o The Frog Blog: March 2011

Thursday, 31 March 2011


Wonderville is a brilliant website containing some amazing interactive resources to support science teaching. This award-winning site aims to encourage exploration and curiosity, while helping kids discover how much fun science can be. There are over 30 interactive games covering many different science themes including "thing created using science", "things in our world and beyond", "things you just can't see" and "things and how they work". There are also a huge collection of activities including science crosswords, word search puzzles and printable activity sheets. There are also a series of science based cartoon strips. Their video section is simply superb though, with many animated creations which explore real-life applications of science and scientific concepts. Many videos provide a behind the scenes look at science-based careers for those interesting in exploring. The video below is one of Wonderville's best and looks at explaining the concept of the nanoscale - a brilliant production sure to engage any audience. Check out Wonderville now - a must for all science teachers, both primary and secondary - and it's completely free to use and explore. (There is a great feature too - as you explore the site you pick up puzzle pieces along the way and a counter on top of the page records your progress - brilliant for young kids!)

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Can Non-Medical Factors Trigger Sick Leave?

According to recent research carried out by the Irish Small Firms Association 3.9 million working days per year are lost due to illness, an average of 8 per person, with most of these due to minor ailments such as coughs, colds, sickness and diarrhoea. Yet two individuals who are equally ill do not necessarily both report sick. New research by Swedish sociologists suggest that conflicts and stress at work can trigger taking sick leave. For more information click here.

Irish Times BANG Science Monthly #5

The latest issue of BANG, the Irish Times Science Monthly, appears in today's edition of the paper jampacked with a series of fun, interesting and intriguing articles on the wonders of the brain. Some of the articles featured include a look at how our memory works, a look at celebrity brains, a great interview with physicist Brian Greene on reality, a brain factsheet and some more science in movies. Once again, Frog Blogger Humphrey Jones contributes a "Why Haven't They Invented ...." article to BANG, this month focusing on Human Cloning. There is also a dissected look at the latest science news.

BANG is available inside today's Irish Times or online. There is also a BANG Facebook page.

Irish Times BANG - Human Cloning

THE MOST FAMOUS sheep in the world, Dolly, was a clone. Ever since she was created in the Roslin Institute in Scotland in 1997, the scientific community and public have been somewhat obsessed with the idea of cloning animals, including humans. Since Dolly other animals have been cloned including mice, sheep, cows, goats, pigs, rabbits, monkeys and cats and even the milk and meat from offspring of cloned animals has been approved for human consumption, in the EU and US.

But it is the concept of human cloning which really captures our imagination, and several movies have been made with human cloning as the theme, including The Island or TV programmes like Star Wars – The Clone Wars (pictured above). Is it all science fiction? Actually no. The idea that humans could be cloned is not beyond possibility but there are some ethical and scientific issues surrounding it. For instance, the movie The Islandfeatures a cloning farm where human clones are produced for use as spare parts; making the point that human cloning could be abused.

Scientists have various ways of cloning including reproductive cloning, therapeutic cloning and DNA cloning.

Dolly the sheep was produced by reproductive cloning techniques. This involves a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer, where the DNA of the animal you want to clone is removed from one of its cells and inserted into an egg, whose nucleus has been removed. The egg is then stimulated with an electric current to start it dividing. Once the embryo reaches a certain stage it is implanted into a female host where it stays until birth.

The success rate for this technique is low and less that between 1-4 per cent of nuclear transfers are successful (Dolly took 275 attempts). A human clone would be made this way.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Weird & Wonderful Animals - The Komodo Dragon

The Komodo Dragon, also known as ‘Varanus komodoensis’ is the Earth´s largest and heaviest lizard. It belongs to the phylum of ‘Chordata’ and the family ‘Varanidae’. The lizard was unknown to the Western world until the beginning of the 20th century as Komodos only live on the Indonesian islands of Rinca, Gili Dasami, Gili Montang and Komodo where it has its name from. The dragons also used to live on the islands of Flores and Padar but seems to be extirpated or at least very rare today.

On average Komodos reach a length of about 2.5m but there have been animals with a size of up to 3m weighing between 70kg and up to 100kg. The unusual size of the komodo dragons is most likely related to the fact that there are no other carnivorous animals living on these islands. It is believed that the komodo dragons are relatives of the very large varanid dragons that once lived across large parts of South-East Asia but have become extinct after getting in contact with humans. Komodos have a strong sense of smell and they can detect prey over a distance of up to 8km. They can swim very well, they are agile and fast moving on land and they are even able to climb trees.

Komodo dragons have about 60 teeth at a time in their mouth which can be replaced if there is need to. Besides a venom gland in the Komodo´s mouth which disables attacked prey the mouth is also full of virulent bacteria which makes it very dangerous for their prey, in case that it survives an attack of a komodo dragon. The Komodo´s diet consists of various mammals like small deer and pigs as well as birds and invertebrates but there have also been cases of cannibalistic behaviour. It takes the dragons about 3 years to mature and their life expectancy varies between 20 and 40 years. Most of its lifetime a Komodo spends on its own except for the breeding and mating season between May and August. Around 20 eggs are laid by the female in September into burrows at the sides of hills. This is followed by an incubation period of 7 to 8 months.

Why is Science Important?

Science teacher and film maker Alom Shaha sets out to uncover a genuinely satisfying answer to his students' most common question: Why is Science Important? Just brilliant!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Irish Science Teachers' Association Annual Conference & AGM

The Irish Science Teachers' Association's Annual Conference and AGM 2011 takes place on the weekend of April 8th, 9th and 10th in the Tipperary Institute, Thurles. The event is hosted by the Tiperary Branch of the ISTA and promises to provide a whole range of interesting speakers and exciting workshops to its delegates. The jam packed schedule includes talks by Niall Moyna (DCU) on 'Obesity in Children', Prof. Moira O Brien (President of the Irish Osteoporosis Society) on 'Osteoporosis: Are you at risk?', Danielle Nicholson (from NUIG) on 'Campus engagement Between Second and Third Level Education', Dr Barry Fitzgerald (ESERO) on the European Space Agency's Education Material and many more. There are also some workshops taking place including one on 'Electrophoresis' from Dr. Dominic Delaney and 'Activate Your Science Classes' by the infamous Randal Henley. In addition the STEM Mobile Laboratory will carry out a series of workshops on using data logging equipment in the classroom. The Pharmachemical Ireland Teacher Awards will also take place during the jam packed conference, with some excellent prizes for the winning teams of teachers. A full programme of events is downloadable here.

The event is sure to be an extremely interesting and fulfilling weekend and a must for all science teachers in Ireland. The conferences costs just €30 for ISTA members (not including meals) but is open to non-members too (you can find out more about ISTA Membership here). Delegates are asked to download the registration form and return it to ISTA before Friday April 1st. For further information on the ISTA Conference and AGM click here.

Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne

The German physiologist Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne was born in Hamburg on 28th March 1837. He discovered much of what we know about how muscle and nerve tissue work, the nature of vision and the chemistry of digestion. He also coined the term enzyme (meaning literally “in yeast”) and, perhaps slightly less to his credit, was one of the last bastions of sexism in science – saying that he would “never allow skirts in his lectures” when confronted with would-be student Ida Henrietta Hyde.

Kühne studied first in the lovely university town of Göttingen (well known to us at the Frog Blog), and then in Jena, Berlin, Vienna and Paris. He eventually became Professor of Physiology in Amsterdam, and then in Heidelberg.

After producing a PhD thesis on induced diabetes in frogs his early studies looked at chemical changes which occur when light strikes the retina – eventually leading him to introduce the term rhodopsin to describe the pigment found in the rod cells of eyes. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Science, in order to investigate the workings of rhodopsin he put a cloth over a rabbit's head (to reduce light and allow the pigment to accumulate), then placed the rabbit facing a barred window. After three minutes the rabbit's head was cut off and its retina was removed and fixed in alum, clearly revealing a picture of the window(!). Kühne went on to investigate the way that nerve fibres conduct impulses and in 1876 was the first to describe a protease when he isolated (and named) trypsin from pancreatic juice.

Kühne died in Heidelberg on 10 June 1900.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Our Mineral Resources are Running Out!

A worrying prospect for our future is offered in a recent report by Carol Stanier and James Hutchinson following on from last year’s CS3 conference (Chemical Sciences and Society Summit) – in which 30 leading Chemists from China, Germany, Japan, the USA and the UK met in London to discuss current scientific research into sustainable materials.

In a section of the report headed “Conservation of Scarce Natural Resources” the authors highlight a potential shortage of: phosphorous, lithium, platinum, indium and 17 rare earth metals which will hit home within the next 30 years. The authors emphasise that we must act now before crippling shortages occur.
Supplies of scarce natural resources are dwindling at an alarming rate and many vital, rare minerals are often obtained from politically turbulent countries. Shortages will hit within a generation...... Decreasing world supplies of elemental resources is a reality and a potentially more pressing concern than the decreasing supply of oil.
Phosphorus is one of the main constituents of fertiliser, in the form of phosphates, and is necessary to life through incorporation into DNA and bones. Lithium is the most commonly used metal in batteries, and also has important pharmaceutical applications. Platinum is used in low temperature fuel cells, in catalytic converters and catalysts for several large scale chemical processes. Indium is used in solar cells and many electronic appliances such as flat-screen televisions. Rare earth metals e.g. neodymium are used in making strong but light permanent magnets such as those in microphones, computer hard disks, electric motors and wind turbine generators.

The warning about mineral resources is given against the background of a global population increase which is projected to reach over eight billion by 2030, and the observation that “if everyone today had living standards equivalent to those prevalent in North America, between two and three times the Earth’s natural resources would be needed”.

We would urge anyone with an awareness or interest in environmental issues to take a quick look at this very readable report – which also contains interesting information on CO2 emissions and fossil fuels and importantly suggests possible scientific and technological solutions for our problems.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

YouTube Saturday - CERN - The MoEDAL Experiment

This week's slice of YouTube science is the an excellent animated video describing the seventh detector approved for use in CERN's Large Hadron Collider - The MoEDAL Experiment. MoEDAL stands for the Monopole and Exotics Detector, a sensor searching for hypothetical particles magnetic monopoles (essentially magnetic particles with only one magnetic pole). If MoEDAL were to find these particles it would greatly improve our understanding of the universe and the forces which have created it.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Biology Prize 2011 - Finalists

The finalists of this years Biology Prize has been announced. They are: Hannah Wentges (Magnetic Nanoparticles), Patrick McGonagle (Genetics & Homosexuality), Mimi von Blomberg (The Three Gorge Dam and its Environmental and Biological Effects), Rab Sheeran (The Black Mamba and the Effects of Neurotoxin Venom), Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi (Allergens) and Robbie Hollis (The Panda). The finalists will now have to present their special topic in a seven minute presentation in front of an audience of their peers, their teachers and a special guest judge. This year's special guest judge is Aoife McLysaght, a Lecturer in Genetics at Trinity College Dublin.

Biology Prize Entries 2011 - Allergens

Substances called allergens cause allergies. An allergy is a form of hypersensitivity, the most severe of its kind. It involves the activation of extreme amounts of certain white blood cells, known as mast cells and basophils. These are sent by a certain antibody known as IeG which leads to an intense inflammatory response to combat these allergens. Allergies can be found through skin responses, but also through blood tests, where samples are taken to detect any excessive presence of the antibody IeG.

Allergies are becoming far more common amongst humans and are rising at an alarming rate, making those of our generations to come even more susceptible to symptoms caused commonly by peanuts or washing powder.

We know this as these problems didn’t occur one hundred years ago, nor were they any sort of medical threat compared to now. Just 10% of the western population in 1980 were said to suffer of allergic reactions, yet today, there has been a considerable rise and now over three times the amount in 1980 experiencing allergies. According to the Global Allergy and Asthma Network, over half of the worlds population will experience an allergy by 2015. But what is causing this rise? Surely with the rise of technology these insignificant hypersensitive disorders of the immune system should seem meaningless. But it’s clearly not the case.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Ireland's Mammals - The Pine Marten

The European Pine Marten (Martes martes) is one of Ireland’s rarest wild animals. It is normally sighted in the south and west of Ireland, but is hard to find due to being a shy creature. It is an animal native to Northern Europe, and is less commonly known as the Pineten, baum marten or sweet marten. The Pine Marten belongs to the mustelid family, which also includes mink, otter, badger, wolverine and weasel. Its body size is roughly that of a domestic cat at approximately 53cm, and an additional bushy tail can be up to 25cm in length. An average pine marten weighs 1.5kg, and males are slightly larger than females. Their fur is generally light to dark brown, growing longer and silkier during the winter months. On their throats they have a distinctive cream marking called a “bib”.

Martens usually construct their own dens in hollow trees in dense woodland. They are the only mustelids to have semi retractable claws, enabling them to lead arboreal lifestyles of climbing trees. They are known to be very quick runners on ground as well as in trees. They are mainly only active at dusk and through the night, and eat small mammals, birds, insects, frogs and occasionally carrion. They have also been seen to eat berries, bird’s eggs, nuts and honey. To locate their meals they have small, rounded, highly sensitive

Pine Martens are protected under the Wildlife Act of 1976. Even though they are preyed upon by red foxes and occasionally golden eagles, the greatest threat to them as a species is humans. A significant decline has been seen in Pine Martin population across Europe due to humans. Their fur is prized, loss of habitat is leading to fragmentation, persecution by gamekeepers, human disturbance to their natural habitat, illegal poisoning and shooting have contributed greatly to this drop in population.

This article was contributed by Junior Frog Blog Reporter Emma Moore.

A Brief Introduction to Genetics

Below is a short video which explores the history of genetics and genomics from Mendel to current developments in DNA and the genetic code. It also introduces the concepts of genomics and bioinformatics, which are not on our biology syllabus as yet, but appear to be on the way "soon".

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Consultation to Begin Shortly on New Biology, Physics & Chemistry Syllabi

I have just received an email from Yvonne Higgins, Chairperson of the Irish Science Teachers Association, indicating that the new syllabi in Biology, Chemistry and Physics are being sent out to teachers for consultation. The email reads:
"At the NCCA Board of Studies meeting on 16 February it was agreed that the draft syllabi for all three subjects should be sent out for consultation. I have been in touch with the NCCA and have been informed that these syllabi will be available in April. The ISTA will be organising branch meeting to discuss the syllabi. Comments will have to be returned to the NCCA by October 2011 and the ISTA will be making formal responses to each syllabus by this time."
The consultation process will provide teachers with the opportunity to comment on the content of the new syllabi while I also hope that we will be given the chance to comment on the assessment procedures. As mentioned in my recent post on More Stress Less Success I made the point that our current syllabi are far too descriptive and lack wonder, while the assessment procedures promote regurgitation and not thinking. The consultation process will end on October and the syllabus will likely to be introduced for September 2012 or 2013. I still feel that the process is too slow and I hope the new syllabi account for the every changing nature of science and include some "non examined" material. Time will tell but at least the process has began. Well done to all teachers involved in the process in the creation of these syllabi and I look forward to seeing the fruits of your hard work. For more information on the work of the Irish Science Teachers' Association or to find out about membership click here.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Biology Prize Entries 2011 - Science of Sneezing

Sneezing is a convulsive expulsion of air from the lungs out the nose and mouth usually caused by dust particles or something similar irritating the inside of your nose called the nasal mucosa membrane. Some people sneeze when they suddenly come into contact with bright light. One in three people are supposed to do this. Sneezing can also be brought on by a very full stomach or a viral infection such as influenza.

What are the mechanics of sneezing? Once the nasal mucosa is irritated, it produces histamines which affect the nerve cells in the nose causing it to send a message to the brain to sneeze. The soft palate and uvula which are both located on the roof of the mouth depress slightly while the back of the tongue lifts and this partially closes the passage through the mouth so that most of the air is expelled through the nose. Yet because the passage is only closed partially, a considerable amount of air is still expelled from the mouth. when the sneeze is initiated by sudden exposure to light it is called the Photic Sneeze Reflex.

A rare cause of sneezing is because of a full stomach and this is called Snatiation. It is however regarded as a medical disorder passed down genetically. We cannot sneeze in our sleep because our body is in a state where motor neurones (send messages to muscles) are not stimulated and reflex signals are not sent to the brain. This body state is called the REM atonia. However a large enough amount of external stimulants will cause the body to wake and then sneeze.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Science Gallery Table Quiz

Dublin's wonderful Science Gallery will host their very first Table Quiz on Thursday next, March 24th, from 6:30pm to 9:30pm. Hosted by Newstalk Science's very own Jonathan McCrea the event promises to "push the boundaries of science, trivia, pop culture, and perhaps timespace itself in what is guaranteed to be a night to remember". The event takes place in the Gallery Café and costs just €10 per person, with four people per team. To find out more information and to pre-book your seat click here to visit the Science Gallery website.

Our Planet, Our Home - What is its Future?

Here is Jasmine Blenkins O'Callaghan's essay which was entered for the Three Rock Churches Environmental Group essay competition.

Human activity impacts on everything in the natural world around us. The laws of Physics tell us that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction". As a scientific metaphor, to extend this to our environment, this might be interpreted as "for every gain involving non-renewable resources, something irreplaceable is lost".

Human activity is destroying the planet and it’s natural inhabitants. By 2050 scientists have estimated that 1/4 of all animals will be endangered or extinct. This is due to things such as deforestation, the increased global temperature which has resulted in the melting of the polar ice caps and the increasing demand for fossil fuels. We are destroying the world faster than ever before, and if we don’t change our attitude to the way we consume and destroy our natural resources, then the future will be bleak to say the least.

Water is one vital resource which humanity and other creatures can’t live without, and yet clean water is running out. We are using water on such a large scale that it is affecting the global environment. Agriculture is a huge consumer of water - in order to produce crops and keep livestock. In Saudi Arabia crops are grown in the desert using ‘fossil’ water pumped from underground. From the air we see a series of green ‘wheels’ as crops are grown beneath rotating sprinklers - but the water is running out, and already the number of brown, dead crop-wheels outnumbers the green ones.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Frog Blog Wins Irish Blog Award

We're delighted to announce that the Frog Blog took home the gong for 'Best Science / Education Blog' at this year's Irish Blog Awards, which took place last night in Belfast. Many thanks to everyone who supports the blog and what we do here in St. Columba's College in promoting science and ICT in education. Thanks to the pupils and staff who contribute to the blog as well as those who take the time to read it. I would like to thank our fellow nominees: Anseo a Mhuinteoir, Seandalaíocht, Live at the Witch Trials and SCC English (who inspired us to begin blogging in the first place and has been extremely supportive ever since) for their company on the night but more importantly for creating interesting online content for all to enjoy. I would also like to thank Damien Mulley for the excellent work he has done in organising this year's event,  the last Irish Blog Awards, and for recognising the increasing number and quality of Irish educational and scientific blogs by creating a category in this year's IBA's. The event was a great success with a lively yet relaxed atmosphere. Finally, well done to all the nominees and winners in this year's awards. For further information on all the runners and riders click here.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

YouTube Saturday - Wonders of the Universe Spoof

Our favourite astrophysicist Professor Brian Cox gets the spoof treatment in this brilliant satirical look at the new Wonders of the Universe series on BBC (which is absolutely brilliant by the way - check it out tomorrow at 9pm on BBC2). Watch Dr. Universe "figure some s#@t out" as he reveals his love of the universe and helicopters! Brilliant. Thanks to Aoife McLysaght for spotting this gem on Twitter earlier in the week!

Friday, 18 March 2011

MESSENGER Enters Mercury Orbit

Earlier this morning NASA successfully navigated their MESSENGER spacecraft (which stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) into orbit around Mercury, the first time a spacecraft has accomplished this engineering and scientific milestone.

Messenger's main thruster fired for about 15 minutes as it slowed and entered Mercury's orbit about 96 million miles (154 million kilometers) from Earth. Shortly afterwards, NASA engineers received signals confirming the insertion of the probe with no known errors.

Launched back in August of 2004 to study the geology, chemical composition and magnetic field of the planet, MESSENGER carries several advanced scientific instruments, including a neutron spectrometer and magnetometer. The spacecraft has orbited the sun a dozen times and flown past Venus twice.

In coming days, NASA will focus on ensuring the spacecraft's systems are functioning in Mercury's harsh thermal environment. If all goes well, MESSENGER should begin transmitting images and information back to Earth in about two weeks.

This is not the first time a NASA craft has been sent to the inner most planet. Mariner 10 flew past several times to photograph the surface, grabbing images of massive craters, cliffs and small mountain ranges. Likewise MESSENGER snapped photographs of the planet's surface on fly-bys to help position itself for orbit. To find out more about the planet Mercury, click here to read a previous Frog Blog post.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

I'm A Scientist Get Me Out Of Here!

'I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here!’ is a science dialogue event where school students talk to real scientists online for two weeks. It’s in the form of an X Factor-style competition between scientists, who compete for a prize of £500. For two weeks students read about the scientists’ work, ask them questions and engage in live text chats with them. The students vote for the scientist they want to get the money (£500). The scientists with the fewest votes are evicted until only one is left to be crowned the winner in each zone.

The March event is currently taking place with a larger event planned for June. There are scientists from all over the UK taking part, including one or two from Ireland. Eoin Lettice, a lecturer in plant science in UCC (and former guest blogger), is taking questions from students from the UK and Ireland in the Argon Zone as well as taking part in live chats. We wish Eoin the best of luck and hope he brings the cash back to Cork! (BTW, Eoin has a great science blog: Communicate Science) While it is too late to take part now, you can still see the questions being posed to the scientists and see their answers. (Teachers can still register to take part for the June event). There are also a huge range of teaching resources available on their website which can be downloaded for free.

Some of the great questions being asked include: Could you use stem cell research to grow an illuminous glowing brain? (yes apparently); Since stem cells have the ability to differentiate into any type of cell, they offer something in the development of medical treatments for a wide range of conditions. What are these conditions? (an excellent question); are Llamas cooler than Zebras and if Betelgeuse were to explode as a type II supernova, would the Earth experience any harmful radiation? Follow the links to see the scientists answers. Its a wonderful project and brings real science into the classroom. Bravo! Visit the 'I'm a Scientist' website for more information.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Scibernia Podcast

Scibernia is a new bi-monthly podcast exploring science in Ireland, and beyond. According to their website, they are "a loose collective of science enthusiasts, tech nerds, wandering journalists, radio lovers, and people who enjoy Periodic Table Scrabble". The team include Lenny Antonelli, Marie Boran, Ellen Byrne, Sylvia Leatham, Gavin Byrne, Trionna O'Connell and Gerald Cunningham and their podcast contains a great mix of current science news, lively debate and analysis from the world of science, with a particular Irish focus. It's extremely easy to listen to while remaining informative.

The second Scibernia science podcast is available online now, as the team report from the Atlantic Conference on science and technology education held in Tullamore last week. The team interview a range of speakers including Guardian ‘bad science’ columnist Ben Goldacre, wearable computing pioneer Thad Starner and Maths Busking Katie Steckles on how she mixes street performance with equations to get kids and adults interested in maths. There is also a quick interview with Frog Blogger Humphrey Jones on his latest rant on the need to modernise and update our dull, wonder-less science curricula. 

Visit the Scibernia website and tune in to their latest podcast now.

Biology Prize Entries 2011 - The Black Mamba & Neurotoxic Venom

In Africa the word Black Mamba is synonymous with fear and rightly so. This snake, Dendroaspis polylepis, is also known as the ‘Shadow of Death’ in some parts of the continent.

The Black Mamba is found throughout Southern and Eastern Africa but can be spotted in isolated areas in other parts of the continent. It is the fastest snake in the world, slithering up to speeds of 20kph in short bursts but usually travelling around 12kph. The females and males generally look the same and large specimens can grow to nearly 4 metres, average being around 2.5m. The Black Mamba is slender, long and rather scrawny, not at all muscularly built. Its body however is not really black, but a sort of dark brown, so in fact the snake draws its name from the very much black interior of its mouth. The Black Mamba is able to lift a third of its body into the air, and open a small hood like a cobra, to make itself look more formidable when encountered. It hunts for rodents, lizards and other snakes on the ground, as well as being equally capable of hunting in the trees for birds. Mambas are diurnal and only hunt during the day, taking refuge in cracks and crevices during the hours of darkness.

The Black Mamba likes to spend its time in scrublands, often leading to it ending up in the vast sugarcane plantations of South Africa. The Mamba’s venom consists mainly of a powerful neurotoxin. And a bite, colloquially called the ‘kiss of death’ delivers about 120mg of venom, which will kill nearly 100 per cent of victims if not treated with anti venom very promptly. The neurotoxins that the Black Mamba uses are called dendrotoxins, it is these toxins that attack and disable neuronal tissues. Dendrotoxins do this by blocking potassium channels of the nervous system. A human can be killed by the Black Mamba’s venom sometimes in as quick as twenty minutes, but usually will die after around 45 minutes if not treated. The rapidness of fatality also depends on the health, size and age of the victim, as well as the location of the bite on the body and the amount of venom injected. And almost all people will survive a bite if the anti venom arrives in time.

Symptoms of the venom are immediate dizziness, coughing, difficulty breathing and very irregular heartbeat. The neurotoxic venom is also known to paralyse victims. Neurotoxins attack the brain and the nervous system, which stops the heart from beating, and the victim will then die of respiratory failure or cardiac arrest. Before anti venom was discovered less than 1 per cent of victims survived.

All that said the Black Mamba is a surprisingly timid snake and prefers to avoid any confrontation with humans. Fortunately making a bite a rare occurrence compared to other snakes such as the very common Puff Adder which kills the most people in Africa than any other snake. The Puff Adder uses exceedingly painful tissue – destroying cytotoxic venom. There also haemotoxic venom which attacks cells, inhibiting the blood from clotting, haemotoxic venom is found in snakes such as the tree dwelling Boomslang and Russell’s Viper.

Rab Sheeran, Form V

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Putting Wonder Back into Science Education

Fellow science teacher and blogger Noel Cunningham, from King's Hospital School in Dublin, recently wrote an excellent blog post on the "Wonder in Science - And Why We Hide It". In the post he bemoans the inherent lack of wonder in the Irish science syllabi, both at junior and senior cycle, revealing our science curricula as boring and dull. He later posted an apology to students of second level science everywhere, past present and future, for putting them through the ordeal he so elequently describes here:
We educators take this incredibly exotic jungle of knowledge called science and distil it until all the wonder has been removed and we are left with nothing but a heap of dry shavings. We then pour this into our syllabus and textbooks and make our students learn it off by heart so that it can all get vomited back up come exam time. And then we wonder why so many young people don’t like science.
I would like to add my own voice to that apology because I too am "a cog in this horrible machine". I too turned my back on true science and asked my pupils to learn by memorising, regurgitating facts and formulas for tests and exams. I too stifled the wonder in science, in exchange for exam success, "results" if you can call them that. In recent years I have endeavoured to bring wonder back into my science classroom, using the Frog Blog as the main tool, to reveal science as the ever evolving and living subject that it is - not a collection of facts, equations and dull "experiments" as portrayed by the syllabi and textbooks. 

Last week I attended the Atlantic STEM Conference and Leo Enright, the conference chair, made the point that the NCCA were doing "great things" in bringing the science curricula in line with the economic needs of the country - developing the "future skills for future jobs". The extraordinary claim was made during a debate on promoting sciences in second level schools and I simply had to interject. The NCCA's last offering was the 2003 revised syllabus for junior science, which is universally regarded as a dull and lifeless representation of my life passion. The syllabus is too broad, still too exam focused and the practical component is a mere gesture  rather than any concerted effort to bring true investigation into our science classrooms. It is so devoid of wonder and awe that it fails to ignite even the most inquisitive mind. For example, there is no mention of space in the syllabus, no astronomy whatsoever! Why? Are they afraid that pupils might find this interesting and then ignore the section of conservation of matter or, heaven forbid, forget that V = R X I? 

Recommended Apps - Stellarium

A few months ago we recommended a brilliant piece of free software, Stellarium, to help you explore the night sky using your PC or MAC. Well now Stellarium have released a free app for the iPhone / iTouch and an high definition "XL version" for the iPad. These powerful applications put a complete planetarium in your pocket, allowing you explore the night sky or plan a telescope session. Each app shows a realistic night sky (including atmosphere) and allows you find stellar objects (planets, nebulae, galaxies or constellations) quickly and easily. The objects shift as they do in real time and full co-ordinates are provided so you can take out your telescope and see them in real life too. The apps allow you zoom in or even change the time and location from where you are viewing (perfect if you are planning a radio telescope session). These powerful apps are a must or any astronomy enthususiast.

Our Planet Our Home - What is its Future?

As promised, here is another of the Transition Year essays produced for the Three Rock Churches Environmental Group competition. This time Julian Coquet-Benka has his say.

There are many problems facing our planet, if our future is to be a happy one. The most pressing issues are overcrowding, pollution, starvation and drought. I intend to look at these problems and their possible solutions.

The human population on Earth is rapidly nearing 7 billion people. This gives Earth an average population density of 46 people per square kilometre. Around 90% of these 7 million live on just 10% of the land. The population has almost tripled since 1950. One in six people live in hazardous environments. Overcrowding in the Earth’s cities can lead to disease epidemics and to the depletion of resources needed to cater for intensive populations.

Food resources are under pressure. Fish stocks are at an astounding low as over-fishing has depleted stocks of ‘big fish’ by 90% over the past few decades. Millions of gallons of grain are pumped around the world to provide nutrition for ruminants. Overcrowding bequeaths more overcrowding, as insufficient educational facilities are already failing to educate inhabitants about ways of breaking out of disease-ridden shanty towns, ghettos and slums.

In the short term, aggressive farming policies may be able to cater for expanding populations, and towering apartment blocks might manage to provide accommodation, but, more and more of the Earth’s resources are being mined and harvested to cater for our increasing population, and an unacceptably large proportion of these resources is immediately converted into the waste of our ‘throw away societies’. This waste then becomes a problem in itself as land-fill sites fill up and toxic fumes are produced by burning. Now is the time to explore alternative technologies.

The Reduction in Variety
The biodiversity of our planet is under grave threat, and scientists tell us that right now ‘a quarter of all mammal species face extinction’. According to Schipper et al. (2008) there are around 5,800 extant mammal species. That means 1,450 species face extinction within 30 years. Such threats of mass extinction are occurring all across the different biological Kingdoms, and the primary factor throughout is the destruction of habitats. Most of these habitats are destroyed by the direct action of humans, such as: logging, over-fishing, and the exhaustion of Ireland’s peat and bog lands as well as many other wetlands around the world. Indirect actions of modern societies also take their toll as lakes are poisoned by acid rain and the polar bears’ habitat is literally melting before our eyes, due to global warming.

Lions are an example of the rapid destruction of an entire species. The population of lions has fallen by nearly 90% in only 20 years – from an estimated figure of 200,000, to just 23,000. This decline is due to humanity’s expansion into wilderness areas, as over-population and over-crowding have driven humans to settle in previously unsullied land.

The diversity of cultivated plant species has also been greatly reduced. Only the most profitable are grown whilst hundreds of others are replaced by a single high-yield species. This reduction in crop variety means that certain species which relied on such plants will no longer have a habitat, as is true for several species of butterfly.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Biology Prize Entries 2011 - Magnetic Nano - Particles

Magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) are microscopic particles that have been changed and manipulated with magnetic fields. They are made of magnetic elements such as iron, nickel or cobalt, or compounds of these elements. MNPs are normally around 1 micrometer wide, although larger particles can measure as much as 500 micrometers in diameter.

Magnetic nanoparticles have recently had huge focus in the research field. With the design of 'theranostic' molecules, MNPs will play a crucial role in developing one-stop tools to simultaneously diagnose, monitor and treat a wide range of common diseases and injuries.

Multifunctional particles, modelled on viruses such as those that cause flu and HIV, are being researched and developed to carry signal-generating sub-molecules and drugs to particular targets. A sprinkling of tiny MNPs and an application of external magnetic force will give us a new means of confirming specific ailments or releasing drugs at exact points within a living system.

Already MNPs have sparked interest after being attached to stem cells and used in vivo to remedy heart injury in rats. In humans, Berlin's Charité Hospital used a technique which involved MNPs, called hyperthermia, to destroy a particularly severe form of brain cancer in 14 patients. The technique — which took advantage of the fact that tumour cells are more sensitive to temperature increases than normal cells — sent MNPs acting as nano-heaters directly against the inoperable tumours and essentially cooked them to death. Magnetic nanoparticles will almost certainly have an important role in the future of medicine.

Hannah Wentges, Form V

Image Credit: N.R.Fuller, Sayo-Art

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Meltdown Fears at Japan Nuclear Power Station

There are now considerable fears of a meltdown at Japan's earthquake stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima as efforts to cool the reactor are moved up a gear. An explosion has been heard at the power plant in the last hour which has caused damage to the external walls and radiation levels are increasing significantly, now at 20 times normal levels. Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan declared a state of emergency at the Fukushima power plant as engineers try to confirm whether a reactor at one of the stations has gone into meltdown. There may be only hours before a meltdown is prevented.

Of course all of this is a direct result of yesterday's massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake (8000 times stronger than last month's earthquake in New Zealand) which struck 250 miles from the capital Tokyo, off the country's north-eastern coast. The earthquake triggered a destructive 10m high tsunami which swept through coastal towns and village across Japan's north island. The tsunami's effects were even felt as far away as the US west coast. There were reports of ships and trains being swept away on the mammoth wave and the death toll has now reached over 700. This figure is expected rise as the number of people missing is still over 1000.

Biology Prize Entries 2011 - The Giant Panda

Ailuropoda melanoleuca, or literally "cat-foot black-and-white" is part of order Carnivora, but is the only one in the order that is a vegetarian. It is actually a member of Familia Procyonidae (raccoons and ringtails) but is being considered for Ursidae, which it is mistakenly thought to be part of by most. Descendant of the pygmy panda, a similar but smaller animal which lived around two million years ago.

The Panda's diet consists of 99% bamboo, and evolution has aided them in developing “thumbs” with which to hold the stalks. This almost pure plant diet is odd, as it still has the digestive system of a meat eater, so it cant digest cellulose well, and so has to eat huge amounts of bamboo each day (9-14kg) to get the required nutrients. The Giant Panda may eat other foods such as honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub, leaves, oranges, and bananas when available.

Giant Pandas are descendants of the Pygmy Panda, which from fossils we can tell had a purely bamboo diet, and were only 1 metre long. Pandas are known as a living fossil due to this extremely similar relative. Pandas live in the mountains of China, mainly in the Si Chuan Province. They used to live on plains and forests all over China, but over population and de-foresting has led to destruction of habitat. In 2006, scientists underestimated wild population at around 1000 but a recent DNA analysis of droppings say that there may be as many as 3000. Although endangered, conservation efforts are thought to be working and out of the 40 Panda reserves, 27 are new in the past two decades.

Pandas were only known to mate naturally in the wild. Artificial insemination was the only method used in captivity, males had lost all will to mate, so male Pandas have been given drugs similar to viagra and videos of pandas mating to encourage them (Seriously!)

Experimentation with black bear mating programs has brought some success. The current reproductive rate is considered 1 baby every 2 years. Pandas sexually mature between the age of 4-8 and remain sexually active until about 20 years of age. A female’s oestrous cycle only lasts 3 days and only occurs once a year, which causes problems as the low density of their population makes it hard to find a mate. A baby panda weighs 90-130 grams, 1/900th of the mother's weight.

Robbie Hollis, Form VI.

YouTube Saturday - Horizon, What is Reality

This recent BBC Horizon programme looks at the strange and mysterious world that surrounds us, a world largely hidden from our senses. The quest to explain the true nature of reality is one of the great scientific detective stories. Clues have been pieced together from deep within the atom, from the event horizon of black holes, and from the far reaches of the cosmos. It may be that that we are part of a cosmic hologram, projected from the edge of the universe. Or that we exist in an infinity of parallel worlds. Your reality may never look quite the same again. A brilliant series of videos.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Our Planet, Our Home - What is its Future?

Some of our Transition Year pupils were recently involved in a competition run by the Three Rock Churches' Environmental Group, in which they had to write an essay entitled "Our Planet, Our Home - What is its Future". As preparation for this they watched the Yann Arthus-Bertrand film “Home”, which contains stunning landscape cinematography (like the picture above) and a pretty hard-hitting message about the state of the planet. This easy-to-watch 90 minute film can't be recommended strongly enough and is available to view on YouTube in full for free!
Here is Aifric Tracey's essay, and we will be posting some of the other entries over the next few days.
When you think about the Earth and how, we as humans are affecting and changing it, it is quite astonishing. In 10 or 20 years time our planet could be nearly unrecognisable. We need to start thinking about the resources we are consuming. There are so many alternative ways of making energy that won’t damage our planet. But still we don’t use them. We are too stuck in our ways to change. Renewable energy resources include: solar power, wind power, hydro power, geothermal power etc. Amazingly enough, one hour of sunshine on Earth delivers enough energy for the entire human population for a whole year.
In our Biology class we watched the movie called Home. It was really interesting and some of the facts and figures presented were almost unbelievably scary. Since 1950 the world’s population has tripled, and over-population is becoming a huge problem. There is overcrowding in so many countries and because global warming is affecting the climate, it is making living conditions much harder. Ever though Nigeria is the biggest oil producer in Africa, 70 % of its population lives below the poverty line. An astonishing half the worlds wealth is held by just 2% of the world’s population. 5000 people die each day due to polluted water and poor sanitation (mainly babies). 1 billion go hungry. 20 % of the world’s population consumes 80 % of the world’s resources. Things need to change and start being shared evenly, otherwise only more and more people will die. This century 9 billion lives are held in the balance of life or death, due to what we have done.

Irish Blog Awards 2011

We are delighted to report that the Frog Blog has made it into the final five in the Science / Education category in this year's Irish Blog Awards. The event will take place on March 19th in Belfast's Europa Hotel. Significantly, we are joined in the category by our esteemed colleagues from the SCC English blog. Here's hoping one of us can take home the gong! Full details below:

Best Science/Education Blog – Sponsored by Microsoft Ireland’s Developer and Platform

Atlantic Conference 2011 Reviewed

Yesterday saw a strong gathering of representatives of science, science education and engineering from across Ireland, the UK and the US at the Atlantic Conference 2011 in Tullamore. The conference promised a lively discussion on how educators could inspire students to engage with science, technology, engineering and maths and it certainly lived up to its promise. The  conference was in fact two conferences. On one side of a partition a series of talks, presentations and panel discussions took place between science and maths teachers, science communicators, policy makers and national organisations in engineering and science as well as science "celebrities", and on the other side were a selection of Transition Year students from the Midlands discussing how social media could aid science education. In the afternoon the partition was removed and the conference was united for the final panel discussion.

Highlights of the day included an inspiring talk from Sarah Baird, the Arizona Teacher of the Year 2009, on how to engage young people in maths education. The team from Maths Buskers entertained and informed, while everyone was enthralled by the dedicated and clearly genius Thad Starner. Thad has been wearing a customised computer since 1993, using it as a daily aid. The wonderful Ben Goldacre got everyone sitting up during his talk on hack science, with the whole audience clinging to each word.

The two panel discussions were lively and focused, although there was only time for questions during the second which looked at how important science education was in today's world. The general consensus was that science is both necessary for future economic growth yet also a fun interesting subject. There was some debate on how science can be made more appealing to young people and the point was made that more frequent and focused curricular reform is required (the last LC science curriculum to be reformed was Biology in 2001, while Chemistry and Physics were revised in 1999 and Agricultural Science was revised last in the 1960's). The representative of the Irish Science Teachers' Association made the very valid point that the greatest barrier to science education is the assessment system, which currently rewards regurgitation and not thinking.

To end the day, the Transition Year students presented their ideas on social media as a tool to help science education and took questions from the audience. Everyone was extremely impressed by their confident presentations and the competent way in which they managed some tricky questions. Overall, the conference was highly enjoyable and it hopefully left policy makers with some food for thought in relation to the way forward in science education. Disappointingly however, there were no representatives of the Department of Education & Skills at the conference.

The conference was enlivened by frequent Twitter updates which were communicated to the delegates. Click here to see the tweets from #AC2011.

Massive Earthquake Hits Japan

A massive earthquake, measuring 8.9 on the Richter Scale, has hit off the North - East coast of Japan triggering a tsunami which has since caused extensive damage to coastal towns. The Japanese capital, Tokyo, has also been affected with reports of fires and damage to buildings. Japanese television has shown the tsunami sweep away cars, ships and even buildings as it surged through coastal towns. The tsunami warning was extended to the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, the Pacific coast of Russia and Hawaii and the earthquake was felt as far away as the Chinese capital Beijing.

The earthquake struck 250 miles from Tokyo at a depth of 20 miles. The earthquake also triggered a number of fires, including one at an oil refinery near Tokyo. So far three people have been reported dead and several others injured. No reports of Irish people caught up in the crisis have emerged yet.

For more information visit the Irish Times website or follow our Twitter feed for further updates.

Biology Prize Entries 2011 - Genetics & Homosexuality

Boston University psychiatrist Richard Pillard is gay. Not only that; he has a gay brother, a lesbian sister, and a bisexual daughter. And his father was. Pillard found out when he read his father’s diaries after his death- was in a sexual relationship with another man early in his adult life. This personal history was Pillard’s motivation to investigate whether homosexuality generally runs in families, a line of research he began in the early 1980’s.

The first and perhaps the most influential of a number of studies Pillard compiled over his career was the Twin Studies, published throughout the early 1990’s. In this study, Pillard and his colleagues gathered twins from all walks of life and collected statistics based on the sexual orientation of each set of twins. His results were astounding, as of a set of monozygotic twins where one was a homosexual, the other was also homosexual roughly 50% of the time-with the results being directly proportionate yet significantly less in dizygotic twins.

The results of Pillard’s study reverberated throughout the scientific community yet were inconclusive and ambiguous; thus fueling other scientists to investigate into an area of study that could potentially change the fundamental core of society, and challenge our morals. One particular scientist who heard the calling was Dean Hamer of Johns Hopkins University, who in 1998 published a report which gave increasing, if not conclusive, validity to Pillard’s original assertion.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Atlantic Conference 2011

The Atlantic Conference 2011 takes place tomorrow in the Tullamore Court Hotel, Tullamore Co. Offaly. Organised by Atlantic Corridor, the conference will explore a variety of issues surrounding the development and promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education. The conference promises to be an informative and enlivening event with a great range of key speakers from Ireland, the UK and the US, helping to develop a lively and stimulating forum for debate. The key theme to be addressed is – how can educators inspire students to engage with science, technology, engineering and maths? Amongst the speakers are Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science), Michael John Gorman (founding director of the wonderful Science Gallery) and Patrick Cunningham (Chief Science Advisor to the Government). Frog Blogger Humphrey Jones will be in attendance and will be tweeting on the events throughout the day.

Biology Prize Entries 2011 - The Three Gorges Dam: Biological & Environmental Dangers

Every year it provides 18,200 MW electricity to the Chinese electricity supply system – the Three Gorges Dam. At first sight it seems to be a huge step by the Chinese government towards using the natural and renewable resource water as an energy supply. Hydroelectric power stations do not emit greenhouse gases and especially such a huge plant like the three gorges dam replaces the combustion of 50m tons of raw coal, prevents further increase in the amount of acid rain and thus diminishes the amount of soot particles in the air. But a deeper look at the construction and usage of the three gorges dam reveals numerous biological and environmental dangers.

About 300 species of fish used to inhabit the Yangtze River, but since the construction of the dam was initiated many are not able to travel upstream to spawn meaning the population of these species has decreased and many have become endangered. Also 47 other rare species like the Chinese Tiger, the Chinese Alligator and the Giant Panda suffered since either their habitats have been inundated or they suffered lack of nutrients.

A famous example for the negative impact of the three gorges dam on the ecosystem of the Yangtze River is the almost complete extinction of the Baiji Dolphin. The Yangtze River is the dolphins’ only natural habitat and before the dam was built there were already less than 100 of these endangered dolphins in the river. The reservoir of the dam covers a significant area of the dolphins’ habitat. For this reason the government had plans to create natural reserves and artificial spawning programs in order to prevent the extinction of the Baiji and other endangered species, but at that time it was already known that past attempts to resettle the Baiji had failed and today international scientists are quite sure that the extinction of this unique dolphin has become a reality.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Voyager & Io's Volcanism

On this day in 1979, Voyager 1 discovered a 300 km tall volcanic plume rising from the surface of Io – one of Jupiter’s moons. Io has since been recognised as the most volcanically active part of the Solar System.

Io is slightly larger than Earth, and is one of the 4 major moons of Jupiter discovered by Galileo Galilei in January 1610. The surface has over 400 active volcanoes and mountains reaching up to 16 km in height. The volcanism is largely sulphurous with volcanic plumes of frozen sulphur dioxide being thrown 500 km up into space. The volcanism seems to be driven by the tidal gravitational effects of Jupiter and its other moons, causing regular bulging and collapse of Io’s surface.

Voyager 1 was launched by NASA in 1977 to explore the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, and more details of its mission can be seen here, including a running display of its current distance from planet Earth! There is also a previous Frog Blog post on Voyager here.

Why Are Sperm Whales Called Sperm Whales?

This question was posed by Junior Frog Blog Reporter Josh Kenny recently - just why are sperm whales called sperm whales?

Well the reason is quite straight forward, if not a little disgusting. Much of the bulk of a sperm whale's enormous head is taken up by a barrel-shaped organ called the case. Inside the case is a clear, liquid oil that when cooled, hardens to resemble white paraffin or vaseline. This material was given the name spermaceti by early whalers as they thought this stuff looked like whale semen. They called it spermaceti and hence named the animal the sperm whale. Spermaceti was used as a lubricant and lamp fuel until around the end of the 19th century when petroleum products replaced it. It is believed that spermaceti is used by the whales to help buoyancy.

For a brilliant article, from National Geographic, on the sperm whales click here.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Stanley L. Miller - On This Day

American chemist Stanley L. Miller was born on this day in 1930 in Oakland, California. He is famous for one of the most exciting and remarkable experiments ever carried out in Biology - giving us clues about the origin of life itself.

Building on the work of Oparin and others, Miller recreated the proposed atmospheric conditions of the early Earth and simulated Oparin’s suggested process of ‘molecular evolution’ – seen as a likely precursor to the origin of life. His findings, which were published in 1953 in the journal Science (A Production of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions), showed how the application of an electric discharge (to simulate lightning) to a circulating atmosphere of methane, ammonia, steam and hydrogen produced the amino acids glycine, α-alanine and β-alanine – rather than a random mixture of organic molecules. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and are just the sort of molecules suggested by Oparin’s hypothesis that the biomolecules needed for life could have been generated naturally on Earth before life existed.

Miller only became involved with this field of research because his original doctoral supervisor Edward Teller, a nuclear physicist, left Chicago University. Having attended a lecture by geochemist Harold Urey on the Earth’s primitive atmosphere, Miller decided to ask Urey to take him on. The story goes that Urey tried to dissuade Miller at first, thinking the work would take too long, but luckily Miller persisted. Urey was already a Nobel prize winner and generously suggested that Miller’s findings should eventually be published as a single author paper.

Subsequent work by Miller and various others has shown how a wider variety of biomolecules could have been produced in the Earth’s primitive atmosphere, although some people have suggested that early conditions were not as reducing as supposed. Wächtershäuser and others have even suggested that the first biomolecules may have been formed in unusual volcanic conditions rather than as originally proposed by Miller. Subsequent analysis of some of Miller’s original material, using more precise techniques, has shown that in fact his experiment produced far more amino acids than he realised. Interestingly, the experiment he ran which recreated conditions in a volcanic environment produced the most diverse results. The debate continues!

Having spent much of his life as an academic chemist in the University of San Diego, Stanley Miller died in 2007 in California.

Has Alien Life Been Discovered?

Dr Richard Hoover, an NASA astrobiologist, claims to have found "alien" life inside of a meteorite. Dr Hoover, an expert on life in extreme environments, said the microbes he found appear to lack nitrogen, suggesting they may have originated elsewhere. The microbes strongly resemble a 'giant' bacteria found on Earth, Titanospirillum velox, and his findings have been published in the online Journal of Cosmology. The editor of that journal has invited 100 scientists to comment on Hoover's findings - those comments are due to be published today.
"Given the controversial nature of his discovery we have invited 100 experts, and have issued a general invitation to over 5,000 scientists from the scientific community, to review the paper and to offer their critical analysis."
The idea of bacteria hitch-hiking across the galaxy on meteorites is not a new one and there is a theory, known as panspermia, which suggests life is spread from planet to planet by meteors and that life on Earth too was seeded from space. This is not the first time a scientist has claimed to have discovered bacteria on meteorites either. In 1996, another NASA scientist claimed he found bacteria from Mars on a meteorite that fell in Antarctica. The scientific community reacted vigorously then and now too have done the same to Hoover's claims, with many already discrediting his findings. What do you think? Have we found ET?