o The Frog Blog: May 2011

Saturday, 28 May 2011

YouTube Saturday - How Your Ear Works

The BBC's latest series sees Michael Mosley explore "Inside the Human Body" (available now to pre order on Amazon). In this clip, Michael explains how inside your ear, sounds set off a complex chain of events which involves some of the smallest bones in your body. These bones transmit the sound waves to tiny hair-like sensors that dance in tune to the world outside.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

What Lies Beneath

Forget what the ads for cleaning products would have us believe, bacterial micro-organisms are crucial for our wellbeing, writes MARIE BORAN in today's Irish Times

The human body is a busy place teaming with alien life. Right now there are about 100 trillion micro-organisms inside you, tiny creatures that are living, dying, feeding, fighting, multiplying and happily occupying your inner space. It is not one or two varieties but a whole host of organisms, known as microbes or micro-organisms to scientists but bugs to the rest of us.

“Microbes are virtually anything of microscopic size: parasites, moulds, yeast, and bacteria,” says Prof Colin Hill from the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at University College Cork. “To date we’ve categorised over 2,000 of these wild and wonderful creatures that live in the average healthy human body.”

These microbes, mostly bacteria, are not harmful to the human body. In fact we enjoy a co-operative relationship with our native microbes. We provide them with a warm environment and food. In exchange they help us digest our food in order to absorb certain nutrients. “If you had no microbes you would be a very unhealthy individual. You wouldn’t be able to digest food and your immune system would be extremely weak. They live in harmony with us and with each other. One species can break down certain materials in the digestive tract and the other will harvest this.”

It’s not all harmony, however. There is a constant battle being waged inside all of us, says Dr Stephen Smith from Trinity College’s Department of Clinical Microbiology

Lost Glass Frog Rediscovered

A wonderful photograph of a "lost" species of glass frog has been published from a Conservation International expedition in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The expedition is searching for lost species of amphibian. The frog, Hyperolius leucotaenius, was first discover in 1950 but hadn't be seen in decades. Glass frogs are so called because of their translucent skin, which is very evident in this photo where the frogs eggs are clearly visible inside its body. For more information on this story visit National Geographic News.

Suggested Activity: Why not find out more about glass frogs. What is their habitat? What do they eat? Why is their skin translucent? Here's a good place to start.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Recommended Apps - Elements

Elements is a brilliant app for the iPad which lets you explore the periodic table of elements in a way you’ve never seen before. Using breathtaking design and animation, the building blocks of the universe are presented in a unique and engaging way. When you first open this periodic table, you are greeted with an animated picture of each element slowly spinning in its rightful place. Click on the element’s icon and you are brought into a full screen page of each element (as can be seen above with copper) with the icon rotating slowly. On the right hand side of this page are a series of facts and figures on that element, from the Wolfram Alpha search engine. Click next to further explore the element and find out its uses, its history and its future – all once again presented in a beautifully. Many of the element pages contain videos which graphically depict some of their properties and 3D images bring the app and the elements alive.

Elements is available to download from iTunes for €10.99 – which might seem a little pricey, but is a must for any science teacher, student or fanatic! If you want to try before you buy, visit the preview page on the Elements website. Elements is based on the wonderful book Elements - A Visual Exploration and the excellent photographic card deck.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

ESA Missions - Herschel Space Observatory

On May 14th 2009, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Herschel Space Observatory on board an Ariane 5 rocket, along with another of ESA's satellites Planck (click here to read a previous Frog Blog post about ESA's Planck). Both space craft are currently located approximately 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, in the second Lagrangian Point (L2 - an area of space on the side of the Earth not facing the Sun). By orbiting in L2 Herschel is not troubled by any atmospheric absorption and avoids any problems caused by thermal infrared radiation from the Earth interfering with observations.

Herschel is a telescope designed to view celestial objects within the infra-red and Herschel's telescope is the most powerful infra-red telescope ever flown in space. Large parts of the Universe are too cold to radiate light within visible wavelengths and can only be viewed using infra-red telescopes. By observing areas of space using these wavelengths, Herschel is able to see celestial objects like never before seen and find new objects hidden in clouds of dust and space debris, that are invisible to other telescopes like Hubble. Herschel's major objective is to discover how the first stars and galaxies formed and how these galaxies evolved to give rise to present day galaxies like our own. Here are some of Herschel's most spectacular images.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Endeavour Receives Damage Survey - All OK!

This amazing photograph (from NASA) of the Space Shuttle Endeavour was taken from the International Space Station as Endeavour performed a slow pitch to allow the crew of the ISS check the craft for any damage which might have occurred during its launch last Monday. This has become a standard procedure since the Columbia disaster in 2003, when the shuttle disintegrated on re-entry due to damage obtained during launch.

The picture shows the shuttle, with its cargo bay open, with a tiny Moon just visible in the background. Incidentally, NASA have just annouced when the final shuttle launch will take place. Atlantis is currently scheduled to launch on July 8th 2011, returning to Earth on July 20th - the anniversary of the day Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.

YouTube Saturday - Oxygen in the Playground

For a moment, imagine Oxygen as a little boy in school, playing on the swings or the on see-saw during break time. Imagine oxygen interacting with other elements in the playground. This brilliant short animated video describes such a scenario, with Oxygen exploring which other elements are best to hang around with! A perfect introduction to element number 8! Click here to see all of our featured YouTube science videos, of which this is our 60th.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Rap Guide to Evolution @ the Science Gallery

On Friday 27th May 2011, the Science Gallery welcome Baba Brinkman, a Canadian born comedian / rapper / scientist / lecturer, with his unique "Rap Guide to Evolution". Brinkman's distinction style of science communication blends humour and hip hop to help explore scientific principles. The Rap Guide to Evolution is a hip hop exploration of modern evolutionary biology, originally written for Charles Darwin's Bicentenary and premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2009, where it won the Scotsman Fringe First Award for Innovation and Outstanding New Writing. It consists of 16 brilliantly constructed performances which not only entertain but also educate.

To find out more about or to buy tickets for this exciting and unique event visit the Science Gallery website. Baba Brickman's Rap Guide to Evolution is also available on iTunes. The video below is entitled Performance, Feedback, Revision and is taken from the Rap Guide to Evolution show, as performed in the Hammersmith Apollo.

Equine Virology

Virology is the study of viruses and virus-like agents. Studied is their structure, evolution and classification, diseases caused by them and techniques to isolate and culture them. In equine virology, blood samples mostly go to many different labs within the same unit, like serology (study of blood serum), haematology (study of blood components) and biochemistry (study of chemical processes). At this time of year, blood samples from horses are mainly being tested for Equine Infectious Arteritis and Equine Herpes Viruses One and Four. This is in preparation for the forthcoming important breeding season.

Equine viral arteritis (EVA) is caused by the equine arteritis virus (EAV). It is tested for using the blood serum. It occurs worldwide in both thoroughbred and non thoroughbred populations. In Ireland, EVA is a notifiable disease. The clinical signs of the virus can vary widely, from the infection being obvious to there being no signs at all. Main signs of EVA are fever, lethargy, depression and swelling around the lower legs. Since clinical signs aren’t always present, a clinical diagnosis may not always be possible, therefore laboratory diagnosis is essential. The virus is spread through mating, and can cause abortion. There is no current treatment for EVA, but treatment to alleviate some of the symptoms can be administered, and horses can be vaccinated

Equine herpes virus (EHV) occurs worldwide, and the most common strains are EHV-1 and EHV-4. Like EVA, EHV is also tested for using the blood serum. Although it isn’t a notifiable disease, owners are advised to inform the relevant breeders’ association if the infection occurs. EHV-1 can cause abortion, respiratory disease and paralysis, whereas EHV-4 usually only causes respiratory disease but can cause the occasional abortion. Abortions caused by EHV usually occur in late pregnancy (from eight months onwards). Respiratory disease caused by EHV is most commonly found in weaned foals and yearlings. The clinical signs of respiratory disease include mild fever, coughing and nasal discharge. Live foals that were infected in the womb are usually abnormal from birth, showing jaundice, weakness, and difficulty in breathing. Unfortunately, there are usually no warning signs for abortion caused by EHV. It is most commonly spread via the respiratory route. A vaccination is available for horses against EHV 1 and 4, and is strongly recommended as a general practice. Necessary treatment of an infected horse is invariably determined by the attending vet.

This article is contributed by Junior Frog Blog Reporter Emma Moore. Emma recently spent two highly successful weeks on lab experience in the Irish Equine Centre, helping to conduct equine virology tests, and has a keen interest in horses and equine science. She hopes to study Veterinary Medicine in the years to come.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Chytrid & Amphibians

Frog, toad and salamander populations worldwide have been declining rapidly over the last few decades, mainly down to infection by a strain of 'Chytrid' fungus called Batrachyochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd for short. A chytrid is a type of fungus that mainly live in water or moist environments. The chytrids are amongst the oldest and most primitive types of fungi on the planet are mostly saprophytes, meaning that they feed on dead and rotting organic matter. Some chytrids are parasites that live on plants or invertebrate animals. However, Batrachyochytrium dendrobatidis is unusual because it is the only chytrid that is a parasite of a vertebrate animal, specifically amphibian.

An infected amphibian develops a  disease called chytridiomycosis, where their skins becomes "keratinised", meaning it becomes excessively thick and tough. Amphibians drink water and absorb nutrients through their skins so this is very serious. In severe cases they shed their skin and become lethargic. Sickened Salamanders lose their tails while frogs lose weight and cannot turn over when they are lying on their backs.

Scientists believe that this fungus originated in African Clawed Frogs. These frogs carry the fungus on their skin but suffer no ill effects from it. However, African Clawed Frogs have spread far beyond their native habitat, carrying the fungus with them, due to global trade. Scientists around the world have used these frogs for research and, from the 1930s to the 50s, to conduct pregnancy tests.

Scientists are trying to develop a cure for Bd. While there has been some success with treating frogs with Bd in captivity, no successful treatment has been developed for animals in the wild as yet. The situation is very serious with nearly all of the 6000 amphibian species capable of being infected with Bd, with 30% of those species already threatened by extinction (not principally from Bd alone). For more information on Bd click here.

This article was contributed by Junior Frog Blog Reporter Hamish Law.

BioBlitz Ireland 2011

If you are looking for something to do this weekend, why not check out Ireland’s second BioBlitz - a 24 hour biological survey assessing Ireland's biodiversity, beginning on Friday 20th at 5:00pm. The event brings together scientists and the public in a race against time to see how many species can be recorded in five sites around the country, in a 24-hour period. The public is invited to observe the survey, to interact with the official recorders and to participate in the range of other activities arranged by the host venues. These activities include bat walks, pond dipping, mammal tracking, moth trapping, seashore walks and much, much more. Organised by the National Biodiversity Data Centre, BioBlitz takes place in Ballycroy National Park, Co. Mayo, Dromore Woods, Co. Clare, Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry, The Raven Nature Reserve, Co. Wexford, and Liffey Valley Park, Dublin. For the latest news on BioBlitz 2011 or to find out what is happening in your nearest BioBlitz site visit their website or follow the National Biodiversity Data Centre on Twitter.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Endeavour's Final Mission

Yesterday the Space Shuttle Endeavour dramatically began it's final mission (STS-134) when it launched from Kennedy Space Center en-route to the International Space Station, where it will dock on Wednesday. During the 16-day mission, Endeavour and its crew will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a device which will be fixed to the top of the ISS and will study cosmic rays, and spare parts including two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank and additional spare parts for Dextre, the robotic "handyman" on board the ISS. On board are Commander Mark Kelly, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori. On Endeavour's return, the only active ship left in the NASA's shuttle fleet will be Atlantis, which is expected to undertake its final mission sometime in July. Below is an animated overview of Endeavour's final mission

Communicating STEM Conference 2011

The fifth annual Communicating STEM Conference will take place in the River Lee Hotel in Cork on June 23rd and promises to provide delegates with "the tools required to create and develop partnerships that promote science, engineering, technology and maths". The theme of this year's conference is "Success through Synergy" and will use case studies of successful partnerships between education, science outreach organisations and industry on a European, national and local level to foster discussion on the creation of initiativeS to engage the Irish public in science. There is an impressive line-up of speakers, including:
  • Lionel Alexander (Chief Executive, Hewlett PackardDriving innovation: Keeping Ireland Competitive
  • Katharine Mathieson (Director of Education, British Science AssociationCreating and Developing Successful STEM Partnerships
  • Katherine M. Jensen (CSR Manager, Abbott LaboratoriesCSR and STEM: The Perfect Partnership
  • Michelle Star (Liaison Officer, NCE-MSTLPartnering with Pedagogy: Working together to support the curriculum
  • Bernard Kirk (Director, Galway Education CentrePedagogy and Industry - The Operational Level
  • Aoife O'Donoghue (Cork Outreach Community) STEM Partnerships - A Local Focus
  • Dave Fahy (Director, Dublin City of Science)
Full details are available on STEPS.ie. Tickets cost €60 or €50 if booked before May 23rd. After the conference, Blackrock Castle Observatory will host a special Science Café, which is sure to round off the day perfectly! See you all there!

Monday, 16 May 2011

RSC Annual Lecture for Schools: Chemistry and Light

As one of the events marking the International Year of Chemistry 2011, the Royal Society of Chemistry present a fascinating lecture for secondary students, taking place this week in University College Cork (UCC) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD). The lecture is entitled “Chemistry and Light” and is presented by Dr Peter Douglas from the School of Chemistry, Swansea University. The lecture will explore the chemistry of light: how light is ‘made’ - from lamps, lasers or ‘liquid light’ - and its applications in medicine and technology, including CD players, electroluminescent paper, photography, neo-natal phototherapy and clean energy.

The lecture takes place in UCC on Wednesday May 18th at 12:00pm (Lecture Theatre G19, Kane Building) and in TCD on Friday May 20th at 11:00am and 2:00pm (Burke Lecture Theatre). Pre-booking is essential and enquiries may be made by email to Declan Kennedy (UCC) or Dr. Rachel Evans (TCD).

Photopic Sky Survey

The Photopic Sky Survey is a 5,000 megapixel photograph of the entire night sky formed using 37,440 separate exposures taken by amateur astronmer Nick Risinger. His journey took him all around the globe, photographing the sky from over 600 locations, snapping images from both hemispheres while planning his shoots to take place when the moon was new and the sky dark. Risinger used six cameras mounted on a tripod, which moved in sync with the Earth's rotation, taking 60 exposures of each region of the sky. The multi camera setup helped him achieve sharp pictures. The resultant image, a high resolution 5000-megapixel image provides a 360-degree view of the Milky Way and more than 20 million stars. It's truly astonishing and available to view and zoom using a Flash aplet on his website. Risinger has also produced an interactive 360-degree sky map. Well worth exploring for an hour or two and a brilliant resource for teachers of astronomy. Click here to visit skysurvey.org.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

New Hope for HIV Vaccine

Scientists have developed an experimental vaccine against SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus), a virus similar to HIV but found in monkeys. The researchers gave 24 healthy rhesus macaques a vaccine containing a genetically modified form of the virus, rhesus cytomegalovirus (CMV). The scientists tested their vaccine on the macaques for over a year, with 13 of the animals resisting infection during that time. These results are exciting because they may provide clues on how to develop an effective HIV vaccine, which has eluded many scientists since AIDS first emerged in humans in the early 1980s. SIV is the non-human primate form of HIV and researchers say the vaccine works by stimulating the production of a particular type of blood cell, called "effector memory T-cells", which can remain watchful in the body long after an infection has faded away. Before human clinical trials can begin, researchers will weaken CMV to prevent any potential health problems.

For more information click here.

YouTube Saturday - Protein Synthesis Animation

This week's YouTube Saturday video is an excellent animation of protein synthesis. Described in clear and relevent language, the sometimes tricky concept is brought to life. Suitable for LC Biology.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

CRANN Offers Unique Opportunity for Lucky Science Teacher

CRANN (TCD's Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices) is offering a unique opportunity for a Science Teacher this Summer - a six week work placement in the beautiful surroundings of Trinity College’s Leading Research Institute and learn more about nanoscience in this world‐class facility.

The lucky teacher will be helping to develop materials for Transition Year classes, based on CRANN's excellent new DVD, “Nano in My Life” (Module 1 of which is embedded below with the remaining available on their YouTube Channel). It is hoped that the content created during the six week work placement, which will be professionally designed, will be available for download from September 2011 for teachers nationwide.

Applicant do not need a great knowledge of nanoscience but are required to enthusiasm, creativity, good research and writing skills in abundance. If you are interested in working with CRANN or to discuss informally, please contact Mary Colclough, Communications and Outreach Manager in CRANN via email or by telephoning 01‐8963022. The closing date for receipt of applications is Friday 3rd June. Click here to visit the CRANN website or here to download full details of the job description and application form.

Planetary Conjunction Adds Wonder to Early Morning Sky

Over the next few weeks early morning sky watchers are in for a treat. This month sees the closest planetary grouping (or conjunction) this century, with four planets aligned closely in the dawn sky. Mercury, Jupiter, Mars and Venus will all be visible in the easterly sky as dawn breaks each morning in early May. The brightest of the planets will be Venus, followed by gas giant Jupiter. The image above, captured using the brilliant piece of software Stellarium, shows the alignment of the planets, as seen from Ireland, tomorrow morning just before 5:15am facing east.  Be sure to get up early and check it out. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Einstein Proved Correct by NASA Satellite

In April 2004, NASA launched the Gravity Probe B in an experiment to verify two elements of Einstein's infamous theory of general relativity - specifically the geodetic effect and frame-dragging. The geodetic effect is described in Einstein's 95 year old theory as the warping of space and time, or space-time, by a large body like a planet (think of a bowling ball, which represents a planet, resting on a trampoline and warping its fabric). Frame-dragging is defined as the amount a spinning object (again like a planet) pulls space and time along with it's rotation. Thinking of space and time as things that can be dragged or warped is difficult to comprehend but now Einstein's theory has been proved correct by the NASA satellite.

On board Gravity Probe B, which orbits the Earth at a distance of 400 miles away, were four super accurate gyroscopes which measured changes in the satellite's orientation in space as it pointed towards a star. If Einstein was wrong then the gyroscopes wouldn't change their spin and the satellite would remain aligned with the star while in space. But Gravity Probe B measured a tiny change in the instruments spin, proving Einstein's theory. Incidentally, the satellite's predecessor Gravity Probe A, was launched in 1976 and was successful in proving another element of Einstein's theory of general relativity - that time would run faster in an satellite orbiting a planet than it would on the surface. This is because the gravity is greater on the surface of the planet so time is dragged more. Amazing!! 

For more on this story visit National Geographic News.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Exam Preparation Podcasts

If you are sitting a science subject in the Leaving Certificate this June, you may find our Exam Preparation Podcasts a useful tool to help you approach the exams with more confidence. There is a podcast for each of the four Leaving Certificate science subjects: Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Agricultural Science. All our podcasts can be access here or on iTunes.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Frog Blog - 1000th Post

Last week the Frog Blog published it's 1000th post - a monumental achievement in our eyes for a small group of science teachers hoping to enthuse our pupils (and the public) on the wonderful world of science. All I would like to say at this juncture is thank you! Thank you for reading, for commenting, for tweeting along with us, for inspiring us and for continuing to motivate us to keep doing what we are doing.

Teachers Summer Workshops @ ESA

The European Space Agency (ESA) are hosting a Summer Workshop for science teachers at the European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), Noordwijk, the Netherlands this summer, from the 11th to 14th July 2011. The workshop is aimed at European secondary science teachers and will give participants the opportunity to gain practical skills that will enable them to enhance their teaching of the sciences. New, innovative, and inspiring tools and methods will be presented, using space as a means for attracting students to science.

During the 2011 workshop, teachers will participate in a programme of activities that will take the teachers on a voyage through the Solar System. They will look at how humans explore space, the science of the Sun and the study of Earth from space. Places at ESA’s Teachers Summer Workshop are limited with the deadline for receipt of applications listed as 5th June 2011. The workshop is free of charge and some travel and accommodation expenses can be reclaimed (Irish teachers can reclaim up to €250). 

YouTube Saturday - Eyes on the Skies

This week's YouTube Saturday science video comes from a brilliant free DVD entitled 'Eyes on the Skies'. The video was produced by the European Space Agency and the International Astronomy Union to mark the 400th anniversary of the telescope and to accompany the book of the same name. The video explores the many facets of the telescope — the historical development, the scientific importance, the technological breakthroughs, and also the people behind this ground-breaking invention, their triumphs and failures. The video below is from Chapter 1 and is called 'New Views of the Sky' and looks at the early development of the telescope and the advances in astronomy it yielded.

Eyes on the Skies is available to view online or can be ordered (in DVD or Blu Ray formats) for free. A brilliant resource for science teachers.

Friday, 6 May 2011

BSA Science Communication Conference 2011

The 2011 British Science Association (BSA) Science Communication Conference is a annual two day event, this year taking place in King's Place, King Cross, London on May 25th and 26th, which brings together a diverse group of individuals and organisations to discuss different issues related to public engagement in science. The theme of this year's event is "online engagement" which sees an impressive line up of speakers and workshops to explore how podcasting, gaming, blogging, virtual worlds, citizen science, social media and more can help engage the public with the sciences. Tim Radford, Simon Singh & Robert Winston are amongst the speakers in a jammed packed programme of events which also includes Sophia Collins from 'I'm a Scientist Get Me Out of Here', Ed Yong and Kathy Sykes.

One workshop not to be missed is "More Than Friends: Turning Online Engagement into Empowerment", which is hosted by three Irish science communicators: Ian Brunswick from the Science Gallery; Aoife McLysaght TCD Genetics Lecturer and me, Frog Blogger Humphrey Jones. Our interactive workshop will discuss ways in which social media tools can help not only engage an audience but, more importantly, empower them. In the session we'll show examples (some personal) where engagement has yielded empowerment, show where it hasn't been empowering, and analyse why. In small breakout groups delegates will discuss online engagement tactics that have worked for them and the ways our audiences could be more empowered to affect change. Then, hopefully, we will pair the engagement activities up with empowerment potential, and a spokesperson from each group will present back strategies to the whole group at the end.

Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize 2011

The Wellcome Trust, the Guardian and the Observer have launched an exciting new competition in an effort to find "the next generation of undiscovered science writing talent". They are searching for short articles, which can be focused on any branch of the sciences, that display originality and a distinctive writing style and that could be printed in their respective publications or displayed online. The articles should be no more that 800 words and should accurately reflect the writers passion for science and science communication as well as their skills in bringing their story to life and engaging their audience. The judges (which include Irish comedian Dara O'Briain) will be judging in two categories - professional scientists (which contain a postgraduate degree or above) and a non-professional category (which includes undergraduate students and anyone with an interest in the sciences). Applicants can not be professional writers (i.e. where writing is their main source of income) but bloggers, students or casual writers are welcome to apply. Articles, as mentioned before, can relate to any topic within the sciences. Applications from Ireland are also being accepted with the deadline for entries stamped as the 20th May 2011. For more information visit the Science Writing Prize website or submit an entry here.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Irish Times BANG - The Science of Jedward

Jedward – regardless of whether you love them or you’re totally bewildered by their success, you can’t ignore them. CLAIRE O’CONNELL does a double-take on the science behind the dynamic duo.


Jedward’s trade-mark giant quiffs mean they stand out from the crowd, but how do they get all that hair to stand on end? Unless you are orbiting in space, hanging upside down or spending time underwater, your hair isn’t going to go that way by itself, but adding hair product, such as gel or hairspray, can make your barnet defy gravity. Styling products work by putting a thin coat of plastic over the hairs. As these polymers dry, they stick together and hold the new hairstyle in place. You’d wonder how many empty hair-product containers can be found stacked up in Jedward’s dressing room.

Brain connections

John and Edward are just coming to the end of their teens, which means they have been busy growing in recent years. We can all see how we grow in height during our teens – and it’s often in rapid spurts that see your favourite clothes consigned to younger siblings or the charity shop far too quickly. But there’s a lot of development going on inside the teenage skull, too.

By the time we are getting stuck into primary school our brains are pretty big, but there’s still plenty of work to do in building up connections in there that allow our central command unit to function well. During adolescence we are thought to mature particular regions at the front of the brain that are involved with making decisions.

Ow, my leg

With all the jumping around they do, it’s hardly surprising that the boys have had a few accidents. Last year Edward broke his leg, and John recently had to perform on stage in a wheelchair because he had sprained his left ankle. How does a body get over those kinds of injuries? Bones might look like they are just like a scaffold supporting and protecting your body, but they contain plenty of living tissue. If you break or fracture a bone, cells can soon start the healing process. They grow and develop into cartilage and new bone, which then gets remodelled to hopefully act like it did before.

Sprains are also sore. They can happen when a joint, such as your ankle, gets knocked or wrenched and the ligaments that hold bones together get stretched or torn. There’s swelling and pain, and sometimes a severe sprain may need surgery. But over time it eases and hopefully you are up dancing again soon.

The Life of Ernest Walton - Gonzaga College

Ernest Walton is Ireland's only Nobel Prize winner in the sciences, receiving the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951 (sharing it with John Cockcroft) for his work at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge with the world's first linear particle accelerator. The two scientists built an apparatus to bombard the element lithium with energised protons, spitting the lithium nucleus to produce helium nuclei. They were the first to successfully convert one element into another by artificial means and, in doing so, verified Einstein’s famous equation E=mc².

The life is Ernest Walton is being celebrated shortly when Dr. Eric Finch, Senior Lecturer in the School of Physics at Trinity College Dublin, will present a talk on his life in Gonzaga College, Ranelagh, on the evening on May 12th - beginning at 8pm. The evening is brought to you by the Gonzaga College Astronomy Club, the Irish Astronomical Society and the South Dublin Astronomical Society. Admission is free and all are welcome. However, it is advisable that large groups should contact Paul Nugent in Gonzaga College initially. Sounds like a great evening.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Irish Times BANG Science Monthly #6

The latest issue of the Irish Times Science Monthly BANG  is out now, once again loaded with brilliant features on the world of science. Using the Science Gallery latest exhibition, HUMAN +, as it's inspiration, BANG looks at the future of the human species. There is a brilliant feature from John Holden on what humans will be like in 50 years, an excellent timeline on how we are becoming SUPERHUMAN, the science of Jedward, a career interview with Irish Times Science Editor Dick Ahlstrom, a look at Irish computer game developers Pop-Cap, more SCREEN SCIENCE and an interview with cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko. All the latest science news is DISSECTED by BANG reporter Claire O'Connell and Trinity College Genetics lecturer Aoife McLysaght asks "Are we slaves to our genes?" Frog Blogger Humphrey Jones continues his series of "Why Haven't They Invented ..." articles with a look at HUMAN TELEPORTATION.

BANG never fails to inform and entertain and issue #6 is another gem. Well done to everyone involved, particularly to BANG Editor Shane Hegarty. Check out BANG in today's Irish Times or on the Irish Times  Science website. You can also follow BANG on Twitter or Facebook. BANG will stop for the summer break but will hopefully return in the autumn.

Irish Times BANG - Human Teleportation

Beam me up Scotty! This well known phrase from Star Trek , the television and movie series, was usually followed by Captain Kirk, or other members of his crew, magically dissolving away only to reappear on a nearby planet or a neighbouring ship. Kirk and his team were using their “transporter” to teleport from one point in space to another, a feat no one thought possible in the 1960s when Star Trek was first aired.

In the decades to follow, teleportation remained in the realm of science fiction playing a central role in movies such as The Fly, Jumper and The Prestige . Even McDonalds has got in on the act: its latest adverts show teens beam into their local fast-food outlet.

We can all see the benefits of human teleportation. Hop out of bed in the morning, brush your teeth, eat your cereal and beam into school. No school bus, no walking, no cycling. Better still, beam to Spain to top up the tan or to New York to pick up some bargains in the shops. We could beam astronauts up to the International Space Station or to the moon, negating the need to replace the soon to be retired space shuttle.

Over the past few years, science has been getting closer to bringing teleportation in to the realm of science fact.

There are a number of possible scientific principles that might one day allow for human teleportation. The first involves utilising wormholes, tiny tunnels in space and time (we first came across wormholes in a previous issue of BANG when we looked at time travel). Wormholes allow tiny subatomic particles to “teleport” from one place to another, and from one time to another. They exist all around us but are only a billion trillion trillionth of a centimetre wide and only last for a fraction of a second.