors beneath the rubble and aid agencies are appealing to the public for support for the hundreds of thousands left homeless, injured or feared dead. The Irish government today announced that they will give €2 million to the relief fund but more is needed. The school will be sending money from our emergency fund but some pupils are making additional fundraising efforts. Below is a list of aid agencies and how to send aid.

Concern Worldwide, which has been working in Haiti since 1994, has launched an emergency appeal following the earthquake. Donations will be accepted on 1850-410510 or through Concern.net. People can donate to Oxfam by calling 1850 30 40 55 (NI 0800-0304055), visiting OxfamIreland.org, or at their local Oxfam Ireland shop. GOAL has allocated €250,000 from its emergency fund as an immediate response and is accepting donations from the public. Call 01-2809779 or visit GOAL.ie. UNICEF Ireland launched an emergency appeal this morning for the children of Haiti. Donations can be made securely at UNICEF.ie or by calling 01-8783000. Trócaire has also appealed for funds to help those affected by the earthquake. To donate, visit Trócaire.org or call 1850-408408 (NI: 0800-9121200).

My Science Career

A new website, penned MyScienceCareer.ie, has been launched which aims to provide resources to help people find out more about a career in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The website is produced by Discover Science & Engineering (DSE), the Irish Government initiative which aims to increase interest in science, technology, innovation and engineering among students, teachers and members of the public in Ireland. The DSE is also responsbible for websites like science.ie, the excellent and award winning primaryscience.ie and one of my favourite blogs myscience.ie. The new site contains a famous Irish scientists section, science related articles, a science career glossary, video interviews with scientists about their work and a wonderful “Science Ambassadors” section profiling Irish scientists of today. Click here to visit the site.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Burj Khalifa

The tallest building in the world recently opened its doors for the first time. The Burj Khalifa is 828 metres tall, surpassing the previous record holder, Taipei 101 in Taiwan, by an astonishing 300 metres. There are over 160 stories, with the observation deck located on level 124, and 26,000 windows. The new building houses an Armani Hotel, apartments and office suites. The Burj Kharifa breaks numerous records and is a true feat of engineering. For more information visit www.burjdubai.com.

BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2010

One of the highlights of the Irish scientific calendar, the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, opens to the public tomorrow promising over 500 projects on display and four exhibition halls. This is the 46th year of the exhibition and it has simply grown and grown in both popularity and quality, now recognised as the biggest event of its kind in the world. It is a great family or class day out and offers so much. So, why not go and visit the exhibition in the RDS from Thursday until Saturday. Highlights this year are exhibitions on robots, W5 experiments and how David Beckham is a geometry genius. For more information visit their website by clicking here.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

And we're back! Sort of ....

The start of term has been delayed by the poor weather with pupils now returning on Wednesday evening with classes resuming on Thursday morning. The Frog Blog will start posting some new "stuff" shortly, just as soon as we defrost!